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Muslim Brotherhood Holds Sway Over Syrian Opposition

Ghassan Hitto’s appointment as Syrian interim prime minister by the opposition coalition may be an attempt by Syria’s Muslim Brotherhood, Qatar and Turkey to derail Moaz al-Khatib’s dialogue initiative, writes Hassan Hassan.
Supporters of Lebanon's Muslim Brotherhood party take part in a rally in the port-city of Sidon, southern Lebanon, against attacks by Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's forces on the Syrian city of Homs February 9, 2012. The placard on right reads: "Silent about the crime, dumb devil". REUTERS/Ali Hashisho (LEBANON - Tags: CIVIL UNREST POLITICS) - RTR2XK8I

Ghassan Hitto, a naturalized US citizen from Damascus, was selected on Monday, March 18, by members of the opposition Syrian National Coalition to become the interim prime minister. Little known among Syrians, his appointment is by far the clearest indication of the Muslim Brotherhood’s monopoly over the opposition’s political and military bodies. At least nine figures suspended their membership in the National Coalition in protest, including the coalition’s spokesman, Walid Buni, and Vice President Suhair Attasi, who then retracted her suspension a day later.

Hitto is not known to be a member of the Muslim Brotherhood, but he is ideologically close to it. A Syrian close to Hitto told me that he is “100% supported and trusted by the Brotherhood.” His brother is a member who was jailed for many years, his acquaintance said, which is why Hitto fled Syria. The source located Hitto in terms of independence somewhere between Moaz al-Khatib, the coalition’s president who proved to be independent, and the Brotherhood. Hitto is one of very few opposition figures who were involved in groundwork inside Syria after the uprising, distributing aid to people in various areas. He is also well-spoken in both Arabic and English. But his appointment appears to be based on a key credential: his consistent rejection of dialogue with the regime, a policy advocated by the Muslim Brotherhood and its allies Qatar and Turkey.

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