Yet that all still hangs on the United States, which stopped short of fully recognizing the coalition. State Department spokesman Mark Toner called the newborn body, which Foggy Bottom helped midwife, simply "a legitimate representative of the Syrian people" -- the same language Washington used with the Syrian National Council. The EU foreign ministers' statement was even more wishy-washy, recognizing the coalition merely as "legitimate representatives of the aspirations of the Syrian people."
This fudge is deliberate, and there are at least two reasons behind it. First, Washington and Brussels understand that while the coalition's optics and rhetoric might be encouraging (President Moaz al-Khatib's alarming website notwithstanding), it still has much work to do in expanding its ranks, building a viable transitional government, and -- most important -- proving rather than simply asserting that it controls the bulk of the armed rebels.
Its control over the men who are waging the insurgency against Assad's military was cast in doubt last week, when members of the Islamist Tawhid Brigade, the largest rebel faction in Aleppo, rejected the new coalition as a "conspiracy" against the uprising. The group quickly reversed course: On Tuesday, a new YouTube video showed Tawhid Brigade spokesman Abdel-Qader Saleh affirming the group's support for the coalition, "as long as it adheres to the objectives of and aspirations of the revolution" and characterizing the earlier statement as a rogue demarche based on the "marginalization of revolutionary groups with an actual presence on the ground, which are leading the liberation of Aleppo."
President Barack Obama's administration may also be wary of going all in with the coalition because it realizes that it could increase the pressure to intervene in Syria, which it is loathe to do. If the coalition is described as the legitimate representative of the Syrian people, then a credible case can be made to designate Assad's forces an "invading" presence in Syria -- making it all the more urgent to expel them by force.
Turkey gets its Patriots. For the last fortnight, Turkey had been playing its usual will-we-or-won't-we games with the media over whether it would move for NATO to position Patriot missile systems on its border with Syria. It ended the suspense on Nov. 20, when Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu said that a deal had indeed been struck to better fortify Turkey's 560-mile border with Syria with the kind of surface-to-air batteries that made Saddam Hussein's life very unpleasant in two Gulf wars. Though NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen has claimed that the Patriots would exclusively be used to counter cross-border Syrian mortar rounds, there's always the chance they could be used to shoot down Syrian aircraft that fly too close to the border, thus creating a no-fly zone.
Creating a no-fly zone might not require too much heavy lifting for the United States. Lt. Col. Eddie Boxx and Jeffrey White of the Washington Institute for Near East Peace have argued that if Patriot systems were stationed on the Turkish and Jordanian borders and were used in conjunction with three types of U.S. aircraft -- the E-3 AWACS, RC-135 Rivet Joint, and E-8 JSTARS -- they could "give the FSA a protected arc some 40-50 miles from the borders."