Hillary Clinton was set to formally recognize the National Coalition for Syrian Revolutionary and Opposition Forces at a conference in Morocco tomorrow, but since she’s been forced to take a sick day, the president made the announcement instead. In an interview with Barbara Walters on Tuesday, President Obama said, “At this point we have a well-organized-enough coalition — opposition coalition that is representative — that we can recognize them as the legitimate representative of the Syrian people.” Earlier today the administration designated the rebel group Al Nusra Front as a terrorist organization due to its ties to Al Qaeda in Iraq, and Obama acknowledged that the U.S. isn’t comfortable with all the groups fighting Bashir Al-Assad. “There are some who I think have adopted an extremist agenda, an anti-U.S. agenda,” he said.
Britain, France, Turkey, and the Gulf Cooperation Council recognized the coalition last month, but the U.S. had said it was holding off until the rebels did more to form a unified front. It’s unclear how the move will affect the conflict in Syria, as the president hasn’t pledged to provide the rebels with arms or military support. Moaz al-Khatib, the group’s leader, welcomed the recognition but said he doesn’t think other nations have done enough to aid Syria. “The international community fell short in its support to the Syrian people, but it is starting to wake up now,” he said.