The Syrian Opposition Abroad
There is an immensely captivating tale behind the Syrian opposition abroad. In less than four months, the average Syrian citizen observed with astonishment the different opposition conferences with differing points of view, national assemblies, committees, commissions from near and far, declarations, statements and plans that encompassed the heavens and the earth, and to top it all, criticisms and finger pointing on the satellite channels, the media outlets, the Internet and different web-sites. Amid all this, the helpless citizens as well as the specialized experts are equally at a loss in trying to comprehend these events, or in making a distinction between the different conferences or assemblies.
In what follows, I will give my best attempt at recounting, in chronological order and in simplest terms, the events and chapters of this unfortunate and sad tale:
1. In the beginning, the” Antakia (Turkey) Conference for Change” was convened, and as a result, a consultation commission was created that selected from within its members what became known as an “executive office”. Silence ensued and no further movements were detected. However, this conference did create two positive matters of utmost importance:
i. Confirmation that it does not represent the revolution, rather it supports it, and
ii. Redirecting the major points of difference raised in this conference to the Syrian people to give their decision, after the successful end of the revolution and through fair and legitimate democratic means, including the identity of the future state, its name and the basis of its constitution among others.
2. Following this conference was the convening of a series of local conferences in Belgium, Austria and France which did not result in anything of importance but paved the way for multiple dialogues addressing various topics that are of relevance to the Syrian citizen and to certain aspects of the revolution itself.
3. Then came the Syrian Salvation conference that was convened in Istanbul under the leadership of the well-known opposition figure, Haitham Al-Maleh. All indications, based on leaked information from within its framework, were that this conference will result in the establishment of a government-in-exile, however multiple problems and differences, as it seems, prevented this from coming to fruition. The participants returned with nothing to show for their efforts.
4. Several opposition figures then met and discussed efforts to create what was to be known as revolution’s “Council of intellectuals”. Several opposition figures were identified and nominated and an initial list of names was circulated listing thirty names. Unfortunately, this effort was terminated at this juncture.
5. Another conference was then convened in Istanbul under the sponsorship and guidance of the same party that financed the first opposition conference in Antalya. This conference completed its agenda with astonishing speed and a closing statement was announced from Ankara towards the end of the past month. This statement was made by one of the youth of the revolution and included the creation of a “Transitional National Council” with 94 members, of which slightly less than half are from the opposition within Syria. It was apparent that the organizers of this conference had leveraged the initial list of the proposed “Council of Intellectuals” and added on to it from within their own ranks to reach the current number. This conference died during birth or was actually still-born, as it ignited an eruption of objections and specifically with regards to the way the names were selected. Many of the council members objected at how their names were thrust into the list without prior consultation, including the president himself.
6. Two weeks later, another announcement was made out of Turkey as well, to the creation of the “Syrian National Council” which is comprised of 140 members of which only 71 were revealed and the rest remaining confidential for security purposes. It is still early to predict the outcome of this council, however all indications to date are positive, specifically with regards to the names listed and especially after the “Union of the revolution Coordinating Committees” declared their (reserved) support and joined ranks.
7. Several political entities were later formed under different labels and titles, most of which did not receive any publicity or support.
It seems however that there is a confusion in the naming of these occurrences, or in understanding the terminology and especially as it relates to the term “Transitional”. The situation that requires the establishment of a transitional entity coincides with or after the downfall of the regime, or its loss of control over a sizeable portion of the state territories, as this necessitates the immediate setup of a temporary leadership for the affairs of the state, or the liberated portion of it.
Let us learn from and make use of the Egyptian and Libyan experiences, not necessarily considering them as an ideal model to follow. To each country or revolution its own individual and unique characteristics and situations which may require different and more appropriate actions.
In Egypt, the regime collapsed and the Supreme Military Council had taken over running the affairs of the country on a temporary basis, similar to the transitional council. They then went on to form a temporary government, as in a transition government pending the end of this transitional period at which time the authority is handed over to the rightful owner, the people of Egypt, through fair and legitimate democratic means.
As for Libya, the eastern territories were liberated from the grip of the criminal Qaddafi regime, which covers approximately 40% of the population of Libya and tens of cities and towns. There became an urgent need for an entity to lead the affairs of the region and to provide for its inhabitants the essential services such as security, education, health, transportation, services, petroleum industry, etc. As a result, the Transitional Council was created which included figures from across Libya including the areas still under the regime’s control. Out of this council, an executive office was then created under the leadership of Mahmoud Jibreel as a transition government to perform the above mentioned leadership tasks.
In Syria on the other hand, the criminal regime has yet to fall or to lose control over any portion of its territory. The regime is still fully in control and its repressive, criminal and barbaric system is still holding together tightly and so we have a long and difficult road ahead of us before such conditions warrant the creation of a transitional entity of any kind.
There is however a critical, fatal and dynamic need for an entity or commission, more appropriately labeled as a National Council, to be present abroad to represent the Syrian revolution and the free Syrian population in front of the Arab and international delegations and to support the efforts of the revolution within Syria in all the means and ways possible. This council would also bring about a smaller executive office or leadership committee whose members are fully dedicated to achieve these patriotic tasks with an established base in nation with proximity to Syria, where Turkey would be the ideal candidate. There is a long list of the tasks, efforts and responsibilities that his council will need to achieve.
It seems that the national council which was announced on the 15th of the current month of September is qualified to be the start and core of this dynamic effort, within the following conditions:
- First of all, the unconditional representation of the revolution within Syria by the council ahead of any other matter. As such, the Supreme Council for the Leadership of the Revolution and the General Assembly of the Syrian Revolution and any other internal revolutionary entity must immediately announce their support of and membership in the council as did the coordinating committees union.
- That it represents, as best possible, the entire spectrum of the opposition inside Syria and abroad without excluding any party from any affiliation whether it be religious, ethnic or secular.
- To be excluded are any parties that participated in or collaborated with the criminal regime, currently or at a distant past, obviously including the criminal Rifaat Al-Assad and his supporters, as well as the Salvation Front headed by Abdel Halim Khaddam and their likes. Needles to mention the puppet political parties that formed what si called the Internal National Progressive Front.
- There are also many cases of difference that may be resolved through proper dialogue and need not be addressed now. What is important now is to immediately begin the true and serious work.
In this context, there remains one note that cannot be ignored, despite that this article is specific to the discussion regarding the Syrian Opposition abroad, and it is represented in the dynamic necessity to unify and unite all the revolutionary entities on the field within Syria under one canopy including the “Free Army” corps. The legitimacy and credibility of any national council abroad is only derived from the unified interior revolutionary entity.
Let’s all be united as one hand to bring about the success of the blessed revolution of the Syrian people and to bring to an end the barbaric, criminal and corrupt regime and in God we put our trust.
By Brigadier General Akil Hashem on September 21st, 2011