Thursday, July 26, 2012

Syria's opposition: "A Babel of contradictions and competing voices"

"...Forming a unity government is a contentious issue for the SNC. Abdel-Basset Sieda, its Kurdish leader, was forced on Tuesday to deny reports that he agreed to the transfer of Assad's powers to another regime figure who would lead a transitional period, as in Yemen...
"The transitional period has already started," said Obaida Nahas, an SNC member who is close to the Muslim Brotherhood. "Bashar no longer controls the country the same way he did just a few weeks ago. There is a new reality in Syria. The balance of power has shifted."
Still, the SNC faces serious credibility problems. It is divided internally – between liberals and Islamists and between Arabs and Kurds – and at odds with other groups, such as the Damascus-based National Co-ordination Bureau (NCB), which opposes armed opposition. Several key figures have walked out.
Hazem al-Nahar, a dissident, has described "a Babel of contradictions and competing voices that leaves ... regime loyalists and opponents alike mistrustful and dismissive of the Syrian opposition."..
The SNC's critics complain that it is too close to foreign backers such as Qatar and Turkey – the organisation is based in Istanbul – and that for all its international links it has failed to secure the Libya-style military intervention it had hoped for. US backing, in particular, has been limited to cash and non-lethal equipment, with some covert intelligence support, the significance of which is hard to gauge.
"Sieda is the not real decision-maker," complained Khalaf Dawood of the NCB. "He and [predecessor Burhan] Ghalioun are just pawns. The Islamists control the SNC even though there is no democratic basis for that. The Turks and the Saudis are running things and the Americans might be behind them. We don't want to end up swapping one corrupt dictatorship for another."
SNC officials emphasise close co-ordination with the FSA, whose men now receive regular pay through the council. "The SNC want to create a war chest so they can bribe fighters on the ground because that's the only way they can have any leverage on the ground," said the Syrian commentator Malik al-Abdeh....
On the ground, where events are driven by the largely autonomous Local Co-ordination Committees (LCCs) – the tansiqiyat – and the FSA, there is deep scepticism. "Everything is now down to the revolutionaries in Syria, including the FSA," argues the activist and blogger Razan Ghazzawi. Another opposition figure said: "The SNC is somewhat discredited inside Syria and will remain so unless it gets its act together and does something substantial for the people.".....
Others say they expect the SNC to collapse and disappear when Assad goes. The SNC's position is complicated by the competing agendas of outsiders. France combines historic Syrian links with strong current interest – its intelligence service helped Tlass defect – and is lobbying hard for a transitional government.
Britain fears that could be a distraction from preparing for the practicalities of the post-Assad era. "The key thing is to come together for the transition," said a UK official. "Forming a government now will lead to infighting and divisions over personalities. There have already been a lot of disagreements – SNC v non-SNC, Arabs v Kurds. Now we need to say to them: 'This is a new stage and you need to improve your credibility.'"

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