Friday, March 22, 2013

In Concert: "“Qatar is spoiling our work & our mission.”

 'The Coup Junta'
"...The first fruit of the above is that 12 NCR members froze their memberships a few hours after provisional prime minister Ghassan Hitto presided over his new Syrian “government” in contravention of the deal that Qatar and Saudi brokered among the various wings in the NCR.The Qataris came out victorious in their struggle to influence a large part of the Syrian opposition abroad and in determining the next course of action. Over the coming days, Qatar may score another victory by granting the “temporary government” Syria’s seat in the Arab League, which meets in Doha on Tuesday [March 26].
Syrian opposition sources said that what happened in Istanbul [on March 19] was a coup against the Qatari-Saudi agreement reached in recent weeks. Under that agreement, Syria’s former agriculture minister, Asaad Mustafa, was to have headed the “temporary government.”
An NCR source said that after 14 hours of closed-door meetings and phone consultations, which Qatar’s Foreign Ministry directed from its headquarters in Doha, Qatar broke the agreement on Mustafa being elected to head the temporary government.... An NCR source said that Khalid al-Attiyah, the Qatari Foreign Ministry’s office director, intervened to impose Hitto. The electoral committee members were summoned from their hotel rooms after midnight in order to elect Hitto, a naturalized US citizen and Texas resident, to be prime minister of the temporary government.
Several factors combined to pull off the Qatari coup and impose a “sovereign temporary government” instead of an “administrative executive body.” Many NCR members changed positions. In the end, 33 of 66 NCR members voted for Hitto. Muslim Brotherhood leaders had opposed forming a temporary government but changed their minds after the US and Russia reached an understanding over the Geneva Accord. The Muslim Brotherhood is a powerful force within the NCR. The Brotherhood also controls a large part of the Syrian National Council, with 26 seats, and has an ally in NCR Secretary-General Mustafa al-Sabbagh, whose bloc comprises 15 representatives from the revolutionary movement and the “local councils.”
The US-Russian understanding troubled the Brotherhood because it revived the Geneva Accord. That accord requires the opposition, including the Muslim Brotherhood, to share the transitional government with representatives of the Syrian regime, under a US-Russian umbrella. Statements by US Secretary of State John Kerry that Syrian President Bashar al-Assad would stay on during the transition process in return for the Russians accepting a transitional government with absolute powers indicated that the political option was now being favored over the military option, at least in theory.
An NCR source said Sabbagh persuaded the Qataris to replace Mustafa with Hitto. The latter’s closeness with the Brotherhood and his US connections, especially in the State Department, helped his selection.
An NCR source said the Saudis were shocked by Qatar’s maneuver. The Saudis had sacrificed their favorite candidate, Riad Hjab, during their consultations with the Qataris in favor of the consensus candidate, Mustafa. Moreover, the Qataris rejected a Saudi request to postpone the election.
Twelve NCR members withdrew to protest Hitto’s temporary government....
We should not expect much from the group that has not yet decided whether it will work alongside Khatib inside the NCR. It is not yet clear whether he will resign following the Qataris’ imposition of a choice he had publicly rejected. Khatib has a difficult decision to make in order to stay at his post. After his election, Hitto gave a speech reversing Khatib’s initiative to negotiate with the Syrian regime. Khatib had given up on the military option and is in favor of negotiating with the Syrian regime. Khatib still enjoys American and popular support for his negotiation initiative and has a lot more Syrian legitimacy than Hitto, whom the Qataris brought out of nowhere.
Others also are facing the tough choice of whether to stay or leave. Among them is Algerian envoy Lakhdar Brahimi; his staying on as UN peace envoy to Syria depends on whether the Russian-American understanding holds fast in front of the Qatari attack and the imposition of a temporary government that favors the military solution alone. A figure close to Brahimi said, “Qatar is spoiling our work and our mission.”
Brahimi and his team met in Cairo. A source said, “The formation of a temporary government threatens the idea of reaching a political solution by means of negotiations and sabotages Brahimi’s mission.” The source added that Brahimi is not certain whether the Qataris will go all the way in threatening Brahimi’s mission or whether the temporary government, in spite of its “sovereign” character, will lead to the emergence of two Syrian governments.
In a statement, the Russian Foreign Ministry said Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov had a telephone conversation with Brahimi over the developments in Syria. “The two parties discussed the Syrian issue in light of the trend within the Syrian opposition abroad and the Arab League to reject dialogue with the Syrian government despite the agreements mentioned in the Geneva Accord on June 30, 2012, on forming a transitional administration on the basis of consensus between the Syrian government and the opposition,” the statement said. ..."

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