Middle-east Arab News Opinion | Asharq Al-awsat

Why Did Khatib Sell Out the Opposition? | ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive 2005 -2017
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Ahmed Moaz al-Khatib, President of the National Coalition for Syrian Revolutionary and Opposition Forces, talks to the press following his meeting with Arab League Secretary General Nabil al-Arabi (not seen) in the League headquarters in Cairo on February 11, 2013. AFP PHOTO / KHALED DESOUKI

The new head of the Syrian National Coalition, Moaz al-Khatib, surprised us by announcing the failure of the Syrian revolution. This was not in a direct address to the Syrian citizens or the revolutionaries, rather Khatib used his Facebook page to write, “I announce that I am ready to personally meet with representatives of the Syria regime in Cairo or Tunis or Istanbul.” It would have been less shocking had Khatib got in his car and driven directly to Damascus rather than telling 20 million Syrians-via Facebook, no less-that he had decided to end their revolution and compromise with Bashar al-Assad in exchange for the release of prisoners and a handful of passports. Khatib divided the opposition and caused serious damage to the efforts of thousands of people who are risking their lives for a new future without Assad and his fascist regime.

During the bloody years in Lebanon, Assad faced a major obstacle after he began assassinating his rivals. A broad front of opposition forces and figures under the March 14 movement umbrella stood up to and confronted him. Assad’s strategy was to break up this alliance by spreading rumors about these opposition forces, claiming that he enjoyed good ties with one party or another in order to drive a wedge between them, particularly after this developed into a broad-based movement made up of Sunnis, Christians, Druze and others allied with Saudi Arabia and France. This opposition front succeeded in convincing the UN to form a special tribunal for Lebanon to investigate the Assad regime’s involvement in the assassination of more than 20 Lebanese leadership figures. In this instance, Assad failed to divide or intimidate his opponents.

Today, we are seeing a similar approach being used against the Syrian opposition. Assad began by sending false signals and messages that he is ready to negotiate and compromise. To this end, he used European and Russian mediators, promising everybody that he will offer concessions in talks with opposition leaders.

Such behavior is expected from Assad. However nobody expected Khatib to write-on Facebook-that he is ready to sit down face-to-face with representatives of the Syrian regime in exchange for the release of 160,000 prisoners from Syrian jails and for extending or renewing the passports of Syrians living abroad for a minimum period of two years.

A similar proposition was put forward just one day earlier by the self-proclaimed opposition figure Haytham Manna, who in reality is close to the Assad regime and Iran.

Isn’t Khatib aware that such an initiative will achieve one thing and one thing only, namely the division of the Syrian opposition? Isn’t he aware that the millions of Syrians who have fled their homes and villages and experienced sufferings and hardships waiting for the fall of the regime will completely reject such an initiative? What’s the value of Khatib’s offer? Releasing prisoners’ means one thing only: the regime will open its prison gates for detainees to leave only to hunt them down later.

What’s the value of renewing the passports of Syrians abroad? These people are already blacklisted as enemies of the regime and none of them will voluntarily return to Syria except after the death of Assad or the collapse of his regime.

There is no benefit today in dialogue with a dead Assad. Even his mother, sister, companions and businessmen have fled Syria and abandoned him, because they know that his regime’s collapse is inevitable. The capital’s airport is shut down for the majority of the time as a result of attacks by rebel forces. In fact, Assad’s forces have already dug trenches around the airport being well aware that the final battle is fast approaching.

Khatib must know that dialogue with Assad now is too little too late no matter what concession the embattled president offers. The Syrian people will not exchange the blood of their fallen comrades except for the collapse of the regime and the pursuit of its pillars. Assad may be able to escape from his palace to Russia or Iran where it would be difficult for the revolutionary to reach him. Khatib and the watching world must either support the opposition to complete the job or not offer any support and also not interfere in Syrian affairs. The opposition will finish him off, even if it takes a year or two.