Burhan Ghalioun: Lack of Political Experience Prevented Syrian Regime’s Isolation’

London- Paris-based Syrian academic Dr. Burhan Ghalioun sided with the Syrian revolution at its onset in the spring of 2011.

Ghalioun joined the opposition and took over the chairmanship of the Transitional National Council (SNC) that was founded in 2011 at a public conference held in Tunisia. It was the first political body established against the regime following the start of the revolution.

After resigning his post, Ghalioun continued to support the popular uprising against the regime. He later distanced himself from daily political work in the opposition’s ranks and began observing the Syrian developments.

In an interview with Asharq Al-Awsat, Ghalioun said history will prove that the Syrian revolution has succeeded in its goal to topple the regime, which was aware of the situation and was quick to react by using all means of violence, destruction and killing.

He explained that the regime did not have any legitimacy or reason to remain in power except for the horror it spread through its security and military bodies. When this fear dissipated and massive protests – asking for liberty, dignity and freedom erupted – the regime found itself trapped.

The Syrian academic said that the regime resorted to brutality to drown the demonstrators in blood and show them that the freedom they were asking for was more costly than they thought.

Since then, the regime and the people entered an escalatory cycle: The people wanted to prove their existence as free, sovereign and strong, while the regime wanted to break the will of the people at any cost and prove that the revolution was not strong enough.

When asked about the reasons the opposition failed to establish its own effective institutions, Ghalioun said that all the political forces, which took over the leadership of the initiative against the regime, were not politically and intellectually mature enough to lead the second stage of the revolution.

He noted that this stage comes when the political system is toppled and requires a foundation for the new regime to fight militarily and politically in attempt to confront the all-out war declared by the previous regime.

A second cause for the failure is that the countries which supported the revolution politically did not estimate the real force that the regime and its allies would use to quell the revolution.

Ghalioun added that the international system, in the era of former US president Barack Obama and Russia’s president Vladimir Putin, did not find any interest in regime change.

Chief Negotiator in Geneva 4: Regime Rejects Political Transformation

UN Special Envoy for Syria Staffan de Mistura delivers his speech during the 53rd Munich Security Conference in Munich, Germany, February 19, 2017. REUTERS/Michaela Rehle

London- High Negotiations Committee (HNC) chief negotiator to Geneva Mohamed Sabra, commenting on the first day of Geneva 4, said that there was an attempt to shift the political process in Syria from a negotiation between two parties to a multi-parties process. This was represented in the presence of Egypt and Moscow and their rejection to integrate in the HNC delegation.

Asharq Al-Awsat newspaper asked Sabra about his tweet “…Some adore illusive achievements because they love to play heroes” if it was a way to express his disappointment or only a response to the exaggerated statements in assessing Geneva 4, he said that the first session has not achieved any outcome, unfortunately, and the regime until this moment still rejects to get involved in a specific political process and refusing to approve Geneva statement or the relevant internal resolutions.”

Sabra added, “The regime still insists on neglecting the requirements of a solution and the clear roadmap in resolutions 2118 and 2254. The regime is still stuck in April 2011 when head of Syrian regime Bashar Assad delivered his speech, repeating the same statements and procrastinating to achieve a military solution. ”

The newspaper asked the chief negotiator on the confusion regarding the term “transitional government” and his reply was as follows: “UN envoy for Syria Staffan de Mistura uses the term of the transitional political process and he means a comprehensive process with a participatory approach in the ruling, constitution and elections. The opposition means with the political transition a ruling authority that substitutes the regime bodies.”

Commenting on the latest report of de Mistura, Sabra stated, “In fact, we were baffled by some points in the report especially that they contradicted with resolution 2254. De Mistura said that Syrians are the decision-makers in the political process based on resolutions 2118 and 2253.”

The newspaper asked, “Before leaving to Geneva 4 you said that the current opposition delegation is the best representative of revolution forces. Do you still think it is a matter of the most representative delegation or that of the widest experience and greatest wisdom?”

Sabra answered, “I still agree to that. The current delegation of HNC is good, united and has a wide experience in negotiations as well as the required political wisdom. But you should keep in mind the circumstances. A successful political process is not related to wisdom or experience of one party only, but is mainly related to the existence of three elements: willingness of both parties to reach a solution, a clear framework for negotiations within a specific timeline and finally mechanisms to implement this solution. ”

He added, “Unfortunately, we don’t have a partner in the political process until this moment due to the regime’s obstinacy in addition to it insisting on a military solution instead of a political one.”

British MP Tobias Ellwood to Asharq Al-Awsat on Syria, Russia, and ISIS

British MP Tobias Ellwood to Asharq Al-Awsat on Syria, Russia, and ISIS
British MP Tobias Ellwood to Asharq Al-Awsat on Syria, Russia, and ISIS

London- Mr. Tobias Ellwood British MP expressed to Asharq Al-Awsat his enthusiasm on what has been achieved on the subject of war against ISIS.

Mr. Ellwood also spoke of the victories claimed over recent months after the efforts of the international coalition, and how ISIS has lost foothold in critical areas it had previously conquered. The British MP also elaborated on the weak structuring of the terrorist organization, a controversial explanation to all the reports on ISIS’s vast control over areas in Iraq and Syria. He explained that the terrorist group has not accomplished any progress since May; instead it has lost 40 percent of grounds it used to control in both Iraq and Syria.

Moreover, Mr. Ellwood explained how the Russian pounding over Syrian moderate opposition areas hurdles the political process in Geneva. He also added that Britain’s approach is diplomatic in nature, and works through supporting the Syrian negotiations. The Russian airstrikes play to ISIS’s benefit, and does not help end the suffering of people in Syria nor aid the process of political transition.

Hereto is a selected set of topics broached on with MP Ellwood

* On the subject of Russian interference in Syria, especially with the late intensified airstrikes coinciding with the negotiations, what is your view point on the matter?

Mr. Ellwood explained that Russia and the Syrian regime must not sit for the negotiations while civilian blood is purposely being shed, in a clear infringement to international humanitarian law. All negotiating parties must aim towards putting an end to the Syrian suffering. However, Britain still is very confident that the peace talks are the proper solution for the Syria crisis. Political transition away from Assad is decisive when it comes to the Syrian suit. The postponing of negotiations might give some space for both parties to reassess what has been already discussed, and ensure that all the participants are guided by good intentions.

* In the year 2015, an approximate 220 thousand refugees crossed the Mediterranean, most of which escaping the war in Syria. Given the U.K. is a part of the program on refugee resettlement, how will Britain respond to the refugee influx, other than giving shelter to 20,000 Syrian refugees in the next 5 years?

In view of that subject, Mr. Ellwood said that Britain, according to British Prime Minister David Cameron, has taken upon itself the resettlement of 20 thousand refugees in the course of the upcoming five years. However, the refugees taken in will be prioritized according to the severity of their cases, mothers, children, and those in need of healthcare will be put first. One thousand refugees have entered Britain so far. Yet, to be frank, the cost of hosting a refugee in the U.K. could be provided to the near Syrian countries, which will play to the benefit of the refugee’s ultimate desire, that is to return home and start over again in their beloved homeland. The Syrian refugees staying near borders will facilitate their return, of course after a fair political solution is implemented guaranteeing justice to their rights.