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A Boycott Will Not Help the Syrian Revolution | ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive 2005 -2017
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A Syrian carries a revolution flag during a Friday protest in Aleppo, Syria, where young people and children sang songs against Bashar Assad and the Syrian regime, Friday, Dec. 21, 2012.(AP Photo/Virginie Nguyen Hoang)

The Syrian Opposition Coalition has announced the suspension of its planned visits to both Washington and Moscow, and likewise its withdrawal from participating in the upcoming Friends of Syria conference in Rome, in protest against the “international silence” towards the crimes committed against the Syrians, after the Assad regime once again bombarded Aleppo with long-range missiles. However, a boycott is the wrong course of action to take.

Boycotts are not the solution for the Syrian opposition, whatever the justifications, for the basic principle in politics is communication, even if through covert channels. The Syrian opposition desperately need to connect themselves with the international community, both Russia and the West, rather than having intermediaries speaking on their behalf, whether Arab or Western.

It is true that the international stance is languid and frustrating, but what exactly is the alternative especially considering that Iran, for example, is providing alarming continuous support for Bashar al-Assad? Therefore, emotional boycotts are not prudent, for the opposition must visit Moscow and Washington, explain their position, and tirelessly try to mobilize international stances in their favor. Otherwise, the only beneficiary is Bashar Assad, who has relentlessly tried, since the outbreak of the revolution, to discredit the opposition and fragment it. Assad has done everything possible in order to achieve this, so why should the opposition give him his desired result on a silver platter, especially at a time when it is even more pressing to talk about the situation in Syria and the need for intervention?

The US administration is facing mounting internal criticism about its stance towards the Syrian revolution, and even some American journalists known for their defense of the Obama administration are now talking about Syria in critical, or at least objective, language. Talk is largely focusing on calls to review the US position, especially with the completed formation of the new US administration, and this makes the idea of a boycott even more illogical. Consider the recent article written in the London Review of Books, carried by Reuters, which quoted a White House official saying that the US administration is trying to learn from past lessons, especially Iraq. The official said, “The United States has a long history of picking winners and losers based on the guy who speaks English well . . . It’s just trying to learn the lessons and be humble.” This means that the Syrian opposition must communicate in order to convince and change attitudes, even if it seems frustrating.

With regards to connecting with the Russians, Russia’s manipulative and contradictory statements merit an outright confrontation with Moscow itself. This is not necessarily to convince the Russians, but to expose them internationally, for there must be some form of political challenge and refutation of their arguments. It is true that the crimes committed in Syria say it all, but merely communicating with the Russians—from the Syrian opposition perspective—will embarrass them politically, and embarrass Assad himself, who has tried endless tricks to strike the opposition and thwart their communication with the international community. The opposition’s boycott is a breakthrough for Assad, even if only in front of his narrow circle of support, and this is what the Syrian opposition must avoid. Unfortunately, the Syrian opposition’s fate for the time being has been reduced to explaining the obvious, but as the Arabs say, part of the problem lies in explaining the obvious.