Middle-east Arab News Opinion | Asharq Al-awsat

Is Syria’s opposition extremist? | ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive 2005 -2017
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There is no problem with the opposition representing all Syrians, including the fighters on the ground. This is normal and important. The Syrian opposition should not just represent one segment of society, particularly following the experiences of the Arab Spring states, which saw just one section of the opposition, namely the Islamists, achieve predominance. However the question that must be asked here is: is Syria’s opposition extremist, or rather has it been hijacked by the extremists?

This is an inaccurate opinion, even if this was put forward by US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, particularly as Bashar al-Assad expressed the same sentiments before her, indeed since the first day of the Syrian revolution. The reality is that the Syrian opposition has been neglected by everybody, regionally and internationally, for almost two years, namely since the revolution first began. All of the efforts that have been exerted to unify the opposition represented attempts to attract others with similar beliefs, for example, on the part of those who prefer the Muslim Brotherhood line and who sought to consolidate their ranks. Otherwise, dealings with the Syrian opposition were based on the approach of wasting time, to the point that some officials were embarrassed to be photographed with Syrian opposition figures! Therefore, nearly two years into the Syrian revolution and following the deaths of almost 30,000 Syrians, it is natural for the situation to have become increasingly complicated, not just in Syria, but also within the ranks of the Syrian opposition itself. Our duty now is to develop a practical plan to ensure that the Arab Spring states mistakes’ are not repeated in Syria. Most of these mistakes took place with western – and sometimes Arab – backing, from Egypt to Tunisia, not to mention some attempts in Libya. These mistakes can be summed up as attempts to impose the Muslim Brotherhood on these Arab Spring states based on the view that the Brotherhood was the strongest and most organized trend on the ground. This is something that is only permissible during a state of stability where the power in the street, for example, is the one that wins the elections. As for during periods of chaos and rebuilding, constitutions and legislation must be the guarantors for everybody. This mistake, which Arab Spring states are today suffering from, is precisely what happened in post-occupation Iraq, so predominance was granted to the party that was strongest and most organized on the ground, namely the Shiites. From this point, Iraq became a sectarian and exclusionist state, and the same applies to the Arab Spring states today. This is something that must not be repeated in Syria, whether from the international community, Arab world, or Syrian opposition themselves.

Therefore, blame is not helpful now, particularly as the Syrian revolution has seen enough organized deception and trickery, whether from the al-Assad regime or the international community. Saying that what is happening in Syria is a civil war is a deception, for in reality this is a revolution that was confronted by organized armed violence. Saying that Al Qaeda is involved with the revolution is a deception, for with al-Assad using all weapons under his control, not to mention the Iranian involvement, with all of their capabilities, as well as Hezbollah and Russian arms; nobody can blame the Syrians even if they appealed to the devil himself! The deception does not stop here, for the missions undertaken by General al-Dabi, Kofi Annan and Lakhdar Barahimi were also deceptions and time-wasting; therefore it is irresponsible to point the finger of blame at the Syrian opposition today. So what is required is serious work. The first step that the Arab world and international community must take is not to prefer one party over another, in addition to selecting a framework that includes all Syrians, which means restructuring the Syrian National Council [SNC] without preference or favor. The new Syria must be for all Syrians, whilst it must also avoid the mistakes made by Arab Spring states.