London/Beirut, Asharq Al-Awsat – The Syrian Muslim Brotherhood has announced its support for the idea of establishing a unified opposition political leadership, such as a national unity government, in the event of the collapse of the al-Assad regime. In an exclusive interview with Asharq Al-Awsat, Syrian Muslim Brotherhood General Guide Mohammad Riad Al-Shaqfa announced that all members of the Syrian Muslim Brotherhood support the objective of toppling the al-Assad regime and not entering any dialogue or negotiations with it.
Speaking to Asharq Al-Awsat from Doha, where the Syrian opposition is meeting with the objective of forging a new, broader opposition leadership group, the Syrian Muslim Brotherhood chief revealed that the General Secretariat of this as-yet unnamed opposition body will be comprised of 41 members, 10 of whom will be Muslim Brotherhood affiliates.
He added that this group’s leadership will be elected in the near future, whilst its Executive Office will be comprised of 11 members. The Syrian Muslim Brotherhood General Guide also asserted that negotiations are ongoing in Doha amongst the Syrian opposition regarding the “Syrian National Initiative” and other issues that have yet to be resolved.
He strongly denied that the Muslim Brotherhood was seeking to impose its control over the proposed new broad-based opposition umbrella group.
As for the absence of female activists from the General Secretariat of the Syrian National Council [SNC], al-Shaqfa said that this was the result of democratic elections, stressing that the new opposition umbrella group would represent the broadest spectrum of Syrian society.
Well-known Syrian dissident, George Sabra, was elected as the new head of the SNC on Friday. The SNC has been reluctant to join any new opposition umbrella organization, fearing that it could lose its influence within a larger platform. Negotiations are ongoing in Doha regarding the establishment of this new group, with this expected to last several days.
Following his election as the new SNC chief, Sabra immediately appealed to the international community to arm the Syrian rebels. He said “we need only one thing to support our right to survive and to protect ourselves: we need weapons, we need weapons.”
The Syrian opposition and the SNC in particular have been subject to international criticism in the recent period. US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, speaking last week, said “we’ve made it clear that the SNC can no longer be viewed as the visible leader of the opposition. They can be part of a larger opposition, but the opposition must include people from inside Syria and others who have a legitimate voice that needs to be heard.” She also warned of “extremists” trying to “hijack the Syrian revolution”, calling on the Syrian opposition to strongly resist such efforts.
Sabra, speaking in Doha on Friday, acknowledged that some of the criticism of the SNC had been justified but stressed that this should not be used as an excuse to delay international aid. He said “don’t hang (your) delay to provide Syrians what they need, what they want, on the neck of the opposition.”
He added “let’s say, we have our responsibility, no doubt about that, and we will carry this responsibility, but we need from the international community to carry their responsibility also.”
Responding to Hillary Clinton’s comments regarding “extremists” trying to “hijack the Syrian revolution”, Syrian Muslim Brotherhood General Guide Mohammad Riad Al-Shaqfa, told Asharq Al-Awsat that “whenever the killing intensifies, so too does extremism”. He added “the west is also responsible [for this], because its leaders did not sufficiently stand with the Syrian revolution. It is not reasonable for massacres to take place in Syria whilst the world stands watching.”
The Syrian Muslim Brotherhood leader also expressed his regret at the international unwillingness to get involved to put an end to the ongoing conflict in Syria, repeating calls for the international community to provide the Syrian opposition with anti-aircraft missiles and anti-tank capabilities to repel the al-Assad regime forces. In spite of this, the Syrian Muslim Brotherhood chief stressed that “the Syrian people will win without this.”
He added “obtaining the support of the international community will hasten al-Assad’s departure, however he will fall regardless, but this would save a lot of lives.”
Commenting on President Barack Obama’s re-election, the Syrian Muslim Brotherhood chief said “Obama winning a second term in the White House does not change anything, and the conflict will remain as it is until al-Assad’s fall, which I believe is fast approaching.”
In related news, Syria’s opposition Local Coordination Council [LCC], a major network of on-the-ground activists, said that it was withdrawing from the SNC on Friday over its failures to implement “serious and effective” reforms to make it more representative.
The LCC issued a statement asserting that “it is clear to us now that the SNC is not fit to assume such a role, especially after the disappointing results of its restructuring attempts.”
LCC spokesperson, Rima Fleihan told AFP that “nothing has changed in how the SNC works, despite a reform project, because the new structure is under the near-total control of the Muslim Brotherhood.”