We in the Syrian opposition are hopelessly divided, and we are indeed falling, and failing our people. We need to mount a revolution within the ranks of the opposition.
A banner carried by one of the protesters in Hauran/Deraa Province today read “the opposition eats sour grapes, and the Revolutionaries’ teeth are set on edge.” This sums up how people feel about the opposition today. Though many carried banners supporting the recently announced transitional council, they were aware of course of the controversy its formation has generated, and of the reluctance of many in the opposition to endorse it. The fact that Burhan Ghalioun, the French-educated secular academic named to lead the council, has just announced that while he accepts the responsibility of being leader, he will give himself 2 weeks to form a council of his choosing, serves to underline the ever-widening gap separating people in his position from the street. While I am not surprised, I am dismayed, and so are many protest leaders, young and old.
Had Burhan accepted the nomination, convened the Council and then proposed some changes, he would have demonstrated the tact required for the task at hand, that task of leading the transitional period. But, by giving himself an additional 2 weeks in which so many things can happen both on the street, such as more killings and more cracks in the leadership of the protest movement inside the country, and within the opposition circles, like the anticipated announcements of new councils or the emergence of new initiatives that will only confuse people more and more, Burhan betrayed an inability to appreciate how deep popular resentment towards the opposition has become, how dangerous this development is, and how time-sensitive this whole issue of transitional council is in relation to maintaining the relevance of the opposition to the protest movement. Burhan has thus failed his first test as political leader, and that test might just be his last. Revolutionary times are not forgiven, and second chances are hard to come by. The Transitional Council as proposed by the youth activists in Ankara might have become irrelevant already, but so is Burhan Ghalioun as potential leader. By the time he announces his council, the marketplace might already be crowded again, and the street that just yesterday called his name with a certain newfound affection, might ignore it all together tomorrow. The protesters were only willing to endorse Burhan inasmuch as he was willing to endorse their initiative. This was a pragmatic move on their part, not a sign of adoration. His failure to understand that and his attempt at obfuscation will only backfire soon enough, but the repercussions will be borne by all. Sour grapes indeed! Sourpusses galore!