Many tears were shed throughout Syria in 2011, and 2012 will not be any different, except that some of them might end up being tears of joy as our battle against tyranny succeeds in making one major stride forward by toppling the Assad regime.
Saturday 31, 2011
Today’s death toll: 16. The Breakdown: 5 in Homs City, the rest mostly in Hama City.
Agreement, What Agreement?
Announcement that a unity agreement was reached and signed in Cairo between the Syrian National Council (SNC) and the National Coordination Body for Democratic Change (NCB, previously National Coordination Committee for Democratic Change or NCC) led to mutual recriminations and accusations on websites, social networking sites, and Arabic satellite channels. SNC President Burhane Ghalioun said that what was leaked to the press was only a draft that needed to be discussed internally within the SNC before a decision is reached. Haitham Manna, the NCB Paris-based spokesman, insisted that the agreement was signed by Ghalioun in the presence of other SNC members, including Haitham Al-Maleh and Catherine Al-Talli.
Ghalioun’s line marks a departure from how certain elements within the SNC had hailed the agreement in the beginning. The immediate mass backlash against the agreement within ranks of the SNC, with the MB declaring that it had reservations and Kurdish parties, the revolutionary committees on the ground, and numerous independent figures denouncing the agreement all together, seems to have encouraged Mr. Ghalioun to look for a way out. There are three main problems in the agreement as far as its critics are concerned: rejection of foreign military intervention, refusing to call for supporting the Free Syrian Army (FSA), and the fact that it served tom legitimize the presence of the NCB, a body that popularly denounced by the protesters for its advocacy of dialogue with the regime, and the willingness of its leaders to accept a formula that keeps Assad in power.
In a statement, Ghalioun explained that talks with NCB had been taking place for over a month with participation of other SNC members, including Ahmad Ramadan, Najib Ghadbian, Wael Mirza, Anas Abdeh and Basma Kodmani. The talks, he explained, took place as part of the Arab League outreach to the Syrian opposition and in preparation for an opposition conference to be arranged by the League. Ghalioun explained that the Article I of the agreement rejects foreign military intervention by land, as it undermines the unity and independence of Syria, but, he said that he is all for a foreign intervention that seeks to create a buffer zone and to impose a no-fly zone and a maritime blockade, as these are commensurate with the demands of the protesters.
Ghalioun also argued that because the NCB “does not have a wide popular support base,” signing the agreement for them was an act of defection from within the ranks of the regime and constitute a major blow to it, a development that is bound to increase the regime’s isolation, or so he said.
Ghalioun concluded by asserting his and the SNC’s continued commitment to bringing down the regime with all its pillars of support and their wholehearted support the FSA.
Excuses aside, the controversy constituted a new blow to the credibility of Burhan Ghalioun and the SNC at a time when both seemed to be finally getting their act together, and does not bode well for their immediate future. Mass emails with copies of the Agreement signed by Ghalioun were widely circulated, and Ghalioun’s denials and retractions only served to make him look weaker and untrustworthy.
On the popular level, the inhabitants of Homs City in particular have been the most critical.
In Khaldiyeh, the know soccer player, activist and hero Abdlbassit Sarout arrived in the neighborhood carried on the shoulders of protesters and as soon as he reaches the stage, he picks up the microphone and shouts “Burhane Ghalioun” and the people pick up the chant “can’t you hear? The people want a no-fly zone” http://youtu.be/gZZDEJxydw8.
In Bab Houd, protesters, and in accordance with soccer traditions, carried yellow card with Ghalioun’s name on it and chanted: “Burhan Ghalioun wake up, the NCB does not represent us.” A Sign harkens back on earlier statement by Ghalioun discouraging defections, saying the army should defect as a whole, and ask: “Do we need to preserve army unity when 15 security apparatuses are killing us?” Another sign, reminds Ghalioun that SNC leaders should not make such major decisions without popular approval http://youtu.be/1W6YaYI4C7o One more misstep and Ghalioun will be effectively thrown out of the “game.” Whether the SNC can survive such a move is anyone’s guess.
For his part, Mr. Manna and the NCB, continue to bet on Arab intervention. Mr. Manna explains that his experience in exile taught him much about the unpredictability and back deals involved in foreign military intervention. But his bet on the Arab League seems rather infantile. His camp always warns that foreign intervention often leads to destruction, mayhem and civil wars, but fails to explain why they think Arab intervention will succeed in avoiding such pitfalls. From the point of view of religious minority groups in the country, an Arab intervention will be viewed as a Sunni threat, from the Kurdish point of view it will come as another assertion of Arab nationalism that could seriously undermine their aspirations for all the verbal assurances given. The only powers out there that seem to be genuinely concerned about national and religious minorities rights happen to be western. As such, foreign involvement, the nationalist resistance rhetoric of the Assads notwithstanding, might actually constitute an actual guarantee of their rights. While the Iraqi example may not be too inspiring in this regard, it’s the global awareness of the mistakes that were made in Iraq that give some room for optimism. The lessons are too fresh to have forgotten, and Iraq too close to be ignored. The Balkan example also shows that when done right foreign intervention can be quite effective. Inter-Arab interventionist experience, on the other hand, is pretty limited and has proven as equally ineffective and devastating when it was done wrong, as has always been the case. Bear in mind Arab intervention in Lebanon, and the current efforts in Yemen and Syria itself.
More importantly, NCB members fail to explain how dialog with the Assads can be successful in facilitating democratic transition, in face of all evidence as to their brutality and corruption. The have also failed to provide any support to the revolution on the ground despite the fact that most of their members happen to live in Syria. They have also failed to gain the people’s trust, and were often denounced by the name, Mr. Mann in particular, by protesters. They have also failed to propose any strategies to ensure the success of the revolution and tougher Arab and more effective stance on the Syrian crisis. They even fail to consider Turkey as a potential ally, at a time when even Syria’s Kurdish groups, seem willing to accept potential Turkish intervention, if it took place far from their strongholds. These failures have consistently undermined the credibility and legitimacy of the NCB and will continue to do so.
One of the main missteps by Ghalioun and the SNC was the expenditure of so much time on trying to reach an agreement with a stillborn group like the NCB, while neglecting for so long undertaking serious outreach efforts to more established and credible opposition groups and figures, not to mention undertaking the necessary steps to transforming itself into a more professional and credible groups as far as the protesters and the international community is concerned. All this is now backfiring. SNC leaders have managed to mislead the protesters and the international community by giving too much credence to the NCB, rather than taking a strong stand against it, the mission of the SNC has, from moment one, been one of disruption, and the protester have denounced them repeatedly and unequivocally. By continuing to frame the question of opposition in unity in terms of needing to reach agreement with NCB rather than other opposition groups and coalitions that have clearly adopted the message of the protesters, the world was made to hail a foolish agreement that defunct on signing as it was a landmark achievement. Now, the opposition as a whole will look even more shaky, amateurish and unprofessional.
Revolution & Ideology
There is no room for ideology in this revolution. In fact, it has always been a revolution against ideology. Even Islamists will not be able to prevail if they want to advocate ideological stances. This is a revolution was motivated and informed by a desire to find for solutions to long-standing and festering problems, about living conditions and developmental problems. Its tactics has been inspired by the same ethos: people will adopt the tactics that prove more effective: that’s why, and after a period of experimentation and of pushing nonviolence first, they finally settled on a mixture of violence and nonviolence. The defectors and their local supporters will be charged of protecting the protesters and their communities, but the protests themselves will always remain peaceful and nonsectarian. The occasional operations conducted by FSA against loyalist convoys were seen as preemptive tactics, as theses convoys were taking active part in suppression of protest communities. The outreach to the international community and demand for the establishment of a buffer zone, no-fly zone, and providing support to the FSA were seen as necessary instruments for making the conflict more equal. All these calculations were done on the basis of practicalities and realities, not ideological considerations. That’s why, and despite the best effort of the regime’s to facilitate such developments, Jihadism has so far failed to find a welcoming ground in Syria.