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Opposition to the Syrian Opposition: Against the Syrian National Council

[Image from AllVoices] [Image from AllVoices]

First, let us be clear. The Syrian people have every right to protest, peacefully and violently, against the brutal regime. But let us be clear; the Syrian regime has no right to stay in power, and this was true even before it began using violence to quell the uprising. And let us be clear; the Syrian regime is incapable of reforming itself.

It is rather foolish to wait for a group to ascend to power before criticizing it. There was no mystery as to the intentions and agenda of the Muslim Brotherhood or the Salafis or even the Khomeini movement, before their taking the reigns of power. Similarly, the adversaries of the Ba'ath Party began opposing it long before the former began conspiring to seize power by force. Today, it is imperative that an opposition to the Syrian National Council (SNC) begins (and to the power behind it and underneath it) before they get a chance to rule Syria. This North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO)-supported movement does not really differ from the NATO-supported movement that served as a tool of NATO in Libya. The writing was on the wall before the Qaddafi regime fell, and those who supported NATO intervention in Libya are now trying—á la Thomas Friedman after he supported the Iraq war in 2003—to rewrite their own political history and to deny that they really had supported the NATO military intervention.

The opposition to the SNC can be predicated on several factors, primarily relating to matters of credibility, consistency, and honesty. The SNC has already lied to the Syrian people repeatedly. There are many examples that can be summarized below. 

  1. The SNC started as a movement that strictly adhered to nonviolent struggle and now it has a military council to coordinate the violent overthrow of the regime by force (and this without in any way detracting from the right of the Syrian people—and all other Arab people—to overthrow it by any means necessary the regime under which they live and suffer). Worse, the SNC now wants violence to be done by Syrians and by whoever else (Israelis too?) interested in overthrowing the regime.
  2. The SNC first categorically rejected any political preferences in the Lebanese political conflict. Burhan Ghalyun famously said: keep us out of your conflicts in Lebanon. Now, the SNC is a close ally of the March 14 Movement, and it has issued political statements in support of this Hariri movement.
  3. The SNC said it strictly opposed foreign intervention while it now begs for foreign intervention from any side—preferably allies of the United States and Israel.
  4. The SNC leadership said on a few occasions that the percentage of the Ikhwan in the SNC is no more than twenty percent. Yet, Ghalyun in several private meetings (including an off-the-record session with an Arab journalist) complained about Ikhwan domination of the SNC and said that he would not agree to serve as another Mahmud Jibril.
  5. The SNC rightly criticized the regime’s stance on the Arab-Israeli conflict and on the Golan Heights while they have basically maintained the very stance of the regime, which is to wait for the Golan to return, all by itself, to Syria’s lap, and to call for negotiations as the way to liberate the Golan. The SNC adopted the Ba‘athist government’s position before it even had a chance to establish its government. Moreover, the SNC went further and began an unprecedented (for Syrians that is) path of flirtation with Israel. Even after the revelation of Basma Qudmani’s humiliating performance on French television (and after she lied and claimed that it was fabricated—this was after the entire session was found and made available on the internet), the SNC stayed silent.
  6. The SNC claimed that it would not serve as a tool for outsiders and said that it will only answer to the Syrian people but it has now become a tool of Saudi and Qatari ruling dynasties, among others.
  7. The SNC rightly criticized the corruption of the Syrian regime but it has failed to share with the Syrian public information about its funding and how it keeps its books. Ghalyun and others timidly talk about funding from “wealthy Syrians,” while other SNC members conceded that some funding from Gulf countries arrived (but they complained about the small amounts).
  8. The SNC claims to work for a democratic Syria; yet its sponsors in Doha and Riyadh can hardly serve as democratic mentors.
  9. The SNC claims to offer the Syrian people a vision of a “civil state” (an empty term that is intended to appease both the secularists and the Islamists while it carries no concrete political meaning). Yet SNC Ikhwan and Saudi allies can hardly inspire confidence in that promise. The SNC wants to have it both ways. It very much reminds one of the empty promises of Khomeini before he established his clerical government. Yet this civic-minded council does not speak against its ally, the Free Syrian Army, and against its tendency to endow its battalions with religious and sectarian names.
  10. The SNC rightly condemns the war crimes by the Syrian regime but it has been silent about war crimes by the Free Syrian Army (as enumerated in the recent UN report on violations of human rights in Syria).
  11. The SNC first urged for the dispatch of the Arab League’s monitors and then it went against it when the report did not serve its interests and the interests of its sponsors.
  12. The SNC promises democracy and political transition of power and yet failed to establish such a mechanism for its own leadership. There are various (funny) accounts of the leadership meeting that allowed Burhan Ghalyun (under threats of resignation) to serve for another term.
  13. The SNC has been ineffective at best and an accomplice at worst in the sectarian killings in areas under the rule of its allies.
  14. The SNC speaks of democracy. Yet it has already engaged in practices that are rather anti-democratic and bode ill for the future of Syria if the SNC is allowed to take over the government in Damascus. It is not forgotten that SNC goons (and the SNC has goons just like the regime) attacked Syrian opposition figures who live and suffer in Syria when they visited Cairo to meet with the secretary general of the Arab League. The SNC also engages in Ba‘thist style takhwin (declaring all opponents as traitors). The SNC could not even reach an agreement with the Coordinating Committees who represent the internal opposition in Syria. In fact, Ghalyun signed an agreement with Haytham Al-Manna of the coordinating committees, only to rescind his signature a few days later when the Ikhwan protested.

But the SNC is not the entire Syrian opposition. Though it is asking for the right to become officially and internationally the “sole legitimate representative of the Syrian people” and some protesters in Syria agree. The Assad regime seems to be adept at ruthlessly rooting out the leftist opposition inside Syria (like the Communist Action Party), killing their leaders and arresting or killing their members. The assassination by a regime goon of Husayn ‘Uwaydat is only one example. Many leftist cadres sit in Syrian jails and they could have been effective in organizing the Syrian people along lines different from the agenda of the SNC. The cause of the Syrian people and their legitimate movement against the Asad dynasty is too important to be hijacked by any movement (domestic or foreign, although the SNC leadership is comprised mostly of people in exile).

For some reason (or for several reasons, and one of them is Zionist), people in the Westincluding in the progressive academic communityare very reluctant to criticize the SNC or even the Ikhwan. Worse, there are some in that community who want to convince us that Syrian opposition is entirely run by "progressives." People’s choices (though whether the SNC is actually the product of such choices has yet to be proven) are not always progressive or desirable. Khomeini had mass support and the left was and is obliged to go after the Khomeini movement. There are Khomeini wanna-bes in the Syrian uprising, and they should be opposed before they do more harm to the cause of the Syrian people. Moreover, there is an attempt by liberal Zionists to promote the SNC and its cause (just as they promoted the Iraqi National Congress and its cause) as a manifestation of a leftist-liberal movement (of course, Ahmad Chalabi is now reduced to ride on the coattails of Muqtada al-Sadr, of all people). It is no coincidence that the Likudnik Senator John McCainwho was the Godfather of the Iraqi National Congressis now serving as the Godfather of the SNC. 

There is war in Syria. And the Syrian people are now left to be victims, but also bystanders. The SNC and its allies have allowed the Syrian cause to become an agenda in the foreign policies of such reactionary regimes as Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, United Arab Emirates, and Bahrain. The United States and Israel are now engaged in a war that has nothing to do with the aspirations and desires of the Syrian people. The SNC is now on the side of the United States and Israel in their plots against Syria (Syria the country and not the regime) and they have in the past had no problem in doing business with that regime during and after the Hamah massacre of 1982. In this conflict, progressives can’t sit on the sidelines, and they certainly cannot join the joint US-Israeli project. They have to stand opposed to the regime and to the Israeli/US/Saudi plotthat is the obligation for the sake of the Syrian people and not for the sake of those who speak on their behalf, for purposes that are related neither to democracy nor to freedom.

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10 comments for "Opposition to the Syrian Opposition: Against the Syrian National Council"


Well, as an Israeli citizen, I sincerely want to ask you, the "talkback"ers, 2 questions: 1) I really do not see any israeli plot against Syria, and rather the opposite: too many Israelis are afraid of the next syrian regime, as they do not realy care about the slaughtered. 2) Why are negotiations about the Golan are bad in their view? isn't it a peacefull way?

I hope you can help me understand those view, or oppose it. Thank you

Itmar wrote on March 08, 2012 at 04:47 AM

My critical comments have been banned here, but still I would like to say that I agree with the article on 90%, and the 10% of disagreement is NOT about the role of the SNC and its whitewashers and supporters from the "left".

If the usual authors of the Jadaliyya are unable to say it by themselve, it is good that they at least gave a turn to speak to some else, who, like As'ad could call spade a spade and SNC - a tool of NATO/GCC/Zionists.

lidia wrote on March 08, 2012 at 08:05 AM

If the Syrian people have "every right to protest, peacefully and violently" then what are they supposed to do when they and their families are murdered in their beds? Are they supposed to miraculously constitute an ideologically pure popular force which, unlike all other popular movements, including the Palestinian movement, requires no international support? Let them evolve their own opposition and stop stamping on their right to overthrow, not just protest, an unfair, diabolical government.

Sherifa Zuhur wrote on March 08, 2012 at 12:27 PM

From its tenor, it seems this article has been written in haste. I am sympathetic to As'ad Abukhalil's criticisms and think they are legitimate. What I take issue with is criticism that is unmoored from suggestions of alternatives. The SNC has engaged in a number of problematic practices and has formed alliances that need to be critiqued. But it has also done so in (again hasty) reaction to an evolving, extremely difficult situation. Without going into tremendous detail, as an example, the FSA is not the Libyan army, in that they are actually trained soldiers who know how to fire weapons. They lack the kind of heavy artillery the Syrian army has. The Russians keep providing arms the Syrian army. The FSA is being pushed back continually. Meanwhile, people are being slaughtered by the Syrian army. Enter Saudi Arabia with its promise of arms. How do you think the SNC will react to such an offer? I am sorry but it is a little easy for us to be sitting here being sanctimonious in this situation. Second, there is no such thing as a "Saudi/US/Israeli" plot. Each party has its own interests and motivations. There are people on all sides who are trying to get different actors' strategic interests to align, and they are communicating accordingly. The latest example (in the United States) being how toppling Assad will be a strategic setback for Iran from the pro-intervention camp. Leaving all this aside, my main point to As'ad and our friends here is when we critique these things, for the sake of our own legitimacy, we need to provide credible, alternative strategies that take into account the interests and motivations of different actors, instead of sitting here and fuming, which is exasperating to watch and read.

DM wrote on March 08, 2012 at 12:40 PM

Let's be clear that none of the SNC can bring 10 protesters, the movement in Syria started from the very poor part of each city and I am sure NSC group never been there or has the courage to go there.(Bourjwazia does not eat from dirty dish). We can not forget that many of SNC member call on the division between Sunny and Alawi’s, meaning let us destroy the country no matter what. Not only the Asad regime rooting the leftist, SNC does the same by calling on the Communist Action Party as a goon of the regime.

Ghassan eli wrote on March 08, 2012 at 07:21 PM

Excellent read!! I agree with most of what you said.. But I strongly disagree with this statement;

"First, let us be clear: the Syrian people have every right to protest, peacefully and violently, against the brutal regime. And let us be clear: the Syrian regime has no right to stay in power, and this was true even before it began using violence to quell the uprising. And let us be clear: the Syrian regime is incapable of reforming itself."

**The Syrian people have no right to protest violently. This would against the law and against the interest of the Syrian people themselves- as violence leads to more violence!! **The Syrian regime has a wide base of support, being against the regime should not discount this fact!! It is true the constitution had to be changed for Bashar al Assad to become the President (in the US the Bush Family did the same, only through wealth and influence)! However, Syria has been currently, under attack and foreign intervention!! In a war, the last thing a country needs is for its President to step down!!

Hiba Kelanee wrote on March 08, 2012 at 08:07 PM

I believe the opposition is not organized and all opposition groups are not together with common agenda. This is perhaps the largest challenge the opposition is facing. Deflecting from what they said before is common to all political groups. Thats what politics is all about to face the current scenario on its merits. What Syria lacks is unity among the opposiiton groups whose leaders are working their own agendas as they are living is relative safety away from the real action. While the poor sympathisers are being massacred inside Syria in their drones each day. Syrian opposition groups should come forward formally and make a Common Minimum Programme (CMP) that all groups agree on. Once this is achieved there will be credible institution that will spear head the opposition movement and there will also emerge a leader or leadership council. Till this is achieved no body can effectively help Syrian aspirations. Please correct me if I am wrong.

Sami_Bahrain wrote on March 09, 2012 at 04:40 AM

1) FSA and SNC are TOOLS of NATO/GCC/Zionist plots, not just "engaged in a number of problematic practices and has formed alliances that need to be critiqued". They are sectarian murderers. 2) Yes, NATO, GCC and Zionists have different reasons to ruin Syria, but it does not meant they could not plot it together. Usually plots are formed by different parites with one common goal, even though with different reasons. 3) the majority of Zionists usually have NO word in what big wig Zionist doing. Their role is serve as a cannon fodder for Zionist crimes and support them. So, Itmar has NO idea of what the big wig Zionists like Liberman and others are doing, not that Itmar could and would made any difference 4) "Talks" with Zionists about Julan mean or nothing or worser - like talks with Palestinians.Settler colonialist Zionists are NOT going to return the land they had robbed from the natives. Even with Egypt their "concessions" mean but semi-colonial status. No wonder that Egyptians want to end this colonial "treaty" with Zionists. Only the end of Zionist colonial project will bring peace and justice to the ME.

lidia wrote on March 10, 2012 at 03:37 AM

Then, what is all this about? These Saud's and Gatar's money, these secret agents, these gangs who are attacking Syrian army? I don't see but the Ikhwan's gangs, AlQaida's CIA, and many wolves from many directions who bite here or there the Syria, our homeland.

Ghalib Alali wrote on March 10, 2012 at 10:56 AM

Who rules Syria and who takes over is not relevant when wholesale massacres, rapes of women and children, are taking place. This is a government with a long history of tyranny and bloodshed. It is illegitimate by all standards of justice. The masses have been oppressed (loss of lives, homes), and they have a right to defend themselves (confirmed in the Quran--Al Mumtahinah, Al Tawbah, Fussilat, and Al Shura). This government has transgressed all bounds (Al Shura), and it is therefore imperative that fellow Muslim nations intervene to stop the bloodshed (Al Hujurat). The outsider (NATO) should not be party to this. It is not their affair. They have done enough harm to the region with their interventions. Whether the Muslim governments that intervene are flawed is not the issue. The issue is saving lives. The choice of government can come later by mutual consultation (Al Shura). When the victim is bleeding, you stop the bleeding before you decide on a course of action like surgery or the long-term treatment and prognosis. Remove the tyrants and the Alawite dominated military, who are clearly not God-fearing people. If they were God-fearing, they would not be murdering their people in such a brutal manner. Once the situation is under control, then the Syrian people can decide on a government. At this point, stopping the bloodshed and injustices should be the focus. All that money spent on weapons purchases and military training by the governments of the Islamic World, and they can't figure out how to use them except on murdering and oppressing their own people? Shame on all of them! "The Believers are but a single Brotherhood, so make peace and reconciliation between your two brothers" (Al Hujurat 49:9).

Margaret wrote on March 12, 2012 at 02:19 PM

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