Syrian National Mess

George Sabra has been elected new head of the Syrian National Council. He seems like a good man and his first interviews suggest he’s an effective talker. But his election comes as the SNC loses the last of its relevance. Despite the gravity of its historic responsibility, the Council failed to connect properly with revolutionaries on the ground, it failed to do enough to reassure minorities, or to aid refugees, it put all its eggs in the basket of a foreign military intervention which was never going to happen, it overrepresented the Muslim Brotherhood, it was bedevilled by factional and ego-based conflict, and its self-renewal process ended up with no women in the leadership. Foreign governments have lost interest in it. Crucially the grassroots Local Coordination Committes say the SNC no longer represents them. Other opposition bodies and individuals outside the SNC (some of them doubtless secretly backed by the regime) have added to the sniping and backstabbing.

Today the news is that a new, broader body has been formed to coordinate the fight against Asad, to implement law in liberated areas, and to oversee the post-Asad transition. It’s called the National Coalition of the Syrian Revolutionary Forces and the Opposition, or the Syrian National Coalition. Perhaps this initiative will be more successful than others; we’ll see. Very sadly, it took Qatari and American badgering and perhaps promises of better weaponry (at this late stage with the country in flames and the resistance finally capturing heavy weaponry for itself) to force the ‘opposition’ to coalesce. You’d think Syria’s elite politicians would have been self-motivated to compromise and act by the destruction and mass slaughter in their homeland, by the urgency of the tragedy, by the vacuum allowing nihilists and potential warlords to call shots. But no. While Syria’s grassroots revolutionaries are unparalleled heroes, seemingly capable of endless self-sacrifice, Syrian political elites have failed their people massively.

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Syrian Eid al-Adha 2011

Not a great Eid in Syria. The traditional open air Eid prayers turned into anti-regime demonstrations and, as usual, the regime’s insecurity forces fired at the demonstrators. At least twenty three people were murdered today, including an infant. Many of the dead were in the central city of Homs, which has been a veritable war zone for weeks, the site of clashes between loyalist and defected soldiers as well as tank bombardments and sniper fire from the regime. In the last four days, since the regime supposedly agreed to release prisoners and withdraw its forces from civilian areas according to the Arab League plan, at least 80 people have been reported killed in the city.

There is one piece of very important good news, however. Burhan Ghalyoun, leader of the Syrian National Council, delivered an Eid address to the Syrian people which was carried by al-Jazeera. Ghalyoun, who does not wish to become a future president, was truly presidential. He appealed to those Syrians still hesitant or afraid to support the revolution, assuring them that the future Syria will be a state of citizenship and equal rights, and that minorities will be protected. Bringing larger sections of the Alawi and Christian minorities on board is the only way for the revolution to move forward, so Ghalyoun’s speech is most welcome, and long overdue. The English translation which follows after the break was posted at al-Jazeera’s live blog, but I found it at the excellent Walls.

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