In our article about rebranding the Syrian opposition, we discussed forming a new coalition for the Syrian opposition, and we were convinced that this new body is nothing but a new façade for the same old Syrian National Council.
Weeks after the establishment of this new coalition, we are convinced even more that this is the case.
So far, the most accurate description for this new coalition is President Obama’s statement that they are “a broad-based representative group”. But France, Turkey, and a few other countries pushed this further, considering the group to be the “sole representative of the Syrian people”. But let’s take a closer look at its representation.
- The coalition does not represent all the opposition parties, especially with the refusal of the National Coordination Committee to join the coalition.
- The coalition, of course, does not represent Syrians who are against the “revolution”. These Syrians may have different reasons not to support the opposition, from being loyal to President Assad, to fearing radical proliferation in Syria, to rejecting the external opposition for historical factors.
- The coalition does not represent Syrians who are, although with the “revolution”, against militarization, as evident in the 12-point agreement that was the basis of forming the coalition. The coalition is not even interested in representing those.
- The coalition does not represent the major opposition fighting groups, as expressed in a video released by leaders of rebel groups in Aleppo, including The Unity Brigade, known to be closely linked to the Muslim Brotherhood, which is, ironically, an important member of the coalition itself. The video also states that rebel fighting groups insist on forming an Islamic state in Syria (see Syria Tribune Editor discussing this issue on RT).
But these facts did not seem to matter to France and the other countries that recognized the coalition as the “sole representative” of Syrian people. A clear violation to the right of Syrian people to select their representatives.
- Alkhatib is reported saying that Alawites shoud convert to Shiism, to be “more understandable”.
- On Aljazeera, Alkhatib previously stated he trusted that some Syrian officials do want the best for Syria, and that he was “hand in hand” with President Bashar Al Assad. He also stated he rejected “those who take advantage of protests to create security problems”. He also rejected “media channels that use sectarian incitement to create trouble”. But after becoming a coalition leader, this changed. In his inauguration speech, he took all this back, saying the exact opposite of his previous statements, to the extent that he saluted rebel fighters whom he previously described as trouble makers. He even rejected claims that rebel fighters are mostly extreme radicals, a fact that is well known to almost everyone today. Sheikh Alkhatib also used the majority and minority political terms in a sectarian context in the same inauguration speech.
- In his speech in the funeral of a number of Syrian people killed early in the events in Douma near Damascus, Alkhatib insisted that the only way is peaceful protesting, something that contradicts with his quest as head of the coalition to get foreign countries to send more weapons to rebel fighters in Syria.
- To address the pro-revolution Syrian population, Alkhatib chose the “Syrian Revolution” Facebook page (see speech here). But this is the same questionable page that was used to publish civilian “hit lists” that resulted in the assassination of many civilians, including a number of doctors in Syrian hospitals. See our report on this issue here.
So it seems that a previously moderate scholar has shifted to become less moderate. This change cannot be seen without having links to him heading the “coalition of war”. He is still labeled moderate nonetheless.
On the other hand, Syria is well known for being one the most secular and moderate countries in the region. In the principle, having an Islamic scholar heading what is seen by some countries as the sole representative of this secular country is in itself a violation.
Not parting from the principles of the Syrian National Council, the successor insists on the same path that has lead to the current situation with this massive escalation of violence. In their 12-point agreement, members of the coalition insisted on the following:
- Toppling the regime, and rejecting any dialogue or negotiations with it.
- Supporting the “joined leadership” of military councils (of rebel fighters). Needless to say, there is no such joined leadership.
But how is the coalition going to topple the regime and support the rebels? By securing “wider international recognition and weapons”. Did we say weapons? To be sent to whom exactly?
More weapons to those who violate human rights
So the coalition states that it is after more weapons. It even asked the EU to revise the arms embargo on Syria to legitimatize sending weapons to… these people:
- In this previously mentioned video, rebel leaders in Aleppo declared that they are after an Islamic state in Syria.
- To start building this Islamic state, rebel fighters started dispatching armed patrols “encouraging” people to go to mosques for prayers, a common practice in Saudi Arabia by the Wahhabi Committee for the Propagation of Virtue and Prevention of Vice, usually accompanied by violence against those who refuse to join the prayer. In this video, a Saudi militiaman fighting with Syrian rebels is calling on people to join the prayer, not neglecting to show his gun very clearly.
- In this pro-rebels protest in Binnish near Idleb (north of Syria), you can clearly see Al Qaeda flags, along with banners stating that the ultimate goal is forming an Islamic state in Syria. This video from the same area shows sectarian chants (subtitled in English).
- In this video, rebel fighters threaten to kill parents of Syrian soldiers who do not force their sons to defect. The announcer states that “no excuse is accepted anymore, like parents like sons, they will get killed”.
- They are still the same groups condemned for human rights violations (also see here and here).
Rebranding FSA as well?
Some opposition factions claim that they are capable of forming a new rebel group that is less radical, more secular, and more acceptable both to Syrian and the International community. This video could be (just a speculation) the first step in this, as it shows some alleged defected officers declaring the formation of The Free Syrian Officers group.
This is obviously an attempt to rid the opposition from the image FSA gained over the past months, which they were unable to avoid, with all videos and news that leaked from the rebels’ side. But is it doable to form such a group? And what task will this group have if formed?
- FSA started off as a group of army defectors, but very soon it turned into the current chaos of fighting groups. The reason this happened is that there were never enough army defectors to form an “army”. Some opposition figures seem to be convinced that sizable defections will take place once this newly formed group appears, but this has been the claim ever since war in Syria started, what will change now?
- The current fighting groups are mostly radical groups as agreed by most media channels today. They have been being provided with money, weapons and logistic support for over a year. What will be the fate of these radical groups? And who can guarantee they will not clash with the newly formed allegedly secular group? How big would this new group need to be to take on the Syrian Army and the current rebels at the same time? And what kind of weapons would it need?
- The West insists that they will be providing the fighters with “defensive weapons” only. But the fighters have had defensive and offensive weapons for over a year, and they still could not secure a single win over the Syrian Army. Toppling the regime means, naturally, attacking Damascus. Would they be attacking Damascus with defensive weapons only? What about the radical groups already fighting in Damascus countryside? Will they simply vanish? Or participate in the fighting? Who can guarantee their behavior should this attack succeed?
We strongly believe that the newly formed fighting group will be nothing but another rebranding process for the same existing radical-dominated FSA.
It seems that the Libyan scenario will repeat itself in Syria, but not in terms of a no-fly zone that offers a pretext for military intervention, but in terms of the west supporting a questionable group allegedly representative of the Syrian people, helping their military wing assault more Syrians and disrupt stability in the country. One difference is obvious though, the stability of the whole Middle East is on the line this time.