Latest update: December 12th, 2012
Given Western backing the SNC is surprisingly dominated by Islamists. Ten of the 19 are identifiable as such (both Muslim Brothers and independent—Salafist?—Islamists) and a couple of those who are nominally leftists are apparently Islamist puppets. The fact that U.S. policy is backing an Islamist-dominated group indicates the profound problems with Obama Administration policy.
It should be stressed, though, that the SNC’s popular support is totally untested. Many oppositionists—especially Kurds—are disgusted by the group’s Islamist coloration and refuse to participate.
The National Coordination Committee (NCC) is a leftist-dominated alternative. The Antalya Group is liberal. There is also a Salafist council organized by Adnan Arour, a popular religious figure; a Kurdish National Council and a Secular Democratic Coalition (both angry at the SNC’s Islamism);
It is hard to overestimate how disastrous Obama Administration policy has been. Not only has it promoted an Islamist-dominated leadership (which might be pushed into power by monopolizing Western aid) but this mistake has fractured the opposition, ensuring there would be several anti-SNC groups. This strategy has also angered the Kurds and Turkmen minorities who view the SNC as antagonistic to their hopes for some autonomy. As a result, these two groups have reduced their revolutionary activities.
The best source on these events is the exiled democrat Ammar Abdulhamid whose daily Syrian Revolution Digest is indispensable to understand what’s going on in the country. He writes that, despite U.S. and Turkish support, nobody will recognize the SNC as the “legitimate representative of the Syrian people” because of its “over-representation of certain currents and under-representation of others, as well as lack of transparency in the selection and decision-making processes, not to mention lack of clear political vision and transitional plans.”
Again, it should be stressed that in terms of actually directing the rebellion, there is no leadership.
11. So who do we want to win? Despite the threat of a Sunni Islamist regime, I hope that Asad will be overthrown. Why? If the regime survives we know it will continue to be a ferociously repressive dictatorship, allied with Iran, and dedicated to the destruction of U.S. and Western interests, the imperialist domination of Lebanon, wiping Israel off the map, and subverting Jordan.
With a revolution, there is a chance — especially if U.S. policy doesn’t mess it up — for a real democracy that is higher than in Egypt. In Syria only 60 percent of the population is Sunni Muslim and thus might be potential recruits to be Islamist. The minorities—Alawite, Christian, Druze, and Kurdish—don’t want an Arab Sunni Islamist regime.
As for the Sunnis themselves, they are proportionately more urban, more middle class, and more moderate than in Egypt. Islamists and the Muslim Brotherhood in particular have never been as strong in Syria as in Egypt. In Egypt, Libya, and Tunisia, the Islamists face what is largely a political vacuum; in Syria they have real, determined opposition.
Today, the Syrian people have two major enemies blocking the way to a moderate stable democracy. One is the regime itself; the other is the U.S.-Turkish policy that is determined—naively for the former; deviously deceitful from the latter—to force a new repressive Islamist regime on the Syrians.
This article first appeared in
About the Author: Professor Barry Rubin is director of the Global Research in International Affairs (GLORIA) Center and editor of the Middle East Review of International Affairs (MERIA) Journal. See the GLORIA/MERIA site at www.gloria-center.org.
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