August 29, 2011

Syria’s opposition groups establish a national transition council

    Monday, August 29, 2011   No comments

by Ahmed E. Souaiaia*

Inspired by the success of Libya’s NTC, some Syrian opposition groups chose Burhan Ghalyoun, a political sociologist at Sorbonne University, as chairman of the National Transition Council. The meeting in Ankara, Turkey, concluded Monday August 29, 2011. It must be noted that a similar meeting attended by representatives of a number of opposition groups took place on August 20-21 in Istanbul had failed to found a similar council.

Syria’s NTC consists of 95 members, 42 of them are from inside Syria and the rest--the majority--are opposition figures living outside Syria. This composition of the council could limit its success. It is likely that other groups that are not represented will establish a competing coalition.

If Syria’s fractious opposition coalesces, more pressure will be put on the regime. But such a development may prove to be another path to ending the bloody conflict. For months, the Baath regime has contended that some of the people behind the uprising are extremists with no unified leadership and no legitimate demands. In July, the regime held a meeting with some individuals and leaders of ethnic and religious minorities to discuss reform. That dialogue did not go anywhere because demonstrators argued that those persons do not represent them.

If the protesters embrace one of the new councils and if the regime is serious about ending the bloodshed, it can use Arab (Arab League) and Islamic (Turkey) channels to invite opposition leaders and form a coalition government that will oversee the elections of a new constituency council that will be in charge of drafting a new constitution. The new constitution will then govern a second round of elections to establish a permanent government and elect a president.

If this approach is adopted, Assad could be the first Arab authoritarian to move his country from the edge of abyss to stability after months of a brutal crackdown. If he continues to ignore the opposition like Qadhafi did, who refused to negotiate with the opposition, then he, too, will be overthrown.

* Ahmed Souaiaia, teaches classes in the department of Religious Studies, International Programs and College of Law at the University of Iowa. Opinions expressed herein are the author’s, speaking as a citizen on matters of public interest; not speaking for the University or any other organization with which he is affiliated.


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