July 19, 2013

Majority, including supporters of National Coalition of Syrian Revolution and Opposition Forces, want a negotiated solution to the Syrian crisis

    Friday, July 19, 2013   No comments

The Coalition will either negotiate with the regime or it will become irrelevant

by Ahmed E. Souaiaia*
Responding to a non-scientific poll posted on the website of the National Coalition of Syrian Revolution and Opposition Forces (the Coalition), 66.2% of the respondents wanted the group to attend the Geneva-2 conference. In fact, 33.6% of the respondents wanted the Coalition to attend without any conditions. Only 30.8% thought that the Coalition should not negotiate. That sentiment reflects a non-scientific vote that ran on a website that is likely to be frequented by sympathizers with the Coalition. It is likely that if a similar poll surveyed people inside Syria, even more respondents would want the regime and the opposition groups to sit down and negotiate a political solution to the crisis. With that in mind, it is bewildering that leaders of the Coalition, including the new president, Ahmed Bin Awinen Asi AlJarba, have refused to enter into negotiations with the Syrian government.

Members of the Coalition must be out of touch. They are either callous to the suffering of the Syrian people or lack the political and ethical will to make independent decision in service of the people of Syria. 

The Coalition’s insistence that Arab and Western countries provide them with more lethal weapons to help them overthrow the regime, or at least gain the upper hand militarily, is troubling, flawed, reckless, and injudicious. It also shows that sectarianism and hateful impulses are major factors in the mind of some of the opposition figures. A case in point is the recent statements by a leading figure of the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood. 

When asked if the Muslim Brotherhood and other Islamists would establish the Free Egyptian Army (coined after the FSA) to resist the military coup in his country, he said that that would be catastrophic, because it will cost too many lives and too much destruction. Yet, the Syrian branch of the Muslim Brotherhood is engaged in military activities in Syria and is the main opponent of a negotiated settlement. So, why would the militarization of the conflict in Egypt be deemed unwise and catastrophic (rightly so) while the militarization of the Syrian conflict is acceptable and necessary?

The double standard is evidence that leaders of the Muslim Brotherhood have furtive sectarian tendencies. In that, in their mind, the war in Syria is a fight against heretic Shi`as. In other words, it is justified because some leaders of the Muslim Brotherhood (including Qaradawi) and other Syrian Islamists see it as a war against non-Muslim Nusayris. The war in Egypt, on the other hand, would be a war of (Sunni) Muslims against (Sunni) Muslims and that will be hard for them to justify.

The fall of the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt, the hesitancy of the West to provide arms, the fall of Hamad--the Emir of Qatar, the jarring protest movement in Turkey, the shrinking of the so-called “Friends of Syria” to several countries (mainly Saudi Arabia and UAE) should be cautionary warnings to the leaders of the Coalition. They should embrace dialogue and shun violence as a solution to the crisis in their country. If they don’t do so, in time, they will lose any standing with the Syrian people. They have to make that decision quickly because in several weeks, it will become clear to everyone that Geneva-2 is no longer an option

* Prof. SOUAIAIA teaches at the University of Iowa. Opinions are the author’s, speaking on matters of public interest; not speaking for the university or any other organization with which he is affiliated.


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