Friday, September 30, 2011

Syria's opposition and 'intervention'

There has been some talk in the broadsheets of Syrian intellectuals supporting a US-led 'intervention'.  I've seen recently that the opposition has formed a Syrian National Council from exile to represent all the domestic opposition groups.  Initially it was reported in the Telegraph that the group opposed foreign intervention.  Now it is reported that they are discussing sanctions and a no-fly zone with overseas powers.  According to the Syrian activist and writer Michael Kilo, this pro-imperialist stance is one reason why the council isn't supported within Syria:

Anti-regime activists inside Syria oppose the Syrian National Council, an opposition body formed in Turkey last month, because it favors foreign intervention, prominent activist Michel Kilo said on Thursday.
"The opposition within the national council are in favor of foreign intervention to resolve the crisis in Syria, while those at home are not," Kilo claimed in remarks to Agence France Presse at his home in Damascus.
"If the idea of foreign intervention is accepted, we will head towards a pro-American Syria and not towards a free and sovereign state," he said.
"A request for foreign intervention would aggravate the problem because Syria would descend into armed violence and confessionalism, while we at home are opposed to that."
Kilo, 71, a writer who has opposed the ruling Baath party since it came to power in 1963, was jailed from 1980 to 1983 and from 2006 to 2009.

It's interesting to see how the opposition divides over 'intervention'.  While the SNC represents a coalition of liberals and Islamists, the National Committee for Democratic Change (NCDC), of which Kilo is a member, is organised around Arab nationalists, Marxists, independents, Kurds, etc.  This represents a broadly left pole that wasn't present in Libya (and still isn't, as far as I know). Also worth noting that the Syrian Revolution General Commission (SRGC), the pro-'intervention' group now working in Washington, supposedly represents the Muslim Brothers among others. 

The formation of a pro-imperialist exile lobby is a worrying and potentially dangerous development following on from Libya.  While I still have my doubts that such a war is coming, it's only fair to recall I had similar doubts at the beginning of March that Libya would be bombed.  In these circumstances, despite the fact that the administration has thus far been very cautious, it makes no sense to rule anything out.  And one important condition for any US-led invasion or bombing of Syria would be, I think, the formation of a clear, pro-'intervention' contingent among the opposition.  So, I'm just putting it out there: keep your eye on this story, see where it goes.

Update: this remarkable statement, apparently from the Local Coordinating Committees in Syria (the grassroots basis of the revolt), is worth quoting in full:

In an unprecedented move over the past several days, Syrians in Syria and abroad have been calling for Syrians to take up arms, or for international military intervention. This call comes five and a half months of the Syrian regime’s systematic abuse of the Syrian people, whereby tens of thousands of peaceful protesters have been detained and tortured, and more than 2,500 killed. The regime has given every indication that it will continue its brutal approach, while the majority of Syrians feel they are unprotected in their own homeland in the face of the regime’s crimes.
While we understand the motivation to take up arms or call for military intervention, we specifically reject this position as we find it unacceptable politically, nationally, and ethically. Militarizing the revolution would minimize popular support and participation in the revolution. Moreover, militarization would undermine the gravity of the humanitarian catastrophe involved in a confrontation with the regime.
Militarization would put the Revolution in an arena where the regime has a distinct advantage, and would erode the moral superiority that has characterized the Revolution since its beginning.

Our Palestinian brothers are experienced in leading by example. They gained the support of the entire Palestinian community, as well as world sympathy, during the first Intifada (“stones”). The second Intifada, which was militarized, lost public sympathy and participation. It is important to note that the Syrian regime and Israeli enemy used identical measures in the face of the two uprisings.
The objective of Syria's Revolution is not limited to overthrowing the regime. The Revolution also seeks to build a democratic system and national infrastructure that safeguards the freedom and dignity of the Syrian people. Moreover, the Revolution is intended to ensure independence and unity of Syria, its people, and its society.
We believe that the overthrow of the regime is the initial goal of the Revolution, but it is not an end in itself. The end goal is freedom for Syria and all Syrians. The method by which the regime is overthrown is an indication of what Syria will be like post-regime. If we maintain our peaceful demonstrations, which include our cities, towns, and villages; and our men, women, and children, the possibility of democracy in our country is much greater. If an armed confrontation or international military intervention becomes a reality, it will be virtually impossible to establish a legitimate foundation for a proud future Syria.
We call on our people to remain patient as we continue our national Revolution. We will hold the regime fully responsible and accountable for the current situation in the country, the blood of all martyrs – civilian and military, and any risks that may threaten Syria in the future, including the possibility of internal violence or foreign military intervention.
To the victory of our Revolution and to the glory of our martyrs.
The Local Coordinating Committees in Syria