Sunday, May 20, 2012

Ideological Divisions in Revolt

The rebels in Syria did not seem terribly impressed by those naming themselves the Syrian National Council, ensconced in Turkey, and claiming to represent the opposition to the Syrian regime of President Bashar al-Assad, to begin with.  The council had initially chided the Free Syrian Army and other opposition groups for engaging in violence, preferring to use diplomacy instead, and orderly protests.

The regime put a quick stop to that.  It's hard to maintain one's willingness to peacefully protest when government troops are busy blasting your marching comrades into oblivion, after all.  Eventually the activists from opposition strongholds across the country seemed to have reached a consensus to accommodate themselves to being overseen by the Syrian National Council, and the SNC reconciled itself to the Free Syrian Army fighting back.

And the opinion of the Western backers of the regime opponents found comfort in the presence of an urbane, polished and educated individual, a professor at the university of the Sorbonne in Paris, with decades in exile behind him, remaining the blandly reliable face of reason.  However, Professor Burhan Ghalioun, seen to be too accommodating with the Muslim Brotherhood, has been the focus of criticism.

The Local Co-ordination Committee representing activist groups across the country accused the SNC leadership of high-handedness, and threatened to pull out of the coalition.  To which Mr. Ghalioun responded with his own resignation.  Syrian opposition found it difficult to credit the SNC, in any event, with speaking for ordinary Syrians, comprised as the leadership is of those who have not shared their travails, living abroad.

The Local Co-ordination Committee's absence from the authority of the SNC would have the result of dealing a blow to the trust placed in it to represent all political and ideological wings of the opposition.  Leaving the decided impression that the Islamists would hold full sway.  Leaving the coalition in political and organizational disarray. 

If this is a situation that appears to echo what had transpired earlier in Libya, it is hardly surprising.  Similar factors are certainly at play; ideological and tribal antipathies, distrust and a rejection of central authority.

The recent vote in Rome at an SNC meeting where Mr. Ghalioun won re-election with 2/3rds of the vote did not sit well with liberal and secular activists who had absented themselves from the vote.  And who later revealed that the Muslim Brotherhood, holding the largest number of council seats, voted for Mr. Ghalioun, and would as a result attain disproportionate influence.

The activists are less than enthralled with their constant risking of their lives through regime arrests, torture and death.  While their active defiance of the regime takes to the streets in protests that continue to be attacked by the regime forces, the SNC leadership and its allies indulge themselves in endless conferences in foreign facilities.

"We have seen nothing in the past months except political incompetence in the SNC and a total lack of consensus between its vision and that of the revolutionaries."  Clearly, all is not well in the relationship between those who claim to lead and those who face daily incidents of grievous bodily harm, putting themselves on the line, front and centre.

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