The problem with the opposition
Perhaps al-Assad will fall whilst the weak internal opposition is still preoccupied with their differences in leadership councils. He may fall after the rebels have seized power on the ground, or after the opposition abroad, in their different factions, have partitioned their county’s liberated soil.
Following the meeting in Amman, the Doha conference has papered over some of the cracks but the major internal opposition councils continue to experience fierce quarrels, and time is running out in Syria as dangers prevail.
Riad Seif, a dissident figure who is highly respected by the majority of the Syrian opposition, recently presented a political project that provides a clear framework outlining the mechanism with which the opposition, in general, should operate, regardless of where they are based or the adverse pressures mounted from abroad. However, this initiative will be of no value unless all parties make concessions in order to operate under one framework that serves as an alternative regime.
In the beginning, the Syrian National Council led the opposition based abroad, yet it failed to contain multiple Syrian powers. Now it has become a semi-closed club, and other meetings and councils have emerged in Istanbul and elsewhere. For an observer looking on from afar, it seems that the current days will shape Syria’s future: if everyone agrees, then Syria will remain united, and if disagreements continue to prevail, Syria will be divided and the revolution will be doomed to failure and may even transform into a civil war. So are those sitting in air-conditioned meeting rooms aware how dangerous their equation is to their country’s future?
It is not reasonable to blame major regional and Western states for their negligence whilst the opposition itself declines to sacrifice its interests for the sake of the people. The general framework being put forth by Riad Seif and Riad Hijab remains the most comprehensive, and one that could contain all different categories if it was agreed upon.
Whilst we are attempting to understand the symptoms of the Syrian opposition’s failure, let us recall the Iraqi opposition’s conduct that failed to topple the Saddam Hussein regime between the years of 1993 through to 2003. Despite immobilizing and besieging the majority of Saddam’s troops, imposing a no-fly zone over two-thirds of Iraq, and the Kurds’ success in creating a liberated region in the north of the country, Saddam continued to stand on his feet, whilst the opposition were quarreling in hotels and questioning and accusing the West. Why didn’t the Baghdad butcher fall? The opposition wanted others to do its job. Of course, had the events of September 11th 2001 not happened, perhaps Saddam Hussein would still be in power in Iraq today.
We cannot compare the current state of affairs in Syria to that of Iraq at that time. However, we can identify common features in the opposition in both cases: laying the blame on others, giving preference to minor interests, even if not necessarily personal ones, and upholding a sectarian agenda and prioritizing this over the fate of the country, which teeters on the edge of an abyss.