Why is the Syrian revolution stuck? (TIMES OF ISRAEL) By ELHANAN MILLER 04/03/12)
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Syrian dissidents admit that a year into the revolution, the Assad
regime has shown little signs of waning. Even with new found money,
the opposition’s chances seem grim
A year into the Syrian revolution, Bashar Assad is still sanding
strong. For months Syria has hardly left global headlines. Damning e-
mail correspondence and repeated international pledges to help the
teetering opposition have apparently left the Syrian ruler
unscathed. The daily death toll in Syria has stabilized at
approximately 80 fatalities, with the Syrian Observatory, a London-
based Human Rights organization, documenting 7,306 civilian and 2,802
army victims since last March.
So why is the Syrian revolution stuck?
“As things stand, there is no united front for the opposition,” Malik
Abdeh, chief editor of Syrian opposition Barada TV, told the Times of
Israel. “Syria has ethnic and sectarian divisions. There will never
be a single, united opposition and the world should come to terms
On Sunday, it seemed the world has. During an Istanbul conference
held by the “Friends of Syria,” a group of pro-opposition countries,
the United States reportedly pledged 100 million dollars and
communications equipment to the Syrian opposition, falling short of
supplying the rebels with weapons, as Saudi Arabia has pushed for.
Khaled, a Damascus resident studying in London, regarded the
opposition summit in Istanbul with the typical Syrian sense of irony.
“I don’t think the Istanbul conference will bring anything new or
helpful to Syria,” he told the Times of Israel. “Except a few
opposition leaders who will now have stable incomes from Gulf states.”
Abdeh of Barada TV agreed. He said that funds and communications
systems alone will not suffice to topple Assad in the absence of
logistical support from Turkey and Jordan, two US allies neighboring
“Providing communications devices to the Syrian opposition will not
tip the balance of power in the opposition’s favour,” he said. “It
will not be a game changer.”
According to Abdeh, the exiled Syrian opposition is politically
inexperienced and holds little sway over the fighters on the ground.
“The [foreign] opposition’s role is secondary,” he said. “The
opposition fills the role of mediator between the grassroots and the
international community rather than a leadership role.”
One such “mediator” is Washington-based Syrian activist Ammar
Abdulhamid, a fellow at the Foundation for the Defense of
Democracies. In an interview with CNN, Abdulhamid admitted that “we
[the Syrian opposition abroad] don’t have a political agenda and
aren’t tabling a plan … there needs to be a public debate and we want
to empower Syrians to do that.”
Abdeh acknowledged that Syrian opposition lacks a clear vision and
direction, a problem – he claims – which is more fundamental than a
budgetary deficit. Rifts within the opposition surfaced during a
meeting in Istanbul March 27, when the Kurdish contingent left in
anger after its demand for recognition of an autonomous Kurdish
region within Syria went unanswered. Another veteran opposition
activist, Haitham Maleh, protested the authoritarian character of
Burhan Ghalioun, a Syrian-French university professor who heads the
Syrian National Council (SNC), the main opposition bloc.
“I want to see the council act democratically. Until now, they are
acting like the (ruling) Baath Party,” Maleh told Reuters.
But the opposition’s worst concern, perhaps, lies in the fact that
Assad still enjoys substantial support within Syria. According to
Abdeh, at least 2 million Syrians back Assad today.
“In Libya, Qaddafi needed to rely on mercenaries from outside,” Abdeh
said. “In Syria, on the other hand, Assad enjoys plenty of internal
Khaled, the Syrian student in London, assured me – somewhat morosely –
that Syria is in good hands; the hands of God.
“Nothing will happen to us except what Allah has decreed for us,” he
quoted from the scripture. (© 2012 THE TIMES OF ISRAEL 04/03/12)
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