ISSN 2330-717X

Second Fiasco For ‘Friends Of Syria’ – OpEd

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By Mohyeddin Sajedi

Despite the fierce remarks against the Syrian government and the warnings of more drastic measures as well as the recognition of some of President Bashar al-Assad’s opponents and even the hasty request by the Arab League’s secretary general to make the Syrian crisis subject to the 7th Chapter of the UN Charter, the second meeting of the “Friends of Syria” in Turkey’s Istanbul met the same fate of the group’s meeting in Tunisia.

The participants in the Istanbul meeting have indicated their intention to engineer a civil war in Syria. Saudi Arabia and Qatar have accepted responsibility to sponsor, and arm the Syrian opposition and the rest engaged in hindering the plan by Kufi Annan, who represents the UN and the League. They asked him to announce the timetable for his plan. The Syrian government has accepted Annan’s six-point plan to resolve the crisis; however, the participants in the Istanbul meeting contended that Damascus has not taken any step to implement it. The opposition ultimately accepted their plan, but the “Free Syrian Army” declared that it will go ahead with armed confrontation.

The Istanbul meeting declared the “Syrian National Council” as a legal representative for the Syrians and an umbrella for all the opposition organizations. However, Hussein Abdul Adhim, a leader of the cooperation missions, refuted that position, saying, “No opposition group is entitled to call itself the sole representative of the Syrian nation.”

Despite the remarks made by the Saudi and Qatari envoys, the Friends of Syria have not mentioned any armed support for the “Free Syrian Army;” however, it pledged further support for the Syrian people.

A source close to the group has revealed that a number of Persian Gulf Arab states will pay the monthly salary of this militant group and that “a multi-million-dollar sum will be paid per month.”

Nevertheless, the participants in the Istanbul meeting have apparently agreed to oppose foreign military intervention in Syria and overthrow the Syrian government by force. Press releases indicate that some Arab rulers are secretly in contact with Damascus. The disputes among the Saudi royals and the king’s tendency to tame the radical views of Foreign Minister Prince Saud al-Faisal are gradually surfacing. Also it seems that Bahrain has recently sent positive messages to Syria. Moreover, Kuwait and the UAE’s governments have already taken similar strides.

The UAE’s influential police chief has openly warned against the dominance of the Muslim Brotherhood over Syria and the spread of its clout to the member states of the [Persian] Gulf Cooperation Council. The Iraqi prime minister has expressed his shock at the assertions of only two governments, Saudi Arabia and Qatar, to arm the Syrian opposition and opposed toppling of the Syrian government by means of foreign intervention.

Such bewilderment became clear in the Arab League meeting in Baghdad. Saudi Arabia and Qatar refused to dispatch their foreign ministers or high-ranking diplomats to the event. Meanwhile, due to the pressures imposed by Riyadh and Doha on other Arab countries, only nine Arab leaders sat beside Iraqi President Jalal Talebani. The Qatari prime minister attributed the limited participation of Doha and Riyadh to sectarian disputes and afterwards welcomed former Iraqi Vice President Tareq al- Hashemi to make him neighbor with Musa Kusa, who was once the foreign minister of Libya’s former dictator Muammar Gaddafi.

What irritates these governments is that, for the first time, the presidency of the Arab League has been transferred to someone who places his Kurdish identity above an Arab identity. For one year, the Arab League will be run by the Iraqi prime minister who is Shia. This is the second headache for those Arab governments who set out their regional policies based on narrow-minded sectarian views. The Arab League will be led by Iraq, which maintains such qualities, and contrary to Qatar, it has no extremist position towards Syria, but similar to Qatar, it enjoys financial strength.

The Arab League’s poor record has isolated the body in Syria’s case and spread the crisis to the international level, turning the matter into a clash of interests among the world powers, notably between the US and Russia. Therefore, there is no wonder that neither the Baghdad statement nor the Istanbul statement allude to the need for the resignation of Assad and the Syrian president has indeed turned into a key part of the solution to the existing crisis. Meanwhile, it has become impracticable to resort to the previous resolutions of the Arab League and repeat another Yemen-like scenario, particularly when the Syrian army has took control of Homs and Adlab and it only needs to take over Jabal al-Zawiya area.

Assad’s land journey from Damascus to Homs was a sort of muscle-flexing to indicate that, contrary to the propaganda, the security condition in Syria is not unstable. Following the capture of Baba Amr and Homs, the situation is different for Assad and his government, and the Arab League is no longer in a position to sketch a political roadmap for the country — a scenario which had earlier been imposed by Saudi Arabia and Qatar. The Syrian president also visited the Darzi-majority province of Sweida, in an attempt to prove that the provocations by some Darzi leaders in Lebanon have been futile.

Chairman of US Congress Intelligence Committee Mike Rogers has refuted the hypothesis of Syria’s disintegration and contends that according to the intelligence data, the Syrian government has gained victory.

What matters for Assad is the BRICS — Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa — which during its latest summit adopted a different stance from that of the “Friends of Syria” in Istanbul. The group incorporates 40 percent of the global population and holds 20 percent of the world productions. According to the Wealth Report, by 2020, China’s economy will overtake the US and in 30 years, India will become the world’s first economic power.

Obviously, Bashar al-Assad cannot wait until that time. Russians say Kufi Annan’s plan is the last chance and it should be enforced immediately.

Mohyeddin Sajedi is a prominent Iranian political analyst who writes extensively on the Middle East issues. He also serves as a Middle East expert at the Center for Middle East Strategic Studies in Tehran.

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