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The SNC In Trouble As Ghalioun Offers To Resign – OpEd


The SNC is in deep trouble. Burhan Ghalioun has offered to resign as soon as another leader can be chosen, even though he was recently reelected to a new three-month term. The SNC is ripping itself apart. From the beginning, the SNC leadership has been troubled by deep divisions within the Council and accusations that its leaders were not following procedure and were not transparent about money matters. But perhaps most telling is that the SNC established a three month term for its leader at the outset.

Now that the real center of the opposition has shifted from western capitals organizing the international community to impose economic sanctions on Syria to the militias battling the Syrian Army within Syria, the SNC’s role has become more tangential to the elements of the opposition that are doing the heavy lifting.

The SNC played a crucial role in getting sanctions imposed on Damascus. It is unlikely to play such a central role in getting Gulf money and weapons to the fighters in Syria. The uprising entered a new phase after the Russian veto at the UN Security Council.

The Syrian National Council has reelected Burhan Ghalioun of the opposition group in exile.
By Oliver Holmes, Reuters

Ghalioun has the backing of the Gulf States and France, but has been criticized for his inability to unify the opposition. … “It is true that we had a weak performance and we admit that, and that is why we are restructuring now and we hope by this we will have a better performance,” Ghalioun told Reuters shortly before delegates re-elected him….

“It is true that we had a weak performance and we admit that, and that is why we are restructuring now and we hope by this we will have a better performance,” Ghalioun told Reuters shortly before delegates re-elected him…

Even within the SNC, Ghalioun appears to struggle to impose himself as a leader. Inexpressive and somber in contrast to his more gregarious colleagues, he tended to potter about alone, lost in thought, during coffee breaks in Rome while clusters of fellow SNC members chatted animatedly among themselves….

Since emerging at the head of the SNC at its formation last August under the sponsorship of Assad’s Western, Arab and Turkish adversaries, Ghalioun’s image as a secular, liberal leader who could rally support in Western capitals has been dented by accusations from liberal rivals within the opposition who say he is too close to the Islamist Muslim Brotherhood….

In particular, those close to Ghalioun feel that the United States and Western powers are less valuable allies than Arab states like Qatar and Saudi Arabia. These would welcome a victory for Syria’s Sunni Muslim majority over Assad’s dominant Alawite minority, which has long been supported by Shi’ite Iran.

“It’s not about the U.S. anymore,” an SNC member close to Ghalioun said in Rome, arguing that President Barack Obama’s campaign for re-election was distracting Washington’s attention. “They are more concerned with elections and can’t help.

“It’s all Saudi and Qatar now.”

Syrian opposition group leader says he’ll resign to stem rifts
May 17, 2012 – LA Times – Alexandra Sandels.

Burhan Ghalioun, the head of Syria’s main government-opposition alliance, announced that he would resign after members accused him of “political and organizational failure”

BEIRUT — The head of Syria’s main government-opposition alliance announced Thursday that he would resign after members accused him of “political and organizational failure” and threatened to withdraw from the group.

Burhan Ghalioun, who was reelected as head of the Syrian National Council on Tuesday despite rifts within the group, said he did not want to be divisive and would step down as soon as a successor was named either through elections or consensus.

“I am announcing my resignation as head of the council,” Ghalioun told the pan-Arab TV station Al-Arabiya.”I call on the Syrian opposition to break the cycle of conflicts and preserve unity.”

The announcement came after the activist group Local Coordination Committees threatened to withdraw from the alliance in a statement accusing Ghalioun of failure and saying the council was drifting away from “the spirit and demands of the Syrian Revolution.”

The council, a group mainly made up of Syrians living in exile, was established as an umbrella group of several organizations with the aim of presenting a united front for Syria’s opposition and an alternative to Syrian President Bashar Assad. But infighting and divisions appear to have left some members disillusioned, and some have left the alliance while citing undemocratic processes.

Rafif Jouejati, a spokeswoman for the Local Coordination Committees, said the group was frustrated with the council’s inability “to move forward” and to effectively represent the people on the ground.

She said that the council needs to undergo some major restructuring, including how key decisions are reached within the bloc. Ghalioun, a secular 67-year-old Sunni Muslim professor at the Sorbonne in Paris, has been accused by some opposition members of trying to monopolize power and having too close ties to the Muslim Brotherhood.

Some activists inside Syria expressed disappointment when his reelection was announced Tuesday. “There is a feeling of frustration regarding Ghalioun’s reelection,” said Talhat, an activist from Tal Kalakh in the province of Homs, over Skype. “There is also a sense that the Muslim Brotherhood is controlling the council, and I have nothing against them but they are acting on their political interests — not in the interest of the country.”

Ghalioun ran against George Sabra, a Christian member of the council viewed by some as a better candidate to calm worries among Syria’s religious minorities, some of which have stood by Assad out of concerns for what the future holds for them if the regime is overthrown

“If you ask me, George Sabra should be elected, ” said an activist reached in the town of Rastan in Homs.”There are accusations that Islamists are controlling the SNC, and George Sabra is a Christian, so it would solve the problem.”

Arab League Refuses to Accept that the SNC Knows What is Best for the Syrian Opposition:

On May 17, the Saudi-owned London-based Al-Hayat daily carried in its paper edition the following report by its correspondent in Cairo Mohammad al-Shazeli: “Arab League Secretary General Doctor Nabil al-Arabi said that the decision that was taken to postpone the Syrian opposition conference in Cairo was not due to any positions taken by the Arab League. Al-Arabi added: “We did not take any sides in favor of a specific Syrian opposition party at the expense of another. The position that is supported by the League is known to all and we have never tried to conceal it…” For his part, Jaber ash-Shoufi, i.e. a member in the Syrian National Council’s secretariat, told Al-Hayat that the Arab League did not cooperate with the council in regard to the meeting that was supposed to be held in Cairo.

“He added: “We had previously reached an agreement with Al-Arabi and his aides, but they have failed to comply by this agreement. Al-Arabi must understand that the Syrian National Council is the main opposition body and if they wish to organize any meeting for the opposition forces, they should firstly cooperate with us. Since this was not the case, we were forced to reject this conference. The Arab League refused to cooperate with us and this drove us to take that position.” He continued: “They did not treat us as the main opposition force and they refused to cooperate with us while insisting on inviting a number of SNC members and not the entire body. They failed to understand that we do not represent ourselves, rather the Syrian people. We are the legitimate representatives of the Syrian people and they cannot treat us the way they did.”

“[He assured:] “They invited a few members, but who said that they have the right to determine who will represent the council? We will determine who must take part in this meeting and we are not saying this because we want to exclude anyone from the conference. Quite the contrary. We are just saying that we know what is best for the opposition. Besides, the meeting was called for in order to form a committee to engage in dialogue with the regime and this is something we reject. Dialogue can start after Bashar al-Assad leaves power and not before that. Only when he leaves and delegates his powers to his deputy, and after his security regime is dismantled will we agree to engage in dialogue…”” – Al-Hayat, United Kingdom

Why Does the Syrian Opposition Remain Fractured? Shane Farell provides a list of major political opposition parties inside and outside of Syria.

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Syria Comment - Joshua Landis

Joshua Landis maintains Syria Comment and teaches modern Middle Eastern history and politics and writes on Syria and its surrounding countries. He writes “Syria Comment,” a daily newsletter on Syrian politics that attracts some 3,000 readers a day. It is widely read by officials in Washington, Europe and Syria. Dr. Landis regularly travels to Washington DC to consult with the State Department and other government agencies. He is a frequent analyst on TV and radio.

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