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After eight years … negative impressions loom over Syrian National Coalition 

Anas Abdah, the former president of the Syrian National Coalition in a meeting with coalition members (The official website of  the Syrian National Coalition)

Anas Abdah, the former president of the Syrian National Coalition in a meeting with coalition members (The official website of  the Syrian National Coalition)

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Enab Baladi – Ali Darwish

Eight years into its establishment, the National Coalition for Syrian Revolution and Opposition Forces, commonly known as the Syrian National Coalition (SNC), has gone through critical stages where it was able to obtain international recognition. Nonetheless, the SNC got some weaknesses; its influence diminished and was clouded by the absence of political efficiency.  

Over the years, the faces leading the SNC have changed. The SNC established several bodies and committees to continue its work. However, the SNC was not able to prove its existence on the ground, especially with a widespread loss of military control.  

SNC’s kickoff from Doha

Meetings were held between a group of politicians opposing the Syrian regime and members of the revolutionary movement in the Qatari capital, Doha, between 8 and 11 November 2012, which resulted in the formation of “the National Coalition for Syrian Revolution and Opposition Forces (SNC).”

On the 12th of the same month, the Arab Gulf states recognized the “SNC” as a legitimate representative of the Syrian people. They withdrew their recognition of the current regime headed by Bashar al-Assad.

Besides, the Arab League recognized the SNC, Syria’s anti-government coalition, as the Syrian people’s legitimate representative. In fact, this act of recognition was opposed by Algeria, Iraq, and Lebanon.

Syria’s official seat in the Arab League has remained vacant since 2011 after the suspension of Syria’s membership, except for the summit that was held in Doha in March 2013, where the former chairman of the “SNC,” Moaz al-Khatib, formally took up Syria’s seat in the Arab League summit. 

Upon its establishment, the SNC pointed out on its official website that the SNC aims to form an administrative and executive body to unify the joint leadership of the revolutionary military council and Free Syrian Army (FSA) and establish a fund to support the Syrian people with international coordination. The SNC also seeks to establish the Syrian National Legal Committee and form a transitional government after international recognition. 

Negative attitudes towards SNC…. Does SNC deserve this?

The SNC achieved some of its goals, such as the formation of the Syrian National Army (SNA) with Turkey’s support, which includes the armed opposition factions. Yet, the SNA did not reach the stage of integration and unification of the decision. The SNC made strides in its organizational work in the local councils of the Syrian Interim Government (SIG).

However, the SNC did not achieve any progress on the issue of political transition and the formation of a transitional government, for several reasons, most notably the political intransigence of the Russian-backed Syrian regime, which led over the past years to surround the “SNC” with a negative view.

In an interview with Enab Baladi, the Syrian politician and former member of the SNC, Michel Kilo said that the SNC deserves “well” to be viewed negatively because any leadership or a representative body must know how to lead. The leadership is the one that issues programs and plans for the movement that it represents.

The leadership must provide the revolutionary movement with strategies that ensure its unification and preservation of its goals and work to avoid any potential traps set in its way and paving the way with every necessary for victory. All the above-mentioned elements were not available in the representative bodies called “the SNC,” which actually assumed its leadership. 

Moreover, the “representative parties” did not possess the necessary awareness to lead a revolution, nor did they possess the necessary experience and knowledge to understand the complexities of the international situation surrounding Syria, and to understand the complexities of the Syrian situation, including the absence of real serious relations between them and the Syrian people, according to Kilo.

He added that “there is almost not a single Syrian who received direct service from (the SNC) as an immigrant outside his homeland, or as a person who lives outside his homeland after he was displaced.”

Consequently, the Syrian people’s position towards the SNC is realistic, resulting from how the SNC managed the conflict with the Syrian regime, on the one hand, and on how it built its relations with the people on the other hand.

SNC reduces its political demand… from bringing down Syrian regime to constitution

Among the constants that the SNC is committed to bringing down the “Assad regime” with all its symbols and pillars, dismantling its security apparatus, and holding accountable those involved in crimes against the Syrian people, according to what is published on its official website. 

However, the political transition process in Syria was finally restricted to the work of the Constitutional Committee, which was composed of  the Syrian regime’s delegation, a broadly representative opposition delegation, and civil society, to draft a constitutional reform that would contribute to an UN-sponsored political settlement under Security Council resolution No. “2254.”

Resolution 2254, issued by the Security Council in 2015, calls for a Syrian-led political process, facilitated by the United Nations, and the establishment within six months of a “credible, inclusive and non-sectarian governance” structure.

The Council expressed support for free and fair elections, pursuant to the new constitution, to be held within 18 months and administered under United Nations supervision.

However, two years after its start of work, the Constitutional Committee did not set a timetable for its work, despite the holding of three sessions, which were interspersed with obstructions, procrastination, and problems raised by the delegation of the Syrian regime.

Kilo indicated that the participants in the political process from the opposition side still believe that they are making great achievements. However, since 2014, they have not made any achievements at all. They have not acted decisively or discussed any issue related to the rights of the Syrian people. But they rather contributed to how they negotiated the absence of international decisions, in the order that these decisions came about the rights of the Syrian people, according to Kilo.

Kilo pointed out that the political solution begins with forming a transitional government with full executive powers, without al-Assad or his prime minister. However, today’s opposition is negotiating “proudly” on the constitution, not over a transitional government of full executive powers, noting that the constitution must be among the executive government’s competence in international decisions, which means the loss of all this according to Kilo.

However, Yahya al-Aridi, the spokesman of the Syrian High Negotiations Committee (HNC), in which the SNC is part, told Enab Baladi, in a previous interview, that the utility of the Syrian Constitutional Committee is relative according to the current political action. The HNC is trying to consolidate the Syrian right, abide by international resolutions and seek to implement them; the HNC is attempting to mobilize in this direction internationally by virtue of the internationalization of the Syrian issue, towards the entrenchment of this right,” according to al-Aridi’s expression.  

On the other hand, the Syrian regime and its supporters are making efforts to completely escape the political solution. They insist on a military solution to the conflict in Syria, according to al-Aridi.

The SNC is the largest opposition grouping in Syria. In the opposition-controlled areas, it has a military arm represented by the “SNA” and an administrative arm represented by the SIG. 

Fruitless political process… The Syrian regime and the Russians are winning militarily

On 5 March, the Russian-backed Syrian regime offensive against rebel-held areas halted due to the “Moscow” agreement signed between Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and his Russian counterpart, Vladimir Putin. 

The agreement stipulated a ceasefire, establishing a “safe passage” north and south of the Aleppo-Latakia International Highway (M4) and joint patrols. 

This ceasefire agreement has been subjected to regular violations over the past years that portend military operations’ return. 

Kilo believes that all the Syrian regime and the Russians did at the negotiating or relational level with the United Nations. The opposition was a “fraudulent” political process because Putin and Assad announced more than once that they would only accept a military solution.

Kilo added that the general position should change towards linking the political process with the political solution, not linking the political process with a partial paragraph of the political solution, the inactive and ineffective constitutional committee.

Al-Assad earlier said in an interview with the Russian Defence Ministry’s Zvezda TV channel at the beginning of last October that Turkey and its supporting countries, including the United States and its allies, were not interested the work of the Constitutional Committee constructively. Al-Assad added that these countries’ demands aim to weaken and fragment the Syrian state and that he refused to negotiate on issues related to Syria’s stability and security.  

Al-Assad indicated in an interview with Sputnik, a Russian state-owned news agency on 8 October that the Syrian Constitutional Committee’s talks in Geneva are kind of a “political game” and not what all Syrians focus on.

According to al-Assad, the Syrian people do not think about the constitution; no one talks about it. The Syrian people are interested in the reforms that should be implemented and the policies that need to be changed to ensure that the Syrian people’s needs are met.

This intersects with the opinion of Michel Kilo, who said, “What will they agree on? And when? Especially after Sergey Viktorovich Lavrov said in Damascus that the president’s elections must follow the constitution’s formation are a sovereign issue that has nothing to do with the constitution. The Constitutional Committee has no time limit for negotiation, which leaves the door open to endless negotiations.

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