September 6, 2016 Special Dispatch No. 6601

Writer On Syrian Opposition Website Slams Political Opposition: It Is Busy With Talk And Personal Interests; Must Reevaluate Its Course

September 6, 2016
Syria | Special Dispatch No. 6601

In a July 30, 2016 column, Bassil Al-'Awdat, a journalist and columnist for the Syrian opposition website Orient News, leveled harsh criticism at the various bodies of the Syrian political opposition, saying that they do little except issue communiques and make noise in the media, instead of taking practical measures to achieve the goals of the Syrian revolution. According to him, these opposition bodies do nothing, but rather expect other countries to fight their battle and even accuse these countries of not doing enough. He adds that, had the opposition transcended the disagreements among its factions and the narrow interests of its members, and united its forces, it could have achieved more in its war against the regime and could have compelled the international community to respect it and its demands. He called upon the opposition to reassess its strategy from the root, as soon as possible, and to begin replacing its leadership.

The following are excerpts from his article:[1]     

Bassil Al-'Awdat (Image:

"The Syrian revolution gave birth to different opposition bodies, reflecting the spectrum of different streams, ideas and ideologies within the Syrian nation and [their different] levels of [political] awareness. [The opposition] includes leftists and Islamists, hawks and doves, extremists and moderates, those inside Syria and those outside it, veteran [oppositionists] with rigid [ideas] and new ones [who are nevertheless] experienced. Some [of these groups] have struck alliances to form larger political bodies that have imposed themselves upon the Syrians.

"Chief among these political blocs of Syrian oppositionists is the National Coalition for Syrian Revolutionary and Opposition Forces [SOC], which was established upon the ruins of the [Syrian] National Council.[2] In addition there are the National Coordination Committee for Democratic Change and the High Negotiations Committee. As for the latter, it is unclear whether it is a political bloc or a [purely] functional body intended solely to [oversee] negotiations [with the Syrian regime].

"The first of these blocs [i.e., the SOC] was established in late 2011, almost five years ago, and the others gradually emerged later. Upon its establishment each bloc was supported locally, by Syrians and by regional Arab countries with influence on the Syrian arena, and was also welcomed and supported by the West and the international community. All the blocs received financial assistance, and various media outlets were established to serve them. Many countries aided [the blocs], offered to train their members, accorded them importance and consulted with them on every issue.

"Regardless of their policies and strategies, the ideological and tactical disagreements between them and their standing with the public..., and regardless of the scope of their activity and the criticism they have incurred, all these opposition [blocs] are known for being voices unbacked by action, for being influenced rather than influential, and for reacting rather than acting... At every opportunity and event, in every meeting and conference and at every decisive juncture, it was assumed that the [only] role of the Syrian political opposition is to denounce and condemn, and voice dissatisfaction, opposition, demands, apprehension, hope and other [messages] that convey helplessness rather than strength. These bodies shifted responsibility to others and expected others to act and take the necessary measures, while [they themselves] avoided taking any practical, serious and forceful action to realize their goals.

"These blocs and forces of the Syrian political opposition have issued hundreds of statements denouncing regime violations, and hundreds of communiques charging the international community to do this or that. Their leaders have given thousands of television interviews stressing the need for some Arab or Western element to take steps to change some political formula or other or some military situation [on the ground]. They thought all this noise would lead to victory... and forgot that one tangible action, calculated, serious and forceful, is better than all those communiques, interviews and statements put together.

"The Syrian political opposition did not program itself for self-reliance. Even in the initial stages of the revolution it relied on others, thinking of itself as a rare currency, sought-after and in high demand in the international arena. It assumed that its role was [only] to be the figurehead of the revolution, while the role of the 'friendly' countries was to bring about [the revolution's] success. It therefore began to pressure these countries, prod them and encourage them to carry out its demands, or alternatively to scold and rebuke them when they failed to do so or whine and complain about their helplessness. 

"The Syrian opposition is busy with its communiques while the Syrian regime bombs cities and villages with unrestrained brutality and kills people indiscriminately, turning Syria into a theater of executions and death. American and Russian [planes also] bomb Syria, turning it into hell; Iran and its militias spread poison and horror everywhere, the Kurds are rebelling and betraying their allies, the Islamic State spreads its despicable terror, [various] countries conspire against the [Syrian] rebels, terror is spreading in the neighboring countries and in the West, and the armed opposition is exhausted, its factions bickering over imaginary booty in the absence of anyone to lead them.

"The Syrian political opposition could have transcended the disagreements between its factions, the personal considerations and selfishness [of its members], its passivity and submissiveness, its narcissism and corruption, and taken a stance befitting a nation that has sacrificed 500,000 of its people to demand the liberty and dignity it deserves. Taking a manly stance, [the political opposition] could have pooled the strength and the capital [of its elements], united its institutions, diversified its methods, united and leveraged its military forces, found sources of armament, planned its long-term campaign against the regime and its allies, and stopped deceiving the Syrians and making enticing promises. [It could have] shown the international community its might and the clarity and justice of its ideology, thus compelling it to respect it and its positions. Moreover, [it could have made the international community] consider its terms and also make others respect these terms and heed the demands of a people that has decided to defeat its executioners.

"The Syrian political opposition is mistaken if it thinks that contemporary revolutions are revolutions of communiques, and it is even more mistaken if it thinks the noise it is making will lead anywhere. Moreover, it will sin against all Syrians unless it immediately undertakes a comprehensive, serious and profound reexamination [of its strategies] and starts replacing its people and leaders even before it [reevaluates its] plans and approach and forgets its [current] method of begging [for scraps]. It must understand that what was taken by force will not be restored through communiques but only by means of force and action, [and effective] arguments and positions."   




[1], July 30, 2016.

[2] On the Syrian National Council see MEMRI Inquiry & Analysis No. 758, 10 Months into Protests, Syrian Opposition Still Divided - A Who's Who of the Syrian Opposition, November 9, 2011.


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