The Syrian opposition is meeting in Doha, Qatar under the tutelage of the leadership of this small GCC nation. And although there is no one figure the whole country can be united behind, a liberal personae in Riad Seif whose plan to unify the opposition the US State Department has adopted is a choice I personally feel comfortable with.
Before debating what is best for Syria, it is imperative the debate includes rather than excludes, something we all know the Muslim Brotherhood has mastered because of their narrow ideological beliefs. As such, any liberal figure, regardless of my own personal opinions, is the right choice.
The meeting also aims at including more Syrians fighting on the ground who would, if afforded higher responsibilities, adhere to the rule of law and freedom for all Syrians. But given my history with the NEA Department at State and how sensitive their officials are to the influence of other Arab countries, I’m not certain this is as clear as it looks.
In 2006, the US State Department chose to fund Barada TV started by a group of Syrian oppositionists loosely affiliated with the Muslim Brotherhood. One would think that officials under a Republican President with a strong penchant for standing firm against Islamic groups bent on exclusion would garner the more liberal groups a more favorable support, but such was not the case.
HÃ©las, the NEA Department at Foggy Bottom had a different plan.
Someone must have argued that if we fund the Islamists, then we would be able to work with the Islamists. That drifted from a small funding in 2006 to a full-fledged support of the Muslim Brotherhood in 2008, when President Obama was elected as President, which then empowered the main opposition group the SNC (Syrian National Council) led by the Muslim Brotherhood behind a veneer of liberalism.
Every Syrian who knows the MB intimately or who knows the SNC‘s inner sanctum would have advised the NEA it is wasting its time standing behind an organization whose only calling card centers around having an established hierarchical bureaucracy that other Syrian political organizations never had the time or the support to match. In fact, if there is one good reason why the Syrian Alawis and Christians have not quit on Assad today rests solely on this shortsighted policy of standing behind the SNC.
This latest energized meeting of Syrian oppositionists in Doha may be as a result of the NEA realizing how wrong this policy may have been. But then, if it is held in Doha where the MB enjoys strong support from the Emir of Qatar, my sense tells me the US State Department is simply trying to change perceptions, not policy.
I hope I am wrong. I hope the NEA has finally come to the conclusion that including many of the Syrian leadership fighting Assad is a necessity as much as it is a necessity to clip the wings of the MB whose last six years of enjoying acceptance has yielded nothing but exclusion, total control, and naked acts of despotism.
The NEA may have finally realized the MB has no support in Syria after witnessing how the organization was distributing aid and arms only to those who support it and how resistant its leadership was to include more Syrian dissidents opposed to its ideology. But then, maybe the meeting in Doha, and borrowing Riad Seif name, is just a ploy to change perceptions.
I really hope my skepticism is misplaced. If in 2006 the NEA did not follow the advice of a lady consultant whose only expertise on Syria was to have been born to a half-Syrian mother, maybe Assad would be gone by now. If the NEA funded a liberal organization instead of the Islamists, maybe the whole Syrian Civil War would have been averted.
Maybe those US State Department high officials hoping for a fat Saudi or Qatari contract after retiring should consider how bad the influence of those two countries are to the interests of the United States.
Now, that’s a novel idea, don’t you think?