Saturday, March 18, 2006

Ghadry's RPS Critical of New Opposition Front

Farid Ghadry's Reform Party of Syria is critical of the new opposition front that was formed in Brussels between the Muslim Brother leader Sadraddin al-Bayanouni and ex-vice president Abdul Halim Khaddam. He writes that many secular leaders and Islamists are unhappy with the new alliance.

Kaddam, Muslim Brotherhood Meet in Brussels

Kaddam is distributing positions in his government-in-exile after he has chosen himself its leader.

Washington DC, March 18, 2006/RPS/ -- Seventeen men led by the Muslim Brotherhood and Kaddam, the ex-vice president of Syria and a staunch Ba'athist, met in Brussels in the last two days to form a new "Front for Rescue" for Syria and a government-in-exile. Unlike what the news reported, the meeting was composed of 17 men, no women, and no minority representation.

Kaddam who dissented from the Assad regime for losing his job, served as a vice president under the rule of Hafez al-Assad and witnessed during his tenure some of the most outrageous atrocities against the Syrian people. While this was happening, Kaddam enjoyed the protection of the regime and the Syrian people consider him an active participant in their oppression and economic misery. Even Riad al-Turk, a seasoned dissident, issued a press release condemning the alliance with Kaddam as "a cause for more problems to the opposition than its worth".

The Muslim Brotherhood was represented by Sadr Eddine al-Bayanouni who, because of his association with Kaddam, lost important following in the last few months to new elements in the Muslim Brotherhood. The split has brought forth a new leadership in Jordan, Saudi Arabia, and Yemen, which is in contact with the other opposition groups not allied with Kaddam.

Kaddam, who has talked about helping the Syrian opposition ever since his dissention, is now attempting to lead it. Some in the Syrian opposition believe that it is an insult against the Syrian people if some in the Syrian opposition cannot find a leader whose past is not mired in corruption, tyranny, and oppression. The government-in-exile he is proposing is a distribution system of positions that Kaddam and Bayanouni, in the ultimate expression of democracy, are exploiting. Individuals are being contacted by Kaddam directly and "given" government positions.
Kaddam's Dictatorial Leniencies

Washington DC, March 18, 2006/RPS Opinion/ -- The Syrian opposition awoke one day to discover that there was a meeting in Brussels between Kaddam and Bayanouni of the Muslim Brotherhood with another 15 unknown dissidents. The purpose of the meeting is to draw a new document called “Syrian Front to Terminate the Regime” and to set-up a new government-in-exile chosen by those meeting.

The effect of the meeting on the rest of us varied from disbelief that after all the talk about democracy dissidents actually would vote themselves as the leaders of a government-in-exile to repugnance that Kaddam, a well known accommodator of the oppressive regime of Hafez al-Assad, is actually taking an active role in leading that opposition instead of just simply helping the opposition as he has claimed publicly. The condemnation from many other dissidents was swift and effective so much so that Bayanouni had to issue another press release justifying his actions and defending Kaddam’s past (Wrong move Bayanouni). The word on the street is that scores of Muslim Brotherhood followers are very upset over this unholy alliance with Kaddam and are threatening to join other movements or to split altogether from Bayanouni to form their own Muslim Brotherhood. That, in a way, explains Bayanouni’s second press release.

RPS participated in an event in Paris on March 9 and 10 hosted by Aspen institute in which Aspen invited Obeida Nahas, a Muslim Brotherhood member to participate and express his opinion. During the two day meeting, not one word was uttered by Nahas as to the meeting in Brussels a week later or to invite any other of the participants to enlarge the circle as if the intent was to exclude rather than include. For a Muslim Brotherhood follower to exclude other people, when he was included amongst many others in other meetings, is a very dangerous matter. It shows exactly why the Muslim Brotherhood cannot be trusted. It is not what you say, it is what you do.

So now instead of uniting the opposition, the meeting in Brussels had the exact opposite effect. Riad al-Turk came out swinging and so did many other dissidents who felt that this unity and the means by which it happened (total darkness, no transparency, and acts that remind us of the authoritarian rule of Assad) will leave an indelible feeling amongst them. What an insult to the Syrian people to let Kaddam whose hands are mired in criminal acts and corruption lead the Syrian opposition. That is why the Syrian street is angry. Also, that is why the Syrian government is silent because it is ecstatic about the Kaddam-Bayanouni faux-pas.

The international community, led by the United States and in particular Karen Hughes, one of President Bush long time confidant and close friends, has embarked on a new public diplomacy campaign aimed at assuring the Arab masses that the United States is on their side. Part of that campaign is to face up to the past mistakes committed by US policy makers when it comes to turning a blind eye to oppressive Arab regimes. It is an impossibility for the United States to stand by or support people like Kaddam and had Bayanouni bothered to inquire, he would have never entered into this holly alliance with him. Bayanouni simply chewed too much this time and along the way not only offended his people but also created an environment in which the US finds itself unable to support any moderate Islamic movement tied to the old regime hacks. Bayanouni will find this out the hard way.

As far as Kaddam is concerned, the Syrian people simply hate him. He was the face of the regime without the regime’s goodness if any existed. Many Sunni Muslims associate him with their miseries for standing by while they suffered at the hands of the Assad iron rule. Many in the dissident community view his sudden appearance as a vendetta against Baschar al-Assad for sidelining him and new nations can never be built on the personal vindictiveness of old regime rulers. As far as everyone is concerned in the Syrian opposition, Kaddam has committed suicide in Brussels.

What amazes many in our community is the handling of the Brussels event. While on the surface, the words look rational, the actions are far from it. Who in their own mind would meet with another 16 other men to form a government-in-exile and choose himself as its leader? I know of three people who received phone calls from Kaddam offering them ministerial positions in his new dictatorial government. I have heard that Kaddam was not a bright fellow (That is why Assad trusted him for thirty years as vice-president. He was more of a window dressing than a real VP) but this act really makes him the champion of something else I do not dare say.

The Syrian opposition is in disarray today because we are ill-equipped to unite. The funding is miniscule, the differences of opinion create unbelievable animosities, and the personalities are weak. We do not have a Mandella or a man of such stature to move not only the Syrian street but also persuade the international community to change the Assad regime. In short, we are not mature enough to rise above it all.

However, there is a saying that goes “Even diminutive men when given important responsibilities do rise to the occasion”. The solution lies in the responsibility part and that is why the United States is so very important to provide that responsibility. How? It is very simple. Secretary Rice can invite the 10 most important Syrian leaders to the US State Department for consultation. She then should, after a small pep talk, close the door behind her and ask no one to leave the room before they agree to unite. This will have two very positive effects: 1) This will mean that the US is serious about regime change in Syria and 2) The unity of the Syrian opposition will produce immediate results in the Syrian street. Before this happens, our squabbles and future Kaddams will continue to hamper any of our effectiveness.

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