A new game plan for Syrian theater

A new game plan for Syrian theater

The first signal from an Istanbul press conference organized by Radwan Ziadeh, the director of the (new, to public opinion) Syrian Center for Political and Strategic Studies, in which some prominent members of the Syrian National Council (SNC) were present, came on Oct. 31.

Carrying a Turkish mobile phone, the U.S. Institute of Peace senior fellow Ziadeh said a shadow Parliament of the Syrian opposition will be formed by popular vote in the Syrian regions which he claimed were no longer under control of the Bashar al-Assad regime. He said the shadow Parliament would hopefully represent larger sectors of the opposition than the SNC and could be the locomotive for the transition of Syria.

When asked, Turkish Foreign Ministry officials did not want to comment on such a development taking place on Turkish soil and in a way downgraded the role of the SNC, of which Turkey was a major supporter.

Later the day, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said Syria needed a more representative opposition organization, which was immediately interpreted in the diplomatic community as frustration due to the performance of the SNC so far.

The next day Halid Hoca, spokesman for the SNC, told the Hürriyet Daily News of his frustration that the U.S. wanted to have names from the existing Baath administration in Syria take part in the new Syrian system after the fall of al-Assad.

But that idea was in no way a new one. Since the Libyan crisis, Turkey has been cautioning U.S. and European allies against a de-Baathification policy like the one implemented in Iraq, which proved to be a failure. Following the U.S. invasion of Iraq, from hospitals to firefighting, daily life had almost stopped and the razing of Baath officials from all levels was one of the major reasons behind growing resistance. Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu had said a number of times that “names who do not have blood on their hands” could and should take part in post-al-Assad Syria.

France, which has been in close cooperation with Turkey and the U.S. on Syria, is a major actor in this new move, since a number of major actors in the Syrian opposition are now based in Paris and Istanbul alike. Another major actor in this new move is Saudi Arabia, which has publicly said Salafi/Wahabi fighters among the Syrian opposition were actually making things worse.

This new move makes Russia and China even more nervous. China has just given the cold shoulder to Lakhdar Brahimi, the U.N. and Arab League-authorized mediator and Russia accused the U.S. and its allies of trying to fuel the Syrian fire by encouraging the opposition further.

It is also interesting to watch that things have started to gain a new momentum on Syria as the U.S. Election Day comes closer. It seems the Syrian theater will warm up in a few weeks’ time.