Go Syrian opposition, go!
This week, Istanbul is hosting a large assembly of the Syrian opposition under the banner of the Syrian National Council. And if the various groups in this coalition can build a national consensus for a democratic vision for Syria, they will be taking a vital step forward for saving this traumatized nation from the genocidal tyranny of Bashar al-Assad and his fellow thugs.
The timing of the meeting is of course significant: The second international “Friends of Syria” meeting will be held in Istanbul on April 1, this very Sunday. If the Syrian opposition can put an end to its internal disunity before this meeting, then the free world can embrace them in full.
The other day, a very senior Turkish official spoke to a group of journalists, including me, about this issue and raised hopes about the potential at stake. “If the Syrian opposition agrees on a document that puts forth a constitutional vision that endorses everybody,” he said, “then the Syrian National Council can be recognized as the sole legitimate representative of Syrian people.”
If that happens, all the “Friends of Syria” would withdraw their diplomats from Damascus (as Turkey already has done), expel the Syrian ambassadors in their countries and expose the Baath regime as it is: a genocidal rogue state that nobody, except its fellow murderers, respects.
Moreover, if the heroic but disordered Free Syrian Army can be organized under the command of this enhanced Syrian National Council, more international support can come. The “non-lethal aid” that U.S. President Obama announced after his meeting with Turkish Prime Minister Erdoğan last weekend can be an important catalyst here, by giving rebel forces communication technologies they can use to get more organized.
As I understood from the words of the Turkish official, Ankara is doing its best to help the Syrian opposition, giving them not only diplomatic and logistical support but also some friendly advice. “We insist that there should be no urge for revenge,” he said, recalling the bad results of “de-Baathification” in Iraq. “Of course, in free Syria, individual criminals should be brought to justice, but this should not turn into collective vengeance.”
One of the interesting remarks by the Turkish official was about the role of the PKK, the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party, in Syria. “It is obvious that the PKK is on the side the al-Assad regime,” he noted, recalling PKK leader Murat Karayılan’s threat against Turkey in the case of a Turkish intervention in Syria. However, other Syrian Kurds, especially those who sympathize with President Masoud Barzani and his government in Iraqi Kurdistan, are against the Syrian regime, and thus friendlier to Turkey.
But would Turkey ever use any military means against Syria? The Turkish official said this would be possible only if the number of refugees to Turkey reaches “hundreds of thousands” and then only for establishing a “buffer zone” on the Syrian border.
Meanwhile, the United States seems unwilling to use any military means as well. (And to my disappointment, I should say. For, as a “hawk” on this particular issue, I am in favor of Kosovo-like US air strikes against the Syrian regime, as Senator John McCain suggested three weeks ago.)
At the end of the day, it seems diplomacy will be the basis of the battle for freedom in Syria. And that’s why the Syrian National Council should come forward with a national vision that will silence all apologists of the al-Assad regime.