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An Overview of the Flagging Syrian National Council
Mahdi Darius NAZEMROAYA – Strategic Culture Foundation
The Syrian National Council (SNC) is starting to turn in on itself as Damascus has proved to be strongly resilient in weathering the storm. From the start the SNC was not a popular or representative body and it now appears on the decline even with foreign sponsorship and the continuous supplying of weapons from members of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) and the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) to its fighters on the ground in Syria…
The Purposes of the Attacks of the Syrian National Council and the Free Syrian Army
Both the SNC and its military wing, the so-called Free Syrian Army, have been used to subvert Syria. Their primarily goals are not to establish democracy or democratic reforms in Syria, but to transform Syria into a client state of the United States. In this regard, in the last year there has been a consistent and methodological attempt to destabilize all of Syria’s border areas.
The destabilization of Syria’s borders is tied to several tactics. One aim is to ensure that a continuous flow of arms and fighters from the borders of other countries is insured. Another aim is to cripple the Syrian economy by deactivating important Syrian economic activities and trade in strategic areas in tandem with U.S. and E.U. sanctions against Syria. In this regard, the oil producing hub of Deir Ezzor has been attacked as have pipelines and the Syrian port of Lattakia, rumoured to possibly be the home of a future Iranian naval base in the Mediterranean that would complement the Russian naval base in the port of Tartus. A third aim is to transform these destabilized areas as bridgeheads for forced entry into Syria as “protected areas” and “humanitarian corridors.”
Since 2011, all of Syria’s neighbours have been used to launch attacks against Syria. Lebanon, Turkey, Jordan, Israel, and Iraq have all been used in one way or another to transport weapons, supplies, money, and fighters into the besieged Arab republic. Lebanon and Iraq have been involuntary parties in the siege on Syria. Turkey, Jordan, and Israel, however, have all been wilful parties to the siege against Damascus.
The Syrian National Council’s Lebanese Connections
The connection between the March 14 Alliance and the SNC is very important to note. According to the Christian Lebanese politician Suleiman Frangieh, plans for a so-called “buffer zone” along the Lebanese-Syrian border were in the works for some time. This reflects the divided nature of Lebanon where a vocal minority led by Saeed (Said) Hariri and his allies in the March 14 Alliance have foolishly misdirected some of the energies of the Lebanese Republic.
In Lebanon, the Hariri-led March 14 Alliance has been supporting the insurgents and elements of the opposition in their efforts to topple the Syrian regime. Moreover, Hariri has acted as a lobbyist for the Syrian branch of the Muslim Brotherhood. In 2006, he held discussions for a joint strategy against Syria with U.S. diplomats in their embassy in Beirut. The nature of the discussions were about isolating Syria and working to replacing President Al-Assad and his government with a new regime composed of the Muslim Brotherhood and a number of regime defectors, like Abdul Halim Khaddam and Hekmat Shehabi. In his lobbying efforts, Hariri compared the Syrian Muslim Brotherhood to the Turkish Justice and Development (AKP) of Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan and gave his full support establishing a regime in Damascus run by the Syrian branch of the Muslim Brotherhood.
Hariri’s lobbying for regime change in Syria, especially in 2006 when Washington and Tel Aviv planned on replacing President Al-Assad through military intervention with a new puppet regime, should come as no surprise to anyone. In fact after the Israeli defeat in Lebanon plans were underway for a new strategy to topple the government in Syria, including plans for setting up border posts on the Lebanese border with Syria. In this regard U.S. agents started visiting Lebanon and studying the borders with Syria in preparation for operations into Syria.
Not only has Lebanon been involuntarily used as an arms corridor and point of illegal entry into Syria, but it has been a source of manpower for the insurgent forces in Syria. Many of the sectarian Hariri clan’s allies are outright ideological supporters of Osama bin Laden and members of the same elk of deviant so-called Salafist movements working in Syria. Elements within the Lebanese security forces may also have a hand in setting up communication lines and a Lebanese-based command post for the insurgents and foreign special forces operating inside Syria. Aside from geographic proximity, this is one of the reasons why many of the defeated insurgent forces have tried to pull back into Lebanon.
In August 2011, eleven prison guards at Lebanon’s largest prison, Roumieh Prison, were detained and questioned after the escape of five inmates. Because of the fighting in the sister-republic of Syria, the timing of this prison escape inside Lebanon quickly aroused suspicion. It was suspected of potentially being tied to efforts by Hariri to send fighters into Syria. Four of the prisoners who escaped were members of Fatah Al-Islam and the fifth a Kuwaiti member of Al-Qaeda; two of the escapees were also young Syrians. Fatal Al-Islam is a group that has startling similarities in its world-view with the insurgents in Syria; Hariri and the U.S. government imported the deviant group into Lebanon, housing them in the Palestinian refugee camps near the Lebanese city of Tripoli, with the objective of unleashing them against Hezbollah, which when documented by American Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Seymour Hersh was angrily denied by the governing March 14 Alliance.
Added to all this, insurgents who have been captured have confessed to Syrian authorities that they were supported through Lebanon by Lebanese parliamentarian Jamal Al-Jarrah, a member of the Hariri-led Future Movement and the March 14 Alliance. Al-Jarrah was known to have helped recruit and organize the formation of the Hariri militia movement known as the Sunni Tigers in preparation to fight Hezbollah, Amal, the Free Patriotic Movement, and their political allies. One year after the plan to use Fatah Al-Islam backfired on Hariri and his allies, the fruits of Jamal Al-Jarrah’s work materialized in May 2008 when Hezbollah and its allies fought and defeated the Tigers and other March 14 Alliance militias. Although Hariri and his cronies deny their involvement in building any armed movements or support of deviant armed groups, high ranking military officials and experts say that they have been party to both. The Syrians went on to accuse Al-Jarrah of arming religiously-motivated insurgents and funding protesters through middlemen in April 2011 and Ali Abdul Karem Ali, the Syrian ambassador to Lebanon, demanded that legal action be taken by the Lebanese government to investigate Al-Jarrah.
The Faces of the Ostensible Syrian Opposition: From Khaddam to Ghalyun
The regime defectors that Hariri suggested to U.S. officials for consideration as candidates in a new Syrian regime are actually corrupt figures that since their defections have become little more than foreign proxies for Washington and its allies. For example, Abdul Halim Khaddam, the former Syrian vice-president, was responsible for many of the Syrian atrocities in Lebanon during Syria’s military presence that the March 14 Alliance constantly brings up. Khaddam was also directly tied to narcotics trafficking in Lebanon from the Bekaa Valley.
Khaddam would flee Syria in 2005 and later create the Syrian National Salvation Front in 2006. Despite the March 14 Alliance’s criticism of Syrian officials, ironically Khaddam is said to have been close to the Hariri family, which aside from their direct allegiances to Saudi Arabia also acted as major Syrian proxies in Lebanon up until 2005. In addition to all this, Khaddam would meet with members of the U.S. government and establish an office for himself and his Syrian National Salvation Front in Washington.
In regards to Khaddam’s collaboration with the U.S. government, something important has to be noted. In January 2006, Khaddam would announce that the Syrian government would collapse before 2006 ended. This was before Israel attacked Lebanon during the war in the summer of that year. It is very likely that he was aware that Israel was planning on attacking Lebanon as a means of starting a war with Syria. In 2006, Syria was the main target of the Israelis. In coordination with the U.S. and NATO, Tel Aviv had planned to eventually expand the operation into a war against Syria, which is confirmed by Israel’s own Winograd Commission and Meywar Wurmser, an associate of the Office of U.S. Vice-President Richard Cheney.
The U.S., NATO, and the Arab dictatorships have put their weight behind the SNC at the expense of the authentic internal opposition in Syria. All of the members of the SNC do not enjoy popular support in Syria and most of them are clueless about what is happening on the ground, but they have no problems or feelings of guilt about claiming to speak on behalf of all the people of Syria. The SNC is essentially composed of three fractions: (1) the Syrian branch of the Muslim Brotherhood that controls and composes the bulk of the SNC; (2) a small purportedly liberal group that serves as the public face of the SNC to hide the Muslim Brotherhood; and (3) a militant ultra-deviant jihadist wing that wants to purge Syria.
The scholar Burhan Ghalyun (Ghalioun), the supposed leader of the SNC, has repeatedly proven he is both incapable and two-faced. In October 2011 at the SNC gathering held in the Turkish city of Istanbul he claimed that 10,000 or more Syrians had been killed by the Syrian Army, which is something that even the U.S. and Syria’s other enemies did not claim at the time. In contrast, Navy Pillay and the U.N. believed that the death toll was 4,000 in December 2011. Originally Ghalyun said he was against NATO intervention inside Syria, then changed his position to one calling for foreign “non-military” intervention, and finally admitted that he wanted NATO to intervene militarily in Syria in January 2012. He tried to justify this by saying that he was asking for military intervention only involving air and naval units. The request for naval involvement makes zero sense in context of establishing a so-called “humanitarian safe zone.” No Syrian naval vessels have been involved in the fighting; like in the case of Libya, the proposal of naval involvement is meant to waste away Syria by cutting off supplies.
Ghalyun has also publicly lied about the authentic Syrian opposition in Syria. Since his ascendency as the leader of the SNC has fallen in love with the Saudi and Qatari regimes while he continuously claims to be a democrat. He has also presented his credentials to Israel through a December 2011 interview with Jay Solomon and Nour Malas about the SNC’s foreign policy plans.
Members of the SNC have continuously called for violence and NATO intervention. Haitham Al-Maleh, an executive of the SNC known as a human rights activist, has declared that President Al-Assad and his family will be murdered just like Colonel Qaddafi was in Libya. Other opposition figures like Mamun Al-Humsi, the former Syrian parliamentarian who spent five years in prison, have uttered deeply hateful and sectarian statements about the Alawites.
These so-called “human rights campaigners” and “democrats” have been in self-styled “negotiating” for weapons shipments with entities like Turkey, the Transitional National Council of Libya, the U.S., and the GCC. Following a script from McCarthyism, they thuggishly silence any opposition towards themselves by calling anyone who opposes them “shabiha.” Shabiha in Arabic means “goons” or “bullies” and in a Syrian political context means regime agent.
The SNC has even backtracked on an agreement signed with the actual internal opposition in Syria, the Syria National Coordination Committee (SNCC), which has outright rejected foreign military intervention in Syria as treachery. The SNC-SNCC agreement only lasted for one day. Burhan Ghalyun publicly lied to save face about it. He falsely claimed that the SNC-SNCC agreement was a draft and that the SNC executive had to look over the agreement. Haytham Al-Manna’s interview with Al-Akbar, however, exposes this as being untrue. Again, the issue of military intervention was a big issue in the deal, because the SNCC said they would never support it. It would be after the nullification of the agreement that Ghalyun would admit that he supports a NATO attack on Syria and the SNC would start slandering Al-Manna.
The SNC and its main leaders have been nothing, but dishonest. They have denied supporting military intervention and that have been involved in violent acts inside Syria, but turned around on both counts. The acts of terrorism conducted by their Syrian Free Army, have become infamous amongst Arabs and the SNC no longer hide its hopes of attaining power by means of foreign armies. The Washington Times has even quoted Samir Al-Nashar, an executive of the SNC, admitting that most of the SNC leadership wants military attacks to take place on Syria in an interview with Benjamin Birnbaum.
The Discredited Syrian Observatory for Human Rights
The SNC has been involved in the continuous dissemination of misinformation. It has largely coordinated and used the principally discredited British-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights as a propaganda outfit. The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights has made some of the crudest propaganda claims, including claims that Hezbollah was attacking Syrian dissidents with missiles from Lebanon. The propaganda has also included claims that the Iranian Revolutionary Guard had sent large detachments of snipers into Syria.
In a real case of irony, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights has also saluted the repressive Al-Sauds as supporters of democracy and freedom. The original website of the group was filled with so much propaganda that they eventually had to blame it all on an uneducated maverick member who was unilaterally publishing articles without verification by the other members of the organization for weeks without end. Like the process that the SNC is now facing, in the end petty internal bickering in the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights has helped expose it.
The Sectarian Nature of the Syrian National Council
The sectarian card in the SNC is a heavy one. Syrian minorities, which collectively form a large demographic cross-section of the population, are not represented in the SNC and there is good reason for this. The militant ultra-extremist wing of the Syrian National Council is very bigoted and detests the Alawite population and all other branches of Shiite Muslims. As well as hating Sunnite Muslims that disagree with them, they also abhor the Druze, Christians, and Jews. It is in this sectarian context that their supporters chant thus: “Alawites to the ground and Christians to Lebanon!” Should these deviant groups come to power they would persecute Syria’s minorities and anyone who disagrees with them ideologically in Syria.
Shiite Muslims, consisting of the Alawites, the mainstream Twelvers (Jafaris), and the Ismailis, form a sizeable minority in Syria. So do the Christians. Syrian Christians are mainly divided amongst the different churches of Eastern Catholic Christianity and Christian Orthodoxy. Along with the Druze, these three religious minorities form well over one-third of Syria’s population. This total becomes even larger when ethnic minorities like the Kurds, which are predominately Sunni Muslims, are added into the picture.
The Foreign Policy Goals of the Syrian National Council
The foreign policy objectives of the SNC are not only sectarian; they also embody the interests of the U.S. and Israel. The Wall Street Journal conducted an interview with Burhan Ghalyun as the leader of the SNC that clearly spells this out. It was a very revealing interview to say the least. While calling for a no-fly zone, Ghalyun clarified that Syria would end its strategic alliance and military ties with Iran, which he called “abnormal.” He also said that the SNC would also withdraw Syrian support for resistance movements like Hezbollah and Hamas.
It is clear who the intended audience of the interview was and who Ghalyun’s message was intended for: the U.S. and Israel. This becomes especially clear when Ghalyun explains that Hezbollah would be forced to modify its behaviour once the SNC governed Syria. This last statement says much. Firstly, by going out of his way to discuss the consequences of regime change in Damascus for Hezbollah, the SNC is catering to the interests of Washington and Tel Aviv. Moreover, when asked about Syria’s Israeli-occupied Golan Heights, Ghalyun said that the SNC would negotiate with Israel.
Around the same time, several Iranian engineers working in Homs on an Iranian power plant were kidnapped. A previously unheard of group called “The Movement Against the Shiite Tide in Syria” claimed in a communication to Agence France-Presse that it was behind the kidnappings of the Iranian engineers. It said that the act was a warning to Syria’s allies Iran and Hezbollah. The kidnapping was really the work of the armed branch of the SNC, the Syrian Free Army and was aimed at paining the events in Syria as a Shitte-Sunni conflict.
While it is a verbal critic of Iran and Russia, the SNC is ominously silent about Israel, which is very unusual for purported grassroots Arab democrats. Many of the SNC’s leaders and affiliates have even refused to make critical statements about Israel when drilled at meetings or forums loosely open to the public. In large part, the support that the SNC receives from Washington is based on the fact that its foreign policy caters to geo-political interests of the United States, which includes de-linking Syria from Iran and its other allies.
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