The American Bear


Mixed Messages from Syrian National Council on US, Israel | The Arabist

From Paul Mutter:

According to Reuters, the Syrian National Council and the National Coordination Body for Democratic Change in Syria - the two largest opposition coalitions in Syria - signed on the last Friday of 2011 a unity pledge that “reject[s] any military intervention that harms the sovereignty or stability of the country, though Arab intervention is not considered foreign.” However, remarks delivered to the U.S. and Israeli press by a Council spokesman seem to contradict the Council’s stated support for the new joint policy.

The rejection of (Western) military intervention is a significant concession on the part of the Syrian National Council - the smaller, more diaspora-oriented of the two main coalitions - as the Council had been calling for NATO to enforce a no-fly zone (“Safe Area for Syria”). The Council’s representatives have compared the situation in Syria to that in Libya (as such, it is not surprising that the transitional government in Libya is the only foreign government to have formally recognized the Council). Those analyzing the feasibility and costs of such intervention argue that Syria’s extensive air defense system and high population densities will make a no-fly zone difficult to enforce, leading to heavy civilian casualties and, ultimately, require major troop deployments.

Despite the unity agreement, one of the Council’s spokesmen/leaders, Samir Nashar, told the Washington Timesthat “the majority of SNC leaders agree with international military intervention as early as possible” even though “they might not be brave enough to express it openly.” Nashar’s statements (at least those made to the Washington Times) are expressly targeted at garnering U.S. support: he told the paper that intervention would present a “historic opportunity” for the U.S. in the region, and that most Syrians would welcome a replay of NATO’s 2011 Libyan engagement. It is not clear if Nashar’s statements have been approved by the rest of the Council. The Guardian reported that as of December 31, 2011, “the membership of the group [Syrian National Council] has yet to formally adopt” the full terms of the unity agreement. 

Nashar, and the Council, may be hedging their bets at this stage. Even if a Turkish or Arab League military mission (the latter would ostensibly be “permitted” by the Syrian opposition) materialized to oppose Assad, the U.S. would be involved. And unless the Syrian military decides to stand down as the Egyptian and Tunisian armed forces did last winter (thus helping force Ben Ali and Mubarak out of office), it is unlikely Assad will find himself adrift within his own inner circle. A violent end, or sufficient threat of one, would really be the only option available to the opposition to secure victory over the regime.

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Syria's two largest opposition groups sign draft deal for post-Assad democracy | Haaretz

Syria’s two leading opposition groups have agreed on the ground rules for what they call “a transitional period” after the end of the regime of President Bashar Assad, activists said Saturday.

Representatives from the Syrian National Council (SNC) and the National Coordination Body for Democratic Change in Syria signed the agreement in Cairo late Friday after talks that lasted more than a month, activists said.

The accord is to be presented as an official document to the Cairo-based Arab League on Sunday, reported the independent news site Syria Politic.

There was no immediate comment from the pan-Arab organization.

Under the agreement, a new constitution is to be drafted for post-Assad Syria “guaranteeing the creation of a civil multi-party parliamentary system.”

It envisages a one-year transitional period starting with an interim government taking over in Syria until a new constitution is approved.

The agreement recognizes the Kurdish minority as “an essential and historical part” of Syria. Kurds make up about 9 per cent of Syria’s population and have long complained about government discrimination.

Meanwhile, Arab League peace observers, who are inspecting hotspots across the country, have called on the government to “immediately” remove snipers from rooftops of buildings, a source close to the delegation told DPA on Saturday.

"The observers saw the snipers with their own eyes in Douma," the source said, referring to a restive town on the outskirts of the capital Damascus.

Footage posted on the internet showed observers spotting snipers also in the two provinces of Daraa and Idlib.

The monitors are in Syria to verify the government’s compliance with an Arab peace plan, which includes removing military hardware from Syrian cities and the freeing of political prisoners.

Syrian opposition: Homs a 'disaster area' | Al Jazeera English

Syria’s opposition has called for international intervention in the central city of Homs, one of the focal points of the country’s uprising, calling it a “humanitarian disaster area”.

The appeal, issued by the Turkey-based Syrian National Council, comes as activists reported that at least eight people were killed across the country on Monday, including two children, in an ongoing crackdown by security forces.

Activists said that at least five of the dead were in Homs as hundreds of residents protested against the rule of Syrian President Bashar al Assad, adding that government troops stormed several areas and made house-to-house arrests.

Al Jazeera’s Rula Amin, reporting from Beirut in neighbouring Lebanon, said: “People there are trying to tell the government that they will not succumb and they will continue to protest until they topple the regime…despite the heavy presence of the security forces.” 

More than 110 people have been killed in the past week in Homs, Syria’s third-largest city, according to the Local Co-ordination Committees activist network.

In a statement, the Syrian National Council urged the United Nations, the Organisation of Islamic Co-operation and the Arab League to act “to stop the massacre committed by the regime”.

It also called on the international community to send “Arab and international observers, instantly, to the city of Homs to oversee the situation on the ground, and prevent the regime from continuing to commit brutal massacres.”

The Arab League has called a meeting in Cairo next Saturday on what it calls Syria’s failure to implement a peace plan, announced by the body last week following talks with Syrian officials.

The League said the meeting was called because of “the continuation of violence and because the Syrian government did not implement its commitments in the Arab plan to resolve the Syrian crisis.” [++]

Syria's president 'to address nation', Oppostion Activists form 'National Council' | Al Jazeera English

Bashar al-Assad, Syria’s embattled president, is to deliver his third major speech since protests demanding greater freedoms and democracy erupted in Syria in mid-March.

"President Bashar al-Assad will deliver a speech at noon tomorrow concerning developments in Syria," the official SANA news agency said in a terse dispatch on Sunday, without elaborating.


Opposition activists announced on Sunday that they were setting up a “National Council” to spearhead the struggle against his regime.

Syrian opposition activists have created a “National Council” to lead the battle to oust Assad’s regime, their spokesperson Jamil Saib said on Sunday.

“We announce the creation of a National Council to lead the Syrian revolution, comprising all communities and representatives of national political forces inside and outside Syria,” reporters near the Turkish-Syrian border were told.

The activists urged opposition forces “to co-operate in all cities and provinces of Syria to achieve the legitimate goal of overthrowing the regime and bringing it to justice”.

“The purpose of this council is to bring together opposition forces to support the revolution” and ensure that they are heard by the international community, Saib told the AFP news agency.