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Syrian opposition courting dangerous allies in face of Assad defiance

Published time: January 20, 2012 06:34
Edited time: January 20, 2012 23:53

A member of the Free Syria Army with an assault rifle stands guard during a patrol in the western border town of Zabadani(Reuters / Reuters TV)

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The opposition Syrian National Council has sent a delegation to Cairo to discuss the Arab League referring the Syrian crisis to the United Nations. The Arab League is convening this weekend to hear a final report from its observers to Syria.

The League is expected to condemn President Bashar al-Assad, who has continued his crackdown on protesters despite promises to stop. The Syrian National Council (SNC) is pushing for the League to address the Syrian crisis in terms of “genocide” and “war crimes."

Although it has been run by a Paris-based exile, Burhan Ghalioun, the SNC has been recognized as the country's legitimate government by the new Libyan authorities, and supported by some EU and NATO countries – which has made some doubt the council's innocent intentions.

“With regard to Libya, the promise that NATO made to the NTC’s prospective leaders was that they'd be given major seats at the table in a new Libya,” Patrick Henningsen, an associate editor for InfoWars.Com, explained. “There is power-brokering going on behind the scenes, and I absolutely wager the same is happening in Syria – they've been bought off financially, or they've been promised a role in a new Syrian regime.”

The National Congress in Iraq, Libya’s National Transitional Council and the Syrian National Council do not only have common names. Supported and sponsored from abroad, they are uniting opposition forces and their major goal is to overthrow the regime. But there is a difference too: the SNC's headquarters are not in Damascus, but in Istanbul.

Halit Hoca from the Syrian National Council says he spent 15 years in jail in the 1970s and 80s, just because his father supported the opposition. He claims nothing has changed since then, and the oppression has to stop. But how is another matter.

If I go to Syria, I'll be executed there. [The Syrian regime] is a dictator regime…it cannot move without any pressure,” Hoca told RT.

Having claimed they are would rely only on political and diplomatic pressure, the SNC is also now co-operating with the Free Syrian army – fighters who have defected from Assad's military – in what is a clear shift from its initial strictly non-armed, peaceful stance.

The council also sees "humanitarian corridors" and "buffer zones" as options to "protect civilians" in Syria, even though these might mean foreign troops arriving on their soil.

“This is a NATO-Istanbul-Paris operation where the SNC is used to meet a NATO agenda – they want to destabilize Syria, because they want Syria to be part of NATO – or at least make it linked to NATO,” says Pepe Escobar, a correspondent for the Asia Times.

But some continue to believe the group is a positive force. A leading Turkish newspaper editor says he sees the SNC as offering a clear opportunity for the Syrian people to be heard.

“No real opposition party was permitted in Syria for decades. So you have to give them a chance,” says Murat Yetkin of Turkey’s Hurriyet Daily News.

Meanwhile, the violence continues and has worsened. Ten months since the start of the uprising and from the time the SNC came to the fore in August, more and more people are being killed from both sides. The UN estimates over 5,000 people have died at the hands of state forces alone.

The opposition claims it is just a matter of time before their joint efforts, sooner or later, will force President Assad out.  He, on the other hand, is determined to stay. The question remains – exactly how long should ordinary people have to wait for the bloodshed to stop? And how many of them will actually live to see the end of it?

But independent journalist Lizzie Phelan, who is currently in Damascus, says the objectivity of reports coming from Syria is increasingly being questioned.

There were some reports that the area of Al-Zabadani, near the Lebanese border, had been taken by the Free Syrian Army. And now, I went there myself, the last night, and as I drove to Zabadani, I was very surprised to find no check-points by the Syrian army on the way, and I was actually allowed to go inside Zabadani,” Phelan told RT. “And despite having seen footage on the television of convoys of Free Syrian Army fighters, I found that there was actually nothing there.”

Watch RT's full interview with Lizzie Phelan


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