Top Syrian Opposition Figure: The Revolution Is Crumbling Because of International Indifference

Prominent opposition leader says rebels are plagued by internal strife and international indifference.

Jack Khoury
Jack Khoury
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Jack Khoury
Jack Khoury

The Syrian revolution is crumbling because of international indifference or worse, and due to factional rifts in the country’s opposition, a higher-up among the rebels told Haaretz Thursday.

In advance of a new round of Geneva talks aimed at ending the country’s civil war, the Syrian rebel said the United States is indifferent to his country’s fate. “As long as Syria poses no threat to Israel, the Americans don’t care if it’s destroyed,” he said. Meanwhile, he added, Russia continues to support President Bashar Assad.

“The killing won’t stop, quite the reverse, because that’s what the international community wants,” he said. Following the dismal failure of last month’s Geneva talks, he continued, it’s impossible to think the next round could fare any better.

The two sides are due to meet in Geneva again on Monday. The opposition is determined to continue the talks, if only to prevent Assad “and his gang” from appearing to the world as though they support an agreement while blaming the opposition for the talks’ failure, said the opposition figure, who took part in the Geneva and Moscow talks.

“We came to Geneva without an agreement among all the opposition factions. You can say we were even more divided than before,” he said. “Two thirds of the coalition abandoned ship, but I personally was in favor of the conference for one simple reason – our absence would have enabled Assad to say he was in favor of the talks and that we were not. During the conference we proved we were right to take this position. We compelled the regime’s representatives to sit facing us in Geneva and discuss Syria’s future, even though the discussion was futile. This time around we’ll have more support.”

He said that on the conference’s second day, after the opening ceremony, the United Nations and Arab League special envoy to Syria Lakhdar Brahimi had prepared the sides for a joint meeting.

“The atmosphere in the room was very tense. Bashar Jaafari, Syria’s envoy to the United Nations, spoke in favor of the regime. Syrian Foreign Minister Walid Muallem and Assad’s political and media adviser Bouthaina Shaaban didn’t show up. Jaafari kept talking to us as though we were terrorists and agents of the United States and Israel, Brahimi tried to raise issues for discussion and spoke about getting the women and children out of the besieged neighborhoods in Homs,” he said.

The opposition figure said the air remained just as hostile in the discussion on implementing the Geneva 1 plan. “They insisted on discussing the chapter about the cease fire before the talks of setting up a caretaker government, but as Walid Muallem said before the conference, they wanted to drown us with details. They wanted to discuss a cease fire and withdrawal of militants from every road and neighborhood, so that we’d reach the caretaker government clause maybe in 10 years’ time. Our position was clear – that the transitory government would set the cease fire rules, otherwise there’s no point to the talks.”

He said the opposition’s only achievement in Geneva 2 was that the Assad regime’s delegates sat at the same table with people they had insisted were terrorists.

He said the Russians are the toughest nut to crack. Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov had told him the Russians aren’t insisting on Assad’s remaining in power. “But in the middle of the conversation he said only Assad can lead the transition period and make reforms. How can we accept such a position? It’s inconceivable after all the bloodshed,” he said.

“We’re giving it another chance, maybe there will be talks for another few weeks but I don’t see the end in sight.”

He said he was not sure the opposition would be able to advance any political issue in the next round of talks, but perhaps they will be able to obtain humanitarian aid for the refugees.

He said the Syrian people are continuing their struggle almost alone and all the talk about financial or military aid is no more than lip service.

“Ultimately it’ll go one way or the other, I don’t know when, but the Syrian people won’t go back to what it was and Syria is caught in a whirlwind, which nobody knows when it will get out of,” he said.

Rebel forces being attacked by Syrian air force, Aleppo, Syria, January 18, 2014.Credit: AP

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