Syria Opposition Leader: Assad's Fall Does Not Mean End of Ties With Hezbollah

Burhan Ghalioun says there is a difference between his demand that Hezbollah change its position vis-à-vis Syria, and his support for the organization for its policy on Israel.

“Hezbollah is not out enemy. On the contrary - the greatest support in the Arab World for Hezbollah came from the Syrians because it performed a noble deed when it stood up to Israel and blocked an Israeli attack. However, today people are suspicious of Hezbollah because it has clearly supported the regime which acts with all forms of violence against its citizens.” These are the words Dr. Burhan Ghalioun, head of the Syrian National Council (the largest of the Syrian opposition groups), used to clarify the organization’s stance toward Hezbollah.

In an interview with Algerian newspaper El-Shorouk, Ghalioun distinguishes between his demand that Hezbollah change its position vis-à-vis Syria and his support for the organization in everything related to its policy regarding Israel. It seems that Israeli (and Western) working premise, according to which the fall of the Assad regime will bring about the end of Syria’s relationship with Iran or Hezbollah, does not reflect Ghalioun or his organization’s worldview. Ghalioun clarified that “there are no eternal hatreds, nor eternal friendships. Alliances depend on interests, and we want to realize our goals. Should Hezbollah decide to support democracy in Syria, we will not have any problems in our relationship with it. We will not sacrifice Hezbollah if Hezbollah does not sacrifice us.” Ghalioun emphasized that until now there has not been any contact between the opposition and Hezbollah as organizations, although it seems as if meetings have occurred on a personal level.

Opposite Ghalioun is a group of 20 members of the Syrian National Council which have harshly criticized the way he has handled the council. The enmity reached a peak on Sunday when the group officially left the 270-member council and form a new oppositional council. They demand an immediate military campaign against the Syrian regime, and criticize Ghalioun’s vague position regarding any such demand. Some of the dissidents denied leaving the Syrian National Council, and there does not seem to be an end to the internal struggle within the council or between the council which functions outside of Syria and the opposition forces within the country. All this, while the different military arms of the opposition, each of which is headed by a different officer, are not able to come to an agreement on a how to unify under one authority, nor in their method of operation.

Syria opposition supporters - AP - April 29, 2011

These differences constitute a vast difficulty for the policy of the West as well as that of Arab countries in deciding who the exclusive representative of the Syrian nation during the revolution is, and on a practical level, to whom to give money and weapons. Different reports describe the flow of weapons and ammunition through Turkey and Iraq, others talk of Saudi financing and Qatari acquisition of weapons. However, it is unclear who receives all of the aforementioned funding and weaponry. Ghalioun himself admits that there is no central oversight of weapons that make it to the opposition organizations, and that he would prefer that the operations of the Free Syrian Army under the command of General Riad al-Assad will be subordinate to the policy of the Syrian National Council, although al-Assad is not planning such coordination, all the more so after his part in the rebellion was not mentioned during the Friends of Syria conference which took place in Tunisia last week.

In the meantime, Syrian opposition activists reported on Wednesday the number killed had already reached 50, and that Bashar Assad deployed the 4th Armored Division under the command of his brother Maher, in order to handle the operations in Homs. Neither European diplomacy, nor pressures from Arab countries have been able to bring about an effective and practical course of action. The condemnations of against Assad in the United Nations Human Rights Committee, and the declarations of the leaders of France, Britain and the United States continually use the routine choice of words, and only Saudi Arabia still pins its hopes on being able to change Russia’s position, while Assad signed a new constitution, which was “approved” in a national referendum on Sunday. For Assad, killing those who oppose him while permitting elections in order to grant him legitimacy is the only way to go.

Read this article in Hebrew