Who’s out to get the Syrian opposition?

Abdulrahman al-Rashed
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It’s no secret that different parties are working to break the Syrian opposition, which consists of the National Coalition, the Free Syrian Army and the National Council. The actors are not only Bashar al-Assad’s regime but also other parties like al-Qaeda-linked Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS).

Criticism and doubt of the opposition has increased in the past few days. It reached the extent of totally rejecting the opposition and declaring war against it under the excuse that they rejected the Geneva II conference and considered attending the conference tantamount to treason.


Some were deceived into getting involved in this campaign against the opposition and others got engaged in it as a result of desperation. Some did so because they consider themselves rivals of the opposition while others stand against the opposition because they do not wish to see Assad toppled.

Self-interested groups

Some groups are aligning themselves with Assad, and against the opposition, simply because they worry that, considering the current international scene, the elimination of Assad will leave them no future in Syria. Therefore, they will fight against the coalition, the national council, the interim government, Geneva II and any activity that may topple the regime.

Al-Qaeda affiliated groups, like the Islamic State of Iraq and the Syria, Ahrar al-Sham and the al-Nusra Front, want Syria to become like Somalia. Consequently, they would be able to stay in the country and exist as guerilla fighters even when Assad is no longer the head of state. This is why these groups are launching a campaign against the opposition entities outside Syria and doubting the opposition’s intentions, activities and patriotism. These groups, including those which signed the statement rejecting the coalition and which are considered affiliated with the FSA, reject a peaceful solution even if it stipulates eliminating Assad.


The question is; can they pledge to the Syrian people that they are ready and capable of toppling the regime within months? If this is possible, everyone will support them. But we have seen their inability to do so with our own eyes. The aim is not to destroy Syria and murder 20 million Syrians. The aim is to eliminate Assad, as an individual and as a regime leader. It’s wrong to listen to terrorist groups under the impression that they are patriotic because, put simply, they are not. We must not forget that such groups destroyed every place they settled in. Al-Qaeda failed in its mission in Iraq, wascexpelled from the al-Anbar province by Sunni clans after seven years of bloody war. It is still futilely fighting in Afghanistan, 20 years after it caused the collapse of the Taliban state. It also failed in Somalia and was incapable of securing victory in Yemen. It has also been recently defeated in Mali.

The Syrian opposition is not organized and it suffers from problems in its structure and even in its leadership

Abdulrahman al-Rashed

Al-Qaeda fighters want to wage war until death while the Syrian people chose peaceful protests and then carried arms for the sake of defending themselves. The latter aim is to establish a state of law. The Syrians do not want Syria to be another Afghanistan and do not want to establish an extremist regime that replaces Assad’s extremist regime.

Finally, we know that the Syrian opposition is not organized and that it suffers from problems in its structure and even in its leadership. But we must keep in mind that it is an opposition that resides outside Syria with no safe zone, no forces under its command and devoid even of a headquarters. Working from hotels isn’t as easy as their rivals think. The opposition leaders travel with passports which few countries accept. They are prevented from holding gatherings and they have no right to carry a weapon although they are pursued by the regime’s agents. They do not have means to lobby organizations and governments allied with them. Have their critics thought of the circumstances in which they live? Without the coalition, the council and the opposition leadership outside Syria, it would not have been possible to host around two million Syrian refugees in Lebanon, Jordan and other countries. How would these millions of displaced people be provided with the simplest of daily necessities? How would the armed groups, which participated in signing the statement, gain weapons and ammunition?

Most of the time during the past two-and-a-half years of Syria’s crisis, weapons and ammunition were brought into Syria thanks to the opposition’s efforts and their communication with foreign governments. They rallied governments to provide for the needs of the war and the minimum needs of the refugees. This is their duty, one which they must not be thanked for. But one must not listen to the Islamic State of Iraq and the Syria, the al-Nusra Front and Ahrar al-Sham which only went to Syria to kill for the sake of killing and to establish a state in which the majority of Syrians have no place. Such groups distorted the image of the most beautiful revolution the world has known.

This article was first published in Asharq al-Awsat on September 26, 2013.


Abdulrahman al-Rashed is the General Manager of Al Arabiya News Channel. A veteran and internationally acclaimed journalist, he is a former editor-in-chief of the London-based leading Arab daily Asharq al-Awsat, where he still regularly writes a political column. He has also served as the editor of Asharq al-Awsat’s sister publication, al-Majalla. Throughout his career, Rashed has interviewed several world leaders, with his articles garnering worldwide recognition, and he has successfully led Al Arabiya to the highly regarded, thriving and influential position it is in today.

Disclaimer: Views expressed by writers in this section are their own and do not reflect Al Arabiya English's point-of-view.
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