Al-Qaeda's mentality within the Syrian opposition

If al-Qaeda groups managed to attack the FSA and obstruct it from fighting Assad’s forces, then there are political activists doing the same thing

Abdulrahman al-Rashed
Abdulrahman al-Rashed
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The most dangerous threat against the Syrian revolution is not the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL). It is rather ISIL’s mentality that seeks to wreck the revolution from within.

If al-Qaeda groups managed to attack the Free Syrian Army and obstruct it from fighting Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s forces, then there are political activists doing the same thing and attacking the political structure of the opposition from within and seeking to destroy it.

Fighting over politics is not less damaging than the ISIL’s harm in the military field. A few days ago it was the deadline to elect a chief of the Syrian coalition which represents the political umbrella of the revolution.

The leadership’s term is only six months after which it is renewed or a new leader is elected. All members of the coalition have agreed to this system. So the coalition which consists of 120 members met in Istanbul and two respectable Syrian figures competed for the post: Ahmad al-Jarba who already led the coalition for one term and Riad Hijab, one of the most prominent defectors from the Assad regime. The majority voted for Jarba with a 13 vote difference.

Fighting over politics is not less damaging than the ISIL’s harm in the military field.

Abdulrahman al-Rashed

Is there anything worth disagreeing over? Of course, not. But some of those who lost began to threaten withdrawing from the coalition and establishing another political entity which would deepen the disputes within the opposition, already harmed because of divisions. Some did not settle at being angry but they turned the event into an arena to direct accusations, threats and insults.

What’s the difference between them and the ISIL? Aren’t they committing the same harm of sabotaging the Syrian opposition and failing the revolution?

If Hijab had won the coalition’s leadership, he would have deserved the same respect which Jarba deserves. These are the principles of the electoral process and these are the principles which those who reject the al-Assad regime are fighting for.

What’s the value of this coalition, which members willingly joined, if it must be managed as per force and not per voting? If everyone who loses his post or loses the elections threatens to sabotage the institution which embraces him or makes shameful accusations against his colleagues, then how will the situation be if they replaced the Assad’s regime?

Geneva II

The worst part is accusing the coalition of treason over participating in the upcoming Geneva II conference. Some of those who lost the voting raised the issue of the upcoming Geneva conference and threatened those who will go there and have accused them of treason.

First of all, inviting the opposition means the coalition is recognized and second of all, all the conference’s attendees have expressed the interests of the Syrian revolution. Above all that, the coalition’s attendance itself is a major condition of the conference and not participating may end it before it even begins. The coalition has said that its condition to attend was to adopt the Geneva I decision of eliminating the al-Assad regime. The Geneva II conference may not be held due to this condition for which France announced support.

Therefore the two options are: either the conference will be held while acknowledging al-Assad’s mandatory exit of power or it won’t be held at all. If the conference is held amidst the opposition’s absence, major parties may agree to adopt solutions that would be imposed on the Syrian people - solutions under the headline of "besieging armed terrorist groups."

And then we’d see how this solution will destroy the entire armed opposition by closing all borders, criminalizing countries that arm any Syrian party and preventing political opposition leaders from moving to many major countries. The coalition’s options are either holding a conference against al-Assad or not holding a conference at all. But not participating in the conference without requirements will harm the Syrian cause and strengthen the situation of al-Assad, Iran and Russia.

Finally, if angry opposition figures have solutions, other than dividing the opposition, then let them present them. Really, they have nothing, just another council and further controversy with increased division and additional leadership.

This article was first published in Asharq al-Awsat on Jan. 6, 2014.

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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