The Syrian opposition isn’t excited about Geneva II
Some Syrian opposition groups affiliated with the Assad regime are waiting and hoping to take the opposition’s seat at the Geneva conference
Some members of the opposition Syrian National Coalition have voiced disobedience against their leadership under the excuse of objecting to attend the Geneva II conference. But truth is, the real reason has nothing to do with Geneva as the dispute is over the coalition’s leadership. They want to remove the current president.
When the attempt failed after the majority voted in favor of Ahmad al-Jarba, they announced their withdrawal from the coalition in objection to the Geneva II conference.
Going to the international conference itself is not a matter of huge dispute among the coalition’s members. Almost no one is excited about going to Geneva as long as there is no clear international stance against the crimes of President Bashar al-Assad’s regime. But the majority knows that it has to participate in the conference as part of its political duties and not doing so would harm the revolution.
The coalition and its Arab allies, and powerful countries like France, have emphasized that they want to confirm the decisions of the Geneva I conference as conditions for the Geneva II conference.
The Geneva I conference was held during better circumstances - when the Free Syrian Army was in a powerful position, the Syrian regime was losing ground, and support from Iran, Russia and Hezbollah was not yet solid.
The majority knows that it has to participate in the conference as part of its political duties and not doing so would harm the revolutionAbdulrahman al-Rashed
Back then, and according to the balance of power in the field, those at the conference, including the Russians, agreed to support the establishment of a new Syrian regime without Assad. It was an important decision. The coalition’s conditions to attend the second conference are to hold on to this historical decision and to base dialogue over Syria’s future according to it.
Absence always harms the absent party. This is why Iran is angry after the Gulf states and Europe have so far succeeded at preventing them from participating at the conference.
Syria’s future will be made at Geneva. Remember that if the Palestinian group Fatah was not at the Oslo Accords, it would have suffered. The same goes at conferences held before invading Iraq. Iraqi parties who boycotted these international meetings disappeared from the political map later.
Taking the seat
Some Syrian opposition groups affiliated with the Assad regime are waiting and hoping to take the opposition’s seat at the Geneva conference as they know that the Syrian crisis is not an issue to be easily solved on field and that international agreements may later decide who will rule Syria.
When it comes to the Syrian opposition, what is unfortunate is putting personal interests - like disputes over posts - above general ones at a time when the Syrian people are sacrificing their sons for change.
As for participating in the Geneva conference, this is an issue the opposition is more capable of judging according to its coordination with regional and international powers.
The Syrian regime did not hesitate to accept the invitation for attending the conference, and it is actually hoping that the coalition does not attend so it becomes the only Syrian party participating. This would help it serve the aim of mending its broken legitimacy. This is why Assad has dispatched the strongest of his diplomats to the Geneva conference battle.
Diplomats in support of the Syrian revolution have made efforts to impose the opposition on the Geneva conference. They are fighting to prevent opposition groups which are invented by Assad and supported by the Russians and the Iranians from representing the Syrian people.
They are also diplomatically fighting to prevent Iran from participating and setting important conditions, like the decisions of the previous Geneva conference. It doesn’t make sense that after all of this, someone depreciates this task either due to lack of political intellect or because he did not become chief of the coalition!
This article was first published in Asharq al-Awsat on Jan. 19, 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.