Friday, September 16, 2011

Syrian National Council unveiled in Turkey

Members of Syrian opposition groups have announced at a meeting in Turkey that they have selected 140 people to form a “national council” to give a public face to the protests against President Assad. Furthermore the council will attempt to co-ordinate the factionalised opposition in order to intensify the pressure on the government. Only 70 names out of the list of 140 were announced publically at the meeting, possibly because the unnamed individuals currently reside in Syria and therefore the publicity could be a threat to their security. The list is composed of revolutionary youths, political activists and technocrats, whilst ethnic and religious minorities have reportedly also been represented. Yaser Tabbara, a Syrian-American attorney and a member of the council, has noted that “the council will be seeking to fill the vacuum identified by the international community, as an alternative to Assad's regime and represent the position of the Syrian revolution in an efficient and credible way.” The opposition has had unofficial contact with foreign governments, and one of the aims of the formation of the council is that meetings with Arab and Western governments will follow, as well as consultations with the UN and the Arab League.

The Syrian opposition has clearly attempted to mimic the activities of the Libyan opposition, who declared the formation of the National Transitional Council in the eastern Libyan city of Al Bayda in late February. The question is how far does the Syrian National Council wish to follow in the footsteps of the Libyan rebels: will they engage in an armed rebellion, backed by Western military support? That possibility may exist, but it is still much too early to tell.

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