Monday, March 05, 2012

Ghalioun Loses Yet More Friends and the SNC Fragments

Burhan Ghalioun's position in the Syrian National Council seems to be growing more and more isolated. The confusing actions and statements from the SNC shows the internal divisions within the organisation. In the aftermath of the Tunis conference Ghalioun announced the formation of a Military Bureau of the Syrian National Council.

The SNC stated that:

"The Military Bureau will track the armed opposition groups, organize and unify their ranks under one central command, defining their defense missions while placing them under the political supervision of the SNC, and coordinating their activities in accordance with the overall strategy of the Revolution. The SNC will work on providing the FSA with all the support it needs to completely fulfill its defense responsibilities, including securing necessary protection for civilians, and tending to the Revolutionaries defending Syrians against the criminal regime. Bureau members will seek assistance from appropriate sources, including experts."

However their aim to coordinate with the FSA seemed to take the Free Army by surprise. Colonel Riad al-Asaad, the figurehead of the FSA, seemed to have not been informed of the creation of the Military Bureau and was not supportive of it. It seems that the SNC is not sure what it is doing or how to handle the constantly changing situation in Syria

Ghalioun himself highlights the divisions that are endemic of the SNC. Early on he managed to isolate the SNC from the Kurds by comparing their role in Syria to illegal immigrants in Western Europe. It seems that diplomacy may not be his forte as in recent weeks he has also argued that clerics rule the imagination of the Arabs and that 90% of Arabs know nothing else but what imams teach them. He argues that they spread authoritarianism.

This statement is unlikely to help his popularity within the SNC as the SNC's core membership is mostly Muslim Brotherhood supporters and other Islamist elements and it is backed by the governments of Saudi, Qatar and Turkey.

However, the SNC have been infighting for months. Mostly over how to coordinate with the different militias that are forming across Syria. These divisions came to a head last week when at least 20 prominent members of the 270-strong SNC formed a splinter organization called the Syrian Patriotic Group. This seems to have been the result of a very public argument at the Tunis conference between Ghalioun and Haitham al-Maleh which apparently involved much screaming.

Al-Maleh is joined by Kamal al-Labwani, an opposition leader,Catherine al-Talli a human rights lawyer, Fawaz al-Tello, an opposition member with links to Free Syrian Army and Walid al-Bunni, who was among the most outspoken figures on the council responsible for foreign policy. The Syrian Patriotic Group produced a statement that highlighted their division from the SNC. They said:

"Syria has experienced long and difficult months since the Syrian National Council was formed without it achieving satisfactory results or being able to activate its executive offices or adopt the demands of the rebels inside Syria,"

"The previous mode of operation has been useless. We decided to form a patriotic action group to back the national effort to bring down the regime with all available resistance means including supporting the Free Syrian Army."

Ghalioun was recently re-elected as the head of the SNC however time will tell as to whether the opposition group survive his second term intact.


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