Is the New Syrian National Coalition DOA?

The US State Department has been encouraging the restructuring of the Syrian opposition after a long period of watching the Syrian National Council (SNC), formed in Istanbul with the help and blessing of the Erdogan Government, attempt to take command of the different groups, including control of the Free Syrian Army (FSA), and control of all entrances and exits to the centers of power within the SNC.

The SNC structure looks liberal and secular (its two presidents have been liberals) but the Muslim Brotherhood has total control of its inner shell and its political agenda.

As a reminder, the SNC rise started under President Bush with the help of Condoleezza Rice in 2006 when the US State Department funded Barada dissident TV whose applicants were Islamists and supposedly ex-Muslim Brotherhood members (no such thing as an unpunished ex-Muslim Brotherhood Member by the way). That Siesta instance on the part of Rice and MEPA (Middle East Partnership Initiative), which provided the $6 million for Barada-TV, started the snowball effect that culminated in the forming of the SNC. MEPA’s leadership in 2006 succumbed to Rice wishes and internal pressure by certain policy makers of the NEA Department more influenced by Saudi suggestions than the American public realizes.

Many in the Syrian Diaspora objected to the SNC’s make-up and structure because of its ideological danger; many inside Syria objected as well because they felt the exiled Syrian opposition was controlling their destiny, especially now as a result of suffering the consequences of brutal massacres and terror by the Assad regime. The SNC, as a group, was dangerous to the minorities of Syria and helped cement Assad’s propaganda that his alternative will destroy the Alawites and the Christians communities.

Six years into that fatal mistake implemented by Secretary Rice, and two years into minutely watching the SNC’s despotic maneuvers and Assad-like exclusionary practices of others, the US State Department has embarked on fixing the problem.

So Secretary Clinton pulled the plug on the SNC and the US State Department; instead, it adopted the Seif Initiative, which was an internal mechanism at including the oppositionists inside Syria (even those who softly opposed Assad because they were treading a fine line) and including more groups with different ideological backgrounds. It is named after Riad Seif, an oppositionist ex-member of parliament and a businessman who suffered from many years in prison. Seif is a liberal Sunni Muslim.

Accordingly, last week in Doha, the doors were supposedly wide-open to more Syrians inside the country to join at the behest of the Government of Qatar. In discussing how wide the doors were opened, Syrian oppositionists who are close to the Western mindset (liberal and market oriented) told me Qatar excluded many in the hope it can still squeeze the Muslim Brotherhood it supports openly now.

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As a result of the US State Department support of the Seif Initiative and the Doha re-fabrication of a Syrian opposition more in-tune with those fighting inside Syria, a new coalition was formed under the name The National Coalition for Syrian Revolutionary and Opposition Forces or the National Coalition (NC) for short.

The coalition has sixty seats of which twenty-three have been granted to the SNC (under MB control). But since we know four additional seats are occupied by the heads of the Local Coordination Committees in Aleppo, Hama, Homs, and Idlib who also happen to be Muslim Brotherhood members, the tally is up to twenty-seven. Additionally, the three so-called national figures who were granted seats (one of them Sadr Eddine al-Bayanouni – Ex-Morshed al-Aam of the MB), Islamist control of the NC is now up to 29 out of 60 seats.

Of the other thirty-one seats, there are two members who are MB sympathizers we know of. How those two members would vote in the future is a mystery, but given how easy it is to influence people in that part of the world and how deep are the Qatari pockets, I am not overly optimistic about this new structure either. Some of the NC new members have already met with the Iranian Government, which does not bode well for Syria’s future.

Everyone’s eyes are on the NC. Assad will keep his propaganda machine revving at high RPM to dissuade the minorities and the minorities, who may finally realize Assad’s end is nearer than they think, are watching nervously the new structure formed by Qatar sympathizing with the Islamists of the Muslim Brotherhood.

The Seif Initiative is sound, but I am of the belief the recipe of this meal was cooked with the wrong ingredients in Doha. No one in the Syrian opposition thinks the Islamists should control almost 50% (known so far) of the new structure. Once again, someone has the right idea at State (support the Syrian opposition) but the implementation is lacking from all angles. Qatar has pulled a fast one on Secretary Clinton.

I believe, once again, the NC is dead on arrival the way the SNC was two years earlier. The Syrian opposition must not be formed in countries who are either controlled by the Islamists or who are sympathizers of the Islamists. This is no different than asking Pakistan to structure the Government in Kabul.

(Farid Ghadry is the President of the US-based Reform Party of Syria. Blog: http://ghadry.com)