As the largest Syrian opposition meeting convenes in Doha, Qatar, Sunday, Arab media reports on its military advances, while the fate of the Syrian National Council (SNC), the country’s leading political opposition organization in exile, is up for debate.
“Military progress for the Syrian opposition on the eve of its largest gathering in Doha,” reads the headline of Saudi-owned daily A-Sharq Al-Awsat, featuring a photo of black smoke covering the skyline of the village of Mi’rat Nu’man in the Idlib province, following an airstrike by government forces Saturday.
According to the daily, the reorganization of the SNC will be debated in Doha, as well as the idea of creating a “government in exile” by uniting the opposition ranks.
The gathering will also vote on a new SNC head, with candidates including current leader Abdul Basit Sida; former leader Burhan Ghalioun; and Riad Seif, who initiated the SNC’s expansion.
“The fate of the ‘National Council’ is at stake in the Doha conference,” reads the headline of London-based daily Al-Hayat.
According to the daily, the United States is supporting the “Seif initiative” to expand the SNC, a position which may harm the initiative itself; since it may be viewed as being imposed from without rather than an authentic national position.
‘The fate of the “National Council’” is at stake in the Doha conference,’ reads the headline of London-based daily Al-Hayat
Meanwhile, in an attempt to safeguard the SNC’s prestige, opposition leader Ahmad Ramadan describes Turkey’s support for the SNC and tells Al-Hayat that talk of alternatives to it are “premature.”
Quoting a spokesman for defected Syrian prime minister Riad Hijab, Al-Jazeera, a Qatari news channel, reports that the new Syrian opposition body will incorporate members of the Kurdish opposition as well as local council representatives and Islamic scholars.
The reports highlights US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton as a central opponent to the current constellation of the SNC.
A-Sharq Al-Awsat editor-in-chief Tareq Homayed expresses his concern in a Sunday editorial about the SNC’s tendency to accuse its critics of being traitors, especially in light of the American tendency to include members of Syrian President Bashar Assad’s Baath party in post-Assad Syria.
“All Syrians today should learn from the mistakes of Arab Spring countries, and primarily post-Saddam Iraq,” writes Homayed. “This language [used by the SNC, calling critics traitors] did not help the Iraqis, nor the Egyptians [who used the term] ‘remnants’ [of the Mubarak regime], or other phrases of intimidation and character assassination.”
Al-Hayat columnist Abdullah Iskandar predicts that the days of the Assad regime are numbered, with the “end game” only lengthened by the international discord over the “day after.” The American elections have also stalled international activity on Syria, in anticipation of a new US president, writes Iskandar on Sunday.
“At this stage, the political opposition… has been mired in conflicts, most of which were personal. This reflects the previous stage of Syrian rule, which has dedicated all of its oppressive measures to prevent the emergence of a civil stream and uproot its leaders through imprisonment, deportation and killing.”
Tunisia and its Islamist problem
Clashes between the Tunisian government and fundamentalist Islamist elements in society continues to feature high on Arab media Sunday.
Tunisian Interior Minister Ali Al-Aridh tells A-Sharq Al-Awsat that the government will not compromise with extremists, and that his ministry will oppose “criminal groups which have benefited from our freedom” or groups who justify violence in the name of religion.
‘Tunisia almost accomplished that twice: the day the revolution succeeded and and day of the successful elections… but those two opportunities were, strangely, squandered’
Justifying the extension of the country’s state of emergency by another three months, Aridh said “we still need the army.”
Meanwhile, Dubai-based news channel Al-Arabiya reports that FBI investigators have arrived in Tunisia to investigate a suspect in the attack on the American Consulate in Libya on September 11.
According to the reports, the FBI agents will be allowed to question Ali Al-Harzi under the supervision of Tunisian officials.
In an Al-Jazeera op-ed titled “Tunisia — whence?” columnist Suheil Ghanoushi wonders whether Tunisia will be able to amend its political mistakes before it reaches “the point of no return.”
He argues that in order to overcome the trauma of political upheaval, Arab Spring governments must put narrow political considerations aside, placing “the national interest above all others.”
“Tunisia almost accomplished that twice: the day the revolution succeeded and and day of the successful elections… but those two opportunities were, strangely, squandered.”