The Syrian regime is suppressing its people while simultaneously confronting the armed opposition groups. A democracy would not idly accept the suppression of demonstrations. Also, a national and democratic environment would not embrace armed groups that are only offering the option of civil war, disguised under the banner of freedom and democracy. In this particular case, it is necessary to direct our criticism against two sides in Syria: The first criticism is directed toward the authoritarian regime that lost its temper and launched a security crackdown against people calling for their legitimate civil rights. The second criticism is toward the armed groups that are adamant about militarizing opposition movement and are begging foreign forces to intervene under the“protection of civilians” slogan. Most analyses of the crisis are not taking the role of both sides into account. This single-perspective angle is the wrong approach to analyzing the conflict.
The regime is suppressing its people, confronting the armed elements, engaging in politics, and proposing resolution initiatives, all at the same time. These initiatives might not satisfy many people, especially the Syrian opposition forces. These forces do not believe that the regime’s initiatives are enough to address their demands; hence, they have the right to oppose them. The regime is offering some political concessions even though it is doing so slowly. This is intended to challenge a divided and fragmented opposition that is clueless about its goals and its next moves! The regime is definitely not meeting all of the demands of the opposition, while the latter will never be able to achieve all of its goals with its limited capabilities. The chief problem here is reaching a middle ground between the two sides.
What Does the Syrian Opposition Want?
The opposition abroad demands the fall of the regime. This demand is either because they can no longer call for reforms, the lack of desire for a consensual solution or its involvement in armed opposition. It may also be because its allies—the Arabs and foreign forces—are threatening the opposition abroad with estrangement if they do not stick to their strict demands. In any case, the opposition—with its limited capabilities and public base—cannot achieve its goal of toppling the regime. For this reason, it finds itself forced to call for—like in previous Iraqi and Libyan cases—foreign military intervention to rescue it.
Meanwhile, the opposition in Syria that is represented by the National Coordination Committee—which is the committee that interests us—is divided over the options of political reform or national dialogue and consensus. This committee is working to ensure that the three things that it rejects most, namely foreign intervention, violence, and sectarianism, do not take place. At first there were certain ambiguities surrounding the slogan calling for the fall of the regime, in which after a few months some writers had warned against the dangers of the uprising getting too immersed in this slogan before testing the regime’s waters. There was also the threat of blackmail from the forces affiliated with foreign powers and their supporters in Syria. It is a dilemma that is losing Syria many opportunities for political settlements. It prolongs violence and enables the forces of violence; namely, the hawks of the regime and the opposition.
The reasons behind the uncertainty of the national opposition in Syria and its cautiousness over engaging in political dialogue with the regime can be explained by the concern this dialogue might be to the movements disadvantage, or it may present the opposition as the one that betrayed the case of its people. However, if this happens it would be much more preferable to a civil war and the possibility of a foreign war that is justified by “protecting civilians.” The political leadership is historically responsible for the fate of the people, and the responsibility falls on both the authority and the opposition alike. By responsibility, we are referring to political and moral obligations. Failing to fulfill these obligations is considered a form of betrayal of the people, which will then push Syria towards an unknown future. A courageous political decision alone will allow Syria to re-enter history and rebuild its credibility.
This decision can be adopted by any leadership that believes in itself, its supporters, their demands, and its eligibility to lead the people. This means it requires any leaders who do not care about popularity, do not know how to pander to the people—even when they are wrong—just for the sake of gaining their approval and the privilege to represent them!
So far, it the opposition’s leadership inside Syria does not seem to possess the political courage to propose a plan that includes a political solution and a blueprint for national reconciliation. This should be done in order to prevent a civil war between the regime's security crackdown hawks and the hawks seeking to militarize the uprising and are calling for a foreign intervention. This lack of courage explains the opposition's political reluctance, paralysis, and marginalization, despite the valuable symbolic capital that it enjoys as a long-standing opposition. Perhaps, here, [the Syrian opposition should learn from] the courage of the Yemeni opposition. They chose to bear the burden of an imbalanced solution, following the battle between the people and the regime with a political dialogue that saved the country from slipping into the horrors of a civil war.