“What’s next?” This is the question being asked by the Arab and international public regarding the Syrian crisis that has lasted longer than any other revolution in the Arab Spring. The recent massacre in Houla, in the Homs governorate, has overturned the plan of Kofi Annan, the joint UN and Arab League special envoy to Syria. It has also pushed the Syrian National Council (SNC) to call on the international community to intervene immediately by invoking Chapter VII of the UN Charter [which empowers the UN to use military action to restore international peace]. While the head of the UN Supervision Mission in Syria, Robert Mood, said his observers cannot end Syria’s violence and monitor all of its cities and villages, the Annan plan is the last chance to prevent Syria from falling into a civil war.
On the eve of talks between Annan and Syrian president Bashar Al-Assad, An-Nahar interviewed Georges Sabra of the SNC’s executive branch. The interview covered the latest updates in Syria and the SNC‘s opinion regarding the Lebanese government and Hezbollah. According to Sabra, what is currently taking place in Syria is not and will not be a civil war. He added that although the Syrian regime has been striving to drag the country into a civil war, the Syrian people are determined to avoid the dangerous skidding and consequences of the war, as seen in both Lebanon and Iraq. He also described the ongoing violence as a bloody military conflict between two armed forces that has gone out of control.
Assad Or No One
Sabra said that some slogans such as “Assad or no one!” or “Assad or we will burn the country!” reveal the potential divisions in Syria. If the Assad regime remains in place, it will exacerbate the divisions with its oppressive and brutal practices, political emptiness and provocative approach. He also stressed that the entire opposition is in complete agreement on the future of Syria. Sabra noted that today, Syria lives with an artificial pulse thanks to the blue berets that are the foundation of the Annan plan. The SNC official also revealed that the Syrian regime is hiding disguised armored vehicles in narrow alley-ways and that military personnel are wearing police uniforms and exercising their functions. Sabra also accused the regime of making a mockery of the Annan plan, adding that the daily facts, the observers’ reports and the audio visual records of the international organizations prove these violations against the people and kill the Annan peace plan.
Georges Sabra told An-Nahar that the regime would never commit to the Annan plan, since it guarantees the regime’s end. He also wondered if anyone could imagine the size of the [demonstrations] when the violence stops for just one day. Sabra called on the international community and the UN Security Council to think about the next step, and asked Russia — which has supported the Annan plan and continues to protect the regime through its veto — to answer the question “What’s next?”
Sabra said that it is time for the international community and the UN Security Council to understand that the Syrian regime only understands the language of force. He added that the Syrian people deserve to be protected and supported much more than it is. An Arab and international alliance is needed in this regard. He also asked, “What is the importance of Chapter VII, if not being used in the Syrian crisis?
Minorities In Syria
Commenting on the criticism regarding the SNC’s lack of representation for minorities from US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, Sabra answered that the different components of the Syrian people are included in the council. According to him, many believe that the West is exaggerating, especially since a minority group [the Alawites] has governed and driven the country to this stage. He added that a civil and constitutional government based on the rights and obligations of equal citizenship is required. Sabra explained that while he is a Christian, he is a Syrian first. He noted that the Christians of Syria have always been true patriots and well integrated in society. Regarding the SNC’s members that have come to outnumber the People’s Assembly, Sabra said this issue is the result of over half a century of tyranny and political rights denial. This policy made the Syrians lose their political courtesy. Whenever they had to choose a place in politics, it had to be in the opposition, and they had to either leave the country or spend their lives in prison. In both cases, they had failed to exercise their political rights. The components of the Syrian opposition are getting to know each other, using their natural skills without any experience or examination. Sometimes they succeed and other times they fail. But the depth and originality of the revolution, as well as the magnitude of awareness and the youth’s ability to sacrifice are revealing their weakness. This makes them seem late and striving in vain to catch the revolution.
No Fear of Islamist Governance
Although the Arab Spring revolutions have raised fears both within the region and internationally about the potential for Islamist governance, Sabra said that in Syria there is no fear that an Islamist religious fundamentalist state would emerge. He stated that political Islam in Syria is based on moderation and openness to other social groups. Sabra insisted that the revolution was based on a rejection of the authoritarian state, and that it would never allow for the reemergence of another totalitarian regime.
The Lebanese Situation
As for the situation in Lebanon, and the rumors about Free Syrian Army presence there, Sabra questioned if there was even a need for it to do so, and if it had the surplus of capacity that would enable it to move to neighboring countries. He added that the Syrian territory is vast and the Free Syrian Army’s responsibility is to exclusively protect Syrian towns and villages and defend the protesters to ensure the continuation of the peaceful revolution. He said that Syrians have fled their homes to neighboring countries to seek safety and expressed his gratitude to the Lebanese people, families, charitable and humanitarian organizations for alleviating the suffering of those who escaped the violence and death in their homeland.
The Mikati Government’s Dereliction
While some oppose the Lebanese government’s policy on the Syrian crisis and its dereliction vis-a-vis the displaced Syrians, Sabra stated that he understands the political conditions facing the Lebanese government. However, he did not excuse any negligence when it came to humanitarian aid. He mentioned that protecting displaced Syrians in Lebanon is a primary responsibility of the Lebanese Government. The Syrian revolutionaries has a lot to say in this regard, but they are comforted that the Lebanese people are showing sympathy and providing relief to their brothers and neighbors like they deserve.
Sabra talked about Hezbollah’s political views on the revolution as well. He believed that Hezbollah’s position would make the party lose Syria. Despite the close relationship between Hezbollah and the regime, the Syrian people will not understand the group’s hostility to the revolution, nor accept any intervention that goes against the Syrian people's aspirations for freedom and dignity. Sabra stated that it was preferable that Hezbollah remain silent, because only the people are permanent. Sabra noted that it will fall within their rights to discriminate between those who supported them and those who backed the criminal regime.
Our Right To Weaponry
As for the uproar that was raised about the ship Lutfullah 2, Sabra stated that there is evidence to indicate that the arms shipment story was fabricated by the Syrian regime. This story aims to support the regime and their propaganda, that goes hand in hand with the terrorist bombings that took place in some Syrian cities, including Damascus. He continued that it is no secret that the Free Syrian Army is keen on obtaining weapons, nor is a secret that the SNC is supporting this army. Sabra wondered what the world expects from the Syrians as they abandon them. The world has been a spectator of daily crimes against humanity in Syria, he said.
Sabra didn’t express any fear of who is going to replace President Assad, and declared that the Syrians will elect the one who deserves the leadership post. He stated that there will be dozens of qualified candidates competing for the presidency. Sabra concluded by saying that the regime will not last long. He stated that it is dying, the funerals arrangements are to be made, and the date and time are to be selected, and that several factors are to blame for this delay, especially the international community.