Cairo Conference on Syria A Wasted Chance for Unity

Article Summary
Sateh Noureddine argues that the Cairo conference for the Syrian opposition should have been transformed into a demonstration in Tahrir Square. A wide spectrum of Syrian political activists tried to unify their ranks but couldn't rectify their intractable differences. 

Instead of yesterday’s [July 2] Arab League-sponsored rally at a Cairo hotel, perhaps it would have been more useful for the Syrian opposition to demonstrate in nearby Tahrir Square. Their banners and rallying cries would have served the revolution better than either another round of protracted and repetitive political processes or the various organizational opposition structures that the whole world has failed to unite or push toward a unified national salvation front.

The Syrian dissidents who gathered in Cairo chose the easiest and most disappointing option: a conference that was organized by friendly states and organizations. That conference may have appeared to be a step forward because it gathered the largest possible numbers of parties, movements and personalities from the Syrian opposition, but it was in fact a step backward. It was held in the name of the revolution, but the conference also did it harm.

The crowd at the Cairo conference was larger than the previous ones that were held in Istanbul, Tunis, Paris, Brussels, Sofia and other cities over the past months. Syrians from all over the political spectrum tried to unify their ranks but were surprised by their intractable differences. However, they have not yet lost hope because failure is not an option.

The current attempt in Cairo did not differ from previous ones, except in that it was attended by some Syrian businessmen who are also candidates that can take over power in the next phase. Some Syrian intellectuals and artists who had previously stayed behind the scenes, either out of fear or hesitation, also attended this conference. Other than that, the Syrian Islamist presence exceeded its actual size (they seem to have benefited from the fact that Cairo is mostly Muslim). Although the Free Syrian Army was absent, it has unfortunately become the focus and the main tool of the revolution, even more important than the influential civil, leftist and liberal forces.

The lengthy national pact that was distributed days earlier to hundreds of guests — which the Syrian street does not care about — is no longer enough to deal with the growing number of intrinsic dilemmas facing the Syrian opposition. One of the most important dilemmas is the predominance of weapons and gunmen, estimated at over 200,000 strong throughout Syria’s streets. Another is the dominance of Islam and Islamists, who are plotting to take the reins of power. Yet another problem is the confusion about and lack of appreciation for the Syrian National Council (SNC) the remaining opposition members have . However, the SNC is and will remain the sole Arab and international destination for the revolution’s funding and weapons. The SNC cannot be ignored, and should not be monopolized by the Islamist minority.

What took place in Cairo was not a conference. It was a demonstration at the wrong place and at the wrong time. However, it could have been successful had it gone out to Tahrir Square and moved onto the Egyptian street, since the Syrian street does not need any additional motivation.

Found in: cairo syria conference, syrian opposition, syrian, snc, islamist, fsa, cairo

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