Turkey Pulse

US Snub of Syrian Council Shows Turkey's Policy Failed

Article Summary
The meeting of Syrian opposition groups in Qatar under the auspices of the Arab League (but at the behest of the United States) reveals how badly Turkey's custom-tailored Syrian National Council has failed, Kadri Gursel reports.

Last week, a momentous development on Syria, which directly concerns Turkey, was totally ignored by our mainstream media — with one or two exceptions — or treated as a piece of routine news not linked to the Syrian context.

This critical development, spelled out by United States Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, was about the Qatar meeting about Syria.

In short, this is what happened: The US openly declared that the Syrian National Council [SNC], which was established in Istanbul in August 2011 under the auspices and coordination of Turkey, cannot represent the Syrian opposition. Now, hundreds of representatives from fragmented Syrian opposition groups are getting together in Doha to discuss setting up a new leadership structure to replace the SNC.

For the sake of appearance, the meeting is under the auspices of the Arab League. But The New York Times on Oct. 31 reported Clinton telling reporters accompanying her that she was effectively involved in selection of organizations and individuals attending the meeting.

The New York Times report continued with these important lines: “The Obama administration has been exasperated for months with the anemic leadership and constant bickering of the council, which is often far more caught up in fighting over spots on travel delegations than in creating an effective transitional government. It failed to attract significant representation from minority groups, including the Alawites who dominate Syria as well as the Christians or the Kurds. Its obscure academics and long-exiled activists also seem increasingly irrelevant in a civil war in which extremist jihadis are gaining more visibility.”

The following comments by Clinton quoted by The New York Times clearly explain why the US decided to close the book on the SNC: “There needs to be an opposition leadership structure that is dedicated to representing and protecting all Syrians. And we also need an opposition that will be on record strongly resisting the efforts by extremists to hijack the Syrian revolution.”

That is another way of saying the SNC had none of these characteristics.

Now, let’s come to the crucial point. Clinton’s remarks and the Qatar meeting to come up with an effective leadership to represent the opposition both have a significant implications for Ankara’s Syria policy.

Washington has declared the [Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet] Davutoglu-patented SNC null and void. Since it is Washington that declared the demise of SNC, the US has also attested in addition to the dominant Alawites and the bitter fiasco of the [ruling Turkish] Justice and Development Party [AKP]’s Syria policy.

Sadly, Turkey has lost the opportunity of being the lead actor in Syria through its extreme, wishful and misguided foreign policy.

If the Baath regime preserves its existence for couple of years — and this is likely — Turkey’s primary concern will be to deal with the disastrous consequences of its grave mistakes in Syria.

Continue reading this article by registering at no cost and get unlimited access to:

  • The award-winning Middle East Lobbying - The Influence Game
  • Archived articles
  • Exclusive events
  • The Week in Review
  • Lobbying newsletter delivered weekly
Found in: unification of syrian opposition, syrian

Kadri Gursel is a columnist for Al-Monitor's Turkey Pulse. He focuses mainly on Turkish foreign policy, international affairs, press freedom and Turkey’s Kurdish question as well as Turkey’s evolving political Islam and its national and regional impacts. He wrote a column for the Turkish daily Cumhuriyet from May 2016 to September 2018 and for the daily Milliyet from 2007 to July 2015. Gursel also worked for Agence France-Presse from 1993 to 1997. While with AFP, he was kidnapped by Kurdish militants in 1995. He recounted his misadventures at the hands of the PKK in the book “Dağdakiler” (Those of the Mountains). On Twitter: @KadriGursel

Next for you

The website uses cookies and similar technologies to track browsing behavior for adapting the website to the user, for delivering our services, for market research, and for advertising. Detailed information, including the right to withdraw consent, can be found in our Privacy Policy. To view our Privacy Policy in full, click here. By using our site, you agree to these terms.