According to Khaled Ahmed al-Shantout, a member of the foreign-based Syrian Muslim Brotherhood Shura Council, revolutionaries will not accept Farouk al-Sharaa as the leader of the transitional phase in Syria because of his relationship with Bashar al-Assad's regime. Meanwhile, the foreign-based opposition seeks a solution that is satisfactory to both parties to spare Syrians further bloodshed, stressing that the success of the Turkish proposal is pertinent to Assad's departure.
El-Khabar: What is your assessment of the situation in Syria?
Shantout: The Syrian people are rising up against Assad’s occupying regime. As an occupation force, the Syrian regime is dealing with its people with tanks, rockets and state-of-the art warplanes. Today, Syrians are in dire straits. About one million Syrians are displaced inside Syria after having lost their homes. A quarter of the Syrian people have become refugees in Turkey, Lebanon, Jordan and Iraq. They have become fragmented. The Syrian people need the media and political support of their Arab neighbors and Algerians, in particular.
El-Khabar: Do you think that Algerians are failing in this regard?
Shantout: No, not at all. Our media is weak and we could not make our voices heard to our brothers. We have come to Algeria to explain the truth and reality of the Syrian revolution. Algeria is the country of Arabism and freedom, and we expect nothing from it but the best. However, there is a problem. Some Algerians believe that what is happening in Syria is similar to what happened during the black decade in Algeria. This is not the case in Syria, where the entire population has risen up against Assad's despotic regime, which has sold Syria to Iran. Iran has ambitions in the Arab world, especially [to control] the two Holy Mosques [in Mecca and Medina], as it believes they are righteously its own. Strangely enough, Iran openly declares that it will not allow the fall of Assad's regime, and it is providing it with arms and is sending out volunteers from Hezbollah, Houthi groups and others to support the regime.
El-Khabar: Have you met with any Algerian leaders?
Shantout: We have met with some brothers from the Algerian Islamic movements. We explained to them our position and informed the Algerian Brotherhood of our perspective regarding this situation. We hope that they will in turn deliver our point of view to the public and the Algerian people.
El-Khabar: What is your position on the Turkish proposal that Farouk al-Sharaa should lead the transitional phase?
Shantout: The proposal that Vice President Farouk al-Sharaa leads the transitional phase is a satisfactory solution to both sides, the opposition and Assad's regime. The Syrian National Council (SNC) also approves of such a proposal. However, I do not believe that Syrian revolutionaries will approve it. Yet, I hope that the politicians abroad will manage to convince them to spare further bloodshed, given the fact that the number of victims has reached 35,000 Syrians, in addition to the hundreds of detainees and missing people.
El-Khabar: Why do rebels reject Farouk al-Sharaa?
Shantout: Sharaa participated in Assad's rule. He is one of the regime's sons. Syrian revolutionaries view those who are involved in the regime as their enemy. This is the youth’s perspective, which is characterized by a certain extent of extremism and obstinacy.
El-Khabar: What is the position of the foreign-based opposition?
Shantout: As a foreign-based opposition group, we accept an interim government for one year as a compromise. However, free and fair elections should take place afterwards and we shall welcome whoever wins the ballot.
El-Khabar: Many believe that the lack of consensus between the opposition abroad and the rebels at home has prolonged the crisis in Syria.
Shantout: I believe that this point of view is exaggerated. First of all, it is not surprising that a consensus has not been reached within an opposition that has existed for more than 20 years under the rule of a regime that prevents any contact between its members. This has forced many to immigrate. Moreover, in light of the current situation, it is not easy to agree on a clear decision. However, the SNC, which is scheduled to convene in Doha on Oct.14, constitutes 70% of the Syrian opposition. The council is now one year old. It is greatly respected and there is a great deal of consensus among its members.
El-Khabar: What will the SNC propose as an alternative to the Turkish proposal, in the event that Sharaa is rejected?
Shantout: First, we are seeking to convince rebels to approve of Sharaa. Should they reject him, we will look for a satisfactory figure that would be accepted by both sides. This is not an impossible task to do, as long as we are all keen to stop the bloodshed.
El-Khabar: What will be the fate of President Bashar al-Assad in case the Turkish proposal was approved by all parties?
Shantout: We all agree that Assad must step down. However, approving the Turkish proposal is related to Assad's departure in the first place. We hope that a trial would be held to return the people's money that was looted during his reign, but this is not the case now.
El-Khabar: Despite all external pressures, Assad's regime has yet to collapse on the political and military levels? What is next?
Shantout: Although some believe that this battle is almost over, I think otherwise. I believe that the conflict is likely to drag on, as the regime receives support from Iran and its allies. Moreover, the US is procrastinating putting an end to the crisis, until it is able to secure an alternative to Assad that will serve its own interests. Although the Assad regime is seen as the number one enemy to the US, this is not the case. Assad's regime is the tool that serves US plans in the region. This is why the US has so far made sure that the Syrian rebels are not provided with heavy and effective weaponry.
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