I was rather skeptical, if not outright opposed, about the Syrian opposition conference in Semiramis Hotel in Damascus. I thought that the event would be used by the regime to attain legitimacy and that the very convening of the conference would be exploited to prove the democratic impulse of the lousy regime.
But I must say that I was impressed with the statement and speeches and that they really tried to not compromise on the goals although I felt that they should have stated categorically that they aim at the overthrow of the regime. I am sure that a large numbers of the attendees were working for the mukhabrat, but the final statement indicated that they resisted pressures from the regime.
The Syrian opposition on the outside (read Muslim Brotherhood) rejected the conference but not for the same reasons that I rejected it: they want to control everything, before and after the overthrow of the regime. The Syrian Muslim Brotherhood would replace the Ba’thist monopoly of power with a Saudi monopoly of power.
But if I was asked my opinion by the opposition inside Syria, I would have advised that the meeting should not have taken place unless key important conditions had been met by the regime. Thus far, the regime has only given promises and typical Ba’thist-style committees to study the feasibility of forming committees to study whether the formation of committees is desirable at this stage. This is Ba’thist reform.
As’ad AbuKhalil is a professor of political science at California State University, Stanislaus. This note was first published in The Angry Arab News Service on 28 June 2011; it is reproduced here for non-profit educational purposes. Cf. Joshua Landis, “Syria’s Opposition Faces an Uncertain Future” (Syria Comment, 26 June 2011); Joshua Landis, “Syrian Opposition Conference: Semiramis Hotel: 200 Members — First Impressions” (Syria Comment, 27 June 2011); Hasan Al-Ali, Mohammad Al-Ammar, Shawqi Baghdadi, Sabah Hallaq, Mousa Hanna, Luay Hussein, Joseph Ibrahim, Anis Kanj, Munther Khaddam, Michel Kilo, Anwar Mohamad, Burhan Naseef, Jalal Naufal, Jaudat Saeed, Suleiman Yousef, and Ibrahim Zur, “Tweets from Syrian Opposition Conference Held at Semiramis Hotel in Damascus” (MRZine, 28 June 2011).