A vicious circle

A man carries belongings from his shop destroyed by shelling from forces loyal to Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad in downtown Aleppo August 1, 2012. (REUTERS/Goran Tomasevic)

International criticism directed at Syrian President Bashar Assad has been on the rise of late, as some analysts and observers question the cohesiveness of the Baathist regime as it remains mired in fighting a 17-month-old popular uprising.

In the last few months, a bomb attack targeted Assad’s top security officials, while regime troops and rebel forces have been skirmishing in Damascus and Aleppo.

But on the other side of the equation, Syria’s “opposition” has remained steady in its performance: stubbornly divided.

On the civilian front, a group of Syrian politicians this week declared the latest in a long series of opposition coalitions. The group, led by democracy activist Haitham Maleh, said it would begin consultations with opposition forces to coalesce around a yet-to-be-formed transitional government.

It would have been more encouraging to hear that the consultations had already taken place, so that something practical could be offered to the Syrian people.

On the military front, the Free Syrian Army’s Joint Command, or leadership based inside the country, this week put forward its vision for a post-Assad era.

Naturally, the Syrian people must decide on the merits of the group’s proposal, which spells out, interestingly, how military leaders on the ground feel about the shape of a future Syrian regime – they list the tasks needed to guarantee a process of physical reconstruction, and they focus on the priority of maintaining strong state institutions. In other words, they are pleading that the country avoid the path of Iraq following the fall of the Saddam Hussein regime.

But the FSA’s leader based in Turkey, Colonel Riad Asaad, quickly poured cold water on the idea, calling it a power grab by people interested in securing top posts in a future regime.

Thus, the Syrian uprising’s leaders continue to snipe at each other instead of coming up with a workable common denominator for action.

When a given group wants to discuss the future, the retort is the focus should be winning the battle at hand.

When a group focuses on winning the battle at hand, critics say that no efforts are being made to think about the future – and so on and so on, in a vicious circle.

One of the few bright spots of late, amid the violence and destruction taking place throughout Syria, is that activists on the ground have spent much of their time organizing and networking to undertake relief efforts. In some cases, young Syrians have put aside their political differences to ensure that their countrymen receive access to urgently needed medical supplies, and shelter.

If there is a ray of hope in Syria, it is, as usual, with the young people who form the core of the uprising, and not the “leaders” who continue to issue statements and criticisms that usually lead nowhere.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Daily Star on August 02, 2012, on page 7.




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