Syrian opposition leaders offer an alternative
BEIRUT // As the violence continues inside Syria, plans are taking shape for what opposition members believe will be the fall of the regime of President Bashar Al Assad.
Opposition leader Haitham Maleh announced a new council last week that has been tasked with forming a transitional Syrian government.
However, the Syrian National Council (SNC) is also believed to be working to form a similar body that would take over as a political alternative to the Al Assad regime.
The muddied picture is nothing new, as Syria's fractured opposition groups have struggled to present a unified platform to steer the 17-month uprising.
While the SNC has adopted the mantle of Syria's main political opposition body, it has been heavily criticised for failing to devise a strategy to bring about the end of four decades of Al Assad family rule.
Mr Maleh said he and other opposition figures formed the Trustees of the Syrian Revolution Council because the SNC "hasn't been able to deliver on its promises to the Syrian people".
"They failed. They don't have the vision to deliver the aims of the Syrian people," he said. "There was a need for new leadership, so we decided to launch this council."
The new body is composed of 45 "independent" opposition figures, including Mr Maleh, an 81-year-old former judge and respected opposition figure who was jailed by the Al Assad regime. He has been tasked with heading efforts to form a transitional administration made up of technocrats.
"The fall of the Assad regime is imminent, so once that happens we don't want gaps in the transition of power," he said. "We have to have the right people in the right place and to continue the branches of government."
The members of the new coalition are working in cooperation with opposition activists in Syria, according to Mr Maleh. He said the transitional government should be formed within the next two months. The group, which is organising from Cairo, would move to Aleppo "once it is liberated", he said.
Other opposition groups, including the SNC and some members of the rebel Free Syrian Army, say such a step should not have been taken unilaterally.
"We respect the sacrifices and history of Mr Maleh and appreciate the intention, but disagree," said Wael Merza, a member of the SNC and former secretary general of the council. "It was not studied in a good way. We don't think the conditions are there for success."
Mr Merza has been involved in discussions between the SNC and other groups to establish a transitional government, an initiative that could be launched in a matter of weeks.
"We all agree that it is a very critical project, having a transitional government," Mr Merza said.
"There is a growing consensus, but it needs more work and is not about one party or one individual. We are at a critical stage for the revolution and we need to work on this professionally."
Mahmut Osman, the Turkey representative to the SNC, said the council was "not happy" about Mr Maleh's announcement and had not been informed of the move beforehand.
"It is a small group, it is a small step, but unfortunately it has created an image of people trying to grab seats" in a possible future caretaker government, he said.
Mr Osman conceded initiatives such as Mr Maleh's were partly the result of dissatisfaction of opposition members with the slow decision-making process in the SNC and a perceived inefficiency of SNC leaders.
"People are being killed, but we take wrong steps all the time," he said. "The SNC leadership has to be more active, so there are no gaps which could be filled by others."
Mr Osman underlined his remarks were not aimed at Abdulbaset Saida, the new SNC leader, but at the council's leadership as a whole.
However, Mr Osman insisted opposition leaders were not the only ones to blame for the state of affairs.
"The world is not helping, neither with money, nor politically," he said, accusing the international community of failing to live up to promises of generous financial aid.
However, Kamal Al Labwani, another veteran opposition figure and a member of the Trustees of the Syrian Revolution Council, has a critical view of the SNC.
"We need a council that is loyal to the revolution," he said. "The SNC and others are angry because they need everything for themselves and are trying to
climb on the revolution. We want a Syrian-made government. Maybe we will not succeed, but we are starting from a patriotic point."
* Thomas Seibert reported from Istanbul.
Published: August 5, 2012 04:00 AM