October 7, 2013
As Bashar al-Assad and regime representatives continue their tour of the international media, the exiled Syrian National Coalition has both struggled to solidify support within Syria and to gain support for the opposition’s case internationally.
Waleed al-Bunni, a 47 year-old member of the SNC from the Damascus suburbs, resigned from the Coalition on Friday, citing its failure to implement effective policy on the ground and to compete with al-Assad in the court of international public opinion.
The next day, SNC President Ahmed al-Jarba, FSA Chief of Staff Gen. Salim Idriss and the Supreme Military Council held a marathon meeting seeking to quash impressions of Coalition weakness and opposition fragmentation.
Al-Bunni, the Coalition’s former Ambassador to Hungary and a believer in a secular state, spoke to Syria Direct’s Abdulrahman al-Masri about his resignation, the SNC’s joint meeting with the FSA over the weekend and why he believes the SNC’s weakness has empowered Islamist groups inside Syria.
Q: The Coalition has issued a lot of statements, the pressure continues and Assad is still on his media tour. What can the Coalition do today for people to gain confidence in it?
Assad’s media tour is the number one reason for the Coalition’s failure. The Assad regime started using the largest offices of public relations in the world in order to highlight that there is a revolution fundamentally against a regime whose civilized secularism defends minorities, despite the clear contradictions in this idea and despite the crimes which have taken place on the ground.
The Coalition failed to stand against this wave, and began to lose international public opinion. This is one of the reasons, as well, that made me leave the Coalition. It is not oriented toward winning international public opinion and the understanding of the democratic, free world, which calls for the will of the people.
We must win world opinion if we want these governments to stand next to our revolution, but there is no way to win the people the way the Coalition is doing it. It does not struggle for it, fundamentally, and this is the problem. Despite the murder, despite the use of chemical weapons, despite that we are in the right, we have begun to lose because of a lack of experience and a lack of adequate struggle.
Q: Why, in your opinion, must the Coalition return to gaining the confidence of the Syrian people?
Personally, and I may be mistaken, I do not think that the Coalition can regain the confidence of the Syrian people. I have personally written much that we actually need a national Syrian conference calling all factions of the opposition, even the military factions present inside Syria. [At the conferene we would] sit together and create a clear plan to rescue Syria. We would say to the world, “This is our plan to save our nation, and we hope we can help each other in this process.”
This way there will not be 60 plans representing 40 opinions stemming from 20 different logics.
The show of strength and power of Jabhat al Nusra and what is called ISIS [the Islamic State in Iraq and Sham] came from our weakness as a moderate opposition, and the inaction of our friends and brothers in supporting us to create effective and capable institutions with the support of the Syrian people.
I believe this national conference, if our brothers friends and the international community wanted it to, could succeed in forming a plan to save the Syrian people and return the revolution to its basic goals. [Those goals] are for the people’s freedom, the movement toward democracy and the establishment of a stable democratic regime preserving the interests of the Syrian people and its neighboring countries which is in tune with the interests of greater nations and the international community.
Q: In terms of the meeting of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, the Syrian National Coalition and the Supreme Military Council, what is the importance of this meeting?
What is needed now is the return of the Chiefs of Staff of the Free Syrian Army’s Military Command Council into the arena, and the return of the brigades [in Aleppo] which left the authority of the Chiefs of Staff and created an alliance with Jabhat al Nusra and other extremist groups. There are many moderate brigades [in this alliance], but what we notice is that Jabhat al Nusra is a part of it. The question is, how was Jabhat al Nusra able to bring these brigades and moderate factions over to its side, the same brigades which the Chiefs of Staff were not able to keep under its control? That is the question that must be answered.
Q: Since you were a previous member of the Coalition, what are its policies to manage liberated areas? So far there is no Coalition office in A-Raqqa, for example, despite repeated requests from residents there.
Regretfully, the Coalition’s policy failed to buy temporary political loyalties. There was no plan for the development of those [liberated] areas, there was no plan to attempt to get closer to the people and win them over.
This is one of the reasons for the Coalition’s failure. It is the reason for the success of ISIS [Islamic State in Iraq and al Sham] and Jabhat al Nusra.
Q: Why did you resign from the Coalition?
I resigned from the Coalition the day before yesterday, however I froze my membership in the Coalition six months ago. We worked to expand the [number of members in the] Coalition so that the decisions it made reached a wider audience, and that happened. But there were regional pressures, as well as regional and international bickering, and the expansion had the opposite effect that we wanted. Since that time, I have not participated in any election or nomination, even a meeting.
I took the opportunity of having new colleagues as an attempt to restore the people’s confidence in the Coalition, but we began to move toward complete failure. Therefore, I did not renew my membership in the Coalition, especially after the lack of decisiveness on Geneva II. Will you go, or not? The statements that come out were conflicting. As we are not a political body able to make decisions, I lost the hope to improve anything. I decided to be an independent politician.
Q: In your opinion, do you believe Geneva II will be held? Will it have results?
I do not think Geneva II will be held this year. Bashar al-Assad feels victorious after what took place in the United Nations and after the pathetic resolution produced by international consensus. Bashar killed 1,600 Syrian citizens with chemical weapons. Obama says he is sure the Syrian regime did it, Britain is also sure, so is France, in addition to three quarters of the world, and as Syria’s friends. But the punishment is just the confiscation of the tools of the crime, and the granting of another year for the criminal before the removal of thes weapons.
Bashar al-Assad feels victorious after what occurred, and now wants to impose his conditions on Geneva II. Why is he ready to be there, as opposed to the divided opposition? The Coalition has not issued a decision, therefore I do not think this meeting will be held this year.
Photo courtesy of SNC
Like Syria Direct on Facebook or follow us on Twitter.