Friday, March 17, 2006

The Bayanouni - Khaddam Link-up: Is the Opposition Real Now?

A flurry of articles covering the different aspects of the Khaddam - Bayanouni meeting in Brussels have surfaced. They are claiming to have formed a transitional government. From one point of view, this is smart politics on Bayanouni's part. He will reassure the military, Baath Party and some Alawites that the Muslim Brothers are not out for revenge. He is trying to send the message that what happened in Iraq will not happen in Syria. It gives some credibility to his willingness to cast a broad net. On the other hand, his new alliance will alienate many loyalists within the MB ranks and within the ranks of his leftist allies. Politics is not easy.

The successful efforts of the Syrian opposition up to date suggest that Syria is not as fragmented as Iraq was pre-invasion. On the other hand, there are many fewer Syrians who have cut their bonds with the regime than there were in Iraq. Even by forming this seemingly united triangle of Islamists, Leftists, and Ba`thists that is represented by Bayanouni, Khaddam and Raid al-Turk, there is little assurance that it has any real purchase on the Syria public. It was a bit difficult to take Khaddam seriously last night when I heard him rattle on about the suffering of the average Syrian. Even so, with the laying on of hands by Bayanouni, Khaddam will have upped his credibility immeasurably.

Bayanouni is coming out of this all as the kingmaker. Are we seeing the making of a future Syrian president? That is the question everyone will have to ask themselves. Is the West ready to throw its weight behind the Muslim Brothers? If anyone can reassure western diplomats that it is time to break the boycott on Islamists, Baynouni is the man to do it. As the first article says: He "oozes moderation."

Syria opposition forms united front to oust Assad

BRUSSELS (Reuters) - Exiled Syrian opposition leaders announced the creation of a united front on Friday to form a transitional government to bring about "regime change" from President Bashar al-Assad to democracy.

"Syria is in need of salvation from the autocratic regime which has weakened the country" and put it in dangers "never seen before," opposition leaders said in a joint declaration after a two-day meeting in Brussels.

Opposition groups including the Muslim Brotherhood, liberals, communists and Kurds, launched a "National Salvation Front" and issued a "National Programe for Change" during a six-month transition to democracy in a post-Assad era.

Fourteen exiled politicians -- all men -- appeared on the platform at a joint news conference. Former Vice-President Abdel-Halim Khaddam, a defector from the ruling Baath Party who broke with Assad last year after serving the regime for decades, and Muslim Brotherhood leader Ali Bayanouni held centre-stage.

"All political, social, and economic partners in Syria will form an interim government that will be ready to take over the administration of the country at the appropriate moment," the statement said.

An interim government would cancel the constitution, organize elections, lift the state of emergency, cancel a law condemning members of the Muslim Brotherhood to death and free all political prisoners.

Assad is under severe international pressure over the assassination of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik al-Hariri last year, which prompted mass protests and a United Nations resolution forcing the withdrawal of Syrian troops from Lebanon.

However, it is not clear how much popular support the combined opposition can command in Syria, a tightly controlled country where penalties for dissent can be high.

"Bringing down the walls of fear is one of our greatest challenges," Najib Ghadbian, from the Syrian National Council, an umbrella organization for opposition groups, told Reuters.


Khaddam acknowledged the opposition front was not yet complete and said the organizers would now work on taking all political, religious and ethnic groups on board before their next meeting within 45 days.

"The regime is headed primarily by the president himself. So if the head of the regime fell or broke up, definitely the whole regime would fall," Khaddam said.

Asked when he expected an uprising, he said: "This year. I'm sure, inshallah (God willing). In a few months. Bashar al-Assad is making a lot of mistakes and he's digging himself into a hole."

Khaddam and Bayanouni make strange bedfellows, and other opposition politicians say their alliance shows just how serious the opposition is about uniting to oust Assad.

Bayanouni, who oozes moderation and says his movement would welcome sharing power with a reformed Baath party, said Khaddam had atoned for the past and "joined the side of the people to support democratic change". Continued ...

BBC Monitoring International Reports August 19, 2005
Global News Wire - Asia Africa Intelligence Wire
BBC Monitoring International Reports

August 19, 2005


The Syrian Muslim Brotherhood's position on the Syrian leadership, the reforms and changes it is calling for in Syria and developments in the Middle East were discussed by Syrian Muslim Brotherhood Controller General Ali Sadr al-Din al-Bayanuni, in London, in an Al-Jazeera TV recorded interview with Ahmad Mansur, broadcast on 17 August within its "Without borders" feature.

"Regime change"

Mansur begins by asking Al-Bayanuni why the Brotherhood has changed its stand on the Syrian leadership and now calls for "regime change", as mentioned in a statement issued on 5 August, when the Muslim Brothers had previously been calling for "reform, as mentioned in your previous statements".

Al-Bayanuni says that "in spite of the way the transfer of power took place and the amendment of the constitution, our inclination was to give the new regime and system in Syria a chance to carry out a reform programme, if there is any such programme, or to show that it has the desire to carry out changes and help it in achieving this. We affirmed that we were ready to cooperate with the regime to achieve this and were ready to accept gradual reform" because the legacy that Syrian President Bashar al-Asad inherited from the former President Hafiz al-Asad "cannot be handled in a year or two".

Al-Bayanuni explains in detail the steps the Muslim Brotherhood had taken in this respect and the initiatives it has submitted for reform, but he adds that the Muslim Brothers and other opposition political factions had found out that the regime "cannot be reformed. We waited more than five years after this regime was established and said that if the president wished to carry out reform or has a reform programme, he would have started it. But after five years we have found that the state of affairs remained as it is and the situation was even deteriorating." Al-Bayanuni adds that the call for reform is unanimously supported by all Syrian opposition factions.

"Peaceful change"

Asked about the type of reform the opposition wants, Al-Bayanuni says: "We call first of all for peaceful change. We want the country to enjoy a democratic climate through peaceful means. We believe that if the Syrian people can unite their active forces and if all the opposition forces unite and agree on a national reform programme, then they can bring genuine pressure to bear in this direction."

"Fierce campaign of repression"

Asked whether the recent resolutions adopted by the 10th Ba'th Party Regional Congress and the change in the top security posts do not mean that the regime is willing to carry out reform, Al-Bayanuni says: "On the contrary, while preparations were being made for the 10th Regional Congress, an unprecedented fierce campaign of repression was launched. The opposition members and those who held opposing viewpoints were arrested, and this campaign of arrest accompanied the congress and continued after it. This campaign was the worst that Syria had witnessed in the last five years."

Al-Bayanuni adds that the change in the security posts "was a sign that the regime was proceeding in the opposite direction, in the direction of tightening the security hold, and these transfers did not mean anything with respect to the issue of reform".

Asked how the Syrian regime can be compelled to accept reform, Al-Bayanuni says: "The people will be the ones who will carry out the change." Asked whether this means "calling for a revolution against the regime", Al-Bayanuni says: "We seek to achieve this change through peaceful and democratic means," adding that "there are many means, such as civil disobedience, peaceful resistance, marches, sit-ins and demonstrations."

Gradual change

Asked whether there are specific mechanisms for carrying out leadership change, Al-Bayanuni says: "When you change this country in a gradual manner from a totalitarian and dictatorial state, from the rule of the one party that seized power by force, into a plural system of government, this is a reform process that will ultimately lead to change."

Asked whether the present leadership or other factions and parties can carry out change, Al-Bayanuni says: "Hopes have been pinned on the regime believing it can contribute to the process of change and participate in this with the other national forces. But I believe that in the wake of these five years, everybody now realizes that the regime is not ready and cannot carry out reform in its present configuration."

Asked what the Muslim Brotherhood can do to undertake this change, Al-Bayanuni says: "We are not alone. There is a consensus and accord among most of the Syrian factions," and there "is a broad popular current that is in line with these political parties. There is popular public opinion in Syria that aspires for change and is ready to offer sacrifices for it."

Army role

Asked about the role the Syrian army can play in the process of change, Al-Bayanuni says: "The army is a national force that cannot be left out. In the statement we issued on 3 April this year, called the Statement for National Salvation, we addressed the army and emphasized that it should support the people and protect the people, not the regime. The army's basic task is to defend the homeland and the people. It is true that the regime has tried to preoccupy the army with duties other than its basic tasks. But a large part of the Syrian army is motivated by national feelings and is ready to proceed with the people to achieve this change."

Asked whether the Muslim Brotherhood would accept an interim military government in a transitional stage, Al-Bayanuni says: "We believe that after 40 years of the current corrupt regime, there is need for a transitional stage that might assume various forms. One of these forms might be having some quarters from the army assume this task and support the people in the process of change and reform."

Alawites, Kurds

Mansur then asks Al-Bayanuni about the Muslim Brotherhood stand on the Alawite community in Syria. Al-Bayanuni says: "The Alawites in Syria are part of the Syrian people and comprise many national factions." He says the "present regime has tried to hide behind this community and mobilize it against Syrian society. But I believe that many Alawite elements oppose the regime, and there are Alawites who are being repressed. Therefore, I believe that all national forces and all components of the Syrian society, including the sons of the Alawite community, must participate in any future change operation in Syria."

On the Muslim Brotherhood stand on the Kurds in Syria, Al-Bayanuni says: "We issued a paper on our stand on the Kurdish issue and emphasized in it that the Kurds are an essential part of those comprising the Syrian people; that they must enjoy all citizenship rights, like any other citizen". He adds that they should be treated in a just manner and that all encroachments on their rights should be redressed. He goes on: "If there is genuine democracy and citizenship is the basic yardstick for cooperation with the citizens, then the Kurds will win their rights, like all other citizens, within the framework of national unity."

Foreign ties

Al-Bayanuni then discusses the foreign policies of the Syrian leadership, criticizes these policies, and says: "I believe that the countries in the region, in general, would be very happy if this regime was replaced by a democratic and free regime that would give the Syrian people their rights and that did not interfere in the affairs of its neighbours." Asked whether neighbouring countries had contacted the Syrian Muslim Brotherhood "to coordinate on anything in this respect", Al-Bayanuni says: "Our brothers, who are stalked by the regime in their own country, reside in the various Arab countries, where they are treated like human beings. Relations are good with all the Arab governments in the countries where our brothers reside."

Asked about his relations with European countries, Al-Bayanuni says: "My presence in Europe has greatly contributed to clarifying many stands to many Western quarters, thanks to direct and indirect discussions and dialogue." He adds: "I do not deny having relations with Western countries, because I have the right to hold dialogue with all of these parties and explain my viewpoint on the future of my country and work in the interest of my country, Syria." Al-Bayanuni says: "Rejecting support from quarters outside the country does not mean that we reject holding a dialogue with others."

Asked whether the French government sought to hold a dialogue with the Syrian Muslim Brotherhood to change the leadership in Syria, Al-Bayanuni says: "Our relations with the Western countries are just part of a dialogue and clarification of stands, an exchange of views on the current situation in Syria, and an attempt to seek a solution to this dilemma."

Asked about relations with the United States, Al-Bayanuni says: "We have no direct dialogue with the United States." He says: "We have indirect contacts through studies, institutes and journalists with whom we used to meet and explain our views. As you know, the Syrian regime tried to defame us abroad, incite people against us abroad. They submitted our names as terrorists who belong to Al-Qa'idah. We were forced to explain our stands and how we opt for peaceful solutions and dialogue and shun violence."

Mansur asks Al-Bayanuni why the Syrian regime has not paid any attention to the reform programmes the Muslim Brotherhood and other Syrian parties have called for. Al-Bayanuni says: "Actually, we have had no direct contacts over the past five years, although several Muslim and Arab figures have mediated, meaning the officials in charge of Islamic movements have discussed the issue in their meetings with Bashar al-Asad. He used to promise them that this file would be tackled, as well as the security files dealing with humanitarian cases. But the truth is that over the past five years, no genuine measures have been taken to tackle these humanitarian cases" because "there is a group that manipulates power in Syria and the Ba'th Party, too. It is the actual ruler. It is a group that has monopolized power and resources. Even the Ba'th Party members - they say they have two million Ba'thists in Syria - have nothing to do with the regime. Those who rule are the members of a small group that is actually isolated from the people and even from the Ba'th Party members. They are the ones who exploit the state for their own interests. This group has an interest in the perpetuation of this regime. Therefore, it defends it and does not allow any relaxation or any reform. Any reform will take place at the expense of its interests and power."

Al-Bayanuni says that the Arab leaderships, including Syria, are backed by outside forces. He adds: "I believe that the international climate has changed, and these despotic regimes have not performed the task they were asked to carry out. On the contrary, these regimes used to nurture angry elements that are ready to carry out terrorist operations. I believe the equation has changed now. The international climate has also changed, and foreign support will not last forever."


Asked whether the Muslim Brotherhood has renounced "the principles and slogans that you used to raise, such as dying for the sake of God, out of a fear of being classified as terrorists", Al-Bayanuni says: "The Muslim Brothers in general, and we in Syria, believe that jihad should be against the foreign enemy. Our past experience does not encourage the implementation of this principle within one's country. Originally, we never carried weapons against governments. But the state in Syria and the regime in Syria were the ones that cornered a large segment of the citizens in these armed clashes. We succeeded, thanks be to God, in extricating ourselves from this dilemma, to review our march, and to affirm that we shun all forms of violence and that we opt for the democratic and peaceful course."

Asked to comment on an earlier statement by the Saudi interior minister, who said that the Muslim Brotherhood was responsible for nurturing all the "terrorist" organizations, Al-Bayanuni says: "I believe that this does not represent the view of the Saudi government. The Muslim Brothers in Saudi Arabia abide by the laws of the country, respect its regulations, and are loyal to this country that gave them refuge. They cannot cause it any security or insecurity problems. Therefore, I believe what was attributed to Prince Nayif does not reflect the stand of the Saudi government."

Asked whether the Muslim Brotherhood is ready to cooperate with Rif'at al-Asad, who also calls for leadership change in Syria, Al-Bayanuni says: "Rif'at al-Asad is part of the Syrian regime. He committed massacres that are well known to the Syrian people. His hands are stained with the blood of our brothers and the other sons of our Syrian people. After Hafiz al-Asad died, Rif'at al-Asad acted and said that he deserved to succeed Al-Asad more than Bashar, after which he kept silent. Now, he has become active once more after several months. For us, we do not consider Rif'at al-Asad a part of the national opposition" and "we cooperate with all the national opposition movements, but we consider Rif'at to be part of the regime".

Source: Al-Jazeera TV, Doha, in Arabic 1905 gmt 17 Aug 05

Syrian Opponent sees Romania-style revolt
By Paul Taylor
17 March 2006: Reuters Limited
BRUSSELS, March 17 (Reuters) - Syrian President Bashar al-Assad faces the same fate in the coming months as Romanian dictator Nicolae Ceaucescu suffered in 1989, according to Syria's former vice-president, who broke with Assad last year.

Taking time out from late-night negotiations with a coalition of opposition movements from Islamists to communists in a smoke-filled Brussels hotel conference room, Abdel-Halim Khaddam predicted a popular revolt to oust Assad soon.

"Poverty is very widespread, corruption is extremely widespread also, security is very tight. People are not allowed freedom of speech and the economic situation is at its worst.

"All those factors combined resemble a lot the position of Romania which led to the uprising," the former foreign minister and ruling Baath party official said.

Like the men who ruled Romania after Ceausescu and his wife were toppled, summarily tried and shot in 1989, Khaddam has re-invented himself as a democrat in the belief that the Syrian people will turn to reformists from within the ruling party to govern them after a revolution.

"There is a big part of reformists within the Baath party who totally support my actions. They will be active partners in the regime change and there will be no massacre," said the diminutive, soft-spoken political veteran, who was in government for 35 years until he fell out with Assad last year.


Khaddam said the young president, who inherited power when his father Hafez al-Assad died in 2000, has skewed policy-making in favour of a tiny family inner circle.

"What's actually happening is he's letting the interest of the family around him be the priority behind taking those decisions. What I mean is himself, his brother (Maher al-Assad), his brother-in-law (intelligence chief Asef Shawkat) and the very close family.

"The interest of this family is what is leading to the Syrian decisions," he said.

The opposition is counting on a United Nations investigation into the assassination last year of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik al-Hariri to deal a decisive blow to Assad.

Muslim Brotherhood leader Ali Bayanouni, the other major figure among the 17 men around the table in Brussels, told Reuters he expected the U.N. probe, which has so far implicated Syrian security officials, to accuse the president directly.

"The regime is headed primarily by the president himself. So if the head of the regime fell or broke up, definitely the whole regime would fall," Khaddam said.

Asked when he expected an uprising, he said: "This year. I'm sure, inshallah (God willing). In a few months. Bashar al-Assad is making a lot of mistakes and he's digging himself into a hole."

Khaddam and Bayanouni make strange bedfellows, and other opposition politicians say their alliance shows just how serious the opposition is about uniting to oust Assad.

Khaddam was foreign minister in 1982 when Syrian security forces crushed an Islamist uprising in the town of Hama, killing at least 10,000 people and possibly twice that number.

The former vice-president now says he deeply regrets those events, but is careful to blame both sides for the slaughter.

Bayanouni, who oozes moderation and says his movement would welcome sharing power with a reformed Baath party, said Khaddam had atoned for the past and "joined the side of the people to support democratic change".

U.S. Responds to Iran, Saying It Is Ready for Talks on Iraq
Published: March 16, 2006

Ali Larijani, Iran's top nuclear negotiator, said Tehran was ready to open talks with the U.S. over Iraq.

TEHRAN, Iran (AP) -- Iran said Thursday it was prepared to talk directly with the United States about Iraq, a major shift for a country that has long avoided negotiations with what it calls the ''Great Satan.''

The offer appears to reflect the desire of at least some top Iranian officials to relieve Western pressure over Tehran's nuclear program in return for help on Iraq, which is sliding ominously toward civil war.

The Bush administration said it would talk with Iran -- but only about Iraq, not nuclear issues.

The White House said the U.S. ambassador to Iraq, Zalmay Khalilzad, is already authorized to talk with Iran about Iraq.

''But this is a very narrow mandate dealing specifically with issues relating to Iraq,'' White House spokesman Scott McClellan said, adding that it did not include U.S. concerns about Iran's nuclear program. ''That's a separate issue.''

The secretary of Iran's Supreme National Security Council, Ali Larijani, told reporters any talks between the United States and Iran would be limited to Iraqi issues. Larijani, who is also Iran's top nuclear negotiator, said Khalilzad had repeatedly invited Iran for talks on Iraq.

Despite the caveats, any direct dialogue between Tehran and Washington could be the beginning of negotiations between the two foes over Iran's nuclear program.

Bavand said when Iran's nuclear program was reported to the U.N. Security Council last month, Russia and China sent messages to Iran saying that if it wanted a face-saving solution, it had to talk to America.

''Iran needs America to calm the growing tension over its nuclear program,'' Bavand said. At the same time, Washington wants to restore stability to Iraq, ''and Iran has sufficient weight and influence to help it out.''

Another political analyst, Saeed Leylaz, also said Tehran would be prepared to trade progress on Iraq with movement on the nuclear issue by Washington.

''Continued instability in Iraq is hampering America's plans for the Middle East. Iran is ready to use its Iraq card to protect its nuclear achievements before it is too late,'' Leylaz said.

The proposal to hold direct talks on Iraq came a day after the senior Iraqi Shiite politician, Abdul-Aziz al-Hakim, called for Iran-U.S. talks.

''I demand the leadership in Iran to open a clear dialogue with America about Iraq,'' said al-Hakim, who has close ties with Iran. ''It is in the interests of the Iraqi people that such dialogue is opened and reaches an understanding on various issues.''

U.S. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld recently accused Iranian Revolutionary Guards


At 3/18/2006 01:01:00 AM, Blogger Syrian Republican Party said...

''Iran needs America to calm the growing tension over its nuclear program,'' Bavand said. At the same time, Washington wants to restore stability to Iraq, ''and Iran has sufficient weight and influence to help it out.''

Very flawed thinking. Very flawed.

Nothing will calm the Nuclear issue, because Iran will be fool to stop the developmnet, and will not. U.S. and Israel will be fools to attack Iran or even push for sanction. Live with it, just like the Bedouins and Baathists in the Arab world live comfotably with Israel, India and Pakistan Nuclear arsenal.

Iran have no control over Iraq whatsoever. They can not help in any way, and most likely envolving Iran will only agrivate and infuriate the Sunni to act more violently. Sunnis are the one fighting in Iraq not Shia, so how the hell Iran can help stabilixe Iraq's Sunni population! absurd thinking.

Obviously, U.S. getting very desperate and boxed in between Israeli preassure and hopless diplomatic agreable solution on the Nuclear issue and Iranian feel that they may have the U.S. agree to anything to get out from under the prediciment facing it in Iraq and the nuclear issue.

At 3/18/2006 02:44:00 AM, Blogger Innocent_Criminal said...


you have posted this three times in a row now. maybe you wanna delete 2 of them?

At 3/18/2006 06:41:00 AM, Blogger Dr Victorino de la Vega said...

I doubt any serious Syrian citizen would ever join this unholy assortment of Saudi-sponsored Wahhabi terrorists, Trotskyite turncoats and nouveaux riches cynics from the comprador bourgeoisie that have sheepishly done Asad’s bidding for 40 years: it’s kind of an alliance of the Usuliyyah and the Wusuliyyah…
These people are a disgrace to Syria and to democracy!

At 3/18/2006 07:42:00 AM, Blogger Atassi said...

Peaceful change" !!
How?by what mean?
I don't see this "Peaceful change" possible without a sudden event that will shake the Syrians minds, this event can break the walls of fear built by the regime, it has to be an event that will have a major effect on the inner personnel life of the Syrian peoples.
something as big as the assassination has to occur to trigger an outrage, the ball of unknown events will start rolling down, If you anything Khaddam and the others in the this last meeting will not bring the regime change, off course I could be wrong !!

At 3/18/2006 08:09:00 AM, Blogger syrianb said...

This post has been removed by a blog administrator.

At 3/18/2006 09:29:00 AM, Blogger syrianb said...

Under these circumstances organized and peaceful demonstrations are not possible but sudden events could push the people into a spontaneous revolt.

At 3/18/2006 10:28:00 AM, Blogger majedkhaldoon said...

still the army is the only one that will change the regime in syria


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