Ghadry's Reform Party of Syria Slams Bayanouni and Khaddam
The meeting of the National Salvation Front in London last weekend has provoked a counter-attack from Farid Ghadry. It should be recalled that Ghadry's Syrian Reform Party, a Washington-based Syrian exile group, was excluded from the Damascus Declaration and its follow up conference in Washington DC. Both were precursors of the recently formed National Salvation Front, which threatens to push Ghadry’s group aside.
In a circular entitled: "Saudis behind efforts to install Islamist extremists and Ba'athists in Syria to serve as a proxy against Iraqi democracy," Ghadry's Syrian Reform Party has announced that the Saudis are "funding and sponsoring the National Salvation Front." Moreover, the SRP claims that it has "uncovered a pernicious link between the Saudi government and the Ba’athist friendly National Salvation Front" that is part of a "wider regional plan to undermine the young democracy in Iraq and to promote wider regional sectarian conflict”
The SRP insists that the reason Saudi is funding the "anti-democratic Syrian opposition" is because they have "seen the success of the alliance between Islamists and Baathists in Iraq" and hope to replicate this alliance in Syria in order to "install a government in Syria that they can control" and which will "serve their own agenda."
Just as interesting, as this broadside, for which no evidence is given, is the sharpening dispute within the Bush administration over which Syrian opposition wing to pay attention to - the more popular NSF or the pro-Bush administration SRP.
Ghadry supporters within the administration and on the far right asked him to testify to congress and give a talk in the wake of the NSF confab in London. Ghadry is clawing his way back on stage. Helping him to do this is the
The Congressional Subcommittee on the Middle East and Central Asia, which is chaired by Congresswoman Ileana Ross-Lehtinen (R-FL)(See photo). She and Eliot Engel (D. NY) were the sponsors of the Syrian Accountability and Lebanese Sovereignty Act. They have spearheaded the anti-Syrian legislation in congress.
(Addendum: Ghadry and his immediate family have given $8,000 to Ross-Lehtinen and Engel over the last three years. See this. Also see the smart post by George Ajjan on the hearings.)
Ileana, asked five people to give testimony on Syria and "recommendations regarding the Syria Accountability Act and the state of human rights conditions inside Syria."
The official site of the hearing is here.
Panel I: included Congressman Eliot L. Engel, (see photo) who sponsored the Syria Accountability Act with Ross-Lehtinen.
Panel II was composed of Theodore Kattouf,(Former American Ambassador to Syria) and now President of Amideast, who is not inimical to the Syrian government; as well as three advocates of regime change) Mr. Farid Ghadry, Reform Party of Syria; Marius Deeb, a Lebanese Professor at SAIS, Johns Hopkins; Mr. David Schenker, Fellow at WINEP and ex-Rumsfeld aid.
The testimony given is summarized in a Voice of America article here. Theodore Kattouf said:
"Many if not most Syrians would welcome a much more open and democratic society, and a leadership that while nationalistic, was far less oppressive," said Theodore Kattouf. "But my strong sense is that they also want change to be brought about through their own efforts and managed in a way that prevents sectarian bloodletting and even civil war.”Eliot Engels said that the Bush administration, which said it was waiting to gather support from other nations before implementing stronger measures, must act now.
"The delay I believe is no longer acceptable," said Eliot Engel. "The time has come to impose the full range of penalties envisioned in the act. And if we don’t do it in conjunction with other countries, we should absolutely do it alone, right now."David Schenker went through the argument in his recent article linked to SC a few posts ago. He said efforts by Congress and the administration to turn up the heat [on Damascus] have been hampered by distractions, such as Iraq, but did not believe that the administration had the power "to pressure the Syrians to change their key problematic policies." He said: "Can we expect modifications at the margins? Possibly. Significant policy changes? Not likely."
Maurice Deeb emphasized the importance of working through the United Nations and pointed to the latest example of the impact of the Syria Accountability Act: the withdrawal of U.S. Marathon Oil Company from Syria.
Farid Ghadry said internal opposition to President Assad remains stifled, the exile opposition divided, and U.S. policies inconsistent. He advocated a stronger and highly visible stance by the Bush administration and Congress supporting democratic changes in Syria.
"To actually call for democracy and freedom for the Syrian people, to actually call [for] rescinding some of the laws, to lifting the emergency laws in Syria," said Farid Ghadry. "Then you would bring the Syrian people to your side. Once you do that, the pressure will be tremendously immense on the system."So what do we learn from this? The US is unwilling and incapable at this time to pressure Syria effectively. First, the mass of Syrians are not sympathetic to American efforts, according to Kattouf. America does not have the power to significantly hurt Syria, according to Schenker. Europe and Washington are busy putting out fires in Iran and Iraq and will not pour oil on the Syrian embers in the meantime. Although the UN and Europe could hurt Syria, they will not do it. The only way to change Syria, according to Ghadry, is if the US commits itself to regime-change in Syria by throwing itself openly and emphatically behind the goal of bringing democracy to Syria, something Schenker, who should know, explained the USG cannot do and Kattouf explained it should not do. By holding the hearings, the two congress members have sewn up the votes and donations of their respective Lebanese and Jewish constituents. They also help put Farid Ghadry back in the limelight. Ghadry was also given the chance to insist on the record that the US support his group and not the "repackaged Baathist-Muslim Brother" alternative. In further support of Ghadry, a gaggle of neocon supporters led by Frank J. Gaffney invited Ghadry to speak at the Stanton Group Meeting on 26 May 2006 along with a member of the Heritage Foundation. Ghadry may be down after recent defections and expulsions from his Party, but he certainly isn't out.
State Department spokespeople have recently said that they are open to all sections of the Syrian opposition and are eager to hear what the National Salvation Front has to say and offer. This news was a direct challenge to Ghadry and his supporters within the government. They have fought back this week, helping to provide Farid Ghadry with a forum to trumpet his claim that the NSF is neither democratic nor pro-American, whereas, his SRP is both, according to Ghadry.