The Front!

So, Khaddam and Bayanouni have finally done it: the National Salvation Front has just been formed, with the participation of three members of the Syrian National Council, Hussam al-Deiri, Najib Ghadban and Fahmi Kharallah, each representing his own movement or current. 

But, what does this exactly mean? What is its significance?

My friend Joshua Landis has examined this from perspective of Bayanouni, saying that this was “smart politics” on his part. On the other hand, it was hard for Josh to take Khaddam “seriously,” on account of who the man had been of course, up until recently.

Yet, it is rather obvious that both men’s presence is going to be problematic, perhaps even equally so, for different segments of the Syrian people. Religious minorities and many Baath members will always be suspicious of Bayanouni’s presence, no matter what says or does, while Khaddam’s previous involvement with the regime is bound to haunt him, for the time being at least, if not for the rest of his life.

As such, Bayanouni’s position as a kingmaker or future President is far from being sealed. There is still room for quite a few surprises ahead. In fact, the very nature of this development all but ensures that. All in all though, this is definitely quite an important move, still, whether it is destined to find “purchase” among the Syrian people or not will depend heavily on the nature of the media campaign that should be launched as part of this effort.

But if Khaddam and Bayanouni continue to insist on playing the starring role in the upcoming media blitz, they might just be doing their cause a major disservice. For the Syrian people need to see some new faces on the scene, faces that are less troubling somehow and that do not invoke so much difficult remembrances, faces that might even inspire hope and confidence. Indeed, the upcoming media game should be left to the more liberal elements in the Front, whose final composition, as we can clearly see, is still being debated.

So, where am I in all this, some inquiring minds have already begun inquiring? Am I “in,” seeing that many of my friends indeed are, or have I been left out in the cold (or warmth for that matter, depending on one’s particular point of view)? Or, and seeing that I may not be in a position to decide whether to be in or out, do I approve or disapprove of this development?

Well, despite the cynicism that I have repeatedly expressed before with regard to Khaddam, his history and his talks with Bayanouni, I do, nonetheless, think that the formation of the Front, viewed using that faith-shattering prism of politics, does indeed constitute a positive development, one that not only promises to break the potential political stalemate we see in the country, but one that provides for a mechanism for managing the critical transitional phase ahead as well, helping us avoid the mayhem that falling regime will surely try to instigate.

For all the pragmatic reasons in the world, then, I, heretically enough, approve. But does this mean that I am “in”?

Well, you tell me: do you think that I am? Or do you think that I, given the chance, should be? It does matter to me to hear your views on this, be it in the comment section or by personal contact. Let me sample some more opinions here. At this critical juncture, the more I listen the better, which is why I have shied away from blogging for a while. I was too busy listening (while managing a minor bout of depression, as you might have noticed from my recent scattered posts.

10 thoughts on “The Front!

  1. Regarding the Khaddam and Bayanouni alliance I wouldn’t totally agree with you and Josh on it being “smart politics”. I made my view here last month saying that this move, while logical, is an act of DESPERATE necessity.But my main point was: for one what is the MB gaining in having Khaddam in their ranks? He does have the Saudi/Sunni connections and might be more appealing to the west than the fundamentalist banners the MB waves around BUT what else? In the place that matters most => the Syrian streets, Khaddam is a liability and a washed out loser. That last comment applies to both regime supporters and haters for obvious reasons. So in short, zero points in mass-appeal for poor old Khaddam. To me this alliance highlights the MB’s desperation as well as its newfound pragmatism. It might be the strongest opposition party out there but they still have to compete with many different secular parties that oppose MB dominance. So if the MB held a stronger hand they would not be willing to align themselves with the very image of their oppressors.And I do not think that the commentator’s opinion on these critical issues should influence yours, and if they do not then you should make yours clear. Nevertheless, my opinion is that these two will discredit the credibility of anyone who aligns with them (rightly or wrongly) among the Syrian public. The Islamists in Syria will look at Khaddam with distrust and hate while the secularists will view both in the same light. Your point on the need for new blood would be the oppositions only hope. But since I look upon the calls by these figures for democracy with great reservations, I would doubt their willing to move a side for any new blood.Tarek

  2. Joining the Front doesn’t necessarily mean selling out. You won’t be joining a party, but a coalition to achieve the HOLY objective of liberating Syria from the thugs who rule it. I personally wouldn’t enter into anything with the MB, as I don’t even believe in giving them political power. But if you’re not in, they’ll have the whole cake to themselves and eat it with the Baath rejects. The fresh liberal face you’re looking for could be the face you see in the mirror every morning, Ammar.

  3. Kais, It might not seem like selling out to you, but it sure will seem like it to the people who matter the most in this… the syrian public. Which a significant amount of wont share your views of “some” of their leaders. So if one wants to be politically astute, as you suggest, and be willing to make some unholy alliances to reach the HOLY goal. Then taking these factors into consideration would be wise.And dont mind Dr. Vic he is just copying and pasting the same msgs over and over and over.

  4. The emotional dynamics of the Public, any public, is always hard to predict. For while disdaining a figure like Khaddam, his presence might, strangely enough, give a greater sense of believability to the movement: Khaddam was there, he still maintains some contacts inside, he has a certain “prestige” outside the country, and his contacts with Saudi royalty are well-known, therefore, movement in which he is part has a believable chance of achieving its stated goal of regime change. On the other hand, an opposition made of up of academic figures, human rights activists and enlightened (as opposed to just moderate) Islamists have been around for many years, and thanks to satellite channels, the Public is quite aware of their presence, but is simply not interested in them. While, the great bulk of that could be blamed on the inability of these figures to adopt the right rhetoric and tactics that can appeal to the public, believability seems to be no less of an important issue for the majority of the Syrian public. The reality is, the Syrian public is not likely to get a likeable government anytime soon, and people, in their heart of heart, know it. The key concern seems to be living conditions, the combination of right rhetoric and believable movement might just work at this stage. As for the role of new faces, of course, the idea is not to sideline Khaddam and Bayanouni all together, the twain are in it at this stage to get sidelined, but this movement needs to cultivate new and young faces in order to bolster whatever image of believability it might have.

  5. Ammar I don’t believe for a second that you can work with the MB. A front of Khaddam and the MB does present the current tyrants with a more credible opposition. That much is clear. But does any of these two have the ideas and the vision that has often been articulated on these pages. The answer , very clearly, is in the negative. What matters ultimately is not a change for the its own sake but a change for the better. I would also add that a small marginal improvement should not suffice either. If one is going to settle for minor, cosmetic superficial changes then I am not sure that it is worth the effort.

  6. Ghassan, this Front is not meant in any way to provide the kind of governmet that I cold believe in, it is meant simply to help break the stalemate and provide some strucuture to help manage the trasitional period ad to provide grounds for negotations and interactions between the various political currents in the country. This Front is not destined or meant to survive the transitional period. The Front is meant to: 1) work to bring about the downfall of the regime, 2) govern the coutnryh durng the critical few months after regime collpase, 3) supervise the holding of elections that will bring about a new constitutional process. After that, it’s every current for itself, adn it will be up to the electoral game to decide who’s in and who’s out. That’s thje general idea, of course. Tehre are bnound to be quite a few stumblig stones along the way.

  7. Bayanouni must seen something positive out of his alliance with Khaddam, And I still think it positive development too.But we need to ask yourself, how much of a popular support will Mr.Bayanouni gain out of this alliance? We know of him to be an isolated figure for a long time, He has been out in the COLD for many years for sure. but he has credibility for sure among his followers As we agreed, the external opposition need a clean and credible leaders, I still don’t see it Stay out, We are doing just fine being an independent,

  8. Amar, Khaddam does have a familiar name, but he is the Walter Mondale, Dukakis, and Gary Hart … his role is probably done.His ego is his main motivator, and it is his powerful enemy. His interview from his palace in Paris shows how he has no communicatios skills. He is not the leader the Syrians are waiting for. And to be honest, his message that Bashar is a total failure is not as hot these days after Bashar’s bet on Hamas won him the Palestinian card back, and after the negative Hariri-investigation publicity almost disappeared. Now Spain is opening up again to Syria, and Khaddam’s claims that he is needed back to run Syria’s foreign policy are as attractive as his claims that he is the man to fight corruption and make Syria a democracy.You will not be able to work with this alliance. You are an independent who can not work with most politicians out there, Syrian opposition, or others.I understand your need and eagerness to help Syrians have a better life, but your role is where it is now… as a thinker and activist, not in a “practical” political alliance with corrupt or faux-moderate personalities.Take a month to watch and see … the alliance will self destruct.

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