[Debate] Syrian Opposition Leader Says Armed Groups Harm Revolution / Son of SSNP Leader Slain in Syria
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Sun May 6 01:17:14 BST 2012
Syrian Opposition Leader Says Armed Groups Harm Revolution
By: Fehim Tastekin posted on Tuesday, Apr 24, 2012
Leader of the opposition Syrian Social Nationalist Party Ali Haidar
says armed groups who derive their support from external sources are
harming the revolutionary process in Syria. He also contends that the
real opposition movements now find themselves stuck between the armed
groups and the state. I interviewed him in Damascus.
The Syrian Social Nationalist Party is a major opposition party that
is currently caught in a tight spot between the regime and the armed
groups against which it is fighting. The party was founded in 1932
with the aim of liberating “Bilad Al-Sham,” — that is, Lebanon,
Jordon, Syria and Palestine — from French and British rule. Initially
banned by the Syrian Ba’athist regime, after its legalization in 2005
the party was able to attract a significant youth following. Party
leader Ali Haidar, like other members of the “internal opposition,”
emphasized the divisions within the opposition and “the emergence of
armed groups harming the peaceful reform process.” He adds that “Syria
is heading toward disintegration and invasion by foreign powers.”
Radikal: Where is Syria headed?
Haidar: Let me first elaborate on from where Syria is coming. Syria
plays a central role in this region. It has enemies: Israel and the
US. It also faces domestic issues. Ten years ago, we claimed that the
regime had lost its strength and that the single-party system would
not work anymore. This system had been at the root of several
problems. When revolution broke out in Tunisia, it was obvious that
the wave of change would hit Syria as well. First of all, Syria’s
enemies were eager to take advantage of this opportunity to meddle in
our country. Secondly, the people had their own demands to make. Thus,
the protests began. Foreign intervention started from the very
earliest phases of the protests. Not only did these powers transfer
funds, but they also provided arms to certain groups. In this way, we
found ourselves sacrified between the regime and the armed opposition.
The situation evolved into a conflict between the regime and the armed
groups on one hand, and an actual revolutionary process on the other.
Radikal: The regime used weapons against the opposition. Didn’t this
encourage the opposition to do the same?
Haidar: No, never. The regime did not use heavy weapons or interfere
with the peaceful demonstrations for months. What’s more, 30
opposition groups refused to take up arms.
Radikal: What is basis of the division in the country?
Haidar: Throughout history, all civil wars have ended with
disintegration up with disintegration. However, Syria is not yet at
this point. Now, we should acknowledge that a victory by one of the
two sides will not bring about a solution. All Syrians should engage
in dialogue. Conflict will only invite foreign intervention. According
to intelligence gathered by my party, the armed groups have obtained
their arms and money from foreign powers.
Radikal: Where are the weapons coming from?
Haidar: The weapons come from the Turkish border, the Quriya region
located on the border with Iraq and the Wadi Khaled Valley in Lebanon.
We know this to be a fact. The Lebanese branch of our party was able
to obtain information on a camp providing training for armed groups in
the Lebanese district of Akkar. This camp is similar to the Nahr
al-Bared Palestinian refugee camp. There was also a camp in Jordan,
yet Amman closed it down because things were moving unfavorably for
Jordan. The US also set up a camp on the border between Jordan, Syria
and Iraq. The armed opposition groups were trained in this camp by
Radikal: Is this still going on?
Haidar: I have no detailed information on what’s going on now. But
one thing to note is that both light and heavy weaponry manufactured
in Israel have been smuggled into Syria.
Radikal: What are the roles being played by Qatar and Saudi Arabia?
While the Qataris support the Salafis, the Saudis are backing the
Wahhabis. How is this competition reflected in Syria?
Haidar: Qatar and Saudi Arabia have been competing for over 30 years
over who can truly represent US interests in the region. This
competition intensified when the US started to rely more heavily on
Qatar. Qatar is less costly and troubling for the US to deal with,
while Saudi Arabia is tackling some domestic issues. Qatar is more
like a company than a state. The local people constitute only 40% of
However, when it comes to Syria, there is no competition between these
two countries. There is rather a coalition where each country supports
its own groups.
Radikal: Does Hezbollah have a role?
Haidar: Hezbollah has no role in Syria; they have no members in
Syria. In Lebanon, their stronghold is in the south. Syria and Iran
have longstanding relations, but there is, however, not a single
Iranian soldier in Syria. At most, Iran is helping to provide
intelligence and financial support.
Radikal: What do you think of the Syrian National Councilar?
Haidar: The “Istanbul Council” has nothing to do with Syria. They
don’t represent the people. The real opposition is here. Like the
Western media, which never talks about the real opposition, the regime
doesn’t talk about the real opposition here either.
Radikal: Will the Annan Plan work?
Haidar: It depends on the policies adopted by foreign powers. The
potential reconciliation of Russia and China with the US is important.
The US is looking for a way out of this situation since their plan has
already collapsed, and the Russians are also seeking a solution that
will satisfy the US. However, while the US holds talks with the
Russians, they are simultaneously asking Saudi Arabia and Qatar to
support the armed groups. The US is trying to emerge from this crisis
with the most benefits.
Radikal: Can Turkey play a role to solve this crisis?
Haidar: Turkey’s role has only been negative. It failed to remain
neutral and adopted a sectarian stance. It assumed a stance parallel
to that of the US. It ignored the real opposition and did not engage
in dialogue with us. We met with political parties in Turkey. The
government knows of our presence, but refrains from contacting us. The
government prefers to support the armed groups. Turkey presented the
“Istanbul Council” as the Syrian opposition’s sole representative to
the international community. Turkey should reverse this policy. It
should remain neutral to the different sides representing the people
and focus on a political solution. Turkey is not really talking about
Ali Haidar, leader of the Syrian Social Nationalist Party, says that
foreign-backed armed groups are harming the revolution and that the
real opposition is caught between them and the regime. He asserts that
the US operated a training camp on the border with Iraq, and that
Turkey’s role in the crisis has not been neutral. Interview by Fehim
Publisher: Radikal (Turkey)
The Real Opposition is Sacrificed, says Ali Haidar
Author: Fehim Tastekin
Published on: Saturday, Apr 21, 2012
Translated On: Tuesday, Apr 24, 2012
Translator: Ceren Kenar
Son of SSNP leader slain in Syria
Published Thursday, May 3, 2012
The son of a prominent political leader in Syria was assassinated
overnight along with a fellow party member in another blow to UN peace
efforts attempting to stabilize the country after one year of
Ismail Haidar, son of Syrian Social Nationalist Party (SSNP) President
Ali Haidar, and Fadi Atawneh was killed on the al-Mahnaya junction on
the road between Homs and Masyaf, according to Syria's official news
The car was reportedly mobbed by unknown gunmen, who riddled the
vehicle with bullets, killing the pair instantly, Mohammad Zahweh,
SSNP head of the Syria branch, told Al-Akhbar.
"It happened yesterday evening. There were gunmen waiting [on the
street] and they began firing on the car," he said.
The SSNP leader has received death threats in the past, Zahweh said,
but it was still too early to speculate who was to blame.
"We have received threats, particularly against the president [of] the
party, but we couldn't specify the source of those threats."
"I can't really say for sure [who was responsible]. The investigation
is underway [and] we don't want to guess who was behind it, it
could've been a criminal act," he said.
The SSNP had positioned itself as an opposition party calling for
democratic change in Syria, but adamantly rejected foreign
intervention and the militarization of the uprising.
It has repeatedly called for a national reconciliation process that
includes all opposition elements, as well as the regime, backing the
UN peace plan to find a political solution to the crisis.
In response to his son's death, Ali said he did not want condolences,
as the loss of his son was worth no more than the loss of any Syrian
who has died in the conflict.
"I don't need condolences over the deaths of my son and his comrade,
because their blood is no more precious than the blood of any Syrian
that was martyred before or will be martyred in the coming days."
"Those who carry guns will not terrorize us and will not silence us
nor stop us from working day and night to establish peace and security
"Ismail and his comrade are the victims of terrorism that is
afflicting Syria…they, like the rest of the martyrs, fell so that
Syria may live, for Syria's interest is above all interests."
The SSNP is one of the oldest political parties in Syria, founded by
Lebanese academic Antoun Saadeh in the 1930s, calling for a secular
The party has two factions representing the same name, with another
pro-regime SSNP in an official alliance with the ruling Baath Party in
A high-ranking member based in the United States, wishing to remain
anonymous, said the middle approach of Ali Haidar's SSNP has made them
a target from all sides.
"The SSNP has taken a position that is neither to the complete liking
of the regime nor to the complete liking of many elements in the
opposition, but which it feels represents the interest of Syria, which
should be above all other interests."
"Unfortunately, certain elements on the ground believe that unless you
are 100 percent with them, then you are 100 percent against them, and
as a result two young members of the SSNP have paid with their lives
for the party's position," he said.
The assassination comes one day after Russia blamed "terrorists" for
recent attacks in Syria and accused rebels of conducting a concerted
campaign to ensure UN-Arab League envoy Kofi Annan's peace plan fails.
Russia "decisively condemns the new terrorist sorties," the foreign
ministry said in a statement, referring to bombings in Idlib and an
attack on Syria's central bank on Monday.
The attacks "in essence unleashed a large-scale campaign to
destabilize the situation and disrupt...Annan's plan," it said.
"The most recent series of explosions was clearly timed to the arrival
in Damascus" of Norwegian Major General Robert Mood, the commander of
a UN monitoring mission, it said.
"We believe it is the international community's task not to allow the
disruption of implementation of the UN-Arab League envoy's plan. For
our part, we will do everything that depends on us to [ensure]
violence in Syria ends as soon as possible."
While publicly opposing foreign interference and particularly military
intervention in Syria, Russia has vocally supported Annan's peace plan
and backed it in UN Security Council votes.
It has urged both sides to stop violence but has put most of the blame
for violations of a ceasefire that took effect April 12 on rebels and
accused them of seeking to create a pretext for foreign intervention
against the government.
(Al-Akhbar, Reuters, SANA)
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