Syrian Opposition Congress in Istanbul Demands al-Asad Step Down

Over 350 Syrian expatriate opposition leaders, from a wide range of political currents, including liberal and Muslim fundamentalist, met in Istanbul Saturday. They had originally intended to meet at the same time as dissidents still in Damascus convened their own meeting, but the site of that planned congress was attacked Friday by the Syrian military.

The Istanbul congress elected a 25-person National Salvation Council, essentially a shadow government, to challenge President Bashar al-Asad and his ruling Baath Party. The congress announced that given the harsh crackdown by al-Asad on dissenters, which is estimated to have cost over 1,000 lives, they could no longer contemplate negotiating with him. He will, they demanded, simply have to step down.

On Friday, the biggest demonstrations yet swept a country that has seen concerted rallies grow steadily for months. Although the estimate of dissidents that a million protesters came out Friday strikes me as likely an exaggeration, no doubt they were quite large, and larger than anything seen yet.

Still, we haven’t seen the kind of marches in the capital that characterized the successful Tunisian and Egypt uprisings, nor has there been a significant split in the Syrian officers corps over repressing the demonstrators. There have been growing demonstrations in the Damascus suburbs, according to unverified Youtube videos.

Aljazeera English reports:

Also on Saturday, the regime released 28 intellectuals and artists arrested last Thursday, who had been calling for protests.

US Secretary of State Hilary Clinton expressed frustration at the impotence of the outside world to affect developments inside Syria. Actually, the al-Asad regime is being actively defended from the UN Security Council by Russia. The Soviet Union had been an important patron to Baathist Syria, and the Medvedev/ Putin government seems to want to retain al-Asad as a client for the new Russia. The US has mainly sanctioned Syria for the crackdown through ratcheting up financial sanctions.

5 Responses

  1. Thank you bring more attention to this matter. I understand why the dissidents were not able to hold a conference in Syria and they are trying to focus world attention by having this conference in Turkey. However, I have to echo the Aljazeera reporter in asking how they are helping with this shadow government outside of Syria. I would like more information on their goals for implementation of change for Syria.

  2. Continuing the meme that we get mostly lies from the government/Koch/Fox complex, John Mearsheimer has produced another book, this one about Lies. Money graf in the review by James Bovard: “Lies subvert democracy by crippling citizens’ ability to rein in government. Citizens are left clueless about perils until it is too late for the nation to pull back. “

    Mearsheimer goes into detail about the organized lying machine known as the Office of Special Plans. “Special” in this case means “no contact with reality.”

    At this time, I think very few people understand what is going on in Syria. Hillary Clinton is gaining a clue, but since our intelligence services have been gutted and/or perverted to get info on Professor Cole or to corroborate Douglas Feith’s delirium du jour, it is fair to wager that Putin and company have the advantage. Dosvedanya? (Russian for “You owe me no money.”)

  3. The problem is, what if Syrians have to choose between a regime propped up by Russia and a regime propped up by Saudi Arabia, which is a lot stronger there than in, say, Libya? Of course America will choose the latter; the Saudis have been propping us up with massive petrodollar investments since Henry Kissinger made clear to the Saudis in ’73 what our military could do to them. The Saudis let that debt build up until they now have the financial power to do the same to us unless we support their growing sphere of influence.

    • so, you mean that the Saudis are exerting massive influence on the US gov’t?

      Gee, a day of two back it was “Christianist tendencies”

      Before that it was right-wing Zionists

      It must get very confusing for the folks in DC trying to figure out just who are The Overlords.

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