Ex-Insider Sends Shock Waves Through Syria

A Frenzy of Meetings in Europe

In European capitals such as Paris and London -- long the centers of Syrian opposition in exile -- political analysts say there has been a frenzy of meetings, alliances and alignments between a diverse range of opposition figures in recent months.

One of Syria's most respected secular opposition figures, Riad al-Turk, a veteran leftist leader who has spent more than 20 years of his life in Syrian jails, is currently traveling in Europe, fueling rumors of a new opposition nexus-in-the-making.

Last year, in what was widely seen as an effort to adjust its image, his Syrian Communist Party changed its name to the Syrian Democratic People's Party.

From Frightening Islamists to Benign Brotherhood?

Indeed, across the ideological spectrum, the often fractious Syrian opposition groups have been revamping their programs, sprucing their rhetoric, and bridging once-formidable gaps.

Analysts note, for instance, that over the last few years, the Syrian wing of the Muslim Brotherhood based in London has considerably moderated its political and ideological positions.

Banned in Syria under Law 49 of 1980, which condemns any member of the Muslim Brotherhood to death, the global Islamic organization is believed to have widespread support and grass-roots links inside Syria.

According to Joseph Bahout of the Institut d'Etudes Politique de Paris, the Muslim Brotherhood's recent moderation has enabled it to make connections with secular opposition figures in Europe.

"The liberals and leftists have been making links to the [Muslim] Brotherhood because the Brotherhood has become much more flexible, intellectual, and much less dogmatic," he said. "They are no more the frightening Islamists."

The group's armed uprising in 1982 led to a brutal crackdown by the Syrian Army, but Muslim Brotherhood officials say the organization has been rejecting violence.

"The Muslim Brotherhood in Syria adopts dialogue with all political parties and is ready to cooperate with all groups and individuals -- including Khaddam -- to achieve peaceful democratic reform in Syria," said Ali Sadreddin al-Bayanouni, London-based leader of the Syrian Muslim Brotherhood, in an e-mail interview with ABCNEWS.com.

Last year, a number of parties with often conflicting ideologies attended a conference in Paris aimed at coalescing the Syrian opposition.

It was followed by the "Damascus Declaration," a joint statement calling for peaceful regime change by opposition figures in the Syrian capital.

Unsavory Figures, Unpalatable Pasts

But analysts warn that beneath the united front, there are potentially divisive problems of conflicting agendas as well as controversial past records and alliances.

Rifaat al-Assad, Hafez's long-alienated brother based in Marabella, Spain, for instance, is considered too close to the Alawites, a minority Muslim sect that has held power for more than four decades in the Sunni majority country.

Also, as the commander of the Syrian internal security forces during the 1982 Hama massacre, Rifaat is considered an unsavory political figure.

And if the Damascus regime were to fall, separatist Syrian Kurdish groups would likely be at odds with the majority Sunni groups such as the Muslim Brotherhood on the critical issue of national stability.

  • 1
  • |
  • 2
  • |
  • 3
Join the Discussion
blog comments powered by Disqus
You Might Also Like...