Wednesday 31 October 2012

U.S. set to revisit Syria with “Riad Seif plan”

Riad Seif after his shabiha beating and behind his desk

“Syrian opposition leaders of all stripes will convene in Qatar next week to form a new leadership body to subsume the opposition Syrian National Council,” according to Josh Rogin, who covers U.S. national security and foreign policy and writes Foreign Policy’s daily Web column The Cable.
Rogin, whose article you can read in full here, writes in part:
U.S officials are “frustrated with an SNC they say has failed to attract broad support, particularly from the Alawite and Kurdish minorities. The new council is an attempt to change that dynamic. Dozens of Syrian leaders will meet in the Qatari capital, Doha, on Nov. 3 and hope to announce the new council as the legitimate representative of all the major Syrian opposition factions on Nov. 7, one day after the U.S. presidential election.
“The Obama administration sees the new council as a potential interim government that could negotiate with both the international community and - down the line - perhaps also the Syrian regime. The SNC will have a minority stake in the new body, but some opposition leaders are still skeptical that the effort will succeed.
“The Qatar meeting will include dozens of opposition leaders from inside Syria, including from the provincial revolutionary councils, the local ‘coordination committees’ of activists, and select people from the newly established local administrative councils.
"We call it a proto-parliament. One could also think of it as a continental congress," a senior administration official told The Cable.
“U.S. officials and opposition leaders are calling the initiative the ‘Riad Seif plan,’ named after the former Syrian parliamentarian and dissident who was imprisoned after he signed the Damascus Declaration on respect for Syrians' human rights in 2005. He was released in 2011, beaten up by a Shabiha gang in October 2011, and finally allowed to leave Syria in June 2012.
“Seif is central to the formation of the new council and is seen as a figure with broad credibility with both the internal and external Syrian opposition.
“‘We have to get [the internal opposition] to bless the new political leadership structure they're setting up and not only do we have to get them to bless the structure, but they have to get the names on it," the official said, noting that the exact structure of the council will be determined in Qatar, not before.
“‘We need to be clear: This is what the Americans support, and if you want to work with us you are going to work with this plan and you're going to do this now,’ the official said. ‘We aren't going to waste time anymore. The situation is worsening. We need to do this now.’
“…The U.S. government will be represented at the Nov. 7 Qatar meeting by Ambassador to Syria Robert Ford, who has been dealing with various opposition groups and weighing in on the composition of the new council, a senior administration official said…”