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“There’s a fear that the fall of Assad would lead to worse for Western interests and Israel…”

An interview with Gilbert Achcar by Aykut K?l?ç

Sunday 8 April 2012, by Aykut K?l?ç, Gilbert Achcar

This interview done on 25 March will be published in the May 2012 issue of Yeni Yol, the journal of the Turkish section of the Fourth International. Two update questions were posed by Stephen R. Shalom for ZNet on 5 April.

“There’s a fear that the fall of Assad would lead to worse for Western interests and Israel…”

An interview with Gilbert Achcar by Aykut K?l?ç (with update)

Let me start with the different controversial opinions about the political character of the Syrian National Council (SNC). What’s your opinion on the composition of SNC?

The Syrian National Council is a heterogeneous combination of people, from the Muslim Brotherhood to people on the left, especially the People’s Democratic Party, with a number of figures linked to Western governments, the US or France in particular. It is basically heterogeneous, and we can see that, for instance, in the way they couldn’t agree on the replacement for Burhan Ghalioun or in the way Burhan Ghalioun himself was disavowed after signing the Cairo agreement with another faction of the opposition. The SNC is held together by the pressure of various states intervening in the Syrian situation. These states are actually pushing for a broader coalition to include other groups, in addition to those who are already in the SNC. They are aiming at some form of unification of the opposition, which would make it even more heterogeneous than what the SNC already is. This said, the important point is that the SNC is not a homogeneous rightwing force as depicted in some circles. Within the council, there are some people who cannot be classified as rightwing, but are rather progressives.

Recently, even rightwing papers supporting the Turkish Justice and Development Party (AKP) government have published several news reports regarding the deepening divisions within the SNC and a possible escalation of opposition to the Muslim Brotherhood at the next meeting of “Friends of Syria” that will take place in Istanbul at the very beginning of April.

This meeting is meant by foreign powers including the Turkish government as a means of applying pressure towards the unification of the opposition ranks. I have not seen any sign of particular willingness to ostracize the Muslim Brotherhood. I don’t think there’s anything like that. Why would the Turkish government be hostile to the Muslim Brotherhood? They have been collaborating for a long time. Basically, the so-called Friends of Syria are annoyed by the image of division in the ranks of the Syrian opposition, which contrast with what there was in Libya. There you had the Transitional National Council with no other group challenging them as representing the Libyan opposition, whereas the Syrian opposition has been a cacophony with further splits among the various groups. Of course, this situation profits the Syrian regime and weakens the opposition. That’s what Turkey, the Western powers and Gulf Arab regimes are trying to deal with, trying to unify the opposition and bring forward a general image of it that would be reassuring to Western countries. The truth is that one of the major reasons for the skepticism and reluctance shown in practice by the Western countries towards the Syrian situation is the fear that the fall of Assad would lead to an outcome that would be worse for Western interests and Israel.

What is the possibility of a foreign intervention? How do you evaluate the Turkish government’s attitude in the Syrian situation?

“Intervention” is a very broad term and there is already a lot of ongoing intervention in various forms. If you mean direct military intervention, I think that this is a very r