January 20, 2012

The Arab League convenes this weekend to hear a final report from its team of observers, whose mission in Syria is now over. It is expected to condemn President Bashar Assad, who has continued his crackdown on protesters despite promises to stop.

There is little doubt that the findings will be used to bolster calls for military intervention.

A major street protest movement may look like a real force for change – and indeed be one.  In Syria, however, demonstrations have visibly failed to prove they are actually able to change anything. Months of bloodshed, with no sign it is going to stop anytime soon.

Halit Hoca from the Syrian National Council, the country’s main official opposition body, says making the people’s voice louder and bringing an end to the violence is what the SNC was created for.

“Our main goal is to help the Syrian people to be represented in the international community in order to reach their freedoms,” he told RT.

Although it has been run by a Paris-based exile, Burhan Ghalioun, the SNC has been recognized as the country’s legitimate government by the new Libyan authorities, and supported by some EU and NATO countries – which has made some doubt the council’s innocent intentions.

“With regard to Libya, the promise that NATO made to the NTC’s prospective leaders was that they’d be given major seats at the table in a new Libya,” Patrick Henningsen, an associate editor for InfoWars.Com, explained. “There is power-brokering going on behind the scenes, and I absolutely wager the same is happening in Syria – they’ve been bought off financially, or they’ve been promised a role in a new Syrian regime.”

The National Congress in Iraq, Libya’s National Transitional Council and the Syrian National Council… And it is not just their names they have in common: supported and sponsored from abroad, they are uniting opposition forces and their major goal is to overthrow the regime. But there is a difference too – the SNC’s headquarters are not in Damascus, but in Istanbul.

“We are not talking about a democratic regime. If I go to Syria, I’ll be executed there,” Halit Hoca said.

Halit says he spent 15 years in jail in the 1970s and 80s, just because his father supported the opposition. He claims nothing has changed since then, and the oppression has to stop. But how is another matter.

“[The Syrian regime] is a dictator regime…it cannot move without any pressure,” Hoca added.

Having claimed they are would rely only on political and diplomatic pressure, the SNC is also now co-operating with the Free Syrian army – fighters who have defected from Assad’s military – in what is a clear shift from its initial strictly non-armed, peaceful stance.

The council also sees “humanitarian corridors” and “buffer zones” as options to “protect civilians” in Syria, even though these might mean foreign troops arriving on their soil.

“This is a NATO-Istanbul-Paris operation where the SNC is used to meet a NATO agenda – they want to destabilize Syria, because they want Syria to be part of NATO – or at least make it linked to NATO,” says Pepe Escobar, a correspondent for the Asia Times.

But some continue to believe the group is a positive force. A leading Turkish newspaper editor says he sees the SNC as offering a clear opportunity for the Syrian people to be heard.

“No real opposition party was permitted in Syria for decades. So you have to give them a chance,” says Murat Yetkin of Turkey’s Hurriyet Daily News.

The violence continues and has worsened. 10 months since the start of the uprising and from the time the SNC came to the fore in August, more and more people are being killed from both sides. The UN estimates over 5,000 people have died at the hands of state forces alone.

The opposition claims it is just a matter of time before their joint efforts, sooner or later, will force President Assad out.  He, on the other hand, is determined to stay.

But the question remains – exactly how long should ordinary people have to wait for the bloodshed to stop? And how many of them will actually live to see the end of it?

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