"The Doha Conference and the establishment of the Syrian National Coalition for Opposition and Revolutionary Forces, SNCORF, was one more failed attempt to create a unified, politically and militarily credible opposition… The failure to create this opposition is not least caused by the fact that there exist considerable conflicts of interest between the US, UK, the PGCC members and Israel on one hand, and continental European EU member states and Turkey on the other," said Dr. Christof Lehmann in an interview with Fars News Agency.
Dr. Christof Lehmann is a German political pundit, analyst and author. He has been the advisor of many political figures and leaders across the world. He is also a practicing clinical psychologist and has been actively advocating Palestinians' right to statehood and self determination. He is the founder of NSNBC media collective and his writings have appeared on different online and print outlets such as China's The 4th Voice.
Christof Lehmann took part in an interview with Fars News Agency to discuss the latest developments in Syria, the failure of opposition groups to reach a consensus and the prospect of the 22-month crisis in the country. What follows is the text of the interview.
Q: It seems that the United States has failed to bring together all the members of the Syrian opposition, and the Doha conference, held on early November last year, was shunned by a number of opposition groups who called it an "American game" that has nothing to do with the demands of the Syrian people. What's your take on that?
A: We have to differentiate between a genuine Syrian spectrum of political parties and a foreign backed pseudo-opposition. The genuine political organizations in Syria are vehemently opposed to the attempted political and military subversion of Syria. This genuine opposition includes the Kurdish organizations such as the KNC and PYD, the National Coordination Committee which unites a broad spectrum of progressive left-wing parties, youth organizations, religious organizations, human rights organizations, the Syrian Social Nationalist Party, the Peoples' Will Party and many others.
Syria has a vivid, active and productive political reform movement which in fact also includes the Baath Party. None of them accept the legitimacy of a foreign backed political or military intervention and the aggression which has halted reforms rather than furthering them. Some, as you say, call the Doha initiative an American game. That is a popular simplification of the facts.
As I have explained it in part five of my article "The Dynamics of the Crisis in Syria, Conflict vs. Conflict Resolution", there exists no such thing as a coherent, foreign-backed political and military opposition. It never existed and Doha has not changed that fact. Even among those nations who support the foreign backed opposition there are many conflicting interests. (1) The Doha Conference and the establishment of the Syrian National Coalition for Opposition and Revolutionary Forces, SNCORF, was one more failed attempt to create a unified, politically and militarily credible opposition. As I have also specified it in the article, the failure to create this opposition is not least caused by the fact that there exist considerable conflicts of interest between the US, the UK, the PGCC members and Israel on one hand, and continental European EU member states and Turkey on the other. The situation in the Middle East has become extremely complex and volatile since the onset of the Arab Spring.
Q: In late 2012, the Syrian National Coalition for Opposition and Revolutionary Forces was formed in Doha, Qatar, and they decided to establish an interim government in exile and call for a national conference if Syria's current administration is ousted. Is this initiative going to get the opposition figures anywhere? Will they realize the changes they demand by forming an interim government in exile and calling for the overthrowing of the government of President Assad?
A: When the Syrian National Council, SNC, was formed in Turkey in 2011 it also claimed to be the sole legitimate representative of the Syrian people. As I documented then, most of its known founding members had ties to organizations like the National Endowment for Democracy, a CIA front, Reagan Fascell Fellowships, another CIA front, as well as other organizations around persons like Zbigniew Brzezinski and Henry Kissinger. (2) The SNCORF which was created in Doha is a similar construction. It is one more attempt to create a pseudo-legitimate government which can be used to claim apparent legitimacy for calls for a military intervention. Luckily the vast majority of the world's governments, most prominently the governments of Russia, China and Iran don't recognize this construct's legitimacy.
The attempted overthrow of the government of President Bashar Al Assad is predominantly driven by a desperate attempt of the American and British governments, together with the PGCC states and Israel to gain control over the gas of the Pars gas field in the Persian Gulf and control over its transit to the Mediterranean via the Pars pipeline. With the world nations transitioning from oil to gas as primary energy source, with the Pars gas field, which is shared by Iran and Qatar being the world's largest known gas field, the best way to describe the SNCORF is as a cartel of convenience, which represents the US, the UK, PGCC, Israeli, and to a certain extend continental European geo-politic and energy-politic interests. It has no legitimacy as representative of the people of Syria, period.
Q: On November 18, Iran hosted the Syrian National Dialogue which some 200 Syrian figures, including opposition members, MPs and government representatives, attended. All of them condemned violence and resorting to force by the insurgents and rejected foreign intervention as a solution to end the crisis in the country. What do you think about the achievements and results of this meeting? Can it serve as a lasting initiative for ending the unrest in Syria with practical implications for the country?
A: Iran is currently chairing the Non-Aligned Movement, NAM. Hosting the meeting was a positive example for the relevancy of the NAM in world politics and conflict resolution. The national dialogue in Syria, however, existed long before the meeting on 18 November in Tehran. The meeting was not as important for the dialogue per se as it was for sending political signals internationally. One of them is that the government of Iran, represented by Parliament Speaker Ali Larijani, had the opportunity to counter the disinformation that Iran rigidly and exclusively supports the "Assad Government" which is being positioned as dictator by the West.
Another important function was that the world could witness that the Syrian government, here represented by National Reconciliation Minister Haidar who is a member of the Social Nationalist Party and other Ministers were engaging in a constructive, peaceful political dialogue with opposition parties and organizations. The meeting was important also to convey to the general public in Persian Gulf Arab nations, the US and Europe that the Syrian people are engaged in a constructive reform process, and that this reform process is systematically sabotaged by the armed insurgency and the foreign backed opposition.
Sadly many European parliamentarians have no information about the vitality of the ongoing reform process either. Much could be attained if the genuine political parties who reject foreign intervention and western members of parliaments could begin a constructive dialogue. More meetings of this nature and invitations of MPs from EU countries could potentially be part of breaking the deadlock. Constructive foreign involvement however, should then be based on non-partisan support for the development of a democratic culture and a bottom to top, rather than on a partisan top to bottom approach. Iran seems to have understood the importance of supporting the genuine democratic discourse in Syria.
Q: What do you think about the arrangement of different fractions of the Syrian opposition and their attitudes toward the political crisis in the country? Some of them, mainly supported by the United States and its European allies, demand a regime change, some of them are seeking constitutional reforms and some others believe that a national dialog should be held and that President Assad can still remain in power, but introduce some socio-political reforms. What's your viewpoint on that?
A: The Doha-based opposition is not representative of the Syrian people. It is a consortium of opportunistic individuals who lack a political program other than regime change and the transfer of control over Syrian sovereignty and more important the Pars gas pipeline project into the hands of the US and the UK to save the Petro Dollar, and for being able to continue driving a wedge in between the further, peaceful integration of the Russian and continental European economies and energy sectors. The US, the UK, Europe, the PGCC member states and Israel have each legitimate concerns regarding the stability of their currencies and about energy safety and security. Supporting armed insurgents and a co-opted political opposition however, is neither legitimate, nor is it strategically viable unless one wants to risk a regional war with global implications.
In 2012 the people of Syria have endorsed a new constitution. The constitution of Syria is by far the most democratic and tolerant constitution among Arab nations. The new constitution was adopted after an extensive and open dialogue with all parties and organizations who rejected foreign intervention. Minorities and vulnerable groups enjoy rights and protections which are unseen in most other Arab countries. The push for more constitutional change is predominantly foreign manufactured. What the genuine Syrian opposition parties demand and what is needed to further the reform process is stability. It is this stability which so far has been sabotaged by those nations who finance and arm the insurgency.
Q: Does the crisis in Syria have a foreign solution? Why some regional states such as Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Turkey insist on the intervention of foreign powers in Syria to resolve the crisis? So far, a number of European and African countries along with the United States have recognized the Syrian National Coalition as the legal representative of Syria and France has opened their embassy in Paris. Where is this complicated situation headed to?
A: A peaceful and democratic solution to the political crisis in Syria can only be found by the Syrian people themselves via the countries democratic processes. The crisis has, however, strong geo-political implications. A real international dialogue which addresses the concerns of all stakeholders is required. As I have specified in my article "The Dynamics of the Crisis in Syria; Conflict vs. Conflict Resolution" the crisis is caused by a divergent geo-political, energy security and economic requirement of three cartels. In each of these three cartels there are nations whose foreign policy toward Syria does not necessarily serve the nations' best interest. (ibid) Just to mention a few examples to demonstrate the complexity. If the Pars gas pipeline goes on-line, Iran will, together with Russia stand for the delivery of more than 40 % of the gas needed in the European Union. Israel has difficulties coping with the implied political leverage on issues like Palestine and the nuclear issues, so has the US. Europe would be well served to further integrate the EU and Russian economies but is hesitant because of a hostile US American foreign policy toward Russia. So far none of the major stakeholders have addressed these and other related issues openly and honestly. Unless these issues will be addressed we will invariably head toward an aggravation of the situation in Syria, the greater Middle East and a deterioration of security, energy security and economies worldwide.
Q: You remember that when Kofi Annan was the UN-AL special envoy to Syria, the United States didn't allow him to include Iran in the Geneva meeting on Syria, and so far, Washington has impeded every effort to engage Iran in the high-ranking talks about the crisis in Syria. Will this crisis be easily solved without the involvement and active participation of Iran?
A: A resolution of the crisis is utterly impossible without the involvement of Iran. However, this involvement cannot be limited to discussing the crisis in Syria. The root causes have to be addressed together with Iran. For instance the leverage Iran will acquire together with Russia over European energy security should be discussed.
Increased European-Iranian cooperation at solving the Palestine issue should be discussed together with Israel and the US. The need for a more geo-politically self-confident continental Europe which serves its own energy and security requirements rather than letting itself be used as a pawn for the US and the UK hegemonic interests must be discussed. Finally Iran is also one of the nations which is needed to assist the US in a peaceful, non-catastrophic transition away from a militarily backed Petro Dollar as global reserve currency.
The US, regardless of which administration rules, has a serious problem at facing the end of the militarily backed Petro Dollar. It is not only the US but also the militarily supported Dollar based world economy that has met its limitations in Syria and Iran. Iran is in many respects a key player which cannot be ignored. The US and Israel have a hard time recognizing the inevitable.
1) The Dynamics of the Crisis in Syria; Conflict vs. Conflict Resolution. Part 5. (2012) http://nsnbc.me/2012/12/28/the-dynamics-of-the-crisis-in-syria-conflict-versus-conflict-resolution-part-5/
2) The National Council of Syria and US-Unconventional Warfare (2011) http://nsnbc.me/2011/10/06/the-national-counsel-of-syria-and-u-s-unconventional-warfare/
3) ibid. The Dynamics of the Crisis in Syria; Conflict vs. Conflict Resolution. Part 5. (2012) http://nsnbc.me/2012/12/28/the-dynamics-of-the-crisis-in-syria-conflict-versus-conflict-resolution-part-5/
Interview by Kourosh Ziabari