Pierre Barbancey interviews Xalit Isa, a leader of the National Coordination Committee for Democratic Change. One of the big opposition movements, NCCDC rallies secular, Leftist parties as well as the Kurdish block. In this interview with l’Humanité’s correspondent, Xalit Isa analyses the reasons for the current impasse.
Huma: What’s the situation really like on the home ground?
Isa: Within the governmental circles there is still a faction that absolutely refuses to seek a political solution, being heavily compromised in the blood crimes and corruption. On the other hand, part of the opposition, mostly supported by Saud Arabia, Qatar, Turkey and some Western countries, do not want to seek a political solution either; they stake their all on the military confrontation. Because a political solution that might rally all the opposition groups, including the secular ones, the democrats and above all the political parties affiliated to the National Coordination Committee for Democratic Change, does not suit them. Those powers mostly bet on the capacity of the Syrian National Council, which is dominated by Islamists, to oust Bachar Al Assad, take his place and implement their own strategy and policies. Especially to ensure that gas and oil from the Arabo-Persian Gulf do transit via Syria and Turkey towards Europe, at a cheaper price than the Russian gas currently imported by Europe.
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Huma: How do you account for the impasse in which the Syrian conflict has bogged down?
Isa: Today’s impasse results from the fact that the Western and the Gulf countries support armed groups, which they call the Free Syrian Army, but in fact these have no central command, there are only groups. Some, the Salafis, are supported by Saudi Arabia; others, which are close to the Muslim Brotherhood, are supported by Qatar and Turkey… And there are groups, connected to Al Qaeda, that are supported by Libya and filter into Syria via Turkey. There is now a committee composed of the US, EU countries, and Turkey in charge of centralizing the financing and of coordinating the actions of various groups, allegedly to keep Al Qaeda off. But there are actually clashes on the field between the regular troops that refuse a political solution and these armed groups. And then, of course, the impasse also results from the fact that the regional and inter-regional powers do not come to an agreement. Iran, China, and Russia do not accept the agenda set by the Western countries and their allies in the Middle-East. A lot of the cards are in the hands neither of the Syrian government nor of the opposition.
The Syrian National Committee is a political formation that is turning in to a burden for the powers that have set it up and have maintained a distance from the other secular, Leftist and Kurdish formations. The Gulf countries in particular reproach the NCCDC for the democratic step of having gathered many minorities for the formation, which includes Alawis, Christians, Druze and Leftist Forces. Turkey also reproaches the NCCDC with hosting the Democratic Party Union , the main Kurdish formation. Ankara’s aim is by all means to exclude the Kurds from the political process in the Syrian crisis. On September 23 last, the internal opposition, notably the NCCDC, held a conference right in Damascus. This conference could never have been held without the pressure exerted by Russia and China. Despite this, the NCCDC leaders were arrested and are still in prison. The same happened to the head of the Committee’s Foreign Affairs Office, Abdelaziz Al Khayer, who was arrested on September 20 when he came back from Beijing.
Huma: What aim do Turkey and the Gulf countries pursue?
Isa: The objective of Turkey and the Gulf countries is to weaken Syria from the inside. Their aim is not just to topple the current government. What they are actually aiming at is the fall of the Syrian State in order that Syria become a very weak country. The Islamization of the conflict also contributes to this process which may well result in a denominational war. Syria’s ethnographic configuration does not fit with the Islamist project. In Syria about 5% of the population are Druze, 8% Christians, 15% Alawis, 15% Kurds and some are Ismaili…. A country like this cannot be ruled by an Islamist ideology, nor even by a pan-Arabic one. And so, if the Western and the Gulf countries Keep on arming and financing the groups inspired by Islam, a denominational and national war is sure to follow.
Interestingly, there is a Western plan, supported by the Gulf countries and Turkey, to help what they call the “free zones”. These are the province of Idleb, part of the province of Alep and part of that of Deir ez-Zor. But in fact these are not stable, free zones in the sense that they are totally outside the government’s control. The Western project consists in financing these zones. A meeting was held in Istanbul last week, where the setting up of an administration in these zones was even envIsaged, including a police force!
Now there are really free and safe zones, namely the Kurdish zones. And yet financing these zones is absolutely ruled out. The Kurds propose a peaceful political solution for all of Syria. In fact, Turkey would like to de-stabilize the Kurdish zones and transform them into battle-fields. It’s been arming groups in order to provoke tensions in these regions. A suicide attack took place in Qamishli, which was aimed at spreading panic among the population. Turkey is opposed to Kurds obtaining their basic rights, so it wants to weaken the Kurdish national movement.
Huma: Is an escalation to be feared between Syria and Turkey?
Isa: Just as Turkey blackmails Irak, and just as since 2007 the Turkish parliament has renewed its authorization for the army to strike at the Kurdish forces beyond the border in Irak, it is seeking to do the same in Syria. But some political conditions are wanting for Ankara to be able to intervene militarily. Since December 2011, Turkey’s strategy has consisted in not intervening directly, but in relying upon armed groups. Yet the greater part of the border between Turkey and Syria is peopled by Kurds. Who in the main are unfavourable to the Turkish army and policies. Therefore a direct military intervention is not in Ankara’s interest.
Huma: Laurent Fabius has been talking of setting up Humanitarian corridors. What do you think of the idea?
Isa: France and Great Britain speak of helping the so-called free zones. If they really think it is in the Syrian population’s interest –and I do not think it is – there are safe zones indeed, namely the Kurdish zones where the populations that flee the fighting find refuge. So why do they refuse the Kurdish regions their help, if what they have in mind is truly a Humanitarian support? To help Syria effectively, it is necessary to promote a political solution. The Western countries, Russia and China must find a compromise. Unfortunately so far the Western powers have sought to replace Bachar Al Assad with forces dominated by Islamists.