Syrian opposition: united, peaceful, and not Islamist.

Opinions about events beyond our borders.
June 7 2011 9:48 AM

Meet the Syrian Opposition

It's the most liberal and Western-friendly of the Arab Spring uprisings.

(Continued from Page 2)

Most of the NIC recommendations were affirmed at the Syria Conference for Change, a meeting of about 300 oppositionists that took place in the resort town of Antalya, Turkey, between May 31 and June 3. Thirty-one delegates were elected to an executive committee of a "consultative council" to represent the Syrian people as a whole. Perhaps recognizing Ali Habib's nonviability, the council named Syrian Vice President Farouk al-Sharaa as a new favorite transitional steward. But of particular interest was how the Muslim Brothers and Islamists in attendance were cowed into accepting the idea of a "secular democracy." According to Joshua Landis, director of the Center for Middle East Studies at the University of Oklahoma, "they resisted this most of the day but ultimately conceded at the eleventh hour. We do not have the statement or wording on this 'secular' statement. But the [Muslim Brothers] accepted to not contest the separation of state and religion in the conference statement."

This seems significant. It doesn't mean that Syrian Islamists pose no threat to the opposition or to whatever government might emerge if and when Assad is ousted. But it demonstrates their political weakness relative to their brethren in Egypt and Tunisia. Assurances from non-Islamists as to the makeup of the opposition might be mistaken for special pleading; but clear victories in their wrangles for representative power are more definitive.

Where does all this leave the United States?

Advertisement

Quite apart from a moral obligation to support the Syrian people, Washington has a rare opportunity to get behind the consultative council while it's still broadly amenable to American interests. Let Iran, Russia, and Hezbollah make the mistake of shirked solidarity. Declaring common cause is all the more urgent because the Syrians aren't asking for any form of Western military intervention—at least not yet. The White House need only provide unequivocal rhetorical support and material aid in the form of encrypted laptops, satellite phones, and SIM cards to evade Assad's media blackouts. Hillary Clinton said on June 2 that Assad's legitimacy has "nearly" run out. One wonders what it will take to drain that legitimacy completely. Meanwhile, a viable alternative to Assad's death-squad regime is beginning to get its act together and searching for friends who might someday become allies.

TODAY IN SLATE

Politics

The Democrats’ War at Home

How can the president’s party defend itself from the president’s foreign policy blunders?

Congress’ Public Shaming of the Secret Service Was Political Grandstanding at Its Best

Michigan’s Tradition of Football “Toughness” Needs to Go—Starting With Coach Hoke

A Plentiful, Renewable Resource That America Keeps Overlooking

Animal manure.

Windows 8 Was So Bad That Microsoft Will Skip Straight to Windows 10

Politics

Cringing. Ducking. Mumbling.

How GOP candidates react whenever someone brings up reproductive rights or gay marriage.

Building a Better Workplace

You Deserve a Pre-cation

The smartest job perk you’ve never heard of.

Hasbro Is Cracking Down on Scrabble Players Who Turn Its Official Word List Into Popular Apps

Florida State’s New President Is Underqualified and Mistrusted. He Just Might Save the University.

  News & Politics
Politics
Sept. 30 2014 9:33 PM Political Theater With a Purpose Darrell Issa’s public shaming of the head of the Secret Service was congressional grandstanding at its best.
  Business
Moneybox
Sept. 30 2014 7:02 PM At Long Last, eBay Sets PayPal Free
  Life
Gaming
Sept. 30 2014 7:35 PM Who Owns Scrabble’s Word List? Hasbro says the list of playable words belongs to the company. Players beg to differ.
  Double X
The XX Factor
Sept. 30 2014 12:34 PM Parents, Get Your Teenage Daughters the IUD
  Slate Plus
Behind the Scenes
Sept. 30 2014 3:21 PM Meet Jordan Weissmann Five questions with Slate’s senior business and economics correspondent.
  Arts
Brow Beat
Sept. 30 2014 8:54 PM Bette Davis Talks Gender Roles in a Delightful, Animated Interview From 1963
  Technology
Future Tense
Sept. 30 2014 7:00 PM There’s Going to Be a Live-Action Tetris Movie for Some Reason
  Health & Science
Bad Astronomy
Oct. 1 2014 7:30 AM Say Hello to Our Quasi-Moon, 2014 OL339
  Sports
Sports Nut
Sept. 30 2014 5:54 PM Goodbye, Tough Guy It’s time for Michigan to fire its toughness-obsessed coach, Brady Hoke.