US promotes ''opposition'' to topple Bashar…
Following the ouster of the Iraqi regime headed by Saddam Hussein, eyes are currently focused on the "new political order" in the Middle East and how developments in Iraq are expected to reflect on the region's countries and the entire world as a whole.
Iraq's neighboring country – Syria – has seen many upheavals throughout its long history, but is the world about to witness a dramatic one in the near future?
Recently, a Syrian "opposition" group held significant meetings in the US capital with its leaders declaring their aim was to turn their homeland into a secular, multi-party state.
"Syria owes its delusional government to a Ba'ath Party still living in the1960 s and to a fear by the US State Department that the alternative is scarier, given the rise of the Muslim Brotherhood and other extremist elements of the last 20 years," Washington-based businessman Farid N. Ghadry said at a National Press Club newsmaker briefing.
Ghadry, president of the Reform Party of Syria (RPS), had previously met with tribal leaders who came to meet him in Europe. He said that for the first time, a coalition of Arab, Kurdish, and Christian parties has urged its constituents to take action for "democracy" in Syria and are uniting under the banner of the Syrian Democratic Coalition.
In October2001 , following the September 11 attacks, Ghadry, along with several American-Syrians, came up with the idea of the Reform Party of Syria. A constitution was written and a comprehensive program has been put in place to bring "regime change" to Syria. Today, the party is enjoying the tacit support from many organizations and people in the US administration and think tanks in Washington and is active in lobbying the US Congress and cultivating the media.
Ghadry, who has been living in the US for some 30 years, and the other co-founders of RPS are hoping to return to Syria one day to rebuild the country on the basis of principles of "real economic and political reforms" that will "usher democracy, prosperity, freedom of expression, and human rights" in addition to lasting peace with open borders with all of Syria’s neighboring countries. RPS has become increasingly visible during the last few months, promoting a "pro-democracy" message framed in the context of a new Syrian constitution.
Ghadry said his goal is to disprove the myth that the only alternative to the Ba'ath Party is the Muslim Brotherhood. His message to the American government is quite clear - "If you want democracy in Syria, we are here." He challenged those who feel Damascus can be changed with "the sticks and carrots" that have been employed thus far.
"We as a coalition are going to bring the democratic masses to bear on the US government." He characterized the Ba'ath Party as the ruler, "Islamic violent groups" as the spoiler, and the "democratic opposition" as the successor.
A second conference is scheduled to take place in Europe in mid-January. Ghadry conveyed the coalition is self-funded, but "it would be unfair" to comment on other forms of support it might have received from the US government.
The weekend conference produced "a complex document" in Arabic, the major points of which Ghadri summarized in English. The first is replacing "the present dictatorial regime in Syria with a modern democratic system of governance accountable to all the people of Syria through free elections."
The "coalition" supports human rights, free expression, equality before the law and political participation for all Syrians. It pledges to combat "terrorism" in all of its forms. "We all know that Syria today does support terrorist organizations that actually kill innocent people," Ghadry said."We would like to see peaceful coexistence with all of our neighbors."
The "opposition" plans to reform the educational system to eradicate the teaching of "hatred". "The Ba'ath Party told me at the age of 5 how to hate ... Lebanese, Turks, Iraqis, Israelis," Ghadry said.
Ghadry urged all Syrians to join the new coalition and said the ruling Ba'ath Party was coming to the end of the road. He also said he wants Syrians to understand how serious US President George W. Bush is about democracy in the Middle East and to stop "fearing" the Ba'ath Party. Indeed, during a November speech, President Bush reiterated his call for establishing democracy in the Middle East. "The advance of freedom is the calling of our time; it is the calling of our country" the US leader said.
Taufic Hamdosch, representing the Syrian Democratic Party of Kurdistan, assessed that Kurds make up over 20 percent of Syria's population. "Ever since the Ba'ath Party rose to power in1963 , the Kurds have suffered under horrible conditions," he said. "The Kurdish language and culture are not allowed. Kurds are excluded from all administrative and government positions."
A change of regime would include the establishment of the rights of Kurds living within Syria "united under one nation."
Hamdosch said the "bankrupt ideologies" of the Ba'athist regime have destroyed the fabric of Syrian society. "We are asking all democratic countries to stop supporting the Stalinist regime of fear and intimidation of Bashar al-Assad. We especially call on the countries in the European Union such as France and Germany, in addition to Russia, to support our cause. We call upon the Syrian people to take an active part in this democratic coalition and to participate with its leadership to bring about important and democratic change to all Syrians."
The Party of Modernization and Democracy for Syria was represented at the briefing by Ali Hussein. Ghadry said this party is "strong among youth and students in Syria." "Even though we call for peaceful actions, so far we have not been allowed to operate in Syria," Hussein said. "Firas Kassas, who founded this party, is outside of Syria for reasons beyond his control. All individuals seeking democracy are expelled."
Hussein said of the17 , 000political prisoners in Syria, the government acknowledges only2 ,000.
With regards to the situation in Iraq, Ghadry said "we all know" that Syria is allowing fighters to enter Iraq to engage US and occupation forces. "As a Syrian-American, I don't think we should accept the idea of an ambassador to go back to Syria. This is a form of normalization, and today Syria has chosen not to normalize its relationship with the United States through its terrorist activities."
The United States does not currently have an ambassador in Damascus, although the embassy is operating.
Other members of the "coalition" include The Christian Syrian Movement, led by Jean Antar, The Syrian Democratic Forum, headed by Hamdan Al-Asi, a tribal association, represented by Muhammad Al Gheida, The Syrian Women and Children Association, headed by Badrieh Khalil, The "Syria for All Syrians" association of Syrians living abroad, headed by Malek Assaf, The Syrian Human Rights Association, headed by Salam Amir, The Democratic Center for Research, Palmyra Publications, headed by Khaled Hakki and three additional parties, who asked not to be identified for security reasons.
In an interview to the Nazareth-based A-Sinara newspaper, Ghadry noted the Syrian "opposition" is working in coordination with the Bush administration and that a list of exiled Syrian figures is being established to replace Bashar al-Assad and to topple the Ba'ath regime. He said that the Syrian "opposition" has learned its lessons from the Iraqi opposition and added that meetings were recently held in Western capitals, especially Paris, to form the list of officials who are to carry out this plan.
The series of meetings were held between factions of the Syrian "opposition" with the goal of establishing a force that in due time would replace the existing regime in Damascus.
Farid Ghadry told A-Sinara he had participated in the Paris meetings and that the coordination efforts with the US have been taking place in an orderly manner. He added there is a great understanding on behalf of the Americans to the Syrian "opposition's" requests with regards to the future.
Farid Ghadry was born in Aleppo, Syria in June1954 . The family emigrated to Lebanon because of political turmoil and settled in Beirut. In1975 , the Ghadry family, once again, emigrated to the United States and settled in the suburbs of Washington DC.
Ghadry graduated from the American University in 1979 with a degree in Finance and Marketing. He worked at EG&G, Intertech, Inc., a subsidiary of EG&G, Inc., a Fortune 500 defense contractor, for two years before starting his own business in 1983 called International TechGroup, Inc. Ghadry sold his business in 1989 and has been involved in many entrepreneurial operations since.
According to Ghadry, the current Syrian government of President Bashar Assad is comprised of a small "cabal of thugs who do not represent the will of the Syrian people". Ghadry feels the time is ripe for change in Syria. "Five percent of the population cannot rule95 % of the country forever," said Ghadry. "And it is the time to change this reality."
Ghadry, due his father’s work in Saudi Arabia, was granted Saudi citizenship. That passport has been revoked because of his public stand on the issue of democratic reforms in Saudi Arabia during the Iran-Contra affair in 1987 and in the past several years.
Farid is the son of media entrepreneur Nihad Al-Ghadry, owner of Al-Moharer newspaper, which has close links to the Ba'ath party. Nihad himself enjoys good relations with current regime officials. According to A-Sinara, Nihad cut off relations with his son, Farid, due to the latter's opinions expressed against the Ba'ath.
It should be noted that sources close to the regime claim that Ghadry actually only represents himself and the "opposition of words" and not more than that. The Syrian "opposition" is not more than a bunch of people seeking personal fame, as opposed to an organized body with an ideology and work plan, sources close to the regime claimed.
Syria's ruling echelon should be fully aware of these oppositional occurrences, which are strongly backed by the Bush administration, so as to prevent dangerous consequences from taking place in the country.
Moreover, isn't it about time for the United States to stop meddling in the internal affairs of other countries and to create fictitious "opposition groups" with the sole purpose of serving its own interests and ignoring the national interests of other countries? (Albawaba.com)