Opposing (Some) Arab Opposition Groups
I have been arguing with some friends in the Middle East. Some wonder about my decision to go against Arab opposition groups even before they have a chance to reach power. I remind people that the Baath Party was an opposition group, and it too promised freedom and justice and even the liberation of Palestine.
We should not wait for the gallows to be mounted in order to express fierce opposition to opposition groups that have exhibited various signs of intolerance, deception, and subservience to reactionary forces. This applies to different opposition groups throughout the region.
It should be stated at the outset that no Arab regime deserves support – all of them lack electoral legitimacy, and all have violated the rights of their people. And all have failed in the larger issue of standing up to Israel and its occupation and war crimes. Furthermore, not a single Arab regime is free of corruption. But opposition to all Arab regimes without exception, should not lead one to endorse all Arab opposition groups without exception.
Many Arab opposition groups have been nothing but tools for some Arab governments. The Syrian Baathist regime, for example, used to sponsor its own version of Iraqi opposition groups, while Iraq did the same with some Syrian opposition groups.
Moreover, Gulf money has tainted more than one Arab opposition group. The case of the NATO-backed transitional council in Libya, the NTC, is now too fresh in our mind: the massacres and war crimes that have already been committed by the NTC justify opposition to it, even before it seized power.
It has proven itself to be unqualified to fit into the paradigm of new Arab governments based on the rule of law and freedom. This tool of NATO has even inexplicably requested the extension of the NATO mandate, when the latter justified its mission by reference to a UN Security Council resolution that spoke about defending civilians from the Gaddafi regime.
The Gaddafi regime fell, and Gaddafi was sodomized, tortured, and killed, but the Council that promised to bring democracy to Libya still wanted NATO to defend it – from its critics presumably.
Many opposition groups in the present-day Arab world are mere tools of tyrannical Arab governments. The Syrian Muslim Brotherhood has been close to Saudi Arabia for more than a decade, while the Libyan Transitional Council has been supported and armed by Qatar. An-Nahda’s leader, Rashid Ghannoushi, inaugurated his electoral victory with a visit to Qatar.
In other words, some Arab opposition groups may promise democracy and rule of law, while they carry the agenda of a sponsoring tyrannical government. The role of Saudi Arabia and Qatar is not hidden from the formation of the Syrian National Council. And the “president” of the Syrian Monitor of Human Rights – based in London and probably the most cited source on news on Syria in the world – Rami Abdulrahman, told the mouthpiece of Prince Salman, Ash-Sharq Al-Awsat: “Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques is the most influential Arab leader in the Syrian street, more than any other Arab leader, for he enjoys the love and appreciation from sections of the Syrian street.”
That a president of a human rights council could be a fan of the Saudi King and its propaganda sheets, tells volumes about the political orientations of this group.
No, we should not wait until several Arab opposition groups reach power before we go after them. The writings on the wall are clear: some of those groups are intolerant, sectarian and carry reactionary agendas. It is our duty, if we truly care about the welfare of the Syrian or Libyan or Tunisian people, to speak out against those opposition groups who promise to take the people from one form of tyranny to another.
There are worrisome signs on Arab horizons – the Arab counter-revolutionary forces are regrouping and trying to hijack what began as genuinely popular movements. There is a danger that the Arab counter-revolution replaces one tyrannical regime with one that is both tyrannical and subservient to its own agenda. We can’t afford to stay silent: not about the tyranny of the current regimes, nor the tyrannies that are being prepared by the GCC to prevail in the Arab world.