Ghalioun Emails: Qatari Money and Lost Democracy

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Arab League Secretary General Nabil al-Arabi (L) and Qatar's Prime Minister Sheikh Hamad bin Jassim al-Thani hold a news conference after a meeting of a committee of ministers from the Arab League in Doha, to discuss the situation in Syria 17 April 2012. (Photo: REUTERS - Stringer)

Published Thursday, April 19, 2012

The contents of the Syrian National Council (SNC) President Burhan Ghalioun’s leaked emails, which were obtained by Al-Akhbar, reveal much of what is taking place in the “corridors” of the dominant organization in the Syrian opposition.

The SNC is certainly not a homogeneous body, pulling together many components that are only linked by their hostility toward the Syrian regime.

Its diverse nature has led to a great deal of disagreements on many issues, from differences over the decision-making process and structure of the SNC, to the demands for democracy in Syria while the SNC has not had elections and the term of its president keeps being renewed.

The main highlights of these correspondences are what they reveal about how funds from Qatari accounts are spent by the SNC and how they are transferred to Turkey under the direction of Ghalioun and two of his colleagues.

Today, Al-Akhbar is publishing a number of emails received and sent by Ghalioun.

They include a correspondence with a reporter from the Israeli Channel 10 TV station who had requested to meet Ghalioun, two emails concerning the transfer of funds from Qatar to Istanbul, and a letter from the Muslim Brotherhood’s most prominent representative in the SNC asking to relieve Bassma Kodmani from her position.

The SNC Loses Its Credibility by Renewing Ghalioun’s Appointment

On 4 April 2012, two members of the SNC, Osama al-Shorbaji and Haitham al-Hamoui, sent a letter to fellow SNC members. They called for restructuring the council due to the inefficiency of members, the need to move from appointments to elections, and to stop extending the term of Ghalioun.

In the name of God, the Most Gracious, the Merciful

The question of restructuring the SNC might be difficult and complicated, but it is possible if the majority have pure and sincere intentions. The SNC was established on the basis of consensus between various independent parties and political formations. This consensus extended to the formation of its management and leadership structures.

Although it seems unavoidable, this consensus has been an impediment to democratic decision-making inside the SNC. Most of its members are absolutely inactive in making decisions or holding the administrative cadre accountable in the event of negligence. Therefore, the best solution would be to elect the General Secretariat and Executive Board through the General Assembly, not through consensus.

The leadership will thus answer directly to the General Assembly itself and not to the factions that selected it. In any case, whether this method is implemented or not, there are several basic principles that should be adopted to enhance the performance of the SNC:

1) [In order to] clarify the nature of the various blocs in the SNC in an incontrovertible manner, the council’s website should mention the names of all the members and their affiliations. The restructuring process should begin with the names currently on the website and no new member should be added except through the mechanism adopted in the internal regulations.

2) [In order to] set clear standards and a mechanism to add new factions and individuals to the SNC, based on need and not connections and nepotism, all council members should be immediately informed of the addition of new members.

3) The Executive Board should be committed to a permanent meeting until the overthrow of the regime. In the meantime, all its members should stay in one place and in a state of semi-permanent alert. They should not leave the country without justification or official mission.

4) A process should be adopted for formal communication and informing members about missions, events, statements, voting results, etc. (Through a Facebook page, email, or SMS?)

5) The decision-making process should be clear and transparent, with a technically simplified mechanism for communications and voting for all the members of the council. In this case, Mulhem al-Jundi could help us, having worked for Cisco WebEx, which provides such services.

6) Minutes of meetings of all formal sessions should be kept so they can be used as a reference in case of any dispute or reneging on agreements.

7) The legal committee should receive and decide on complaints. All members, including the Executive Board, should abide by its decisions.

8) A five-member committee should be formed to receive and reply to requests and suggestions in a period that does not exceed one week, whether they are accepted – totally or partially – or rejected. No requests or suggestion from anyone shall be neglected. The committee shall either submit the suggestion to the General Secretariat and the Executive Board or request clarifications from the person who sent it.

9) The council should have a clear working strategy for the next few months and announce the main points of the plan.

10) The General Assembly should be involved in the work and we must rid ourselves of the problem of individualism in our work. The main responsibility should remain that of the General Secretariat and Executive Board, but we should not neglect the remaining members. They are there to help and implement orders...The Executive Board should engage people and and give them assignments, such as travel, meetings, and other types of tasks.

11) The issue of changing the president of the SNC has become critical, and a question of the council’s credibility, regardless of Dr. Ghalioun’s qualification for the presidency of the council or his performance. Repeatedly extending his term has created doubts about the credibility of the SNC. It is seeking to remove a dictatorial regime while it cannot change its president, who has no actual authority.

Osama al-Shorbaji and Haitham al-Hamwi

Israel’s Channel 10

On 14 October 2010, Ghalioun’s assistant received an email from Israeli Channel 10 reporter Emmanuelle Elbaz requesting an interview with Ghalioun. The email shows that it came following a phone conversation between the two. Elbaz elaborates about the institution she works for and says it is “known in Israel for its high journalistic standards and for being the critical, strong, and modern voice of Israeli journalism.”

The email also spoke about the history of the channel and the fact that it employs hundreds of journalists and runs several offices around the world. The next day, Ghalioun’s assistant showed her boss the letter and wrote the following reply:

Professor Ghalioun thanks you for your letter. Due to time constraints and deadlines, it is difficult to conduct [the interview] at the moment but we will inform you of the suitable time without delay.

Warm wishes,

Professor Ghalioun

Request for the Removal of Kodmani

Syrian National Council (SNC) spokesperson Bassma Kodmani became its most controversial member after appearing alongside Israelis in an interview with a French TV station. She had expressed her belief that Israel is a necessity in the Middle East.

On 26 February 2012, Deputy President of the Syrian National Council Mohammed Farouk Tayfour (deputy of the General Guide of the Muslim Brotherhood in Syria) sent a letter to Ghalioun requesting that Kodmani be relieved of her position as spokesperson of the SNC.

The letter did not come in reaction to the distribution of the controversial video but rather because she agreed that Syrian President Bashar Assad could leave Syria, without even a trial.

Dr. Burhan Ghalioun, kindly stop Dr. Bassma from being a spokesperson of the council due to the many mistakes she has committed recently, in addition to the videos circulating about her position on Israel. She should stop her statements that are harming the council.

Thank you and regards,
Mohammed Farouk Tayfour

One Million Dollars Every 5 Days

Several letters in the correspondences of Ghalioun reveal part of the funding and its movement. The council has a bank account in Qatar controlled by SNC member Osama al-Qadi. Transfers from the Qatari account to the Turkish account are done under Ghalioun’s orders and the approval of his colleagues Tayfour and Samir Nachar.

Tuesday, 6 March 2012

Dear Osama,

We need to transfer one million [US] dollars as soon as possible to the SNC account in Istanbul to provide urgent relief.

Approved by Samir, Farouk, and I.

Keep us informed.

Sunday 11 March 2012

Please transfer one million [US] dollars from our account in Qatar to our account in Istanbul.

Approved by Samir Nachar and Farouk Tayfour.

Burhan Ghalioun

“Denounce the Sect”

While many of the correspondences of SNC members that reach Ghalioun’s email stress the importance of recruiting the “Alawite component” to the opposition, others hint at the sectarianism of many members.

The most obvious examples appear in a series of correspondences between SNC members and the Executive Board in November 2011.

The exchange began with news about the kidnapping of 10 women inside Syria, prompting SNC member Khaled Kamal to send a letter to his colleagues requesting that “Burhan Ghalioun should immediately denounce the Alawite sect and liberate the free women who were kidnapped today by Alawite gangs.”

His colleague Haitham Rahme was less harsh, accusing “the filthy regime and its agents from the Alawite sect and others” of the kidnappings.

He added that these acts cannot be stopped merely “through a threat by the weak and frustrated council that cannot even issue a statement that puts things into perspective.”

This article is an edited translation from the Arabic Edition.


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