Monday, 27 July 2015
The self-government revolution that’s happening under the radar in Syria
Frederic C. Hof
'A young lawyer said something striking: “This is not just a revolution against Bashar al-Assad. It is a revolution for self-government. Replacing Bashar with someone else issuing decrees from Damascus — even someone much better than Bashar — is not acceptable.”
There are today hundreds of local councils throughout non-Assad parts of Syria. Some operate clandestinely in areas overrun by the so-called Islamic State. Some operate in areas where the Assad regime — with Iran’s full support — unloads helicopter-borne “barrel bombs” onto schools, hospitals and mosques. Some operate in neighborhoods subjected to Iranian-facilitated starvation sieges. These local councils are supported by a vast network of civil society organizations — the kinds of voluntary professional associations that undergird Western democracies. All of this is new to Syria. It is the essence of the Syrian Revolution.
The alternative to Assad is arising from Syria’s grass roots. That alternative needs to be nurtured and protected by the United States and its partners. And it needs to be connected to external structures recognized by the West as legitimate. Failure to do so to date accounts in part for bizarre concerns vocalized by Obama administration officials that Assad — the mass murderer — may fall too quickly. He cannot fall quickly enough. Yet those in governments who agonize about the seeming absence of alternatives have done far too little to nurture one. They have failed to connect the dots between would-be leaders in exile and those inside Syria who are leading a self-government revolution.'