Syria: How Opposition Won PR Battle at Geneva II

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PHOTO: Foreign Minister Walid al-Moallem and senior Assad advisor Bouthaina Shaaban

One of the key dimensions of the 10-day Geneva II conference on Syria was the propaganda contest between the Assad and opposition delegations.

Indeed, with the failure of the conference to achieve any significant political advance, the primary accomplishment of the meeting may be the outcome of that contest.

If so, the opposition has won a notable victory.

Anne Barnard’s report from Geneva for The New York Times, published on Wednesday, reinforces our conclusion:

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The Syrian government officials were expected to present themselves as the grown-ups at the peace conference here, representatives of a capable, sovereign government facing opponents they call political amateurs at best, and at worst, terrorist rabble.

But that was not how it went.

The Syrian officials took offense easily. They berated fellow Syrians, foreign reporters and the head of the United Nations. They sent mixed messages, alternately ranting and cajoling. They ignored the meeting agenda, and even the time limits for speeches, by some accounts embarrassing their Russian allies. It was the kind of performance that diplomats had come to expect from the fractious exiles in the Syrian opposition.

Instead, it was the opposition’s coalition that came across as relatively cool and professional, remaining calm and cordial even when provoked by the other side.

It was a turnabout that has the exile opposition coalition and its Western backers declaring an early, if modest, victory on the global stage, even as government delegates contend that their defiance was deliberate, a successful counterstrike at a “campaign of lies” against Syria and its president, Bashar al-Assad.

Exile leaders believe they gained a measure of much-needed credibility at home and abroad, as they stuck to core messages: pushing for “genuine” democracy and pluralism, as stipulated in the meeting protocols, denouncing terrorism and holding the government accountable for repression.

“We surprised ourselves,” Oubai Shahbandar, a Syrian-American consultant to the coalition, said Tuesday.

The coalition now hopes to capitalize on what it reads as signs of displeasure with the government from its strongest backer, Russia, as the coalition president flies to Moscow next week with pledges of continued friendship in a post-Assad Syria.

Numerous Western diplomats and opposition delegates said that during the opening speeches last week in Montreux, Switzerland, Russia’s foreign minister, Sergey V. Lavrov, sat with a pained expression and even tapped his watch as Syria’s foreign minister spoke and sparred with the United Nations secretary general, Ban Ki-moon.

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  1. Exile leaders believe they gained a measure of much-needed credibility at home and abroad, as they stuck to core messages: pushing for “genuine” democracy and pluralism, as stipulated in the meeting protocols, denouncing terrorism and holding the government accountable for repression.

    I think the real PR battle is to convince the world that they won the PR battle.

    The coalition now hopes to capitalize on what it reads as signs of displeasure with the government from its strongest backer, Russia, as the coalition president flies to Moscow next week with pledges of continued friendship in a post-Assad Syria.

    That would be an exercise in futility. The coalition is fractured and can’t even stay on message. Those that turned up at Geneva were a small interest of the coalition and represent an irrelevant and powerless faction.

    The Russians are not interested in pledges of friendship. The Saudis tried to bribe and threaten then and they didn’t budge. What the Russians want is a regime that will preserve their interests and maintain stability. Most of all, they do no want a US/Saudi puppet regime, and that is all the rebels can hope to be.

    As the NYT article states, “Russian officials have long said they are not committed to Mr. Assad personally, but see no alternative that could stabilize Syria.” The rebels can’t even get the factions to stop fighting among themselves, so they have no hope in hell of stabilizing Syria.

    Other than that basic fact, I wouldn’t place too much weight in what the NYT says about this. As it suggests, it’s only carrying water for Syrian exiles trying to spin the message.

  2. The ranting and drooling Moallem has send one message to the international community : The syrian regime is degenerated and its representatives have become an ambarrassing load even for Russia.

    The allegedly secular and Arabist Syrian regime is now an appendage of Iran, a religious and non-Arab regional power.

    At Yarmouk Camp Assad has started to starve the Palestinian refugees to death.

    And when it comes to socialism and justice for the workers and farmers, the past decades have seen the emergence and expansion in Syria of a parasite mafia-like economic class under the protection of the police torture state and the Assad family mafia flanked by the criminal gang called Shabiha.

    The bitter political experience represented by the poison gas massmurder Assad , which has betrayed its people and their dreams, and damaged the security of its neighbors, has now brought Syria to the brink of the abyss.

    Historically, Syria is known as a land of culture, civilization and different religions. The birthplace of three Roman emperors and home to the world’s most ancient cities, Aleppo and Damascus, it was home to international sources of trade, industry, architecture, music and literature.

    However, this same country today has become
    the “killing fields” of the middle east. –

    The results of the Assad clan can be viewed in syria today : Death, Destruction and Misery mixed with barrel bombs and poison gas. Moallems geneve performance is merely the i point of the behavior of a felonious regime. Russia should watch out not to get ridiculous because even the devil would not get the idea to extend the ´bloody dictatorship of Assad.

    Because even the hell can`t make it work today
    because of the overload Assad is creating on a daily base.

    • The allegedly secular and Arabist Syrian regime is now an appendage of Iran, a religious and non-Arab regional power.

      That’s a pretty bizarre claim given that a recent poll of half a million in the Arab world places Assad as the most popular figure in the Arab world.

      At Yarmouk Camp Assad has started to starve the Palestinian refugees to death.

      And the rebels are firing at aid convoys and preventing them entering the camp.

      And when it comes to socialism and justice for the workers and farmers, the past decades have seen the emergence and expansion in Syria of a parasite mafia-like economic class under the protection of the police torture state and the Assad family mafia flanked by the criminal gang called Shabiha.

      Which makes is a shadow of true dictatorships like Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Bahrain, that don’t even try to hide it.

      The setup for failure begins with the limited participation. The rigged nature of the negotiations was demonstrated when the UN had to rescind an invitation to Iran to participate at the demand of the United States and the Syrian opposition group. Iran is a close ally of Syria and keeping them out of the negotiations is an effort to weaken and isolate Syria. It is an indication of a desire by the United States for a preordained conclusion rather than a fair negotiation between the parties.

      Even Syrian civil society was excluded from these negotiations. Only the militant fighters were allowed to participate, which made it especially egregious. Many of these civil groups were working for transformation of Syria before the terrorism and war began. One example is the exclusion of woman, although women from across Syria have been meeting and put together a Syrian Women’s Charter for Peace, their request to be included in the talks has been denied. Women and children comprise the majority of the millions who have been internally displaced or forced to flee the country. And they have suffered in horrible ways.

      The fact they were ecluded proves that not only did the SNC not represent the other dozen rebel factions who refused to participate, but they do not represent Syrian society eiher.

      • 1..Reality vs. Propaganda Fantasy

        Bizarr is your claim that arabs at mid east would support the butcher of sunni arabs.
        Can you tell me anyone showing support of Assad’s genocide?

        Assads real war looks like this

        https://twitter.com/LatifUygun/status/428194798030168064/photo/1
        http://yallasouriya.wordpress.com/2014/02/02/aleppo-tnt-barrel-apocalyse/

        and the arab discussion is about to compare Assads warcrimes with crimes against humanity committed in WWII
        http://67.159.45.21/Archive/129015?utm_source=twitterfeed&utm_medium=twitter

        Beyond that: The last poll you can trust shows an overhelming arabian support of 89 % for the rebels
        and a total rejection of the Iranian attitude.

        2..Yarmouk

        The sad story of Yarmouk reveals the true attitude of the iranian regime to the palestinen refugees.
        Yarmouk is besieged since one year by Assad troops and it´s people starved almost to death.
        What most people know for long now shows up in all brutality: The iranian regime doesn`t care.

        Iranians are using the palestinen refugees case for it´s hollow propaganda only.

        3..Purely hatred against other arab nations (like always) and distraction from the subject does not bring you further – on the contrary it is going to break your neck. But at the moment it uncovers your true motivation and hatred against arabs. It seems to be that you haven`t discovered yet that your sad argumentation at this point suffers shipwreck.

        4..The Khamenei, Suleimani and IRGC iranian policy is to support a war criminal, a massmurder, a poison gas murder and a brutal torturer. Ali Khamneiei iranian politics supports genocid on sunni arabs. This is an anti – arab stance. How crazy someone must be to believe that there are arabs agreeing to their own extinction ?

        The Iranian Labour News Agency (ILNA) quoted Rafsanjani as saying Syrian authorities had fired chemical weapons at their own people. This is a true and real iranian attitude – the same as the rejection of poison gas attacks.

        Beyond there are many reasons why Iran did not took part at the Geneve negotiatians.

        a. Iranians have no supremacy in the Arab World and at mid east
        b. Zarif didn`t wan`t to take part for several reasons
        c. Iran isn`t an Ally of Syria – it`s an ally of a massmurder. Big difference.
        d. As long as iran is supporting murder and torture in the Arab world, it remains that nobody is even listening if Ali and his gang
        are speaking.

        e. For the first time Syrian civil society wasn`t excluded from these negotiations.
        There are so many sad and tragic reports about it.

        f. As long as your are not accepting realty on the ground as long there is no possibilty for you even to take part at a serious discussion. SNC is part of the syrian opposition. Dream on.

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