Saturday, March 18, 2006

The Front!

So, Khaddam and Bayanouni have finally done it: the National Salvation Front has just been formed, with the participation of three members of the Syrian National Council, Hussam al-Deiri, Najib Ghadban and Fahmi Kharallah, each representing his own movement or current.

But, what does this exactly mean? What is its significance?

My friend Joshua Landis has examined this from perspective of Bayanouni, saying that this was “smart politics” on his part. On the other hand, it was hard for Josh to take Khaddam “seriously,” on account of who the man had been of course, up until recently.

Yet, it is rather obvious that both men’s presence is going to be problematic, perhaps even equally so, for different segments of the Syrian people. Religious minorities and many Baath members will always be suspicious of Bayanouni's presence, no matter what says or does, while Khaddam's previous involvement with the regime is bound to haunt him, for the time being at least, if not for the rest of his life.

As such, Bayanouni’s position as a kingmaker or future President is far from being sealed. There is still room for quite a few surprises ahead. In fact, the very nature of this development all but ensures that. All in all though, this is definitely quite an important move, still, whether it is destined to find “purchase” among the Syrian people or not will depend heavily on the nature of the media campaign that should be launched as part of this effort.

But if Khaddam and Bayanouni continue to insist on playing the starring role in the upcoming media blitz, they might just be doing their cause a major disservice. For the Syrian people need to see some new faces on the scene, faces that are less troubling somehow and that do not invoke so much difficult remembrances, faces that might even inspire hope and confidence. Indeed, the upcoming media game should be left to the more liberal elements in the Front, whose final composition, as we can clearly see, is still being debated.

So, where am I in all this, some inquiring minds have already begun inquiring? Am I “in,” seeing that many of my friends indeed are, or have I been left out in the cold (or warmth for that matter, depending on one’s particular point of view)? Or, and seeing that I may not be in a position to decide whether to be in or out, do I approve or disapprove of this development?

Well, despite the cynicism that I have repeatedly expressed before with regard to Khaddam, his history and his talks with Bayanouni, I do, nonetheless, think that the formation of the Front, viewed using that faith-shattering prism of politics, does indeed constitute a positive development, one that not only promises to break the potential political stalemate we see in the country, but one that provides for a mechanism for managing the critical transitional phase ahead as well, helping us avoid the mayhem that falling regime will surely try to instigate.

For all the pragmatic reasons in the world, then, I, heretically enough, approve. But does this mean that I am “in”?

Well, you tell me: do you think that I am? Or do you think that I, given the chance, should be? It does matter to me to hear your views on this, be it in the comment section or by personal contact. Let me sample some more opinions here. At this critical juncture, the more I listen the better, which is why I have shied away from blogging for a while. I was too busy listening (while managing a minor bout of depression, as you might have noticed from my recent scattered posts.