"No one from the SNC has influence inside Syria. Most members of the SNC are jumping on a train that started from the street," says Ammar Qurabi, a Syrian human rights activist…
The most divisive issue surrounding the SNC, however, clearly remains the prominent role played by the Muslim Brotherhood. "The Muslim Brotherhood is the only party in town," says the Ankara-based Western diplomat.
The Brothers have been exiled from Syria for 30 years after losing a bitter armed conflict with the regime in the 1980s, and some activists distrust its outlook on democracy and the future composition of a post-Assad government…
Russia can be an ally in advocating a "third path."
"To achieve this goal, China supports all efforts in consistence with the U.N. charter and principles, and we are ready to strengthen communication with all parties in Syria and the international community and continue to play a constructive role," Wen said, adding that China would "absolutely not protect any party, including the Syrian government," Chinese media reported.
The liberal trend of the opposition is represented by the recently registered secular democratic social movement led by Nabil Feysal… He is an outright opponent of the Islamic fundamentalism, supporter of the liberal democracy. His goal is to turn Syria into “Middle Eastern Denmark”.
The National Committee for the Unity of Syrian Communists is the most influential component of the left (communist) trend of the opposition within the country…headed by Qadri Jamil, a prominent Syrian economist and the professor at the Damascus University. He is the only representative of the opposition who entered the committee on the design of the new constitution…
It is not difficult to characterize these political parties (including one that defines itself as “more conservative than the Ba’ath” and having “no differences of principle” with the ruling party) as part of the regime’s strategy to hopelessly muddy the opposition waters and retain the upper hand in a multi-party environment.
Nevertheless, Qadri Jamil, the Syrian Communist, is the focus of friendly interest from Russia.
Jamil led a delegation to Moscow in October 2011. The Russian media carefully noted his rejection of foreign intervention, and obligingly publicized his opposition bona fides:
Liu’s responses also promoted China’s position that it can interact with all Syrian opposition forces, including the SNC:
China has been in touch with major Syrian opposition groups over a stretch of time. During Chinese Special Envoy on the Middle East Issue Ambassador Wu Sike's visit to Syria last October, he met with leaders from the National Coordination Body for Democratic Change and other Syrian opposition groups. China has also made contact and maintained interactions with the National Council of Syria.
Reading between the lines, one can make the following deductions about the PRC’s calculations on Syria:
First, there is no clear consensus within the global community, in the Arab world, or even among the opposition for collapsing the Assad regime.
It looks like the US and Turkey are increasingly keen on Assad accepting a Yemen solution (obligingly floated by Tunisia)—for Assad to drift off into exile so the West can declare victory and turn its attention to other, easier matters while the locals slug it out for pre-eminence under the watchful eye of the Syrian army.
However, Assad, still enjoying a significant measure of support from Russia, China, and Iran, doesn’t seem willing to go anywhere.
There is a window of opportunity for the PRC to promote its desired outcome: reform of the Assad regime and its survival as a reasonably stable ally for China in the Middle East.
Second, the West, if not the GCC, is having second thoughts about its stated enthusiasm for acting as the SNC’s paymaster, arms supplier, and political and diplomatic ally.
The unpleasant experience in Egypt implies that catapulting the intransigent Muslim Brotherhood into a position of political advantage is not necessarily the formula for creating a stable, pro-Western, Israel-friendly democracy in Syria.
More worryingly, al-Qaeda’s enthusiastic attempt to piggyback on the spiraling unrest in Syria—and the car bombings in Aleppo which, if not the work of Zawahiri’s minions, can probably be traced back to al-Qaeda’s Gulf-funded Sunni Islamist fans in western Iraq—are a warning that backing the feckless SNC in an agenda of regime collapse is not going to be the carefree, Iran-bashing romp so many interventionists are advertising.
Third, if the US and Turkey are sufficiently squeamish about the possibility of negative outcomes in Syria, they may not facilitate the flood of arms, money, and advisors the Gulf states would probably be ready to unleash in order to implode the regime.
Fourth, there is a possibility that, as the crisis drags on, more activists and dissidents will decide they will not want to be part of the Muslim Brotherhood and its creature, the SNC. The SNC might split, leaving the MB in a marginalized rump organization while the secularists, liberals, and moderates i.e. those more likely to be willing to negotiate a political resolution with Assad migrate to the NCC (the possibility hinted at by Burhan Ghalioun’s abortive alliance between the SNC and the NCC).
The one observation that can be made about strategies relying on four contingencies is that they rarely work out.
For the West, the political benefits of posturing against Assad may well outweigh any qualms about the adverse consequences of further empowering the SNC and militarizing the conflict.
Nevertheless, even if China’s offers to mediate come to naught, the costs to China are minimal. If Assad’s regime collapses, so be it; China has its foot in the door of the New Syria through the NCC.
In any case, events inside Syria might soon escape the ability of anybody to control them—not Assad, not China or Russia, not the SNC, and not the GCC, NATO, or the West.