“US Asks NSF to Elect New Leader for Credibility,” by Bette Dam

Bette Dam, an enterprising German journalist sent the following article on the National Salvation Front meeting in Brussels. It took place on May 13. The NSF is the primary Syrian opposition organization outside of Syria. It was formed a year ago. She writes:

Hi Joshua, Although there might be a lot of news coming from Beirut right now, I send you one interesting (small) detail about the developments in the NSF of Khaddam. Last week they met in Brussels, and I was there too. The meeting was off the record and behind closed doors. Before and after the two meetings I met with members and talked with them about their plans.
All the best, Bette

US Asks the NSF to elect a new leader to obtain credibility
BY Bette Dam
May 19, 2007, Brussels

The American delegation of the National Salvation Front (NSF) proposed that the organization carry out elections of its own in order to choose a new leader. The suggestion caused considerable controversy at the NDF's internal meeting in Brussels (May 13, 2007). According to sources who attended the meeting, Hussam al-Dairi – the representative of the NSF in the US and member of the General Secretariat of the NSF–  explained that US-officials want the NSF to organize elections to try to obtain credibility. Al – Dairi joined the meeting via the telephone.

Abdul Halim Khaddam, the current leader, is too controversial, according to US policy makers, Dairi explained. He served for many years as Syria's vice-president under both Hafiz al-Assad and Bashar al-Assad. He also remains a Ba’athist. Because of Khaddam's background, the US administration is reluctant to work with the NSF, believes it lacks credibility. Around 50 NSF members gathered in a luxurious hotel in Brussels last week in order to plan for their organization's meeting in Berlin on the 4th and 5th of June, which will mark the one-year anniversary of the formation of the NSF.

The US suggestion that the NSF elect a new leader came as a big surprise to the members of the new party. The NSF was the brain-child of Abdel Halim Khaddam, who left Syria with his family in 2005 shortly after being relieved of the office of vice president. Khaddam combined forces with Ali Sadraddin Bayanouni, the exiled leader of the Muslim Brotherhood – Syria's oldest Islamic Party – in order to create a united opposition front that could combine Islamist and secular parties. Only last month, the NSF opened an office in Washington. Most members did not expect a proposal like this, said a number of participants in the meeting.

It seems that Khaddam had not contemplated giving up his position as chairman of the Front. He continues to see himself as the best chairman possible for the NSF. At the same time, Khaddam complained about the lack of international support for the NSF during the meeting, sources said.

He wants more interest from the both the US and the EU because the NSF is Syria's only credible opposition group, members explained. The increasing US and European dialogue with the current “Syrian mafia-regime’ is disappointing, Khaddam added.  

The Kurdish members of the NSF approved of the of idea of elections if it would win increased international credibility for the opposition.

A number of independents and communists who belong to the Front rejected the notion of replacing Khaddam. “On the contrary," one communist insisted, "we need three of four Khaddams to make a fist against the dictator in Syria.”  The participants in the leadership gathering spoke about ‘much more important topics’, added the communist, such as getting more media-attention for the NSF. “For me," he concluded, "the lack of media-attention is the problem, not Khaddam.”

The NSF will try to open a bank account in preparation for raising the one or two million dollars needed to start a satellite channel. “That will be a great revolution for the Syrians in Syria, because then we can reach them," explained one member.

Another way of getting attention is a demonstration by the NSF planned for next week. Although Khaddam did not speak about the demonstration himself, some members talked up the demonstration in the hope that the Syrian opposition will turn out in force on May 27 in front of the Syrian embassy in Brussels. The 27th is the date that the presidential referendum will be held in Syria.

Addendum: Tony, the leader of the NSF's Australian branch, added this perspective in the comment section. Tony asks why I didn't call up leaders of the NSF to get a fuller view of the Brussel's procedings before posting Bette Dam's article. The answer is because I received Bette Dam's interesting article at 2:00a.m. in the morning and posted it. I had to get up at 6:00 for work. Unfortunately I cannot be a full-time reporter. I do hope, at some point to carry out proper interviews with leaders of the NSF in the future. Here are Tony's remarks which give a fuller picture.

tony said:


Dear Josh
As a NSF member and its representative to Australasia and I work very closely with Mr Khaddam and the executives I would like to set the record straight about some of the issue in Bette Dam article
1- At that meeting the issue of Mr. Khaddam leadership has never been raised in any shape or form . It was a mere suggestion that after a year we should start applying a democratic methods for our offices as the NSF has rapidly expanded in the last 12 months . this has been agreed to and in our GM in SEPTEMBER all offices will be up for proper election that is includes all members in the executives (which includes Mr. Khaddm and Bayanoni of course)
2- The issue of a “president” type position in the NSF has been resolved in the principles that govern NSF and it is “ NSF is a coalition of all willing participants
Who agree on the three main points
A- change of the regime in Syria
B- free and democratic election
C- a new constitution for Syria the guarantee freedom to its citizens
so the notion of a dominant figure head never been the intended upon the creation
of this body
3- it is always required is in any political movement in exile to gather as much as
possible support and understanding from the international community (and that includes USA) so the insinuation that NSF is an American stooge sounds very funny especially when the administration has not given us till now no more than a token gestures (so far) and as the article writer correctly reported about the fund raising activities we embarking upon for the establishment of the satellite TV station(not a very good news for the regime is it?)
and as always I am happy to supply you with the contact details for MR. Al Dairi
to have his intake on this
and as always I am quite happy to accommodate and request for any meeting with the leader ship (why report this second hand)
and lastly I will have to ask to have this response publish in your site to have the fairness of the right to response adhered to

Comments (116)

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101. EHSANI2 said:


You have clearly put a lot of time writing your comment. I hope that you vented out your frustrations. Since you clearly seemed to have been referring to me personally during your tirade, please allow me to reciprocate with this brief response:


First, stop this nonsense that people do this to enjoy seeing their names appear on the screen. Just because you may do so, it does not mean that it is the case for others too.

Second, stop attacking your country fellow men that happen to earn their living in a so-called western country. This is a milder version of “takhween”. You keep insinuating that Syrians living in Paris, London or New York are somehow less patriotic or certainly have less right to criticize than those Syrians living in Dubai, Riyadh or Damascus. For your guide, there are close to 14 million Syrians living abroad. This is equivalent to 72% of the Syrian population living inside the country. Your comment seems to imply that of the 14 million people, those that are based in the west and who happen to criticize the country have less or no right to do that.

Third, stop repeating this explicit “takhween”. Just because one criticizes his country, it does not mean that he is therefore supporting the necons, march 14th, the Saudi King or Chirac. I could not care less about anyone of them. I cannot be prohibited from criticizing just because they happen to be doing the same.

Fourth, while I acknowledge that it is hard for a human being not to feel nationalistic about his country when he sees it under attack, one has to refrain from entering into the zone of blind nationalism. A lot of Syrians have come to the support of the leadership in Damascus partly because feeling a sense of nationalism and pride about their own country. This is understandable. However, just because Saad Hariri is attacking the leadership for his own reasons, it does not mean that the latter gets an automatic free pass. It also does not mean that those who end up criticizing are somehow unpatriotic and “khawana”

Fifth, stop saying that our societies are different and therefore world standards do not apply. Any Syrian born from the mid 1960’s has only known one party rule. Those born in the 1970’s have only known one family rule. The societies that you seem to refer to are part and parcel of the type of leadership that has shaped them over the past 43 years. You somehow want us to criticize the backward societies but absolve the country’s leaders from any role that they have played in shaping the way these societies look today.

Sixth, you seem to lump people who criticize the government and those in the so-called opposition. I, for one, could not care less if Bashar was a Sunni, Alawi, Christian or a Kurd. I judge the man by his performance. As for the opposition, I pity them. I do so because they have undertaken one of the most challenging projects ever. It is so easy to criticize them. I keep reading that they are weak, rootless, inexperienced, unpatriotic, leaderless, disorganized and ineffective. Has anyone stopped to think of asking himself the question of why? How can you have an effective opposition if you have draconian emergency laws that even prohibit people from assembling in large groups? How do you expect to have an opposition when you get sentenced to prison for writing an article? How can you have an opposition when you are branded a traitor if you seek foreign help? Somehow, the implication is that you can do it on your own. It is not the opposition that you need to criticize; it is the leadership’s methods of thwarting them that you need to congratulate.

Seventh, stop being shocked that some people choose to criticize the country’s leadership. You should instead be shocked to see that so many millions of your country fellow men and women would accept to have one party and one family rule them for this long without any so-called criticism or dissent.

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May 25th, 2007, 12:11 pm


102. AL-SYASY said:

وزعت رئاسة مجلس الوزراء اللبناني نص الرسالة التي بعث بها الرئيس الفرنسي نيكولا ساركوزي الى رئيس الحكومة فؤاد السنيورة وجاء فيها: «باسم الصداقة التي تربط لبنان وفرنسا، ستدافع فرنسا دائماً عن سيادة لبنان واستقلاله ووحدة أراضيه وأرجو أن تطمئنوا الى أنني سأكون مدافعاً قوياً عن هذه الثوابت في السياسة الفرنسية».

وأضاف ساركوزي: «أعرف أن بلدكم يواجه تحديات مهمة. إن الانشاء السريع للمحكمة ذات الطابع الدولي والاستقرار في جنوب لبنان واحترام الالتزامات المعقودة خلال مؤتمر «باريس – 3»، كلها تشكل أولويات بالنسبة الى بلدكم». وأضاف: «ان الانتخابات الرئاسية المقبلة تشكل استحقاقاً يجب أن يؤشر الى عودة كامل السيادة اللبنانية ينبغي أن تفتح الطريق أمام اعادة استقامة العمل الطبيعي للمؤسسات، وتأكدوا أن فرنسا ستبقى الى جانب لبنان لمساعدته على مواجهة هذه التحديات من خلال الدفاع تحديداً عن هذه القيم المشتركة في المحافل الدولية».
As i said before that the US wont allow the tribunal to take place at any cost, and that the americans will defend their ally Syria against the french attacks. The lebanon army supported by France is fighting a party supported by Syria and the US, in order to postpone the tribunal for Hariri.

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May 25th, 2007, 1:55 pm


103. majedkhaldoun said:

very regretable, you crossed the red line too far
1) you do not believe the syrians deserve freedom and democracy, they have not reach that stage yet, it is an insult to syrians,you have no right of saying that.

2)you insulted the syrian intelligence, saying we have no right of expressing ourself, you accuse us of talking just for the sake of talking.

3) you defended the regime with all the mistakes, to a level of blindly defend him, what a shame? you claim that the regime can deprive people of even the right to speak peacefully, it is O.K. for you that the regime put lawyers, doctors, and all other smart people in jail if they say the truth.
it is O.K. for you to steal the money of the syrians, smuggle it outside to europe and USA , taking it away from the people, and no one should complain.
it is ok for you to kill Mr. Hariri, and the Asad should get away unpunished.
you are against justice, freedom , dignity,you are against education, you are against progress and society improvement.

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May 25th, 2007, 2:01 pm


104. K said:


While I do not always share your political or economic viewpoints, I must note there is absolutely no comparison between yourself and Ausamaa, in intelligence, thoughtfulness, fairness, and eloquence.

There are many regime-apologists on this blog, but even among them, Ausamaa stands out as a minority voice. And that’s heartening. It means there is hope for Syria and Lebanon.

Thanks again for your ongoing contributions.

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May 25th, 2007, 2:15 pm


105. Atassi said:

Some deeply ignorant personality can’t comprehend the fact that they have no choice but to hear the other views and ideas they don’t preach or support.
OUR views absolutely not as being described “much gibberish some immature commentators have been coming up with” as someone indicated. This is an example of an ideology strived during the in the Baath self imposed leadership on the civil society , It’s a cancer being removed from our civil society by the courage’s of minds like yours.

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May 25th, 2007, 2:18 pm


106. souri said:


The difference between you and Fares is huge.
He is a man with HONOR, RESPECT etc… But you are not.
My advice to you is that you should learn how to become a GOOD MAN.

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May 25th, 2007, 2:35 pm


107. ausamaa said:

Yes, and thank you. I knew how much you will like my comment.

Ehsani2, sorry to disappoint you, but you did not even cross my mind when I was writing that one. And I was not taking a shot at “Takhween”, I was actually getting a shot at what I considered “ignorance” and “half-educated” know-it-all(s). But I can agree with you in a way: ignorance can be as dangerous.

Majedkhaldoun, Attasi, Souri and similar others, you are up in arms against an opinion I expressed, which is predictable and understandable, not only that, but my comments managed to unite you in a one self-complementing front. Sort of: Birds of the same feather, flock together. Enjoy your joint fantasy flight but do touch base with reality every once in a while.

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May 25th, 2007, 3:17 pm


108. ausamaa said:


My deepest appologies. In the follow-up to your comment above I wrote that you fall in “the second group” (the wetern-supporeted anti-regime front) which I do not think you even support. I actually meant “the Third Group”, the good ones who slipped irrevocably into their current position and think that they can not pull back and stop criticizing the regime even if the regime becomes Snow White. Sorry again and please accept this correction. If IC can correct it at his end it will be much appreciated.

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May 25th, 2007, 3:43 pm


109. Fares said:

Ausamaa, when the regime changes policies I am always ready to reevaluate my positions, but when they decide to play tough, I am ready for that as well. I have no connection with any opposition or other governments so you are right in that regard (last comment)

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May 25th, 2007, 6:13 pm


110. ausamaa said:

Yes Faris, appologies again for that slip.

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May 25th, 2007, 7:39 pm


111. Enlightened said:

Thanks for Pontificating Ausamma!

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May 25th, 2007, 11:41 pm


112. trustquest said:

Thank you Ehsani for your reply to Ausamaa,
Thank you too Majed for showing Ausamaa his deep disrespect for Syrians in and outside the country, but always shows his respect and defense to the one family regime.
Thank you K for your kind observation, otherwise we would be called cowards if we have not responded to him.
Thank you Atassi for weighting on the main difference between the Bathis and civil society,
Thanks to all who defended freedom of speech here and in the THIRD WORLD,
Thank you Dr. Landis for keeping this blog opens for Syrian to exercise freedom of speech which they are deprived of.
Ausamaa, with such comments, I think a lot of reader might skip your comments in the future since you stand against freedom of speech exactly like your friends in our beloved country.

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May 26th, 2007, 1:18 am


113. ausamaa said:

I am not against freedom of speach, I just had it with perfunctory dump speach. That is all.

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May 26th, 2007, 5:58 am


114. trustquest said:

Mr. Ausamaa,
Why don’t you find your own blog and call it, No Dump Free Speech blog. May be your readers will be your Syrian Elite friends in powers. However, from my close experience with those elites in power, they are the most illiterate and the dumped I have ever met. You can go the Homsis’ jokes reference and all Alawites, Bathiss jokes reference, it could help in indexing their level isolation and stupidity 🙂
This way you could more efficient since you are the one who advised Fares how to be efficient.

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May 26th, 2007, 2:47 pm


115. Alex said:

hmm… let me try to change the above discussion topic then,

There is a very interesting new tone from Abdelrahman Alrached, head of Saudi-owned AlArabiya. For comparison, remember his previous tone with Syria when he described Assad as a leader that can achieve nothing more than mistakes and blunders. The article ended with a warning.

This time there is a warning as well, but there is an admission that Syria is the one that must be credited with defeating ther United States in Iraq, and Syria is also successful in influencing Israeli policies as well.


سورية والنوم مع الأصوليين

لا أحد يجهل أن تسمين وتربية الحركات الأصولية في منطقتنا، شيعية كانت أم سنية، نتيجته فوضى مدمرة. معاركها محتومة بحكم طبيعتها الدينية، والشواهد أمامنا عديدة من المغرب الى السعودية. وما زاد في حيرة الكثيرين، قدرة دمشق على استخدام هذه الحركات الأكثر تطرفا في العالم، من أجل مواجهة الأميركيين في العراق، أو التحكم في لبنان، أو إدارة الصراع في الأراضي الفلسطينية المحتلة.

هذه الجماعات، مهما ظنت سورية أنها معصومة منها، أو تحت سيطرتها، تبقى في واقع الأمر كالعقارب، لا صداقة معها. فالجماعات الاصولية السنية المسلحة تعتبر النظام السوري كافرا أيضا، وقد تلتفت عليه ذاتيا غدا، أو ربما ستدار باتجاهه. وبعد أن صارت سورية الطريق السريع لهم بين العراق ولبنان، وبعد أن تكاثرت عداوات دمشق واعداؤها، لا أدري كيف تنام بينهم، بين حلفائها الأصوليين وخصومها من الانظمة. وليس مستبعدا أن هناك من يهيئ لإطلاق هذه القوى المتوحشة غدا في الساحة السورية، التي تراهن بدورها دائما على الحل الأمني، ونحن نعلم أن هذه الجماعات الإرهابية في ظروف إقليمية داعمة تصبح أكثر قدرة على المقاومة والتخريب العنيف جدا، وهز كيان أي نظام تستهدفه.

وربما سورية نفسها لا تدري حجم ما حققته باستخدام هذه الجماعات في ثلاثة اتجاهات جغرافية. سورية عمليا هي من هزم الولايات المتحدة في العراق أكثر من أي بلد آخر في العالم. من خلال فتح الباب للجماعات المتطرفة، بشكل منظم ومستمر، ألحقت خسائر هائلة بالوجود العسكري الأميركي في العراق بشكل لم يتنبأ به أي سياسي في البيت الأبيض. وقد برهنت دمشق بنفس الوسيلة، ولكن بدرجة أقل، على انها قادرة على التأثير على الوضع ضد اسرائيل، لولا أن الأخيرة ترسم خطوطا حمراء في تحمل الخسائر، ولا تبالي بأي قوانين في الرد على ما تعتبره مصدر الخطر على أمنها. أما لبنان فهو منطقة رخوة يسهل تخريبها، وان كان يصعب السيطرة عليها، وبتحالفاتها فإن سورية قادرة على تعطيل الوضع الرسمي، وإن لم تستطع السيطرة على كل الخريطة اللبنانية. دمشق باتت تحترف التعاطى مع كل الأصوليين الجهاديين بدون تمييز، شيعة وسنة، إلا ان النوم مع هذه العقارب له مخاطره. فلا يوجد فارق في الهدف، إلا في الأدبيات الدينية، بين حركة أصولية سنية مسلحة في مخيم فلسطيني في لبنان وأخرى شيعية مسلحة في الضاحية. والسماح لحزب الله بالسلاح، حملا وتخزينا، تحت أي ذريعة كانت، سيبرر لغيره التسلح بدعوى محاربة الإسرائيليين التي تحدث مرة واحدة في السنة، في حين يستخدم كل يوم ضمن التوازنات الداخلية.

والسؤال كيف سيكون وضع سورية بعد أن صار البلدان المجاوران، العراق ولبنان، في حالة حرب أصولية؟ لا نرى إلا نتيجة واحدة، هلالا مدمرا.

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May 26th, 2007, 3:55 pm


116. ausamaa said:

The word around here from Lebanese friends about the start of the Naher Al Barid story is like this:

1- The whole story started when the Hariri Jr.gang failed to pay the monthly salary of a group of Fateh Al Islam this month
2- Upset with this, one of their leaders Abu Jandal, started bad mouthing al Hariri Jr. whome he accused of going back on his word and leaving the Fath Al Islam high and dry, and started threatening that he was gonna blow the whistle sky high
3- This happened at a refereshments and juice stand in Tripoli, the guy was overheared and quickly a “team” was dispatched and liquidated him
4- Consequently, a group of Fath Al Islam, thier salaries not paid by Al Harriri Jr., went ahead and “hit” Bank Midterranean which is a Harriri owned establishment
5- Then, the Information Branch (of the Ministry of Interior, the newly created pro-Harriri intelligence arm to counter Army Intelligence which reports directly to the Army Chief M. Suliman) took a decision to attack the hideaway Flats and to finish off the Fath Al Islam group which attacked the bank
6- When the intelligence branch attacked the Flats of Fath Al Islam in Tripoli, they were aiming to spark a confrontation between the Army and the Fath Al Islam gang that could lead to a higher degree of instability in Lebanon

The word now is that Al Harriri Jr. bunch have grossly miscalculated the reactions of all involved including the Army which they intended to decieve and including thier gross underestimaste of the small degree of control they “suddenly” discovered to have over the bunch of Takfiri groups they helped creat .

The speach of Hassan Nassrallah on Friday evening, in which he called for cooling things off and rejected any attack on the camps while still supportive of the Army, drove the Feb 14 gang crazy. Now, all Feb 14 are up in arms against Hizbullah, with their main effort concentrating on Pushing the Army into a military confrontation which may end in a higher degree of chaos which will then justify further requests by the Feb 14 for international interference in Lebanon under the cover of maintaining “security and stability” and which could have a suitable by-product being the finishing off of Fateh Al Islam and burying its connections to the Hariri.

From the above, and based on what is going on so far, Al Harriri gang has been accused of being trigger-happy for acting without giving considerations to the consequences of its actions, it has failed to inform the Army of what it was planning and hence (intentionally or unintentionally, with many voices highlighting the “intentionally” bit) endangered the safety of the army and forced the Army to slip into this unawares, and that it had allowed a monster to be created and which they could not control.

In my thinking, the Harriri/Siniora gang has lost on all counts. It had shown itself to be willing to take very high risks, could not control its own creations, was sly and mischevious in tricking the Lebanese Army in such a slippery situation and then hiding behind it, immature and uncaring about the safety of the Lebanon and willing to Risk it for its own narrow minded goals. It has further committed a SIN which it will soon discover to be historically fatal: By insisting on pushing the Army to enter the camps, and by opening fire on Nasrallah’s call which considered entering the Camps by the Army to be a red line that should not be crossed, then Al Hariri Jr gang has angered and lost the support of the 500,000 Palestinian refugees (overwhelmingly Sunnies) in Lebanon and have pushed them into the other political Lebanese camp. A slip which may alter the whole socio-religous balance of power in Lebanon for decades to come.

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May 26th, 2007, 7:02 pm


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