Despite a Turkish and American behind-the-scenes effort to prepare Syrian opposition groups for the day after, the question of who will take power in Syria once President Bashar Assad falls remains without an answer.
The 24 organizations that currently comprise the Syrian National Council are split and face disputes, and according to some reports Syrian intelligence agencies managed to infiltrate them with “snitches,” alongside terrorists sent by al-Qaeda.
This is also the main reason behind the decision not to go ahead with international intervention or initiate a military operation that would topple Bashar Assad’s regime.
The bad experience accumulated in Iraq by the Americans, who appointed opposition leaders living in exile to key posts in Baghdad and dismantled the army and security apparatuses, served as an important lesson for all those involved in preparing the Syrian establishment for the day after Bashar.
The new leader of the rebels’ political arm, Abdel Basset Sida, has been living in Sweden for the past 25 years or so and specializes in research on ancient cultures. He is a founding member of the Syrian National Council and will continue to go from one decision maker to another in Europe and in the Arab world, yet his Kurdish roots will apparently prevent him from becoming Syria’s next leader.
Will colonel succeed Assad?
Meanwhile, the leaders of the rebels inside Syria who initiate the protests and violent clashes against security forces cannot afford to expose their identity. According to reports by foreign diplomats in Damascus, the day after Assad falls rebel leaders will object to appointments imposed from the outside and demand to take up key posts themselves.
Elsewhere, the chances of Colonel Riyad al-Asaad, a senior officer who quit his post as commander of combat unit in the Syrian military and fled to Istanbul where he formed the military wing of Assad’s foes, appear better. At this time, he operates from an office building in Istanbul, travels to Syrian refugee camps along the border, and sends money and arms to the rebels inside Syria.
However, the moment the revolution does takes place, al-Asaad may be surprised to find a group of senior defectors from the army and intelligence establishment rushing into the presidential palace and dividing key posts among its own members.