Syria’s opposition leaders declared the aims of the SNC during their meeting in Istanbul on Sunday. They called on the international community to provide “humanitarian” protection to Syria’s embattled pro-democracy activists while rejecting a Libya-style foreign military intervention, where NATO bombing of forces loyal to Qaddafi tipped the balance in favor of rag-tag rebel units.
The Syrian regime’s continued willingness to use force against the largely unarmed protesters – who are officially dismissed as criminal agents of foreign powers – and the anti-Assad activists’ continued willingness to come onto the streets in the face of lethal force, make Syria a different case.
“The Libya scenario had flat ground, a weak army, and no Arab support [for Qaddafi]; in Syria it is exactly the opposite,” says Hassan Hachimi, a Canada-based architect and SNC member in charge of relations with North America. “Libya took six months and 3,000 casualties, and that’s why we say we don’t want that. We need creative, out-of-the-box thinking.”
That thinking should include a no-fly zone, or perhaps a buffer along Syria’s border with Turkey, where anti-Assad activists can find protection and safety, opposition leaders here say. The SNC is looking for “declarations of legitimacy” from the West, says Mr. Hachimi, and “declarations of illegitimacy of the regime.”