Syria: Now is the decisive battle, Muslim Brotherhood says

30 yrs after failed 1982 uprising, victory could be ours

17 July, 19:58

Unrest Damascus Unrest Damascus

(ANSAMed) - ANKARA - The ''decisive battle'' has begun in Damascus, exiled Syrian Muslim Brotherhood leaders meeting in Istanbul in their first plenary congress in 30 years said today.

Three decades after their attempted uprising against Hafez al Assad, father of the current Syrian president, ended in a bloodbath and 20,000 dead, the Sunnite Muslim Brotherhood now sees their chance for a comeback.

In spite of ''long years of repression by the regime,'' the movement has remained strong in Syria, said Brotherhood leader, Mohammad Riad Shakfa. The biggest force on the Syrian National Council, which is the West's main opposition interlocutor, and very influential in the Syrian Free Army, the Muslim Brotherhood is supported by Turkish Premier Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who is also a Sunnite, and whom Assad accuses of fomenting a religious war in his country. If Syria were to follow the Egyptian model post-Assad, the country's next leader might well be from the Muslim Brotherhood.

But Syria's strong ethnic and religious divisions, as evidenced by tensions within the anti-Assad forces, could also cause the country to split, warned analyst Abdullah Bozkurt.

From Turkey's point of view, the nightmare scenario would be a three-way split into a Shiite Alawite state along the Mediterranean, a Kurdish state between Turkey and Iraqi Kurdistan, and a Sunnite state in the rest of the country, Bozkurt said. In recent days, Syrian Kurdish National Council leader Sherkoh Abbas accused the Muslim Brotherhood of ''railroading the revolution'' in order to replace Assad with ''an Islamic, Sunnite, Arab and nationalist regime.'' (ANSAMed).