I’d like to start this 3178-word Mega-comment by refuting everything said by True about sentiments towards Palestinians in Damascus, with no offense to True intended; I’m not in the messenger-shooting business.
I have never, ever heard a single anti-Palestinian slogan at any of the protests I have attended, nor have I heard any anti-Palestinian slogans in any of the videos on the web, and I extend this statement to clearly sectarian slogans in the same vein. To some extent, relations with the Palestinian community have been affected by the revolution, with the pro-regime groups such as the General Command (القيادة العامة : أحمد جبريل) and Al-Sa’aeqa (الصاعقة) being pitted against everybody else. Yes, the regime finally succeeded in unifying the Palestinians. After the attacks on the Palestinian protest by GC in Yarmouk camp, which happened soon after the attempts to enter the Golan, I have heard Palestinians aligned with Hamas, Fatah, Islamic Jihad, and various others swear up and down that they will do a multitude of unspeakable things to Ahmed Jibreel, none of which I will detail here. The Palestinians are generally with the revolution, and the revolution (at least that is the sentiment here, in the Damascus area) is with the Palestinians.
The Veto Power
I’m Going to do something controversial here and explain one view regarding ‘veto’ concept within the UNSC. Please don’t be too harsh on me.
A long, long time ago, the world was a bloody place. Much more bloodier than it is today. We all recall tales of the great empires of old, and the greater empires of not-so-old. All these great empires had penchant for going at each other. The Persians and the Romans, the English and the French, the Ottomans and the Safavids, and countless others.
Often, we would see wars break out at the slightest provocation. Granted, killing a Serbian prince in itself isn’t going to cause a war to end all wars, but sometimes, many times, it can be a sufficient fuse. What is different in our modern world is the lack of great wars. We haven’t seen super-powers duke it out, not since the Second World War. This is, I think because of two reasons:
- We talk. Imagine the Cuban Missile Crisis without communications between the US and the USSR, or without a forum like the UN.
- Superpowers can bugger with each other without going to war
The second point is basically Veto rights. The legal structure of the UN, and the rules and restrictions placed on war-making within the structure mean that nation-states need to go through various acrobatic acts before they can proactively go to war.
Imagine if Syria was a major strategic asset for Russia, one that the Russians would be willing to go to war over. Imagine Russia not having veto power in such a situation.
To understand veto rights, one must think outside the ‘favoritism’ mentality. The nations that were given these rights at the formation of the UN have been the largest military powers since the late 1940s. A veto is a diplomatic tool that allows one of these nations to defend its interests, rightly or wrongly so, in a way that does not involve military action. This is one of the main reasons the world hasn’t seen two superpowers colliding in a military conflict. The (relatively) little things they used to go to war over are now vetoed into lower intensity.
With that said, Veto powers never were a good idea, and I disagree with the concept.
On the subject of the Russian, and to a lesser extent Chinese position… It is one that brings up many conspiracy theories. One thing that has been clear is that the Russians are intelligent about their foreign policy, and have a tendency to support their allies (even the wacky genocidal ones) to the hilt. Once things go past the hilt though, and all that support is gone. Two examples come to mind here: the aforementioned Cuban Missile Crisis, which ended with an under the table deal between the USSR and the USA that left Cuba out in the cold and Castro swearing with the ferocious rage of someone who just learnt about the realities of Superpower diplomacy, and the Serbian example everybody is talking about.
It isn’t clear though what the Russians see in Syria. True, there is a small naval base in Tartous, but it isn’t one that can be considered of any use in any conflicts it might be needed in other than as a weak retardant, at least for the next few years. Expanded, it might play a role in defending Russia’s assets and allies throughout the wider region, including The Mediterranean region, the Black Sea, the Gulf and the east coast of Africa, but that will take many years to happen.
There is also the Russian fear of similar ‘intervention’ happening on its grounds or much closer to home, but the Libya situation should show them that such action will happen regardless of what the Russians want when the Europeans and Americans put their minds to it, and the Russians do realize that the US is very hesitant in engaging directly in the Russian sphere of influence, as was clear in Georgia, when the Russians Decimated a relatively important NATO ally without any real western resistance.
What seems to me to be the dominant factor in Russian thinking now is the domino effect. The revolution is part of a long line of dominoes around the world, which include demonstrations in the west such as the Spain demonstrations last year, and the greater Occupy movement, as well as the other Arab revolutions. It is conceivable that these revolutions will spread to more regions considered pro-Russian. Prime locations, other than Iran would be the Caucus and Balkans regions, the Asian Soviet Republics such as Kazakhstan, and to Russia itself. It is also clear that once, and if Revolts spread to these regions, some if not most will be supported directly by a large body of Arab revolutionaries, and directly and indirectly by Powers That Care (PTCs). Historically, this has happened as is evident in the Arab Mujaheddin in Afghanistan, Arab support in the various Yugoslav conflicts, and the Arabs in Chechnya. Really, we’re more international than the Americans in our conflicts.
Defection and the FSA
What we must understand is that the defectors are, at the same level, are reacting in a manner consistent with what we all saw in Egypt most recently, and in places such as Romania and to a lesser extent Tunisia previously. The only difference is that while the decision to defect was taken by the highest echelons of military command in the aforementioned cases, here in Syria we have a complacent and criminal high command that is in the end, part of the cult-leadership. This in turn caused people much lower in the chain of command to take personal initiatives based on their moral ideals. Initially, the FSA focused on defending protests. The reason that large-scale protests such as the ones we see in Homs before the invasion, and the Suburbs of Damascus is because off camera, there are FSA soldiers on the rooftops defending the protesters from any Assadist attack. Later on, the FSA grew in confidence, to a point where it started engaging the military in offensive action. Sometimes, these attacks have had an adverse effect on the FSA in the short-term or long-term, such as the recent offensive on the eastern Ghouta, which has unearthed a lot of inefficiencies in the FSA, and a lot of things that need sorting out.
In short, these guys have acted as a military force with some sense of professionalism. They have acted as a sponge for any civilians who might feel the need to bear arms, which is an important function as it forces these civilians who will inevitably appear in any such situation to act within a framework that isn’t a local-militia framework. They have isolated themselves from political action on all levels, which is in all ways a good sign. They have refrained from engaging in fights over petty disputes, regardless of the tensions that do exist on the ground between commanders, and at the higher levels, especially with Colonel Riad Al-Ass’ad or however it must be spelt. They have not isolated themselves from the populace in most instances, which is also a good sign.
There have been difficulties. The inability to use heavy weapons, and lack of effective counters to these weapons (which for some reason, Khalid Tlass, in his third incarnation isn’t so vocally lobbying for). The near impossibility of getting weapons in from across the borders, especially with the Jordanian gov’t trying to put a stranglehold on all weapons going through its borders, Hezbullah’s effective cornering of the arms market in Lebanon early in the revolution, and the shoring up of the Iraqi border by the Malki Government. I’d also like to call out the Muslim Brotherhood, who have been going on a membership drive, forcing activists and FSA members to swear allegiance to the MB before receiving a penny of support from the Brotherhood. Yeah, this is gonna be interesting in the long-term.
My point is, and this is mainly addressed to Zenoubia, your plan won’t work, under current circumstances. The Regime hasn’t shied away from assassinating any leaders who might be a threat to it, in fact, they’ve been doing it from the start, starting with Alawite military leaders back when Hafez took over, up to people who look like they might be leading the chants on the ground, such as happened in Midan during Rammadan. This has been one of their cornerstone policies, to kill anybody who might have any semblance of leadership skills or charisma. Tell me, do you know any ‘leaders’ of the Alawite sect whose sur-name isn’t Assad? They existed before 1982. Do you know any labor or union leaders who are in any way prominent? Parliamentarians? Heck, even government officials who might be slightly non-Baathist. I could think of Dardari who was always critical of the government, at least economically. Look where he is now. In Syria, prominence is a death sentence. Become too prominent, and you have sentenced your whole family, nay, your whole community to disfavor, if not annihilation. But then, you are asking of Syrians something that has been refused by all other Peoples who have been put under similar situations. Look at Egypt, Hosni only wanted to stay until the September elections in the end, and the protesters refused. Give these people time to pack their bags, and they will use that time to rob the country of everything that isn’t nailed down, then go for the stuff with the weakest nails. Believe me when I say this, in Zabadani, the Assadist forces have looted villas even of their door frames. Yes, door frames. This is how kleptomaniacal the regime is. In Egypt, the situation was a lot easier and simple than it is here. It was clear that Hosni was not going to be allowed to stay by the military, and there wasn’t as much violence, nor as much blood. Please note, a lot of people have much at stake here. It is clear that if the regime is given any breathing space, in any form, it will go on a cleansing campaign against all FSA members, all the people in the LCCs, anybody who as much as raised a finger to help a wounded protester.
And then you have the whole post-election. What then? We went the whole nine yards, proven our pre-proven thesis true, and the regime has not handed over power because it is clear, that whatever happens, the name of the game is Don’t Hand Over Power To The Masses. Is the international community going to come and save our souls, like it didn’t in Iran, and like it resoundingly didn’t in Burma? Are we going to protest peacefully, maybe do a sit-in like the one that happened in Clock Tower Square, or Tiananmen? Or are we going to bear arms against a regime military that will be much, much more prepared? What comes after the elections?
Please note, that the FSA has the most legitimacy out of any opposition group in the eyes of the people on the ground. This is because they are the epitome of counter-Assadist-culture… Let me explain:
This will sound sexist, I apologize. I’ve previously mentioned that the regime isn’t the window dressing called the cabinet, headed by the prime-minister. It’s the extended family and cronies who control the Mukhabarat and to a lesser extent the army. To understand the administrative/bureaucratic environment this group has nurtured, grown, and grown from, one has to run the gauntlet only Syrian males with brothers, and a few unfortunate women do. It is called dealing with the army.
For most men, their first encounter with the army is when they go to create their army book. One does not truly know how debilitating, stupid, backwards, solidified, idiotic, neurotic, resentful, corrupt, nepotic, authoritarian, dictatorial, stupid, ignorant, stupid, bureaucratic, banal, inefficient, careless, dirty, uncreative, kleptomaniac, sectarian and stupid the regime can be until you have created your army book. If you’ve tried to pay the Badal, it is an even better learning experience.
Imagine a system where each person you have to deal with declares their price before servicing you, or even has their price written down on a chart to simplify the process, and EVERYBODY has a price you must pay. Imagine a system where you can be trapped in a requirement-circle that has you going from desk, to desk, to desk with each person referring you to someone else for reasons you can’t ask, lest you know about the arcane secrets of the military’s conscription offices. Imagine mistakes made by office clerks that could ruin your life, put you in jail, or have you paying huge fines, and these mistakes happen all the time! Imagine going through a process with no known end. Imagine getting to that end, only to find out that there is some minor detail that is wrong, and you have to do everything all over again. Imagine trying to tell an officer with the brain of a goose, the skull of a moose and the psyche of a rat that he might have made a tiny mistake in processing your documents, only for him to slap you and tell you he’ll shoot you the next time he sees you in his office. Imagine being told you haven’t processed your documents, or that yes, they know they processed your documents and that everything is good in them, but they lost them because some rat of fate had to choose your file in the archives to make its nest, and thusly, the rat has pressed you into conscription even though you’ve done ta’ajeel dirasi. Yes this has happened.
Now imagine the people at the head of such an apparatus. Imagine how they think, how they managed to create such a monstrosity, how they may have fought to keep the cleansing acids of reforms away from their growing hell-beast, how they grew it and in turn grew from it. These are the people we are dealing with. And these are the people who the FSA have turned away from. They have taken everything these devils have built, and refused to indulge or be complicit in it. They are the embodiment of the opposite of dealing with the army. They are the only white knights most anti-regime young Syrian men see in a sea of uncertain and gloomy darkness, where the world stood silent with its trillions of dollars of arms, they came with their AKs and RPGs to defend them from the military behemoth of despair. I hope you now understand why people see the FSA as central to this revolution, regardless of its many flaws.
SWOT Analysis Proposal
It looks like everybody left the SWOT analysis post, so I’m going to post my two cents here: After some thinking, a crude suggestion has formulated itself. First of all, we might be better off doing multiple SWOTs, one for each player. Defining each player will be the difficult part, as in multiple cases it isn’t clear where lines should be drawn for each group, among other things. Each SWOT analysis should be curated by one person who is tasked with the management and verification of the information going into their SWOT, as well as understanding the actual process itself. The comment section of a blog post isn’t really the best place for such discussions, as it lacks many tools to make things easier. I would suggest something like Crabgrass (made by the Riseup collective) or Asana, as well as other software, maybe a CMS or a wiki? I’m sure that specialized software for this stuff exists.
Participation in most SWOTs should be open, and the main person responsible for managing each one is the curator of that SWOT.
SNC site is up, and they seem to have a project in the works called ‘One Thousand Years for Syria’. The idea is for volunteers to sign up one year of work for Syria in their respective fields of expertise after the revolution is finished, and it is an applause-worthy program. This is the sort of stuff the SNC, in my opinion, should be focusing on. Not trying to cuddle up to the west, and isolate Iran, Russia, Hezbullah and Hamas. Optimally, the Swot analysis should be hosted by the SNC, and so far the only good thing I’ve seen coming out of its activities alone is a severe mistrust and dislike now ingrained into every Syrian’s mind towards all politicians, post revolution.
Since I’ve gone into SNC-Bashing mode again (It’s addictive), I’d like to point them towards the Libya Rebuilding Taskforce, which was a seventy strong team of Libyan experts in various fields based in Dubai that was tasked with formulating what the LTC should do after capturing all of Libya. Rebuilding, infrastructure, policing, electricity and water supplies, stuff like that. Mr. Bourhan: I know the deep deep corridors of politicking are a trap for any politician with good intentions, but you are not a politician, you are an opposition figurehead for all of Syria. More of this stuff will show us that the post-Bashar political scene will be less like Lebanon, which the SNC is emulating within itself right now and more like the UK, where politics is (mostly) about policy, nation development is debated by people who care and decisions (mostly) are made based on facts (mostly), studies, research, and inquiries not by bigoted politicians on testosterone fueled vendettas and criminal enterprises. And you know what, initiatives like that, if crowdsourced, can really make Syrians feel like tomorrow’s Syria will be a different place, as if their intellect, creativity, knowledge and patriotic feelings will be felt by those on top, having a positive effect on the decision-making process, and the country as a whole. Market that, not foreign intervention.
Note from OTW: This post first appeared as a comment from hazrid on 7ee6an (here). It elicited a response from Zenobia (here) and further narrative elaboration on the corruption in the regime’s army from Sheila (here) as well as from Zenobia (here), and on the self imposed exile of MGB (here)
The Syrian regime has proven over the past nine months capable of pushing back at the opposition using a combination of misinformation campaign and brute force. While we spend inordinate amount of time analyzing the motives and personalities of pro-regime and/or fence-sitting people at the individual level, drawing our intellectual resources into sideline confrontations, events on the ground race with our responses to these events being nothing but outrage, impotent in many cases, that we direct at what we see as the hypocrisy of those who refused to join us or are incapable of seeing the light and the moral righteousness of the revolution due to certain fears, associations, and pre-conditioning.
In the end, whatever analysis we may come up with on that issue will have little or no impact on what goes on the ground other than giving ourselves the impression that we now understand the opponent better and have exposed their bankruptcy. The real opponent is clear, it is a brutal regime with security tentacles that infiltrate all strata of society. Building on fear of the unknown, on latent, but easily aroused sectarian feelings, and most importantly, on purposefully demolished ethical and moral inhibitions among its instruments of oppression on the ground to inflict both vengeful mayhem and to return, against all logic, the status to that of pre-uprising fear and docility. Cheerleaders for the regime are as inconsequential as cheerleaders for the revolution. How much does analysis of the cheerleading add to the knowledge of the reader regarding the unfolding events in Syria and the situation in the traumatized country? I am afraid to say, nothing, other than giving a little glimpse into our own personalities. It was necessary exercise, and I thank all who participated in it in all seriousness, but we have to move a head.
We need to go beyond that. We need analysis of the situation tactical and strategic. At this stage, I am no longer interested in analyzing inconsequential posters on other forums or demonstrating their intellectual or ethical deficiencies, or their fears. We have occupied ourselves far too long with this exercise and it has reached the point of diminishing return with respect to our ability to influence public opinion about the Syrian revolution other than discrediting ineffectual writers, who are doing exactly the same but in the opposite direction.
Meanwhile, we are missing news of economic disaster in the making and of its impacts on a wide segment of the population, of horrendous brutal campaign racing against time to end the uprising or liquidate as much as possible of those participating in the heroic efforts at the street level, and we are missing significant events on the ground in Damascus and Aleppo, who seem to go up in bursts, only for the two cities to slide back to watchful calm. We are also missing a better understanding of the changing nature of the uprising, which now threatens to become a prolonged struggle with constant seemingly calibrated bleeding.
While the regime can count on continuing cat and mouse game with the observers and AL after having de-fanged the mission by reducing its size and scope and its chances for real exposure to what really goes on the ground, we, in the external opposition, are plagued with ineffectual advocacy, polarized leadership, lack of focus and direction, and very reluctant Syrian National Council, who has now bloated into 300 members, hindering any effective action, both internally and at the diplomatic, media, and relief level.
As we bicker amongst ourselves, and as we watch with dismay at the confusion and lack of effectiveness on the side of SNC, suspicious groups are moving in for the kill. I have information about an increasing presence of one such personality in donation collection for. I have argued that one should not shy from supporting FSA, at least in enhancing their sustainability, safety, and ability to protect civilians. However, there is alarming news about groups trying, effectively I am afraid, to jack up vengeful and sectarian hatred and to collect donations for various militant groups with clear sectarian motivation. In response, individuals continue to collect donation in small amounts, and to send them through personal channels to Syria instead of coordinated efforts, primarily because they are afraid that organized donations will end up helping militarization of sectarian fringes. I am waiting for some information on these issues and will share it with you when I have bullet proof confirmation. One solution would be to initiate a campaign requiring international relief agencies to have access to disaster conflict areas, and to force the regime, through international pressure to allow such access. Such should be discussed but has been completely absent from the radar.
You see, friends, there are far more effective ways to support the revolution. Should we continue on our current path, I am afraid that we are going no where. This is not what I had in mind. Time for a change and suggestions are welcomed. More welcomed off course are analyses on the model Observer and hazrid have been trying to infuse on this site. I am open for new type of main posts and urge anyone with the capacity to make such contribution to do so.
I am off course the most to blame. A blog about Syria is a serious issue, and I should do better. I hope to be able to count on the help of 7ee6anis.
I will be away for few hours. Please have a go at defining the future of this blog.
Request from OFF THE WALL
This just came out. It is the draft (project) for the Political program of the Syrian National Council (SNC). I will not comment on it now, and will leave that to the comments’ section and may be for a future post. But it is more than critical and urgent that all of us take a look and participate in discussing the various points. I try my best to convey your comments will to the SNC, and I am sure that Haytham will do so well
It is heartbreaking for me to see my blog turning into a wall of obituaries for the martyrs of the Syrian Revolution. But again, in Syria, walls also serve as bulletin boards for Obituaries. The criminal regime of Syria, and its head, the pathetic tyrannical despot Bashar Al-Assad are making obituaries of Martyrs a daily occurrence. And it seems befitting that these virtual walls be no different from the real ones.
After targeting the leadership of the coordination committees with death under torture, and subsequent to the formation of National Council, Bashar Al-Asad is now deploying his death squads to assassinate highly effective opposition figures. On Friday, October 7, 2011, Bashar Al-Asad goons assassinated, mafia style, the Syrian Kurdish leader, intellectual, civil society activist Meshaal Temmo and wounded his son Marcel. Orders for this cowardly assassination could only have come from Bashar Al-Assad himself. Read the rest of this entry