Road signs and milestones.

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.

Yours, truly.



Posted on December 27, 2011, in Rants, Syria and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 129 Comments.

  1. مع عايف التنكة الحلقة الرابعة : حكاية من الواقع

  2. مع عايف التنكة :أب حدّو ، صار بدّو: الحلقة الخامسة

  3. الدومري و عايف التنكة: عدم المؤاخزة!

  4. I think the SNC should hire Azmy Bishara as a political advisor. I saw his interview with Aljazeera and I think the SNC is well advised to listen to what he said. What do you think?

  5. I didn’t realize that Elias’ column on Syria’s Defecting Bloggers in which Off the Walls was linked – was not JUST on Qifa Nabki but on the ‘Global Edition of the New York Times’
    ie.. the International Herald Tribune ‘s section called “Latitude: views from around the world”

    COOL! (as OTW would say)

  6. OTW

    I just want to congratulate you again on running this blog, I don’t even think it’s fair to compare the quality of posts here to those of Syria-comment anymore. I also feel so satisfied every time I read the comment section ( even more so if I happen to be reading it after my brief visits to the cesspool of Syria-comment, where I usually lose few brain cells and my IQ drops to double digits).
    I know I haven’t been active lately but rest assured that I’m reading all your posts and also most of the comments, and I’m so proud of all the 7eetanis. Keep up the good work 🙂

  7. Dear Zenobia
    The prestige is off course the writer’s who makes it as one of the wittier contributors to IHT. But yes, it is coool to be mentioned as a defector, albeit my defection as i have described started in 2009. I always visit QN when i feel like reading witty posts and comments albeit Lebanese politics is very different from Syrian politics.

    I am all for groups and individuals forming charitable associations. This will ensure that those who trust members of the group will be more likely to contribute. I am afraid though that if things continue, charity will not be sufficient. Syria will need major relief efforts, both during and post conflict. The regime knows that, and it is preventing real international relief efforts. I believe it is gambling on the economic downturn to exhaust the poorest segments of society into abandoning political work. Yet, it has to calibrate the downturn in manners that does not deplete its potential source of compensating for the declining revenue. (Please see Observer’s post about the article he received from a friend).

    Dear NK
    Thank you for your comment. Much appreciated and valued. I look forward to seeing your contributions as always.

    Dear SYR.EXPAT
    Many thanks for linking to Azmi Bishara. Couln’t agree more. Rarely one sees such a clarity of mind and depth of understanding. Here is the second part of that same discussion you have kindly linked to.

  8. Dear 7ee6anis
    I would like to introduce a new Syria blog, Hikayat Shamiyya that went on line only a few days ago. It is not political but a literary blog with the author presenting short story like essays that give us glimpses of life in Damascus. I liked the writing style. I think it will be a distinct and a much welcomed reprieve in this highly charged atmosphere. The Author seems to be a scholar living, studying, and teaching in Syria.

    The second blog is older than 7ee6an and many of you may be familiar with it. Kabob Fest . A recent article titled What Syria Deserves . is a very good reading. It is one of the few articles around where both revolutionary and counter-revolutionary opposition (yes both call themselves opposition) can agree and disagree with points in it. Reading the discussion may be essential to understand the author’s point of view.

    Both blogs are now linked in the I Like list on the side bar.

    Also, A page SWOT4SYRIA is ready to go online. I am ready anytime you want to move the SWOT discussion into a more coordinated collaborative mode. Please let me know if you are interested and I will activate the page and send password to those interested. The comment side bar on the main page and all other 7ee6an pages will show that people have made comments on that page, but will not show the content of the comment unless the user has the password.


  9. Sorry I haven’t been around but ever since the observers came, the ISPs strangled the speed of the Internet so badly that we barely get half dial up speeds anymore. I’m using an Internet cafe’s connection which when its empty, I can just barely get my proxy to work. But it’s getting dark now, I should be heading home.

    Great post OTW, you are forward thinking, which is what we need. My personnel opinion is that the AL started to move only after the FSA showed it could indefinitely hold off the regime, and when the threat of a wider conflict reared its head. If we don’t want sectarian revenge groups to start to direct events, we should all get behind one movement; a civil movement as well as an armed one that can protect it. Neither can survive without the other.

    The Syrian army is a paper tiger. For all its atrocities in Baba Amr, once again it utterly failed to bring to battle the defectors it was supposed to be chasing. And so they took their impotent fury out on the civilians.

    Best of luck guys, if I don’t post it’s because I can’t.

  10. This was from As’ad AbuKhalil on the Angry Arab site yesterday (referring to Elias’ column) — sorry for the cut & paste:

    alienating my readers: blogging on Syria
    “As’ad AbuKhalil, the author of the very popular Angry Arab blog, has refused to support the institutional elements of the Syrian opposition, alienating many longtime readers. But even he issues a constant streamof criticism against the regime itself.” Alienating readers? I am not doing my job right if I don’t alienate my readers. The last thing I want to do is the give my readers–whoever they are–what they want. But let me add this to the observation by Elias. Yes, he is right: there has been a shift in blogging on Syria from support of the regime to opposition. There were some who were apologists for the regime who became opponents. But I would add that based on Arabic writings on Syria: the other side (staunch support for the regime) is well represented but in the Arabic language. I argue with people in the opposition side this all the time: that they refuse to believe that there are Syrians who genuinely support the regime and who are not shabbihah or mukhabarat or henchmen for the regime. I see those people on my Facebook daily: if I write against the regime, they are quick to respond and defend the regime, just as the opponents of the regime are quick to respond whenever I attack the Syrian National Council. It is fallacious to think that the regime does not have bases of support–still. I still maintain that the sign of that (among others) is the fact that not a single person has defected from the government or from the diplomatic circle (I know, someone will mention that there was a a deputy to the assistant mayor of a little town near Dir`a etc). It is also partly due to the calculation made by those people that the regime is not falling yet–or not any day soon. The Syrian crisis is a very long crisis–even if the regime falls. Just think that there is Lebanon: half of Lebanon will provide shelter for the ancien regime from which it can fight for power or seek revenge. The notion that Lebanon won’t be drawn into this–after the Hariri family declared open war on the Syrian regime–is folly.

  11. Dear umm nuwâs
    There are three or four writers that no matter how much one disagrees with every once in a while, remain anchored to fundamental principles, which guide them into taking what would constitute a consistent position albeit appearing contradictory to casual observer. Asa’ad is one of those writers. I don’t think that he is inconsistent and I do agree with him that the presence of pro-regime writing in Arabic language is very much a live an kicking. Even on other languages. I also agree with him that many of those pro-regime apologists are not necessarily Shabbiha or even direct beneficiaries of the regime. I like Asa’ad and will carefully read even his harshest criticism because i know that he has proven to be incorruptible pretty much like Subhi Hadidi (who writes in Al-Quds in Arabic) and Yassin Al-Hajj Salih, who is in fact in the trenches now in Syria, and in my opinion, Azmi Bishara.

    Supporting the Syrian uprising requires first re-contextualization of the regime, its alliances, and its actions. In Arab politics, the Resistance camp has been the last bastion for socialists and nationalist writers. Abandoning the Syrian regime to many would seem tantamount to abandoning the cause of independence and the Palestinian cause. While some may be able to divorce the regime from the Palestinian issue with some difficulty, the ability to abandon the issue of “anti-imperialist” image is much harder. The mere fact that the regime is threatened means to many that those who threaten it are agents for the big imperialist project in the region. What amplifies this is the fact that the regime is militarily powerful, in the sense that it can inflict carnage before it falls (and it is doing that already), as such, and conceptually speaking, the regime can only be removed by external military intervention. Therefore, if they side with the opposition, they will eventually have to accept military intervention, which puts their entire Arab-nationalist project not only at risk but also in shambles, where they would have betrayed the essence of their existence. Such becomes a self propagating dichotomy that manifests itself with these well meaning supporters accepting the regime with all its ills to fence off the imperialist project. I disagree with this logic, but I don’t think the opposition, including myself, has come up yet with an answer that would satisfy these groups and individuals. In fact, this is what we have been trying to do.

  12. Dear Aboud
    Good to hear from you. Keep safe.

  13. I think As’ad AbuKhalil’s statement is really very correct. Not all his rants, but this particular articulation…I would have to agree with wholeheartedly.

    Regarding OTW’s paragraph above – I think this definitely describes the dilemma of a lot of the population and especially those “fence sitters” that I am obsessing about lately.

    However, I think the most important point to continue to make is that this “dichotomy” is a FALSE ONE.
    People do NOT have to chose between sticking with the regime and its status quo OR supporting international intervention as a necessity and therefore abandoning arab nationalist sentiment or their resistance to imperialist projects.
    THIS IS THE LOGICAL ERROR that needs to be proven to be an error!

    Of course, choosing to support a jump into the unknown means taking a tremendous risk, especially if one takes seriously the notion that there are real and dangerous external threats and designs… but it remains the job of any opposition to show how our alternative ‘ideology’ if you will can still be consistent with an anti-imperialist one while moving forward into a different kind of political organization in Syria – and a different basis for organizing society and political life.
    Yes, we – who are presenting an alternative have to come up with a very strong grand strategy and alternative narrative as well as over arching schema that is satisfying, convincing, REAL, in fact, not just a rhetorical strategy, that can win the day.

    I want to thank Umm Nuwas for presenting me with the link to the Ziad Majed piece in Jadaliyya. It was simply excellent and contained an incredibly succinct argument against militarization that would be everything I would have wanted to write myself – if I were able to do a whole post on such a subject. He brilliantly lays it out – as I imagine many of the non-violent proponents do of why taking a militarizing route to the struggle with the government should be avoided at all cost. Of course, humanitarian protection is hardly something that can be denied to those who are under siege, and nobody is critiquing that. However, any deliberate escalation of the military approach to waging this struggle – and a dramatic taking up of arms- will be a huge mistake that in no way guarantees a swift resolution to this struggle. In fact, it could even prolong it – in the way that As’ad AbuKhalil is pointing out – because taking down the palace through violence does not the divisiveness of the country or assure any kind of disarmament of groups of people once they become armed – nor take into account the likely plethora of pockets of revenge seeking people – resisters, new oppositions, etc, that can spill over any border in any direction.
    This is what many people are rightly afraid of, in addition to their (in my opinion) overblown fears of external manipulation of the ultimate political outcomes.

    I think only through the painstaking task of persuading greater numbers of citizenry to join a national consensus and willingly (not under threat of arms) choose to support a POLITICAL alternative born out of genuinely believing in a new national movement and “consciousness” (as Majed put it) that unites them, will the opposition be truly successful in winning not just a war but the opening of a new country and social order. Such an opening should not be born out of violence and fear but out of aspirations and optimism for the future- and a sense of unification of ideals and power sharing.

    External military intervention – is to my mind- a disaster in the making, just as would be any drastic internal militarization build up. Neither of these options will bring about a viable civil environment fit to create a new humane and just system with any level of civic trust or social cooperation.
    Unlike the fence sitters, I believe the current system and leadership and security state in Syria is so abhorrent and destructive and soul killing that it cannot be allow to stay regardless of a failure to bring about a peaceful change or failure to avoid militarize struggle, but it will be a grave misfortune if people fail to try with all their hearts and minds to create non-violent alternatives and to avoid that otherwise extremely dangerous and for certain painful and long road to New Syria.

  14. Dear OTW,

    Thank you for the links to the new blogs.

  15. Son of Damascus

    Dear all,

    For those of you that are living in the West or at least in a place with a relative “secure” internet connection, and would like to help our brothers and sisters in Syria, please take a moment and download TOR and create a secure Bridge that you can share with people back home. A secure bridge helps keep the lives and anonymity of the brave activist in Syria away from the government and censors. Inform your relatives/friends about TOR especially the ones that are in Syria and tell them to use it ALL the time (even for mundane things such as searching on google). The more people use TOR the harder it is for the regime to track down the activists, and the more secure Bridges that are created the harder for them to shut it down (or throttle it which is what they are doing now).

    These are simple and extremely cost efficient (you can put a cap on the network so you don’t exceed your monthly ISP capacity) that can (and do) help the people that are risking their lives.

    The more TOR users there are in Syria (currently at about 17000 users of those 5000 Bridge users) the harder it is for the regime to track the activist, because currently the regime is going through EVERY single webpage that is being accessed through Syrian ISP.

    If anyone would like further information I would be more than happy to provide it.

    Stay safe and secure.

    Son of Damascus

  16. Son of Damascus,

    I was talking to a friend who had just returned from Damascus, was their during Friday’s bombing. Right after the bombing and for at least half an hour, heavy gun shots were heard all over the city. People were petrified, “insecurity forces” knocked on the doors of apartment buildings, asking for keys to access roof tops. When asked what is going on, they responded that booby-trapped cars are trying to enter where the butcher lives.

    Damascus now, is not only littered with shabeeha on the ground, but with snipers on every other rooftop or so. The hatred this mafia-family has for Syrians is legendary, They are ready to burn and kill as many Syrians as possible.

    Another story, where one of the despicable lives, a neighbour saw men unloading a sizable number of arms into the building.

    How will this end is anyone’s guess.

    Today on Twitter, a tweet in Arabic, reads, ” ya shabeeh, go tell your master, we, the people of Dera’a dressed your father his military uniform, and, we the people of Deraa will unseat him.

    This says it all! Nothing will stop them from achieving their goal.

    May God protect you and all Syrians. Salaam.

  17. Dear OTW,
    I am not familiar with this Angry Arab guy, but from what Umm Nuwas posted, I am not very impressed. He is either stupid, or has no idea what goes on in Syria because he never lived there. It is this statement in particular that drives my criticism:
    “It is fallacious to think that the regime does not have bases of support–still. I still maintain that the sign of that (among others) is the fact that not a single person has defected from the government or from the diplomatic circle (I know, someone will mention that there was a deputy to the assistant mayor of a little town near Dir`a etc). It is also partly due to the calculation made by those people that the regime is not falling yet–or not any day soon”.
    Even though I do agree with him about the fact that the regime still has some, albeit in my opinion small, base of support, I am utterly under whelmed by his poof. In my opinion the reason for no defections has very little to do with the calculations about the regime’s fall or survival and everything to do with their fear for their own survival and that of their families. Had he known anything elemental about Syria, he would have understood why as he puts it “not a single person has defected from the government or from the diplomatic circle”. He would have known that had any of these people even thought of defecting, their families would have been exterminated. I am not talking just about their wives and children (as diplomats have those out of the country with them), I am talking about parents and siblings, nieces and nephews and down to every person who even carries that same last name. There are examples from the 80s like the Gaylani family from Hama. It has been literally exterminated and those who were left ended up changing their last name to avoid the wrath of the regime. We also have examples from today’s revolution where the Harmoush family (and this is really a not-so-significant guy) is almost exterminated and the parents of Malek Jandali being attacked for his appearance in one demonstration.
    Please do not give this guy more credit than he deserves. Ask a simple farm worker in Syria and he can confirm what I just said. It does not take smarts, it just takes understanding of Syria and this Angry Arab Guy does not have it.

  18. Son of Damascus

    Dear N.Z,

    I have not been in Damascus in over two months, and when I was there I am the last person to ask about the true “feelings” of the people. For I come from the much despised “Elite” group of Damascus, and sadly I am almost exclusively surrounded by the staunchest allies of this criminal gang (from family to acquaintances).

  19. hate to break the news but Angry Arab has a huge huge audience.

    but I think the issue of “how much support” – in terms of people screaming at each other on facebook back and forth in disagreement… on this.. is in part a reflection of differing descriptions of what “support” means.
    If you one means that people think the government is doing the appropriate thing and the president’s speeches were great and the government is going to handle this and resolve it any day now – and one believes that most people are behind him… well.. than NO – the level of “support” is extremely small by probably most people’s judgement.
    In contrast, if one means support as in they think the gov and president have handled things badly but still they are not prepared to start advocating for the revolution..then this # goes significantly up.
    If by support we only mean that … said persons think the gov is despicable but they are completely not willing to risk their lives to unseat the president or change the system..or similarly they don’t like the gov but fear the alternatives or the “plots” much more, then…I think we actually could say that this is a lot of people who by default – “support” the status quo.

    I happen to think that support is a very relative thing and hard to gauge depending on how it is defined, and as well, how deep or entrenched it is… is hard to say also. it is possible that there is a fair amount of “support” that is extremely superficial and as the economy sinks and pain sets it (as – Sheila- has said many times) this will be a huge catalyst for people abandoning their professed support or fake support, or default support.

  20. Dear SOD,
    When you say: “I come from the much despised “Elite” group of Damascus” do you mean elite wealth, prominent family, political power or a combination of two or three of the above?

  21. Dear Son of Damascus,
    I am interested to know about the “Bridge” etc… especially because I barely know what you are talking about, and yet I have a lot of family online and communicating back and forth to the States. It would be good to understand what you are talking about and to be more prepared. Not sure how you can communicate but i could be emailed directly – zenobia.safia@ or through OTW. Would like to learn more. thanks for the help.

    your account sounds terrifying. I am wondering in what areas this activity is most concentrated.

  22. Dear Zenobia,
    My beef with Angry Arab is not about the level of support the regime enjoys, rather the reason why there are no defections from the highest level of government and from the diplomatic corps. I find his analysis a bit flimsy.
    I agree with you on how the variations in defining support can make a huge difference. There is no doubt in my mind that many people in Syria today are longing for the stability that once was.

  23. Son of Damascus,

    Those with connections I fully agree, they are the one’s to lose. But the ones with money, are not necessary supporters.

    At this point, I doubt that they are people, whether rich or poor, who still support the regime, they very well know that he is a dead man walking. They no longer doubt his evilness, though, they very well know they are closely watched.

  24. oh, yeah that part of what he said was indeed very flimsy …i agree. In fact, I had never even had such a thought cross my mind because there are soo many reasons why these particular people would be the last to ‘defect’ so to speak…

  25. Son of Damascus

    Dear Zenobia,

    I sent you an email with the info you asked. I hope I was clear, and not too “geeky”.

  26. Son of Damascus

    Dear N.Z,

    You have touched on a very sensitive issue for me. I come from old money (My family went through the so called corrective movement) but also benefited directly and indirectly from this regime. I know many of the regime figures personally (went to school, pool, summer camps abroad, and University abroad with their kids), and have had them over in my own house.

    I live with the sins of knowing the murderers, and haunted by the thought of what my family might have done to benefit its own pocket at the expense of the Syrian people. I am living in my own hell because of that. I will forever be ashamed and humiliated because of that!

  27. Dear Sheila

    Off course, the lack of defections within the so-called political and bureaucratic elite can not be taken at face value as a sign of a majority support for Assad. I may have skipped discussing the details of Asa’ad’s comment in a hurry to agree that the fool of syria still retains some support, which I have just described on QN blog as a cult type support. I know of a couple of high level bureaucrats-technocrats in Syria, who have already defected mentally, but are holding on to their posts not out of fear but out of desire to preserve state institutions for the transitional and post-Assad era. And my recommendation would be to leave them where they are and not to pressure them into declaring defection. I would even argue that they should not be approached to do any clandestine work. At least not yet while the regime is capable of exacting such horrible retributions as you described with respect to the Harmoush family.

    Dear Son of Damascus
    I avoid being blunt, but in this case, I will make an exception. Get rid of the guilt and other negative feelings, you are making up every time you write a comment and every time you try to find one more thing to help freedom seeking Syrians .

    What really matters is that when choice was possible, even at risk, you chose to side with the oppressed and marginalized. You have my respect and admiration. Please stay positive.

  28. Son of Damas,

    ys, i got it, thanks so much! very clear, but i probably still have to read it five times to get the idea since this is not my forte. but I will let you know if I have more questions.
    Meanwhile, I agree with OTW. I don’t believe the sins of the father belong to the son, so to speak. I would have forgiven Bashar Assad if he had chosen to do something radically redeeming with his power and privilege when put to the test, but alas he did not.

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