Of Interns and the Boy-king

 I have not posted over the past four weeks. In the meantime, the Assad’s army entered Homs, and then Idlib.  As FSA withdrew from both cities, massacres have taken place in both cities aiming to flame sectarian tension. Car bombs have returned to the scene, just as Kofi Annan is expected to send a team of experts as happens with the Arab Observers. However, the recent car bombs have targeted areas with Christian majorities including today’s explosion in Aleppo’s Sleimanyeh quarter. This is consistent with warnings signs that came out last week regarding the regime’s intent to wrap up its perceived victory by increasingly forcing Syria’s Christians to take a sectarian side and with previous shady explosions during the Arab observers’ mission.

Here are a few comments on specific issues.


Batta (Duck), a befitting address by a “modern” wife and by an admiring young woman to a man whose army assisted by vile militia gangs is terrorizing and murdering Syrians ever since some of these Syrians declared that they have had enough of his family’s totalitarian control over their lives and are no longer willing to take it.

Oddly enough, absent (to-date) from the leaked emails are indications of Assad engaging senior government officials, business partners, religious figures, or even well known social climbers’ in his boy-king narrow circle. What we notice is the critical role of two intern-level women (Shehrazad Gaafari and Hadeel Al-Ali) along with the notorious Luna Al-Shible in proposing and carrying out media campaigns and in passing information and summaries to the boy-king who is occupying his busy time with state affairs in parallel with trivia such as downloading teens songs from I-tune and playing harry potter games among other life occupations.

The men in the emails are different. They are security oriented. One passes advises (or commands) from key Iranian and HA contacts, still through the interns. Another (Khaled Al-Ahmad) seems to be the personal envoy-spook of the boy-king traveling throughout the country’s hot-spots and making observations and recommendations, as well as major decision and plans on how to put the uprising, while connecting, when possible, with regime-friendly Lebanese tycoons. The father in law remains heavily engaged as well, putting to rest claims of his family’s distance from the murderous regime and placing himself at risk of being the first member of the regime to be successfully tried in the west for abetting and aiding crimes against humanity. He may be followed by his daughter, who may now be tried in the UK for violating sanctions, independent of what trivial, yet expensive items she seems obsessed with purchasing.

What comes out drives a dagger at the heart of the loyalists and regime-made opposition claims that they oppose the revolution because it threatens to destroy the institutions of the state. It also obliterates the loyalists frantic efforts to retain the fraudulent image of a “normal” president and state. Clearly, when a young, albeit seasoned diplomat such as Jihad Maqdisi has to rely on intern level advisors to pass his opinions to the head of state, one must wonder the extent at which the Assads believe in these institutions. Similarly, when journalists such as Nir Rosen and Barbara Walters have to make their contacts through these same inexperienced, and quite shallow interns, in order to receive audience with the boy king, one would question the respect the head of the regime has for his ministers and for the state.  Needless to say,  pro-freedom thinkers and intellectuals have argued from day one that under the Assads, there are no institutions or state, as all are simply overshadowed by a cancerous criminal-security apparatus and mafia family.

Some curious people will get busy trying to decipher the interpersonal relationships of the boy-king now sarcastically known as Batta in attempts to demonstrate the increasingly isolated family. However, the presence of these intern-senior-advisers and their impacts on the actions taken by the regime can not and should not be trivialized by sarcasm. Information provided to the boy-king by these people were acted upon and may have resulted in deaths, including those of journalists in Homs. Curiously, one of these adoring interns focused on an issue that we have discussed here on 7ee6an regarding the boy-king’s separation from reality, which was evident during his meeting with some youth. Ms. Hadeel Ali, sent a copy of the narrator’s facebook page, in hope that the regime’s security will track down the real names of those who commented negatively about her “cute” president. If anything, the action taken after the intern’s advise indicate that the boy-king is in control and has directed actions either by transferring the information to his henchmen, or by directly ordering actions based on recommendations reflecting flawed judgement. These intern-senior advisers are not merely providing media advise, but far more sinister advises. Furthermore,  and even if the emails do not reveal direct orders from the boy-king to his high ranking officers and henchmen, the compartmentalization of connections only illustrates his lack of trust in the state and its institutions not to mention his derogative description of his own fraudulent reform laws. It is no wonder that regime apologists on Syria Comment are now blasting Joshua Landis for publishing the little he did of these emails. The little that was published of the leaked emails exposes their own moral degeneration and worries that the boy-king is stripping one more piece of his clothes every day.

 In the aftermath of the continuing leaks, Nir Rosen is now in a hot seat. On at least two occasions, he was described by both the intern and the in law as being “helpful” to the regime. Although it is more than possible that in both cases, the two “inner-circle” members have interpreted any critique of the opposition as favorable to the regime, and thus bestowed the “helpful” title on Rosen, critiques of Rosen seem to focus on the implication that he may have divulged information that was used to help the regime’s aggression against Homs. Rosen himself has written an post protesting his innocence. I will now from opinion on his response and would leave it to the readers to decide.

Where to:

It has been a year since the spark of the Syrian Popular Revolution. Regime propagandists are now arguing that the battle lines are now drawn in the regime’s favor.  Many have argued that this is due to the militarization of the revolution, which has given the regime the upper hand since it possesses the stronger force and the resources of the state behind it. The regime has relied on a strategy of isolating towns one after another and as seen from emails Khaled Al-Ahmad emails, it seems that the strategy and policy has been approved by Assad himself. However, it is fitting to remind those blaming FSA or other armed groups that the regime had already murdered more than 4000 Syrians  before any bullet was fired in return. It is also noteworthy that the regime continues to murder protesters in areas where FSA has not made any challenge or presence as is the case in Raqqa during the past three days.

Problems continue to plague the SNC, but the question is how relevant is the SNC nowadays with most of the world powers having decided to remain silent, and several GCC countries having decided to provide weapons support to armed groups directly and not through SNC? Any attempt to analyze the situation results in more questions than yielding answers

Dialogue seeking opposition was dealt two blows recently. The first was in Kofi Annan’s indicating his deep disappointment with the regime’s responses to his proposals. The second was in the regime’s attack on an the opposition rally organized by the NCB the moment the demonstrators uttered the first demand for the regime’s fall.

The seemingly stronger position of the regime is as deceptive as the strong position of the armed opposition during the first two weeks of the attack on Homs. While regime forces continue to raid villages and cities and to bombard neighborhoods in Homs and other towns, the revolution continues to spread geographically. Raqqa, the city chosen by Assad for special praise and a festival prayers is now in full scale revolt as the cycle witnessed in every city gets repeated. Demonstration leads to murders, then more murders during funerals and even mass massacres. News of a fist fight between the city mayor and the head of the local Baath party surface yesterday. In addition, an increasing number of Aleppo neighborhoods is now restive, along with continuing flash points throughout the country. The north-to-north east front is now connected through Raqqa and the number of villages and towns to subdue is far beyond the regime’s capacity, especially as Daraa seems to get back in action. Subduing Homs and Idlib seems to have been temporary as indicated by the regime’s shelling of Homsi neighborhood earlier today.

While the NCB demonstration, which attracted few hundreds only, exposed the anemic support NCB enjoys on the streets of Syria, it also shows that a great deal of activities are now largely internal. To illustrate the point, no one in the SNC that I know of has predicted Raqqa’s joining in such large number. Yet, the successful mobilization in the city is indicative of a significant level of planning and organizing that has been undergoing for a while. Similar situation now exists in Aleppo, and while SNC and other external opposition forces seem dismayed at Aleppo, people in contact with internal opposition seem more optimistic about Aleppo as well as about Damascus, albeit requesting patience so that the groundwork for major demonstrations in the two cities is well prepared.  A friend of mine, who was recently in Aleppo and has participated in one demonstration and witnessed another described the situation as following,

The people of Aleppo are liberated, it is only now a matter of liberating the streets.

Describing the demonstration he witnessed in one of neighborhoods in Allepo, my friend said:

It was beyond strange. The demonstrators, numbering in a couple of thousands were besieged by security forces and shabee7a. There was a stalemate for few minutes, until the shabee7a decided to descend on the demonstrators. It was only then when an eerie silence prevailed for a few seconds, only to be broken by the sound of automatic locks on main gates of the neighborhoods buildings clicking opened one after another, click … click … click…. And so on in a rapid succession. Within a minute or two, the street was almost empty, and the shabee7a were confronting locked gates. Those who did not manage to get into the buildings snuck into side streets. Shabee7a found few people and beat them to pulp before getting them on the busses, which had to leave with far less than their capacity.

It was only few months ago when the same sounds of building gates would be signaling the residents locking their doors in the face of demonstrators and leaving these young people to their fate at the hands of the vicious, murdering regime shaاbee7a.

The events of Homs and Idlib had two effects. On the one hand, they satisfied regime proponents, who have asked the regime to hit hard and with no mercy. But at the same time, they have alienated many others on the silent side and forced them to reassess their image of the regime. As a result, those pre-disposed to fearing regime’s brutality have sunk deeper into their fears and started talking incoherently about a revolution that will destroy the country. As a result, they now project their fear of the regime against the revolution and parrot regime’s propaganda about terrorists. Another response has been for many to realize that this regime is not only brutal, but also careless and hell bent on survival even if they have to shred the country into bits and pieces. This was amplified by the recognition that regime supporters were behind the sectarian massacres in Homs and reinforced by the disgusting attempts of the regime propagandists to blame the revolutionary forces for this massacre.

Internally, there is now a balance in existence. The regime can’t end the revolution or turn the clock back to pre March 15, 2011. The revolution is also incapable of removing the regime or its key figures. But time is against the regime for the following reason:

1. Continuing economic collapse, the regime will not be able to provide relief, turn on the electrical power or recover anytime soon.

2. Even if the regime establishes precarious military presence in cities, such presence has not led to improving the situation for the residents, to the contrary it has amplified the suffering of most residents including those who have not yet returned to their homes, which have been looted by a combination of Shabbee7a, army thugs, and common criminals after the FSA forces left the area.

3. The streets are increasingly ambivalent to the external opposition. This has a positive effect in the sense that it deprives the regime of its primary propaganda weapon against the revolution (an externally funded and made chaos). With many becoming vocal against the political leadership of the opposition, including the MB’s leadership and attempts to control the SNC, new political forces and coalitions are emerging inside without the distraction of having to follow one or another current. A new more pragmatic leadership is emerging within local coordination committees, and even those affiliated with some “semi-oppositional” groups are becoming more active in LCCs. The popular nature of the revolution is becoming more obvious and the string of pathetic antagonistic remarks and name calling of SNC members from regime propagandists now look more irrelevant and sophomoric than ever.

In conclusion, there are reasons for worry. And chief among these reasons is possibility of heightening sectarian tension. Yet, there are more reasons to be optimistic, including some of those I have listed above. 


Posted on March 18, 2012, in Arab Spring, Bashar Al-Assad, Crimes Against Humanity, Syria and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 67 Comments.

  1. Joshua analysis is very simplistic its hard to imagine its coming from a professional. Its totally amateurish, and this from someone who has 30 yrs hands-on experience with Syria and marriage into a Syrian family….not….maybe his marriage is what colors his views, especially those on sect….and alas….this may indeed be how many ppl in the mountains of Tartous think.

  2. OTW,

    You have mentioned that the regime has all but defeated the military aspect of the Uprising. Pls explain why you think so.

  3. Antoine
    I don’t think it is fair to make the accusation that Joshua’s marriage colors his view. You know nothing of his wife’s political view, which makes your accusation unfair to two people not only to one.

    I don’t think the regime has defeated the military aspect of the uprising, but I do think it has defeated one type of military activities, and that is attempting to hold territories and conduct an urban warfare knowing that the regime has tanks, artillery, and rockets, not to mentioned helicopters.

    Mucho thanks for the hint on the new virus. I have plastered it on quite few facebook groups, whose members may be susceptible to this virus.

  4. Ok I deeply hope you’ll find all the logic needed from the five stars hotels SNC useless meetings and of course from the “never coming” American and Turkish support for our FSA. and don’t forget to enrich your logic while counting the causalities every Friday, that’s of course while you’re enjoying your coffee at the downtown

    What do you mean True ? If you had followed my comments carefully, I am totally against the tea-drinking “intellectuals” in the SNC and totally against Ghalioun, infact I am calling for the toppling of Ghalioun since the last month. I am totally for the FSA as a grassroots organization BUT and a big BUT you are wrong in saying that SNC is responsible for bringing people out on the streets on Fridays, hell when the people of Daraa decided to take matters into their own hands, 90 5 of people in Syria had not even heard of Ghalioun’s name. You were opposing mass rallies on Fridays on the premise that it gets people killed, sorry sir, its been happening long before there was any SNC or FSA around. I understand the emotional state you are in, but do read my comments carefully before replying.

  5. Antoine
    I don’t think it is fair to make the accusation that Joshua’s marriage colors his view. You know nothing of his wife’s political view, which makes your accusation unfair to two people not only to one

    Three of the Professor’s brothers-in-law are officers in the Syrian Army, one of them supposedly got killed by “armed gangs” in Banyas back in April. His father-in-law is a retired Admiral in the Syrian Navy. I am sure you know every person’s opinion is colored by his environment.

  6. OTW,
    agree very much.
    first on Rosen, to clarify yes, he is definitely not in the top of analysts. I don’t even see him as an analyst hardly at all actually – although he was writing more as such lately on AJ.
    Nor is he the best reporter in the quality of anthony shadid or others.. who are much better writers.
    but I feel he has his top spot for – his exceptional ability at trench reporting and getting his self into incredible locations. He did that in Iraq. He did that in Lebanon in a way nobody else could. That has to do ironically not with high up connections but rather with literally his personality, and physical being even – and clearly his ability to be like a good ethnographer would… blend right into his object of interest’s milieu and cultural environment and gain their trust. This is a great talent.
    Do I agree with every word of his ‘analysis’, certainly not. But we have to take what he has – that is direct quotes with some gratitude.
    Yes, i think he can defend himself, correct.

    as for Joshua, you are right – I am being kind, maybe too kind, but I am not interested to nail him to a wall – when the fat lady hasn’t even sung yet…in fact not even close to singing.
    plus, i still feel Joshua though careless at times- I just don’t believe he is in bad faith.
    What is bizarre about SC- and specifically this particular post in question..is that it doesn’t even sound like Joshua…
    the phase II phase III stuff was strange and not his area of expertise anyways… like to know if this was really his – idea…

    Secondly -you know the guy is on NPR every other day of the week now – or on NewsHour and the like…and… frankly, he sounds – at least in tone – completely different to me – than he does on SC. I felt this all year. I am not sure whether that is due to audience pull on SC or to American news outlets.
    but I give him the benefit of the doubt.
    You are correct- he could be doing so much more…..for analysis than he is right now. I could say the same for you – though…. but I forgive you because you have another job and life, whereas this is Joshua’s business.
    I agree with your critique….and the the comparison to someone like Saleh. No doubt.
    But again, I get somewhat defensive because ….like Rosen, I am not about to skewer the person as if every great work they did across the last seven years that we all appreciated previously is somehow now completely null and void and all suspect because right now they aren’t doing and saying what each one of us wants of them. I think it is unfair and hypocritical.
    Frankly I can’t find hardly one person I know now who is either saying or doing what I would like them to be doing or saying… regarding Syria. Not one. Granted my circle isn’t big enough…but still – I think it is pretty indicative of the travesty and tragedy of the situation.

  7. Zenobia
    Well said. I am not for skewering either and I am delighted to find that you are of the same POV. Thanks

    There is a new post by Syrian Hamster. He does skewer a “class” of people repeatedly.

  8. Nir Rosen, by the way, was caught lying barefaced in Iraq. The guy is a spy.

  9. You know what ‘antoine’…. you have been voicing these same paranoid thoughts about all the ‘infiltrators’ and potential spies for months now – albeit formerly under your other blog tag names ….

    you are still an instigator yourself… and thankfully – most of the intelligent world doesn’t support your low opinions and pseudo analysis of who is trustworthy or not and who has the proper motivations based on their class backgrounds and who they married…. suppositions that should be stuffed back where they came from…

  10. Akbar Palace

    As for Joshua Landis’s article, I think that you are being too kind and patient with Joshua. His emphasis on the Syrian issue as being sectarian does him disservice. After all these years I believe that he has developed a tunnel vision, very common among academics in all fields (me and mine included) who become fixated on one theory or on a narrow aspect of any issue they study.



    Nir Rosen, by the way, was caught lying barefaced in Iraq. The guy is a spy.


    Which begs the question: “Who is he spying for?” 😉

    You can have him!

  11. “His emphasis on the Syrian issue as being sectarian does him disservice.”Thank you, OTW.

    Zenobia, I do not think that Rime Allaf is claiming to be an arbiter, in her tweets she posted the link, I flipped when I read what JL said. He seems to be fixated, unjustifiably so, his fixation is…. Zenobia, please read this, how else can it be explained? As Rime said, “SC cannot be more sectarian”.

    What he said in 2005 has been a constant hymn on SC for the past year.

    “Mr. Assad’s regime is certainly no paragon of democracy, but even its most hard-bitten enemies here do not want to see it collapse. Why? Because authoritarian culture extends into the deepest corners of Syrian life, into families, classrooms and mosques. Damascus’s small liberal opposition groups readily confess that they are not prepared to govern. Though they welcome American pressure, like most Syrians, they fear the deep religious animosities and ethnic hatreds that could so easily tear the country apart if the government falls.”

    In fact, I thank Rime Allaf for highlighting professor Landis latest post in her tweets. It is nauseating. I could not even bring myself to cut, paste and comment on it.

    A year later, all the sectarian drumming did not materialize. Now we come to this!

    “The opposition will have to rebuild itself to be more Islamic, militant and sectarian in order to take on the Assad regime. Opposition leaders on the ground, those who are actually fighting the regime, have already become more militant and Islamized. If the SNC doesn’t scramble to catch up, it will become irrelevant.”

    “In keeping with the Islamization necessary to recruit financial and military assistance for the revolution, opposition organizers in the West are rallying support from the broader Islamic community by presenting the Syrian struggle in clear religious terms.”

    By the way, I was the one to say that Joshua is an “apologist”, who is he? Why is the “sect issue” a sticky in every single post of his? I have no explanation.

  12. Dear Zenobia,

    It was not me writing on SC. When and if I write, I make sure to sign my name at the top of the article and say – By Ehsani. Please note that when such does not appear, it is all Joshua. While on topic, I am writing very infrequently nowadays anyway. Thankfully, the “bad writing” was not mine this time.

  13. LOL. Ehsani….thanks for clarifying!….glad the bad writing wasn’t yours; I should know better. : ) keep up the good work, though infrequent.

  14. NZ,
    I will open by saying I don’t want to spend too much time on this subject both because we have a wonderful new post to grapple with – and move on to- and also because I find it annoying that I should spend more than a little time defending Joshua Landis or Nir Rosen for that matter. Especially Joshua- I don’t want to nail him to the wall – but nor do I want to have to pull him out of the back dumpster when he gets tossed their periodically by former fans of SC or those who always opposed his commentary. Either way – it is not my quest.

    Regarding Rime, I will just say – she can be really harsh when going after other ‘experts’ – very very harsh. I think she gets too haughty. But I also like Rime a lot and appreciate her – and will be happy to defend her as well if she gets slammed by others. She is a very intense committed and intelligent analyst, but I don’t agree with her critique of others a lot of the time…that’s fine I think.
    This is just one of those moments when I think the spear is unnecessary.

    this next part will sound lame but i will put it out there anyhow..:

    The sectarian emphasis that Joshua tends to expound on – in all his talks – yes it is his thing- but I really think this is more academic and philosophical than some personal bigotry or disloyalty to any group. Qifa Nabki has had several posts / debates re Joshua’s schtick verses other ways of characterizing the regional conflicts and transformation going on.

    now to be controversial…..
    I kind of agree that – if one imagines that the military component of the revolution has to expand itself to take on- the full military of the Assad armies- what is that likely to involve? – to my mind- it will likely involve a need to exploit the usual sectarian themes – religious, ethnic, etc… this is human nature- and forced by the methods and framework that the regime defined FIRST, of course. But also who will fund this escalation were it to occur? The most likely will be the gulf countries and principally KSA. And realistically, why would KSA do this? They do it for their own regionally sectarian conflict motivations re: struggle for power with Iran. So, there are bigger themes of sectarianism and islamization that do exist and are like fuel on the fire that can’t really be denied….and would only worsen if by someone like Landis’s view- an escalation occurs that be dictated by a plan to take on the Syrian regime’s military power on its own terms.
    I did look at the post again- and found that, granted, he did not specify that he is making such predictions based on particularly the military struggle scenario. I am being kind to assume that is what he meant – because in terms of this circumstance- I don’t think it is such an outrageous thing to say. If this is what he meant – he could have been more specific and more qualified.
    Because I do think it unfair as an overall characterization of all the options available to the revolutionary potential. Then again, not many on the opposition side outside the country talk about these alternatives either! All anybody talks about it the military scenario 90% of the time…. so…why would Joshua Landis either.

    My opinion is if other paths of challenge and revolt and resistance are given principle strategic roles, the dangers of sectarianism, increased Islamization, or militancy that become worthy of Human Rights Watch condemnation…. will be minimized.

    I would love Syria to prove the analyst like Joshua Landis wrong. But actually, I think Joshua Landis would love it if Joshua Landis was proved wrong…..

  15. *principal not ‘principle’ argghh

  16. I don’t want to nail him to the wall – but nor do I want to have to pull him out of the back dumpster when he gets tossed their periodically by former fans of SC or those who always opposed his commentary.

    LOL Zenobia, the last thing I would to do is to throw Joshua in any dumpster. He is a fine man and I like him a lot. I hope that my critique was not the spear you are talking about.

    As for the controversial part of your comment, It isn’t..Had Joshua put it this way, It would have registered as a great insight….

  17. Jarthouma, FSA is attacking points around Baba Amr ? Where did u get this from ?

    It would certainly be delightful if FSA could recapture Baba Amr and the citizens could move back in, sooner rather than later.

Share your thinking

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: