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Short Comment on Syria Is not Iraq.

OBSERVER, one of my favorite commenters on SC posted a link to an article in the Atlantic blog titled Syria is Not Iraq by Shadi Hamid. Observer asked for feedback from fellow commenters. I have not commented on the site for a long time, but I still read SC (with  more frequent disgusts than ever) and I have a few words to say about the article.

I do agree with much of what Shadi Hamid wrote. would add that from national security perspective Obama bungled it. Two critical observations made by Shadi that are worth considering. The first is the number of strategic mistakes that the US has committed since the debacle in Iraq, which as expressed by Shadi will come back to haunt us later.

Four years ago, I would have been,and likely I was, supportive of Obama’s calculating approach to foreign policy as a welcomed contrast to Bush’s dogmatic approach. But even before the Arab spring, the writings on the wall was becoming clear about Iran’s belligerence in Iraq and its usurpation of the country as a protectorate run with the same backward corrupt approach that afflicts Iran. This should have caused Obama and his administration to send a real strong message to Iran regarding Iraq instead of allowing Iran even a stronger hand in the country’s affairs. The haste to get out of Iraq and to get Bush debacle behind us and as soon as possible  resulted in dismissing  more strategic calculations regarding the region as a whole.

The other observation, which should be modified is his observation that Assad is a rational decision makers with incredibly high tolerance for brutality. The author ascribes the gradual increase in violence to Assad’s rational behavior as he kept testing the red-lines and finding that non really existed. This is only partially true. But it does not make Assad  a rational decision maker. The rational decision (morality does not get in the picture here) would have made him maximize his benefit, which would have happened had the he embarked on real reform and not chosen the suicidal security option. As for the gradual increase in violence, it is really strange that an article analytically sound as this one neglected to recognize that the Assad his henchmen are not the only actors on the scene in the sense that FSA has made it very hard for him, if not impossible, to commit massacres at the scale of Hama (in short period of time) and that the increased level of violence is proportional to the weakness of the regime in key points. Of course, that may disappoint to some of the repulsive voices I have been reading on SC, but it should not have escaped the writer, nonetheless.

That said, what remain is a real challenge for the US and other democratic countries in the world. It is the moral challenge posed by their role in encouraging democratic values, but failing to act when the values they encourage are threatened by murderous thugs like Assad and his henchmen. I am afraid this moral dilemma may end up being resolved with a couple of candle-light vigils attended by celebrities,  a few mea-culpa (we should have intervened) rehash of Rwanda  interviews on Operah’s Third Chapter years hence. This is from the national psych point of view. But from the point of view of people living under dictatorships, Obama’s reluctance may have just made a few thuggish dictators very happy, and prolonged the life of the club of thugs, including the Iranian regime. Seeing what happened to Syria and Syrians at the hand of the Assad criminal gang, and the world’s tolerance of Assad’s crimes, Iranian will be far more reluctant now to resume their green uprising, which is probably the worst  blow-back to Obama’s inaction.

Assad or We Scorch the Country (By OTW)

First, I would like to start this post by wishing all a serene Passover and Easter. May we all celebrate next year in a Syria liberated from tyrants.

OK, so it seems that we have two different points of views on 7ee6an, both expressed eloquently and with passion and both defended and criticized strongly. At risk of extreme over simplification, the first idea may be summarized as arguing that armed resistance only aggravates the regime and provides it with excuses to inflict more violence and horror, not to mention being a failure in comparison with the “more effective” national scale civil disobedience, which should be pursued at all costs towards bringing down the regime. The second argument, and again risking oversimplification, stresses the right of people for self defense, and highlights that the regime’s use of force is independent of the level of violence exerted by any armed faction in the revolution, which in turn if sufficiently armed, will exact punitive blows at the regime’s barbarity, especially in enhancing the odds for further defection from the ranks of forces under its control.

To me, such discussion justifies all the efforts that went into launching and maintaining 7ee6an and the hard work we all have done so far to ensure a quality of discussion that distinguishes the contributions to this blog from hysterical rants of absurdity.  This discussion reflects the ongoing mental anguish many among those supporting the revolution are going through. I myself continue to have hard time making my mind regarding which option to support. But given both tracks of thinking it would seem that the advocacy for a full scale “non violent” civil disobedience, by its nature and intellectual grounding and legacy  does exclude an armed resistance track of the revolution, especially if it calls for halting any plans to arm the FSA. On the other hand, the presence of armed factions, especially one borne, as the argument goes, to protect peaceful protest, does not exclude the preparation for and the carrying out of “non-violent” actions and strategies with increasing organization all the way to the desired nationwide civil disobedience. It does however complicate that strategy and makes pursuing it much harder.

Supporters' slogan "Assad or we scorch the country" written by Regime thugs after the looting and intimidation campaign in the upper scale neighborhood of Inshaat in Homs.

The Assad regime has pursued the “violent” option with vengeance and brutality from day one.  It may now tolerate a few non-violent demonstrations here and there primarily as a matter of setting priorities in terms of sequencing its wanton destruction of the country and scheduling its next bombardment target.  Those arguing for full exclusion of armed opposition, and for starving the FSA should be mindful of the slogan “الأسد أو نحرق البلد ” (Assad or we scorch the country) painted by the regime thugs and soldiers in every place they scorched and advertized on the walls of their headquarters and even public busses. In this slogan, the regime loyalists, which are part and parcel of the regime, declare their adherence to the Assad’s cult. The adherent of this semi religious cult are now drunk with blood and smoke after a year of relentless efforts to remove all traces of scruples that may inhibit further brutality and barbarity on their side. They need no excuses to exact their violence, which has been proven time and again as an inherent part of their cult and of the fabric that binds the regime. The shelling continues throughout the country despite of the absence of any armed resistance in most areas being shelled. Snipers, who according to loyalists on other blogs are to be excluded from Annan plan since they don’t use heavy weapons, continue to terrorize innocent civilians in many Syrian streets and the list of their victims continues to increase. Terror in regime torture dungeons never stopped and will never stop, even with the presence of international monitors, and demonstrations in Aleppo and elsewhere continue to be suppressed with increasing brutality and use of live ammunition contrary to the earlier “appease Aleppo” approach. The number of victims of regime brutality has not gone down with many murders occurring in areas where FSA is either none present or has not been very active.

All of this should put to rest the notion that the presence of FSA as an impetuous for regime violence. Violence is the hallmark of this regime with or without FSA. Such violence has been extended beyond destruction into deliberate theft and looting of areas invaded by regime forces, as happened to many areas in homs including those with large presence of certain minorities. The regime propagandists and shrill shills persistently claims that these thefts and destructions are the work of FSA or “islamist”, “saudi” funded “mercenaries. But I have strong evidence that would put the hysterical defenders of the regime to shame, if they know any, which is unlikely based on their continuing mental and ethical degeneration. Fear for the safety of friends whose homes and businesses in Homs have been ransacked and looted by regime forces is the only reason I am not sharing these evidence, which I hope to be used in a court of law in the near future.

Supporters of the argument against arming FSA and/or other rebel forces also have their own strong  case in Idlib’s country side to add to Baba Amr story book. Idlib’s country side has been turned into a wasteland by the regime’s “scorched country” policy presenting a serious refugee crisis internally as a slightly lesser one externally (yesterday more than 2500 refugees from Idlib’s country side crossed the border to Turkey). The presence of refugees, especially children from Homs and other areas is exacting its toll on the people, and at the same time is (also not addressed in Anan’s plan) will compound the situation

Regime slogans painted on a public bus in Syria. The white slogan reads "when lions come, dogs flee", the black slogan reads "Assad or we scorch the country".

The slogan “Assad or we scorch the country” should not be taken lightly. It is a well known slogan of Assad forces from days of the dynasty founder. It has been demonstrated repeatedly and the fact that it continues to be ignored by regime propagandists (even those pretending to be intellectual peace loving) removes any pretense to ethical grounding on their side and shows clearly that they do concur with it despite of their claims that “they are not pro regime” and that they “have some criticism of the regime”. But more important is that it tells of the mentality of the hard core loyalists. While to the ignorant shabeeh or loyalist it may simply be the result of decades of brainwashing and propaganda aiming to replace the national identity with Assad cult, it is an existential reality to the real power centers behind the regime. Many of the wealthy elites of Syria owe their wealth and privileges to the Assad clan (which includes non family members across all sects). As a class, they may have members with conscious who now side with the revolution, yet as a class, their loyalty and interests will continue to be vested in the system of corruption and coercive terror that is founded on disregard and contempt for the masses (as argued by Yassin Haj Salih in the article linked by Zenobia). There is no point in pursuing their support for the revolution, for they are part of the problem and of the regime’s power structure. Members of this elite now hide sometimes behind secularism and others behind law and order in their opposition to the revolution in both its armed resistance and non-violent form, but they know that if the regime is gone, they are to follow even if national reconciliation is to commence. Their participation as partners in the economic crimes of the regime make many of them complicit in the civil right violations and graft and intimidation against honest members of the business community in Syria and such crimes are bound to be investigated and/or exposed during reconciliation. I am eager to hear the opinion of most esteemed Son of Damascus on this point and would love to be corrected if such is possible.

Getting back to topic, given that violence was the regime’s option and strategy, it could be argued that the question is not whether FSA has caused damage to the revolution in the sense of justifying the regime’s brutality and mayhem, but that whether the current starving of FSA can have adverse effects on the revolution, and whether a regime so attached to violence can be realistically overthrown by non-violent means such as civil disobedience.

To answer this question one has to recognize that even Sharp himself warns that civil means do not guarantee success. This is perhaps most clear in Syria, where for months, the revolution maintained a non violent character, and where such character remains to date the most obvious of the revolution that is being put down with a combination of physical brute force and hysterical media campaign by the regime and its unholy band of partners and supporters (internally and externally). Then, one must also consider that unlike other countries, the size of the “government” remains huge in Syria, which complicates civil disobedience efforts as the regime has used the “state” to its advantage and has mobilized its human resources into its campaign of terror against Syrians. It is well known that many workers in regime factories have been mobilized into the regime’s gang squads “populist phalanges” either because of the bonus and high salaries received by shabeeha or because of the utter reliance on state salaries by these workers and through coercion.  The presence of the baath party and security informants in every juncture of the Syrian state will continue to greatly frustrate efforts towards wide-scale civil action in government structure unless the power of these security agencies is first weekend significantly and unless the baath party members and security informants involved in the suppression are made to fear for their own safety if they continue the practice. In all cases,  their coercive capacity should not be underestimated and their ability to maintain the critical functions of the regime running will continue to be a problem as long as the regime has the financial means of supporting them. To that effect, we must also consider the rumors that the regime is negotiating billions of dollars worth of bonds with the Chinese and Russian governments and with the Iranian regime. It should be made loud and clear to all that all dept incurred by the regime as of March 2011 will be uncollectable in hopes that such continuing financial infusion will be stopped by rational policy makers who will eventually recognize that this regime has no viable horizon to lead a healthy Syrian recovery capable of paying such wasteful dept.

An added complexity is the tragic level of unemployment in the country, which when coupled with the deliberate destruction of ethos over forty years, will sustain the regime with a supply of willing militia, again as long as the regime is capable of providing financial means. Needless to say, the added bonus of looting and unrestrained power given to regime forces will probably reduce the regime’s financial by allowing the thugs to obtain directly from the people what they have not been receiving lately from their employer. Looting, ransom, and graft are now the primary compensation mechanism for shabeeha in areas where the regime continues to exercise some control. This is not only consistent with “Assad or we burn the country”, it is part and parcel of that policy.

In summary, the Assad regime, knowing well that national scale civil disobedience is a serious threat to its survival has opted from day one to convert the struggle into an armed warfare that could be dressed in sectarian language. It has made its fall a considerable security risk by forcing the people to take arms to defend themselves and thus create a fear of undisciplined armed insurgents trough a combination of false flag operations and media hysteria along with excessive brutality to further entice more young people into carrying arms. The results of this strategy include a preview of “Assad or we scorch the country” ideological underpinning of the regime and its supporters and the conversion of swaths of the country into ungovernable areas wastelands.

How does this play out with respect to civil disobedience? The following concept was presented in a recent off-line discussion with a journalist friend who is heavily engaged in non-violent movement in Syria: Let us consider those disaster zones where the regime has shelled the area forcing most if its people out, or where the regime has confronted both civil action and/or the presence of FSA with its standard barbaric brutality. In the end, these have become no-regime zones in the sense presented by Azmi Bishara who argued that the regime’s need to push its tanks into the streets of Syria is by no means a victory but a defeat. Areas with tanks, soldiers and regime thugs are areas where the regime is not functioning as the money and graft generating scheme it is designed to be and where the regime’s claims to equating itself with the state are shown as farcical joke. They have been turned, by regime’s action, into rebellious areas where normal life is no longer possible due to murderous snipers and raids by regime thugs. As a result, swaths of several cities have in fact turned into a situation resembling the effects of “civil disobedience” in terms of halting of productive life and making these areas increasingly ungovernable by the regime’s representatives. In essence, these areas are under control but ungovernable, which is similar to the practical result of civil disobedience, but with more distinguishing characteristic of resistance against a foreign occupation than those associated with combating a dictatorship or a repressive regime. After all, only foreign occupiers have used “scorched earth” policy on such a large scale.

The centrality of the Assad figure to the regime has caused many in the opposition to receive the Annan proposal with lukewarm suspicion if not outright rejection initially. The absence of a clause stipulating the departure of Bashar al Assad or the delegation of authority to a vice president have been the primary reason for such initial rejection. However, cooler heads are prevailing, especially after the strong language from the former Secretary General regarding the continuing violence and his ability to extract a time-table from Assad. Mohamad Al-Abdallah wrote on his FB page an outstanding short article in support of the Annan’s plan. His basic premise is that Annan is no Dabi, and the UN is not the  AL. If the plan is to be implemented, then the regime will risk major demonstrations throughout the country. If the regime falters as everyone expect the pathological liar Assad to do, then the regime would have squandered the last opportunity for political solution to the crisis, a solution that was supported by both China and Russia. The regime’s failure will put the two countries in a very awkward situation in the Security Council when it will have to decide on further action against Assad and his gangs. Pessimist argue that the regime will resort to playing the “negotiation game” and will initiate, as expected, false flag operations and explosions, particularly in areas with sectarian tension in order to justify its continuing military operations. This may have already started with an unknown group threatening a large number of explosions in Aleppo. It is also expected that the careless and callous regime will redress its army and security forces in civilian clothes giving an impression of a “loyalist” demonstrations and continuing to conduct arrest and intimidation campaign at lower intensity.

It is incumbent on all armed-resistance groups to agree to the plan and to declare a halt to all operations as of April 10.  However, it is also no wonder that shrill shills on SC are now propagating hairsplitting interpretation of what “heavy weapons mean” and whether the April 10 deadline is deadline for full withdrawal or for starting the withdrawal with open ended process. This in itself is a sign of things to come and it shows that the regime and its supporters continue to think that they can outsmart the world with their pathetic sophistry aiming to drag thing long enough for them to reestablish a pre March 2011 conditions.

The Annan plan also requires a huge effort on the civilian side of the liberation campaign. Names of all detainees and missing persons must be collected meticulously and the regime’s security apparatus must be exhausted with constant demands for their prompt release and for information on those missing. Furthermore, the anticipated negotiation must be viewed not as negotiation to end the liberation campaign, but as negotiation for the departure of the regime and its symbols and for transfer of power to a legitimate authority. Such would require mass mobilization of demonstrations, especially in Damascus. The negotiators must be very careful not to view the negotiation as a trial of the regime but primarily as a hostage negotiation with a well armed brute who has taken the entire country hostage and the primary objective is to separate the brute from his victims while at the same time maintaining bereaved parents of those who were executed by the brute thug under control so that they do not complicate the situation further. It is also important that no media frenzy against international observers be conducted by the opposition. They should be approached by the liberation movement with respect, honesty, and truth, and not with contempt and derision.

Of course, the above assumes that the regime will allow the plan implementation to reach that stage. According to the plan, negotiation is not the first step. The regime has to withdraw fully, release all political detainees and allow for demonstrations to take place unmolested. With these conditions, it is well understood why Mohammad Al-Abdallah wrote: “this is a very good plan, and the worst thing about it is that it will not be implemented”. How can it be when “Assad or we scorch the country” is the operative slogan of the regime and its supporters. In the end, if they try to keep this more fundamental and the only promise they seem intent on fulfilling, one would hope that the world, including the regime’s friends will take other actions.

Yassin Haj Salih, in a recent article wrote about the “Assad or we scorch the country“: “in reality presents two choices of destruction of Syria. The first is the destruction of the country through living under Assad with no dignity, freedom, and opportunity, and the latter is the physical destruction of the country. In both cases, they are choices of destruction. Regime shills should take note of what they are defending before they shout that the revolution is destroying the country. This is a revolution and a liberation movement to build a country and to take it back from those who shamelessly proclaim their intent to burn it.

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

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. 

Conversations

I have been having hard time writing. The scale of massacre, the increasingly accelerating brutality of the regime, and the confusion and missteps on the side of “organized” opposition has made it very hard to follow without being angry and confused, . 

The outpouring of sentiments after the tragic death of Anthony Shadid tells as much about our own need for balanced and intelligent reporting on Syria as it tells about the extraordinary character of the man whose loss we bemoan.  

In the meantime, many good articles have come out recently. Jadaliyya continues to emerge as a powerhouse of thoughtful in-depth commentaries and articles on Syria. The international community continues to work very hard into convincing itself that it should not interfere in Syria. And Syrians continue to be murdered by a brutal regime. Questions about the future of Syria and the region in case the brutal regime succeeded in silencing the revolution are starting to circulate, as the regime increasingly deploys its sectarian strategy in search for survival even if it has to rule over heaps of dead Syrian children, women, and men.   

The regime’s constitution “tailored” for Bashar al-Assad is another part of the play. The retention of articles pertinent to the religion of the state and president are not meant to assuage the protesters, who are hell-bent of removing the mafia gang and its boy-king don. However, one can hardly pas it without observing the short-lived righteous indignation among regime supporters as reflected in some of the emails received by Joshua Landis [here], especially those that went on incredible mental and moral acrobatic hoops in support of the “reform accomplishments” of Bashar Al-Assad

Another friends responds:[From Syria Comment]

I am surprised you are not acknowledging and celebrating these two accomplishments, and are instead nitpicking on the mechanism of how a president is nominated…. Every country has specific rules. Look at the electoral college in the US…..”

The constitution fiasco is both a distraction and a new link in the chain of cynical insults to Syrians the Assad mafia has been subjecting the country to over 40 years. I have said a while back that Bashar will be sure to empty any new constitution of real reform and to ensure that it is customized for him. For months, many regime friendly comentators went into discussing how “a strong” prime minister will emerge as a balance to the “presidency”. Even now, a cynical comment on SC boasts of the emergence of 6 political parties in Syria while ignoring that the fraud constitution makes these parties ineffective, useless, and mere dressing for continuing totalitarian state with unquestionable authority to the presidents, who presumably will be a long line of Assads.  On facebook, and in other platforms, the seculars in the opposition, with few exception, went busy, also for a short time, arguing the contentious point of selecting the president-nominee while ignoring the most important parts of any constitution, “separation of powers”, which is completely absent. The president is the source of all powers. He can not be held accountable in front of the Parliament. The executive branch is a single person, who at the same time is the highest judicial authority. The parliament is a mere figurehead albeit with little or no chance of any real challenge to the Baath/Assad domination (Note/Q: anyone knows if the Baath party or any of its dog-tails in the national progressive front have submitted applications for recognition yet?).  I am curious about some of those who preached Bashar Al-Assad the reformist and  promised a strong prime minister years ago, which, given their absent if not obfuscating position,   seems to indicate that their stance then, is as it is now aimed at the retention of the tyrant Assad at all costs. Their failure to voice any meaningful response to the regime’s middle finger strategy only shows them as nothing more than cult members in the Assad cult.

Then comes another odd question, summarized again on Syria Comment [here] about the leadership of next Syria and whether such will emerge from FSA or SNC.  The reason I find this question as being odd is that it came at the heels of the post by Idaf [here], who argued that the revolution is neither SNC nor FSA and that it is organic and growing. Idaf’s points make such question of leadership mute at best, and renders SNC and other visible group as mere transient external connections and not the real thing. Idaf’s post is receiving wide attention, especially among activists in exile but who are well connected to secular activists on the ground in the inside. It has been translated to Arabic, and made it through several FB pages. They found in it a validation of their role in the revolution and of their justifiable concerns about what seems to be a strong arm tactics by some battalions of the FSA and a justification of their earlier fears, abandoned only for a short time, of the militarization of the revolution.

This is a critical issue. In the aftermath of the regime’s brutal massacres in Homs, Hama, Idlib and its apparent success in punishing hot-spots of civil protest, especially those where FSA had established presence, many now question whether FSA is really successful in protecting civilians. A legitimate question that is being amplified by the emergence of “power struggle” for claiming leadership of the military wing of the revolution, and by the publicity of the yet to be proven claims that “Al Qaida in Iraq” has already infiltrated some of the FSA battalions and initiated some actions on the ground in Syria. The increasingly sectarian face of the regime’s action in Homs is also a source of fear among activists. However,  an activist, with strong connections to the ground told me when we were discussing how the FSA has not been able to prevent the onslaught:

Everyday there are operations that are inflicting heavy losses on the regime’s paramilitary. These operations are not publicized by the regime for obvious reason and not publicized by the FSA so that people like you (he meant me OTW in real personality) don’t go shouting that FSA is conducting “offensive” operations, which has been declared a taboo by activists who want to guard the non-violent element of the revolution. 

The chains of bifurcations when discussing the Syrian revolution make focusing very hard, especially when with respect to sectarian incidents. An activist hailing from a minority sect sat me down for a long conversation about this issue. The activist told me

 “Look at all the video clips that supposedly are being sold by members of the Shabeeha and regime’s forces in which obvious severe abuses were committed by men with very clear coastal mountain accent. Only a naïve person would think that such tapes can be sold without the person being easily identified and punished as happened to the brave engineer who exposed the post-speech rally for what it was. It is a regime’s strategy to show and emphasize that the abusers are all from one sect.  And the regime is solely responsible for the initial leaking of these clips. It aims to accelerate and intensify instinctive sectarian responses from the widest possible segment of the opposition, preferably at the street level and on social media and in a response to the response, heighten the fear among the minorities and intensify their belief that, having seen the obscene sectarian hatred against them, they will be massacred en-mass upon the fall of the regime. The regime will argue that that the abuse intentionally publicized incidents are only isolated incidents and that there is a sectarian undertone to everything the revolution does. An added bonus is the manipulation of the “guilt-by association” fears that the regime wants to encourage among conscientious members of the  minorities relying on the fact that while they represent the wide majority of these groups, fear of mass retribution will trump disgust at these actions especially when some in the opposition start shouting “silence equals complicity” and call on various groups to declare their distance from the regime loudly even at risk of severe punishment from the regime .

The activist also told me of yet one more tactic used by the regime to increase sectarian tension and accelerate sectarian war. This tactic has been used on many activists, especially those with religious leaning, and it goes as follows. During interrogation, the worst torture, including verbal torture is intentionally applied by soldiers who belong to minorities. Local dialect is heavily overemphasized. But at some point through the detention, the activist is made to have a calm session with a “sunni” high ranking officer, who would then complain to the activists that “as sunni his own hands are tied” and that alawite are in full control of the situation and there is nothing that can be done now about them short of an all out sectarian civil war, which he (the officer) tries to prevent, but thinks is coming because of these “sect scums” who are even tying the hands of the “good” president, who is  more “sunni” than anything else.

I find it nearly impossible for an intelligence officer to say such things if not given a green light based on a planned manipulative strategy to do so. Another activist who has worked on the ground until a couple of months ago confirmed elements of both Idaf and hazrid posts and affirmed the role of women activists in the revolution, particularly in providing relief and support to the families of the victims of the regime be them martyrs or hostages-detainees. The activist, also hailing from a minority group, told me that in many a neighborhood, especially those with conservative leaning populations,  only women can provide effective support and comfort to widows and their families.  Grass-root support networks are flourishing in some areas, through which activists from all ideological shades work hand in hand to deliver relief and comfort. However, and as hazrid mentioned, the MBs, who have little or no real connection to these largely sufi areas, have been using these mostly secular networks  to gain entrance, then, and through manipulative language attempt to gain party loyalty to enhance their ground presence in anticipation of post-revolution politics. In other word, they are opportunistically gaining footing. This is also consistent with what I heard from members of the SNC who complained about the insistence of the MBs to maintain control of the SNC led relief operations and their tactics of distributing the relief in their own name whilst it should be distributed in the name of the diverse opposition.

On the Eve of the UN vote, I met an old friend of my parents who is visiting is son, now a dear friend of mine. He knew me when I was a child, but was later transferred with his family to another town before being forced into an early retirement after having been deemed not loyal enough to Hafez and his Brother.  I came in to greet him, he held my hand with a strong confident handshake and with his left, he patted the seat next to him signaling for me to sit down.  I did, and we started talking.

The UN vote had just been announced and like most of us in this “revolutionary hang out”, he was elated with the results.  But I sensed that his response was a bit more complex than the moral validation most of us felt then. And it was. His first assessment was that Russia and China have literally “screwed up” their prestige. “Two super powers, who usually enjoy the support of almost every single developing country in the UN could only muster the votes of only 12 countries, most of which are either satellite states, despotic regimes, or heading backward in that direction”. He reiterated: from day one of the Security  Council fiasco, it was known that the Chinese are taking a stand half principled and half motivated by their interest not in the Syrian regime, but mostly in Iran.  The Russians , on the other hand were dealing and wheeling. It was like they were in the bazaar, where Syria was only their “causes belli” for dumping off many other bargain items and extracting every single possible concession from many countries whose interest in the primary matter was not that high to bargain on such strategic issues only to get a decision that they themselves were not ready to take.  China would have abstained had it not been for Russia’s veto. But now, they UN GA vote has dealt their prestige a great blow, morally and politically.  We agreed that the veto was anything but a victory for Russian Diplomacy, to the contrary, it was an abysmal failure and a signal that the Soviet empire is finally over.

We then talked about middle class and about how both  Assads decimated the middle class and how Bashar’s economic reforms were designed only to enrich the Mafia gang leaving the middle class with no prospect for survival and the poor with no prospect for making it upward through education, which according to him, was what took him and his wife as well as my parents from being on the edge of rural poverty to the ranks of reasonably secure middle class” back in the fifties of the past century.  He pointed that even Lenin, cognizant of economic and intellectual weight of the middle class, had insisted before Russian revolution turned totalitarian on including the small bourgeois in the revolution’s ranks as opposed to his adversaries who wanted to cleanse the nascent state of what they thought as being a class with no loyalty.

He said, referring to the Assads: they were mafia, they are mafia, and they will remain so. They can not and will not reform themselves, let alone the layers of corruption through which they bought or forced loyalty. It has been 40 years since a real officer has made it above Brigadier General, or a single real thinker or leader made it into the upper echelon of the bureaucracy machine. Ignorance and mediocrity are their main friends, whether it is on their side or on the side of their opponents, and the knowledge and competence are their enemies.

His conclusion was interesting: all we need is to achieve a 51% ratio of enlightened citizenry. It doesn’t matter whether they are religious or not, it only matters that they are logical and secular. In Iran, we know that they are not there yet, as indicated by the inability to sustain the green revolution , In Syria, we have no real clue yet whether we have that since the regime has been successful first in forcing the armed option and seems to be heading towards success in forcing a sectarian civil war.  I don’t think we have 51% yet, but we’ll never know until the regime falls, which is only a matter of time and blood.

 A friend, who just arrived from Aleppo describes a ghost town. Business is almost non existent. Shabeeha have full control of fuel supplies once they arrive at the pump. While parked in the 2 hours long line, it is common for a shabbeeh to knock on the window asking if you want gasoline, which then is sold at incredibly high price. Price of food has more than doubled and even upper middle class families who now survive on their saving have to think whether to have fried eggs for lunch. The city, along with Damascus are increasingly restless, despite of the regime’s attempt to “reward” Aleppo for the apparent loyalty with the rewards ending squarely in the pockets of the greedy shabeeha.

ADDENDUM

After i finished the post, and went on to view twitter, i was in for a surprise, a blog called The Sweet Maker’s Wife, written by Evelyn Aissa a young Syrian Woman who holds a Masters in International Law. The current post on the blog is titled Deconstructing the Narrative on The Syrian Revolution (Jan 26, 2012). It is a more than worth reading for the excellent brief description of the various components of the opposition, if not for the plenty of other well presented information.

The “Arabized” and the boy-king

As expected, the Syrian regime has rejected the new Arab League decision, which was announced in a press conference led by the foreign minister of Qatar and the Secretary General of the League of Arab States. The press conference followed a meeting of the Council of the AL, during which a decision was made, partially in response to the report of the controversial AL monitors mission to Syria but more so as a last ditch attempt to allow a face-saving and reasonably short time exit to the regime. The full text of the decision is available on several web-sites along with summaries in English and Arabic. I have taken the liberty of removing the introductory part of that decision, which generally contains the “legislative mandate” and a great deal of references to previous decisions and sequence of communications. In the end, the following items were agreed on, with Algeria expressing reservation regarding the security council issue, and Lebanon distancing itself from any decision that may “impact Syria” while Iraq abstaining with no comment.

Below is the decision component of the document, first in Arabic and then translated to English to reflect the spirit of the decision as it was transmitted (To the best of my abilities). I had it ready on the night of the decision but I was unable to post it for personal reasons that have distracted me from 7ee6an for nearly three days and will likely continue for a while. I urge everyone to read it carefully, because I expect it to be the underlining “solution map” to be adopted by the Security Council. Events are hearing in that direction and this decision is likely to be with us for a while.

1-ضرورة وقف كافة أعمال العنف والقتل من أي مصدر كان حماية للمواطنين السوريين.

مطالبة الحكومة السورية بما يلي:

2-الإفراج عن المعتقلين، وإخلاء المدن والأحياء السكنية من جميع المظاهر المسلحة، وفتح المجال أمام منظمات الجامعة المعنية ووسائل الإعلام العربية والدولية للتنقل بحرية في جميع أنحاء سورية للاطلاع على حقيقة الأوضاع ورصد ما يدور فيها من أحداث.

3-سحب الجيش السوري وأية قوات مسلحة من مختلف التشكيلات إلى ثكناتها ومواقعها الأصلية.

4-ضمان حرية التظاهر السلمي بمختلف أشكاله وعدم التعرض للمتظاهرين.

5-دعوة الحكومة السورية إلى تسهيل مهمة بعثة المراقبين والسماح بإدخال كافة المعدات خاصةً أجهزة الاتصالات.

6-الاستمرار في دعم وزيادة عدد بعثة مراقبي جامعة الدول العربية وتوفير ما يلزم لهم من الدعم الفني والمالي والإداري، والتعاون مع الأمين العام للأمم المتحدة لدعم البعثة.

7-دعوة الحكومة السورية وكافة أطياف المعارضة السورية إلى بدء حوار سياسي جاد تحت رعاية جامعة الدول العربية في أجلٍ لا يتجاوز أسبوعين من هذه الدعوة وذلك لتحقيق المبادرة التالية:

أ-تشكيل حكومة وحدة وطنية خلال شهرين من تاريخه تشارك فيها السلطة والمعارضة برئاسة شخصية متفق عليها تكون مهمتها تطبيق بنود خطة الجامعة العربية، والإعداد لانتخاباتٍ برلمانية ورئاسية تعددية حرة بموجب قانون ينص على إجراءاتها، بإشراف عربي ودولي.

ب-تفويض رئيس الجمهورية نائبه الأول بصلاحيات كاملة للقيام بالتعاون التام مع حكومة الوحدة الوطنية لتمكينها من أداء واجباتها في المرحلة الانتقالية.

ت-إعلان حكومة الوحدة الوطنية حال تشكيلها بأن هدفها هو إقامة نظام سياسي ديمقراطي تعددي يتساوى فيه المواطنون بغض النظر عن انتماءاتهم وطوائفهم ومذاهبهم ويتم تداول السلطة فيه بشكلٍ سلمى.

ث-قيام حكومة الوحدة الوطنية على إعادة الأمن والاستقرار في البلاد وإعادة تنظيم أجهزة الشرطة لحفظ النظام وتعزيزه من خلال تولي المهام الأمنية ذات الطابع المدني، وتتعهد الدول العربية بتمويل هذا الجهد بالتنسيق مع جامعة الدول العربية.

ج-إنشاء هيئة مستقلة مفوضة للتحقيق في الانتهاكات التي تعرض لها المواطنون والبت فيها وإنصاف الضحايا.

ح-قيام حكومة الوحدة الوطنية بالإعداد لإجراء انتخاباتٍ لجمعية تأسيسية على أن تكون شفافة ونزيهة برقابة عربية ودولية، وذلك خلال ثلاثة أشهر من قيام حكومة الوحدة الوطنية وتتولى هذه الجمعية إعداد مشروع دستور جديد للبلاد يتم إقراره عبر استفتاء شعبي، وكذلك إعداد قانون انتخابات على أساس هذا الدستور.

8-تكليف الأمين العام لجامعة الدول العربية بتعيين مبعوث خاص لمتابعة العملية السياسية.

9-دعوة المجتمع الدولي إلى تقديم الدعم لحكومة الوحدة الوطنية لتمكينها من تنفيذ مهامها.

10-الطلب من رئيس اللجنة والأمين العام إبلاغ مجلس الأمن لدعم هذه الخطة طبقاً لقرارات مجلس الجامعة.

The Ministerial council decides

1 – to recognize the need to halt all acts of violence and murder from any source in order to protect the Syrian citizens.

Demands the following from the Syrian Government:

2 – The release of detainees, and the removal of all forms of arms from the cities and residential districts, allowing the League’s relevant (concerned) organizations and the Arab and international media to move freely in all parts of Syria to assess the reality of the situation and to monitor the ongoing events.

3 – The withdrawal of the Syrian army and armed forces of any of the various divisions to their barracks and their original locations.

4 – To guarantee the freedom to demonstrate peacefully in all its forms and to not confront protesters.

5 – Call on the Syrian government to facilitate the mission of observers and to allow the introduction of all of their equipment, especially communications equipment.

6 – To continue to support and increase the number of Observer Mission of the Arab League and to provide them with technical, financial and administrative support, and to cooperate with the Secretary General of the United Nations to support the mission.

7 – Invite the Syrian government and all elements of the spectrum of the Syrian opposition to start a serious political dialogue under the auspices of the League of Arab States within a period not exceeding two weeks from this initiative, to achieve the following:

A – A national unity government within two months from this date with the participation of government and the opposition and that is led by an agreeable person the task of implementing the provisions of the Arab League plan, and preparing for pluralistic parliamentary and presidential elections under the in accordance with law specifying the electoral procedures and Arab and international supervision.

B – The delegation by the president of the republic to the first Vice-President of the full authority to carry out a full cooperation with the national unity government to enable them to perform their duties in the transitional period.

C – Declaration by the so formed national unity government that its goal is to establish a democratic, pluralistic political system in which all citizens are equal regardless of their affiliations and sects and denominations and whereby power is transferred peacefully.

D – The national unity government is to restore security and stability in the country and to reorganize (restructure) the police force to maintain order through taking over all civilian security matters. The Arab States undertake to fund this effort in coordination with the League of Arab States.

E – the establishment of an independent body mandated to investigate and decide on the abuses suffered by the citizens and to compensate the victims.

F – The national unity government is to prepare for Arab and internationally monitored transparent and fair elections of a constituent assembly within three months of the formation of the national unity government. The assembly is to prepare a draft new constitution to be adopted through a referendum, as well as to preparation of an election law on the basis of the Constitution.

8 – To request the Secretary General of the League of Arab States to appoint a special envoy to follow up the political process.

9 – to invite the international community to provide support to the national unity government and to enable it to carry out its functions.

10 – To request the Chairman of the Council and the Secretary-General to inform the Security Council in order to support this plan in accordance with the resolutions of the League’s Council.

I believe that the road map renders the monitors’ report to secondary importance. If summarized,  The decision calls for the withdrawal of all armed forces and their return to their barracks, for guaranteeing freedom of demonstration and facilitating and supporting the mission of the AL monitors and ensuring free and unhindered access to Arab and International press access to the country. However, article 7, with its six points makes a sharp turn against the Syrian regime. The six points do present a new AL plan (roadmap), that will take Syria into a pluralistic parliamentarian system within a timeframe far shorter than what the regime has in mind and some bloggers have called for (i.e., 2021, which is the end of Bashar Al-Assad’s third term). The AL new plan consists of starting a “serious” dialog between the regime and all factions of the opposition within two weeks, to be followed by the formation of a national unity government from both sides within two months that is headed by an agreeable personality. The national unity government will be responsible within a short period of time for calling an election of a constitutional assembly, drafting new constitution, establishing peace, guaranteeing, the rights of citizens to protest peacefully, and most importantly restructuring the “police” force to bear the sole responsibility for civil peace. The national unity government is to also form an independent committee to investigate complaints of abuse and to coordinate the compensation of victims albeit with no mention of punishing perpetrators, which indicates that the AL envisions a committee styled more as a national reconciliation committee than a criminal investigation panel or court.

Thanks to annie, we have a copy of what the steadfast, always polite Revlon wrote especially on some of the key aspects of the AL new roadmap, But in international crisis-resolution initiatives there is no substitute for the full text.  Sometimes ambiguities speak more than clear text and I think in this case, ambiguities were intended to allow both the regime and opposition margin of negotiation instead of outright rejection of the decision. The reactionary regime of course could not but reject the roadmap claiming that it first violates Syrian sovereignty and that it falls short of the “reforms” the great leader has already initiated where none of the decision’s signatories have undertaken similar initiatives. The opposition, especially the SNC remain cautious regarding rejection, and have considered the decision to be a recognition from the Arab states of the legitimacy of the revolution, and the first practical step towards internationalization of the issue through the security council.

A customized version of the GCC’s Yemen initiative, the AL decision could have been easily used by the regime to its advantage and to guarantee a semblance of acceptance to its intended joke of a national unity government albeit with a lot of negotiation towards the forming of this government. Several regime-made opposition personalities (no leaders) are already scrambling to position themselves to play leading role in that national unity government, some in hopes to influence what they believe is going to be the next stage of Syria’s evolution towards pluralistic politics under the leadership of the “great leader”. The regime could have also interpreted the text  in item 7-B calling for delegation of authority to state that only those authorities required to facilitate the national unity government need to be delegated and that does not mean departure of the despised “great leader”. There are several similar examples where the regime could have found ample margin for maneuver and I expect that it will at some point in time request that this decision be undusted and revived as it enters into some sort of negotiation only to find that like the protestors and having been rebuffed and lied to constantly, AL members would by then raise the ceiling of demands in response to the regime’s continuing brutality.

Alas, the reactionary regime has decided on continuation of the brute force option. News of tightening the siege on Hama and increasing fortification of the regime’s positions inside the city along with complete communication black-outs are ominous signs of the brutality of the next phase of the Assad mafia clan plan to finish off this revolution in the midst of total melt down of the state authority and of the regime’s hold on many parts of Syria. With the exception of Aleppo, and the central core of Damascus, the presence of regime forces and thugs in any locality can no longer be equated with control of such locality notwithstanding the successful ejection of the regimes goons in few localities. There are signs of possible change in the Russian position, but I would not count much on that in the sense that any Russian plan would aim first to protect the structure of the regime apparatus even if it involves the departure of the Bashar Al-Assad.

As I wrote earlier, article 7 of the decision represents a road map. The opposition can also rely on it to shape the next step and in fact some of the elements listed in article 7 represent the minimum level of the demands from the opposition. The AL even addresses, rather diplomatically and again with a degree of ambiguity, the issue of restructuring civil security forces (Article 7-D) as well as the issue of forming an investigation panel (7-E). Overall, the plan could have formed a good start but the reactionary regime, thinking that it will be able to suppress history, thought otherwise.

Muallem’s Press Conference

As I write these words, Muallem is now giving a press conference berating Arab states for their “conspiracy” against Syria, It seems that he is trying to turn on the table to refocus attention on the “regime-friendly” monitors report, which now seems to have been written by the Syrian regime. He is claiming that the report validated the Syrian regime’s adherence to the AL earlier initiative. Muallem is still selling the “reform” package. He is now asking others to “learn from Syria” with extracurricular classes. It is telling that Muallem (the foreign minister) is saying that the request to extend the mission is being studied, and the moment they (him and his team) receive directives, they will go ahead with the necessary steps. My question is who is going to send the directive, and who is in the circle that “instructs” him as he seems to declare himself as a non entity with respect to policy, something every Syrian knew for long time. He is very persistent in talking about “armed groups”. Al-Alam TV is asked Muallem to take a decisive action against “armed groups” and to close the “Qatari” embassy. So now a mouthpiece of the Iranian regime is instructing the Syrian regime in what to do. Had any other foreign press representative asked questions with that tone, he would have been accused of violating the sovereignty of Syria. Muallem showered praise on the head of the observer mission General Al-Dabi. Al-Jadid TV  also tried to advocate a “speedy” resolution of the “armed groups” issue to an enthusiastic Muallem. In response to the Chinese TV question about sanction, Muallem admitted that half of the current economic difficulties in Syria are due to the sanctions. In response to “Lebanese” NBN, Muallem declared the Arabs’ role dead, but at the same time seem to insist on the extension of the observers’ mission!. He threatened now to break the glass houses left by the colonialists in all Arab countries (naturally with the exception of Syria!)

Muallem’s use of the report to the advantage of the Syrian regime will be a death sentence of the observers’ mission and will discredit the mission and its leadership more than they are already discredited. A good step from the AL now would be to dismiss the head of the mission and re-constitute the mission with far more neutral leader. Al-Dabi has by all means removed himself from being a suitable head of the mission after recent declarations. It is also noteworthy that the SNC has asked the LCCs to stop cooperating with the extended observers’ mission.

The Secretary General of the League of Arab States met today with the Ambassadors of the five permanent members of the Security Council. At the same time, the Chair of the AL council and the Secretary General made a formal request for a meeting with the Secretary General of the UN regarding the crisis in Syria. The internationalization machine has started, and I hope that the SNC will be careful, dynamic, and smart in the coming phase.

To say that the AL plan intended on helping Assad is a mistake, I think the Arabs have finally figured out how dumb and suicidal the Syrian regime is, every time a survival rope is extended, these bozos turn it into another knot in the noose. Figuring this out, Arab League will hopefully continue to extend them helping ropes and to make these ropes thicker and thicker in cynical hope that the regime will use these ropes in the same manner it used every single help.   Aleppo has a little vulgar proverb that says “يللي بيجاكر طيزو بيعملها بلبيسو  ” which translates into, “to spite his asshole he defecates in his underwear”, with the closest English proverb would be “cutting of the nose to spite the face”. The regime has always been a contemptuous gang. Expect it to continue to smell as stinky as it has made itself. Those carrying water for this regime, should look in their containers and probably smell their content before it is too late.

Olives, Ironies, and civil war

On Jan, 5, 2011, Subhi Hadidi, a journalist termed by many in the opposition, including myself, as a moral compass for being fiercely independent in his criticism of the Syrian regime, published an article in the London based Pan Arab newspaper Alquds Alarabi about the cornerstone of the Syrian regime and its evolution during the past 10 month. The article’s introduction describes the intent of Adanan Alsukhbi, the regime’s governor of the Raqqa governorate of Syria to uproot the 15 years old olive trees planted on the private farm of activist lawyer Abduallah Al-Khalil after Assad’s militias destruction of the the lawyer’s house.  One of two trees mentioned in the Quran (fig and olive), and a universal symbol of peace, olive trees are both mystical and semi-sacred.  And uprooting olive trees, next to home demolition, has been a constant presence in Arab memory ever since it has been practiced by Israeli settlers and IDF soldiers be it as collective and individual punishment of Palestinians, pre-confiscation action, or part of the controversial and illegal price-tag policy exacted by extremist settlers against both the Palestinians and Israeli security forces.

It was an epic irony that, in his forth speech since the uprising started, and while the issue of uprooting olive trees in Raqqa, being fresh, and with Bashar Al-Assad being dubbed by many Syrians as having presided over the killing of more Syrians than double the number of Lebanese and Palestinians killed through the two most recent actions of Israel’s forces, and right after berating “certain” Arab countries and the Arab League as betrayers of Arabism (Urooba), chose, with pride, Syria’s rank as the fifth country in producing olives and olive-oil as one of the fundamental strengths of Syria that he hoped will get Syria through the isolation his regime has put the country through. It goes without saying that farmers and refugees from Jabal Alzzaweyah and Idlib region, have also described Assad’s forces scorched earth policy of uprooting and burning ancient olive trees in this region, which is responsible for a majority of Syria’s high quality olives and olive oil. Needless to say, Syrians have been talking loudly about the fact that the number of victims of the Assads’ forty one year reign of terror already exceeds the numbers of Syrians who lost their lives in the multiple wars with the enemy the regime is supposed to protect Syria from. Read the rest of this entry

Of Bombs and Fake web sites

I tend to agree with Maysaloon (the boy who cried wolf) , Robin Yassin Qassab (Now the Bombs) ,  and few others who were very rational in withholding judgement  about who was behind the recent explosions in Damascus. I find both posts to be well thought and encourage reading them both. Many have also posted and wrote about the possibility that it was the Syrian regime, using arguments that the names of the victims have not been announced (i have seen some names on FB discussions), the hurrid way of pinning the crime on Al-Qaida, the timing and the whole atmosphere of celebration of death accompanying the regime’s “see, this vindicates us”  unethical use of the dead. Notable, off course is the absence of the “it is not my army” head of the regime in the whole thing.

While I withhold judgement, I share with some 7ee6anis the notion that it is naive to exclude the possibility of an orchestrated act by the Syrian regime. It was very interesting to see that both SHEILA and I had similar responses to Joshua Landis’s article (Suicide Bombing Changes Nature of the Syrian Revolution). SHEILA writes

Dear Dr. Landis,
You said: ”I was asked by journalists today what I thought about the notion that the Syrian government planned the car bombs to provide a pretext for their increasingly violent crackdown on the opposition. It reminds me of the notion that Washington was behind the World Trade Center bombing to provide a pretext for invading Iraq. I don’t give either much credibility”.

I am a little shocked at this statement. Comparing the 9/11 conspiracy theory to the bombings in Syria is not something that an “expert” in Syria would do. The 9/11 conspiracy is very far fetched. For the US government to plan an attack on the scale of 9/11 and keep it as a secret is very near to impossible. The way the US government works makes it so. However, the way the Syrian regime works make it very plausible for it to do such things and never be exposed. The Syrian regime works and thinks like a Mafia. A group of criminals that are capable of doing anything. The regime today is under immense pressure, do you really put something like this beyond them? I am not saying it is a certainty that the regime did it, but not to give any credibility to such a claim is naïve at best. (no disrespect intended).

On 7ee6an, i wrote

 I really did not want to chime in on the explosions story. But i think that my dear friend Joshua has it wrong. To begin with the US politics, despite of all the deal making remains deliberative politics and the system works with a pile of checks and balances that would eliminate any chance of a conspiracy such as the one required for Sept 11 to be a US government made disaster.

On the other hand, the Syrian thuggish regime is a conspiratorial regime by its nature. Any one who watches the official media and its dirty sisters will recognize the cheep and stupid conspiratorial nature of this regime. The regime, being so, also views and perpetuates a conspiracy explanation of event. Equating the two is a nativity i had not expected from Joshua. I think that rationality has limits, and those limits are not dictated by how rational the person analyzing the events but by the irrationality of those making the events.

Yet, a pathetic attempt to pin the explosion of the Muslim Brothers of Syria, and by extension on the entire Syria National Council was made, exposed, and is now in tatter along, perhaps, with the sanity of a young man who worked for the regime’s propaganda.

Mr. Email K. Nasrallah, the man accused of faking the fake Ikhwan wab-site was quick to purchase privacy service for his web sites after the exposure of his relationship t the fake site (Ikhwan-sy.com) which was reported on 7ee6an first by hazrid, and then by Syrian Hamster.  All of his sites were taken off-line and the privacy shield was activated within a very short time after the story was found.  Soon afterward, regime propagandists, one them is an SC commentator, tried to peddle a technically sounding story, which links the owner of the privacy name server providing the privacy service just activated by Mr. Emile K. Nasrallah as the culprit. Hamster confronted the new fake, made a mistake in numbering the relevant SC comment, corrected it, but provided no technical details except for his usual hit and run savage attacks on the SC hypocrites as once described by our dear friend WSS.

Meanwhile, a young IT specialist, who is not connected in any way to the Ikhwan was working on the story, discovering one trace after the other and following Mr. Emile K. Nasrallah foray in the world of Syrian regime lies and deceptions. Below is the results of his work.

Why is this story extremely important. While I am no friend of MBs, but in the 1980s a series of events rocked Syria, these consisted of assassinations of Alawite intellectuals, a massacre in the military academy in Aleppo, and several explosions that resulted in many deaths and injuries. Some of these, especially the assassinations do have typical signature of the then active Ikhwan’s military wing, but some of the crucial events, such as a major explosion and the Azbakyya district of Damascus, paved the way for the regime of Hafez Assad to enact law 49, which punishes membership in Ikhawn with death, and has initiated much of the torture, executions, and very long jail terms of thousands of Syrians as described in the Novel Shell recently brought to the attention of  7ee6anis by Sheila. Many have argued that that particular explosion was in fact a Hafez’s regime false flag operation, but lacking investigative resources, and the fact that his regime continued in the regime of his criminal son, made it hard for anyone to identify truth from lies in the decades long regime’s propaganda against islamists in general, and more particularly, the Muslim Brotherhood of Syria. Then, a declaration of responsibility was issued, and most people, despite of the protestation of the Ikhwan’s leadership, believed it. Twafiq Hallaq, a well known TV anchor, who recently defected, alluded to the incident in a very sharp post on his own FB page.

Today, and 30+ years afterward, two explosions rock Damascus. Within minutes, the regime declares AlQaida as the perpetrator. This was stupid because while it may give the impression of lending credence to the regime’s story of militant groups operating in the country, the series of events leading to this accusation included a very recent lie, orchestrated with the help from the Lebanese defense minister (a HA guy) declaring that Al-Qaida has been active, moving between Lebanon and Syria in the rough terrain area of Ersal. The Syrian foreign ministry spokesman claimed that there was a formal warning from Lebanon regarding the plans of Al-Qaida to start operating in Syria, which was belied later by the Lebanese Foreign Minister. Immediately, regime propagandists had an explanation that it was Iran who has warned Lebanon, Syria, and Iraq of the upcoming wave of Al-Qaida massacres.

Notwithstanding the holes in the regime’s earlier story, it also had a fatal tactical mistake, and that was the implicit recognition that if Al-Qaida was moving into Syria, such move was inaugurated with the security buildings explosions, which fails to pin the numerous numbers of deaths that have occurred until now as being the results of militant groups and in linking the explosion to the current groups participating in the Syrian opposition . There was a need for immediate recovery and linkage to Syrian opposition. And there comes the alleged involvement of Mr. Emil K. Nasrallah.

Recently, a web site surfaced that claimed to represent Al-Ikhwan Almuslimoon of Syria (Muslim Brothers of Syria). The site (Ikhwan-sy.com) had made several claims that hinted to Ikhwan’s semi-control of the FSA and claimed Ikhwan’s responsibility for recent operations resulting in killing many soldiers and regime sympathizers. The language and tone of these declarations were modeled on printed pamphlets in the eighties, but a good examinations by experts points to inconsistencies and errors that are unlikely to be made by someone who reads Quran and Islamic texts as would someone in charge of Ikhwan’s media operations.

Lo and behold, the site described above was fast in claiming responsibility for the explosions. Off course the Ikhwan denied it, and the story told above unraveled to expose a fake site, fake media operation, and cheep lies of a murderous regime.

While a definite proof will require far more serious investigation before convicting young Mr. Nasrallah of being responsible for the Massacre, which is unlikely, but his role in the fake site is as tight as possible. All circumstantial evidence point to his role in creating the site. What is left is to discern whether he was doing it on his own initiative or by dictate from the propaganda team of the Assad regime. This will be left to those in Aleppo, but more importantly, the physical safety of this young man, whose father is an advisor to the regime’s grand mufti of  (Hassoun) and a well recognized and respected figure in Aleppo, must be assured at all costs. Needless to say, no one is accusing Mr. Emil’s father of wrong doing in this matter and no one should.

Delusional Detachment .. Assad in his own words

Text on the sheet of paper reads (Party Ideology). By Ali Ferzat.

In a recent article in the Canadian Globe and Mail, titled Untouchable’ Assad ruled by duty to familyPatrick Martin, the Middle East correspondent takes a shot at trying to analyze the Syrian president, whom he terms as “contradictory man” , who  “speaks the lines of Western liberalism but plays the part of ruthless dictator.“. Quoting former Jordanian PM Marwan Al-Muashar, the correspondent writes:

Marwan Muasher, Jordan’s former foreign minister, wrote that he always found Mr. al-Assad more reasonable in private. His “habit of pontificating in public was abandoned in private settings,” he said. “He listened to opposing arguments … with a desire to understand other points of view.”

In my own opinion, the article is nothing more than the recycling of the standard-form western narration of the Assads’ family story, with the primary goal of  overemphasizing the sectarian aspects of Syrian society we are accustomed to in western press articles about Syria. I read twice, and in both times i felt that Mr. Martin simply had to submit something, and he opted for the narration of only a minor aspect of the on-going struggle in Syria. In fact, I believe that our own Haytham Khoury’s “Immaturity as an origin of evil: Bashar al-Assad as a case study” analysis of Bashar Al-Assad has much more value to add in the attempt to understand the person even though Haytham does not delve too deeply into the family loyalty issue.

The Syrian society is a complex society, the pressure of despotism, the Baath party, and the layers of security arrangements over the past half a century have added tremendously to that complexity. Yet, at the core of the on-going revolt stand the simple absolute axiomatic issues of Right, Good, and Justice. Syrians’ quest for these principles, which have gone missing under the Assads, manifests itself in very subtle manner. Those failing to understand this concept always revert to the sectarian conditioning, which hides the much deeper meaning. Read the rest of this entry

The “Half-men” respond to the Boy-king

In 2006, and during the Israeli war on Lebanon, Bashar Al-Assad, claiming leadership of the Arab resistance camp, and using the popularity of Hizbullah’s struggle against Israel to burnish his own image, called Arab leaders “half-men”. Whether that was on the minds of the 18 foreign ministers who voted yes for the suspension of the participation of the Syrian delegation in all of the league’s activities and meetings remain to be found by those who write books of political intrigue and personalities. For now, it is clear that the Syrian regime thought that its policy makers are smarter than the “Bedouins” and has underestimated their resolve and intelligence.

The Chair of the meeting today, Qatar’s foreign minister outlined the decision in 7 points. Here they are in Arabic, then in English: Read the rest of this entry

War Drums Are Beating From Ankara to Damascus (By True)

Guess who's gonna sing the high notes.

The current Syria-related events and developments represent no disorder or spontaneous meaningless actions. A careful, detail searching eye can easily notice a pre-made orchestrated solfège being composed by many singers (i.e., stakeholders), the US starts with “Fa” to receive “Re” from the EU while Turkey amplifies with “Sol”  and AL resonate with “Mi”.   Contrary to the regime’s reactionist behavior, most of these lately rolled-out developments are pre-planned and systematically driven by many hidden and obvious interested parties, and indisputably a multi-phases strategy combined with an exponential applied-pressure plan is currently in place in order to reach multiple goals of ousting the current Syrian regime and reshuffling power-balance in the region. I’m happy to refer to this ongoing strategy as PLCPO.

Poking (achieved) → Lobbying (achieved) → Cornering (achieved) → Pressuring (In progress) → Ousting (Yet to come) Read the rest of this entry

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