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.
I am not good at that. I mean, I don’t know how to collate news round-ups despite of all helpful modern blogging tools that make such task easier. May be I don’t like to do so, or perhaps, it has become harder as my main source of news ceased being news-papers and blogs and became fast tweets, rapid shots of RSS-feeds, and Facebook posts coming from all over Syria telling me and a cynical world where a mortar shell has just fallen and where the most recent massacre-by-barrel has taken place decimating a neighborhood block and absurdly ending many potentials of greatness, mediocrity, and just plain normal living.
It is also harder to be opinionated nowadays, especially regarding the rapidly unfolding events in Syria. Although they occure in rapid succession, these events nonetheless betray a slow steadily flowing lava-like wall of brutality, suffering, and unimaginable misery. Friends are wounded with no well-organized medical relief to take care of them, and when relief is available, it is mostly controlled by a single group with a viciously selfish and opportunistic political agenda whereby aid is dispensed only to those who belong in their allegiance to the group or to its battalions. In many cases, these battalions consist of fighters and leaders who are neither indoctrinated, nor deeply religious, but are pragmatic in meeting the needs of the moment, be it a case of ammunition, a few gallons of fuel, or some food to sustain their fighters.
What permeate the atmosphere in Aleppo are the genetic prints of the culture of despotism, nurtured and fed through corruption and terror by two generations of Assads. Despotism is evident among some armed groups, more evidently in the north than elsewhere around the country. In Aleppo, stories of abuse, theft, corruption, lack of coordination, greed, vengeance, betrayal, and selfishness continue to surface every day. A majority of these stories can be attributed to the hordes of Shabeeha (regime thugs). Abandoned by Assad when they could not hold off FSA progress in some of the older neighborhoods, they decided to form their own armed groups or to join other groups under the banner of the free Syrian Army. But other stories can be attributed to young men, now carrying weapons, and are entrusted with maintaining peace and order in liberated areas. The young men fail to remember that this revolution is all about ending abuse and behave the only way they have seen men with arms and authority behave, which is being abusive with a sense of entitlement. As expected, the regime, continues its deliberate and vengeful “burn the country” madness as its forces bomb infrastructure including power stations, bakeries, hospitals as well as civilian neighborhoods, being high on its check list of mayhem. Power outages, water cuts, and full deterioration of basic services have made life unbearable in a city used to abundance, and during forty years, was devoid through premeditated malice by the Assads and their goons of civil society institutions with the capacity to maintain social cohesion in times of disasters. Aleppo is a city plagued, like all of Syria, with a state that is indistinguishable from the brutal regime, described by Yassin Haj-Salih, as having used the state to cement its brutal sectarian rule, and gradually eradicated it and turned it into a mere extension of itself. Clearly, the regime shed the state at the moment the it became a liability to the small gang of bloody Assads and their sectarian criminal circle.
It is natural, therefore, that some residents of the liberated areas in Aleppo’s would complain about the presence FSA in their midst. Lack of basic services, severe bread crisis, weeks’ long black-outs, and water outages, all under constant bombardment will eventually get to you. But is that a sign that FSA is losing public support? Or that the regime is gaining more supporters? Frankly, I believe that only a fool, who is completely detached from the facts on the ground would think that the regime can gain any public support at this stage. Same fool, of course, may even think that this criminal gang of thugs care about gaining public support. The Assads and their henchmen have combined brutality, corruption, despotism, fatalism, and sectarianism to create a witch’s brew of absurdity of an inhuman scale and qualities. Within such severely deformed prism, facts don’t matter, and it is irrelevant whether one believes his own lies or not for suspension of disbelief is no longer a requirement. What matters is only fear and spiteful vengeance. And both are hallmarks of the inhuman horde that had ruled my Syria for most of my lifetime.
In the midst of suffering and in contrast to the lack of coordination among FSA groups in the north emerge groups of highly disciplined fighters. The origins of these Jihadist groups is unclear, but they are now coalescing under the banner of Jabhat Alnusra (Support Front). I have argued in the past that Alnusra is highly suspect of being a regime’s creation. But recenty, the front and its smaller sisters seem to have taken an increasingly more visible role as the most effective of the anti-regime armed groups. Moreover, there are visible campaigns to bestow a legendary stature on the front as its fighters seem to be present in almost all recent victories of the the FSA against the regime. With each victory, the group gains control over much of the spoils of captured weapons and ammunition. Other groups, not directly affiliated with the front, but wanting to get access to the same source of support the front has, are starting to copy-cat the front’s behavior, contrary to what a majority of Syrians expect and want from this revolution. This is exemplified by those fools who declared the establishment of the virtue brigades calling for cleansing Syria of Alawite as well as the small band battalion leaders war-lords wannabe who declared an Islamic Emirate in the north in a desperate effort to oppose the newly formed political coalition, which they feared will centralize funds and leave them out to dry if they don’t shape up.
Arguably, the presence and ascendancy of Jihadi groups has been a double-edged sword. On the one hand, they have made it easier to wipe out the regime’s brutal security apparatus in the upcoming post-assad era as they have managed to close many of its branches, scare its informants into hiding, and intimidate its collaborators, sometimes through outright execution style assassinations especially at the local level. At the same time, they have made defection of much-needed officer corps harder than it would have been without their rigid “I am a Jihadist” attitude and their arrogant calls to force a Taliban model state of future Syria. In fact, and as expected, the have pushed their luck too far and have now scared the US and some other nations to the edge of declaring them terrorist organizations. Such declaration, even if right, further complicates the ongoing liberation of Syria. It hinders much-needed relief efforts and jeopardizes the immediate post-assad political process.
I have not commented on the forming of the new Coalition. Many have argued that the coalition suffers the same ailments of its largest component (SNC), which is controlled by the opportunistic and cynical Muslim Brothers. In my opinion, the coalition, for now at least, presents a reasonable platform. It seems to be successfully led by a charismatic and respected leader, who still needs to do much more to stem the monopoly the Muslim Brothers have over much of the aid resources available. This monopoly continues to place honest people, who are willing to work within SNC in bad situations. Today, the Kurdish National Council decided to join the coalition, which is bound to reduce the influence of the MBs. Hopefully, with more opposition groups joining as a result of the coalition becoming recognized as the legitimate interim representative of the Syrian people, there may be a chance for some marked improvements on the political front. Power plays are bound to affect it, like any ad hoc political coalition formed in response to external pressure while facing a brutal regime that has succeeded, through this brutality in making relief work the primary measure of performance for the opposition instead of their political or even military successes.
Likewise, militarily, also under external pressure, there seem to be a trend for coordination. A meeting was held recently in Antalya, Turkey between representatives of many of the armed revolutionary groups. Once more a new central command was announced, albeit in complete isolation from the political coalition, at least for the time being.
Criticism of the FSA is coming from several sides. I will of course dismiss that emanating from loyalists and regime propagandists. But I will not discount any criticism voiced from revolutionary quarters. Some of the criticism is fair and some is not, but in all, it is a very healthy sign that has thrown some of the personnel and leaders of FSA off balance and has caused them to try to ameliorate some of the problems, albeit through Sharia Courts, and vice and virtue brigade, which on many occasions have add fuel to the fire instead of calming things down. I would further argue that once the regime air force and artillery are silenced, hopefully soon, civil society will emerge and will thrive in short order. It is the regime’s murderous campaign of destruction that continues to hinder the establishment of effective local councils. The evidence of the inherent and capacity to produce healthy community governance was well articulated earlier on NPR
Overall, the picture is grim. Syrians are now recalling what their great grandparents have once told their parents about the great years of famine and misery. That was the time of Safar Barlek when the Ottomans forcibly drafted most men of all ages for then war efforts and confiscated most agricultural products. This left the women, the children, and the elderly to fend for themselves during one of the harshest cold spells in the elders’ memory. The Syrian tragedy resembles no other, for never in recent and past history have rulers shown such contempt to their own people. The misery of Syrians have spread throughout the region. Children have died in the cold of most inhumane refugee camps in Jordan. I was recently told that the Jordanian authorities tax every single aid shipment intended for the camps or for wounded Syrians in Jordanian hospitals by confiscating a third of the shipment. This is notwithstanding that on several occasions, what was left after confiscation, never really made it to the camps or to those who need it. There is no worst story to tell of the horror than that of children’s horror. Even the lucky ones, who made it through the help of family members into the safety of homes in Egypt or in one of the gulf states continue to suffer. A Facebook post illustrated this most vividly by telling the story of a little girl, who was brought to safety in the United Arab Emirates by her uncle. The girl went for an outing with her family during the celebrations of the UAE national day. When she heard the sound of celebratory fireworks, the little girl pressed her small hands over her ears and started shouting hysterically, Bashar is bombing us, Bahsar is bombing us.
It is for this child, it is for Hamza’s memory, for Qashoush, for nearly fifty thousand Syrians young and old, murdered in cold blood by Assad gangs, with fanfare from ugly and cruel herds of mindless loyalists accompanying the slaughter, it is for the victims, for Syria, and above all for humanity that Syrians can’t lose hope. We can’t afford to lose it, even knowing that this regime might and can easily resort to the weapons of mass murder in its arsenal. There is nothing that the regime has done to demonstrate that it amassed the arsenals of weapons for anything but for its survival even if that meant the utter destruction of a beautiful country, and the death of all of its inhabitants. Anyone who thinks that there is a shred of humanity or of rationalism in the Assad gang is a fool who has blinded himself to forty years of history leading to two years of anti-historical nightmare. No one is responsible but the regime, and anyone claiming otherwise is complicit in the great Syrian Genocide. The list of regime crimes include, in addition to the evil murder of tens of thousands of Syrians, the torture of hundreds of thousands. But the most evil of this contemptible gang’s crimes is the attempted murder of the souls of Syrians and of their humanity. To the scared child I say, sweet child, they have been bombarding us for forty-two years. Little by little, they destroyed our heritage of civility. But my sweet child, we will get that back. Granted, we may lose some of our innocence, but from you dear child, we will learn it again.
Revised- Saturday: December 15, 2012
Note: Dear 7ee6anis. I think by now, most of you already know of SYRIA DEEPLY. It is an outstanding new site on Syria that combines smart commentary, intelligent design, and for the tech-freak mundass some incredible tools such as defection tracker, regime relation mapping, and an updated map of incident on the ground. The site also feather Syrian Stories, with two so far written by the wonderful Amal Hanano. You may want to read this article about Syria Deeply describing how the site Outsmarts The News, Redefines Conflict Coverage.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
I’d like to start this 3178-word Mega-comment by refuting everything said by True about sentiments towards Palestinians in Damascus, with no offense to True intended; I’m not in the messenger-shooting business.
I have never, ever heard a single anti-Palestinian slogan at any of the protests I have attended, nor have I heard any anti-Palestinian slogans in any of the videos on the web, and I extend this statement to clearly sectarian slogans in the same vein. To some extent, relations with the Palestinian community have been affected by the revolution, with the pro-regime groups such as the General Command (القيادة العامة : أحمد جبريل) and Al-Sa’aeqa (الصاعقة) being pitted against everybody else. Yes, the regime finally succeeded in unifying the Palestinians. After the attacks on the Palestinian protest by GC in Yarmouk camp, which happened soon after the attempts to enter the Golan, I have heard Palestinians aligned with Hamas, Fatah, Islamic Jihad, and various others swear up and down that they will do a multitude of unspeakable things to Ahmed Jibreel, none of which I will detail here. The Palestinians are generally with the revolution, and the revolution (at least that is the sentiment here, in the Damascus area) is with the Palestinians.
The Veto Power
I’m Going to do something controversial here and explain one view regarding ‘veto’ concept within the UNSC. Please don’t be too harsh on me.
A long, long time ago, the world was a bloody place. Much more bloodier than it is today. We all recall tales of the great empires of old, and the greater empires of not-so-old. All these great empires had penchant for going at each other. The Persians and the Romans, the English and the French, the Ottomans and the Safavids, and countless others.
Often, we would see wars break out at the slightest provocation. Granted, killing a Serbian prince in itself isn’t going to cause a war to end all wars, but sometimes, many times, it can be a sufficient fuse. What is different in our modern world is the lack of great wars. We haven’t seen super-powers duke it out, not since the Second World War. This is, I think because of two reasons:
- We talk. Imagine the Cuban Missile Crisis without communications between the US and the USSR, or without a forum like the UN.
- Superpowers can bugger with each other without going to war
The second point is basically Veto rights. The legal structure of the UN, and the rules and restrictions placed on war-making within the structure mean that nation-states need to go through various acrobatic acts before they can proactively go to war.
Imagine if Syria was a major strategic asset for Russia, one that the Russians would be willing to go to war over. Imagine Russia not having veto power in such a situation.
To understand veto rights, one must think outside the ‘favoritism’ mentality. The nations that were given these rights at the formation of the UN have been the largest military powers since the late 1940s. A veto is a diplomatic tool that allows one of these nations to defend its interests, rightly or wrongly so, in a way that does not involve military action. This is one of the main reasons the world hasn’t seen two superpowers colliding in a military conflict. The (relatively) little things they used to go to war over are now vetoed into lower intensity.
With that said, Veto powers never were a good idea, and I disagree with the concept.
On the subject of the Russian, and to a lesser extent Chinese position… It is one that brings up many conspiracy theories. One thing that has been clear is that the Russians are intelligent about their foreign policy, and have a tendency to support their allies (even the wacky genocidal ones) to the hilt. Once things go past the hilt though, and all that support is gone. Two examples come to mind here: the aforementioned Cuban Missile Crisis, which ended with an under the table deal between the USSR and the USA that left Cuba out in the cold and Castro swearing with the ferocious rage of someone who just learnt about the realities of Superpower diplomacy, and the Serbian example everybody is talking about.
It isn’t clear though what the Russians see in Syria. True, there is a small naval base in Tartous, but it isn’t one that can be considered of any use in any conflicts it might be needed in other than as a weak retardant, at least for the next few years. Expanded, it might play a role in defending Russia’s assets and allies throughout the wider region, including The Mediterranean region, the Black Sea, the Gulf and the east coast of Africa, but that will take many years to happen.
There is also the Russian fear of similar ‘intervention’ happening on its grounds or much closer to home, but the Libya situation should show them that such action will happen regardless of what the Russians want when the Europeans and Americans put their minds to it, and the Russians do realize that the US is very hesitant in engaging directly in the Russian sphere of influence, as was clear in Georgia, when the Russians Decimated a relatively important NATO ally without any real western resistance.
What seems to me to be the dominant factor in Russian thinking now is the domino effect. The revolution is part of a long line of dominoes around the world, which include demonstrations in the west such as the Spain demonstrations last year, and the greater Occupy movement, as well as the other Arab revolutions. It is conceivable that these revolutions will spread to more regions considered pro-Russian. Prime locations, other than Iran would be the Caucus and Balkans regions, the Asian Soviet Republics such as Kazakhstan, and to Russia itself. It is also clear that once, and if Revolts spread to these regions, some if not most will be supported directly by a large body of Arab revolutionaries, and directly and indirectly by Powers That Care (PTCs). Historically, this has happened as is evident in the Arab Mujaheddin in Afghanistan, Arab support in the various Yugoslav conflicts, and the Arabs in Chechnya. Really, we’re more international than the Americans in our conflicts.
Defection and the FSA
What we must understand is that the defectors are, at the same level, are reacting in a manner consistent with what we all saw in Egypt most recently, and in places such as Romania and to a lesser extent Tunisia previously. The only difference is that while the decision to defect was taken by the highest echelons of military command in the aforementioned cases, here in Syria we have a complacent and criminal high command that is in the end, part of the cult-leadership. This in turn caused people much lower in the chain of command to take personal initiatives based on their moral ideals. Initially, the FSA focused on defending protests. The reason that large-scale protests such as the ones we see in Homs before the invasion, and the Suburbs of Damascus is because off camera, there are FSA soldiers on the rooftops defending the protesters from any Assadist attack. Later on, the FSA grew in confidence, to a point where it started engaging the military in offensive action. Sometimes, these attacks have had an adverse effect on the FSA in the short-term or long-term, such as the recent offensive on the eastern Ghouta, which has unearthed a lot of inefficiencies in the FSA, and a lot of things that need sorting out.
In short, these guys have acted as a military force with some sense of professionalism. They have acted as a sponge for any civilians who might feel the need to bear arms, which is an important function as it forces these civilians who will inevitably appear in any such situation to act within a framework that isn’t a local-militia framework. They have isolated themselves from political action on all levels, which is in all ways a good sign. They have refrained from engaging in fights over petty disputes, regardless of the tensions that do exist on the ground between commanders, and at the higher levels, especially with Colonel Riad Al-Ass’ad or however it must be spelt. They have not isolated themselves from the populace in most instances, which is also a good sign.
There have been difficulties. The inability to use heavy weapons, and lack of effective counters to these weapons (which for some reason, Khalid Tlass, in his third incarnation isn’t so vocally lobbying for). The near impossibility of getting weapons in from across the borders, especially with the Jordanian gov’t trying to put a stranglehold on all weapons going through its borders, Hezbullah’s effective cornering of the arms market in Lebanon early in the revolution, and the shoring up of the Iraqi border by the Malki Government. I’d also like to call out the Muslim Brotherhood, who have been going on a membership drive, forcing activists and FSA members to swear allegiance to the MB before receiving a penny of support from the Brotherhood. Yeah, this is gonna be interesting in the long-term.
My point is, and this is mainly addressed to Zenoubia, your plan won’t work, under current circumstances. The Regime hasn’t shied away from assassinating any leaders who might be a threat to it, in fact, they’ve been doing it from the start, starting with Alawite military leaders back when Hafez took over, up to people who look like they might be leading the chants on the ground, such as happened in Midan during Rammadan. This has been one of their cornerstone policies, to kill anybody who might have any semblance of leadership skills or charisma. Tell me, do you know any ‘leaders’ of the Alawite sect whose sur-name isn’t Assad? They existed before 1982. Do you know any labor or union leaders who are in any way prominent? Parliamentarians? Heck, even government officials who might be slightly non-Baathist. I could think of Dardari who was always critical of the government, at least economically. Look where he is now. In Syria, prominence is a death sentence. Become too prominent, and you have sentenced your whole family, nay, your whole community to disfavor, if not annihilation. But then, you are asking of Syrians something that has been refused by all other Peoples who have been put under similar situations. Look at Egypt, Hosni only wanted to stay until the September elections in the end, and the protesters refused. Give these people time to pack their bags, and they will use that time to rob the country of everything that isn’t nailed down, then go for the stuff with the weakest nails. Believe me when I say this, in Zabadani, the Assadist forces have looted villas even of their door frames. Yes, door frames. This is how kleptomaniacal the regime is. In Egypt, the situation was a lot easier and simple than it is here. It was clear that Hosni was not going to be allowed to stay by the military, and there wasn’t as much violence, nor as much blood. Please note, a lot of people have much at stake here. It is clear that if the regime is given any breathing space, in any form, it will go on a cleansing campaign against all FSA members, all the people in the LCCs, anybody who as much as raised a finger to help a wounded protester.
And then you have the whole post-election. What then? We went the whole nine yards, proven our pre-proven thesis true, and the regime has not handed over power because it is clear, that whatever happens, the name of the game is Don’t Hand Over Power To The Masses. Is the international community going to come and save our souls, like it didn’t in Iran, and like it resoundingly didn’t in Burma? Are we going to protest peacefully, maybe do a sit-in like the one that happened in Clock Tower Square, or Tiananmen? Or are we going to bear arms against a regime military that will be much, much more prepared? What comes after the elections?
Please note, that the FSA has the most legitimacy out of any opposition group in the eyes of the people on the ground. This is because they are the epitome of counter-Assadist-culture… Let me explain:
This will sound sexist, I apologize. I’ve previously mentioned that the regime isn’t the window dressing called the cabinet, headed by the prime-minister. It’s the extended family and cronies who control the Mukhabarat and to a lesser extent the army. To understand the administrative/bureaucratic environment this group has nurtured, grown, and grown from, one has to run the gauntlet only Syrian males with brothers, and a few unfortunate women do. It is called dealing with the army.
For most men, their first encounter with the army is when they go to create their army book. One does not truly know how debilitating, stupid, backwards, solidified, idiotic, neurotic, resentful, corrupt, nepotic, authoritarian, dictatorial, stupid, ignorant, stupid, bureaucratic, banal, inefficient, careless, dirty, uncreative, kleptomaniac, sectarian and stupid the regime can be until you have created your army book. If you’ve tried to pay the Badal, it is an even better learning experience.
Imagine a system where each person you have to deal with declares their price before servicing you, or even has their price written down on a chart to simplify the process, and EVERYBODY has a price you must pay. Imagine a system where you can be trapped in a requirement-circle that has you going from desk, to desk, to desk with each person referring you to someone else for reasons you can’t ask, lest you know about the arcane secrets of the military’s conscription offices. Imagine mistakes made by office clerks that could ruin your life, put you in jail, or have you paying huge fines, and these mistakes happen all the time! Imagine going through a process with no known end. Imagine getting to that end, only to find out that there is some minor detail that is wrong, and you have to do everything all over again. Imagine trying to tell an officer with the brain of a goose, the skull of a moose and the psyche of a rat that he might have made a tiny mistake in processing your documents, only for him to slap you and tell you he’ll shoot you the next time he sees you in his office. Imagine being told you haven’t processed your documents, or that yes, they know they processed your documents and that everything is good in them, but they lost them because some rat of fate had to choose your file in the archives to make its nest, and thusly, the rat has pressed you into conscription even though you’ve done ta’ajeel dirasi. Yes this has happened.
Now imagine the people at the head of such an apparatus. Imagine how they think, how they managed to create such a monstrosity, how they may have fought to keep the cleansing acids of reforms away from their growing hell-beast, how they grew it and in turn grew from it. These are the people we are dealing with. And these are the people who the FSA have turned away from. They have taken everything these devils have built, and refused to indulge or be complicit in it. They are the embodiment of the opposite of dealing with the army. They are the only white knights most anti-regime young Syrian men see in a sea of uncertain and gloomy darkness, where the world stood silent with its trillions of dollars of arms, they came with their AKs and RPGs to defend them from the military behemoth of despair. I hope you now understand why people see the FSA as central to this revolution, regardless of its many flaws.
SWOT Analysis Proposal
It looks like everybody left the SWOT analysis post, so I’m going to post my two cents here: After some thinking, a crude suggestion has formulated itself. First of all, we might be better off doing multiple SWOTs, one for each player. Defining each player will be the difficult part, as in multiple cases it isn’t clear where lines should be drawn for each group, among other things. Each SWOT analysis should be curated by one person who is tasked with the management and verification of the information going into their SWOT, as well as understanding the actual process itself. The comment section of a blog post isn’t really the best place for such discussions, as it lacks many tools to make things easier. I would suggest something like Crabgrass (made by the Riseup collective) or Asana, as well as other software, maybe a CMS or a wiki? I’m sure that specialized software for this stuff exists.
Participation in most SWOTs should be open, and the main person responsible for managing each one is the curator of that SWOT.
SNC site is up, and they seem to have a project in the works called ‘One Thousand Years for Syria’. The idea is for volunteers to sign up one year of work for Syria in their respective fields of expertise after the revolution is finished, and it is an applause-worthy program. This is the sort of stuff the SNC, in my opinion, should be focusing on. Not trying to cuddle up to the west, and isolate Iran, Russia, Hezbullah and Hamas. Optimally, the Swot analysis should be hosted by the SNC, and so far the only good thing I’ve seen coming out of its activities alone is a severe mistrust and dislike now ingrained into every Syrian’s mind towards all politicians, post revolution.
Since I’ve gone into SNC-Bashing mode again (It’s addictive), I’d like to point them towards the Libya Rebuilding Taskforce, which was a seventy strong team of Libyan experts in various fields based in Dubai that was tasked with formulating what the LTC should do after capturing all of Libya. Rebuilding, infrastructure, policing, electricity and water supplies, stuff like that. Mr. Bourhan: I know the deep deep corridors of politicking are a trap for any politician with good intentions, but you are not a politician, you are an opposition figurehead for all of Syria. More of this stuff will show us that the post-Bashar political scene will be less like Lebanon, which the SNC is emulating within itself right now and more like the UK, where politics is (mostly) about policy, nation development is debated by people who care and decisions (mostly) are made based on facts (mostly), studies, research, and inquiries not by bigoted politicians on testosterone fueled vendettas and criminal enterprises. And you know what, initiatives like that, if crowdsourced, can really make Syrians feel like tomorrow’s Syria will be a different place, as if their intellect, creativity, knowledge and patriotic feelings will be felt by those on top, having a positive effect on the decision-making process, and the country as a whole. Market that, not foreign intervention.
Note from OTW: This post first appeared as a comment from hazrid on 7ee6an (here). It elicited a response from Zenobia (here) and further narrative elaboration on the corruption in the regime’s army from Sheila (here) as well as from Zenobia (here), and on the self imposed exile of MGB (here)
1:00 AM Damascus Time
For Prompt Release and Distribution
الأن تحصل مجزرة
حصري_إدلب _كنصفرة: استشهاد أكثر من150مدني في كنصفرة نتيجة قصف مركز على تجمعات النازحين المدنيين في المزارع بين الزيتون ..كانوا هاربين من مداهمات الامن و الشبيحة و هم من القرى التالية كنصفرة, كفرعويد, المزره 13 شهيد منهم من عائلة واحدة من بيت الحاج علي 4 شهداء أخوة
… القرى الان مكلومة و تدفن شهداءها تحت القصف و العدد مرشح للزيادة..أغلب الجثث وصلت متفحمة..
للعمل على إيقاف هذه المجزرة الآن: انشر هذا الخبر أيها القارئ الكريم في كل جروب أنت مشترك فيه، وفي صفحات الأخبار كلها
A massacre is ongoing right now.
Idlib, Kensafra, More than 150 civilians were murdered in Kensafra as a result of the targeted bombing of the gathering of refugees in between olive orchards. in several villages (Kensafra, Kafar-oueyd, Mazra). There are 13 martyrs from one family 4 brothres.
Villages are in mourning now and they are burying he martyrs. The number is increasing and most corpses arrived burned like charcoal.
Please distribute this on Facebook and in every news site.
بيان من برهان غليون
استغل النظام السوري التوقيع على بروتوكول المراقبين العرب في اطار المبادرة العربية للقيام بهجوم وحشي لا سابق له على المدن والاحياء السورية الثائرة.لقد بلغ عدد الشهداء في اليوم الاول لهذا التوقيع مئة وعشرين شهيدا وهو يتجاوز اليوم الثلاثاء المئتين وعشرين شهيدا اضافة الى مئات الجرحى والمفقودين.
ادعو الامين العام للجامعة العربية السيد نبيل العربي والامين العام للامم المتحدة بان كي مون للتدخل فورا لوقف المجازر التي يرتكبها النظام السوري بحق المدنيين العزل متسترا بتوقيعه على بروتوكول المراقبين كما ادعو الراي العام والمجتمع الدوليين للتظاهر والاحتجاج وعمل كل ما بوسعهما لاعلان تضامنهما مع الئعب السوري والعمل بجميع الوسائل لوضع حد لمجازر النظام السوري وفضح اعماله الوحشية.
A Press Release From Burhan Ghalyoun
The Syrian regime is using its signing on the observers’ protocol within the AL initiative to conduct a barbaric vicious attack on dissident villages and towns. The number of martyrs reach 120 on the first day, and today it is exceeding 220 martyrs in addition to hundreds of wounded and missing.
I call on the Secretary General of the Arab League, Mr. Nabil Al-Arabi and the Secretary General of the UN to interfere immediately to put a halt to the massacres being commited by the Syrian regime against unarmed civilians hiding under its signature of the observers’ protocol. I also call on the international community and the international public opinion to demonstrate and protest and do everything they could to declare solidarity with the Peoples of Syria and to spare to method to halt the massacres committed by the Syrian regime and to expose its barbaric actions.
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
A word from OFF THE WALL
Syrian Guerrilla Warfare, by TRUE
All roads lead to Rome and all tactics and strategies implemented by the current Syrian regime seem to lead to an inescapable civil war. The Syrian revolution 2011 took a sharp twist when some of its participants adopted the concept of guerrilla warfare in response to the regime’s brutal security based crack down. For the last seven months or so the Syrian protesters have done their best to paint and maintain their popular movement as peaceful “Sylmiah” as they could. Such a tactic, undeniably, brought them a great deal of respect and international support, in fact only “verbal” support. In return, the current regime did not respond back with roses or water, words or serious dialog with the protesters, but, to the contrary, with iron and weapons killing more than 3000 martyrs, arresting 43250 and 12430 reported “missing” and everyone knows what does “missing” mean in al-ASSAD kingdom. Read the rest of this entry