Interviews, Israel, Lebanon, Syria

Talking about a Revolution: An Interview with Camille Otrakji


And now for something completely different.

If you’ve been following events in Syria, you’d know that the English-language press is mostly deeply critical of the Assad regime (while the Arabic press displays a slightly wider range of views). I thought it would be worth trying to present a minority report on the situation from a Syrian friend of mine, although, as you will see, he argues precisely that his position is actually held by a very significant majority (albeit a rather quiet and frustrated majority) of Syrians.

Camille Otrakji is a Syrian political blogger based in Montreal. Although he tends to keep a low profile, Otrakji has been, for the past several years, at the forefront of many of the most interesting and influential online initiatives relating to Syrian politics. He is one of the authors and moderators at Joshua Landis’s Syria Comment, and the founder of Creative Syria, a constellation of websites including Mideast Image (a vast collection of original old photographs of Middle Eastern subjects) and Syrian Think Tank (an online debate site hosting many of Syria’s top analysts). Last year, Otrakji courted controversy with a new initiative devoted to the subject of Syrian-Israeli peace, entitled OneMideast.org. He agreed to speak with me about the latest events in Syria, and I’m sure that his views will generate plenty of discussion.

*

QN: You were recently quoted in The New York Times, arguing that the current situation in Syria is “all being manipulated,” and that the activists are deceiving the Syrian public and the world. Could you elaborate on this?

Otrakji: I believe that a clear majority of Syrians support many of the demands of the peaceful protesters. On the other hand, only a minority of Syrians are willing to risk destabilizing their country in order to try to achieve full regime change after a painful drawn-out conflict.

You might disagree with me if your impression of the state of the protests movement is the product of Aljazeera and BBC Arabic endlessly looping some bloody clip of the day and creating an impression that victory is near for “the Syrian people” who are demonstrating against their despised tyrant. In the early days of the Libyan revolt, Aljazeera created the same “victory-is-easy” impression for the Libyan people and they believed it, and until today they are killing each other and destroying their country.

Despite weekly calls from opposition figures for millions to demonstrate, based on the numbers of people we have seen in the streets of Syria thus far, it is clear that less than 1.0% of the country (about 150,000 Syrians) has joined the protests. This is not Egypt or Yemen, where you had hundreds of thousands or even millions of people protesting every day. In Syria we’ve seen a few thousands here, a few hundred there, mostly on Fridays. And yet western governments, the Syrian opposition, and the media covering Syria are all enthusiastically and casually using the term “the Syrian people” from the first day a few young men demonstrated in the Ummayad mosque. This implies they have the support of the entire Syrian population, which is a very serious distortion of the facts. How do you think the pro-stability Syrians feel when everyone, from Western officials to journalists imply that they are automatically on the side of regime change? No one reported that for weeks Syrians were demonstrating each night in many cities supporting their President. These daily demonstrations, festive and loud, stopped only when interior ministry told the supporters to stop showing their support because they were too noisy. The only time millions demonstrated in Syria was the day Assad’s supporters went to the street in most of Syria’s large cities. It was bizarre that most of the media decided that all these Syrians were chanting and dancing in the streets because they were afraid of the regime, simply because schools and some government offices were given the day off on that day. Ironically, some of the same journalists were also making the point the revolution is bound to succeed because “the barrier of fear has been shattered”.

In addition to distorting the true size of the protests movements, everyone seems to overlook the fact that unlike Egypt’s Tahrir Square, Syria’s protestors have mostly been men. “The Syrian people” include women too, as you can see from the pro-Assad demonstrations. Why didn’t any of those Western financed women rights organizations express any concern after seeing tens of all-male demonstrations so far?

While most protests were genuinely peaceful, many were confrontational and violent. Syria’s police and security personnel are not used to such challenges and sadly in some cases some of them probably reacted with unnecessary violence. But out of an estimated 150,000 protesters so far up to 500 died according to opposition figures. Government claims 78 died, and I believe the real figure is in between, closer to opposition figures. The government claims that many died in armed confrontations. Given that 80 soldiers and policemen also died, it is only logical that non-peaceful armed men were among the hundreds of “civilian” casualties. In other words, not all civilian casualties were peaceful protestors.

Many others probably died through excessive security personnel violence. We need to keep in mind that despite the bitter feeling all of us today have after hundreds died, an investigation of what happened should be conducted.

None of us has access to the truth, but I think it is fair to conclude for now that the numbers imply that it is not true that there is an official  policy of shooting randomly at any demonstrator. Many fatal mistakes took place, but many others died while they were taking part in non peaceful confrontations with the army or police. Those who compare Syria’s casualties figures to Egypt’s need to keep in mind that in Egypt protesters were not engaging the army in battles. The 850 who died there were all non armed.

QN: But surely there is public discontent with Bashar al-Assad, or else people would not be risking their lives to demonstrate against the regime.

Otrakji: The revolt started out as a legitimate one, when it was based in Dar’aa. The people there were genuinely fed up with the local head of security, who was a relative of the president, and so at first they protested against his abuse of power and his corruption. But this took place against the backdrop of the events in Egypt and Tunisia, so certain groups decided to try and capitalize on this act of protest in Dar’aa and turn it into a nationwide revolt.

QN: Which groups?

Otrakji: There are many groups who are trying to destabilize the regime. You have the regime change activists overseas, who are financed by various American programs that the Obama administration continued to finance despite seeking better relations with Syria. And you have American technologies that allow you to manipulate anything online. For example, you can help generate virtual members among some of the 150,000 that the Syrian revolution 2011 page on Facebook is proud of.

Then there are many Salafists around the country, guided by Syrian, Saudi, or Egyptian religious leaders. And it is possible that some of the four anti-regime billionaires might be trying to stir the pot for their own, different, reasons; Abdul-Halim Khaddam [former vice president of Syria, currently in exile in Paris], Ribal al-Assad [Bashar’s cousin, and son of Rifaat al-Assad], Saad al-Hariri [current caretaker Prime Minister of Lebanon and son of the slain Rafiq], and Bandar bin Sultan al-Saud [former Saudi ambassador to the US, among other things].

QN: So this is all the work of these outside groups?

Otrakji: No, of course not. As I said, the revolt had a legitimate spark. And there is no doubt that many Syrians are dissatisfied with many aspects of the current regime. But most Syrians would much rather see some meaningful reforms undertaken in a peaceful fashion over the next five years under the current regime, instead of trying to sweep the regime away and dealing with the prospect of sectarian civil war. If Bashar were to sign several laws: (1) permitting the formation of political parties; (2) lifting the tight censorship in the press; (3) and modernizing and limiting the role of the mukhabarat (intelligence services), I believe that 80% of the Syrian people would be fully on board with that. They would say to the opposition: “Thank you very much for your courage. You did a valuable service by giving the regime a ‘cold shower’. But now we’ve had enough of the protests and we want to go back to work. We will give Bashar the benefit of the doubt, until the next presidential election.”

QN: What do you say to those who argue, like Joshua Landis, that the regime’s days are numbered? Landis recently suggested that even if Bashar can weather this storm, the country’s economic woes are a ticking time bomb and eventually the country’s middle class will abandon him.

Otrakji: Dr. Landis might be right, it will be difficult. But I also want to point out that this is not exactly the first time Syria’s economy was predicted to be near collapsing. President Reagan was not the first to wait for his adversaries (the Soviet Union) to surrender after they go broke.

In 1977, when the United States and Israel decided to make peace with Egypt instead of going for a comprehensive peace treaty that included the full return of Syria’s Golan Heights and the occupied Palestinian territories, a key demand of Hafez Assad, National Security Advisor Zbigniew Brzezinski offered this analysis: “The Syrian economy is in grave difficulty, with inflation running at 25%. If the Saudis were to offer major financial backing in return for a Syrian-Egyptian reconciliation, President Hafez Assad might have to assent, no matter how much he dislikes the idea of being forced to negotiate with Israel.”

Thirty four years later, we are facing a similar situation. The west is sending Syria messages through their Gulf Arab allies that say “You are in real trouble, if you play by our rules … if you  terminate relations with Iran and disarm Hezbollah … if you cooperate with us when we need you to, then we can help you stay in power and turn a blind eye like we do in Bahrain or Saudi Arabia”.

This is not the most difficult challenge that the regime had to face. In 1977 it lost its Egyptian peace partner after Sadat signed a separate peace treaty with Israel. At the same time the Syrian regime was in Lebanon busy fighting a coalition of Muslim forces as it tried to protect the much weaker Christians. This led to a coalition of neighboring Arab states aligned with the Untied States and determined to overthrow the Syrian regime by supporting (financially and with arms) the Muslism brotherhood that tried to use force to overthrow the regime. Then Israel invaded Lebanon and defeated the Syrian army stationed there. The Syrian economy was suffering from years of grave and multiple challenges. Yet by 1983, a top U.S. State Department official had to admit: “Hafez Assad is as strong, perhaps stronger, than ever.”

In 2005, after the Hariri assassination, the entire world was out for Syrian blood. The Syrian army left Lebanon, and the Americans, Europeans, and the Arabs all thought that Bashar was finished. They said he was stupid, he had no vision, he was not even half the man that his father was. It is instructive to consider the fact that Bashar did not feel pressured to properly comment on the Hariri assassination and Syria’s withdrawal from Lebanon. Rafiq al-Hariri was killed on February 14, 2005. Do you know when Bashar gave his first full address about the issue? November. When pressured, the Syrian regime takes the long view. It is a mistake to assume they have no cards to play.

QN: Can they afford to not communicate for that long?

Otrakji: It seems they believe they can. But this total lack of communication is making them lose popularity among those who used to be independents, and it is making many regime supporters furious. They would like to hear a convincing account of what is happening, but the regime hates to communicate. As a result, many supporters are by now on the fence. They prefer to suspend the revolution and give the regime enough time to reform as promised. But every Friday is forcing them to go through the painful exercise of waiting until the end of the day to hear the bad news. Last Friday, tens died. The regime’s opponents imply they were all peaceful protesters. The regime implies they were all armed men who attacked or were attacked by the army or police. Most Syrians believe the truth is somewhere in between.

On the other hand, I realize that communicating might be near useless anyway. Both the regime supporters and the opposition are engaged in serious propaganda and the result is that the more technology tools we have today, the more confused and suspicious we are. On Twitter you have a massive amount of fabricated opposition claims of regime brutality (in addition to the true ones). On facebook you get to see video clips that every group shares (if they support their arguments) or rejects (if it is embarrassing). This report from Syrian television claims that tens of demonstrators were actually only celebrating rainfall. This clip of a funeral of those who died at the hands of security shows a flying coffin that seems to be empty. I like this clip. It is funny, and it demonstrates how anyone with a bit of technical background, can manipulate digital media with ease.

QN: Why did Egypt go more smoothly?

Otrakji: There is a major difference with Syria. Egypt does not have the complex sectarian and ethnic makeup that Syria does. We have Sunnis, Alawites, Christians, Druzes, Kurds, Armenians, and various other ethnic and confessional groups. We have tribalism. We share borders and complex political ties ad history with Lebanon and Iraq, two of the most volatile countries in the region. We are in a state of war with Israel, and we are a central member of the Iranian-Hizbullah-Hamas axis that puts us in the crosshairs of Saudi Arabia and other Arab states. All Syrians are aware of their country’s vulnerability to instability, which is why the vast majority are genuinely supportive, or tolerant, of the current regime, even if they are restless waiting for more reforms. Syrians are risk averse; they’re just not willing to take the risk that Egypt took, because Egypt has much less potential for internal fragmentation. It is 90% Sunni Muslim, 100% Arab, no tribes, no Kurdish issue, has endless empty deserts separating it from its neighbors, and opted to sign a peace treaty with Israel ending its state of war.

QN: So what’s going to happen?

Otrakji: There is no way to know. Ultimately, it’s in the hands of the mostly non-sectarian risk-averse Syrian people, but it could still spin out of control if the current events are manipulated by groups that are trying to stir up sectarian conflict. If you read the older posts on the Syrian Revolution Facebook page (before they got a facelift and professional PR help), you wouldn’t believe how much religious language you find, and also how much deception there is. They were trying to whip up sectarian hysteria, to radicalize Syria’s Sunnis so as to bring down the regime. This is not what most Syrians want, but they have enough Syrians they can potentially influence.

QN: What is the likelihood, in your opinion, that the regime can be toppled by the current opposition, assuming that they can garner more support in the main cities?

Otrakji: The problem with this question – which everybody is asking – is that it fundamentally misunderstands the whole idea of “the Syrian regime”. What does this mean? What are you talking about when you say “the Syrian regime”?

QN: The Assad family, for starters. The major power-brokers and security chiefs. The corrupt oligarchs like Rami Makhlouf. Those are the opposition’s targets.

Otrakji: Corruption is indeed part of the reason many in “the regime” will resist those trying to force them out and I don’t think the Syrian people will rest anymore unless they are convinced that corruption will be curtailed.

But I think we need to look at Lebanon to understand what is really happening in Syria. After decades of Lebanon’s experience with democracy (flawed democracy) you still had  Amin and Bashir Gemayel inheriting the leadership of their party and people from their father Pierre. Walid from Kamal Jumblatt, Saad from Rafiq Hariri… and the same applies to the Frangiehs, Chamouns or the Karamis.

You also have an understandings where a 5% segment of the population (the Druze minority) can sometimes have a veto power over potential decisions that the nation’s elected leaders might be contemplating.

When Druze leader Walid jumblatt switched to the March 8 side, providing them with a new majority and the right to name Lebanon’s next prime minister, Saad Hariri was furious. He warned that only the Sunnis can name the country’s (Sunni) prime minister, regardless of who has a parliamentarian majority.

Although there is no strong regime in power like the one in Syria, Lebanon still did not yet feel ready to take the risk to try to adopt one-man-one-vote democracy. And the same families that collectively held power over the different segments of society are still there decades later. Even Sayyed Hasan Nasrallah has been there for decades. Messing up with this imperfect system can open a can of worms.

Iraq’s current government coalition was mostly made in Damascus. Every candidate and major political or religious figure visited Damascus before an agreement was reached. No other capital in the region or outside received that many Iraqi VIP visitors. How did Syria get to be that influential in Iraq?

When Saddam Hussein oppressed Iraq’s Shia and Kurds, Syria protected their leaders in Damascus. Iraqi Prime ministers Maliki and Allawi, President Talibani, and many other Iraqis opposed to Saddam Hussein were living safely in Damascus for years before they went back to the new Iraq to lead it. At that time, all the other Arabs, not to mention the United States and Europe, were trying to be Saddam’s best friends.

Similarly, when Iran’s weight in post-Saddam Iraq tilted the country’s political balance in a way that marginalized Iraq’s Sunnis, Syria opposed its Iranian allies and decided to protect Iraq’s Sunnis, including the Baathist and Sunni tribal leaders in Iraq.

Lebanon’s majority coalition is made of Christians, Shia, Druze and Sunnis … all of them have one thing in common; They are Syria’s allies. Similarly, Lebanon’s opposition is made of a similarly colorful group that also has one thing in common … all are opponents of Syria. When Druze leader switched from being an opponent of Syria to a friend of Syria, the majority and opposition in Lebanon exchanged hats.

The Syrian regime, and only the Syrian regime, REALLY know how the Levant and Mesopotamia work. Try to let the Saudis decide and you will end up with one disaster after the other. Remember Saud Al-faisal‘s brilliant plan to send an Arab army to fight Hezbollah in Lebanon?

The Alawites, and to a lesser degree the other minorities in Syria, will not accept the current system to be swept away overnight and without reforms that guarantee minority safety and rights. You have to understand that most Alawites view Syria in much the same way that the Jews view Israel, the Kurds view Kurdistan, the Maronites in Lebanon, etc. This is the one country in the world where they can dictate their own affairs and don’t have to worry about being repressed as a minority. They are not going to accept that this reality changes overnight. If democracy is to come to Syria, it needs to happen gradually and in a region that is not boiling in sectarian anger. Most Syrians understand this. But many, understandably, do not.

QN: What is your opinion of Turkey’s alleged concerns over the Syrian government’s crackdown? Do you think that this valuable alliance could be in jeopardy if the violence continues and refugees start fleeing to Turkey?

Otrakji: If Syria collapses, this could lead to a potential disaster for everyone in its vicinity: Lebanon, Israel, Palestine, Jordan, Iraq, and yes, even Turkey. The Turks have no desire to see Syria’s Kurds beginning to demand their own statelet, as this will impact Turkey’s Kurdish question in a major way. And Turkey surely would not want to see Sunnis and Alawites fighting each other just south of its border. These things can be contagious to Turkey’s own Sunni/Alawite population.

The main players in the region have no interest, at the end of the day, in trying to destabilize Assad. Even if they hate to admit it, they know that Syria’s regime plays a stabilizing role across the region. Rami Khouri agrees that  we can expect major problems across the region if Syria is shaken. I think Syria has influence as far as Yemen, Saudi Arabia, Iraq, Lebanon, Jordan, Turkey, Iran, Bahrain and … everywhere. In that sense, Syria is really not Egypt or Tunis.

QN: What’s the best case scenario for Syria, in your opinion?

Otrakji: I can’t discuss Syria without also discussing the Middle East. Here is the only thing that will work:

For now, demonstrations must stop, the President must speak to the nation to reassure everyone that he is indeed committed to serious and accelerated reforms that will please most Syrians. Press freedom law, political parties law, decentralization law (more power to the provinces) and gradually (within a year?) undoing the Ba’ath party’s monopoly on power.

The minorities in power in Syria need to start thinking of a five year plan to move to a democratic system. A Senate can help protect minority rights. Maintaining control of the army, like the case in Turkey, can provide another way to reassure the minorities. But otherwise, free elections that might bring anyone to power should be expected… after peace with Israel (please bear with me, I’ll explain)

“The International community” must help Israel and the Arabs reach comprehensive peace in the Middle East. The status quo is not sustainable. A majority of Egyptians want to scrap the peace treaty with Israel. Saudi Arabia and the other Gulf states are not going to remain stable forever. Iran and Saudi Arabia are probably going to consider different ways to escalate their cold war. Soon, a third intifada might start in the Palestinian territories. There is one way to start undoing all the pressure, a comprehensive peace treaty that is based on the return to the 1967 borders.

Since 1977 the US and Europe have been trying to weaken or destabilize Syria. This will destabilize the whole Middle East like it did each time they tried in the past. In Washington DC there is a group of legacy Middle East experts who tried, unsuccessfully, over the past years or decades, to weaken and isolate Syria. Dennis Ross, Elliott Abrams, Lee Smith, Jeff Feltman, and many others who passed away. For them, it is a personal battle that they never won. But they succeeded at least in ensuring that Syria never received a visit from an American secretary of State since 2003. No matter who is the President of the Untied States, one of the long term enemies of Syria makes it inside the new administration to help ensure nothing constructive comes out.

If President Obama is serious about progress in the Middle East, he has to personally take charge of relations with Syria. Leave the Syria “experts” out of it. You cannot be a democracy within the borders of the United States but a bully in the way you deal with smaller states. You know that when Syria was considered an ally of the Soviet Union, the Russians allowed Hafez Assad the liberty to meet with American Presidents. They did not punish him for that. The same applies to Iranian allies of Syria. They never complained when President Bashar Assad met with American officials or when Syrian experts were discussing peace with Israelis in Turkey. The US should learn from Iran and the former Soviet Union how is it possible to be a friend of Syria without dictating your terms on your weaker friend.

Religion and politics make an explosive mix. Most of the region’s problems come from Saudi Arabia (Sunni Islam’s Kingdom), Iran (Shia Islam’s kingdom) Israel (the Jewish state) and soon from America’s Zionist Christians. If you want Syrian minorities to be less fearful of full democracy get the Salafists off their back first. This one is calling for sacrificing one third of Syria’s population to get rid of the infidels, while the other one is about to explode if he does not see the minorities out of power in Syria immediately. In Egypt, top leaders of the Muslim Brotherhood are saying their real goal is “to rule the world!”. Salafists in Egypt are already threatening to enter Christian monasteries and to take over Sufi mosques. Even in Tunisia, Jordan and Northern Lebanon, Salafists are increasingly trying to play a big role.

In five years, everything can be resolved. But we have to retire the “moral clarity” mentality that used to consider Hosni Mubarak a part of the “International community” simply because he was a US puppet. Many of the heroes and prophets of moral clarity worked for Qaddafi when he paid the right price. Some of them worked for the Bush Sr. administration when a decision was made to kill tens of thousands of young Iraqi soldiers after they surrendered. That same 1991 war was made possible after many, including the President, lied to the American people to help them support that initially unpopular war. Don’t try again to spend 500 million dollars to manipulate the Lebanese people against Hezbollah before they go to vote. When you do that, the Syrian regime will be more assured that opening up its political system will lead to American (and Saudi) manipulation… until both countries accept to become genuine friends of Syria. It is really wrong for the Obama administration to send an ambassador to Damascus while trying to finance those who are trying to overthrow the regime then to complain that engagement with Damascus is not working too well.

The United States must decide between solving the problems of the region, or letting it explode. Forget what your Syria experts say; Syria is where you need to start. This regime has 40 years of intensive and extensive experience in this region. Make use of it, THEN talk to the regime about what it takes to retire from power while the region is at peace.

Am I confident any of that will take place? … The regime’s reforms yes, the rest no. It is hard not to be pessimistic about what the region will go through this year.
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Discussion

725 thoughts on “Talking about a Revolution: An Interview with Camille Otrakji

  1. More on Hummus… no joke…

    Me, a Jew and a white guy at work once had a Hummus competition.

    The white guy won.

    Go figure.

    Posted by Gabriel | May 10, 2011, 9:39 pm
  2. Damnit Danny…

    I was hoping to be post 500 and 600. And here you are raining on my parade!

    Posted by Gabriel | May 10, 2011, 9:40 pm
  3. Hey dan, I am on the west coast. It is not 6 PM yet, but here’s comment 600.

    Posted by iceman | May 10, 2011, 9:40 pm
  4. QN…Moving on to Star Date 5,897,986….The Klingons have reconciled with the Romulans and made Bashar their supreme leader with a timeline of five years to think about whether any “reforms’ will bring about a schism in the universal and time continuum…

    Posted by danny | May 10, 2011, 9:42 pm
  5. Today was a good day for The Resistance

    Posted by dontgetit | May 10, 2011, 9:44 pm
  6. Ice the time lag busted you at 600!! Sorry Gabriel…Maybe 1,000??? :D

    Posted by danny | May 10, 2011, 9:44 pm
  7. Dontgetit,

    Another day we are so thankful for the Willayet el faqih and the supreme Ultimate fighter Nassrallah for keeping Lebanese safe from Zionist threats!

    Posted by danny | May 10, 2011, 9:46 pm
  8. You mean sit through another 400 posts of Bashar’s upcoming reforms!

    No thanks, I’d rather be at the bottom of the Arctic :D.

    Posted by Gabriel | May 10, 2011, 9:55 pm
  9. I thought I made the 600 mark.

    OK let’s go higher, then. Here are some new developments relating to the main subject.

    (1) NYT reporter was given only three hours entry visa to Syria to interview Butahina Shaaban. He was flown out immediately afterwards. The purpose of the trip was to carry Buthana’s message that Syrian regime faced armed insurgency.

    (2) Rumors are circulating that Asmaa and kids are secretly in England for three weeks now. The Brits don’t want the news publicized while Syrians are getting killed by her husband.

    (3) Ramy Makhlouf is threatening Israelis with insecurity if Syria continues to be insecure.

    (4) Erdogan is making more threats against Bashar’s regime.

    (5) The US State Department is now saying that Bashar lied all along about reforms. They say Bashar is a big big liar.

    (6) Demonstrations are still ogoing Syria, and so are killings by Maher’s thugs and the arrests.

    Posted by iceman | May 10, 2011, 10:07 pm
  10. What is keeping the Assad Mafia afloat is their close association with the infamous White House Murder INC, in the Levant with Asef Shawkat as main Liaison to CIA/MOSSAD since January 24th 2002, and Feb. 12th 2008 and counting, Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah beware of the Assad criminal assassins for hire!

    Posted by HK | May 11, 2011, 2:01 am
  11. iceman,

    On your “(3) Ramy Makhlouf is threatening Israelis with insecurity if Syria continues to be insecure” this is regrettably a desperate move, reminiscent of Saddam Hussein launching Scud missiles into Israel in the first Gulf war when he was kicked out of Kuweit. What the heck does Israel have to do with any of this?
    All bark and no bite.

    Sad to see all the suffering and trouble in Syria, yet hopeful that true reform and democracy will eventually emerge.

    Posted by Honest Patriot | May 11, 2011, 5:49 am
  12. “true reform and democracy will eventually emerge in Syria” HP, I am not hopeful at all yet!
    This will never happen as long as the Alawite clique are in bed with the Odious White House Murder INC, in the Levant, with Asef Shawkat as main Liaison with CIA/MOSSAD killers. Notice how the 13 names mentioned by the EU as responsible for the atrocities in Syria do not include Asef Shawkat…

    Posted by HK | May 11, 2011, 6:05 am
  13. HK, I noticed, why do you think? Not high enough?
    Also, Pres. Bashar is not on the EU list either. Thoughts?

    Posted by Honest Patriot | May 11, 2011, 6:07 am
  14. Gabriel,

    How much bribe did you offer to QN? Or did you hack the system and claim the 600? :D

    Posted by danny | May 11, 2011, 7:17 am
  15. I have dibs on post 700. I’ll need to let my computer run overnight though, to give me enough time to read in the thread…

    Computer Not Responding…

    Posted by Akbar Palace | May 11, 2011, 7:32 am
  16. HP,

    Actually Rami said Syria is a bannana republic run by a clan.

    Posted by iceman | May 11, 2011, 8:40 am
  17. Is our Iceman posting before 6:00am (West Coast time).

    That vacation is a-calling.

    Danny, I had Alex ask Assad’s goons to give QN a “friendly” call requesting that he release one more post ;)

    Posted by Gabriel | May 11, 2011, 9:29 am
  18. Morocco and Jordan in the GCC.
    Little advise to Lebanese folks struggling to form a decent government, just find yourself a nice guy ready to wear the crown, and then you will fulfill the basic criterion to enter the GCC.

    Monarchy is back !

    Posted by Nour | May 11, 2011, 9:47 am
  19. What’s GCC?

    Posted by Honest Patriot | May 11, 2011, 10:07 am
  20. Gulf Cooperation Council

    Posted by Nour | May 11, 2011, 10:10 am
  21. HP, 614: The gist of my message ever since I appeared here on QN, is that Asef Shawkat is being protected by CIA/MOSSAD, the Frenchies, UK etc. because he is the main Liaison with these Orgs. and because he carried out some of the assassinations in Lebanon and Syria on their behalf, within the confines of the Infamous White House Murder INC, between January 24th 2002 and Feb. 12th 2008…Asef Shawkat has been sheltered from STL and from any sanctions because of that…., renditions etc. despite the fact that he is the point man behind the scenes in all the atrocities we witnessed in Syria. Maher Assad is the point man on the ground, but it is Asef Shawkat who is pulling ALL the strings behind the Veil of multiple security services from day one.

    Posted by HK | May 11, 2011, 12:19 pm
  22. John “Boner” is trying to finish the Lebanon 2006 war to Israel’s satisfaction, with Obama’s help (even if he has to force him). It was not enough, that the United States destroyed Iraq, Lebanon & Gaza to make the shitty little Zionist monster feel safer on its misappropriated “homeland,” now the Zionist US president is preparing to attempt to do the same thing to Lebanon AGAIN soon, and we will be waiting for them for an Encore…BIS with IDF Cowards. Haven’t they killed enough people to give the Likudniks never-ending wet dreams already?
    John Boner invites Netanyahu to Congress, hoping to revive Israeli/Lebanon conflict, while his Republican allies in the Senate once again take-up the cause of former Soviet Georgia, without really mentioning the real cause of the S. Ossetian war. Georgia’s anti-Russian campaign, focused on seizing the strategic Roki Tunnel and blocking the only highway linking Russia and S. Ossetia. This Republican anti-Russian, anti-Lebanon offensive is coupled with a new Democrat offensive against China, led by the rabid terrier-like Zioconned Hillary Clinton. What we are seeing unfold here, on the cusp of the coming presidential election, is the real mission of the Imperialist war-mongers–the blocking of Chinese and Russian aspirations, by every means at US/Ziocon government’s disposal, beginning with the standard “diplomatic” offensive. All the jockeying in Asia and Africa have been setting us up for this coming ultimate conquest. Can Russia and China effectively oppose an American offensive, intended to give US corporate interests total control to Asian and African energy sources?

    A better question might be–How could they NOT oppose the American expansion into their neighborhoods and spheres of interest?

    Perhaps the primary purpose of the staged death of bin Laden was to demonstrate the great potential of a Special Forces war (counterinsurgency) as a solution to Obama’s quagmire? With the terror theaters of Afghanistan and Pakistan given to Special Forces and the African theater of terror being given to Naval Special Warfare Forces, then it is clear that they are leaving behind the costly total war concept, in favor of the Special Forces/Assassin units of the most infamous white house Murder INC, in the Levant and Worldwide. We can expect to hear of multiple military assaults and brutal assassinations by mystery forces everywhere that the US has interests, without accepting responsibility publicly, with plausible deniability, unless they get someone like Bogeymen/Patsies Zawahiri or Illyas Kashmiri… I told you this was coming, together with multiple assassinations by the infamous white House Murder INC, several months ago…

    Posted by HK | May 11, 2011, 12:32 pm
  23. From Jim Muir, BBC News, Beirut:

    “Aleppo and Damascus itself – have not been fully caught up in this revolt. There have been some little protests there, very quickly stifled – the security is all pervasive there. But the population has not risen up as in Cairo or Tunisia, they haven’t come out in their hundreds or thousands and until that happens the regime won’t be mortally threatened.”

    Posted by Badr | May 11, 2011, 1:03 pm
  24. Joe, comment above, dissecting the original post/interview.
    I agree fully. :)

    Also, today we have news of shelling of residential areas of Homs..I guess that’s how civilized regimes deal with “a few armed troublemakers” (if we are to believe Alex and co.)

    AIG:
    Regarding our conversation yesterday. What do you make of Khaled Meshaal’s comments today?

    http://www.yalibnan.com/2011/05/10/hamas-leader-calls-for-freedom-and-democracy-in-syria/

    Hamas leader Khaled Meshaal who lives in exile in Syria’s capital Damascus called on Monday for more democracy in Syria.

    “We want to see more stability, prosperity and a stronger government that responds to the people’s aspirations,” he told France 24 television.

    ” We want more freedom and democracy in order to serve the interests of the people and help strengthen the country against external aggression.” He added

    I know you don’t put much stock in the guy. Frankly, neither do I. But I find it somewhat intriguing that he would make that statement in particular. It’s almost as if Egypt is succeeding in pulling Hamas out of Iran/Syria control……maybe? we can hope? :)

    Posted by Bad Vilbel | May 11, 2011, 1:05 pm
  25. Love the press release photo by the Vogue photographer… and the name of the new STL spokesperson “Sophie Boutaud de la Combe” !

    http://www.naharnet.com/domino/tn/NewsDesk.nsf/getstory?openform&206924CD82694218C225788D005527EF

    QN … your new post right, there !

    Posted by R2D2 | May 11, 2011, 1:14 pm
  26. Love the press release photo by the Vogue photographer… and the name of the new STL spokesperson “Sophie Boutaud de la Combe” !

    http://www.naharnet.com/domino/tn/NewsDesk.nsf/getstory?openform&206924CD82694218C225788D005527EF

    QN … your new post right there !

    Posted by R2D2 | May 11, 2011, 1:15 pm
  27. BV,

    Khaled Meshal is a dead man walking. The Mossad botched his assassination in Amman and had to provide an antidote but not next time. The guy is directly responsible for the death of hundreds of Israeli civilians and we will get him.

    If some miracle happens and Hamas accepts the requirements of the Quartet which include recognition of Israel, renouncing all violence and respecting previously signed agreements then things will change.
    Until then, nothing has changed.

    If Meshal is such a supporter of democracy, how about Hamas implement it in Gaza?

    Posted by AIG | May 11, 2011, 1:27 pm
  28. AIG,

    Democracy elected Hamas, didn’t it?

    Jimmy Carter was there on the ground to confirm that, wasn’t he?

    What to do ?

    Posted by R2D2 | May 11, 2011, 1:33 pm
  29. AIG,

    I’m not defending Meshaal. I have absolutely the exact same feelings about him as you do.

    But I’m asking for analysis here. Not your emotional feelings about the guy.

    That’s what we do here on QN. We fancy ourselves political analysis and we analyze and try to predict the moves and happenings in the region. There is no harm in analyzing even an enemy you despise like Meshaal.

    I’m just curious about what I perceive as the beginnings of a realignment in the region (which I alluded to yesterday). Wondering if anyone else is seeing this too.

    Posted by Bad Vilbel | May 11, 2011, 1:40 pm
  30. One man, one vote, one time is not democracy. Elections by themselves do not make a liberal democracy. Neither Fatah nor Hamas are committed to the democratic process.

    Posted by AIG | May 11, 2011, 1:42 pm
  31. BV,

    Maybe there is realignment, I don’t think so. I think what we are seeing is short term opportunism. Meshal is probably thinking that he needs to muddle through till September when the Muslim Brotherhood take the the majority or close to it in the Egyptian Parliament. He probably believes that then he will get significant support from Egypt. However, this will be short lived if Egypt remains a democracy as the Egyptians will soon learn that you can either have “resistance” or economic growth but not both. If the Islamists try to consolidate power, there will be chaos which is bad for everybody including Meshal and Hamas.

    Posted by AIG | May 11, 2011, 1:52 pm
  32. Interesting take, AIG.

    And thanks for your opinion. That’s exactly the kind of thing i was looking for.

    Posted by Bad Vilbel | May 11, 2011, 2:02 pm
  33. AIG,

    Give me five reasons how the Jews of Europe and Russia have benefitted the masses in the Levant and the Arab world … and why they should trust and welcome your presence at the dire expense of “some” Palestinians that have fled and been evicted from their homes and land.

    Posted by R2D2 | May 11, 2011, 2:18 pm
  34. R2D2,

    Since the Arabs find it hard to benefit their own masses in the Levant, it is unlikely that refugees from Europe could do so. And of course nobody is expecting you to welcome us; that is why we have the IDF and why we fought quite a few wars.

    Posted by AIG | May 11, 2011, 2:24 pm
  35. Dear BV,

    Is it that complex? … I am saying we do not have a Switzerland tomorrow option for Syria or Lebanon or Egypt or …

    1) Revolution success story:

    Egypt
    http://atimes.com/atimes/Middle_East/ME10Ak01.html

    Egypt is running out of food, and, more gradually, running out of money with which to buy it. The most populous country in the Arab world shows all the symptoms of national bankruptcy – the kind that produced hyperinflation in several Latin American countries during the 1970s and 1980s – with a deadly difference: Egypt imports half its wheat, and the collapse of its external credit means starvation.

    2) Bashar’s reforms:

    They will only work when armed resistance is finished (it is 90% there supposedly, but that can change) and when outsiders give up on overthrowing the Syrian regime by force.

    Today:

    - Decentralization law (I mentioned it in my interview):

    - New elections law promised in two weeks max:
    https://www.facebook.com/notes/addouniatv/%D9%85%D8%AC%D9%84%D8%B3-%D8%A7%D9%84%D9%88%D8%B2%D8%B1%D8%A7%D8%A1-%D9%85%D8%B4%D8%B1%D9%88%D8%B9-%D9%82%D8%A7%D9%86%D9%88%D9%86-%D8%AC%D8%AF%D9%8A%D8%AF-%D9%84%D9%84%D8%A7%D9%86%D8%AA%D8%AE%D8%A7%D8%A8%D8%A7%D8%AA-%D8%A7%D9%84%D8%B9%D8%A7%D9%85%D8%A9-%D8%AE%D9%84%D8%A7%D9%84-%D8%A3%D8%B3%D8%A8%D9%88%D8%B9%D9%8A%D9%86/215003631857814

    Posted by Alex | May 11, 2011, 2:44 pm
  36. 3) Another example of foreign interference:

    American diplomacy in Damascus, for years busy building on sectarian sensitivities to help weaken or overthrow the regime

    http://www.al-akhbar.com/node/11866

    Posted by Alex | May 11, 2011, 2:46 pm
  37. Alex,

    It’s just hard for me to buy “foreign interference” and all that stuff when the regime shells RESIDENTIAL NEIGHBORHOOD of its own cities.

    Are you going to tell me now that Homs was invaded by Zionists and Neocons?

    What else would justify artillery shelling of residential neighborhoods?

    If you have a few rogue terrorist elements, you take them out in a completely different way. You don’t bomb a city.

    No complex here. I just continue to see daily evidence and reports that contradict your take on the situation. That’s all.

    You’re telling us that the regime needs to be given time to reform.
    You’re telling us that the current unrest is not representative of a large portion of the Syrian populace, and is the work of foreigners and thugs.

    I see a regime that’s deploying tanks and artillery in residential neighbourhoods, etc.

    The 2 narratives do not jive. That’s all.

    Posted by Bad Vilbel | May 11, 2011, 2:52 pm
  38. As for Egypt. Yes. Egypt is not a paradise at the moment. It’s to be expected. That’s how revolutions work. That’s how transitions work. They cost money. They see some upheaval and some tough times, for a better future.
    I’ll take that over stagnation in the long run.

    Eastern Europe was mired in unemployment and poverty by the time it threw off the shackles of Communism, but you’d be hard pressed to argue that they’d have been better off avoiding those growing pains and stayed under communist rule in the long term. No? (And if you disagree with this last statement, then your reality and mine are so far apart there’s no point even discussing).

    Posted by Bad Vilbel | May 11, 2011, 2:55 pm
  39. VB

    I see you are quite selective. The Al-Akhbar article you decided to ignore for example so that you can continue to believe your own initial opinion.

    I never denied there is a legitimate, but very limited, popular uprising.

    As for the news of bombing of residential areas, I’ll wait to see if it is true. So far most of the news reported, as I explained, turned out to be exaggerated.

    For example

    اعتذرت وكالة “رويترز: من القناة الفرنسية الثانية لأنها زودتها بصور أرشيفية من لبنان على أنها من سورية.
    وقال مقدم نشرة أخبار الثامنة في التلفزيون الفرنسي “القناة الثانية” في نشرة الأخبار الرئيسية مساء الأحد: “إن صور الاحتجاجات في سورية محل التباس ووكالة “رويترز” تقدم اعتذارها لأنها زودتنا أمس “السبت” بصور تلفزيونية مدتها تسع ثوانٍ وهي صور أرشيف من لبنان”، وتم عرضها في تقرير بثته القناة على أنها من سورية.

    Another example, this is Homs tonight, if you want to see it from the other view, of those who want to end the headache:

    There will be many ups and downs BV … if you want to wait for every piece of negative news to prove you got it right, you will have many opportunities.

    Posted by Alex | May 11, 2011, 3:23 pm
  40. One last comment before I leave, but to answer your “Eastern Europe was mired in unemployment and poverty by the time it threw off the shackles of Communism” …

    Egypt is not Eastern Europe, and Syria is definitely not Egypt or Eastern Europe. There is no rich West Egypt to revive the economy of poor East Egypt …

    Eastern Europe had no Arab Israeli conflict … no Sunni Shia axis issues .. no religious minorities issue … no Tribal conflicts .. no Kurdistan … No Lebanon and iraq on both sides … no million Iraqi refugees and half a million Palestinian refugees … No Saudi Salafists lusting to convert Syria and marry those Syrian blonde actresses they see on TV …

    Posted by Alex | May 11, 2011, 3:41 pm
  41. Alex,

    I understand your worries, but your strategy of addressing them is wrong. A few more years under the Assads will not make Syria more ready for democracy. All they will do is increase the pressure in the pressure cooker that is Syria and make the explosion worse for Syria and worse for its minorities. If before you had a very small percentage of the population seeking vengeance for 1982 Hama, you will now have a huge percentage of people remembering what happened in tens of cities in 2011.

    The only way Syria can buy time for peaceful reforms over decades is by significant economic growth. And for that Syria has to stop being enemies with the West and Gulf countries. The Assads have shown they cannot deliver this because as a minority ruling over the majority they need to retain the “resistance” facade.

    Posted by AIG | May 11, 2011, 3:41 pm
  42. Alex,

    I’m not a political type. But let’s say I had a, legitimate grievance (which you concede the protesters have)… and I was there, on the ground, seeing a group of crazies hijacking my grievance, and shooting at my army, fomenting discord, etc… I would shelf my grievance and go back home.

    You need to pick a narrative and stick with it.

    We (none of us) seem to have access to the complete unadulterated “truth”. But is the tank movemnets and continuing protests by the parties on the ground, not testament to the fact that there is something awfully wrong going on?

    You seem to be attempting to straddle some middle ground lest you offend those with legitimate concerns!

    Posted by Gabriel | May 11, 2011, 3:47 pm
  43. By the way, who argued against me a few weeks ago when I said that getting rid of Assad will be a long process? Have you changed your mind?

    Posted by AIG | May 11, 2011, 3:49 pm
  44. @AIG #643

    Absolutely correct.

    Posted by Qifa Nabki | May 11, 2011, 3:50 pm
  45. AIG…

    Egypt was a friend of the West, of the Gulf, and had a peace treaty with Israel….

    … all that and it was still an economic basket case and suffered a revolution.

    Posted by Gabriel | May 11, 2011, 3:57 pm
  46. Alex,

    You were the one who brought up Egypt in the first place, man!

    I know Syria is not Egypt, nor is it Romania.

    And Romania was not the same as Bulgaria or Poland either. Each country has its own context and setting. You wanna use that to take a narrow view, fine.
    I still say that the overall big picture is the same. You are essentially advocating sticking to a dead or dying form of government for the sake of avoiding anarchy/chaos/some upheaval. Dress it up as you will, that’s still what it is. So my communism analogy stands. Was there no bloodshed in Romania? Was there not a pretty significant civil war in Bosnia? Including ethnic tensions / sectarian motives, etc…

    There is nowhere in the world that such general concepts do not apply. Syria is no different. But you insist that Syria is a special exception where the laws of history don’t apply.

    I already asked you 2 days ago to answer a simple question: Name one case in history where stopping protests has resulted in the regime making reforms. Apparently only Syria in 2011 is such an exception to the whole of history.

    I asked to tell me why you thought Bashar would indeed reform if protests stopped. You still haven’t answered that one either. What indications do you have? What signs and portents are you aware of that the rest of us are missing? Honestly. Why do you believe that he’ll reform? If no other answer, just give me a simple, one or two sentence answer to that. No links. No verbose tangents. Just “I believe he’ll reform because he told me so himself.” will suffice, or “I believe he’ll reform because I have faith in Bashar and he’s an honest guy”…or something. I don’t know. I’m clutching at straws here trying to think up reasons why you’d believe he’ll reform if only given a chance. What am I missing?

    Posted by Bad Vilbel | May 11, 2011, 4:04 pm
  47. I’ll also add an emphatic thumbs up to AIG #643. Exactly Right indeed.

    Posted by Bad Vilbel | May 11, 2011, 4:06 pm
  48. Gabriel,

    Egypt had economic growth, but did not grow fast enough. Good relations with the Gulf and the West are necessary conditions for significant economic growth, but not sufficient conditions. Population control, education, investment in infrastructure are other things that are required. However, nothing will work without being friendly with the major potential sources of capital and knowledge.

    Posted by AIG | May 11, 2011, 4:08 pm
  49. AIG,

    Resistance is very popular in Syria. you can see pictures of Nasrallah on the wall of a Christian in some remote village. This is not a facade.

    You know that during the Tahrir square celebrations days many in the west were happy to report that Egyptians do not really care about the Palestinians. But now we know that they do. 53% want to even get rid of their treaty with Israel!

    I fully agree that the regime can not go on without serious reforms. So I don’t see why you disagree with me.

    As for sectarianism … it is growing in the region as a whole anyway … what happened in Syria will add to the ugly accumulation of negative feelings that everyone in the region is contributing to … from Saudi Arabia to Iraq to Iran to Israel.

    The region needs a package deal. As Gabriel reminded you, Egypt’s dropping of resistance did not help it much.

    As for the ongoing operations by the Syrian army … I will repeat that there is no Switzerland option. There will be protests and there will be anger that the army decided to stop the protests but there is also relief that the protests stopped by a much larger number of Syrians. Aleppo and Damascus and Tartous and Hassakeh …

    You are all too eager to zoom on the negative part because you want to avoid cognitive dissonance. No one wants to start with Lebanon instead of advising Syria to adopt revolutionary change. Lebanon is not exactly the most functional state or the most democratic state.

    There are good and bad news. Let us all wait a week or two and we will know by them. I showed up here to post news of the Syrian government’s progress in implementing the reforms I mentioned in my interview last week.

    Posted by Alex | May 11, 2011, 4:11 pm
  50. AIG:

    According to the World Bank development indicators, the population of Egypt grew, between the years 1960 to today, from 28 million to 82 million. That is a 2.92 fold increase.

    The population of Syria, in the same period, grew from 4.62 million to 21 million. That’s

    Posted by Gabriel | May 11, 2011, 4:21 pm
  51. Yes Alex,

    I mentioned a post ago that once Assad subjugates his people by mass murder and terror…(“but there is also relief that the protests stopped by a much larger number of Syrians. Aleppo and Damascus and Tartous and Hassakeh … “) Good catch there Alex. the people decided to go home on their own will and not ducking bullets!
    In your book a terrorist state and a mass murderer deserves kudos for reform.

    I digress…I mentioned that Assad will be welcomed by Sarkoczy and hugged as a reformist because there are no protests..See Mommy I did it! They all love me. bashar the great. He will run in elections and get an approval of 99.99%.

    You see Alex; Syrians love a great reformer.

    You are daydreaming. There are two options. The Zimbabwe scenario or Assad goes down. No middle road even with the support of corruption central Arab league.

    It looks like after 7890 comments you are in such a denial and keep on parroting off same slogans and cliches…

    Klingons against Romulans. Who wins and why? Now that’s a great post!

    Posted by danny | May 11, 2011, 4:23 pm
  52. a 4.56 fold increase.

    You are prescribing solutions that are not really solutions. And now you are dressing it up with necessary but not sufficient.

    Yes, of course you are right in principle. But the reality is much more complex than that. How is Syria to suddenly contain all this population growth, secure economic growth, so that it buys Bashar some time.

    This “solution” is some theoretical ideal that cannot be achieved. So you are not exactly dangling a workable lifeline using the “economic argument” to Bashar…. Yes: Make peace with the West and the Gulf, bow to their conditions, and there you have it… economic growth, and a few more years to enact reforms.

    Posted by Gabriel | May 11, 2011, 4:24 pm
  53. Alex…

    If Resistance is very popular in Syria, why has the Golan been quiet for so many years?

    Posted by Gabriel | May 11, 2011, 4:31 pm
  54. Alex,

    The “resistance” is a facade if the Golan is quiet and Hezbollah has not done anything since 2006. Do most people in Syria hate or dislike Israel? Sure. But what most also want is a good future for their kids, and they want it much more than they want the Golan. The right question to ask Egyptians is the following: Are you in favor of annulling the peace treaty with Israel if it means your kids will not have jobs? The answer to that will be markedly different.

    Where we disagree is about the possibility of the Assad regime making reforms. I just do not see it happening. They will likely retrench and all reforms will be superficial, just like the removal of the emergency law.

    Maybe the region needs a package deal (what exactly?) but it is not going to happen. It is too complex to put in place even when there is goodwill and there is none at the moment. So hoping for that is like hoping to win the lottery to get out of debt, not a very wise strategy.

    Posted by AIG | May 11, 2011, 4:36 pm
  55. Gabriel,

    I agree that it is not going to be easy, in fact it is going to be extremely difficult as you argue. Even so, from Alex’ point of view, it is the only strategy worth pursuing since all others will lead (according to him) to chaos.

    As I said before, I also don’t believe that democracy is likely to take hold in Syria in the near future (but that does not mean that the Syrians should be given every chance to pursue it).

    What strategy would you you recommend to Alex to pursue?

    Posted by AIG | May 11, 2011, 4:42 pm
  56. I don’t have the answer to that.

    Personally, I think democracy is the only workable solution, huge costs aside.

    But I do sympathize with Alex and others who have to bear that huge cost. It’s easy for me to be an armchair analyst. But Alex likely has family etc in Syria that add to the complexity of how he sees things.

    Posted by Gabriel | May 11, 2011, 4:49 pm
  57. I’d point out that most of us have family in Lebanon (or have lived or still live in Lebanon) and had to bare the cost of Assad and Israel’s “foreign interference” in our affairs…Just sayin…

    Posted by Bad Vilbel | May 11, 2011, 5:21 pm
  58. Also, about the “resistance is popular” thing. Most of us who have lived in the ME at one point know too well there’s a big difference between the culture of machismo and putting up posters and that of actual self-sacrifice.
    I’ll remind you that Lebanese also put up posters and flags of Brazil/Germany/Italy during World Cup season and even get into fights involving firearms when it comes to that stuff.
    Showing off posters of Nassrallah means nothing to me, even in a remote small christian village in Syria. It’s easy to put up posters because it’s the “cool thing to do these days” (specially in a country where the regime encourages these things).
    Now, show me a bunch of remote village Christians lining up to take arms in the Golan….then we can talk about Resistance.
    True Resistance is deeds. Not posturing (which every Arab leader and person has sloganeered about at one time or another).

    Posted by Bad Vilbel | May 11, 2011, 5:25 pm
  59. BV#659

    I’m actually a little suprised that this angle was not approached more forcefully in a “Lebanese” forum, even after 660 comments.

    Perhaps it’s a testament to maturity that people have put aside the raw emotional arguments and focused instead on reasoned argument?

    Posted by Gabriel | May 11, 2011, 5:45 pm
  60. Reforms?
    proper and genuine reforms means de-legitimizing his own clan rule. We can all agree reforming would be extremely limited in this immensely corrupt and clientelist nature.
    If any genuine reform were implemented it would spell the end of the Oligarchy, so basically by saying reform, Assad is declaring political suicide.
    For a mindset that involves posting your portraits in every corner, hotel,building, public place in the country, crushing any form of dissidence, monopolizing media and the rest of the malignant practices of the Dark Ages, how can anyone possibly believe in reform.
    For Assad and his clique, reform means the end of their supremacy.

    Posted by Maverick | May 11, 2011, 5:57 pm
  61. Gabriel,

    I suspect quite a few people here do have that emotional argument in mind, even if they don’t come out and say so.
    I only pointed it out because of the hypocrisy displayed in this sudden interest in sectarianism in Syria.

    In somewhat related news: Anyone read Hazem Saghieh’s latest?

    http://nowlebanon.com/NewsArticleDetails.aspx?ID=269509

    He makes very good points, and I have to agree with him on the matter of Christian “support” for the Assad regime (if there is, in fact, such a thing).

    It’s somewhat amusing to see the Christians of Syria (at least if one is to believe they are indeed supportive of the regime for the reasons stated above) following the exact same siege mentality that lead to the downfall of the Lebanese Maronites.

    The Christians of the Middle East are truly their own worst enemies.

    Posted by Bad Vilbel | May 11, 2011, 6:15 pm
  62. “Syrian President Bashar al-Assad is determined to carry out reforms that serve the Syrian’s interests, especially [now] that Syria is on its way to overcome the conspiracy planned against it and against its people,” Wahhab said.

    hmmmm…..

    To read more: http://www.nowlebanon.com/NewsArticleDetails.aspx?ID=269722#ixzz1M5KzmsBQ

    Posted by Maverick | May 11, 2011, 6:27 pm
  63. Maverick said:

    If any genuine reform were implemented it would spell the end of the Oligarchy, so basically by saying reform, Assad is declaring political suicide.
    For a mindset that involves posting your portraits in every corner, hotel,building, public place in the country, crushing any form of dissidence, monopolizing media and the rest of the malignant practices of the Dark Ages, how can anyone possibly believe in reform.

    This is precisely why I keep asking our friend Alex to tell me why he believes the Assad regime will or can reform if given time.

    Posted by Bad Vilbel | May 11, 2011, 7:03 pm
  64. Lets say he does reform, genuinely. Its not like he has a blank slate to start afresh. The gruelling process involved in authentically reforming the country and steering it out if its present malaise, involves working from sub zero levels. For example, routing out corruption and replacing the clientilism of Rami makhlouf and the rest of his henchmen with stable and somewhat transparent institutions. The same applies to the Army, security and Moukhabarat services.This will take extraordinary efforts on his behalf to convince or replace the rest of his clique. Then, if he does manage to succeed in ousting the dominance of these cronies, he will be able to implement the genuine reforms every apologist is touting for.
    These include a long list of political, social,economic, and ideological reforms just to get the economy rolling and maintain trust amongst the citizenry.
    Huge undertaking, but not impossible.
    The question is not how long it will take, but more alarmingly, will he be able to pull of such a feat?
    It seems the Machiavellian ruler would much prefer to take on the uprising then his family and friends at the helm, Keep the status quo and throw in a few cosmetic changes to calm the discontented mob.
    Am I unreasonable in my doubting?

    Posted by Maverick | May 11, 2011, 7:46 pm
  65. I think dumping all Syrian christians in the same category is narrow and misleading. After all, there are many different types of Christians in Syria: there are Armenians, Syriacs, Chaldeans, Assyrians and Arabs and among those there are Orthodox, Catholics and Protestants in many different denominations. Each group is quite different from the other and the interaction between these groups is not always the smoothest. For example: Arab Christians are not so keen on Armenians. Latin Catholics feel like they are partly French and look down on the Orthodox and so on so forth. I also refuse this separation between the religions. Even though I acknowledge that there are subtle tensions between the religions, there is also tremendous unity among the Syrian people. In many instances, it is hard to tell a Christian from a Muslim or a Jew. The majority of Syrian Christians have Arabic names. They are as patriotic as anyone else and I can bet anyone that many are already in the protests and many are among the dead.

    Posted by Sheila | May 11, 2011, 8:33 pm
  66. Since most of QN’s ‘aspiring’ analysts have higher IQ’s as well as political insights and acumen than most US politicians, and since this was made evident by the outcry that was first initiated on this forum when Mrs. Clinton made her unfortunate, regrettable and despicable ‘novel’ remark about a so-called reformer-dictator-goon Assad highlighting US administration’s hypocrisy, and since the least accomplished of all American politicians, i.e. John Kerry, has finally come to the conclusion that so-called dialogue with Assad and his goons is futile and must come to an end , I hereby put forward the proposition, which in fact is nothing but a seconding of Joe’s comment, of bringing to an end this deaf discourse initiated by a regime goon and apologist for the sole purpose of propagating the regime’s propaganda and diverting attention from real issues at hand preventing us from finding a way forward out of this lunacy of the 40 years of stagnant minoritarian rule that destroyed not only the country of Syria but even the social fabric of its inhabitants.

    As an added weight to my motion, I cite AP’s complaint of the recurring pain that I, and everyone else perhaps, have to go through every time I open the comment section of this thread, a horror of unimaginable magnitude of a computer screen freezing in a ‘putrgatory’ for what seems to be like eternity. And believe me I have one of the best and fastest connections on the web. I have now simply gave up on making the 700 mark. Who am I to argue with Kerry after all?

    The real issue is simple. More than 20 killed today in Homs and in southern towns by the thugs brigade of Maher. There will be demonstrations tomorrow (Friday). Military police is also very active in Aleppo as well as in Damascus to prevent an uprising in those cities which spells the end of the tyrant.

    Here’s an account of a British journalist of what he saw in Homs recently,

    Posted by iceman | May 11, 2011, 8:52 pm
  67. Iceman…

    Between East and West coast you have not lost your focus…

    Alex would say only twenty people were demonstrating…but again they needed tanks to “suppress” the foreign elements…

    Posted by danny | May 11, 2011, 9:13 pm
  68. I heard a very interesting analysis about the situation in Aleppo. It was saying that the Syrian regime is worried about a “Benghazi” scenario, where Aleppo would establish its own transitional government. Being so close to Turkey with very strong ties to that country and the center for eastern Syria, this could be a big problem. I think this could explain the tremendous security crack down and many arrests in a city that is witnessing very little movement.

    Posted by Sheila | May 11, 2011, 9:26 pm
  69. OK Sheila, and hopefully Damascus will join Jordan creating a link to Lebanese borders and then we can all become part of the GCC.

    Posted by iceman | May 11, 2011, 9:50 pm
  70. The Trouble with Website Despots

    As an added weight to my motion, I cite AP’s complaint of the recurring pain that I, and everyone else perhaps, have to go through every time I open the comment section of this thread, a horror of unimaginable magnitude of a computer screen freezing in a ‘putrgatory’ for what seems to be like eternity. And believe me I have one of the best and fastest connections on the web. I have now simply gave up on making the 700 mark.

    I have dibs on 700!

    Need….T1…..Connection….bad…

    Computer Not Responding…

    The region needs a package deal.

    Alex,

    The “package deal” is free elections, political parties, and term limits. Nothing more, nothing less.

    The NOTION that Bashar Assad is the only person to “hold Syria together” is horseshit.

    Posted by Akbar Palace | May 11, 2011, 10:19 pm
  71. 9/11 was an inside Job Wall to Wall and the Odious White House Murder INC, is rotten Manure. It is a Joint Venture between Israeli War Criminals, Asef Shawkat, the Assad Mafia, and Dick Cheney’s assassins on the Potomac ever since PNAC came into being.

    Posted by HK | May 12, 2011, 12:35 am
  72. AIG,

    In your arguments with Alex, you are implying the eventuality of the downfall of the Asad’s regime, because you are warning him of the harsher consequences to the minorities, the longer this despotic ruling drags on before it reaches the end. You were pontificating this inevitability in the past on SC blog, as I claimed in a previous comment to you, but you denied it.

    Posted by Badr | May 12, 2011, 2:54 am
  73. Sorry to crash the party. This is the first time and pehaps the last time I post here. But noticed the differences between the substantive discussion taking place here and the utter nonesence going on in Syria Comment. I do not know how many of you are following that discussion. But here is a post I put up yesterday, I thought you may find silly enough to qualify for a distraction. No attempts were made to correct grammtical or typographical errors.

    55. SYRIAN HAMSTER said:

    It has been hard to follow from the rat’s hole. But i thought of helping the discussion by summarizing the essence of regime supporters discussion on Syria Comment. Antiregime comments were irrelevant to this summary and were not summarized because they had no impact on the direction of discussion. Really no impact….

    Main Post: Joshua Writes: Bashar is a Smart Alawite (Defintion of Aalawite), he may win and he may lose,

    Sophia says: the Independent, the BBC, CNN, Aljazeera, Downing Street, the White House are all scared of Bashar’s leadership, Erdogan made a mistake, he regretts it, it is the end for Erdogan
    Why Discuss says: the US loves/hates bashar, he will stay, all others are crazy, they are in panic.
    Jad says: hetre is a clip from Syrian TV and an article from Syrian press, they show beards, they are sectarian monsters. But they are Syrians and I love them. I hate them
    Why Discuss says: Kill them kill them
    Souri33 says: Bashar should obliterate Turkey
    Souri33 says: Bashar should not do what I just posted
    Souri33 says: Bashar should occupy Turkey and He should ignore Turkey.
    Jad says: peaceful demonstrator do not spit on photos, here is a clip showing these criminal salafis spitting on photos
    Sophia says: Thank you jad for the link
    Jad: no thank you Sophia
    Jad says: they just found 3197.6 kilograms of nuclear waste near Hums
    Some Angry Syrian supporter of the Protestors says: Does the name Basel Assad and Firas Tlas and little Khaddam ring a bell in connection to nuclear waste scandal?
    SYAU says: It had the BBC Logo. It is Salafi nuclear waste
    Why Discuss says: Shoot them
    Norman says: Shoot who?
    Why Discuss says: Salafi demonstrators, shoot them,
    Some Poor Canadian Bypasser says: Aren’t you ashamed living in democracies and supporting murder and dictatorship
    Jad says: Yo canadian, are you calling me regime supporter, i resent that. I have principles. Here is a link from General Aoun TV showing more beards, they are sectarian monsters
    SYAU says: skin them alive, I want to drink their blood.
    Why Discuss says: Bashar is reforming, the Baath Party will change its name.
    Alex says: 5 years plan, a letter every year, demonstrations should stop now
    Norman says: WTF (politely).,…. Baath Baath Baath
    Sophia says: Thank you jad for the link
    Jad says: What link?
    Sophia says: The one you are about to post.
    Jad says: No thank you Sophia
    MINA says: Thank you all, you openned my eyes. France is dying big time. US is losing, Bashar wins
    MINA says: Here are 30 links proving my point, it doesn’t matter if I read any of them.
    Norman says: ……
    Mahmood says: whatever the hell he says
    Souri33 says: Bashar is done
    Souri33 says: Bashar will stay forever
    Mina says: US is arrogant
    Sophia says: US is arrogant
    Akbar Palace says: Porve that us is arrogant
    Jad says: shut up Akbar
    Jad says: US is arrogant
    Why Discuss says: US is stupid
    Alex says: Here is another article by a canadian guy. It is a global conspiracy, Trust Bashar, he will reform, in two 5 year plans to start whenever he chooses.
    Jad says: Yes Global Conspriacy, but the regime should not kill 800. I have priniciples
    Why Discuss says: how about 700 global conspirators
    Jad says: Techincally ok, the regime did not kill them, they committed suicide. It is a global conspriacy
    Mina says: Yes Global CONSPIRACY.
    Why Discuss says: It is a conspiracy and conspirators will die
    SYAU says: It is a global Conspiracy, I want blood
    Sophia says: It is a global conspiracy, this canadian professor is so cool, he has 9-11 figured, and the earthquake in Japan too. It is all CIA and Mossad, thank you alex for the link
    Mina says: (Not need to summarize, basically verbatim from Sophia’s post)
    Jad says: soldiers are dead, it is a civil war..
    Alex says: No thank you Sophia
    Norman says: ….?
    Akbar Palace says: Sophia please porvide a link showing it is the Mossad.
    Jad says: shut up Akbar,

    New Main Post. Joshua Writes: Bashar, an Alawite (Defintion of Alawite), is winnig, or is he losing? or is winning and losing

    Back tpo my rat hole

    Why Discsuss says:…..

    Posted by SYRIAN HAMSTER | May 12, 2011, 3:19 am
  74. From Nick Noe’s blog:

    Per capita deaths in Arab Uprisings

    Roughly, here are the per capita numbers for deaths (only) in the Arab uprisings – note the Libya figure is likely much higher.

    What do these figures mean?

    – The last three states with the lowest ratios were closest to US influence… but then again, Bahrain is also especially close and look what has happened, exceeding Syria… And Libya of course had moved into relative complicity with the US and the EU…

    ?

    2000 Deaths in Libya/Population 6.4 mil 1: 3,200

    36 Deaths in Bahrain/Population 791,473 1: 21,972

    812 Deaths in Syria/Population 21 mil 1: 25,862

    223 Deaths in Tunisia/Population 10.4 mil 1: 46,636

    846 Deaths in Egypt/Population 83 mil 1: 98,108

    140 Deaths in Yeman/Population 23.8 mil 1: 170,000

    Posted by Qifa Nabki | May 12, 2011, 6:26 am
  75. QN,

    Reports are emerging that STL might be moving to indict the Top Syrian Leadership, including Asef Shawkat. If that proves to be true, then our outcry and continuous nagging about them since January 24th 2002 did not go in vain…
    The infamous White House Murder INC, in the Levant will be untangled after-all, and our daily prayers would have been answered beyond our wildest dreams.

    Posted by HK | May 12, 2011, 8:20 am
  76. HK

    Those reports strike me as highly suspect. Will be blogging about this in about an hour.

    Posted by Qifa Nabki | May 12, 2011, 9:11 am
  77. QN,

    I agree with you, Hence I am intensifying the Prayers cycle in the coming weeks…
    I have already taken care of Ariel Sharon, The Assad Mafia is next, we will be left to deal with George Tenet, Dick Cheney, Karl Rove and the crooked OSP gang under Rumsfeld… Long prayer sessions will remain the order of the day for a long while :))

    Posted by HK | May 12, 2011, 9:19 am
  78. HK…

    I thought prayers were supposed to be for nice things like Health, Wealth and such matters.

    Or as Jesus said: “Father, Forgive them, for they know not what they do”.

    Posted by Gabriel | May 12, 2011, 9:33 am
  79. Gabe,

    I subscribe to the notion of an eye for an eye, and i never believed in turning the other cheek…
    Jesus also threw the rascals out of the Temple when he got fed-up with their Shenanigans!
    The list is long, and my prayers have always been answered so far, May Be Jesus, the Saints and the angels are changing their tunes too, when they saw utter Injustice reigning Supreme in our neck of the woods…
    Avenging the Blood of the Fallen in such cruelty since 2000 is a must, and Justice will prevail indeed, come hell or high water.

    Posted by HK | May 12, 2011, 9:51 am
  80. Badr,

    Let me be perfectly clear. The fall of Assad is not inevitable. I have been saying for some time that the Zimbabwe scenario is also possible (he just runs Syria to the ground while staying in power). The Zimbabwe scenario is less likely than a civil war in Syria or an Islamist take over in my opinion. There are also small chances Assad will be able to generate significant economic growth or that Syria will be a functioning democracy. The latter scenarios do not seem probable to me at all but of course are what we should all hope for.

    What I am telling Alex is that given the goals Alex wants to achieve, the strategy that Assad is taking does not make sense as it will lead to a higher chance of the bad scenarios happening in the future.

    Posted by AIG | May 12, 2011, 9:57 am
  81. Gabriel,

    One should be happy that the weapons available to the likes of HK are prayer and I urge him to revamp his efforts.

    Posted by AIG | May 12, 2011, 10:00 am
  82. Time’s Martin Fletcher sneaked into Syria, got detained for hours and had this short report:

    http://soundcloud.com/nealmann/times-correspondent-martin

    15% hate the regime .. 20% love the regime, the rest not involved and want the protest to be over.

    Which is what I was saying… majority of Syrians want serious reforms, not regime change.

    Posted by Alex | May 12, 2011, 10:33 am
  83. AIG,

    You know not what is available nor what is not!
    Suffice it to say that “prayers” have proven to be mightier than the sword, and my prayers definitely do not need to be revamped and have proven time and again to be most efficient in this regard as well as in other matters in life. No lessons or advice are needed from your ilk on this or any other matter.

    Posted by HK | May 12, 2011, 11:32 am
  84. Alex,

    What most Syrians want is reforms without chaos. Don’t translate that to them not wanting regime change. If most Syrians were certain that regime change will not cause a civil war, and could be done peacefully and in an organized manner, they would support it. However, the regime is blackmailing the people as is clear from Machlouf’s interview in the NY Times. Please don’t try selling people’s dislike of chaos as support for the regime.

    Posted by AIG | May 12, 2011, 11:55 am
  85. Sheila,

    Interesting that you point out on one hand that there are diverse sects in Syria, not always seeing eye to eye, but then also point out that they are all Syrians first (It’s what I would have expected too). Some would have us believe that these sectarian tensions and differences are enough to cause a complete meltdown of Syria if the regime were to fall…

    Alex @684:
    I don’t doubt that the majority of Syrians want reform without any bloodshed or harm coming to the economy, their livelihoods, etc. I think that’s indeed the normal sentiment of most humans everywhere.
    As you know, I don’t really believe it is physically possible though, for this regime to reform. I think the regime is fundamentally incapable of reforming, even if it wanted to. It is not a matter of “wanting”, it is a matter of “being able to”.
    How do you even reform such a regime? Bashar would have to get rid of (prosecute) members of his own family (his cousin, his brother) if he tackles corruption, for example. Do you think that’s even physically possible? Maverick hit the nail on the head in comment #666.
    Look at what Bashar would have to do if he does indeed want to reform (let’s assume he does, as an individual).

    I’ll quote:
    Lets say he does reform, genuinely. Its not like he has a blank slate to start afresh. The gruelling process involved in authentically reforming the country and steering it out if its present malaise, involves working from sub zero levels. For example, routing out corruption and replacing the clientilism of Rami makhlouf and the rest of his henchmen with stable and somewhat transparent institutions. The same applies to the Army, security and Moukhabarat services.This will take extraordinary efforts on his behalf to convince or replace the rest of his clique. Then, if he does manage to succeed in ousting the dominance of these cronies, he will be able to implement the genuine reforms every apologist is touting for.
    These include a long list of political, social,economic, and ideological reforms just to get the economy rolling and maintain trust amongst the citizenry.
    Huge undertaking, but not impossible.
    The question is not how long it will take, but more alarmingly, will he be able to pull of such a feat?

    I frankly do not see how that is physically or humanly possible, because of the very nature of the regime and the way things are intricately linked to the Assad clan in every aspect of society/economy/military.

    I said a long time ago (we were talking about Egypt at the time, and speculating if something like that could happen in Syria) that in Egypt and Tunisia, there was one institution that was somewhat removed from Mubarak and Ben Ali: The military. What I mean is, there was a foundation of an institution that had the intrinsic ability to separate itself from those 2 leaders (and that’s precisely what they did).
    I don’t believe that is the case in Syria. I don’t believe you can separate the military, as an institution, from the Assads. This also applies to all other institutions in Syria.

    Once again, I ask anyone here (Alex, if he’s willing) to give me some kind of logic explanation as to what makes them think Assad CAN reform (assuming he wants to).

    Posted by Bad Vilbel | May 12, 2011, 12:09 pm
  86. More endless war from Bin Laden’s “journal.” In truth, the journal was likely written by Arabic specialists within the CIA/MOSSAD and the Infamous White House Murder INC.
    Obama builds up his own cult of personality from the “threat” posed by Osama backers. Kenya claims Obama’s grandmother target of Al-Qaeda in Kenya. Of course, Kenyan Prime Minister Raila Odinga is an old family friend of Obama. Obama,Odigo, Osama, Odinga — tired of this “O-cult” yet?

    Pentagon is off to conquer other worlds, destroy other civilizations. DARPA seeks 100-year star-ship. Let’s hope the Klingons, Romulans, and Cardassians make mincemeat of the Pentagon’s star-ships.
    White House to make power grab for the Internet. “Cyber-security” program will represent more function creep.
    Journalists being harassed by the FBI. Green is the new Red, and 9/11 was an inside Job wall to wall with Patsies Galore.

    Posted by HK | May 12, 2011, 12:19 pm
  87. BV

    I can not prove to you that he CAN. There is one way to find out … to try for a few months, and hopefully (if things don’t deteriorate) that is what will happen.

    AIG,

    Many reporters admitted that Assad enjoys genuine support among many (not all) Syrians. “The regime” is Assad plus the army, plus the Ba’ath, plus the Sunni elite, plus the minorities … so let’s us try to avoid the “change the regime” phrase to avoid an endless argument there.

    Bashar is meeting Syrian delegations from each city and listening to their concerns. He is quoted every day. No threats of warnings. He is mostly expressing his flexibility to meet most demands and to admitting his mistake in not paying attention to them in the past…etc

    Rami’s interview angered “the regime”. Yesterday, and after long silence, Imad Moustapha sent the following letter to the New York Times:

    http://www.nytimes.com/2011/05/12/opinion/l12syria.html?_r=2&ref=todayspaper

    I wish to inform you that Rami Makhlouf, a businessman whom you interviewed at length, is a private citizen in Syria. He holds no official position in the Syrian government and does not speak on behalf of the Syrian authorities. The opinions he expressed are exclusively his and cannot be associated in any way with the official positions of the government of the Syrian Arab Republic.

    IMAD MOUSTAPHA
    Ambassador of Syria
    Washington, May 11, 2011

    Posted by Alex | May 12, 2011, 12:33 pm
  88. Alex,

    If Bashar is not willing to run in democratic elections, nor is he willing to let his people speak freely, how do you want us to believe he is popular with many Syrian? These actions are not the actions of a popular person.

    Which demands has Assad said he will meet? Where has Assad admitted past mistakes? Can you please direct me to sources for these?

    Posted by AIG | May 12, 2011, 12:51 pm
  89. The “Saints” and “Angels” called Assad, Nasrallah, and Ahmadinejad

    The list is long, and my prayers have always been answered so far, May Be Jesus, the Saints and the angels are changing their tunes too, when they saw utter Injustice reigning Supreme in our neck of the woods…

    HK,

    With respect to your holy “prayers”, how do reconcile the fact that Hezbollah and Iran are such good friends with Bashar Assad?

    Posted by Akbar Palace | May 12, 2011, 1:01 pm
  90. AIG,

    I am not the only person suggesting that Assad is popular. Even Assad’s adversaries admit he is popular. Read my comment #50 above for example (just one example, not “proof”).

    As for admitting mistakes, he said it sometime the past week. Find someone who speaks Arabic and check on one of the Syrian private news sites (in Arabic) … Champress and Syria News for example. But you can also find a reference to it in he link in my comment #685 … the author spoke to many top regime officials and confirmed they are aware of the mistakes and want to fix them.

    Opposition leader Michel Kilo seems to be satidfied that what the regime has to offer is serious enough and he would like to sit down and talk and negotiate with the regime about the details.

    Posted by Alex | May 12, 2011, 1:34 pm
  91. AIG,

    Ok, I did my homework. Let’s see if posting a couple of your old comments on SC may convince you of my claim.

    Comment 1:
    “The only real alternative to the so called Mubarak and Asad “Arab Nationalism” way is Hamas like parties and rule. This kind of rule will eventually come to Egypt and Syria”
    Comment 2:
    “Unfortunately, the Islamic Tsunami is nothing that can be stopped. It is inevitable and will arise because of the lethal combination of demography, failed economies and satellite TV. It is just a matter of time…How long will the average Syrian be willing to live with the knowledge that his children’s future is bleak?”
    Comment 3:
    “In the end, I beleive Asad will do what is best for the regime and that means favoring “resistance” over economic growth. That will buy him a few extra years until finally the demographic barrel of dynamite on which he is sitting will explode.”

    I will try to post even more in the near future if there is a need to. ;-)

    Posted by Badr | May 12, 2011, 1:40 pm
  92. Meeting with delegations? Admitting past mistakes?
    And what are those tanks doing? Again, there’s a big disconnect between this depiction of Assad as a benevolent leader, and the reports from the streets.
    Something doesn’t add up, man!

    As for the regime disavowing Rami Makhlouf’s interview. Come on! Who are they trying to kid? You buy that?
    It’s the old trick of having a guy everyone KNOWS is very close to the regime, speak his mind, all the while offering the old “plausible deniability” defense…”Oh, but he holds no official position! We’re not responsible for what he says or does!”
    Give me a break.

    Posted by Bad Vilbel | May 12, 2011, 1:48 pm
  93. Badr,

    Perhaps in the past I did not give enough weight or emphasis to the Zimbabwe option. I currently think this option has more than zero probability.

    Posted by AIG | May 12, 2011, 2:10 pm
  94. Alex,

    Why don’t you quit trying to be an arbiter…Are we to believe you on what is balanced?

    Posted by danny | May 12, 2011, 4:43 pm
  95. >>>On second thought; If they say that there are discrepancies on the protesters side…Is that a balanced for u?

    Posted by danny | May 12, 2011, 4:44 pm
  96. I want my prize…:D

    Posted by danny | May 12, 2011, 4:44 pm
  97. well – I think it worth a try to be the #700

    Posted by Nour | May 12, 2011, 4:57 pm
  98. Yea Danny, congrats. But wait, iceman is 007. That’s so much cooler!

    Posted by Honest Patriot | May 12, 2011, 5:26 pm
  99. If its any consolation, I was #666 muhahahaha.

    Posted by Maverick | May 12, 2011, 6:14 pm
  100. 700 comments later, and still Camille is using the word “mistakes”…. still could quite let him mouth form any words to recognize that tanks shelling the cities of your country that you are president of – is not a kind of “mistake”… is a decision – and the kind of decision that most of the world considers state terrorism.
    I really really really hate the word terrorism. I really hate the fact that psychotic leaders – having follow suit on american leaders and Israeli leaders – have now co-opted the word… so now- everybody they are supposedly defending the homeland against – is a “terrorist”…. including your own people who non-prowling in the dark – or setting off bombs against civilians – or even using one terrorist tactic…
    But the tactics of the government military action itself is Terrorism if anything ever deserved to be called so.

    It is such a sad sad sad story at this point. The government think it has the upper hand at this point… so the story will be over?? The upper hand of what? the only upper hand they have is the hand of violence. How proud they must be that after arresting hundreds of people and killing hundreds and surrounding cities with guns and tanks and plain clothes guards posted through the major cities.. they are feeling very satisfied at having the upper hand and gaining control.
    And yet, slap by slap they have lost the hearts and minds of people and the rest of the world that still had some confidence and faith in this leadership.
    If that were the end of the story, (which i am sure it is not)… it would be a really pathetic pathetic end…

    Posted by Zenobia | May 12, 2011, 9:22 pm
  101. Zenobia,

    I think it’s obvious that “mistakes” refer to shooting at peaceful civilians demonstrating! Contrary to your passionate wishful thinking, there is not evidence of shooting peaceful civilans as a policy.

    What you are referring to is part of a decision to clean some cities from armed insurgents, which are very real and very true and very violent. Yes, unfortunately some innocent people get killed in the process.

    You, and people like you, who keep pushing and enflaming people’s emotions, are doing so from a safe distance in Europe. “Go .. go .. go! Go and get killed so that my ego will not be scratched vis-a-vis my stand on this issue”

    The army had to take tough decisions that it knew would risk the loss of civilian lives. It was all but inevitable, to prevent the loss of a vastly greater number of lives, were things to go YOU are pushing for them to go.

    Face the facts: the MAJORITY of Syrian are not so obsessed with revenge (a revenge many outside Syria are dwelling on). Most sane people, and most people living inside the country want security and stability back. A stability that is essential for the reform process to take off.

    the state is offering to sit down and talk, and to do so openly and genuinely. If some people are not interested to give that a chance, we don’t want them to be allowed to go destroy the country instead!

    Posted by Averroes | May 13, 2011, 12:41 am
  102. Averroes,
    you should probably not try to attribute particular emotions to me that you actually have no idea whether I feel or not.

    A couple of points I am not sure where you get them from concerning me personally: I have never told anybody to go protest. That is their decision. I support anyone who decides to do that – but I would never tell them to go go go out and get killed.

    Two: I have no idea who is thinking about “revenge” , not I and I don’t think most syrians are either, nor the ones protesting.

    Main disagreement: YES I do think there is a policy. When you need tanks to deal with entire cities, that is a POLICY. When there are crowds of people being shot at – that is policy. These crowds and entire areas of cities cannot be correctly deemed to be comprised of ‘insurgents’ (a word that tells us nothing except you think they lack legitimacy). To call anything here a mistake…is subterfuge, and it is no better than terms like “collateral damage”… which is also nonsense.
    Everyone can see completely indiscriminate firing of machine gun rapid fire into an urban landscape with human beings in it – coming from military.
    Even if there were proof of some armed antagonist attackers, such a mode of stopping this – would be incredibly incompetent and inhumane ‘policy’…not simply inept ‘mistakes’… such policy is called collective punishment and it is really against all standards of international law human right law.

    Posted by Zenobia | May 14, 2011, 3:22 am
  103. here here Zenobia.

    After a while you grow numb to these types trying to feed you disinformation only cos theyre trying to fabricate an argument that fits in their ideological and political biases.
    Whereas most sane commentators arrive at a conclusion from arguments and analysis put forth, not the other way around.
    Watch, there will be a few more sources that Alex and co will dig up and say look, look you see, This Western intellectual believes that Assad et al are protecting their people from the zombies in Michael Jackson’s thriller video clip and what most people are seeing is a twisted plot to pressure the heroic Arab avant -garde in acquiescing to Israeli-American imperialist demands.
    Technology saves the day when all discourse failed…and our eyes dont lie.

    Posted by Maverick | May 14, 2011, 3:44 am
  104. Folks, if you indulge me some semantics:
    Mistake, in French, is “faute.”
    In politics, “faute” is an extremely serious thing.
    May I remind everyone of the historical statement:
    “C’est plus qu’un crime, c’est une faute!”
    = “It is worth than a crime, it’s a mistake”
    in the context of politics.
    So, Zenobia, no need to argue about mistake vs. policy. Clearly, a mistake, in politics, is the consequence of a policy. The users of that term are perhaps unwittingly condemning in the most sever manner the parties responsible for the deeply saddening events.
    Prof. Landis over at Syriacomment gets it. I’d rely on him as an authority far beyond the commentators.

    Posted by Honest Patriot | May 14, 2011, 3:52 am
  105. … sorry for the typo: meant “… worse than a crime…” not “… worth…”

    Posted by Honest Patriot | May 14, 2011, 3:53 am
  106. and … severe … instead of … sever…
    (damn autocorrect in “smart” phones; not so smart)

    Posted by Honest Patriot | May 14, 2011, 3:54 am
  107. Tsk tsk tsk … Honest Patriot made two mistakes?

    Lucky you are not in politics. : )

    Posted by Alex | May 14, 2011, 12:50 pm
  108. Thank you Zenobia. That was indeed well said. The point about “policy” vs. “mistakes”.
    That was exactly my point to our dear Alex.

    Posted by Bad Vilbel | May 14, 2011, 2:36 pm
  109. I think Camille doesn’t make any sense. He contradicts himself and lacks coherence. If I were him I would not worry about the future of Christians. The regime is not protecting the Christians but rather using them. The Christians need to be protected through a fair and democratic constitution and not a one man show. this time around the Christians should revolt with the opposition and show solidarity to a resistance that is trying to topple a tyrant. If they don’t I would worry about their future.

    Posted by Tarek | May 14, 2011, 3:49 pm
  110. “Tarek”, I am worried about the whole region. That was the main point I tried to make. What you read in the comment section is a number of answers to points raised.

    http://www.reuters.com/article/2011/05/14/us-turkey-kurd-idUSTRE74D0Z620110514

    And my next point is that it is a mistake to assume all Syrians want to topple the regime, rather than ask for serious reforms.

    Don’t ask me, ask the only western reporter to spend enough time inside Syria:

    http://www.npr.org/player/v2/mediaPlayer.html?action=1&t=1&islist=false&id=136279894&m=136285582

    There are no magical solutions. Don’t assume I am happy with any “solution”.

    As for your attempt to advise (or bully) me, or other Christians reading here, take a look at what I said when I was interviewed by Bloomberg about Syrian Christians:

    http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2011-05-12/syrian-christians-say-arab-spring-changes-could-hasten-extinction.html

    They are just like other Syrians … they want stability and reforms and they hate bloodshed.

    Posted by Alex | May 14, 2011, 6:24 pm
  111. Zenobia,

    I don’t believe I mentioned your emotions anywhere. I’m talking about your inflaming of peoples’ emotions and inciting them to go out and get killed. That’s the essence of what you’ve been calling for for the last few weeks.

    There are no “tanks”. These are armoured personnel carriers, which are needed because there is shooting taking place, targeting the army. If you choose not to see the irrefutable fact that there are army and security personnel being deliberately targeted and killed, then there is not point in discussing anything with you. Syrian TV has been interviewing their relatives, fathers, mothers, wives, daughters … everyone talking freely and openly about their lost loved ones.

    No ma’am, there is no policy of indiscriminate shooting at civilians. There has been some peaceful anti regime protests where no one was hurt. No one shot at the security so no one was hurt. But that’s not been the case in every case, whether you choose to see what’s very obvious, or live in denial.

    Posted by Averroes | May 15, 2011, 12:59 am
  112. Gotta love that fact that day after day, Syrian citizens are dying and getting buried, yet people come out and talk about “targeting the army”….

    Posted by Bad Vilbel | May 15, 2011, 1:04 am
  113. These regime fossils are contaminating reason, human decency and common sense.

    It is the fault of those who continue to engage with them that they continue to pop up and cause this shameless affront.

    Posted by iceman | May 15, 2011, 1:12 am
  114. 120 families from Tal Kalakh (7Hims region) fled into Lebanon today running from tank shelling of the city,

    Posted by iceman | May 15, 2011, 1:36 am
  115. Averroes,
    I would like to ask you one question: Do you think the current Syrian regime is corrupt?. If your answer is no, then there is no point in going any further. If your answer is yes, Then you agree that the Syrian people have legitimate grievances with their government. I do not believe that any of us, Zenobia, VB, Iceman and many others, are for people being killed, be it civilians or army. They are all our people. We do not want them harmed. I also believe that we all agree that some elements are going to take advantage of this situation for their own gains, however, we all feel that this is the only way things are going to change in Syria. Unlike you, we do not think that Bashar Alassad is willing to improve the country and if he is willing, then he is absolutely incapable of doing so. He has in charge for 11 years, where is the meaningful change?. Look what China achieved in 11 years. The answer is clear.
    The thugs surrounding the president have to go. They have so much at stake to leave voluntarily. So, yes, as Zenobia said, there is a policy to kill by the government and at this point, how can anyone believe what the Syrian TV says. You are puting your head in the sand and missing the obvious truth. At the end of the day, no pain no gain. It is hard for all of us to watch the blood, but unfortunately, there is no alternative.

    Posted by Sheila | May 15, 2011, 1:01 pm
  116. Sheila,

    I believe there is a lot of corruption at all levels in Syria, regime and otherwise, and I believe that Syrians have many grievances. What I don’t agree on, is the simplistic picture you are trying to pain (the regime is all bad and responsible for everything that’s gone wrong, but has no credit for anything that’s gone right), and your recklessly simplistic solution (let’s topple the regime, and then everything will be just fine).

    When Syrian TV shows interviews with real people, gives their names, their locations, and their relations to the slain officers in the Army, and you still choose to look the other way, then you are the one putting your head in the sand.

    If you expect that ANY regime or ANY government in Syria, might be able to achieve 11% growth then please tell me what you’re smoking because I would like to try it.

    Posted by Averroes | May 15, 2011, 1:42 pm
  117. Averroes,
    I do not think that if the regime is toppled everything will be fine. On the contrary, I think it will be very painful for everyone and I believe you feel the same way too. I also did not talk about an 11% growth. I asked you about the accomplishments of the president after 11 years in office. But, yes, I do believe that the regime is totally responsible for things that go bad. They have been in power long enough to bear this responsibility. I have said this before, I think this regime can write the book on how to destroy a country. The Syria of my parents was much better than the Syria we have today in all aspects, from morals and work ethics to education and economics.
    There are three types of people who believe what they watch on Syrian TV: members of the regime or those directly benefiting from the regime, simpletons, or those who choose to believe because they are so scared of the alternative. I do not know your background, but I am assuming you are from the latter group. I do not blame you. We are all scared of the alternative. Nobody knows what it is going to be or how much pain we are going to have to go through, however, this is going to happen sooner or later. The longer this regime lasts, the more pain the transition will inflict. I have lived in Syria long enough not to see things in black and white. Do you feel that this regime is willing or even capable of change?

    Posted by Sheila | May 15, 2011, 3:23 pm
  118. Alex @712, LOL, the wit that keeps on giving!
    And… since no one mentioned it (I’m surprised) kudos on being quoted in USA-Today yesterday May 16:
    http://www.usatoday.com/news/world/2011-05-15-syria-libya-obama-NATO-sanctions-Gadhafi-Assad_n.htm
    Search for your name in the article (I saw it in print yesterday)

    Posted by Honest Patriot | May 17, 2011, 6:25 am
  119. Ass-ad is a dictator and we all know that, Ass-ad is a butcher and we all know that.
    there is so much fear from going out in peace full demonstration for tow reason
    first: memory of HAMA from 1982 (yet history repeating now with Bashar).
    second: since government announced that you have to have a permit to go out with demonstration, like that ever going to in a happened in a dictator land.
    bottom line you have to completely IGNORANT to even defend Ass-ad’s regime for many reasons:
    1-Ass-ad and go like (Makhloff’s) bank accounts numbers.
    2-Ass-ad and Makhloff’s name on majority of big property and company in Syria( legally witch is illegally).
    3- Never allowed any Arabic or international media to go in Syria to cover what is going on, but thank god god for cell phones that owned by the way by ass-ad and Makhloff’s, yet Syrian official TV deny’s all of it nor international media can really count on it.
    4- no election in the country and a regime
    but president last 10′s of years at a time then inherit to son (in what law the legal? ).
    5-The 1% of people that you talked about that is his thugs you have it all confused.
    6- i know i am wasting my time but i do have a limit for accepting ignorance.

    Posted by lalo | May 18, 2011, 9:45 am
  120. There’s an interesting German blogger about Syria, too.With an similar point of view I think. she also talks about salafists and rifat als Assad and so on.

    http://www.sarsura-syrien.de

    By the way great interview and article

    Posted by baucredit24 | June 14, 2011, 7:45 am

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