Camille Otrakji and Elias Muhanna Talk Syria at (Part II)

I recorded another segment with Camille Otrakji for Bloggingheads about Syria. Some of you may remember the first conversation we had last year, and the interview I did with Camille (which generated 724 comments). In this discussion, we look at the deepening conflict and what — if anything — can be done to bring the violence to a halt and usher in some kind of transition to a new system of government in Syria.

I’m sure Camille will join the conversation if people want to leave comments below on the interview. I tried to keep my personal views about the conflict to a minimum, so as to give Camille the chance to represent the views of Syrians who are pro-regime for one reason or another. This is a view that we don’t tend to hear much about in the press, and I know that it is not popular with most of my readership, but that’s the whole point of debate. While Camille and I disagree about much of what this conflict is about and how to solve it (just as we do about music, vintage cars, and Lebanese politics), I think his perspective is important.

For a vastly different view of the conflict, check out the video of Samar Yazbek’s recent visit to Brown University (where I now teach). And sorry for the hiatus from the blog. I’m just getting my head above water again after starting the new semester here. Much to talk about…


242 thoughts on “Camille Otrakji and Elias Muhanna Talk Syria at (Part II)

  1. Is there a link missing?

    Posted by danny | September 26, 2012, 3:32 pm
  2. Oops, forgot to include the link, which is there now. See above. Thanks danny!

    Posted by Qifa Nabki | September 26, 2012, 3:42 pm
  3. With all due respect to Camille’s opinion and his suggested shape of the “compromise” that should be reached, i have to say it’s unrealistic and does not reflect the actual situation on the ground or the balance which is tipping in favor of the opposition groups. Assad is isolated and every day that passes with him unable to re-assert his authority is a positive advancement for the opposition. Why would they agree to Assad keeping his grip on the defense and intelligence apparatus? As if the Syrians have no experience with the ruthlessness and corruption of these agencies, isn’t that the reason or one of the reasons they revolted in the first place? Also the idea of Syrian parliamentary committees and the west monitoring the “Mukhabarat” and the Iranians exerting pressure on them to behave is just ridiculous, is Camille now advocating the continuous meddling in Syria’s internal affairs? Or would the “resistance” regime accept western oversight of its most influential tool? What happened to resisting the Empire?
    Why would the West or the GCC or Turkey save Assad and keep him in charge of Syria’s Defense and Foreign Policy? Or do you really expect the BRICs to save him? The idea that Syria is and has always been the best manager of the various Middle East problems is nothing but a great lie that is now exposed; no one is buying this anymore including the BRICS. The reality is, the Syrian regime has always been the major contributing factor to the lack of solutions to the Middle East conflicts. This is how the Assads survived for 40 some years, they lit the fires and sold the water, except now, no one is buying their water.

    Camille, it is more honorable to concede and cry over the past glory of the invincible and essential Assad regime than to hang on to illusions of a settlement with what the majority inside and outside Syria consider a murderous regime. It is time to accept defeat.

    Posted by Vulcan | September 26, 2012, 4:04 pm
  4. An excellent interview! Thank you both for this interesting discussion.

    I would like to make the following comments;
    -In Syria there is no “ruling family” unless Bush and Clinton families are considered ruling families of the US.
    -The opposition may want the President to step down, but for many Syrians the country is in a war against foreign backed militants and the solution is NOT by the President stepping down because that will not put an end to violence. If President Assad is forced out of power, his hard core supporters will be on the streets doing exactly what the “FSA” now doing and the opposition will be seen by many as an illegitimate authority!! The only solution is dialogue that should reach some form of power sharing (what Camille has proposed can form the base for an agreement between the opposition and the Government)
    -The opposition is not as popular as portrayed by MSM, and there are many people who consider themselves to be opposition of the opposition (rather than Government supporters). Syrians want to have their say in free and fair elections and the opposition has absolutely no legitimacy in attempting to exclude the President from running for 2014 elections, when they have been calling for freedom and democracy!! The President may choose not to run for another term, but that’s a decision that should NOT be taken by the opposition, NATO or GCC puppets!! Some opposition say the Syrian regime has got blood on their hands but in the eyes of many Syrians the opposition has been equally responsible for the bloodshed in Syria, and can no longer claim the moral high grounds
    -Finally, Obama should STOP promoting regime change through violence. Obama cannot condemn the mob mentality in Libya and applaud it in Syria and cannot kill alQaida in Afghanistan and fight along their side in Syria!! The majority of Syrians support peaceful transition of power and peaceful reforms! If the US administration truly cared for Syrians, it wouldn’t be funding and arming the opposition in order to wreak havoc in Syria and serve its own agenda; instead it would be calling for dialogue that should save Syrian lives.

    Posted by Hiba Kelanee | September 26, 2012, 4:11 pm
  5. “-In Syria there is no “ruling family” unless Bush and Clinton families are considered ruling families of the US.”

    Are you comparing Syria to the US? The Bushs and Clinton didn’t rule for 40 years and they didn’t butcher and imprison their opposition when they ruled.

    Get real will you; next time put that ridiculous statement at the end so we could at least continue reading what you had to say.

    Posted by Vulcan | September 26, 2012, 4:52 pm
  6. Make up your minds will you please, you keep calling the “FSA” terrorists and US/NATO/GCC puppets and you turn around and say “The only solution is dialogue that should reach some form of power sharing” why would you want to share power with foreign funded and controlled terrorists?

    Posted by Vulcan | September 26, 2012, 4:59 pm
  7. Well according to the BBC, there’s at least one foreign “terrorist” in Syria. I’m not sure if he went there because the job market in Egypt wasn’t very promising!

    Posted by Gabriel | September 26, 2012, 5:12 pm
  8. V- I hardly think, given the crackdown the regime is currently doing, that anyone really wants to reach a power sharing formula! Although I think I did read an article a day or two back suggesting that the Syrian opposition met in Damascus thanks to the grace of HRH Assad.

    Posted by Gabriel | September 26, 2012, 5:14 pm
  9. As usual Alex is wrong because he refuses to accept that foreign policy and economic policy are intertwined and cannot be separated. For years I have tried to explain this to him but alas, I have not been successful. I will try once more.

    Let’s start with a simple and obvious fact. A large part of Syria’s economic problems stem from its foreign policy stand. Sanctions were imposed on Syria because of its foreign policy. Direct investments in Syria suffered immensely because its foreign policy alienated the West and KSA. Because of Syria’s foreign policy it cannot access international debt markets, another huge problem impeding growth.

    But that is just recent. Syria got into its economic hole because it allied with the USSR during the cold war. Like it or not, the West is the source of most of the world’s advanced technology and capital and Syria was shut off from much of it for decades.

    The Assad’s foreign policy was horrendous because it did not allow the economy of Syria to grow fast enough and this is one of the core reasons of the uprising. A foreign policy that is good for 4 million people while 20 million suffer economically is a disaster even if many in the 20 million can be fooled with “resistance” talk.

    This graph is self explanatory:!ctype=l&strail=false&bcs=d&nselm=h&met_y=ny_gdp_pcap_cd&scale_y=lin&ind_y=false&rdim=region&idim=country:ISR:SYR&ifdim=region&hl=en_US&dl=en&ind=false

    And it is all because of Syria’s foreign policy. If the foreign policy does not change, the economy will not improve either and that will just lead to more instability. The “resistance” talk “worked” for a long time, but so did the communist system in the USSR. But in the end, they could not bring the critical ingredient for a successful state which is sustained and real standard of living growth for a large majority of the population.

    As for the solution Alex envisions, it is impossible. Would the US Congress allow any US president to help in anyway a regime in Syria that is allied with Iran and Hezbollah? That is inconceivable. Not that any US President would want to do that. The US would never endorse the solution Alex describes and neither would the Saudis even if the civil war continues for years. And all the scary talk about destabilizing the region is just that. Just as the Iraqi bad example postponed any uprising in Syria, the Syrian catastrophe is a living example to others. If Lebanon has not been destabilized, Turkey, where the sectarian problems are one hundredth in severity, will not be either.

    Posted by AIG | September 26, 2012, 5:34 pm
  10. Here’s the latest from the R in the BRICS

    Lavrov on Syria: `We are not wedded to Mr. Assad. He was educated not in the Russian Federation, he was educated in Europe.’

    Posted by Vulcan | September 26, 2012, 6:02 pm
  11. Wow. And here i thought the amount of delusion would have decreased since the last time we watched one of these interviews. It seems the delusion is increasing exponentially in the ME lately (and more specifically amongst a certain camp) to the point where we’re transcending “fantasy world” and moving on to outright “science fiction”…

    Posted by Bad Vilbel | September 26, 2012, 6:35 pm
  12. BV I strongly disagree…. with your misconceptions about fantasy and Science fiction. I think that we have moved from SCI-FI to fantasy, not the other way round (the former being at least grounded in some reality and being internally consistent while in the latter all bets are off )

    Posted by R | September 26, 2012, 11:47 pm
  13. What a day! I have just discovered that QN is not perfect!
    Typo, typo!
    “…we don’t tend to here much about in the press…”
    Hear Hear!

    Posted by Honest Patriot | September 27, 2012, 4:29 am
  14. What an “optimistic note” to close the interview! If Turkey is the reference, Syria will need more than 100 years under the surveillance of the Army (which will be under who’s surveillance? I had understood that the Assad clique was the one that held the Army under tight scrutiny). It took that long for the Turks. Then they democratically elected… a MB government. Which would be impossible to happen in Syria because they would be permanently banned from elections. I guess the Turkish example doesn’t hold that well after all.

    Posted by mj | September 27, 2012, 4:45 am
  15. On the other hand, Mr Otrakji is (relatively) reassured about Syria’s internal situation, which is not yet a civil war, since large swaps of the population still don’t feel it in their flesh. Turkey, instead, is starting to be “destabilized” because the debates in the Parliament are turning sectarian and the PKK is planting bombs (which must be a very destabilizing fact, since it is being happening for decades).

    Posted by mj | September 27, 2012, 4:55 am
  16. “been happening” that is.

    Posted by mj | September 27, 2012, 4:57 am
  17. Coordination and Follow-Up NewZ


    I envy you. You were interviewed by an Ivy League Professor. How did YOU get picked and not me??

    Posted by Akbar Palace | September 27, 2012, 6:51 am
  18. Thanks HP. :p

    Posted by Qifa Nabki | September 27, 2012, 8:11 am
  19. كميل الكسندر يشترى ويباع لانه رخيص ودون قيمة. بالاضافة هو كذاب, منافق, يحمل جميع الصفات التي يحتقرها معظم الناس.

    Posted by maya | September 27, 2012, 9:02 am
  20. The previous interview might have produced over 700 comments; back then he might have had a few valid arguments, but given the evolution of the conflict since then, he’s now just sounding delusional.
    You won’t get a lot of comments out of this inteview because his points are not even worth discussing since they are based on some fantasy state of affairs. Even my most hardcore regime suporters friends have given up their previous discourse of keeping stability in the region, fighting salafism/western influence and “more people than you think support Bashar” at the risk of sounding insane… He just did it for a whole hour and publically broadcast himsef doing it!

    Posted by saywhat?! | September 27, 2012, 11:02 am
  21. Removed by editor… [Please do not accuse people of of things you cannot prove]

    Posted by malek | September 27, 2012, 8:39 pm
  22. MJ

    Maybe I was not clear regarding my use of the example of Turkey. All I wanted to say is that turkey did not become a democracy overnight. The army stayed there to protect secularism or national rights. Religious parties were allowed only recently. I therefore think that secular Syrians and Syrian nationalists will need a transition period too to feel comfortable with change. To FORCE THEM to accept the Muslim brotherhood (or any other religious or ethnic parties, including Christian or Kurish parties) would lead to more bloodshed in Syria. Please forget my preferences, I don’t count, I live in Canada. What I wrote here applies to many Syrians who you might want to try harder to talk to instead of defeating.

    I like being accused of being delusional. I was told the same May 2011 here and each time I spoke or wrote about Syria elsewhere.

    Let’s see, … here is what many of you found laughable

    – The regime will not be toppled in days or weeks like you are expecting, Syria is not Tunisia or Egypt
    – There is real support and real opposition to the regime. Syria is highly diversified
    – A revolution is not the best way to change Syria, if the west and the Arabs insist on promoting it we will end up in a civil war.
    – The Alawites will fight .. this is not about a President in power (like Mubarak), this is about many larger questions, including the security and safety of the Alawites, and other minorities, in Syria and the region.
    – The crisis if not brought under control can spread to other countries or can lead to threats to international stability.
    – The revolution’s backbone is religious extremists, not liberal Jeffersonian democrats. Those are a minority (but they exist of course).
    – The opposition can not be united … there are serious difference among them, and most are as dishonest as the regime they want to replace
    – There is considerable manipulation and fabrication and exaggeration on both the regime’s side and the opposition’s, more so on the opposition’s side.

    Now, do you want me to bring you a nice collection of links to remind you that everything I said turned out to be valid?

    Gabriel, the regime’s “crackdown” currently and recently has been mostly defensive … it is the FSA and the foreign jihadists who are invading pro regime centres of Damascus and Aleppo. So following your login, regime supporters should refuse to speak to opposition as well. But I was suggesting that there are those who think that way on both side … wanting to defeat their opponents instead of talking o reach a compromise.

    It is the case in every conflict … that’s how humans are … some are extreme and egoistic … others are peace makers …

    AIG … Most revolutionaries did not want to grow GDP but to spend more government money on the poor. So if one listen’s to “the people” one would not necessarily be doing what’s best for the country’s economy.

    Egypt became a democracy supposedly … 80 million Egyptians … what did they get so far? … they need 100 billions, not 1 billion.

    I am not defencing the regime’s economic policies … if there is anything I agree with the revolutionaries about it is hating the regime’s corruption and mismanagement of the economy.

    SAYWHAT … if what you are suggesting is true, then why is the regime still here while the Egyptian and Tunisian ones disappeared in weeks?

    “Maya” … thank you. I happen to be respected by enough respectable people that I can smile when I read your wonderful message.

    Posted by Camille Otrakji | September 27, 2012, 10:29 pm
  23. Said it before and will say it again:

    As a general proposition the Arab world has had its head in the sand forever and still (great we now moved from SciFi to fantasy or vice-versa)

    At what point does an Arab leader or regime or idea become totally unacceptable and anathema? At what point do we tell the Landises and Otrakjis: you are defending evil and you’re at the margins of the acceptable (as would be any racist or nazi nowadays, especially in Western academic circles….)?

    One should not ignore abuses by the rebels, but comparing abuses by a ragtag movement in the midst of a revolution to a 40-year old GOVERNMENT regime is sheer idiocy (as is comparing the Bushes and Clintons to the Assads).

    Yes it is polite debate, but some stuff needs to be called by its “real fucking” name, otherwise we are in PC-lala land and are keeping lousy costly ideas, and their trail of death, alive that much longer.


    Posted by OldHand | September 28, 2012, 1:21 am
  24. Alex,

    “I am not defending the regime’s economic policies … if there is anything I agree with the revolutionaries about it is hating the regime’s corruption and mismanagement of the economy.”

    I know you are not. However, you defend the regime’s foreign policy. My point is that it is the foreign policy that has led to the dismal economic performance. The two policies are strongly intertwined. You cannot have a foreign policy that alienates the West and expect to have significant economic growth. Even the Chinese miracle is based on exporting goods to the West and obtaining technologies from it.

    Assad’s foreign policy has been a catastrophe exactly because it has been one of the main causes of the economic catastrophe. Foreign policy led to social unrest led to revolution. How did the Chinese keep their population quiet? How does the KSA keep its people subservient? They provide a growing standard of living. Assad I & II could not provide that because they choose first the Soviet Union and then Iran over the US.

    Syria needs access to markets, loans, direct investments and technology. How are you going to get that if you alienate the West, the Gulf and now even Turkey?

    The myth that the Assad foreign policy was great has got to be put to rest if Syria wants to have a chance to move forward. The Assad foreign policy is the major reason for the failure of Syria.

    Posted by AIG | September 28, 2012, 10:47 am
  25. I will not comment on fantastic fantasy scenarios that Alex seems to be hatching and living in…However; we should remind you that you were the one who declared that the demonstrations were led by 300 or so people. It is your beloved regime that fired on its own people before your people decided that death was more honorable than living as they were in the wretched hands of the mukhabarat. It is your murderous regime that did not want to negotiate or reform. The state of affairs in Syria is 99% because of the thugs you so laughingly and shamelessly embrace!

    You said:”
    “… if what you are suggesting is true, then why is the regime still here while the Egyptian and Tunisian ones disappeared in weeks?”

    Are you serious my Canadian friend? The armies in both countries did not turn the tanks’ howitzers on its own people and did not bomb their cities by planes!!! They disappeared because the army command in both countries were not integrated to a murderous mafia as is the Syrian one!…and you want this same murderous bunch of thugs disguised as “army” to be the defender of democracy in Syria?? Seriously!!!

    Please Alex stop this charade or for your sakes stop the denial that you live in!

    Posted by danny | September 28, 2012, 12:29 pm
  26. Danny,

    You and others here are not very good listeners. You are listening to your (not very flattering) IMPRESSIONS of what I said, instead of listening to what I actually said. For example, in last year’s interview I said that demonstrations are much smaller than those in Egypt or Yemen (and they were) but MANY MORE SYRIANS WOULD DEMONSTRATE WHEN THEY DON’T FEAR THE REGIME ANYMORE.

    As for your blaming the regime for the mess … no, the regime and people like you are to blame. Anyone who was too arrogant to realize that “the Syrian people” are not all on his side … this includes you and the regime and just about everyone else that did not have a sense of reality.

    As for the Syrian army … hundreds of thousands of soldiers that have millions of parents and close relatives that support them in addition to millions of other Syrians that support the Syrian army … are all a major part of “the Syrian people” … when you are able to understand what that means, instead of your evil side / good side views then let me know.

    Posted by Camille Otrakji | September 28, 2012, 1:09 pm
  27. Thanks Alex…Your response is a simple indication of your wondrous but dangerous odyssey into space!(sorry if you don’t feel flattered…Spock would have. :D) We do understand what all means! Your goons (so called army) raped my country for 30 years! We are experts in your regimes modus operadi and intentions! Trust us that WE on the other side; all understand!!

    Posted by danny | September 28, 2012, 1:18 pm
  28. Alex,

    If I and one of my kids together eat all the ice cream in the house, my wife does not blame our kid.
    I there is a robbery at a bank, one does not blame the customers for not stopping it, one blames the police or security guards.

    The Syrian regime was the one in control of Syria and the one with the most options to act. True, the children in Deraa who sprayed anti regime graffiti were not realist and arrogant. But to put equal blame on them as you put on the regime is not serious. Because of its position of power, most of the blame for the current situation lies with the regime. They were responsible for Syria’s foreign and economic policies before the rebellion and they are responsible for their actions during the rebellion.

    The lack of sense of reality of Assad in the last 12 years is the predominant cause of the Syrian failure. He had plenty of time to reform. Who can forget the famous Assad interview a few weeks before the rebellion started claiming that the Arab Spring would never come to Syria?

    Posted by AIG | September 28, 2012, 1:36 pm
  29. AIG I will respond properly later today.

    Malek … tell me about my Hama and Homs fake profiles please. Are you the one who posted the same on my wall yesterday?

    I do not have fake profiles. I say what I want to say using my real name, have been doing that since 2005 on all blogs before some of you discovered Facebook activism.

    “Camille Otrakji, stop creating fake facebook accounts under the banners of Hama and Homs. Camille and his friends define low-class cowardice.

    POSTED BY MALEK | SEPTEMBER 27, 2012, 8:39 PM”

    Posted by Camille Otrakji | September 28, 2012, 2:53 pm
  30. I’m going to remove Malek’s comment. Please refrain from posting accusations that you can’t prove.

    Posted by Qifa Nabki | September 28, 2012, 2:55 pm
  31. Better still Elias … I think Malek is repeating an accusation that started a year ago by a former friend of mine. He has been telling everyone in opposition that I am “Hiba Kilani”

    Can you Elias confirm to them that Hiba, who posted a comment here, has an IP that is very different from mine? … like a different continent even. (I know where she lives)

    Posted by Camille Otrakji | September 28, 2012, 2:59 pm
  32. The Syrian Camilleion can’t change his color NewZ

    … no, the regime and people like you are to blame. Anyone who was too arrogant to realize that “the Syrian people” are not all on his side …


    You are a fool. Why any professor would interview you… well, unfortuantely, that says something about the interviewer…

    NO ONE knows who is on Bashar Assad’s “side”, because no fair election has ever been held.

    Again, the Syrian is gov’t is squarely at fault in this case.

    AIG and Danny are right on target.

    Posted by Akbar Palace | September 28, 2012, 3:14 pm
  33. AP

    Please mind your manners.

    Posted by Qifa Nabki | September 28, 2012, 3:19 pm
  34. “-In Syria there is no “ruling family” unless Bush and Clinton families are considered the ruling families of the US.”

    Are you comparing Syria to the US? The Bushs and Clinton didn’t rule for 40 years and they didn’t butcher and imprison their opposition when they ruled.

    Vulcan, in fact if you do the maths; Bush & Clinton were in charge of the US and its foreign policy for 32 years between them (Bush I 8 years as VP & 4 years as President, Bush II 8years as President, Bill Clinton 8 years as President and Hillary Clinton 4 years as Secretary of State)

    No, they weren’t famous for imprisoning their opposition, but they were famous for launching FOUR wars and BUTCHERING over one MILLION people!!

    Posted by Hiba Kelanee | September 28, 2012, 3:43 pm
  35. I think it’s time to make some popcorn and sit back and watch this train derail….

    PS: Camille, your “predictions” from last year were not at all what you are claiming they are now. You changed your story. Sure, you were correct in some predictions (that the conflict would be long-lasting). Many others predicted that too. But I think overall, your line at the time was very very different than it is now. I recall some numbers being thrown around. About how the LARGE majority of Syrians were not represented in what the Media was showing. And how it was mostly the work of a few extremists, etc… I need to go find your comments and post them back here.

    And really…I wasn’t joking when i spoke of fantasy/science-fiction and delusion. I don’t mean this as an insult (although I am sure it will be taken as such). The delusional will usually not realize the delusions they swim in. So there’s not much anyone here can say or show to change your mind. Which is why the best i can do is sit back and enjoy the show…

    Posted by Bad Vilbel | September 28, 2012, 4:30 pm
  36. For the record, it is statements like “In Syria, there is no ruling family” that makes it hard to take Alex seriously and that make me use words like “delusional”.
    Your other arguments may have the occasional merit to them (when talking about the Alawites, the sectarian aspects to the conflict, the differences between this conflict and Tunisia/Egypt…etc)..But to make a statement like “There is no ruling family”? Really? It’s honestly hard not to laugh at that one.

    President: Hafez Al Assad. 30 years. Give or take.
    President: Bashar Al Assad. 10+ years.
    Inner Circle over the years (including posts such as Vice Prez): Rifaat Al Assad, Maher Al Assad, Rami Makhlouf (cousin), Assef Shawkat (Brother in law), Bassil Al Assad (prior to death)…etc.

    Those people are related. They are all part of a close clan/family. They were all brought into these inner circles of power not by going up the ladder of academia, professional accomplishment or merit, but through their close family ties to Hafez.

    To claim there is no ruling family is beyond delusional. It’s outright absurd.

    Having said that, we all know that ‘ruling family’ concepts are not unique to Syria or to the Assads. Hariri, Jumblatt, Gemayel, Mubarak, Ghaddafi, Al Saud, etc. It’s all the same crap.
    One cannot be in their right mind and deny that there are ruling families in the Arab world. In fact, there isn’t a single country in the Arab world that comes to mind where that is NOT the case.

    Posted by Bad Vilbel | September 28, 2012, 4:39 pm
  37. BV, please quote me properly and you will see that what you find delusional is not mine, but your impressions.

    Go back to my interview please … it is a challenge, since we are here competing who is delusional and who is not.

    Posted by Camille Otrakji | September 28, 2012, 4:44 pm
  38. Ms Kelanee,

    I don’t want to change the topic and turn this thread into a discussion about the US system of governance or society and the ideals they stand behind. Your rhetoric and comparison is ridiculous to say the least, unfortunately it is typical of the ignorance shared by the masses in the (oh so perfect if it wasn’t for America) Middle East.

    “Against stupidity; God Himself is helpless. ” gotta love those old Jewish Proverbs!

    Posted by Vulcan | September 28, 2012, 4:57 pm
  39. Thank you Elias for such a great interview, I have to confess that Camille Otrakji is one of my favorite figures in discussing the Syrian crisis based on his balanced approach and moderate reasoning. After a year and half of this crisis, we are used to ridicule and bullying from opposition figures who lash on every single person who even attempts to criticize the “holy revolution” with a flood of idealistic rhetoric… “the Fascist government, Nazis, defenders of oppression and children killers.. defenders of those who bomb their own cities… etc etc”. What these people fail to realize however is the core of the conflict therein, the basic principles that if they were to listen to they may have been able to create and work on a much more popular uprising against a common foe… the so called revolution (yes… “so called” I refuse to call anything funded by Saudi Arabia and Qatar a revolution for freedom or democracy) have failed on so many levels so far, most importantly gaining public support. I am from Aleppo, the city that is under intense fire since yesterday, and I know for a fact that the problems in Aleppo started with a direct INVASION from the villages around Aleppo by armed gangs, and not by an uprising of people inside the city… but the fact that it has failed (which would be much debated as I imagine) is in fact secondary to the reasons it have failed… simply put, no ideology can gain supporters by bullying them into accepting the idea… you can get a “silent group” that would go with the tide, but never supporters. And die-hard opposition activist have been busy 24/7 doing just that, without taking little precious time in LISTENING to causes of concern…. why do people who admit to have lived under a dictatorship and a corrupt government refuse letting go of it?? the list of reasons opposition activists would present is generally out of the moon and generally comes out as silly and shallow as the slogans that we have been showering in ever since the revolution started, however they insistently fail to realize the concern and worry that we feel towards this enthusiastic bunch who seem not to really care about the lives of the ordinary…. US…. the Syrian people… and before anybody starts the cheesy sarcastic comments about me defending a murderous regime who is killing the Syrian people, let me clarify one thing… I am not defending any regime, I am defending MY BASIC RIGHTS as a woman… and I will do so as vehemently and as strongly as I possibly can, because obviously you don’t care much about my rights… you may not care whether or not I will be reduced to a piece of cloth walking in the street, you may not care whether I will be allowed to study, work or drive… but I do… you may nonchalantly declare.. so what if we have a Shari3a law or have an MB government, as long as this government is chosen “democratically” after all the MB said they would support a secular regime, didn’t they???… well, if those “democratic” elections can ONLY take place when the armed gangs have killed every single person who dared to criticize them, not to mention that from experience, the MB have the habit of laying a lot of promises, kiss whatever ass they can find and work any angle that can get them to power… In short, if you are going to seriously discuss human rights and violations thereof, please don’t forget WOMEN… some concern about our future might give you more credibility than the forced one you are trying to attain… try to convince me that a revolution financed by Saudi Arabia will not end up in a big mess with me at the bottom of the food chain, and I will try to listen to whatever you are trying to say

    Posted by Amal Kassab | September 28, 2012, 5:27 pm
  40. I can categorically confirm that Camille Otrakji and Hiba Kelanee are not the same person. Hiba is much prettier than Camille. lol.

    Ok, back to serious matters. I thought I read earlier that the opposition was under no obligation to compromise because they had the momentum, and the government’s/army’s grip is diminishing. And then a couple of comments later I read a comment by the same person that claimed that the FSA was a “rag tag” operation. I sense a contradiction here. It seems to me that oppositionists like to huff & puff and exaggerate the FSA’s capabilities when it suits their narrative, and at other times they minimize them when they wanna gloss over their atrocities.

    Also, I keep witnessing oppositionists berate Camille for his discourse on the Syrian crisis as if it were the determining factor in what happens on the ground in Syria. Although Camille does not support the revolution, he is hardly a government “supporter” as many claim. I’m astonished by those who believe that Camille’s opinion alters the balance of power. Get over it people! We all have differing points-of-view on what’s happening in Syria. Our debates in public forums such as this have no relevance whatsoever to the outcome of this crisis.

    Posted by Abbas Bazzi | September 28, 2012, 5:28 pm
  41. Thank you Abbas and Amal for joining the conversation.

    To everyone else, please keep the discussion civil. There’s really no point in calling people names. No one’s honor is being sullied. You’re probably not going to agree with each other at the end of this conversation, but the nicer you are to each other, the better the chance that someone will agree to give some ground and something interesting will happen.

    Posted by Qifa Nabki | September 28, 2012, 5:38 pm
  42. Camille,

    Aside from judging the merits of your proposed solution, in all honesty and please try to be realistic, what are the chances of successfully implementing anything close or similar to your proposal?

    Posted by Vulcan | September 28, 2012, 5:40 pm
  43. Amal writes:
    “simply put, no ideology can gain supporters by bullying them into accepting the idea…”

    Does she not see the irony? Isn’t that what the Assads have been doing for decades? The Baathist ideology has been forced on the Syrian people using brute force. So what exactly are you complaining about? You suddenly don’t like the medicine you have been dishing out for decades?

    Another point that is important to consider:
    When you say you wan Assad in power because he defends women’s rights, you are defending the regime. You are giving an excuse why it should remain in power.

    The only honest way in my opinion to say what you are saying is the following:
    The Assad regime is bad, but I think the opposition is worse, and I think there is no other realistic option. Therefore I support Assad.

    What is it so difficult to say this? Why do you keep qualifying that you are not regime supporters? You are, just own up to it and explain your reasons. And let’s stop with the nonsense about a “third way”. That is just crutch to avoid making a difficult moral choice.

    Posted by AIG | September 28, 2012, 5:59 pm
  44. Mr. Bazzi, you say “I thought I read earlier that the opposition was under no obligation to compromise because they had the momentum, and the government’s/army’s grip is diminishing. And then a couple of comments later I read a comment by the same person that claimed that the FSA was a “rag tag” operation”

    Can you point us to that person please ? there are only twenty something comments so far so it shouldnt be so hard to do.

    Camille, are you really NOT a Syrian regime supporter as Abbas Bazzi stated ? forget the revolution, do you or do you not support the Assad regime? plain and simple.

    Posted by Vulcan | September 28, 2012, 6:04 pm
  45. AIG,

    Although my name is not Amal, I’ll gladly take your suggestion:

    The current regime (it is not the Assad regime) is bad, the opposition is worse, I therefore support a gradual transition during which an alternative group of centrists is allowed and encouraged to develop.

    As for Syria’s foreign policy (your earlier point) … the Assads might have forced it in some Syrians, but many others adopted it freely. I live in Canada and I support a slightly more flexible version of the regime’s foreign policy … freely. Same applies to many many Syrians.

    Regardless, the most positive and constructive approach would be to allow the Syrian people to debate this issue … Syria’s foreign policy, then to vote on it in a referendum perhaps.

    This should take place a few months after the crisis is over, not in the current charged atmosphere. If a majority of Syrian people want Syria to forget about the Golan Heights … we ill find out. Otherwise, if a majority wants their government to continue to pay the price for continuing to pursue Syria’s regional interests and its national rights, then that would be the best way for the new leadership to obtain legitimacy for the continuation of the nationalistic agenda.

    VULCAN, Again, I did say if you check, that for the next few months at least there will be more fighting. IF by then both sides are closer to realizing they can not win by force then the chances of a compromise based on what I suggested is reasonable … and I repeated that both sides with cheat repeatedly even if they sign… that’ how it is in every conflict. I said it will be difficult… and repeated it twice.

    Today Turkey’s foreign minister repeated what I said that the Syria crisis can easily spread to its neighbors … why don’t those of you who called me delusional, think about what he said?

    Posted by Camille Otrakji | September 28, 2012, 6:16 pm
  46. My bad, i thought you were at one point (not during the last interview) of those who predicted the regime will win by force.

    Posted by Vulcan | September 28, 2012, 6:24 pm
  47. Problem is one side is arguing ideologically and the other is arguing realistically. This is why the buzz word ” Delusional” is associated with the apologists. The Realists are witnessing the obvious and think accordingly. The Apologists/ideologues have presumptions based on preconceived notions therefore twisting the facts as it suits their narrative.
    Had the deniers from the onset took a humble approach and said;” I know the regime is a family run mafia and things need to change..but you have to be careful because the opposition is even worse” or something along those lines and then proceeded to construct a convincing argument, then there wouldn’t have been this great gulf between the apologists and the realists, but the nauseating excuse upon excuse as exemplified by Camille Asimov or Camille Tolkien, whatever your preference, begs for criticism and if this issue was hypothetical and did not involve so much pain and destruction, then it would have been whimsical at best and fantastical at worst.

    Posted by Maverick | September 28, 2012, 6:30 pm
  48. To clarify my stand on the issue, i predict the regime will lose by force soon, if not very soon. that is why i think your solution is too little too late.

    Amal, prepare your Burka33

    Posted by Vulcan | September 28, 2012, 6:33 pm
  49. Camille,

    re: Your latest comment. I think that’s a fair scenario to wish for. That everyone sits down, hand over power to a group of neutral centrists, then let the people decide via referendum. In an ideal world, that formula would be used for Syria, Lebanon (referendum on HA’s weapons, for example), and many other crises around the world.
    The problem I have with this formula is that it is unrealistic (hence again, my use of the word fantasy/science fiction).
    We all know that wishing for world peace, and for everyone to discuss things with civility and referendums is the ideal solution to pretty much every problem under the sun. But that kind of thinking honestly is the fare of beauty pageant contestants, schoolchidlren essays and the such.
    We both know, realistically, that what you are suggesting is not a realistic forumla. Not in Syria, and not in any other conflict (take your pick: Lebanon, Sudan, The Congo, Afghanistan, etc.)
    Wishful thinking leads us nowhere. Ivory tower thinking never got anything resolved. It looks good on paper, and ultimately, isn’t worth said paper it’s printed on.

    The truth of the matter is that human beings are violent and selfish. Those with power will do what they can to maintain it, often at the expense of others. Those without power will do what they can to obtain it, and if they do, it will often be at the expense of their predecessors.
    Regional politics, specially in the ME, are full of variables: Sectarianism, Oil interests, Tribal thinking, monetary gain, religious zealotry, clientilism to bigger powers (regional and global).
    You know this. I am sure of it. As do all those reading.
    So let’s not waste our time talking about idealistic solutions. I really don’t get the point.

    Not to mention that there is an inherent irony/hypocrisy (and here this is not directed at Camille per se, but at others who have commented here) in talking about ideals like women’s rights and freedom of expression, while adopting a far more cynical/pragmatic “Better the devil you know” approach. You really can’t be idealistic and opportunistic at the same time. Either you stand for your ideals across the board, or you cheapen your ideals by associating them with “bad things” (repressive regimes, or whatever) on the account of “Well, it’s better than the alternative”.

    Posted by Bad Vilbel | September 28, 2012, 6:37 pm
  50. ….and Amal’s nice work on Irony just reiterated my post. Bashar is too busy rounding up innocent men to think about the women ya Amal. Don’t be fooled by Asma and the illusion of facades the Assads have built.

    Posted by Maverick | September 28, 2012, 6:46 pm
  51. “if a majority wants their government to continue to pay the price for continuing to pursue Syria’s regional interests and its national rights, then that would be the best way for the new leadership to obtain legitimacy for the continuation of the nationalistic agenda.”

    Continue ? continue what? the battles that the Assad was waging on the Golan front ? or fighting Israel to the last Lebanese and Palestinian drop of blod ?

    Posted by Vulcan | September 28, 2012, 6:50 pm
  52. Alex,

    Ok, we moved step forward. But we are not there yet because you qualified your statement with:
    “I therefore support a gradual transition during which an alternative group of centrists is allowed and encouraged to develop”

    The problem with this qualification is that this is not a realistic option. You have to make a choice between two bad options. Is it fair to say that you support the regime even if means they return to power?

    As for Syria’s foreign policy, once Syrians understand the cost of the foreign policy, I doubt very much that a majority would support it. There has never been a free discussion about it in Syria. The question was never framed as: Is it worth it to support Hezbollah and Iran if it means 50% youth unemployment? I find it strange that you still support the foreign policy now that you know its consequences. The foreign policy is what caused the current situation.

    And it is NOT about letting go of the Golan. Syria can insist on its rights to the Golan while not supporting Hezbollah and being in the Iran camp. It can insist on getting the Golan back while being a friendly country to the US and the West. The question is not whether Syrians should abandon the Golan. It is whether they want to be friends of Iran or friends of the US.

    As for the Syria crisis spreading to other countries, it has as much chance of doing so with the regime in power. Syria has destabilized Lebanon for decades. Much of the Iraqi civil war was caused by jihadists and weapons coming from Syria. And let’s not forget Assad senior’s support for the pkk that almost led to war.

    Posted by AIG | September 28, 2012, 7:01 pm
  53. Honestly AIG… I didn’t expect anything different from an opposition, you see I have been doing this for quite a while now, and I know all the lengths of ropes you will use, deflect the points I made to make me look like I’m defending the government and its policies…. I have NEVER been a government supporter, at age 12 I already knew all the political jokes there are about the government, and I used to tell them to my relatives, and laugh about it… but today, I surprisingly found myself a “government supporter” and I don’t mind saying it, because if given a choice I would choose the government no doubt about it… as I said, I am supporting my basic human rights, so I will side with whatever party that guarantees me the maximum amount of them, and if you are not capable of understanding that it is your problem not mine, frankly I don’t care in which category you place me… I know my place very well, and you will neither convince me or anyone else like me by using (here you go) the SAME strategy the Syrian government used for the past 40 years 🙂

    Posted by Amal Kassab | September 28, 2012, 8:39 pm
  54. Amal,

    Question, re your statement “I am supporting my basic human rights, so I will side with whatever party that guarantees me the maximum amount of them”

    Would you say that you would support whatever party that guarantees YOU the maximum human EVEN AT THE EXPENSE OF OTHERS?

    Because the reality (and please don’t anyone dispute me with tall tales) is that the regime in Syria, going back 40 or more years has impinged on many human rights of its citizens in various ways.
    If you are saying you are ok with the human rights of others being stomped on as long as yours are protected, then that’s fine. That is your opinion. Not one I can get behind, but at least we know where you stand. If you feel your priorities allow to have people imprisoned for voicing political opinions (not to mention tortured or disappeared) as long as your rights as a woman are preserved, then that’s pretty sad, IMHO, but I can’t necessarily say that I blame you. Most of us, in the end, look out for ourselves first and are willing to close a blind eye to what that means to others.
    But let’s not pretend this is anything more than it really is: Self-interest.

    PS: And let’s not pretend that the Assad regime has NOT impinged on human rights in the past 40 years. I think we’re all grown ups here and would prefer to deal with facts, not the fiction of Syria having been the beacon of democracy and free expression.

    Posted by Bad Vilbel | September 28, 2012, 9:06 pm
  55. V… considering I am speaking as a woman… with more than 50% of the Syrian people being of the same gender I highly doubt that I am being narrow minded here

    Posted by Amal Kassab | September 28, 2012, 9:13 pm
  56. I listened to this interview earlier today while I was in the train. While I think it’s good and helpful that Camille is trying to think through compromise solutions to the current violence, I’m afraid that the proposition being put forth is naive. The idea that the opposition would lay down its arms so that the regime could resume a monopoly on the use of violence through control of the military and “national security” apparatus is a non-starter. A quick perusal of any violent conflict ended through a negotiated power sharing agreement will show that the opposition’s integration into the armed forces and intelligence apparatus is pretty much always a bare minimum. Anything less than that would boil down to unilateral disarmament based on the regime’s advice that it will let the opposition run some of the civilian affairs. Such an arrangement might work as a co-opting strategy before the opposition has boiled over into armed conflict, but no rebels worth their salt would ever accept such an agreement, and rightfully so.

    Also, the idea that Syria would never destabilize Lebanon is pretty laughable to anyone who has lived in Lebanon, especially in 2005-2008.

    Posted by sean | September 28, 2012, 9:30 pm
  57. BV:

    Would you say that you would support whatever party that guarantees YOU the maximum human EVEN AT THE EXPENSE OF OTHERS?

    Well that’s a bit of a pompous characterization. A capitalized YOU. Oh that self-centered, selfish Amal!

    The real question is why this all is regarded as a Zero Sum game. Either Amal has Human Rights, or Allahu-Akbar shouting Abu Lehye has Human Rights. And somehow those Human Rights conflict with each other. It appears neither can have their human rights without violating the rights of the other.

    As we come to the close of the year 2012… sadly, this question seems not to have been settled yet.

    Posted by Gabriel | September 29, 2012, 12:05 am
  58. So, is it to be understood that the revos and their admirers will only settle for a purge?
    What about the defectors who are waiting things out on the inside? Is Iraq a model?

    ….and why had the Israelis, as per Gen Benny Gantz ca 1/12, those plans in place for offering refuge to the Alawites in the Golan?

    Posted by lally | September 29, 2012, 1:05 am
  59. Amal,

    Do you know the joke about the rapist that busts into the bedroom of a couple, draws a circle on the floor with chalk and then tells the man: If you leave the circle I will kill you! He then proceeds to rape the wife 3 times. After the rapist leaves the wife yells at the husband: Why didn’t you do anything? He answers: What do you mean I did not do anything, I jumped out of the circle three times!

    I was reminded of this joke when you said you told jokes about the regime from an early age. Good for you. I hereby declare that you are not a regime supporter.

    Posted by AIG | September 29, 2012, 1:24 am
  60. Aig.

    Did that nasty little homily really remind you of Amal’s childhood tale? I think you made it up in order to slap her down.

    Where do you think you are? Area C?

    Posted by lally | September 29, 2012, 3:30 am
  61. Sean,

    A solution is obviously more complex than the simplistic version I had the time to propose in that one hour. Regional and international powers can play a major role in influencing “the rebels” and convincing them to accept a constructive solution.

    I will not elaborate more. Please understand that I am not “predicting” this solution will be adopted. It is just one possible compromise that both sides might want to consider.


    If many Syrians are willing to die for whatever they are dying for this year (think, rebels, civilians, and Syrian army) …. then don’t be surprised if many would vote to tolerate difficult times for the sake of other things they believe in … resistance for example.

    Who knows … it is worth a proper debate and a referendum … some time after the crisis is settled and people got enough time to cool down.

    Amal is right … women are 51% “majority” in Syria .. women’s rights are (to many of them) often more meaningful that political rights.

    Vulcan … some objectives take years to achieve. War is not always the way to get your rights.

    Posted by Camille Otrakji | September 29, 2012, 3:32 am
  62. Camille, the reason of my comment was that you seem to put an unreasonable amount of hope in Syria’s continuous capacity of destabilizing its neighbors. I commented on the fact that the PKK has been putting bombs for some decades now without really “destabilizing” Turkey (I am not underestimating the political effects of terrorism in a strong state, they always exist, but most often than not, they tend to bring in the opposite of what it was looked for, at least in the short term). The Kurdish factor can always be played against any given power in the region, but at the end the Kurdish will be f….up as they have been so far. And the fact that the regime, in order to save it’s skin, has been ready to arm them, compromising the Sacred Unity of the Nation that it is supposed to be protecting, well, it doesn’t grant the Syrian regime any grandeur. It will just be further proof that the regime is ready to do anything to keep the power.

    Posted by mj | September 29, 2012, 5:59 am
  63. Amal, you are so outraged at the prospects of the MB rule which would trample women rights in Syria. that is fine and many here including me do understand your fears, i am not a fan of the MB or anything Islamic being forced on anyone, but do you see that you totally ignore the rights of so many women that got killed by the regime the past 2 years. And your only contribution to oppose this regime is that you once told jokes about it? it’s easy for you living in Canada to pontificate about women rights but do not blame those living in Syria today including so many women who are willing to make a deal with the devil to lift the daily injustices perpetrated by a government that is supposed to protect them.

    It is the regime that chose the violent route, not the opposition, and the Assads knew exactly how it will end up as it is now championed by the alahuakbar shouting Abu Lehyeh as Gabriel put it.

    Posted by Vulcan | September 29, 2012, 6:25 am
  64. As for “Amal is right … women are 51% “majority” in Syria .. women’s rights are (to many of them) often more meaningful that political rights”, well, as a woman myself, I would be glad to see women putting their well being before their families’, just this once. But if Amal knows anything about her country (all her country, not just the close ones she lives among), she must know that, if the women were to be asked, they would be more likely to react in line with the men they give birth to, feed, care, love, fear for, , and yes, obey, every day. Even when they keep reservations about what their sons, husbands, boyfriends are doing, be them jihadists, secular oppositionist, of shabihas, they will not betray them. Not in time of war. So, even without analyzing the generalization that supposes to put that “51 % majority” in the same political group, I think Amal’s phrase was, if not dishonest, at least superficial.

    Posted by mj | September 29, 2012, 6:39 am
  65. “Amal is right … women are 51% “majority” in Syria .. women’s rights are (to many of them) often more meaningful that political rights.”

    This is strikingly similar to some American feminists’ rhetoric about women’s rights in Afghanistan and why the US should continue occupying that country.

    Posted by sean | September 29, 2012, 8:00 am
  66. LOL… wow I don’t know what I could have possibly done more at age 12, and since the point that I was trying to make is obviously lost on you, I will have to say it more clearly I believe: “I was NEVER a government supporter”… hope that clarifies things for you… as for other women supporting their husbands and children and their oppressors… it is amazing, how fine you are with women supporting their oppressors but not at the community at large in doing so… and yes, I know women would support their husbands and children, and some would even welcome such a laid back lifestyle, why else would women live like they do in Saudi Arabia or Iran?? But when it comes to me, I will do my best to declare that I REFUSE this lifestyle… and yes, if you don’t respect my rights, you can’t possibly expect me to respect yours, in any community there are people with diverse ideas and ideologies, that is historically never a problem until one group tries to enforce their values on everybody else… I always give an example of the Amish community, how different they are from the rest of the world, and yet, they are peaceful, they live in their own communities and never bother the rest with their beliefs… I wish the salafists could do the same thing, the world would have been a much better place

    Posted by Amal Kassab | September 29, 2012, 9:29 am
  67. Amal,

    So are you still twelve? How many years did you stay twelve? What a sorry excuse not do anything against the regime.

    Did the Baath regime respect people’s rights? What are you talking about? How many tens of thousands of Syrians did the Assads murder, torture and imprison over their decades long rule?

    Your discourse is the same as the one that the regime had for decades. They constantly told the world that the only alternative to them are the islamists. But why are the islamists the alternative? Because for decades the Assads brutally suppressed any other opposition. They did not let a liberal and secular opposition raise its head even a little because they were afraid. For the Assads it was never the right time for democratic reforms. And it worked for many years, until it stopped working catastrophically as all such short sighted strategies do.

    Posted by AIG | September 29, 2012, 10:00 am
  68. AIG… I am not a person who gives much value to politics, as generally are the majority of people in every community, we tend to mind our own business and social life, and only worry about politics when there is a crisis in hand, such as the past two years, and there is nothing you can say that can make me feel guilty about that, because I can easily tell you, the MAJORITY of people are like me, when I say I was never a “government supporter” I didn’t mean I was an activist holding bands and demonstrating in streets, but obviously you need to get out more and walk a bit in the streets to meet people like me. I am not going to be put in a position of defending a dictatorship, but I will gladly defend my country towards people who would use my government’s mistakes to ruin it, and pull it back to the middle ages. HOWEVER and most importantly, turning a blind eye to a the FACT that this whole charade of a revolution is financed by Saudi Arabia and Qatar, and expecting such a phenomenon to give birth to a liberal democracy is delusional

    Posted by Amal Kassab | September 29, 2012, 10:11 am
  69. Alex,

    “If many Syrians are willing to die for whatever they are dying for this year (think, rebels, civilians, and Syrian army) …. then don’t be surprised if many would vote to tolerate difficult times for the sake of other things they believe in … resistance for example.”

    The huge majority of the Syrian population wanted either peaceful regime change or the continuation of the regime. Just very few wanted a civil war. The civil war is a result of an escalation that very few people wanted. In fact he Syrian elites were willing to tolerate lack of freedom and living under a dictatorship for decades so you believe they would give up their wealth for “resistance” which is nothing but hot air?

    You live in a country that could not be more friendly to Israel or the US. It is outright hostile to Syria and Iran, just recently expelling all Iranian diplomats. Did this ever cause you to think that you want to leave Canada? Not for one second I bet. So how do you support “resistance”? In fact you are anti-resistance. You are squarely by deed and action in the Israeli-US camp, not the Syrian-Iranian one. You are not willing to make any sacrifice for “resistance” yet you seem to believe that the much less well off Syrians are. When you tell me you are moving to Iran, what you say will have some credibility.

    Let us also examine what is exactly this “resistance” you support and what it has led to:
    1) The Golan still in Israeli hands
    2) Syria in the midst of a horrible civil war
    3) Morsi and Erdogan calling for Assad to go. Contrast that with them accepting Bibi Netanyahu. The “resistance” foreign policy has led to Syria being more isolated than Israel in the middle east!
    4) The Kurds breaking away from Syria. Not only Assad not gained the Golan his policies have led to the loss of the Kurdish regions.
    5) And of course an economy already devastated before the war, even more devastated.

    It is high time you at least admit to yourself that the Assad foreign policy is a completely and utter disaster and that Syria has no chance of moving forward unless it changes its policies from trying to destabilize its neighbors to one of trying to build common prosperity.

    Posted by AIG | September 29, 2012, 10:20 am
  70. Amal,

    I respect your candid point of view and I accept that most people act politically only in times of crisis. I also think that the way this revolution is going, the chances of a liberal democracy emerging in Syria are very slim, even if the funding all came from Canada.

    But let me tell where we differ. The main point of contention is that you do not think the Baath rule of Syria was a crisis. Well it was, and it is the reason why Syria is in its sorry state. Your other mistake is to generalize about the revolution. There are certain factions of the FSA that are not salafists. I don’t know what percentage but certainly some significant part. For example, by and large the people of Deraa where the whole mess started are not salafists. They are religious, but not religious fanatics.

    By supporting the regime you will gain nothing. Even if Assad crushes the rebellion you will still be left with nothing. Syria would still be under sanctions, still be isolated and will have zero chance of rebuilding and creating jobs for its millions of unemployed. Your only good option is to support a more liberal faction of the FSA in the hope that when Assad is gone, that it will have enough sway in Syria to make the islamists in power more moderate. Because there is no way around the fact that the islamists will be in power. They can either be in power Egypt style or Iran style. And that depends on how the more liberal minded people in Syria act.

    Posted by AIG | September 29, 2012, 10:44 am
  71. AIG, thank you for acknowledging my concerns, I am not an Islamophobe, my father and relatives are from Al Bab, the small town near Aleppo, who are all religious, but never shoved their beliefs down everybody else’s throats, or wanted to, they lived in their small community and appreciated being left to live life as they want it, which they did. what you won’t be able to know is that during the long period where Al Bab was under FSA power, my aunt stayed with my parents home for a while, as well as in other relative’s houses, she told my parents, that after few months of FSA control of the city, people started demonstrating against them asking them to leave, because although there were no direct clashes with the government at that time, the Siege on the city by both parties was stifling… they wanted to live in peace and didn’t want any party to use them as human shields… the result was that within the same week, all post office workers were thrown off the roof with a big hooolaaaa and celebration… a clear message for those who dare move their tail again… every single government employee, let that be in the field of education, or finance, or municipality was a target with his family… There is definitely a more liberal fraction in the FSA, Camille also never denied it, but we all know, and we are not kidding anyone here, that those are not the “supported bunch” nor do they represent the majority… and guess what, financial support and logistical support would win the game in any chaos scenario. Camille’s views of the future may be too idealistic, but much more mature than the fairy tale scenarios where a “democratic, liberal and peaceful” Syria would emerge from under the ashes of the regional conflict once one family and one party is defeated, and once a power vacuum is created… specially when Saudi Arabia and Qatar will be waiting to cash in on their considerable financial investments in Syria for the past period.

    Posted by Amal Kassab | September 29, 2012, 11:17 am
  72. Amal,

    Yes, but what will emerge if Assad wins? It will also not be democratic or liberal. It will be an isolated tyranny which is economically desperate. No ties or trade with Turkey, no ties or trade with Europe or the US. No foreign investment from the Gulf. In short, no hope for the younger generation. Is that what you want?

    I think you need to learn to accept an islamic regime Egypt style and work to mitigate its extremism. The islamist will face the same constraints that Assad faced. They will need Western support to make Syria successful and that means they will have to moderate their views. I think you have two real choices:
    1) No future under Assad
    2) Islamic rule held in check by the international community, Egypt style.

    Both options are unattractive to say the least, but number 2 is much better.

    Posted by AIG | September 29, 2012, 11:36 am
  73. LOL… “work to accept an islamic regime????”… are you kidding me,??? we have lived in economic isolation for 40 years… we are USED to it, we know how to navigate through it, and in case you have missed the international action going on lately, you would notice that the west is not riding the high tide anymore… and India and China are the rising stars, and guess who’s side they’re on…. I know where I’m placing my bets

    Posted by Amal Kassab | September 29, 2012, 11:46 am
  74. “we have lived in economic isolation for 40 years… we are USED to it”

    The 4 million rich Syrians are “used” to it. The 20 million dirt poor ones are not. This is again Alex’s argument that Syrians are willing to sacrifice in order to live under a brutal dictatorship. It has blown up in your face and you still believe it.

    But the statement is not even true. The people of Aleppo have benefited significantly from trade with Turkey. People do not get “used” to 50% youth unemployment. If you are so “used” to living in isolation, let’s see you and Alex move back to Syria. Let’s see you get used to being cut from the world banking system or the internet. China and India are competitors for Syria. They aim to export to the West just like Syria will need to do in order to develop and get out of its predicament. And since when are China and India on the side of Assad? Syria has no resources that either needs.

    There is no future for Syria under Assad. Non whatsoever. The two relevant options are Egyptian style islamic rule or Zimbabwe.

    Posted by AIG | September 29, 2012, 12:01 pm
  75. I left Syria for social reasons believe it or not… neither economic nor political, as you may notice I appreciate my professional career and value it much more than to allow any social construct to restrict and reduce me to a good housewife… so you may have that discussion with Camille, but I won’t be of much help… as for predicting economic futures, I wouldn’t put myself in that chair, I am neither an economist nor a fortune teller, but from where I’m standing TODAY, I see clearly that Erdogan is having a hell of time keeping his stance and justifying it in Turkey, I see the Turkish people as much in anguish over this political isolation with Syria, Iran and Iraq… On the other hand, I see China changing courses in production plan… while they started with flooding markets everywhere with cheap one dollar produce, now they are shifting towards high technological services, at the university where I do my research, silicon transistors and MEMS chips are sent and ordered from china (a process that requires the highest and most sophisticated microfabrication techniques) and regardless of the distance, the speed, price and professional attitude makes up for everything else… If I were you, I wouldn’t reduce China to a one dollar product super market, not that easily anyway, unless you have a crystal ball that I don’t know of

    Posted by Amal Kassab | September 29, 2012, 12:49 pm
  76. AIG,

    If you took a snapshot in 2005 of the “Assad foreign policy” you would have made the same conclusion … the Syrian army just got forced out of Lebanon, US army in Iraq promising “Syria is next” … Jordan, Lebanon (M14 controlled) Saudi, Egypt, France, England, the US, and even moderate Italy and Spain all boycotting Syria … Assad’s family will soon face trial for the Hariri murder …

    Then a year later Hezbolla (using mostly Syrian weapons as Nasrallah stated recently) managed to become the pride of the Arab world … Khaled Mashaal, Syria’s ally in HAmas, was the strongest and most respected Palestinian leader after they won the 2006 elections … and slowly Syria went back by 2010 to becoming the most influential Arab country.

    I totally agree today everyone failed in Syria, including the regime …

    But Syria’s foreign policy is much more than what you described.

    Incidentally … I am not the die hard resistance camp activist. I am a peace camp activist … 67 borders … moderate, slow “resistance” to me means resisting hegemony …

    So I spent thousands of hours working on dialogue and learning and understanding … why should I leave Canada? Canada s one of the world’s most civilized societies.


    Good point about women’s decision making process in Syria … Amal did not try to claim that 51% of the Syrian people (Women) are against the revolution. But perhaps one out of three women are … that’s still a sizable segment that one must understand.

    In my interview with Elias here in May 2011 I noted that unlike Egyptian, Yemeni and Tunisian demonstrations, Syria’s had almost no role for women. Very very few did … mostly “demonstrating at home” … covered up completely.

    Chants sounded all-male … it was obvious… that the revolution was not that liberal and therefore it was going to lead to a conflict with the regime .. its supporters, and many liberal Syrians in opposition to the regime.

    Posted by Camille Otrakji | September 29, 2012, 2:12 pm
  77. Oh boy. Al_Arabia is beginning a storyline dump of secret Syrian files obtained by the revos. Their initial offering is a story that the Turkish pilots captured alive were executed and placed in the wreckage on advice from the Russians.

    Posted by lally | September 29, 2012, 2:26 pm
  78. If there was a like button here, I would have put a big LIKE there Camille, yes, for me too, resistance does not necessarily mean war… because simply it would be foolish to get into a war with a nuclear power, at the same time submission would be to accept to bow down to the resident bully…. but then again, this is my personal opinion

    Posted by Amal Kassab | September 29, 2012, 2:29 pm
  79. Thanks Amal

    I liked everything you wrote too … happy you are here! : )

    Posted by Camille Otrakji | September 29, 2012, 2:40 pm
  80. More “Resistance” Chatter from North Americans NewZ

    …resistance does not necessarily mean war… because simply it would be foolish to get into a war with a nuclear power, at the same time submission would be to accept to bow down to the resident bully…. but then again, this is my personal opinion


    So you think it would be “foolish to get into a war with a nuclear power”? You’re a quick study. If only Qaddfi, Saddan Hussein, al-Queda, Hamas, Hezbollah, the Taliban, and the Assad Family had your foresight.

    Anyway, please explain to the participants here exactly who the “resident bully” is. This is sometimes confusing.

    Posted by Akbar Palace | September 29, 2012, 5:51 pm
  81. Camille,

    You say that ..perhaps one in 3 women are against the revolution. How do you come up with exact figures like that considering the circumstances? But this generalization we can all agree on: that almost all Syrian women care not for politics as much as they care for their sons, husbands, and brothers. Therefore they will oppose anything that puts the men in harms way, so naturally quite a large number of women are against this revolution except of course those women who have lost their children, husbands and brothers (an increasing figure btw) who would encourage any form of resistance to the brutality of this regime.
    Point 2: That there were hardly any women in the demos. Well, it’s quite simple, no man in his right mind would send out the women in his family to protest when the demonstrators are getting shot at point blank. We are talking about one of the most cold blooded suppression’s in modern history.
    Point 3: Any talk of women’s rights in Syria is sheer lunacy and begs for ridicule when there’s not even basic human rights. The women have not been subjugated to as many injustices as did the men because of their almost non existent presence in the political sphere on a macro and micro level. If a regime kidnaps at whim any dissident or silences any opposing voices, tortures activists and kills innocents without a fair trail, how on earth do you expect one to believe that women’s rights are protected?

    We can have a healthy debate on Syria’s not so perfect economic and foreign policies but who can in their right mind argue the social injustices that the Baath system has inflicted on an innocent and depleted population.

    Posted by Maverick | September 29, 2012, 6:09 pm
  82. Alex,

    Please, the Assad foreign policy is a catastrophe because of the economic stagnation in Syria. That was also true after 2006. The foreign policy was an utter failure because it caused the inside of Syria to rot. As for Syria being the pride of the Arab countries after 2006, I’ll the Lebanese answer you on that. In any case, those days are not returning. Assad is hated in all the Sunni countries and even Hamas has turned their back on him. So if he was so good to them and his policies so great, why did they leave him in his time of need? In addition, an economic basket case cannot be influential in any good sense, only by causing troubles for others.

    You keep missing the point that foreign policy is a tool for economic development. And I guess the Assads did not grasp this point either because they pursued a foreign policy that ensured the economic failure of Syria. You can talk about dignity so much before people remember they are unemployed.

    As for supporting “soft resistance”, what do you mean? You supported the “resistance” policy of the regime. Support is a weak word. You called this policy great and the Assads geniuses for pursuing it.

    No, “resistance” does not mean war for Syrians. But Syria made it mean war for Lebanon and Israel. So keeping fooling yourself that you are not supporting war. It is foolish for Syria to fight Israel, but it is not foolish for Lebanon, is it? Don’t you see why many Lebanese find your positions appalling?

    I find your and Amal’s positions weird to say the least. You live in Canada and the US and tell Syria to count on China and India. You live in democracies and tell Syrians to live under a brutal dictatorship. You both live in very rich societies and demand that Syrians be poor and sacrifice for “resistance”. It rings completely hollow.

    Posted by AIG | September 29, 2012, 6:38 pm
  83. AIG,

    I said Hezbollah were the pride of the Arab world in 2006, not Assad. There was an opinion poll that showed Nasrallah had 87% approval rating across the (Sunni) Arab world. Assad was the most popular Arab leader in 2009 and 2010 but nothing near Nasrallah’s popularity in 2006.

    It is wonderful that for Sweden, foreign policy’s main objective is economic development, In Syria, in the Levant … foreign policy’s main objectives are many … recovering occupied lands … preserving stability and averting regional conflicts …. and of course economic development (like increasing trade with Turkey after Bashar managed to reestablish good relations) …

    Amal and I do not tell Syrians what to do and Syrians have no clue what Camille and Amal are writing on Qifa Nabki’s comment section, in English.

    Syrians are listening to Aljazeera (Rich Qataris who have no freedom) and are listening to Bashar Assad and to everything in between … Please don’t turn my right to have an opinion into a controversial issue.

    And we are starting propaganda tactics again? … are you trying to turn my activism and preference for a 67 borders solution for the conflict between Israel and Syria, Lebanon and the Palestinians into a propaganda opportunity by twisting my opinion into “I want Syria to be safe but I want Lebanon to go to war”?

    Do you see me wanting Hezbollah to start a war with Israel today to save the Assad regime for example?

    Some Lebanese hate Syria and others love Syria … let’s leave the “Lebanese find your opinions appalling” kind of language in the drawer if you don’t mind. I can tell you about what “The Lebanese” think of Israel too if you want us to start generalizing.

    Posted by Camille Otrakji | September 30, 2012, 1:43 am
  84. And I just noticed you said “many Lebanese”, not “The Lebanese”, But still, no need I hope for these useless arguments.

    Posted by Camille Otrakji | September 30, 2012, 1:49 am
  85. Maverick,

    I said “perhaps one third” to explain that I did not expect all women (51% of the Syrian population) to side with the regime because the revolution does not seem to be anywhere close to respecting liberal values. Obviously I did not have any exact figures.

    “Perhaps” as in “who known .. may be”

    As for the women who lost husbands and sons … many blame the regime, others blame the opposition “we were better off before the revolution” is a popular sentiment in Syria (among women and men).

    I hope you understand for example that the population of Aleppo (city, not surrounding villages) is mostly not pro revolution … those who lost loved ones (I know many) in Aleppo, are not exactly happy with the foreign Jihadists and Syrian Salafis who invaded Aleppo to liberate it from its own people.

    In Homs it was the opposite … most people blamed the regime for violence and bloodshed.

    It depends … I wish we don’t have to be limited to “who can in their right mind argue” type of statements … don’t let your initial impressions and your preferences turn this into a moral clarity conflict.

    Posted by Camille Otrakji | September 30, 2012, 1:59 am
  86. As for arguing that women did not demonstrate because it was dangerous … mostly not true.

    1) In Hama during July 2011 the army evacuated and the city had weekly Friday demonstrations of about 30,000 demonstrators at the main square. (Opposition claimed 700,000 at the time!). They were chanting and celebrating victory.

    Still … they were all male.

    2) We saw dozens of videos on you tube of women “demonstrating at home” … they were all veiled in the most conservative way.

    3) We KNOW by now the Islamists are the backbone of the revolution … why do we need to argue this point?

    Posted by Camille Otrakji | September 30, 2012, 2:09 am
  87. One of my favorite architects, Louis Sullivan said a long time ago “God is in the details”, I wish more people would listen to that and apply fair judgment over their projected opinions. You see, observers tend to find what they want to see in something, and they even try so hard to turn every single detail into a whole picture of what they want to see, and in the process they ignore a lot of details. This is exactly why this so called revolution did not sit right with me ever since the beginning. While everybody claims this is a revolution about freedom and human rights, suddenly minority rights becomes of no consequence, and now too “Any talk of women’s rights in Syria is sheer lunacy and begs for ridicule when there’s not even basic human rights”… pretty nice way to jump over a bunch of issues and mask everything in the same color we are trying to paint. when you say “there’s not even basic human rights”, what did you mean exactly??? because as someone who has lived in Syria up to 2004, I have studied, worked, argued with Baath party members on several occasions, had several religious arguments at the university with different people, was pretty successful in my job and study, and I never belonged to any political party by choice (because mostly I find they talk a lot but don’t do anything worthwhile, it turns up it is the same everywhere) so if by “basic human rights” you were referring to freedom of joining a political party that opposes the government and working as a political activist…. let’s just say, for me that is far down on my list as a lay-woman… it is a right, no doubt, but calling it a “basic human right” is an overreach. people can live and have lived and are still living in several countries in huge population without anguishing over this right. And needless to say this is not even comparable with the alternative that this holy revolution will force down our throats, once Saudi Arabia would start to cash in on its investment, and the rights of minorities, women and every single non-religious person in Syria will be trampled on… their BASIC human rights, of living their normal lives under their own convictions, dressing as they want to, studying what they like and working… In a recent research by Sharmine Narwani, she came across a figure that was quite surprising and shocking, less than 1000 people were arrested for political reasons within the last 10 years under Bashar’s rule (of course before the troubles started), no wonder every single time the opposition wants to make a claim about injustices in Syria they have to make a time travel 30 years back… another detail often swallowed as is, in other words, settling old, un-forgiven scores at the expense of the present… normally, I may not object to a vengeful mentality, but not on the expense of the whole country mind you.

    As for Hizbulla, for standing up for the resident bully, (i. e. Israel for those in doubt who that may be) I have the deepest respect for them, particularly to Hassan Nasralla, he keeps growing wiser, and proving every single time that he is a balanced leader who truly cares… it is definitely a choice whether or not anybody would want to throw stones at the rabid dog in the house, and I don’t blame anyone if they chose to leave the house and put as much distance possible between them and the dog. But if you take into consideration the victory that Hizboulla had over Israel, you can’t help but admire them. On the other hand, when Hizbulla realized that any future advances would end up with a general punishment of Lebanon at large, he stopped the party activities against Israel… ever since the last attack on Lebanon, and today they are extremely restraining themselves. Qatar and SA would have LOVED Hizbulla to join the Syrian conflict, not just verbally, in order to benefit in the vilification process that is going on… kidnapping Lebanese Shiaa travelers, threatening, media war… but still Hizbulla refuses to indulge them in fear of a civil war that can propagate to Lebanon… so in answer to your comment, no… I don’t think that standing up to Israel should be on the expense of the Lebanese people, and I believe even Hasan Nasralla agrees with that… but at the same time not bowing down to them is honorable…

    Posted by Amal Kassab | September 30, 2012, 9:02 am
  88. Alex,

    Ok, let’s use your criteria for foreign policy success to examine the regimes record:
    “foreign policy’s main objectives are many … recovering occupied lands … preserving stability and averting regional conflicts …. and of course economic development (like increasing trade with Turkey after Bashar managed to reestablish good relations) …”

    1) Recovering occupied lands – zero success
    2) Stability and averting conflicts – could not even avert civil war in Syria let alone in Lebanon and Gaza against his supporters
    3) Economic development – one step forward 50 back. Where are the good relations with Turkey now? Erdogan just called again for no one to help the regime.

    So in every single aspect, every single one, the regime’s policies have been a complete and utter disaster. There is not one redeeming factor in Assad’s foreign policy. Not one. Except of course if you don’t judge things by their actual results.

    And really, what does it matter what Arabs thought of Assad in 2010 if he couldn’t make the life of the average Syrian better? Do you judge foreign policy by actual results or by meaningless opinion polls that in a short period of time shifted completely in the other direction?

    Posted by AIG | September 30, 2012, 10:09 am
  89. Amal,

    Syria under the current regime will be an utter disaster. A completely failed state equivalent to Somalia and Zimbabwe. There is no future for Syria under Assad. Take Iran for example, an oil rich country. They are being sanctioned just by the West. Your favorites, China, India and Russia are still trading with them. Yet, the sanctions’ bite is strong and Iran’s economy is suffering badly. That puts to rest your theory that Syria does not need the West and can count on China and India.

    If Assad stays, Syria will remain isolated and under sanctions and unlike Iran, also without oil. The current regime is the worst option for Syria. The mild islamic alternative is the best realistic choice.

    In 2004 a huge number of Syrians were living on less than $2 per day. Well over 50%. Ehsani, of Syria Comment, showed that even government employees were at this level. That is not “freedom to live your life”. That is abject poverty. You led a good life in Syria but you lived in a bubble. Assad’s policies were robbing millions of a decent future.

    And I really don’t know what to make of the fact that you don’t want islmaists but support the islamist Nasrallah. So if an islamist of Nasrallah’s stature emerged as the leader of the opposition in Syria you would agree to an islamic state, or again is this just good for the Lebanese?

    As for Israel, Assad is a great gift. His inept rule has made Syria weak and divided and could even lead to Syria being broken up to little states after a prolonged civil war. How honorable is that? And how is that not bowing to Israel? And how are you personally not “bowing down” to Israel when you choose to live in a place that is the greatest supporter of Israel and your taxes go to supporting Israel? You are actually giving money to Israel! Where is the honor in that? I hope you think about it and figure out for yourself that this whole “honor” thing is nonsense.

    Posted by AIG | September 30, 2012, 10:33 am
  90. AIG… considering the alternative, I think your statement about Syria under Assad as the worst regime option for Syria, is not valid at all… however, if Camille’s aspirations, which are the same for a big portion of the population who admit the shortcomings of the present regime, however regard the alternative with dread, if these aspirations of gradual change by placing into effect a kind of filtration system that can be solidified with strong opposition presence, coupled with opposition media within the country that would criticize and unveil any mistakes or trespass the government does… any government, not just Assad’s, because any government is sensitive for corruption if left unchecked, then we may be able to save some of the values that we appreciate so highly in Syria… this may take a longer time, but would be built on much stronger foundations than the make shift governments that you want to call democratic, which obviously won’t be any better (in fact much worst) than the past…

    As for me supporting Nasralla.. believe me there is no religious factor in it, I regard him as a true mouqawame figure, a dignified, clever and wise one… whatever he believes in, or his party believes in (may that be a stone in his back yard) is his own business, and not for me to judge. In my earlier comments I remember insisting that for me Iran is equally unattractive as Saudi Arabia, and I refuse to turn my country into any of these models

    As for Israel… I am quite wary of discussing the scenarios of what is better for Israel… I mean the Muslim Brotherhood keep talking about how safe Israel is under the Assad rule, or Mubarak rule, and then when they took control of Egypt the first two concrete things they did is reinforce the same policies as the previous ones… Hamas has seen equal support from Syria as Hizbulla.. but when push came to shove, they have proven that they would put their sectarian agendas above their national goals, and chose to let go of the only country that has bravely and strongly supported them all these years, I have no doubt they will live to regret this decision… but really, it all boils down to a simple thing, do you want peace with Israel or don’t you… future generations may or may not, that is up to them… personally, I still remember how the state of Israel came to be, and how it became a country, I still look in shame (every single time I see a Palestinian) whenever I meet a Palestinian anywhere.. no matter what they think of Syria or Israel, whether they want peace or war with Israel.. I can never blame them, in two years the Syrian people became so divided and so viscous against each other, while the Palestinians have lived through this constant humiliation, constant betrayal and hypocrisy for decades, I will be only adding to this mix by passing any judgment on them at this point…. they are the victim and they have the right to decide how to feel about it, my feelings and support have never made much of a difference, so the only thing left towards them is shame… I feel shame… so let’s not go there. I would prefer to boycott Israel for as long as there is any Palestinian asking me to do so in solidarity, because that is the maximum that I can do, and I would want my government to do the same. Sure, we will be under an economic siege, so what… they are going through worse, and regardless of what you think of Iran, Iran still managed to have top scientists, far more serious and advanced research institutions than the ass licking Saudi Arabia, and a stable economy. While you still insist that the west camp is the winning one, I think that is changing quickly, so why bet on an aging horse? why let go of our convictions for a losing camp??? can’t see the benefit of it really.

    Posted by Amal Kassab | September 30, 2012, 12:49 pm
  91. “While you still insist that the west camp is the winning one, I think that is changing quickly, so why bet on an aging horse? why let go of our convictions for a losing camp??? can’t see the benefit of it really.”

    You can’t see the benefit, really? You moved to the US. Not to China nor to India nor to Russia. Talk about betting on an aging horse. Why is it that Syrians and Lebanese aspire for visas to the US, Canada, Europe and Australia and not to China or India? It will take decades for China and India to replace the West if it ever happens. And you want Syrians to bet on that? You live in the US and are recommending that Syrians suffer economically while you make no sacrifice and actually help Israel by giving it money and the most advanced technological weapons! Have you really thought about your position?

    Iran by the way does not have a stable economy. It has huge inflation and the it seems the currency is being devalued daily:
    And this in a country with huge oil reserves.

    All this talk about not needing the West is just nonsense. Assad is a complete dead end for Syria. There is only the mild islamic alternative that is realistic and gives Syria a chance to move forward.

    Posted by AIG | September 30, 2012, 1:18 pm
  92. Amal, spare us the sentimentals it only accentuate the hypocrisy

    Posted by Vulcan | September 30, 2012, 2:24 pm
  93. well, people still come here, because NOW it is still better, actually I came here by chance, I got married here, but I would LOVE to go to Singapore, that is another topic however. One of things that makes it more difficult to live in the far east is the language barrier, it is not a secret that Chinese or Japanese are very difficult languages, which may limit immigration to these countries. But, there is a serious immigration movement back to China within the Chinese population here in case you don’t know of this…. it has started, it may not be easy and immediate for us, but you may check it, people have started considering living in major Chinese cities, and they are immigrating from the US and Europe, not from 3rd world countries…

    Posted by Amal Kassab | September 30, 2012, 2:32 pm
  94. Bravo Camille you say what every one is thinking in a fair, objective, concise manner. Excellent interview! Thank you.

    Posted by charlene | September 30, 2012, 2:35 pm
  95. Amal,

    It is true that aspiring to a “transitional and gradual” change in Syria makes sense from one standpoint:
    Nobody wants civil war and death.
    However, the reality is that someone like Assad and his regime are not the types to do “transitional and gradual”. I don’t understand why people do not see that. Assad and his regime do not have it in them to accept that kind of gradual change. They are not interested in what’s best for the Syrian people. They are only interested in holding on to power and to the privileges and riches that power has brought them for 40+ years. I think that much is obvious, not only at a “psychoanalysis” level of most dictator’s personalities, but also is demonstrated on a daily basis by the lengths the regime is willing to go to, to stay in power (intimidation, torture, massacares, etc.)
    What makes you think that compromise and transition are even possible with Assad and his regime? I recall asking Camille this very question last year: What are you guys basing this thinking on? Has the Assad regime, both pere et fils EVER shown any willingness to compromise on anything that affected their grip on power? (And I’m not talking about the recent year or two. I’m talking about the last 40 years or so).
    Is it not delusional to wishfully think on a person some traits that they have never ever exhibited?
    It’d be one thing if there had been some kind of previous signs or actions that made one think “Oh, this is a guy who may compromise. He’s done it before.”
    But it is very true that past behavior is usually a fair indication as to one’s personality, behavior and thinking.
    When I bring you the file of a serial killer, or career criminal and ask you “Do you think this guy would make a good candidate for adopting an orphan child?” Do you say “Well, he’ll probably compromise on his criminal activities and change for the better once he has a child in his life” ?
    Or do you say “Hell no! This guy has no business raising a child!”

    To me, your wishful thinking when it comes to Assad is kind of along those lines. The man has not once in his life shown a willingness to compromise when it came to his hold on power. Quite the contrary, the Assad’s Modus Operandi (and this goes for Assad Sr. too) has always been “I want my cake and I want to eat it too.”
    The entire Assad doctrine on both internal and regional politics has always been to demand everything and the moon included, all the while making it impossible for the other parties to function or ask for anything in return.

    I honestly don’t get where you and Camille are coming from. I just don’t understand. The ONE thing I do understand, when I read your posts and others like it, is the fear of Islamic extremists. That, I get. The rest is just rationalization.

    Posted by Bad Vilbel | September 30, 2012, 2:39 pm
  96. Amal ,
    You wrote ” In a recent research by Sharmine Narwani, she came across a figure that was quite surprising and shocking, less than 1000 people were arrested for political reasons within the last 10 years under Bashar’s rule ….(of course before the troubles started)”. I just couldn’t help but notice that we agree on something. It is shocking isn’t it? 😛
    I rest my case. The Baath’s ministry of information have done a really good job in creating a world of illusory facades.

    Posted by Maverick | September 30, 2012, 5:02 pm
  97. He kills their sons, husbands, and brothers
    He bombs their cities, homes, bakeries, and markets
    He burns their heritage
    Torture their loved ones,
    And his soldiers rape them
    and you dare tell me he is for women’s liberation
    Women have been the biggest victims of the Assads
    If you can’t see that, you are a bigger fool than you appear to be.

    Posted by SYRIAN HAMSTER | September 30, 2012, 7:02 pm
  98. Syrian Hamster,

    I noticed you have eloquently singled-out the hypocrisy of these arm-chair “resistance pundits” and the despot cheerleaders who comfortably live in freedom outside of the hell they want OTHER people to survive.

    Let’s make it a habit to challenge these outrageous opinions;)

    Posted by Akbar Palace | September 30, 2012, 8:23 pm
  99. Gabriel, the regime’s “crackdown” currently and recently has been mostly defensive … it is the FSA and the foreign jihadists who are invading pro regime centres of Damascus and Aleppo

    And thus the regime bombs its centers to dust… What this entity said is no longer delusional, it is criminal. He speaks as if the assads still own syria as a farm. They may own your soul, but nothing more than yours and other pathetic souls.

    Posted by SYRIAN HAMSTER | September 30, 2012, 9:50 pm
  100. Bad Vilbel. No government whatsoever would leave without being forced to, that is a known fact. But pressure brings change, and there have been an enormous amount of pressure on the Syrian government, it is within the interest of all parties to use that pressure to start the wheel of change rather than the wheel of destruction… the past two years events were sad, but I was not surprised by the government actions, I was more shocked by the opposition’s weakness and stupidity… they had all the cards in their favor, except for one, their free will… those who paid their salaries and hotel expenses made it clear that they will accept nothing but a complete destruction of the central government in Damascus with everyone in it. This restricting scenario kind of ties the hands against any meaningful and positive steps that could have ended this crisis on any number of occasions. And I will just name few here as a demonstrations: The government within the first year of the crisis changed the ruling party law, and declared a parliamentary system that can be ruled by a majority party. This law alone struck down the 40 years rule of Al Baath. They also agreed to remove any Baath party presence within educational and government institutions. So what did the opposition do??? Did they form parties, and started announcing their presence in the city and organizing youth??? no… they ridiculed the law and continued on with their constant refusal… the government announced a series of election, municipality and parliamentary… the opposition sneered on this too, and asked people to boycott the elections, quite a democratic approach I must say, and instead of asking for an international monitoring and control of the electoral process, they (as the obedient pets that they are) stood firmly at their constant call for no-negotiation no dialogue… while people in the country were dying on daily basis…

    For the Syrian Hamster, and Akbar Palace,

    well, as an ” arm-chair “resistance pundits” and the despot cheerleaders who comfortably live in freedom outside of the hell they want OTHER people to survive.”, let me tell you one thing. I have no idea in which arm chair you are sitting yourself, but the turmoil I’m in did not happen because I am looking for a cause to fill my time. I am quite busy, but it is getting more and more difficult to concentrate on anything else when you know that at every single time I enjoy the small daily peaceful routines here: the quiet streets, nice meals, heating, safety…. my family (parents, cousins, uncles, friends… etc.) are living under constant danger, fear and worry… I don’t care which bastard will be holding the rains of Syria in the future, what I deeply care about is how my dear ones are living now, and what their future will be like… You may not think like me, but I know a lot of Syrian living abroad who always dream of a day where they or their children might do something positive to the place where we were raised. As for the constant vilification of government, it is easy to throw accusations right and left, it is really easy, the more difficult thing would be to actually try and listen to people to find the right perpetrators… for six months at the beginning of the crisis everything the media said was a spin around a fairy tale, where peaceful demonstrators were marching, and were faced by rows of army personnel with guns.. those army personnel were ordered to shoot, and if they didn’t the raw at the back would shoot them… for six months the ONLY proof, cell phone holding activists and foreign journalist smuggled in by those “peaceful activists” was of a SHARPSHOOTER shooting a demonstrator… a sharp-shooter??? seriously??? where is the army?? were are the rows of security and shabiha??? they played with different versions stirring 30 years old hatred and enmity to validate those stories… covering intentionally on the murders those mercenaries where committing every day, and when the cover up didn’t work, blaming the government for these murders… but when that didn’t work too… suddenly a new story about an army that has formed solely to “protect” innocent demonstrators started, because they were no longer capable of sustaining the “peaceful” resistance charade… you can say what you want and form your own opinions, I will decline from indulging you further with any response on these matters, because after two years of debating this topic, I came to the conclusion that it is utterly useless… you can blame who you want, say what you want, but I know for sure what has happened in Aleppo, I know who burnt the 4000 years old market places, I know who invaded the city, forcing people to flee their houses, so they can take up control in their place… I know who used innocent people as human shields and forced the government to extreme measures… my cousin’s family came to live at my mother’s place when the FSA invaded their area… and were very happy when it was “cleansed” and they were able to go back under Syrian army escort… believe what you like, I don’t care, you will call the Syrian army murderers, I will call your FSA mercenaries… the truth remains, that no matter what you say, you are hiding behind your lies to justify the hell that you are dragging the country into, and you are not fooling anybody…

    Posted by Amal Kassab | October 1, 2012, 12:18 am
  101. Vulcan,

    People tend to resort to insults when they run out of good arguments which you clearly have!

    The point I made is very relevant to the debate; the Syrian President have a substantial support and is a part of the solution rather than the problem. Accusing him of being some war criminal who should be excluded from any negotiations or transition period reflects double standards by the West (US in particular)! We all know that George Bush and Tony Blair were both re-elected for office despite killing hundreds of thousands of Iraqis in an illegal war- unless Iraqi lives are less worthy than Syrian lives!!!

    The days when the US ruled the World have gone, I never elected Barak Obama or Hillary Clinton to hear them speak in my name and call for my protection through fuelling violence in my country!! It’s not for the US administration to decide whether or not Bashar al Assad has lost his legitimacy because it has NO legitimacy making such a decision on the behalf of Syrians!

    The fact that the US has done everything it could to prevent national dialogue that would save lives speaks volumes in itself!!

    Posted by Hiba Kelanee | October 1, 2012, 4:46 am
  102. National Dialogue should be held with those who choose support a political process as a means for regime change rather than an armed struggle to seize power. The US refused to have negotiations with Taliban unless they give up weapons, same rule should apply in Syria!!

    Posted by Hiba Kelanee | October 1, 2012, 4:56 am
  103. “As for the solution Alex envisions, it is impossible. Would the US Congress allow any US president to help in anyway a regime in Syria that is allied with Iran and Hezbollah? That is inconceivable. Not that any US President would want to do that. The US would never endorse the solution Alex describes and neither would the Saudis even if the civil war continues for years.”

    Exactly! The US is not after the well-being of Syrians; it’s after its own agenda in the region. Syrians know that the US is trying to destabilise their country in order to weaken Iran and this is precisely why the “revolution” failed to rally support inside Syria. This “revolution” does not represent the inspiration of the Syrian people otherwise there would be no need for hundreds of millions of dollars in foreign financial support and thousands of foreign Jihadists to try and bring down a “brutal regime that’s killing its people and has been in power for 40 years”!!!

    Posted by Hiba Kelanee | October 1, 2012, 5:18 am
  104. Elias,

    You asked Camille many questions.. Please allow me to ask you some questions;

    What makes it “democratic” for the US administration to subject the Syrians to economic sanctions (and starve some of them to death) so that they give up their support of the “brutal dictator who is killing them”??

    Why is there a different version of democracy when it comes to the ME? The right of an “electoral majority” to rule Syria has been replaced by the right of a “majority sect” to rule- just like what the US did in Iraq!! Does this not reflect a policy of stirring up sectarianism in the ME, by the US and its allies?

    Posted by Hiba Kelanee | October 1, 2012, 5:53 am
  105. … for six months at the beginning of the crisis everything the media said was a spin around a fairy tale, where peaceful demonstrators were marching, and were faced by rows of army personnel with guns.. those army personnel were ordered to shoot, and if they didn’t the raw at the back would shoot them…

    Amal Kassab,

    And you can’t blame Assad and his thugs for the attrocities you yourself have admitted to?

    All the schmuck had to do was allow for a free election witnessed by outside observers.

    …the Syrian President have a substantial support…

    In this case Hiba Kelanee, you have no clue what “substantial support” means. Please don’t waste out time. Unless there is an free election (a BASIC humean right), you have no idea.

    The days when the US ruled the World have gone…

    Hiba Kelanee,

    The US has never “ruled the World”; not then, and not now, and certainly not the Utopia the Assad’s have controlled for the past 50 years.

    Posted by Akbar Palace | October 1, 2012, 7:18 am
  106. AP,

    If the US ambition isn’t to rule the World; why are there too many American military bases spread over the World? Here is an example!

    Posted by Hiba Kelanee | October 1, 2012, 7:49 am
  107. Hiba Kelanee,

    These bases are located with the full permission of the host country.

    Instead of deflecting your concern about US bases in Japan, spewing Arab Conspiracy Theories™, and blaming the usual suspect for issues that pale in comparison, why not take your hypocrisy to the Assad family?

    Juan Cole is a tired anti-imperialist who believes everything the US and Israel does is bad, and the Arabs can do no wrong. The curtain behind this way of thinking has been lifted thanks to Arab despots and their tireless supporters.

    Posted by Akbar Palace | October 1, 2012, 8:09 am
  108. Hello everyone

    Great discussion. I apologize for not having the time to join in thus far, but I had some family visiting. I hope to join the conversation later today. Right now, it’s off to class.

    Posted by Qifa Nabki | October 1, 2012, 8:17 am
  109. AP,

    Do you mean the permission of the host countries of the “legitimate and democratic” regimes in the Gulf?! Juan Cole didn’t falsify these facts, he merely pointed them out!! There is little doubt that the US is trying to turn the ME into a region dominated by pro West regimes, you can call it a conspiracy theory but that doesn’t make it untrue!

    Posted by Hiba Kelanee | October 1, 2012, 8:30 am
  110. Hiba Kelanee,

    No, I mean the permission of the host country and its respective government, period.

    Stop worrying about what the US is trying to turn the ME into, and instead, worry more about how Arab leaders treat their slaves citizens.

    Juan Cole and his ilk have yet to meet an Arab/Musim despot murder he hasn’t fawned over.

    Take responsibility for your leaders before you start pointing fingers.

    Posted by Akbar Palace | October 1, 2012, 8:52 am
  111. Akbar Palace… you need to read what I wrote again I’m afraid, and try widening your brackets if you wanted to quote that correctly

    Posted by Amal Kassab | October 1, 2012, 8:54 am
  112. Camille,

    “3) We KNOW by now the Islamists are the backbone of the revolution … why do we need to argue this point?”

    Writing “know” in caps doesn’t turn a lie into truth. The backbone of this revolution are not the Islamists, the backbone of the revolution are the 20 million poor, hungry and beaten to the ground for 30 years Sunnis… What started the revolution was a combination of low economic performance & revolutionary movements in the region (without counting all the torture, etc). The Islamists simply decided to join the fun when the borders got out of control and they saw an opportunity to gain power in Syria. They are still far from being the “backbones” of anything and trying to spin this into some Islamist conspiracy is just more of the same old story we have been hearing for decades from this fascist regime. If you want to defend this totalitarian and criminal dictatorship, find something new will you? We’re not buying these stupid justifications for dictatorship anymore…

    Posted by saywhat? | October 1, 2012, 10:39 am
  113. Know-it-alls who Know Nothing


    When anyone claims they know what a nation is thinking and feeling without any polls, without any vote, and without any freedom, people with half a neuron know to throw this “claim” out the window.

    Posted by Akbar Palace | October 1, 2012, 11:45 am
  114. Akbar Palace,

    How many times have we heard about these mystical “dictators” who have state news disclosed nationwide majority support from the population (usually in the high 90%)? It’s such an old and broken record it’s unthinkable that Camille is still using it. Camille, I’ve got a news flash for you, normal people don’t support/vote for fascist dictators who submit their populations into poverty by concentrating all the wealth of the country into one family unit… There is a reason Syria has a very powerful internal security organization and army, and no, it’s not Israel (Syria hasn’t fired a single bullet at Israel since the Yom Kippur War some 40 years ago…).
    Let’s also not forget all the leaders the Assad family has assassinated in Lebanon and the 30 years of raping and stealing of the Lebanese population, government and media. Lebanese and Syrians have gotten so brainwashed by the Assad dictatorship for the past 40 years that they started to truly believe that without him, both countries are doomed to sectarian strife, civil war and salafism. The minorities in Syria are terrified and are calling back for dictatorship only because the believe they are faced with certain death. Once they realize it’s a lie, the little amount of support Assad still from a terrified minority will vanish faster than his last 40 years of power…

    Posted by saywhat? | October 1, 2012, 12:17 pm
  115. Saywhat?

    “Crying Wolf” about 3 times is usually considered the limit on BS, lies, and flimsy propaganda.

    But 50 years of such lies along with a shackled and ravaged people just means they finally realize they have NOTHING to lose.

    Congratulations are in order for the arm-chair-resistance-professionals like Juan Cole and Jonathan Cook as they comforatably live in freedom while egging-on despotism.

    Posted by Akbar Palace | October 1, 2012, 12:34 pm
  116. Amal,

    You say “Bad Vilbel. No government whatsoever would leave without being forced to, that is a known fact.”

    I’m gonna stop right here and roll my eyes, if I may.
    Come on! Governments resign all the time in the civilized world, when their populace puts pressure on them in a civil fashion. It happens in democratic and even “semi-democratic” countries around the world. The only place where governments only leave by force of arms and violence are dictatorial regimes – which sadly, these days, is relegated to the Middle East and Africa. Your argument have absoluetly no legs.

    Now don’t get me wrong. I have avoided bringing up the opposition in any of my posts so far because I do not necessarily agree with their methods, or with the fact that they are backed by foreign powers (hey! look! That’s just like what’s been happening in Lebanon for 50 years!) That only goes to show how tribal and sectarian the Arab people remain in general.

    But all that notwithstanding, and without giving the opposition a free pass on any of their acts, your arguments still do not hold water, unless you put them in the very narrow mindset of how we do things in the Middle East (in which case, they all make perfect sense).

    But the whole point of my comments, usually is to get us to stop thinking in that narrow middle eastern mindset that has brought us nothing but endless violence and destruction. Please, let us stop blaming every foreign country but ourselves. I’ve said about the Lebanese and now I say that about the Syrians. Quit making excuses for all that is wrong in your country and blaming it on extremists, and foreigners, and start owning up to the fact that there is no excuse for a dictator to brutally repress his own people, no matter what. It is not excusable to do so. Not because of fear of islamists. Not because “it is normal to hold on to power”. Not because “women are better off this way” or any of these other excuses that I’ve read around here.

    As bad as the FSA and opposition are (and i am not arguing that point with you here), the truth is, they wouldn’t even be around if Assad had “compromised” and gone with the “managed transition” Camille so eloquently describes back when this all started (or even before this all started) instead of choosing to roll his tanks into Daraa and opting for repression. It is ridiculously disingenuous to talk about managed transitions and compromise when we both know the only reason those words are even being mentioned now is because of the civil war that ensued. There was ZERO thought of compromising back then.

    Posted by Bad Vilbel | October 1, 2012, 12:46 pm
  117. But all that notwithstanding, and without giving the opposition a free pass on any of their acts, your arguments still do not hold water, unless you put them in the very narrow mindset of how we do things in the Middle East (in which case, they all make perfect sense).

    Succinctly put. It seems, and at the risk of soiling the oh-so sacred word “Prophets”, it seems highly intelligent people self-prophesize the expectations and behaviours in the Arab world.

    Posted by Gabriel | October 1, 2012, 1:19 pm
  118. Not really, Gabriel. The Arab world seems to do a pretty good job showing everybody else how we operate for the most part (with the occasional exception). We are quite predictable.

    Posted by Bad Vilbel | October 1, 2012, 2:26 pm
  119. Predictable, may be. But more importantly, what is disappointing is that ostensibly educated people are hell-bent on arguing why it can’t be done any other way. They have in effect self-prophesized why there is absolutely no reason for us to having anything but despots and dictators.

    Anyways, people are trash. I’ll go back to being disappointed that the souks of allepo have been destroyed.

    Posted by Gabriel | October 1, 2012, 3:16 pm
  120. if you have been listening to anything I have been saying or Camille has been saying for the past two years, you would have known that we are not about to give a free pass to any dictator, or to protect the status quo… but I guess it would help your arguments to assume that we are, and to skip any sentence that can claim otherwise. Otherwise I imagine you would have no argument left to make… there is a difference between the educated too, or whatever you like to call it, there are those who live in their own bubble of sweet dreams, talking about how peaceful and amazing human nature is, and how everything would naturally take the preferred course by force of sheer will, because “people are good”…and there are those who prefer not to look at things as black and white, because good or bad are too simplistic concepts to use in a real world, and only befitting a Hollywood movie (maybe even a Disney cartoon). Those people admit the shortcomings of reality, realize what can and cannot be done, and prefer to draw plans based on those realities. Life would be much easier if we were to simply use “bad” and “good” adjectives in describing it (philosophy books would be extinct I imagine). So on one hand I am tempted to let you go on with your simple lives, eventually you will grow up and discover it isn’t. and maybe I should, but till you do, and I hope that would be sooner rather than later, please take a look at what “democracy” brought so far to the middle east and I would suggest you concentrate your research and thought at the very important concept of “compromise”. Life cannot go on without it.

    Posted by Amal Kassab | October 1, 2012, 3:53 pm
  121. “if you have been listening to anything I have been saying or Camille has been saying for the past two years, you would have known that we are not about to give a free pass to any dictator”

    Not true. I make no such assumption. But I am not seeing how you are not giving the dictator a free pass. Show me.

    How exactly do you deal with this dictator who imprisoned all who tried “talking to him” in the past (I’m referring here to the failed Damascus Spring / Michel Kilo and co. days of the early 2000-2001 period). THAT right there was the perfect opportunity for “compromising” and talking in the manner that you and Camille are advocating. Right? That was long before anyone took up arms against Assad, or before Turkey/The USA/The salafis/whoever else is being blamed here were involved in any of this. Right?

    So I guess I will repeat what I said to Camille earlier. The “transitional and gradual reform” approach he proposed sounds great on paper. But I frankly do not think it is realistic, simply because:
    1- Assad has shown time and again that he is unwilling to compromise. I argue that he is INCAPABLE of doing so, even if he wanted to personally. But that’s a whole other lengthy theory that has more to do with the regime being entrenched too far to be able to adapt to anything.
    2- At this point, now that other parties have gotten involved (foreigners, etc) and this has turned into a civil war, we are kinda too far gone for either side to want to compromise and come to the table.

    The right time to come to the table would have been when this all started as peaceful demonstrations. Right around the time Camille was busy telling us that there was no real need to compromise as the demonstrators were only in the hundreds (his words, i recall them exactly), their numbers exaggerated by the media, and that the big cities of Damascus and Aleppo were behind Assad 100% (remember all that Camille?)

    I know hindsight is 20/20, and you and I are probably going around in circles here. But the problem is, there is ALWAYS some kind of excuse not to compromise. Back then it, it was “These are a few extremists/terrorists that don’t represent true Syria, so let’s run them over with tanks before they get to the big cities”. Now it’s “We can’t come to the table with foreign-backed militias that have their own foreign agendas…so let’s run them over with tanks and helicopters, even though they occupy half our big cities”.

    And you know what? Tomorrow, there will be a different excuse why Assad cannot compromise. The reality is, he simply cannot. His regime isn’t capable of it. It is inherently not based around the notion of compromising or reforming. That is really all there is to it. So perhaps, it is best to put our efforts into figuring out how to transition Syria post-Assad into a better Syria, and avoid it turning into another Lebanon (as sad as I am to use my home country as an example) with sectarian militias carving out their own niches at the behest of regional and international powers.

    On a related note, i was somewhat heartened to read about the people of Benghazi banding together and marching against the various militias that have proliferated in Libya since the fall of Ghaddafi and getting them to disband and disarm. Obviously, that’s still a work in progress, but it shows that toppling a dictator doesn’t necessarily mean chaos and anarchy, nor does it mean Salafis are taking over. There are growing pains, sure. That is expected with any revolution. But revolutions do in fact eventually lead to stability if the people as a whole get behind common goals and ideas, rather than fragmentation and dissent. The general notion that I’ve seen repeated by Camille and co. – and i honestly mean no offense here, it’s just how it comes across – is that it boils down, over and over, to justifying (and yes, giving somewhat of a pass) a dictatorship out of fear. Fear of the unknown. Fear of extremists. Fear. Plain and simple. And when fear wins, dictators win. That is how dictators operate. The very definition of a dictator is someone who uses fear as his primary tool. Not only in the traditional sense of intimidating his opponents, but often times, in a far more insidious manner: That of convincing his people to be willing followers out of fear of what may happen if he were gone. The whole “bogeyman” thing. It’s a tried and true method: Fear of Israel. Fear of Salafis. Fear of the extinction of Christianity in Lebanon and Levant. Fear of Muslims taking over Europe (The far right parties in France, Germany, etc.) Fear of Democracts turning the USA into some kind of Communist Islamic Republic (if you believe the far right guys in the USA). It’s ALWAYS fear. And you all seem to play right into that with your arguments. I honestly don’t know how else to see it.

    Posted by Bad Vilbel | October 1, 2012, 4:30 pm
  122. OK… again going back in history to 10 years past I see, and when I said no dictator would step down without being forced to, you roll your eyes.. I’m lost here, of course we will be going in circles like this… OK… at 2000 he was not FORCED to compromise, the past two years showed the dictator that he has to compromise and he DID… he loosened the grip of the Baath party on the country by eliminating the one party rule. What do you call that if not compromise???? he called for multi-party elections and constitutional changes… what is that??? yes, he didn’t step down because few people asked him to, and no till today people of Aleppo and Damascus have still refrained from participating in this charade, these cities were invaded from the surrounding villages and did not march in unison asking for him to step down, like what happened in Egypt.. you may like to think that this is the case, and I would hate to shatter your dreams, but that’s the truth… and now calling for presidential elections at 2014.!!!! so let’s see, what compromise did the opposition offer so far….. ??? I guess I will be leaving the blanks for you to fill, because I fail to see any.

    As for Libya, you might feel heartened that few marched against the armed militias, hundreds have marched in my father’s village against the armed militias there, but there were no reporters willing to record that, so many other neighborhoods have marched asking them to leave them alone, that they didn’t want to be used as human shields, and guess what… we don’t even have the original brand of democracy yet which has to be issued by an international decree… on the other hand, main stream media has failed in reporting all the racial massacres that were perpetrated against black Libyans, putting them in animal cages and electrocuting them, or the tribal wars going on in the area, I bet they would have acted a lot differently if Qaddafi was still alive, but alas he isn’t… so whatever happens there has to endured silently by the forgotten, because the world is busy dealing with other dictators elsewhere… to be clear here once again, I am not here to defend any dictator, I am just worried that my family and friends, will be among “the forgotten” if this goes your way…

    Posted by Amal Kassab | October 1, 2012, 5:10 pm
  123. I said we’re talking in circles because we seem to be misunderstanding or misinterpreting each other.

    Here’s the contradicition/problem I have with your first paragraph. You say in 2000 Assad was not forced to compromise, so he didn’t. So by this logic, he has to be forced, or else nothing changes. Right? But you also don’t want people to take up arms against him, because that causes a civil war. You see the catch 22 here?

    As for the so-called reforms you claim he did last year. Well, if you really believe those, then I suppose there is no point in continuing this conversation, as we are each on a separate plane of reality. I don’t know which one of our realities is the “REAL” one. LOL. But clearly, you believe that Syria now has a true multiparty system and free elections. Whereas I believe those reforms were cosmetic and meaningless. Not to mention they were only enacted after violence had already reached a boiling point, and after Assad had seen it fit to roll his tanks over those demanding the reforms (seems a bit weird, don’t you think?). But, i assume you will dispute those facts and tell me that Assad never rolled his tanks over anyone. The only people abducting others in the night were terrorists. Assad listened to his people’s demands and after a few hundred folks demonstrated in Daraa, he saw the error of his ways and quickly opened up the system to all parties and conducted free elections, before the evil islamic saudi turkish terrorists blew it all to hell. If you really believe that reality, then there’s not much more I can say.

    And I do know about all the other crap in Libya. You perhaps didn’t real the sentence where I said that it’s still a work in progress. And that all revolutions are nasty and involve growing pains. My point was that at least I’ve seen a heartening sign, for a change.

    Posted by Bad Vilbel | October 1, 2012, 6:33 pm
  124. well… you see Mubarak also was forced to let go, not by armed opposition, by peaceful demonstrators in his own city, Cairo, where thousands of demonstrators camped out for weeks chanting for him to resign…. I have no idea whether or not you are capable of seeing the difference here, or if you are trying very hard to ignore it. In any case I will never say that Assad did not roll his tanks and, after the bombing that took away his four major generals, his planes too, but I will never claim that we had purely “peaceful” demonstrators to begin with, you see, to do that I will have to claim that I don’t know of the 120 Syrian army soldiers that were massacred in Gesr Al Shoughour in March 2011, or other scientists and people who were killed either by mobs or by the all so famous “snipers”… so you have that. On the other hand, of course any law, whatever law that may be, will be superficial if you ridicule it and refuse to abide by it or enforce it. And in the case of the latter compromises that Assad made, the ones who ridiculed and ignored the new laws were the opposition, and I hope you won’t be denying that… they were the ones boycotting the elections… not even attempting a request for an internationally supervised elections under the new laws… they just assumed they never took place and hoped everyone else would forget about them too

    Posted by Amal Kassab | October 1, 2012, 7:24 pm
  125. No argument from me when it comes to Mubarak. The truth is, the Tunisian and Egyptian revolutions went very differently from the Libyan one and from now the Syrian one. There are many reasons for that, some local, some geopoligcal, and some related to the actual personalities in power and in opposition.

    Mubarak stepped down when it became clear that his time was done. It took all of a month for the whole thing to unfold. Granted, Egypt is not done yet. For a year and a half, the generals were in power, and people resented that. Now we’ve had free elections and a MB president. And we’ll have to see where the country goes. As I said before it is a process. And even Mubarak repressed at first (although not to the extent of Assad). The point is, that is what dictators do. They repress opposition with violence. That is a far cry from the way transitions of power operate in the the Europe, or Canada, or the USA (not to say those systems don’t have their faults).
    But eventually, dictators don’t go willingly. They are removed. Some with less bloodshed than others. But they never leave willingly. I don’t think Mubarak would have left if it was up to him. Same for Ben Ali. etc.

    Syria started off being a possible Egypt. The mostly (and i say mostly because there is always extremists and troublemakers who do cause violence, even in the west: see Greece…) peaceful protests went on for several MONTHS (longer than the entire Egyptian and Tunisian episodes combined) before things devolved into real armed conflict. Where were Assad’s reforms then? As we both agree, his reaction was to repress (just as Mubarak did), only unlike Mubarak, and Ben Ali who were fairly quickly pushed out by their own armed forces (basically), Assad refused to compromise.

    As I’ve argued before, this refusal to compromise is bigger than Assad the person. I postulate that this regime is incapable of doing so. Pure and simple. In Egypt and Tunisia, the armed forces as an institution hold sway and are “bigger” than the one dictator. When the armed forces decided to withdraw their cover for Mubarak and Ben Ali instead of repressing their people (for whatever tactical reasons, beyond the scope of this discussion), the dictators fell. In Syria, no such scenario is possible. The system is rigged entirely differently. The armed forces are not an institution in the sense that it is in Egypt. The system in Syria is a family system (which is why I laughed when somebody claimed there was no family dynasty in Syria). The party, the military, all that, are subsumed by the Assad clan which is ingrained into the very fabric of the regime. Which is why it is impossible, IMHO, for that regime to reform or change or let go. It is anathema. Without the Assads there is no regime. And without the regime, there is no Assads. They are one and the same. It simply does not work the way you and Camille want it to, IMO.

    As for the elections and all that. I recall the changes in the constitution being implemented after the crisis had turned from “demonstrations and protests” to “civil war”. As I said before, it’s a bit too late at this point to talk about reforms on paper. You can’t roll your tanks on people then ask them to come and vote. It just doesn’t work that way. And if I want to further nitpick at this: At least in Egypt, they had a referendum on the new constitution (flawed as that may have been). In Syria, Assad task his own people to amend the constitution and said “Here it is! This is much better. Take my word for it and come vote for me!”
    Were there discussions that included the opposition? Constitutional scholars? Was there an attempt at compromise? I don’t recall for sure, but I think what I read at the time was more of a “We won’t compromise. But here’s a new constitution someone just whipped up overnight that pays lip service to multiparty-ism (while still banning the MB, if I recall correctly)”.

    Posted by Bad Vilbel | October 1, 2012, 7:53 pm
  126. BV,
    As they say, “pissing in the wind”.Lol. It truly is amazing, the only way to understand the “I live in a bubble but claim everyone else is out of touch with reality” types is to empathize and perhaps watch SANA and Syrian TV, read Pro-regime publications etc. and see what they’ve been fed all along.

    Posted by Maverick | October 1, 2012, 8:18 pm
  127. All this nonsense with “I am not a regime supporter but I want Assad in power until a unicorn and two fairies come and create a peaceful transition” is just a poor substitute for: I in fact support a dictator because otherwise I think my family will be killed and our property will be confiscated. Or in Alex’s case: I in fact support Assad because otherwise what happened to the Christians of Iraq will happen to the Christians of Syria.

    And let’s be fair. Is anyone willing to say that he is certain that there will not be atrocities committed against the families of regime supporters after Assad falls? Or that the Christians will not be forced to leave by violence or other means? I think both events are distinct possibilities. My problem is not with Amal’s or Alex’ positions (qualified below). My problem is with the lack of clarity or honesty behind the argumentation.

    What I disagree with them fundamentally over is that it is clear to me that Syria under Assad is a dead end. So even under their preferred realistic scenario (let’s leave unicorn based scenarios out), they lose. The current regime cannot be rehabilitated and the more it sticks to power, the worse off Syria will end up.

    Posted by AIG | October 1, 2012, 8:40 pm
  128. AIG says:
    “My problem is not with Amal’s or Alex’ positions (qualified below). My problem is with the lack of clarity or honesty behind the argumentation.”

    This is exactly what I’m trying to say too. As I said earlier. I completely understand the fear. I just have a problem with people admitting that it is the only real issue here. As I said in an earlier post: Fear of Islamist Extremism is really the issue here. The rest is just noise and excuses.

    AIG says:
    “What I disagree with them fundamentally over is that it is clear to me that Syria under Assad is a dead end. So even under their preferred realistic scenario (let’s leave unicorn based scenarios out), they lose. The current regime cannot be rehabilitated and the more it sticks to power, the worse off Syria will end up.”

    Again. Agreed. This is what I was trying to say earlier. IMHO, Assad is incapable of reforming or relinquishing power. If he was capable of those things, it would be a different story. But at this stage, I don’t see a future for the regime in any shape or form. Best put one’s energies in working towards what comes after, and hopefully, these energies help prevent the nasty scenarios you describe (retaliation against regime supporters, Christian exodus, etc.)

    Again, I am no fan of either of those scenarios. Nor am I fan of the MB or the Salafis. Far from it. I despise what those two stand for. The only thing I am trying to convey here, is that those who are hoping to fend off the threats above by hanging on to Assad are deluding themselves. There’s got to be better ways to fend off the threat of Islamism. Hoping for Assad to hang on and reform is NOT going to be the answer. I am certain of that. And maybe we can look back at all this in 10 years and see if events prove me right or wrong…We’ll see.

    Posted by Bad Vilbel | October 1, 2012, 9:56 pm
  129. Somewhat related, an interesting take on things by Michael Young.

    (I don’t know if I buy the conspiracy theory about the assination of Shawakt being a regime job, but that is irrelevant to the meat of the article).

    Posted by Bad Vilbel | October 1, 2012, 10:05 pm
  130. This from Juan Cole;

    [sorry AP-He might be anti-imperialist but at least he doesn’t let any one off the hook especially the despots]

    “The polemicists of the fringe left and the far right who depict the Baathist regime in Syria as a beleagured victim of Western plotting may have to retool their noise machines. It turns out that the authoritarian government of Bashar joined with France to destroy Libya’s Muammar Qaddafi.”

    Posted by Maverick | October 1, 2012, 10:47 pm
  131. AIG and others
    Hiding ones sectarian and/or elitist-exceptionalism true self under a skin of nationalism is no longer easy in syria. Such dishonesty will stink a mile away.

    Posted by SYRIAN HAMSTER | October 2, 2012, 3:36 am
  132. Amal and Camille, here’s an interesting read for you from FP.

    Posted by Vulcan | October 2, 2012, 4:24 am
  133. sorry AP-He might be anti-imperialist but at least he doesn’t let any one off the hook especially the despots


    Juan Cole most certainly let the despots “off the hook”. If you want to learn about Juan Cole, go to Daniel Pipes’ Campus Watch and do a search on Juan Cole. The overwhelming majority of his articles are critical of the US and Israel. I couldn’t find anything critical of Syria and Baathist government there, nor of Iran.

    He’s bascially another in a long line of pro-resistance professors, sort of like Professor Josh (before a year and a half ago anyway).

    Posted by Akbar Palace | October 2, 2012, 6:57 am
  134. I have no idea when it will down on you that I don’t represent an elitist or “minority” in Syria… when will it down on you that my fears present the legitimate fears of most Syrians… you can call me names, you can accuse me of being afraid, well guess what: fear is the healthiest human instinct, it makes us calculate and think and deliberate our next move, instead of charging in on a lost battle… the humans survived because of their ability of devising solutions, thinking through them, not by charging head first. You know, it is always surprising for me, how all those opposition apologists never care to admit the real reason people don’t back them up, and instead change tactics into intimidation and blind accusations… sectarian??? really??? is that the best you can come up with??? well, even if I accepted that the present Syrian government is responsible of planting the seed of sectarianism in Syria, I will be damned if I accepted to replace it with the ripe fruits of these seeds… pure sectarianism…

    Posted by Amal Kassab | October 2, 2012, 9:01 am
  135. Vulcan. Thanks for the FP read about Petreaus and others’ thwarted efforts to engage with Assad about an area of mutual interest. The demented “poisonous snakes” inside the Bush administration once again let their ideological mission trump the security interests of the US and Syria.

    Posted by lally | October 2, 2012, 10:22 am
  136. Amal,

    You will be remembered by history as part of the group who was too scared. It takes a lot of courage to face a dictator and more importantly, the unknown… I guess you just don’t have it in you. Dictators feed on fear and they use it to maintain power. When they have been in power for 40 years, they instil fear through daily propaganda starting at childhood. You are the perfect product of the Assad totalitarian regime, too afraid to face the world without it’s oh so comforting “protection”. The brainwashing is strong within you. Assad would be proud, all those years were not in vain!

    Posted by saywhat? | October 2, 2012, 10:52 am
  137. Hamster,

    You are of course correct. But how do you deal with the numerous people that feel like Amal? You do need them for the future success of Syria. Can you in fact guarantee that the fate of he Christians in Syria would be different than that of those in Iraq?

    The majority of the Jews in Israel can be defined as sectarian, we want a Jewish state. We want a Jewish state for many reasons, but an important one is security. So I can understand how Amal feels. Now, I don’t play with words and define the state in which my sect is in control as a “non-sectarian” one.

    So take away the muddled thinking, distortion and irrelevant excuses, you are still left with millions of people in Syria that are not willing to risk what they have for the possibility of a better future. That is a legitimate concern even if the rhetoric supporting this position is lame.

    I think you have a challenge of convincing these people that the risk is not as big as they think.

    Posted by AIG | October 2, 2012, 10:58 am
  138. Nice debate. Quite a lot to read. Let me participate by linking to the following regarding jihadis in Syria.

    Posted by Pas Cool | October 2, 2012, 11:54 am
  139. Well Hamster, I believe it is a matter of choice, do I prefer to be referred to as one of the herd who was too afraid (or cautious as I prefer to name it) to join in the so called revolution? or do I prefer to be called the one who replaced a political dictator with an “Emir” who would rule the country “by the word of God” thereby throwing away not only the non existent political freedom, but also social and religious (or secular) freedoms as well… I choose the former, thank you very much…. I guess I’m traditional that way

    Posted by Amal Kassab | October 2, 2012, 12:26 pm
  140. But why are you assuming that those are you only 2 choices, Amal?
    If you start with that hypothesis, and assume those are the only 2 choices, then I’d also probably choose Assad over a Salafi Emir. No question.
    But I do not believe those are the only 2 choices. In fact, I remain convinced that the latter outcome is not remotely possible. It hasn’t happened in Egypt, it hasn’t happened in Libya and it won’t happen in Syria.
    I am convinced that the Salafi threat is exaggerated (by those who it benefits to have a bogeyman). I remain convinced that the Salafis and their ilk are still a minority (even if a vocal and violent one) and is not representative of the majority of Syrians, Egyptians or Libyans.
    Of course, you aren’t convinced. I get that. That’s what I’ve been trying to repeat ad nauseam.
    This bogeyman approach is exactly what dictators have done time and again, and the sad fact is it works. Christians in Lebanon are still convinced that the insidious plot is to naturalize Palestinians in Lebanon. Nothing I can say will change their mind. It led to a civil war.
    In fact, I am fairly certain that the mindset you are advocating is not at all very different from that of the Lebanese Christians circa 1975. And I think it’s going to lead to exactly what happened in Lebanon back then, in some form or the other.

    Regardless. You and I have a fundamental disagreement on account of the premise we are starting from.
    If I start with your premise that the only 2 choices are the Emir or Assad. Then your choice is easy. Can’t fault you there at all.
    My starting premise is different, however. I refuse to believe that the only alternative to Assad is a Taliban-style Emir. And so far, facts are on my side (we haven’t seen any emirs come out victorious anywhere just yet). If anything, we’re seeing that coming into power has a way of taking the edge of a lot of the demagoguery: The MB in Egypt has already toned down their stances and distanced themselves from the Salafis. They’ve agreed to respect international treaties (instead of calling for the destruction of Israel). Another good example is Hamas in Gaza. How quiet they’ve been in the past couple of years. The list goes on. There is no evidence, in my opinion, that your alternative to Assad is an extremist Salafi. I don’t think that can happen.

    Anyway…I’m done. Sorry for the rambling.

    Posted by Bad Vilbel | October 2, 2012, 1:18 pm
  141. What’s a political dictator ?! sounds like the soup Nazi to me 🙂

    Posted by Vulcan | October 2, 2012, 1:19 pm
  142. AIG
    You make a good point. However, for those pontificating from outside Syria (except for those who were made refugees by assad), I don’t care to deal with them, because they and I are irrelevant. I would strongly recommend that the young prof tries to find someone relevant to talk to.

    For those inside, the situation is far more complex than you and I can even imagine. Each person, as I have observed, takes a position that includes a wide spectrum of ideas, which will eventually accommodate the braves and the cowards. Yet, generally, I am told that regime loyalism is diminishing to those with direct interests, or to those who are so rigid and fully absorbed in their own justification that they really believe the crap they say, which only demonstrate their utter lack of rational and critical thinking. Much of the loyalism is being exaggerated through a very aggressive campaign on blog-posts and facebook fake pages and accounts, it even get comical in many instances. The interviewee is no stranger to that if one is to consider his earlier masterpieces of misleading statistics and scientifically flawed, yet pretty graphs.

    In reality, people in desire of order and safety may be angry at the revolution. especially those who may have encountered one or more of the bad apples within armed groups. Yet, the level of regime criminality is out there fore all to see, and notwithstanding events here and there that may increase the hyperventilation of people like said propagandists, most people i have talked to have the proper perspective on what is happening and on who is responsible for the tragedy. Rarely I had encountered those who would argue with a straight face that the regime is only acting in self defense and not in vengeful evilness. This, of course, is from a a very tilted and biased sample, say those who have a relative murdered, tortured, raped, or have been made refugees. Even within this biased sample, I have heard people cussing at FSA, but most recognize that the very radical jihadi elements will eventually be isolated and rejected.

    That said, I may be arrogant, but I am not stupid to tell you and others that my writing represents “most Syrians”.

    Posted by SYRIAN HAMSTER | October 2, 2012, 2:49 pm
  143. AIG
    I don’t think I answered your questions. Didn’t i tell you how irrelevant and really disconnected we all are.

    Posted by SYRIAN HAMSTER | October 2, 2012, 3:02 pm
  144. The current regime (it is not the Assad regime) is bad

    Not smart, not smart at all, not even smooth.

    Posted by SYRIAN HAMSTER | October 2, 2012, 3:22 pm
  145. well of course there will be only 2 choices left if you discard diplomacy, which is so far the opposition’s stronghold… you are left with one camp failing.. and if you work a little less on discarding the crucial details of this so called revolution, you would admit that Saudi Arabia has an actual investment of hundreds of millions in this revolution, and if and when their camp wins, it is bound to ask for a return… or is it a charity????? so I hope you work less on your sarcasm and more on your logic for the next posts… because frankly I am having difficulty in finding a backbone to your logic…

    Posted by Amal Kassab | October 2, 2012, 3:52 pm
  146. Amal,

    Here’s some logic:

    1.) The Assad Family controlled Syria for over 40 years. Under their rule…

    2.) … 50,000+ Syrians have been killed by other Syrians.

    3.) …the Golan is still occupied.

    4.) …Syrians never had basic human rights.

    5.) …poverty has become endemic (GDP ~$5000/yr).

    But if you’re “OK” with Assad rule just like Professor Josh and Camille were, then it becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy.

    Believe it or not, a year and a half ago, a large group of Syrians decided it was time for change, after 40+ years of pain.


    Did you find that “logical”, or are we still chasing “terrorists”?

    Posted by Akbar Palace | October 2, 2012, 4:33 pm
  147. still talking about the past.. and nothing about the future… when will you wake up????

    Posted by Amal Kassab | October 2, 2012, 4:42 pm
  148. The future is the Muslim Brotherhood or Zimbabwe and a small chance of Syria breaking up. And that is the future because of the past. If for 40 years you only let people congregate inside mosques, what do you expect the result to be? And as BV pointed out, the MB are not as bad as you make them to be.

    You somehow think that a liberal democracy can spring out of nowhere when for 40 years the Assads made sure to kill any party or institution of this type.

    If only half the Syrian Sunnis support the MB, that will be enough for the MB to be in power. No one has the organization skills, institutions and funding sources to beat them in fair elections. The alternative to this, is civil war. You should not be happy about this, but it is not a catastrophe as we see in Egypt.

    Posted by AIG | October 2, 2012, 5:00 pm
  149. it is a matter of opinion really how bad the MBs really are.. but you do see why we are left with only 2 options here… finally

    Posted by Amal Kassab | October 2, 2012, 5:07 pm
  150. I saw this 5 years ago, ask Alex.

    I hope you realize that while your position is legitimate, it is highly cynical. You are saying to the opposition that since the Assads have succeeded in nipping in the bud any democratic initiative in Syria, the Assad regime should stay in power.

    Posted by AIG | October 2, 2012, 5:17 pm
  151. Holy crap. I’m getting dizzy just re-reading the same stuff being rehashed ad-nauseum.

    On the Pro-Assad camp:

    And let there be no sophistry on whether or not the stance is technically Pro-Assad versus Anti-Opposition. The lie that his group represents the secular stream really has to stop. His primary backers are the very religious- and extremist- grouping leading Iran. And let’s not forget the fact that he was more than happy to facilitate the wave of Jihadis in Iraq, that are now apparently troubling him so much.

    Also, the whole myth of women rights is getting quite tiresome. I don’t think Syria has any less incidence of “honor” killings than nearby Jordan or “ostensibly Secular” Turkey. And the friendly Iranians soiled many a woman’s face in the inception of the regime, not to mention the adulteresses stoned by friendly locals. So please, just stop. It’s quite insulting to peoples’ intelligence.

    On the Anti-Assad camp:

    There is no proof yet that what will emerge post Assad will be anything palatable. And whatever the case may be, the process of going from there to here is and has been very destructive to the country.. Necessary pains? Perhaps. But let there be no illusion that it does in fact take two to tango. And the fact that the Opposition is getting its support and arms from some nefarious sources doesn’t bode particularly well.

    Take whatever stand you want, but the ensuing destruction is the responsibility of all parties in the conflict. Not just the regime.

    Mursi and Erdogan stood together some days back hailing Turkey as a model to be followed. Well alright. Let them lead by example. There’s a lot of work to be done, and a rather offensive lack of leadership coming from Turkey- ever so eager to set the path. They should spend less time talking about how they are equivalent to the Christian democrats in Germany, and more time working and resolving the Jihadi blight in the region. Perhaps a good place to start is the wanton destruction of shrines in Timbuktu, or the recent and never ending spate of bombings of churches in Nigeria.

    The state of the Middle East and the areas around is quite shameful. And to date, it isn’t obvious at all whether democracy or the lack thereof is in fact an antidote. Nations, that have long been “democratic” on paper are no less basket-case societies than nations that are not democratic.

    Posted by Gabriel | October 2, 2012, 5:20 pm
  152. Amal,

    I still don’t get how you came up with only those 2 options. Assad or Emir Taliban Salafi.
    I point you once again to Egypt. Not saying it’s perfect. But it certainly did NOT turn out to be the Salafi hell you are predicting.
    Your last comment made no sense. How are you saying that I am the one failing to see the only 2 options, when I keep pointing you to a third one that is actually unfolding before us in Egypt today? Concrete evidence. Egypt is neither in the midst of civil war, nor is it under the thumb of Mubarak. Nor is it controlled by extremist Salafis.
    Granted, the book isn’t closed on that yet. But so far, signs are that you have more than 2 options. I do not buy that the ONLY alternative to Assad is the Syrian Taliban. There simply are not enough Syrians who support that view of the world, no matter how many billions of dollars the Saudis are pouring into it.
    That is just not going to happen.

    Posted by Bad Vilbel | October 2, 2012, 6:21 pm
  153. Gabriel,

    I don’t see why you expect Turkey to solve Timbuktu and Nigeria’s problems.
    And Morsi is doing his best to manage a transition in his own country. He’s in no position to dictate Syria or anywhere else.
    I am not MB supporter, and I may come to regret saying this, but so far the Egyptian transition to democracy has not been as bad as all the naysayers predicted.
    The MB appears to have moderated for now. The extremist Salafis are a minority who did not, contrary to the alarmist beliefs of people like Amal, take over Egypt and impose Sharia on everyone.
    Sure, Egypt is nowhere near being done or being in great shape. But things look at least somewhat promising, for the time being.

    Posted by Bad Vilbel | October 2, 2012, 6:24 pm
  154. BV:

    The Western world has been, for the last few decades, solving “all sorts of peoples’ problems”. From liberating the Shia of Iraq, to helping the Bosnians/Albanians against the horrible Serbs. From “liberating” the women of Afghanistan, to opining on Darfur (but not doing much there).

    I don’t expect much from the Turks. But if they are eager on taking on a “leadership” role, and being a model, they can at least start acting like it. {pourquoi pas!? )

    As far as the “Egyptian” transition is concerned. There won’t be much to say about it for quite some time. You are not in a position to say it is as bad or not as bad as naysayers said. Give it a few years, and we can revisit the point.

    However, given the recent kerfuffle over a silly movie, and the fact that many MB’s spent an awful lot of time in jail for “expressing opinions”, it may be worth noting the reaction of Mursi to the story:

    Mursi added that he had spoken to US President Barack Obama and asked him “to put an end to such behaviour.”

    “Put an end to such behaviour”… meaning what? Throw them in jail perhaps? Mubarak style?

    Also, it seems, well after the “Arab Spring”, the Egyptian prosecutor is going to try- in absentia- some coptic movie makers. ..

    When Egypt becomes a country where you truly have human rights, and can say whatever the hell you damn well please to say, then we can talk about wheere Egypt is heading. Until then, the best we can say is that governance in the Middle East is like gelato. The same cream base, just with different flavors.

    Posted by Gabriel | October 2, 2012, 6:58 pm
  155. Egypt is a far cry from even beginning to understand what “Freedom of expression” the way we have it in the USA means. This is a cultural thing, in many ways. And it goes for most of the Arab world, as a matter of fact.
    But this is neither here nor there. My point was about managing a political transition that’s somewhat peaceful and how the fall of Mubarak did not lead to some kind of Salafi takeover (at least not yet, as far as we can tell).
    You’re distracting from that fact, bringing up a movie and a telephone call from Morsi to Obama (which, I might add, is of no consequence whatsoever as far as the situation on the ground is concerned).

    I was not anywhere comparing the Egyptian culture and legal system to that in the US. There are laws against hate speech in Germany and most of Europe. They differ a lot from what Americans consider a sacred right. None of this has anything to do with the civil war in Syria and nobody is suggesting that Germany is a dictatorship for having anti-hate laws. Are they?

    Posted by Bad Vilbel | October 2, 2012, 7:20 pm
  156. By the way, anyone wanna comment on the news today of alleged Hezbollah fighters being killed in Syria? Gotta love the Al Manar description “died while performing their Jihad duties”…Good one.
    One has to wonder what these Jihad duties are exactly. Even offiically. I mean, HA does not acknowledge having fighters in Syria. Yet it acknowledges 2 men died performing Jihad duties. So according to HA, if not in Syria, where would these Jihad duties profess to be? Lebanon? Palestine? What is HA doing performing Jihad in Lebanon? Or Palestine? If the latter, why aren’t they trumpeting their performing an operation against the “Zionist Enemy”? Because of course, we all know HA has no presence in Syria. Right?
    Oh, i bet these 2 guys were performing Jihad duties in Timbuktu and Nigeria!

    Posted by Bad Vilbel | October 2, 2012, 7:25 pm
  157. BV…

    Egypt is a far cry from even beginning to understand what “Freedom of expression” the way we have it in the USA means. This is a cultural thing, in many ways. And it goes for most of the Arab world, as a matter of fact.

    Two points.

    First, why are you here complaining about violations of human rights in Syria, in what is ultimately a violation of the right of free expression. After all, I doubt the regime in Syria was throwing people in jail if they kept their mouths shut on the question of the regime itself and its machinations! You seem rather resigned to the fact that lack of freedom of expression in the Arab world is a “given”, and is a cultural thing! Why even argue about the state of affair re: Syria at all. Who’s setting low expectations now?

    Also, I don’t know what the state of Hate laws in Germany is. I don’t know if they uniquely have laws against Jew bashing and Holocaust denial, given their history. Or if their “Anti-Hate” laws are in fact universal.

    By all means:- let Egypt instate anti-Hate laws. Though I fail to see how the movie falls into the hate category. If they want to do that, let Mursi grow some balls and throw this gentleman in jail:

    for what is a clear propagation of hate.

    To date, and from what little I’ve read from what’s been written, you seem to have given the Egyptian spring a passing grade for maintaining its treaty with Israel. That’s hardly a good metric.

    Second, if Egypt is a “Far Cry” from beginning to understand what freedom of expression means, then you are conceding wittingly that you are taking a gamble. A gamble that in time, this Far Cry may become only a Close Cry. That’s a leap of faith.

    A year on, and both camps are still arguing around those same essential points. Minus AIG’s interjections that as long as Bashar kissed the Emir or the US’s ass a little better, that perhaps economically Syria would be better, and a wealthier people would not rebel.

    Posted by Gabriel | October 2, 2012, 10:06 pm
  158. People still argue, quite sincerely, what the result of the French Revolution 1789 WILL be. I’m amused how some people look at Egypt, Tunisia and Libya saying, “Look at those countries! Has overthrowing the regime been beneficial to people there? Extremists are taking hold of those countries!”

    And this barely a year later. Makes one wonder how shortsighted we as humans can be.

    Posted by Pas Cool | October 3, 2012, 12:16 am
  159. Not necessarily Gabriel,

    Hyper-Centralized power [if there is such an expression] has taken a good beating thanks to the ‘Arab Spring’. Authorities and power pockets are taking note of the influential and highly effective popular “intifadas”. For the first time, The Arab Street vented their frustration on the local authorities and not the usual suspects [Imbereliyi] and have caused tangible changes. This means that the incumbents and the future governors are forced to be wary of this surprising new element. This translates into accountability, and more participation from the population no matter who comes to power. This is not a general replacing a general, a dictator overthrowing another, this is a paradigm shift and new mode of thinking. Hyper centralized power is so yesterday, the people are moving on.

    Posted by Maverick | October 3, 2012, 12:54 am
  160. Gotta love the Al Manar description “died while performing their Jihad duties”…Good one.

    Bad Vibel,

    From my perspective, “Jihad duties” must be a code-word for killing their own people, because that is what’s happening from Algeria to Afghanistan.

    Of course, the “resistance professionals” like Chomsky, Finkelstein, Cole, Cook and others are totally blind to it.

    Posted by Akbar Palace | October 3, 2012, 8:52 am
  161. Maverick.

    All true. But still today we cannot tell whether Libya or Egypt or or will be a place of Freedoms. Freedom of thought/freedom of expression.

    All we know is that the populations are taking on hypercentralized [earthly, sic] power- and winning. Which is a positive development. And we know government will be more accountable. Which is a positive development. And most importantly, voters will now be accountable to the governments they put in power. Which is the most positive development of all.

    Posted by Gabriel | October 3, 2012, 9:42 am
  162. You guys completely distorted what I was getting at. I am NOT giving Egypt a free pass. I am 100% behind full human rights, freedom of expression, freedom of religion, and everything else generally encompassed by the terms “human rights” in this day and age.

    I’m just stating this here for the record, because my words are being taken a bit out of context.

    The point I was making with Egypt is specifically to counter Manal’s claim that there are only 2 options for Syria: Assad or an extremist Salafi type takeover. I used Tunisia and Egypt as examples to point out that those are not necessarily the only 2 options (dictatorship of a self-styled secular type vs. dictatorship of an Islamist Extremist type).

    I have repeatedly claimed that Egypt is far from done with its evolution. And that none of us know how it’s all going to end. But that for now, it is clear that there is a certain moderation in place, with the MB having come to power (despite the horrible bogeyman fear mongering we heard about that last year). I don’t see why the same couldn’t happen in Syria. Manal makes it sound like if Assad fall, it’s the Taliban who will be taking over, and will be amputating and decapitating anyone that opposes them right away. I don’t buy that.

    If anything, we’ve seen that power has a way of moderating demagogues to some extent.

    That was my central point. Then we went off on a tangent about Morsi calling Obama to complain about the video and all that jazz. That was not really the point. Nor was it relevant to the discussion. And I was clear in saying that despite Egypt having turned out (so far) not to be a Taliban takeover, it (and the rest of the Arab world) have a LONG way to go when it comes to understanding what freedom of expression really means. And this latter point – to go on my own little tangent – is NOT limited to the extremists, nor is it limited to those in power. It is a cultural thing, IMHO. We’ve seen average civilians in all Arab countries, flip a lid and take offense at what they perceive to be an insult, specially when it comes to religion. That is the way of the middle eastern Arabs. That ingrained notion that certain topics or personalities are “taboo” and should not be spoken of. This has nothing to do with Morsi, or the MB or the Salafis. It’s a trait we’ve seen in every idiot who’s gone on the street and burned tires or vandalized shops because someone insulted “his idol”. It’s a trait I see whenever I hear chants of “Bi Rouh, Bi Dam, Nafdika so-and-so”. That blind sheeplike mentality that is anathema to free speech. We’ve seen people vandalize because a sketch on a TV show made fun of Hassan Nassrallah (not a prophet, i might add). We’ve seen militiamen attack peaceful protesters protesting in front of an embassy. We’ve seen people victimized for expressing opinions that are taboo on topics as far ranging as peace with the evil little Satan to homosexuality). We’ve seen governments, even the “liberal” Lebanon, ban movies deemed “taboo” (and I’m not even talking about ones that insult a religion here).
    Any of you who are familiar with how sacred the first amendment is in the USA would understand how far the entire Arab world is from even understanding that concept, let alone applying its tenets in governance and laws.

    Posted by Bad Vilbel | October 3, 2012, 12:35 pm
  163. So this has predictably turned into a slam-fest against Camille. But no alternative solutions are presented, only vague notions of the heavily Islamist opposition movement not being “that bad”, and potentially “as good” as what we have in Egypt.

    Some people simply don’t buy it for obvious reasons, and won’t surrender to the Muslim Brotherhood and their Salafist ilk for any reasons at all. But their rule is the inevitable outcome of a defeat of the Syrian government.

    Don’t fool yourselves. There is no moral high ground in this conflict. But all you have to do is skim over the posts of the Zionists here to see what is best for the Arabs. Which is the opposite of whatever they present.

    Posted by Habib | October 3, 2012, 1:30 pm
  164. Who said we don’t have freedom of speech In Lebanon? You can curse Allah anytime you want! Just ask anyone from Baalbek or the Beqaa valley and they have a whole colorful list of curses, best uttered with that special drawl to sound genuinely upset. also i remember at one time you needed to do that to be considered cool in the Bohemian, Gitane smoking, Leftist, Jonoseekwa crowd in Beirut.


    Posted by Vulcan | October 3, 2012, 1:57 pm
  165. Anything that ends with a hood shouldnt be in power, but what can we do now? we have only Abdel Nasser, the Assads, Sadams and all who refused to make peace with the Jewish hood to blame and they are all dead now.

    Posted by Vulcan | October 3, 2012, 2:08 pm
  166. Talk about predictable…Habib’s comment.

    Posted by Bad Vilbel | October 3, 2012, 2:09 pm
  167. Lol, I anticipated that reply. And I expect more of the whining and wishful thinking espoused here so far.

    It’s time to be realistic. Even if you wanted to implement free speech and human rights in the Middle East, you’d have to use force.

    Bashar won’t regain control over all of the country. If he is ousted, it won’t matter anyway, he’s just a front.

    What can this lead to other than secession?

    Posted by Habib | October 3, 2012, 2:20 pm
  168. No arguments there, Habib. But we’re having a conversation about realistic possible outcomes, options, etc. Your second comment is fair. Your first comment was a predictable regurgitating of platitudes and brought nothing of substance to the conversation. Sorry.

    I kind of agree that the ME needs a bit of force to implement some of the basic tenets the rest of us almost take for granted in the West and elsewhere. But the real question is “force by who and against who”? Brutal repression, be it from a self-styled secular (who really is really sectarian, if one thinks about it) is no different than repression by religious zealots.

    I think at this point, that discussion is a bit moot though. “Freedom of speech” is not what is at stake today. I’m not saying it’s not important. It very much is. But I don’t think the Syrian civilians, neutral, or on either side of the conflict, give a hoot about that right this very moment. They are a bit more concerned about massacres, abductions, bombs and shelling. I think that’s a bigger concern today.

    Posted by Bad Vilbel | October 3, 2012, 4:05 pm
  169. So this has predictably turned into a slam-fest against Camille. But no alternative solutions are presented…It’s time to be realistic.


    As one of those Zionists, we unfortuantely have a genetic habit of telling people what is best for themselves. Please try to be tolerant and understand this is just one of our many cultural flaws. One way of looking at this positively, is that we do it out of caring. It’s part of that whole “Tikkun Olam” (fixing the world) thing.

    So yes, the Camille “slam-fest” was a much needed by-product in response to an individual who tirelessly supported the Assad regime year-after-year along with his intellectual guru Professor Josh. Now, for some strange reason, Brown University Assistant professors are interviewing him. This is a real brain-twister. They may as well interview Captain Kangeroo.

    If the Arab world can go BALLISTIC over the Hezbo/Gaza/Sabra-Shatilla operations (and why shouldn’t they) where about 1500/1500/800 were killed by Israel and Phalange units, then why wouldn’t they go ATOMIC when tens of thousands are killed and whole cities destroyed?

    The solution is an interim government where security and free elections are implemented ASAP.

    Posted by Akbar Palace | October 3, 2012, 4:08 pm
  170. BV,

    I don’t think that Camille, and the rest really believe the choice is between the Taliban and Assad. If they did, it would hardly be worth spending any effort arguing any points.

    I grew up in the Khaleej, where there was a short list of Taboo topics: Sex, Government and Religion. You can take these 3 topics and they are the same three taboo topics in pretty much every country in the middle east. Lebanon excepted- so we don’t make Vulcan angry. These topics are taboo whether or not there is democracy. I would argue- and take sides with Camille on this particular question. Democracy makes the issue worse. Because it somehow justifies the “tabooness” by hiding it behind the excuse of popular sentiment. Rights are universal though, or at least ought to be so.

    The Arab world is breaching one of the barriers that made one of these- Government. We saw it in Tunis, in Egypt, in Libya, and in Syria. That’s good news. I like Maverick’s description of it. The people aren’t taking it from Hyper-Centralized power. Although, they’re still take it from Uber-Hyper-Centralized-Power: God. That wall hasn’t been breached, and sadly won’t be breached for some time to come.

    We did in fact learn a fair amount from Egypt. And yes, Egypt is not Syria, but it never hurts to draw lessons: We learned that there were elections, and that people voted. We learned that 20% or thereabouts do in fact support Salafis (they voted for the “Nour Party”). So we know that worst-case, because Syria is far more diverse- in a population of 20 million, we can count on there being at most 4 million Salafis being bottled up by the regime.

    We know that 50% of the population were still highly conservative, and leaned towards the MB. This should be no surprise, it is the same story everywhere in the Middle East:- Palestine, Syria, Turkey, and on and on.

    And we know that between them, the liberals, and the minorities cannot muster more than 30% of the vote.

    The MB are not the Salafis. They have a more modern face. And more eloquent representations. They have some pretty-boy representatives, who speak French and English, and tour American campuses, a la Tariq Ramadan. Their leaders spent a substantial amount of time in London and in Paris. And one hopes, that the forces of Osmosis taught them good manners:- like protecting minorities, promoting multi-culturalism, respecting viewpoints.

    Mursi is irrelevant. But he is now elected leader of Egypt. And every issue that pops up in Egypt is a chance for him to show how he steers the country. To date, we’ve learnt the following: He’s still in a power play with the army. He understands the importance of relations with the West. He’s maintaining a Peace accord with Israel.

    But will he be transformative?

    Will Assad’s replacement be transformative?

    My sense is that Camille and co believe the answer to the question is No.

    Posted by Gabriel | October 3, 2012, 11:23 pm
  171. Gabriel.

    Very well said. You kind of summed up in a more succinct way what I had been rambling about re: Egypt, MB, Salafis, etc.

    Posted by Bad Vilbel | October 4, 2012, 12:41 pm
  172. Gabriel,

    Any time the citizens can to steer their own country and elect their own leaders instead of 40+ years of being held hostage, it is “transformative”.

    That is why Camille and the Professor are wrong.

    Posted by Akbar Palace | October 4, 2012, 1:48 pm
  173. Gabriel,

    Good analysis, but still the conclusion summarized is ” because we don’t know the outcome, let’s keep the status Quo” which means ” Assad or Armageddon” to a lot of people especially Camille and Co. I believe AP said it succinctly in the above post. The wall of fear that broke down in the Arab Spring is “trans-formative enough”, no matter the outcome, we should have viewed this phenomena as an end in itself.

    Posted by Maverick | October 4, 2012, 7:44 pm
  174. Also, IMHO The Islamic threat is overblown much like the Red peril during the Cold War. Yes it exists, there is a rise in Islamic/conservative/traditional fervor in the ME but this group generally speaking makes compromises once elected into power. Also, some points to consider;
    1) Islam is seen as a common denominator and a tool for recruitment rather than an ideological goal for a lot of these brigades/groups.
    2) Recruits are taking on an Islamic demeanor and “look” to fit in, or fit in an identity even though they are not religious themselves.
    3) The funding channels favor the Islamists, so naturally The groups will market themselves accordingly.
    4) The Jihadis have nothing to lose, in fact they thrive in these circumstances and this is why they are on the frontlines and why the media seem to be attracted to them. The rest of the common folk/secularists are too busy fighting for their daily bread and the protection of their families to be entrenched in the sandbags.

    In other words, It is not all doom and gloom as the pro-regimer’s would like you to believe.

    I really do believe there is NOT going to be a Salafi, even Islamic take over of Syria and that the Syrians will usher in a balanced Government and start afresh. The extreme Islamic elements will disintegrate leaving the more refined , perhaps Egypt/Turkey style MB to the forefront.

    Posted by Maverick | October 4, 2012, 8:02 pm
  175. Gabe says: “Will Assad’s replacement be transformative?

    My sense is that Camille and co believe the answer to the question is No.”

    Yes, and they are trying to tippy-toe around the question: Will Assad’s staying be transformative?

    The answer to which should be obvious to the lame brained.

    Other comment: The fact that 1/2 the comments on this thread are about why x left Syria, their daily state of mind, women’s and gay rights is another sign of the poor quality of thinking and focus in our region. Yes, those “pretty boys” and “girls” who speak French and English are babbling about fashionable issues that are currently way below basic rights. The region needs to go from A to B, the right not to be bombed and tortured by your own government, and and they talking about V in the sequence.

    Posted by OldHand | October 5, 2012, 1:54 am
  176. The following link, IMHO, is THE reason why the “despots” never chose freedom, democracy, and peace and always opted for “resistance” (aka holding the people hostage):

    Because with peace and freedom (and no external enemy), they don’t have the excuse they need for not tackling the difficult problems in their respective country…–sector.html

    Egypt’s President Morsi is a great example. Personally, I think he’s a shining light to what the Arab world can do, but the problems will take a lot of time to fix. As time passes, the Egyptian people will decide to stick with him or vote for another leader. What a great idea!

    I’m ready for Hope and Change: Mitt Romney!

    Posted by Akbar Palace | October 5, 2012, 8:38 am
  177. Old Hand.

    The answer to which should be obvious to the lame brained.


    Yes, I think the answer to that is rather obvious. Which is why I am not entirely sure why these conversations keep going on.

    Posted by Gabriel | October 5, 2012, 11:07 am
  178. Thx Gabe.

    Indeed, conversations keep going and going, and branching into irrelevant stuff which is the very reason nothing ever gets resolved.

    Posted by OldHand | October 5, 2012, 11:17 am
  179. For some levity now:

    Anyone else here the irony in an Israeli (AP) singing the praises of a MB president of Egypt? 🙂

    (Could anyone have pictured an Israeli praising the MB, say, 10 years ago?)

    Posted by Bad Vilbel | October 5, 2012, 12:28 pm
  180. The comments are overwhelmingly written by males, who never take into account that just as in 1979 Iran, the Tunisian, Libyan and Egyptian revolutions have given rights to the “Islamists minority”, at the expense of the “Females minority” (if it can be called a minority, as they may very well be the majority, if good statistics could be available).
    Any idea why no Western newspapers runs regular interviews (even anonymously presented) with people from the three countries who have had an “Arab spring”?

    Posted by Mona | October 5, 2012, 2:30 pm
  181. “Could anyone have pictured an Israeli praising the MB, say, 10 years ago?)”

    How about ten weeks ago??

    Posted by danny | October 5, 2012, 3:21 pm
  182. Mona,

    Are you suggesting the “Islamists” are minorities? And if so, how did they win the elections.

    Also, are there in your view, no female “Islamists”?

    Posted by Gabriel | October 5, 2012, 4:28 pm
  183. While it is true that most commenters here are male, I don’t think that anyone is overlooking women and their rights here. I have personally said I am not a fan of the MB or islamists (or any religion-ist) in general. And I know others have voiced similar opinions here as well.
    I disagree that nobody is conducting interviews with women in Egypt or Tunisia. In fact, not a week goes by when I don’t hear or read a story on NPR tackling exactly that subject. (That just happens to be one of the things I listen to on my way to work, but I am sure there are other outlets there interested in that fact).
    The rights of women were never open for discussion here. What was being discussed was whether some people (in this case it was Manal) were willing to admit that they valued their specific right (women’s or Christian minorities, or whathaveyou) to the point where they were willing for it to be at the expense of other people’s basic rights.

    I wish people had the basic decency to at least admit that “I am so concerned about my rights as a woman that I’m ok having others tortured, disappeared or worse”.

    The rights of women have been abysmal in most of the Arab world for a long time, and this has included the so-called “secular” regimes. To suddenly get all alarmist about the rise of Islamists is disingenuous. Women under Mubarak were not allowed to divorce their husbands, even in cases of abuse. I believe they were not even allowed to leave the country without the permission of their husband or male relative. Does that sound a lot better to you than this Islamist-bogeyman you people keep trotting out?

    Someone above said it well when they said that people are too worried about bombs landing on their heads and that of their children these days to be worried about whether a woman has the right to go out unaccompanied under Assad or not.

    I really do get the concern, because I myself abhor religious extremists of all kinds and find them to be sinister and anathema to everything I hold dear, including rights that I almost take for granted when I’m in the civilized world (not the ME). But I think that we need to step back and get a bit of perspective before throwing out “women’s rights” as the main issue here.

    Speaking of rights that I almost take for granted…how about this story I just read?

    This kind of stuff makes me boil. The fact that there are even people who conceivably defend such behavior (no matter what the excuse, I honestly don’t care!).

    Posted by Bad Vilbel | October 5, 2012, 4:30 pm
  184. I hit submit too fast… Wanted to add: I’m sure those NOW journalists (women, both of them) felt their women’s rights (not to mention their human rights to travel in their own country) were being upheld and respected during that entire incident. Right?

    Posted by Bad Vilbel | October 5, 2012, 4:31 pm
  185. BV, “Women under Mubarak were not allowed to divorce their husbands, even in cases of abuse. I believe they were not even allowed to leave the country without the permission of their husband or male relative. ” These laws were amended more than 10 years ago, under Mubarak (but part of the MB and Salafis are trying to change them now).
    I do not believe your statement about programs on NPR where you claim to hear weekly the voices of women from Egypt, Libya and Tunisia and their views of the evolution of their countres since the revolution. Any link to provide? What about the rest of the society? Any interviews in newspapers, except for a few statement when there’s a bomb or a riot?
    Gabriel, I called the Islamists a minority because they presented themselves as the only people who were oppressed, just smashing outside the revolutionary picture every single group: religious minorities, women, workers, etc.
    They won elections by a very little margin, in Egypt, and if you look at the figures, you will be amazed at the numbers who did not make it to the polls, especially when you consider there would supposedly be a fine for people who failed to vote.,_2011%E2%80%932012 (54% turnout),_2012 (43% turnout for the 1st round)
    In the 1st round, Morsi was just 1 percent above the former regime’s candidate, Shafiq, and 4 percent ahead of the Nasserian Sabbahi. So one cannot say that an overwhelming Islamist majority has signed a blank check to Morsi. Just read the Egyptian newspapers these days and the problems around the constitution and the rights of women. Not to mention that just in the last 2 days, two kids of 9 and 10 were released from a jail where they have spent a week for “insult to Islam” and same for a Coptic teacher after it was found the student who accused him of blasphemy was not even in class the day of the supposed incident.
    As for “women Islamists”, you cannot expect them to represent a significant number of votes: hardcore Islamists do not vote, do not believe in voting system and are against demonstrations.
    As for Libya, they had elections but still have no government.

    Posted by Mona | October 5, 2012, 5:13 pm
  186. What is your point Mona? I get what you are saying, but it’s not “big picture” here. Are you trying to tell us that yes, women in Egypt and the rest of the Arab world are facing oppression under islamists? I think we all know that. No one was arguing that point.

    Are you arguing that this fear of islamists is enough reason to back a dictatorship that is doing much worse things to men/women/children, as long as YOU are protected? If that’s what you’re doing, then I have no sympathy.

    Two wrongs never make a right. Trying to argue that dictatorship is ok because at least your women’s rights are somewhat more protected (although your right to freedom of speech, or personal safety aren’t) is a moot point. We’re wasting time and space arguing this.

    If I am however, misunderstanding your point, then please elaborate.

    Posted by Bad Vilbel | October 5, 2012, 5:41 pm
  187. And for the record, no one (well, i speak for myself, but i don’t think i’ve seen anyone disagreeing so far) is defending Morsi’ record so far in jailing coptic protesters, or whathaveyou.
    I have no love for anyone that impinges on my freedom of speech and beliefs. This is why I choose to live in the US, and no longer in the ME (where I lived for half of my life). I argued in an earlier post that we Arabs have a cultural predisposition for not being tolerant (And this includes non islamists too). We have a LONG way to go before we even begin to understand what freedom of expression really means, what true democracy (including the protection of minorities from the rule of a majority) truly means.
    I promise you, if you poll 1000 people on the streets of Beirut, Cairo, Damascus, etc. about the definition of democracy, the vast majority are most likely to give you a definition about rule of majority and “having free elections”. Concepts such as “Tyranny of the majority” and “freedom of speech” are not as widely understood as people like to think.
    But I digress. This was originally a discussion about Camille’s/QN’s conversation regarding Syria and the viability of the Assad regime.
    How it got turned into a debate about women’s rights is beyond me.
    Are women’s rights important? Of course.
    Does the ME (including Syria and Egypt) still need a long way to go for women’s rights? Of course.
    Are islamists a threat to women’s rights? Yes. Absolutely (And they’re also a threat to other rights).
    Does any of this excuse supporting the Assad regime? IMHO, NO. That is what this discussion boils down to.

    Posted by Bad Vilbel | October 5, 2012, 5:51 pm
  188. Mona…

    None of that post made any sense to me whatsoever.

    What are you reading in the Wiki Links? That the MB enjoyed 44%+ in parliamentary elections, and that the Nour enjoyed 25%+? Those are the numbers I presented earlier. There is no disconnect there.

    Are the MB not “Islamists”?

    Then you say that “hardcore” Islamists don’t vote, and that the voter turnout was a little over 50%. So what’s your point? That the MB is even more popular than the polls suggest? or that the Salafis are even more popular than the votes suggest?

    You brought up the Islamist revolution in Iran, and rights of women there. Women were throwing acid on other women’s faces back in 1979. Newsflash. The regime in Syria supported the revolution there. Have you spent the last decade sending letters to your local Baathist representative asking him to get Syria distanced from the Iranian regime? Or did you do nothing?

    You bring up the fact that Copts got arrested for “insulting Islam”. So? Would you not be arrested for insulting Islam in Syria?

    And like I brought up to Alex many eons ago. What did the Assads do to end crimes of honor in Syria?

    Posted by Gabriel | October 5, 2012, 6:12 pm
  189. I’ll say this, which I said to Manal as well: It sounds to me like all this is just excuses born out of a sense of personal fear. Some people are scared at a direct personal level, of how they or their friends will be affected by a change in regime. Be it Christians, be it women, be it other minorities. And I completely understand that fear. As others pointed out, it is, in fact, very real. But let’s have the frankness to say that these comments are simply sectarian fears, not some kind of purported enlightened “rights” movement.

    People who really believe in women’s rights, universally, do so unconditionally.
    People who really believe in freedom of speech and religion, do so unconditionally.

    If you really are about women’s rights, then you should be, as Gabriel points out, crusading for women’s rights no matter who the offender is. Assad’s ally Iran. Hezbollah. Mubarak. The MB. The Salafis. The Saudi regime, the Assad regime. Everyone. It smacks of double standards and self-interest when people bring up such causes only when they feel threatened personally, while siding with dictators who infringe on other people’s rights.

    The same goes for those afraid of Christian rights in Syria (and Lebanon) being taken away.
    The same goes for those afraid of Palestinian rights in occupied land being taken away.

    Such rights should be universal. You don’t get to pick and choose where it’s ok to abrogate them. Supporting a brutal Assad regime because he protects you is exactly the same as an Israeli Jew supporting a brutal Israeli regime because it protects her from the Arab demographic threat. Isn’t it?

    By this logic, if you truly believe in this approach, then you should have absolutely zero beef with the Israelis for brutally repressing the Gaza and WB Palestinians over the years, no?

    Posted by Bad Vilbel | October 5, 2012, 6:32 pm
  190. Mona:

    This may be of interest to you:


    Vote on Combating Defamation of Religions

    The draft resolution on combating defamation of religions (document A/C.3/64/L.27) was approved by a recorded vote of 81 in favour to 55 against, with 43 abstentions, as follows:

    In favour: Afghanistan, Algeria, Angola, Azerbaijan, Bahrain, Bangladesh, Barbados, Belarus, Benin, Bhutan, Bolivia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Brunei Darussalam, Cambodia, China, Comoros, Congo, Côte d’Ivoire, Cuba, Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, Djibouti, Dominica, Dominican Republic, Egypt, El Salvador, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Gambia, Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, Guyana, Honduras, Indonesia, Iran, Iraq, Jordan, Kazakhstan, Kuwait, Kyrgyzstan, Lao People’s Democratic Republic, Lebanon, Libya, Malaysia, Maldives, Mali, Mauritania, Morocco, Mozambique, Myanmar, Nicaragua, Niger, Nigeria, Oman, Pakistan, Philippines, Qatar, Russian Federation, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, Saudi Arabia, Senegal, Sierra Leone, Singapore, Somalia, South Africa, Sudan, Suriname, Swaziland, Syria, Tajikistan, Thailand, Togo, Tunisia, Turkey, Turkmenistan, Uganda, United Arab Emirates, Uzbekistan, Venezuela, Viet Nam, Yemen, Zimbabwe.

    Against: Andorra, Australia, Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Canada, Chile, Croatia, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Georgia, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Ireland, Israel, Italy, Latvia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Mexico, Micronesia (Federated States of), Monaco, Montenegro, Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Palau, Panama, Poland, Portugal, Republic of Korea, Republic of Moldova, Romania, Samoa, San Marino, Serbia, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, The former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Ukraine, United Kingdom, United States, Uruguay, Vanuatu.

    Posted by Gabriel | October 5, 2012, 10:23 pm
  191. Also…

    Well we can’t say Bashar didn’t do anything. 1 year jail term bumped to 2.

    Posted by Gabriel | October 5, 2012, 10:32 pm
  192. I guess Mona’s point of view suffers from the “colonialist” and, allow me to feminize it, “maternalistic” conception that they so ardently denounce on others. I wonder were she positioned herself when her homonym Mona Eltahawy wrote her (in)famous article, “Why do they hate us”. I expected many ardent defenders of women in the ME -at least when it is a convenient argument for them- would side with the Egypto-American Mona. Instead they accused her of siding with an imperialistic and racist view on Muslims.

    Well, there is indeed a propaganda machine that uses the terrible state of affairs for women in the Arab world in particular and the Muslim Word in general. We tend to accept better the idea of drones killing families, now and then, with the hope implanted, somewhere back in our heads that “we”, the “civilized”, are looking the other side so little girls wont be spread with acid in their way to school. We should not better.

    I am not sure where I put myself when it comes to neo-colonialism. But I am sure of something: Arab and Muslim women will liberate themselves, or they will not liberate. You just cannot liberate anybody against her closest relatives (and that’s exactly where liberation starts) from “outside”, least from a foreign country!

    The MB ideology is presenting itself for them as a protecting entity, protecting women from the “mannish” harshness, protecting Muslims from the imported/imposed Western vices. And many people believe in it, which is not and extraordinary thing to happen, since MB are still intact from the dirt of “normal”governance (no, Hamas in Gaza is not a showcase). And don’t bring me examples of deviation that are months old: the people voting for them have waited for decades, they are willing to give them a chance.

    Being myself a woman close to Tunisia, I follow with anguish the developments there. I hear the panic of middle class, educated women seeing their achievements being shaken by the actions of gangs that are maybe not numerous but are indeed organized, combative, very noisy and at times violent.

    The so-called moderate Islamist over there are playing by the book of every political party everywhere in the world: denounce the Barbarian (the Salafists) by the mouth, but don’t hit them too hard not to shake your more extreme constituency. And use the fear the violence produces to keep everyone silent long enough to change the laws in your benefit (which happens to be the same of the “barbarians”).

    The Tunisian laws of Personal Statute, exemplary in their protection of women’s rights if you compare with other Arab countries, were nevertheless the making of a post-independence patriarchal tyrant, who happened to believe in the Western model of development and in the separation between Mosque and State. These laws were not the grants of the State after long years of fighting by feminists of both sexes. They were nevertheless very good for the country and of course for Tunisian women. I am positive that a great number of Tunisian women, (and of course men) are convinced that the current laws were one of the engines of the country’s modernization. I am convinced that those women exist even in the ranks of the voters of the MB. My bet is that most Tunisians are not ready to part with those laws, and they are realizing -next elections will be telling- that now is the time to really fight to own them and shine a light over the Arab world, this once, again.

    As long as the situation keeps allowing that public fighting, I will continue to be rather optimistic about the Arab revolts, at least about the Tunisian one. Even if the results in the short term imply setbacks that are hard to swallow.

    Posted by mj | October 6, 2012, 4:21 am
  193. End of second paragraph should have said “We should KNOW better”

    Posted by mj | October 6, 2012, 4:25 am
  194. I did not intend to polarize the question into for or against the Syrian regime. This is not the point. But shouldn’t the West ask for guarantees before sending weapons? Shouldn’t the West distance itself from the preachers of hate of the religious channels all over the Arab world? Or else, how dare they spending money they are claiming to their own people they don’t have, if the result will be creating more hatred, and again, an extension of the rights to express so-called “opinions” (if hate speech is an opinion) at the expense of the laws that have recently given better legal rights to women in a few countries of the ME.

    As for VB asking me about the rights of female journalists in the Beqaa, this sounds really comical. Aren’t Hezbollah people Islamists as well? It is precisely because I think the priority is to crusade for women’s rights (because what follows is education for the children and reduction of the number of kids) that denouncing the role of Qatar and Saudi Arabia in what their preachers have changed into a Sunni crusade against Syria is important.

    Posted by Mona | October 6, 2012, 5:17 am
  195. Mona, you are confusing me more than i am already so confused, what is it that you want? what do you stand for ?
    Whats “reduction of the number of kids” ??!!! that sounds horrific, please dont mess with the kids.

    Posted by Vulcan | October 6, 2012, 11:11 am
  196. FPM closed its forum yesterday.
    Any ideas why?

    Posted by AIG | October 6, 2012, 3:05 pm
  197. Whats the real deal behind the Bibi, Barak feud ?,7340,L-4289217,00.html

    is this a classic diversion ?

    Posted by Vulcan | October 6, 2012, 4:09 pm
  198. Vulcan,

    Classic diversion. No news is good news.

    Bad Vilbel said:

    Anyone else here the irony in an Israeli (AP) singing the praises of a MB president of Egypt? 🙂

    (Could anyone have pictured an Israeli praising the MB, say, 10 years ago?)

    Bad Vilbel,

    Trying to be objective, I have no trouble, per se, with an Islamist government, and I’m not sure there is uniformity within the Moslem Brotherhood regarding Israel. My sense is that the MB is merely a group which promotes Islam. Chabad and the various jewish communities do the same thing, and they’re not inherently violent or extreme.

    As part of the arab spring, the focus is now on Islamist governments and what they can do to steer the arab world in the right direction. In this sense I think Morsi is a good example of what the arab world needed for a long time. I do not think Morsi and his philosophy is the same as Hamas, Hezbollah and Iran. This is a wait and see, and right now he is taking responsibility to adhere to the peace accords and ridding the Sinai of militants. Perhaps the “irony” is a government headed by a MB leader who recognizes the State of Israel.


    Posted by Akbar Palace | October 6, 2012, 4:53 pm

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