Posted by Joshua on Sunday, June 19th, 2011
Syria-Turkey relations are at the forefront of the crisis today. Turkey could act as a shield for Syria in the face of growing EU and Washington criticism. Erdogan is trying to fashion Turkey’s role as the shield to Syria. He fears that once the West launches down the road of intervention, Turkey’s plan to become leader of a “Northern Alliance” if not the larger Middle East, will be dashed. It someone is to spearhead change in the region and direct the coarse of democratization, Erdoghan wants it to be Turkey. Having just won a third term as Prime Minister, Turkey’s actions in Syria are likely to become the measure of his next several years. It will certainly be a challenge for his zero-problems-with-neighbors policy.
Bashar al-Assad is promising that his Monday speech will address all the important reform issues and will satisfy Turkey’s demands for reform.
Evidently, Turkey has asked Syria to license the Muslim Brotherhood as an official and legal party. Syria refused.
Dow Jones says that Syrian opposition activists have set up a “National Council” to struggle against the Damascus regime. This seems to be untrue. The names of Abdallah Trad el Moulahim, Haitham el-Maleh, Souhair al-Atassi and Aref Dalila, as well as Sheikh Khaled al-Khalaf and Mamoun el-Homsi were mentioned in the article. They are denying it.
With foreign reporters allowed into Jisr ash-Shaghour for the first time a new picture is emerging that contrasts sharply with the report of the refugees in Turkey. Zaman has this:
…..It was only after spending a night in a nearby village that they were able to enter Jisr al-Shughour, a town they described as ‘ghost town’. Their first stop in town was a building used as army headquarters. ….The reporters said that the town smelled of blood and smoke, whilst almost all the social and public facilities such as post offices, hospitals, banks, the court house and security buildings had been destroyed, pointing to heavy clashes that had clearly taken place between the two sides.
The countless number of bullet holes on the walls of the intelligence building where 72 soldiers lost their lives, the blood stains which marked the spots where soldiers died, and the horrifying traces of the soldiers who were beheaded are still fresh.
One of the residents of Jisr al-Shughour told reporters that a military intelligence officer’s head had been exhibited in the town for three days after he was beheaded by the members of an armed opposition group. Adding to the sheer horror of the clashes is the remains of dead soldiers who were killed by armed groups that line the River Asi.
There have also been reports suggesting there was a demonstration of affection by the people of the town towards the army soldiers and the senior army officers whilst they were in Jisr al-Shuhgour, which reporters find very hard to believe. Most of the town’s people who accompanied the military convoy told their stories, mostly in tears and begged soldiers to help them find their missing relatives……
The number of people who joined the convoy eventually reached around 2,000, where at one point some villagers sacrificed a sheep and made a feast for the group. However, the town is still in danger as members of armed opposition groups, who lead normal lives during the day, disguise themselves and stage attacks at night. Therefore, people are still fearful.
The Syrian army is keeping a large area under control as members of armed opposition groups are fleeing outside of town. Some villagers told the reporters that some of those who had escaped to Turkey after the incidents might be members of these armed groups….. Hundreds of people have been killed during pro-democracy protests in Syria since January 2011….
Assad to speak for his and Syria’s future
Sunday, June 19, 2011, MURAT YETKİN
A speech that is expected to be delivered by Syrian President Bashar al-Assad today could change the course of events for his unrest-shaken country and his own future, Turkish official sources told the Hürriyet Daily News yesterday.
The sources also said that if Assad failed to announce a series of reforms needed to normalize Syria, he would “miss a big chance” to be able to keep his power safe and from now on he “would have great difficulty convincing Ankara” of his sincerity…..
Reporting from Beirut— An impending proposal to amend Syria’s constitution would end the ruling Baath Party’s monopoly on political power while retaining its central role, a high-ranking official in Damascus said. According to the Baath Party …
Turkey says Syria only has a few days left to get its act together
18 Jun 2011, Zaman
Turkey has delivered a blunt message to the Syrian leadership, saying the regime’s willingness to undertake sweeping reforms in the unrest-laden country will determine the position of Turkey in the coming days, if not weeks, diplomatic sources told Today’s Zaman.
The Turkish response to Syria will be shaped by how the regime responds to unrest engulfing the country and whether or not the promise of switching to a multi-party system to reflect the diversity and pluralism of Syrian society will materialize, the same source said, speaking on condition of anonymity.
According to an incremental plan, Turkey will start supporting tougher UN resolutions if the regime fails to live up to the expectations of the international community. The strongest message yet to the Syrian leadership was conveyed by Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu, who spoke with Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s special envoy, Hassan Turkmani, earlier this week. “We underlined that Turkish support to Syria hinges on the willingness of the Syrian government to adopt sweeping reforms in the country. We detailed our suggestions before and even relayed a written proposal to Damascus on how they should proceed to stabilize the country,” the source explained.
The limits of Turkey in Syria – Zaman
The Arab Spring, which some suggest was inspired by democratization in Turkey, has reached Turkey’s borders with protests that have been going on for months in Syria. One would wish that the Arab Spring would consist of all the positive associations of the word “spring.” This, however, is not the case. …..
Now, let us discuss Turkey’s Syria policy. Turkey has always believed that Bashar al-Assad’s regime is sincere in its advertised reform promises. Admittedly, Assad has exerted serious efforts to this end. However, the Baath nomenclature, which is effectively a minority dictatorship, has not allowed Assad to implement these reforms as advised by Turkey. Having failed to overcome the pro-status quo resistance in his close vicinity, Assad has apparently chosen to surrender to them in recent years. Turkey was late to correctly assess this situation and it intensified its advice and recommendations to Assad when the protests broke out in Syria. By then it was significantly late to adopt a clear stance against Damascus. Nevertheless, the current situation suggests that Turkey is now pursuing a correct policy. However, what Turkey can do other than stepping up the dose of its criticisms against the Syrian regime and opening up its borders to Syrians who are fleeing from persecution and death threats is unfortunately very limited. If we were to analyze the reasons for this, we can say the following:
First of all, Turkey is still unable to predict what will happen in Syria after Assad. Therefore, it faces a very difficult task. Ankara thinks that Damascus is trying to gain time, on the one hand, and it wants to believe that Assad is sincere about his reform promises, on the other. Yet, it also knows that the cases of Egypt and Tunisia are worrying the Assad family. The Assad family does not want an end like that of Mubarak, and it is uncertain who can assure them in this respect, which adds to the fog of uncertainty for Turkey.
Despite the fundamental differences in their regimes and ideologies, Iran and Syria have been maintaining an uninterrupted strategic partnership since the Iranian revolution of 1979, and this proximity between Syria and Iran poses further obstacles and risk for the steps Turkey may take. Turkey believes that Iran is seriously messing things up in Syria and is seriously bothered by such efforts. Turkey is concerned that Iran will not be warm to any regime that would introduce more democratization in the country and, therefore, will perturb things even further. On the other hand, the uncertainty about the identity of the Syrian opposition is blurring Turkey’s vision. Unable to estimate the magnitude of the incidents in Syria, which does not allow the press or independent observers to conduct any investigations in the country, Turkey does not even want to encourage the Syrians to seek asylum through promoting the refugee camps in the border region, despite the fact that these camps have received much international admiration. Therefore, it allows only limited media access to the refugee camps established along the Turkish-Syrian border.
On the other hand, Turkey is well aware of the fact that it is not as easy as some media organizations suggest to create a buffer zone in Syrian territory. It knows that the establishment of such a zone is very unlikely without an international mandate. Even with an international mandate, Turkey is worried by the possibility of such a zone triggering anti-Turkish sentiment among Arabs in the region. Given the fact that certain groups have already dubbed Turkey’s foreign policy neo-Ottoman without much evidence, Turkey is well justified in its concerns. Furthermore, its negative experience with respect to the case of Libya is forcing Turkey to adopt a cautious approach even to cross-border humanitarian operations. It knows that even the distribution of foodstuff, medical supplies and other forms of humanitarian aid may create concerns in the regimes of particular countries. This is indeed what happened to Turkey with respect to Libya. Some Western intelligence agents had placed the foodstuff, medical and other aid supplies from Turkey into the pockets of the dead pro-Gaddafi soldiers in order to give the impression that Turkey was supporting Gaddafi against the rebels. As a result, anti-Turkish protests were held in Benghazi and some rebel-dominated regions.
What Turkey can do with respect to Syria is unfortunately limited. The international community must take all sorts of diplomatic measures so that the innocent people of this beautiful country have the free homeland and democratic administration they deserve.
German Defense Minister Thomas de Maiziere ruled out participation by Berlin in any NATO operation in Syria to stop a bloody crackdown on protesters, in an interview to be published Monday.
Person in the News: Recep Tayyip Erdogan
By Delphine Strauss in Financial Times
Syrian elite and army continue support for Assad by Reel News, on June 15, 2011
Syria, pawn in power play by world’s major powers? Yes. By James M. Dorsey
Saturday, 18 June 2011
“Mr. Assad doesn’t as a result of Russian and Chinese attitudes and Western indecision. He can focus wholly on cracking down on protesters who have demonstrated remarkable resilience. For now, little on the horizon suggests that this will change.”….
Accordnig to the Financial Times a Turkish official said:
“We still hope that things could be contained, that things could be brought under some kind of control – we hope that could be the case,” said a foreign ministry official, but he added: “Everyone is running out of time.”
A Turkish journalist on Al-Arabiya on Wednesday threatened Syria … if you do not submit to the demands of the people and the international community, Turkey will start to coordinate with Nato for firm action.
BEIRUT — Tens of thousands of Syrians poured onto the streets of cities around the country Friday to press their demand for the resignation of President Bashar al-Assad, amid signs that his government is starting to crack under the strain of more than three months of unrest and growing international pressure. In a now-weekly ritual since demonstrations erupted in mid-March, Syrians spilled out of mosques after Friday prayers chanting slogans calling for the government’s downfall. Just as predictably, Syrian security forces opened fire on them, killing at least 18 people and wounding dozens more, according to the Local Coordination Committees, a group that organizes and monitors protests. Read full article >>
Syria’s Chief of Staff Turkmani is still in turkey. he was supposed to be back yesterday. It looks like this will now be tomorrow.
Lebanese army moves into Tripoli after sunni – alawi clashes resulted in 3 dead. Maybe Syria should set up a refugee camp on the boarders just in case!
Fouad Ajami (“Syria: Where Massacre Is a Family Tradition,” op-ed, June 13) alleges that I “made it” my “calling to argue that the young Syrian ruler was, at heart, a reformer eager to sever his relations with Iran and Hezbollah.”
He’s wrong. I never believed or asserted—publicly or privately—that Bashar al-Assad was a political “reformer” or that he was “eager” to achieve anything but regime survival. However, Mr. Assad’s interest in regime-survival was precisely why there might have been a path forward, a possibility that was well worth exploring: Syria desperately needed economic help to prevent a powder keg of demographic pressure from exploding, and we wanted peace with Israel and an end to Syria’s coziness with Iran and terrorist organizations.
Secretary of State James Baker, Secretary of State Henry Kissinger, and Sen. Chuck Hagel all supported engagement, as did European leaders, because the previous policy of isolation had failed. And history showed that Syria had occasionally taken positive steps when engaged by the West—most notably in supporting the first Gulf War following Secretary Baker’s 12 visits to Damascus.
I always insisted that actions, not words, are what count. I don’t regret testing Syria’s intentions, but I do regret that Syria missed an historic opportunity and earned our condemnation. Now Mr. Assad’s deplorable actions may well result in the end of his reign, and he’ll have no one to blame but himself.
Sen. John F. Kerry
WASHINGTON—The Obama administration is gathering information on alleged human-rights abuses by Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s security forces for possible referral to the International Criminal Court in the Hague, senior U.S. officials said … The U.S. is also exploring ways to more directly target Syria’s oil and gas revenue, which are seen as a key financial lifeline for Mr. Assad and his inner circle….
Turkey breaks with Syria over crackdown, 17 Jun 2011 10:00 AM PDT Borzou Daragahi reports:
Turkey on Thursday signaled a diplomatic shift to further distance itself from longtime ally Syria, welcoming defecting Syrian officers and announcing plans to deliver relief assistance to beleaguered pro-democracy protesters across the border. The shift against Damascus, where President Bashar Assad has undertaken a bloody crackdown against peaceful demonstrators, comes after months of waffling …
Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu, architect of Turkey’s “zero problems with neighbors” policy that prioritized good relations with Middle East governments, all but announced the abandonment of that guideline to reporters Thursday after a meeting with Turkey’s ambassadors and national security team in the capital, Ankara.
“Our region demands a serious and urgent reform process,” Davutoglu told reporters, according to the semiofficial Anatolia news agency. “Regional people’s demands are normal, rightful and legitimate. Meeting those demands will make our region a more stable, more democratic and more prosperous region. We are ready to do our utmost to help our region complete this transition process in a healthy way.”
…Unnamed officials in Ankara were quoted as saying the Turkish military was considering establishing a humanitarian “buffer zone” inside Syria….
“One thing for sure is that the Syrian troubles are forcing the Turks to reconsider the tenets of their foreign policy,” said Henri J. Barkey, a Turkey specialist at Lehigh University and the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace…..
Surprising many, Turkey has also even spoken of the possibility of foreign military intervention and warned Assad that Ankara might endorse United Nations Security Council action against his regime.
“We are approaching a situation where international intervention is not totally out of the question,” said Unluhisarcikli, of the German Marshall Fund. “Turkey doesn’t want to be caught by surprise and wants to be prepared for such a possibility.”
Erdogan, analysts say, is enraged that Assad didn’t heed his advice to curtail violence and embark on reforms, humiliated that for years he has been talking up the Syrian president to partners in the West as the man to reform Syria.
“Erdogan is [angry] at Bashar for not listening to him, the big brother,” Turkey specialist Barkey said. “There is a danger for Bashar that Erdogan may personalize this.”
Hilary Clinton in ash-Shark a-Awsat, the Saudi owned News Paper published in London
First, there should be no doubt about the nature of the protests in Syria.
Like Tunisians, Egyptians, Libyans and others across the Middle East and North Africa, the Syrian people are demanding their long-denied universal rights and rejecting a government that rules through fear, squanders their talents through corruption, and denies them the dignity of having a voice in their own future. They are organizing themselves, including the local coordinating committees, and they are refusing to back down even in the face of revolting violence.
If President Assad believes that the protests are the work of foreign instigators — as his government has claimed — he is wrong. It is true that some Syrian soldiers have been killed, and we regret the loss of those lives too. But the vast majority of casualties have been unarmed civilians. By continuing to ban foreign journalists and observers, the regime seeks to hide these facts.
Second, President Assad is showing his true colors by embracing the repressive tactics of his ally Iran and putting Syria onto the path of a pariah state.
By following Iran’s lead, President Assad is placing himself and his regime on the wrong side of history. He will learn that legitimacy flows from the consent of the people and cannot be forged through bullets and billyclubs.
President Assad’s violent crackdown has shattered his claims to be a reformer. For years, he has offered pledges and promises, but all that matters are his actions. A speech, no matter how dutifully applauded by regime apologists, will not change the reality that the Syrian people, despite being told they live in a republic, have never had the opportunity to freely elect their leaders. These citizens want to see a real transition to democracy and a government that honors their universal rights and aspirations.
If President Assad believes he can act with impunity because the international community hopes for his cooperation on other issues, he is wrong about this as well. He and his regime are certainly not indispensable.
A Syria that is unified, pluralistic, and democratic could play a positive and leading role in the region, but under President Assad the country is increasingly becoming a source of instability. The refugees streaming into Turkey and Lebanon, and the tensions being stoked on the Golan, should dispel the notion that the regime is a bulwark of regional stability that must be protected.
Finally, the answer to the most important question of all — what does this mean for Syria’s future? — is increasingly clear: There is no going back.
Syrians have recognized the violence as a sign of weakness from a regime that rules by coercion, not consent. They have overcome their fears and have shaken the foundations of this authoritarian system.
Syria is headed toward a new political order — and the Syrian people should be the ones to shape it. They should insist on accountability, but resist any temptation to exact revenge or reprisals that might split the country, and instead join together to build a democratic, peaceful and tolerant Syria.
Considering the answers to all these questions, the United States chooses to stand with the Syrian people and their universal rights. We condemn the Assad regime’s disregard for the will of its citizens and Iran’s insidious interference.
The United States has already imposed sanctions on senior Syrian officials, including President Assad. We are carefully targeting leaders of the crackdown, not the Syrian people. We welcomed the decisions by the European Union to impose its own sanctions and by the UN Human Rights Council to launch an investigation into abuses. The United States will continue coordinating closely with our partners in the region and around world to increase pressure on and further isolate the Assad regime…..
Syria’s richest man has rarely sounded contrite. But Rami Makhlouf — a confidant and cousin of President Bashar al-Assad — looked distinctly subdued when announcing that he was selling his holding in Syria’s mobile phone network, Syriatel, to help …
Silence on Syria
By Editorial – Washington Post
June 15 (Washington Post) — IT HAS been four weeks since President Obama delivered an address on the Middle East in which he said it would be “a top priority” of his administration to oppose violent repression and support democratic transitions across the region, using “all of the diplomatic, economic and strategic tools at our disposal.” He singled out Syria, where the regime of President Bashar al-Assad has gunned down hundreds of peaceful protesters, choosing what Mr. Obama called “the path of murder.”
Editorial, New York Times, Published: June 17, 2011
With thousands of Syrians being slaughtered, jailed or forced to flee their country, President Obama and other leaders need to find better ways to punish and isolate President Bashar al-Assad and his cronies….
We applaud Mr. Erdogan for doing the right thing and urge him and the entire international community to keep ratcheting up the pressure. The only way to end Syria’s nightmare is for Bashar al-Assad to go.
Turkey considers need for ‘buffer zone’ within Syria for refugees Posted: 16 Jun 2011, Press TV reports:
Turkey may send its military forces into Syrian soil to establish a “buffer zone,” should the current unrest in Syria skyrocket into a refugee crisis that would pose a threat to Ankara, a report says. The report, published in the Turkish daily Post on Thursday, warned of the prospect of a civil war in […]
“..Dozens of local and international journalists have arrived in Hatay to cover the story of Jolie’s visit to the Syrians refugee camps.
Ray Takeyh says that Iran is heavily invested in the survival of Assad’s regime; if the “House of Assad” goes, Iran is likely to have an antagonistic power next door.
The Influence of Syria: Video – Op-Ed columnist Thomas L. Friedman discusses what a democratic Syria could mean to the Middle East.
Guardian (GB): In unending turmoil, Syria’s Assad turns to family
2011-06-16, ELIZABETH A. KENNEDY Associated Press= BEIRUT (AP) —
Syria’s President Bashar Assad, beset by a popular upheaval that won’t die, appears to be turning more and more to a tiny coterie of relatives, the backbone of a family dynasty that has kept …
Amb. Zalmay Khalilzad, former U.S. ambassador to Afghanistan, Iraq, and the United Nations, discusses democracy promotion in the Middle East following the Arab Spring with Mark Lagon, Adjunct Senior Fellow for Human Rights at the Council on Foreign …
Op-Ed Contributor: Arab Spring, Kurdish Summer
2011-06-18, By Sebahat Tuncel
(New York Times) — Istanbul TURKEY often presents itself to the world as a model Muslim democracy, but it is in fact denying basic democratic rights to almost 20 percent of its population. The Turkish prime minister, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, was re-elected on Sunday by a large margin, and he now faces a major domestic challenge. Despite Turkey’s impressive economic growth and increasing international profile during Mr. Erdogan’s eight years in power, his government has ignored the country’s most important and politically explosive issue: Turkey’s oppressed Kurdish minority.
Kurds have been struggling for freedom and autonomy in Turkey for decades — often in the face of violent state repression. We will no longer accept the status quo. We are demanding democratic freedoms, the right to speak our own language in schools and mosques and greater political autonomy in Kurdish-majority regions.
Al-Qamishli: Demonstrators call for the end of the regime
KURDWATCH, June 14, 2011—
Nation-wide protests on June 10, 2011, again resulted in numerous dead and injured. As in previous weeks, the demonstrations in al-Qamishli, ʿAmudah, Darbasiyah, Raʾs al-ʿAyn (Serê Kaniyê), and ʿAyn al-ʿArab (Kobanî) were largely peaceful. Demonstrators everywhere, including Ruknaddin, a predominantly Kurdish-inhabited district of Damascus, demanded the overthrow of the regime.
Al-Qamishli: Kurdish parties refuse dialogue with Bashar al-Assad
KURDWATCH, June 11, 2011—
After much hesitation, the parties of the Kurdish Patriotic Movement in Syria, which is an association of the eight parties of the Political Council, the two parties of the Democratic Alliance, and the Democratic Union Party (PYD), decided not to meet with President Bashar al-Assad at this time. In a statement issued on June 8, 2011, the parties wrote that they would have agreed to »an initiative for a meeting with the president that aimed at developing a political solution to the country’s current crisis«, but not under the current political conditions.
This decision by the political leadership was due in large part to pressure from the Kurdish population in Syria and in the Diaspora, including party members. After initially agreeing to the meeting with Bashar al-Assad, the Kurdish parties were intensely criticized from all sides. The Governor of al-Hasakah province invited the parties to travel to Damascus on short notice on June 4, 2011 for a meeting with the president. Originally they were to take part in talks in two groups, and the government had also invited fifteen other Kurdish public figures. The Kurdish parties, however, made their participation contingent on having the representatives of all parties, and only these representatives, meet together with al-Assad. The Governor of al-Hasakah province accepted this request.
When the parties of the Kurdish Patriotic Movement in Syria met on June 3, 2011, they decided to accept the invitation from Damascus. The Kurdish Freedom Party in Syria (Azadî) was the only party that wanted to discuss the situation with its party board before agreeing to a meeting. The Kurdish Patriotic Movement then told the government that the meeting would have to be postponed a few days.
The Kurdish Future Movement in Syria did not participate in this meeting. In a statement on May 28, 2011, they stated that they were canceling their membership in the Kurdish Patriotic Movement as well as in the Kurdish Political Council in Syria because the other political parties had been too hesitant in supporting the dissident demonstrations.
On June 5, 2011, the speaker of the Kurdish Democratic Union Party (Yekîtî) in Syria stated that his party would not take part in the meeting with Bashar al-Assad, »as long as the repression of peaceful demonstrations has not been stopped, the military has not been pulled out of the cities, the siege of the cities has not ended, and the right to demonstrate has not been guaranteed«. Moreover, the party speaker stated that the party did not want to have a dialogue with the Syrian regime without the approval of the allies in the national democratic Syrian Opposition.
Ultimately, the Kurdish Coordinating Committee, which is made up of the Kurdish Union Party in Syria (Yekîtî), the Kurdish Freedom Party in Syria (Azadî), and the Kurdish Future Movement in Syria, rejected the offer to participate in a dialogue with Bashar al-Assad. In a statement issued on June 7, the committee demanded a general dialogue with the entire Syrian opposition in the form of a national conference. Moreover, according to the three parties, before a dialogue can take place it must be ensured that Syria will have a new modern constitution in which »no party or ethnicity is discriminated against« and in which »the political and ethnic diversity [of Syria] is accepted«.
Iraq: Syrian Refugee Camp Opened, June 18, 2011 1609 GMT
A camp designed to hold up to 4,000 Syrian refugees was set up in the northern Iraqi province of…
Morocco: King Outlines New Draft Constitution
Syria’s Pandoran Box: Bashar Assad’s Missed Opportunity
By ELAINE HAGOPIAN
In 1971, I was a Fulbright Hays Faculty Grant recipient based in Beirut doing research on the impact of the Palestinian/Israeli conflict on Arab Nationalist States. I was returning with a Palestinian friend from Damascus to Beirut after one of my interview excursions in Syria. We were joined by a group of three Syrian freelance workers in the Damascus to Beirut Service (transportation by ancient used Mercedes-Benz cars and the cheapest way to travel). As we approached Chtuara in the Beka’a Valley of Lebanon, the car broke down. It was clear that we would be in for a long wait. The three men stared at each other in deep frustration and mental anguish. We entered a local café to get something to eat and to wait out the repairs. My friend and I sat at a table and ordered some food and water. I noticed that the men ordered nothing. I understood immediately that they did not have funds to purchase food. They were going to Beirut to pick up some goods to take back to Syria to sell. They were expecting to get to Beirut, pick up the goods, and return by Service to Damascus the same day, a trip of some 60 miles taking about two hours each way including border customs checks. It was clear that they would have to spend the night in Beirut since repairs would delay us for hours. My heart sank for them as I looked at their tired eyes, unshaven faces, and frayed clothes.
I did something I knew would offend their dignity – a cultural trait deeply embedded in Arab psyches, but especially among the poor. The thought that they would go without food for more than 24 hours and would have to sleep outdoors in Beirut overcame my understanding of how important dignity is to hardworking but poor Arabs. I asked the waitress to serve them some simple dishes and bottled water. Immediately, they rejected the food and glanced over at me….