Is Turkey a Shield? Assad to Speak about Reform on Monday

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…..

LA Times [Reg]: Syria planning change to constitution, Baath Party official says
2011-06-20

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.

Russia’s Permanent Representative to UN: Saboteur members in Syrian opposition seek chaos in Syria” Cham Press

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.

Pressure on Syria’s Assad intensifies as protests persist

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 >>
(Liz Sly)

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!

An independent report by turkey of the presence of armed MBs in jisr, as-Safir

Syria Missed a Golden Opportunity

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

WSJ [Reg]: U.S. Seeks to Refer Syrian Leader to Criminal Court, 2011-06-17

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…..

CNN: Syrian tycoon’s fall from grace may herald new pledges of reform, 2011-06-17

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
2011-06-16

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.”

Syria’s Nightmare
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 [...]

Hatay hotels fully-booked ahead of Jolie’s arrival

“..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 …

CFR: Khalilzad: Democracy Promotion in Egypt, Syria Highest Priority, 2011-06-16

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….

Comments (66)


Pages: « 1 [2] Show All

51. why-discuss said:

Abughassan

“Syria historically was a target for stronger nations due to its location and political significance. In that sense,Iran and turkey are the same.”

I am sorry to disagree with you. Turkey has a dark past with Syria with annexion of cities, violence, recent threats. Iran has never targeted Syria. There is no bitterness and suspicion with Iran, while there is a lot about Turkey and the Ottoman Empire.

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June 19th, 2011, 11:43 pm

 

52. Syria no kandahar said:

Today’s speech will be the most important 60 or 90 min in Syria’s and probably the middle east recent history.Doing a speech at the level of previous tow speeches is not going to work.Bashar should pul the carpet from underneath his enemies. Rami already is let go,If Maher has to be let go ,it is not a big deal.Albaath should turn into a regular player in the political game.Alawis should have the strength to open the door of democracy and let the air blow,it is going to blow any way,they might as well take credit for openning it.what happens after they open the door is much more controllable than them standing behind the door and resisting opening or opening it slightly and standing behind it that way it dos’t open more,all that is not working any more .precisely calculated movements and no risk taking is not in the basket.One thing I am sure about is that Bashar loves his country and his people,it is true he has done a lot of mistakes,but that is true for every leader I know.As far as the opposition if what we have here I SC is a sample of them ,that is very discouraging.They are closed minded,hateful,shortsighted,and very sectarian.I hope that the fact that most of SC revolutionists are westernized and alot of them have had personal negative experience with the regime,makes the facts in Syria different.

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June 20th, 2011, 12:19 am

 

53. syau said:

Nk, Tara,

If I was a ‘mamenh7ebak’ person, I would call for the end of demonstrations to enable the reforms to be implemented (if I was really interested in the welfare of Syria that is). I would call for the end of destruction of infrastructure, the end of the attacks and murders, an end to the fabrications. I would certainly not advocate foreign intervention in Syria…….But then again, we know that is the last thing on your minds, because reforms are not what you want, it never was, and anyway, only a sane person would call for an end to the violent demonstrations and the murder and destruction that has accompanied them, therefore, it would not be a ‘mamen7ebak’ that would ask for an end to this utter madness.

This revolution is working along the divide and conquer strategy, because of that and because true Syrians are united and can see through this despicable farce of a revolution, they will not allow this revolution to take over Syria. Things are not as black and white as you see them. Wake up.

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June 20th, 2011, 12:27 am

 

54. Yazan said:

SYAU,
You have the audacity to decide who is a “real” Syrian and who is not, and then in the same breath accuse other people of seeing things in black and white.

Pray tell us then, how do “real” Syrians look like? is there a diet for that?

Truly,
سبحان من ألهم الأجناس كلَّهم أمراً يقود إلى خبل وتخبيل

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June 20th, 2011, 12:42 am

 

55. SYR.Expat said:

Finally, the Ministry fo Interior is planning to rehabilitate and train its cadre to treat people with respect and that the dignity of citizens is above any consideration. Am I dreaming or what?

Does that mean that the mukhabarat no longer humiliates and tortures detainees?

Anyway, any improvement is welcome, even if it’s close to 50 years late.

Many thanks to the heroes who forced the government to change its ways.

وزير الداخلية : كرامة المواطن فوق كل اعتبار ولن يتم التهاون مع من يثبت تقصيره

وطلب وزير الداخلية إلى “الضباط اعتماد خطط عمل تواكب تطورات العمل الشرطي من خلال تكريس نهج جديد في أساليب العمل والتعامل مع المواطنين”، مؤكدا بهذا الصدد أن “كرامة المواطن فوق كل اعتبار وانه لن يتم التهاون مع من يثبت تقصيره أو تقاعسه أو محاولته ارتكاب ممارسات خارجة عن القانون يمكن أن تسيء لسمعة الشرطة”…

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June 20th, 2011, 12:48 am

 

56. Darryl said:

53. SYAU

Mate, unfortunately this revolution is not stoppable anymore. There are too many “cats out of the bag” and too many people and countries have been exposed and caught meddling with Syrian politics.

Even if Bashar survives this, he will have an uneasy relationship with other leaders and will take years for any goodwill to materialize again. I feel sorry for him though he probably has the most difficult job of all politicians.

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June 20th, 2011, 12:58 am

 

57. Chris W said:

How is the revolution unstoppable? It doesn’t seem terribly popular at all.

Why do people imagine there is some magic power to revolt? Historically, revolutions and rebellions rarely succeed, and when they do it’s most often bloody and messy. That’s why the Western powers should know better than to be meddling in Syrian affairs.

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June 20th, 2011, 1:02 am

 

58. Ss said:

Previous Assad was never forced to make relations with Iran rather he knew who might be his real friend. He choose to stand by Iran as he knew then that Arabs will never miss a chance to stab his back and cut him exactly the same way his son is experiencing now. Thank God previous Assad made a true friendship with Iran and Iran will never put Syria down. The trio Syria, Iran, HA is the only card syria can gaurantee no international intervention, or even Turkish invasion as some delusional peole are proposing here. any threat to any part of this trio means instability of the american troops in Iraq, threat to Israel, and total destruction to lebanon which is too big for the west and Israel to afford. Having said that, I see no reason why the west as to interven as what is happening now in Syria is a victory to he west and the countries hat supported the unrest. What is happening in Syria from damage to people and infrastructures outweight any western war or missile. There is a deep sectarian division that is widening by the day, and I do not think Iran, HA or any other friend would be able to help us heal hat wound. It is left up to us the Syrian people to decide where do we want to take our country. The west is watching, and unfortunately our friends’ help although effective in prventing outside attack, is short than solving our internal affaiars

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June 20th, 2011, 1:09 am

 

59. Darryl said:

57. CHRIS W

The revolution is not popular among Syrians in Syria. But it was triggered by outside forces and they have to much to loose now. If these forces are disbanded now, I doubt you will have many opposition people dealing with covert US, European and other stake holders like the Gulf and KSA next time around. The US has been accused many times in the past of not carrying through with plans and wars to the end, I cannot see them stopping now; too much credibility to loose.

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June 20th, 2011, 1:13 am

 

60. Syrian Commando said:

#58

There is no delusion, the West is dying, when you understand this, you will understand why this is a war of desperation and not attacking means losing by default.

They MUST attack us, they have NO CHOICE.

#59

You’re quite correct that many of our enemies have revealed themselves, especially Qatar, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia and basically the entire European continent. They can’t let us exist after this, but their success is not guaranteed so don’t call it “unstoppable”.

This “revolution” (more like violent terrorism) is dead on arrival. It ain’t happening bros, that’s why our enemies are going to push it to the next level — open warfare.

They failed to divide the country, that’s why they are desperate, they played out all their cards and they failed. The revolution has failed.

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June 20th, 2011, 1:30 am

 

61. Usama said:

Really Darryl? The US has too much credibility to lose? I suggest you revisit that thought. The internal part has failed. The western powers have been doing whatever they could to pass a resolution against Syria, just to try to encourage more Syrians inside Syria to participate in the unrest and destruction. Russia has done us all a big favor, but it is important to understand they did it for their own interests, and not for their morals.

The only way to expand this now, other than with the ongoing media attack and more economic sanctions, is with foreign intervention, but SS explained very well why this is not probable. An attack against Syria is an attack against Iran and HA. Iran-backed Iraqi resistance is ready to barbecue US soldiers in Iraq, Iran is ready to blow every oil field in Saudi Arabia to hell (they have made this clear before when the US was threatening military action against Iran), and HA is ready to make all the major “Israeli” cities feel the heat of a real war for the first time in their lives. Almost all non-Arab “Israelis” have dual citizenship and only came for the luxury financial incentives. They will leave if there are rockets raining on them and no other city in “Israel” is safe. This will be a BIG BLOW to Jewish supremacy. Take this as a rule for western action in the middle east: If it might hurt “Israel” then, most likely, they won’t do it.

A regional (or world) war is to NOBODY’S advantage. All the idiots sitting at their keyboards urging action against Syria will feel the effects on the western economy when Saudi Arabia can’t pump out more than a few barrels a day. They will witness and experience above 50% unemployment and poverty then wish they could move to pre-war Syria to enjoy the rich FREE social life Syrians enjoy in Syria today (yes I said free, f*** you!).

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June 20th, 2011, 1:37 am

 

62. jad said:

مدفيديف: انا متعاطف مع الرئيس أسد من المنطلق الانساني

سورية
ماذا بشأن سورية؟

سورية أمام خيار صعب. انسانيا أتعاطف مع رئيس سورية بشار الأسد الذي يعاني من ظرف صعب جدا. تعارفنا على بعضنا وأنا كنت في سورية والرئيس الاسد زار روسيا مرات عدة خلال ولايتي. يبدو لي أنه يريد اجراء تغييرات سياسية، يريد ادخال اصلاحات في بلده، لكن في الوقت نفسه تأخر لحد ما بها، ولهذا السبب سقط ضحايا كان يمكن أن لا يسقطوا. وبالطبع يتحمل مسؤوليتها بقدر كبير أولئك الموجودون في السلطة. أفهم في الوقت ذاته أنه إذا كانت المعارضة تستعمل القوة وتطلق النار على رجال الأمن، فإن أي حكومة تتخذ اجراءات دفاعية ما. بهذا المعنى الاسد بالطبع أمام خيار صعب جدا.

اتصلت به وقلت له، اتمنى أن يكون منسجما مع اصلاحاته وان يجري انتخابات جيدة مع الغاء حالة الطوارئ، وأن ينخرط في حوار مع جميع القوى السياسية. يخيل لي أنه يسعى إلى ذلك ، لكنه في الوقت نفسه في وضع حرج. لكن الذي لست مستعدا لمساندته هو ما حصل على غرار القرار 1973 بشأن ليبيا، لأن قناعتي التامة هي أنهم جعلوا من قرار غير سئ ورقة لتغطية عملية عسكرية من دون معنى. على كل حال لو أن نظرائي قالوا لي امتنع عن التصويت على الأقل ونحن فيما بعد سنقصف مختلف الأهداف بالطبع لكنت اعطيت تعليمات أخرى للذين يعملون في منظمة الأمم المتحدة.

نحن ننطلق من أن القرارات يجب أن تفسر حرفيا وليس بطريقة فضفاضة. إذا كتب أن هذا حظر جوي فهذا يعني حظرا جويا. لكن الآن لا شئ يحلق هناك غير طائرات الناتو. وحدهم يطيرون ووحدهم يقصفون. نعم قبل ذلك القذافي كان يطير وآنذاك على الاقل كان الأمر مبررا. هذا لا يغير بأي حال موقفي حيال ما فعله القذافي وإنني مع الدول الثماني الأخرى ايدت التصريح المشترك الذي اتخذ بشأن ليبيا في دوفيل.

لكن اريد أن اعود مرة أخرى إلى الشأن السوري .. ما لا أرغب به، أن يحدث مثل هذا الاستعمال مع قرارات بشأن سورية. ولهذا لن تكون هناك قرارات بهذا الشكل. روسيا تستعمل حقها كعضو دائم في مجلس الأمن. إلا أنه توجد امكانية لصدور نداءات أخرى، أو بيانات، بما في ذلك عن طريق مجلس الأمن موجهة إلى سورية.

هذا يعني إذا لم يكن هناك اي تهديد بفرض عقوبات أو بعمل عسكري فيما يتم تداوله فأنتم ستؤيدون القرار؟.

سأقول لك للاسف في المدة الأخيرة لست انا، بل شركائي من تعلم تفسير قرارات مجلس الأمن بطريقة متعسفة جدا .

اتذكر أنه في عهد جورج بوش لم تكن هناك قرارات ولم يطالب بها أحد. لكن كانت هناك العملية العسكرية الشهيرة في العراق. إلا أن العالم تغير والجميع يعلم أنه من دون تفويض من مجلس الأمن فالتدخل غير لائق.

تظهر قرارات ذات صلة إلا أن هذه القرارات يتم تفسيرها بصورة فضفاضة وهذا خاطئ. ولذلك اقول لكم بصراحة الآن أنا غير واثق أن هناك حاجة لأي قرار، لأن القرارات يمكن أن تكون مكتوبة بشكل أما تنفيذها فيكون بشكل آخر. في القرار يكون مكتوبا:” نحن نندد باستعمال القوة في سورية” وبعد ذلك تقلع الطائرات.. سيقولون لنا: ” ما لكم؟ مكتوب هناك أننا ندين، وها نحن أدنّا. وجهنا إلى هناك عددا من المقاتلات” لا رغبة لي في مثل هذا الأمر، وفي كل الأحوال لا أريد أن اتحمل وزر ذلك.

http://arabic.rt.com/prg/telecast/656476/

Q: What about Syria?
A: Syria is facing a very difficult choice. I am humanly sorry for [Syrian] President [Bashar] al-Assad who is in a very difficult situation. I have met him, I have visited Syria and President al-Assad has visited Russia several times during my time in politics. He seems to want political changes and reforms in his country. At the same time, he has been partially late with them, hence the casualties that could have been avoided and that would weigh on the conscience of those in power. I also understand that if the opposition uses force or shoots at the police, any state will undertake some protective measures. This is where he is facing a very difficult choice.
I called him and said that I personally counted on his being comprehensive in his reforms, that normal elections would be held after the state of emergency was lifted, and that he would start a dialogue with all the political forces. He seems to want this, but he is in a difficult situation. However, what I am not ready to back a resolution like 1973 on Libya. I am convinced that a good resolution is being used as a cover for an insane military operation. In any case, if my counterparts had at least told me they would bombard various targets after Russia had abstained, I would have instructed my colleagues at the UN otherwise.
We proceed from the idea that [UN] resolutions should be interpreted literally not broadly. If it is written that it is about shutting down the airspace, it is nothing but shutting down the airspace. What we have now is that only NATO aircraft are flying there and dropping bombs. It is okay when Gaddafi’s aircraft were flying, it is at least explainable. And it in no way changes my attitude to what he [Gaddafi] has done, and I backed the joint statement of the G8 countries on Libya adopted in Deauville not long ago.
But speaking of Syria again, I would rather such an implementation didn’t follow a resolution on Syria. That is why there won’t be such a resolution on Syria. Russia will use its right as a permanent member of the UN Security Council. At the same time, it remains possible to appeal, issue statements, including at the UN Security Council, on Syria.
Q: Does it mean that unless there are threats of sanctions or military operations being carried out, you would back the resolution?
A: Let me tell you that recently it is not us but my partners who have learned to interpret UN Security Council’s resolution as they choose to.
I recall how it was when George W. Bush was in power: there were no resolutions and nobody had asked them [the US], but there was a notorious war in Iraq. The world has changed since, now all are aware that without a UN Security Council resolution it is not nice to invade. So due resolutions follow but are interpreted in a broader sense, which is wrong. That is why I can tell you straight that I am now not sure that any resolution is necessary, because a resolution may contain one thing but the actions that follow will be quite different. A resolution will have: “We condemn the use of force in Syria,” after which aircraft will take off. We’ll be told, “Well, it is written we are condemning, so this is what we are doing” having already sent several bombers there. I don’t want this. At least I don’t want to take it on my conscience.
http://rt.com/news/medvedev-financial-times-interview/

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June 20th, 2011, 1:46 am

 

63. jad said:

الكاتب الفرنسي ميسان: الحملة على سورية والحرب الإعلامية المرافقة خطة أعدتها مسبقا القوى الأمريكية والغربية.. والجيش السوري يتصدى لمجموعات مسلحة
دمشق-سانا

أكد تيري ميسان المحلل السياسي المعروف أن الحملة التي تتعرض لها سورية والهادفة لزعزعة استقرارها والحرب الإعلامية المرافقة لها تندرج في سياق خطة أعدتها مسبقا القوى الأمريكية والغربية.

وأوضح ميسان في سياق تحليل اخباري عن الوضع في المنطقة نشره موقع ايغاليتيه أي ريكو نسيلياسيون /مساواة ومصالحة/ وشبكة فولتير على الأنترنت أن الحرب الإعلامية التي تشنها القنوات الفضائية على سورية هدفت إلى تحويل الأنظار عن ماهية المعارضة الجديدة وعن حقيقة المجموعات المسلحة المشاركة في الأحداث والتي تنحدر من أوساط متطرفة لا تعترف بالتعددية الدينية منتقدا لجوء هذه القنوات لقلب الحقائق وتلفيق الأحداث عبر استغلال بعض الصور التي يبثها التلفزيون السوري للمجموعات المسلحة التي تطلق النار عشوائيا على المارة وقوات حفظ النظام معا وتصويرها على أنها من فعل أجهزة الحكومة مؤكدا أن الجيش لم يقمع المتظاهرين كما تدعي هذه الوسائل الإعلامية ولكنه كان يتصدى للمجموعات المسلحة ومحاولتهم لزعزعة الأمن.

وشدد على أن وعي الشعب السوري ورفضه لمشاريع التقسيم دفعته لتعزيز التفافه حول الرئيس بشار الأسد والتصدي لهذه المحاولات الغربية الرامية لإغراق سورية بحرب أهلية منوها بالإصلاحات التي أقرها الرئيس الأسد والتي أرادها منذ زمن.

وقال ميسان إن هذه الخطة التي تستهدف سورية تندرج في مخطط أعلنه جون بولتون في 6 أيار 2002 عندما كان نائبا لوزير الخارجية في الإدارة الأمريكية السابقة برئاسة جورج بوش ونفذته الإدارة الامريكية الحالية بعد 9 سنوات ضمن سياق ما يسمى /الصحوة العربية/.

وأوضح ميسان أن الفكرة الأولية كانت اثارة الاضطرابات في بلدة حدودية لتشكل منطلقا لتقسيم البلد وتفتيته وقال انه في بداية الاحداث تمركز قناصة على الاسطح لاطلاق الرصاص عشوائيا على الجموع وقوات حفظ النظام معا لتأجيج الوضع في اطار خطة تنفذ كل مرة في محافظة حدودية لتأمين قاعدة خلفية لهم على غرار ما شهدته مدن حدودية مع لبنان وتركيا.

وكشف ميسان أن بعض ضباط المخابرات الامريكية والموساد وبعض القوى الإقليمية قد تابعوا سير العمليات في البداية.

http://www.sana.sy/ara/336/2011/06/20/353589.htm

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June 20th, 2011, 1:49 am

 

64. syau said:

#54, Yazan,

Incase you read incorrectly, I said true syrians would not advocate outside interference in Syria. I stand by my word. I cannot see how anyone would want their country to be invaded by another. A true Syrian, who is TRUE to his country would not want destruction, would not advocate the madness that happened over the past few months. They would not suggest that people deserved to be hung publically, regardless whether he was affiliated with the government in anyway. They would not suggest security forces deserve to be massacred.

True Syrians would want an end to the murders and mutilations, destruction public and private property, and end to this violent so called revolution.

True Syrians would think of the consequences of such acts and not commit them, they would not cheer on outside entities destabilising Syria and using Syrians to do it under the banner of a revolution.

When they suggest ‘men7ebak vs mamen7ebak, they see things as you against us. Black or white. There are people who are critical of the government, but dennounce this violent revolution.

And so we dont get our wires crossed here, I would be part of the men7ebak people, I am men7ebak to the bone.

I look forward to the president leading reforms, I reject any attempts to destabilise Syria and totally oppose international interference in Syria’s internal affairs.

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June 20th, 2011, 5:37 am

 

65. why-discuss said:

Assad announces ‘national dialogue’ in Syria

Turkey newspaper reporting part of Bashar Al Assad speech

http://www.hurriyetdailynews.com/n.php?n=syrias-al-assad-makes-public-speech-2011-06-20

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June 20th, 2011, 8:30 am

 

66. Mina said:

So much things to read have been posted here… Enough for a week!

Add this one by Sami Moubayed
http://www.atimes.com/atimes/Middle_East/MF21Ak03.html

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June 20th, 2011, 10:16 am

 

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