Posted by Joshua on Wednesday, August 17th, 2011
The Baath Party has called an emergency meeting today, leading optimists to argue that the Syrian government is preparing to annul article 8 of the constitution. Article 8 establishes the Baath Party as the “leader of the state and society.” It effectively guarantees that the president and leader of the Baath will be elected President of Syria every seven years.
I find the notion that the Assad family will look for a soft landing hard to believe, largely because there is no soft landing for this regime. From the opening days of this uprising I have predicted that Assad and his loyalists would try to fight their way out. The arguments against Assad negotiating an end to his regime are many. Here are a few. Close to a million Syrians will lose a great deal when this regime goes down — their jobs, their privileges, and some, if not many, will lose their lives. Syria’s allies also stand to lose a lot. Iran, Hizbullah, and Hamas and are deeply invested in the Assad regime. It is widely reported that Iran has begun to send substantial amounts of money to prop up the regime and soften the blow of Western sanctions. Had Bashar and his family been willing to cut their losses, they would have done so months ago, before the level of anger and the possibility of wide spread revenge among top regime figures had risen to the present levels. If they negotiate today, most top figures will be unable to avoid the hangman’s noose.
I have been wrong a number of times in the past 6 months and hope that I am wrong today. The rising level of sectarian anger in the comment section of Syria Comment suggests that there is no soft landing for this regime – especially at this late hour. But Assad could spare much bloodshed and division among Syrians if he were to try to negotiate a transition to new and free elections, rather than to try to hang on to power — a possibility that seems even more unlikely today than it did several months ago.
In other news. Imad Moustapha and embassy staff in Washington have been restricted to a 25 mile radius. Syria, in response, has restricted Ambassador Ford in Damascus to the same restrictions. The EU is weighing broad sanctions on the Syrian banking and energy sectors. Leaders will meet this Friday.
From the Comment Section
It is the regime that we need to concentrate on. There is a genuine popular revolt against the family rule without checks and balances. There is a revolt against corruption and a system that forces corruption on the people to keep them humiliated and subdued; a revolt against monopoly and graft and the use of power to continue to exploit the majority of the people. There is a revolt against a few that are above the law and that use the organs of security and the resources of the state for their personal benefits and at the expense of both majority and minority groups. There is a revolt against a system that is meant to prevent the average Syrian from advancing his/her lot as the education/economic/opportunity system leaves them unable to advance or compete with the rest of the region and the world. This is the revolt against the insulting news from SANA and the use of the armed forces after the abolition of the state of emergency in indiscriminate killing and destruction. It is a revolt against the inability of anyone to have a real debate about their future from the scripted sermons to the forced marches.
It is a revolt against a system that for practical purposes has nothing but utter contempt for the average Syrian, treating the citizen as less than a worm or insect and against the mentality of graded citizenship that we see today.
Dear Dr. Landis, All Syrians are fearful of the chaos that will ensue upon the fall of the current Syrian regime. It is disingenuous for the Christians to claim that they fear chaos more or that they will be affected more than anybody else. On the other hand, the Alawiis fear is very legitimate. There is a lot of bad blood between Sunnis and Alawiis thanks to the Assads and their criminals. The only reason for the Christians to be fearful is their stand with the regime against the people. The irony is that the regime is not purely Alawii, the supporters of the regime are not purely Alawiis and Christians and the opposition is not purely Sunnis.
For the Christians to claim that they will have to leave the country if this regime falls, is also disingenuous. Do we have any statistics on how many Christians left the country between 1963 and today under the wonderful rule of the Assads and its Baath party?. My husband and I went to private schools in Aleppo. Most of our friends and class mates were Christian. Of my husbands class, close to 95% are out of the country. Of my class, close to 80% are out of the country. I would venture to say that even before the uprising started, that if you offered any Syrian a chance to leave the country to the USA, Europe or the Gulf, they would be ecstatic. The only people to refuse are the elderly and those that are making millions because they are part of or benefiting from the corruption of this regime. All Syrians from all ethnicities and religions including Alawiis, have been leaving the country in droves looking for the basic opportunity to live a decent life or fleeing oppression and persecution by the Syrian regime.
Some Guy From Damascus
…When you’re confronted by sectarian language don’t reply with more sectarian language…this revolution’s legitimacy derives from our secular, national and peaceful seed. I don’t care if the next 1000 presidents of syria are alawites…what matters is their commitment to syria and all it’s people rather than a select few.
that being said, …. there is obviously no limit to their atrocities. the regime has no leash on these dogs and they are the chemotherapy of civil society. the army is failing us miserably…..
Your reply to the reporter is a good one. I think Christians of the ME should do more to highlight to fellow Muslim citizens that the ME was their land for a long time until Islam came to the region. I think majority of Muslims think Christians are foreign to this land and I think this leads to more distrust of Christians. On a related note, opposition movement should come out and formally announce that they will guarantee minority rights, It will go a long way to change minority attitude.
“it is not at all in the interest of the minorities to antagonise the majority just to defend a hated regime”, What would the Christians do if the revolution appears close to winning, would they switch sides? It may be late. Christians are smart and educated. I believe that many of them prefer democratic system, where their status is protected by the rule of law than to live under current system of despotism and sectarian rule. Are they going to sleep better seeing 20-30 sunni slaughtered daily?… the regime knows well that even if they reduce the numbers of demonstrators now, in the future the whole Syrian people will rise against them,they are buying time.the minorities better think again.
Increased sectarianism in Syria is mostly due to the oppression of the Syrian regime,the rise of Iran and the Saudi religious establishment. From my own observations,i assure you that most syrian sunnis are not as sectarian as Bashar’s shabeehas, and their grievances with the regime are fully justified ,but those grievances are also shared by most Syrians, not just Sunnis. I will support a Sunni president just because this may help Syrians heal,but I do not think a majority rule will provide a magical solution to Syria’s problems,the system as a whole needs to be reformed,then it will matter less who is the president.
No fair observer can equate the brutality of the regime and the thuggishness of rogue elements on the opposition side,the regime,hands down,carry most of the blame. Cool minds,not hot guns,can still save Syria . If Bashar does not stop his violent security forces and start a transitional political process that ends with free elections he will be remembered as the accidental president who destroyed syria for his lack of vision and leadership.
News Round Up follows:
صحيفة: اجتماع طارئ للجنة المركزية لحزب البعث اليوم كشفت مصادر في حزب البعث العربي الاشتراكي لصحيفة السفير إن اجتماعا طارئا للجنة المركزية للحزب سيعقد اليوم، ولمدة يوم واحد، لمناقشة الأزمة الراهنة والخروج بمجموعة من القرارات تدعم المسيرة الإصلاحية للقيادة السوري
Minorities should not derail uprisings: They should be wary of being exploited by autocratic Arab regimes as a leverage or tool against the majority
By Faisal Al Qasim, Special to Gulf News
Published: August 17, 2011
There is no doubt at all that ethnic and religious minorities in the Arab world or anywhere else, have the right to live peacefully, and to preserve their cultural, social and religious identities as full-fledged citizens. They should not suffer any kind of pressure, blackmail or persecution by the majority. But at the same time they should know that even democracy is always at the side of the majority.
Some shaky Arab rulers are frightening minorities these days that the Muslim majority might persecute them later if the regime fails. The rulers in question have been presenting themselves over the decades as secularists, and they claim that the new regimes might be Islamist, which is not true. Minorities should not even fear the emergence of an Islamic government, as the new regimes, unlike the toppled ones, will be really democratic, and everything will be decided at the ballot box. Therefore, minorities should be far-sighted and not allow some of the falling dictators to use them in their fight to remain in power. And had there been real wise people within the minorities and not just mercenary leaders, they would have sided with the rising majority to help the revolutions succeed, or at least they should have kept their mouths shut.
Dr Faisal Al Qasim is a Syrian journalist based in Doha.
Former regime insider says only democracy can save Syria
Phil Sands Aug 17, 2011
DAMASCUS // The safeguards of real democracy are all that can protect Syria’s minorities from Islamic extremism, a former regime insider has said.
Mohammad Suleman, who served for 13 years as a minister of state under the former president Hafez Al Assad, said a looming threat of sectarian violence could only be averted by a genuine shift to democracy, not by continuation of an authoritarian regime dominated by members of the minority Alawite sect.
“Democracy will give the guarantees, democracy will protect the minority communities,” he said on Monday. “No one sect in Syria can or should rule over the others, no sect need be afraid of democracy.”
Earlier this month Mr Suleman and 40 other former regime officials and senior Baath party figures launched a Democratic National Initiative. In it they called for an immediate halt to military operations and for representatives of street protesters to be included in a transitional coalition government….
دعوة المسيحية إلى العقل
ميشيل كيلو As-Safir (thanks OTW)
يبدو أن الخراب صار عاما إلى الدرجة التي تجلعنا نغادر ونحن سعداء خير ما كان في حياتنا من عادات وتقاليد تضامنية ومفيدة. في طفولتي الأولى، اصطحبني والدي من القرية التي كان يخدم فيها كدركي إلى اللاذقية. خلال سيرنا في الشارع، كنت ارتبك واخف عندما يترك يدي أو تمر واحدة من السيارات، النادرة جدا تلك الأيام. وبينما نحن على هذه الحال، بدأ الخلق يغلقون حوانيتهم ويقفون أمامها لتلاوة الفاتحة، بينما كان المسيحيون يرسمون إشارة الصليب، ووالدي يقف باستعداد رافعا يده نحو رأسه بتحية عسكرية نظامية، بعد أن جمع قدميه بعضهما إلى بعض في وقفة انضباطية رسمية. بعد !
رور الجنازة، علمت أن المتوفى كان رجلا يهوديا من آل شيحا، الأسرة المعروفة والمحترمة في لاذقية ذلك الزمن، رغم أنه لم تكن تفصلنا فترة طويلة عن مأساة فلسطين وتخلي الصهاينة العرب عنها للصهاينة اليهود .
… واليوم، تعقد في مكان محدد من دمشق حلقات رقص ودبكة وغناء، يمجد خلالها النظام القائم وتعظم رموزه، مع أن رائحة الموت تزكم أنف سوريا من مكان الرقص السعيد إلى أبواب بيوت وأحياء كثيرة يقتلها الحزن. ما الذي جرى للناس ولسوريا، حتى انقسمت إلى هذا الحد، وفقد بعض ناسها الشعور بالتضامن مع غيرهم؟ ممن يطلبون شيئا يريدونه للجميع، يفتقر إليه السوريون – بمن فيهم هؤلاء الراقصون في حضرة الموت – هو الحرية، ويعلنون في كل مناسبة أنهم يرون حتى في الراقصين أخوة لهم، وأن حريتهم هم أيضا، يجب أن تكون مضمونة بقوانين الدولة المدنية الديموقراطية، التي تستحق أن يضحي ا!
……لمرء من أجلها؟ أين كنا وأين صرنا؟
Syrian Enclave of Palestinians Nearly Deserted After Assault
By: Anthony Shadid | The New York Times
BEIRUT, Lebanon – United Nations officialssaid Tuesday that as many as 10,000 residents of a Palestinian refugee neighborhood in the Syrian port city of Latakia had fled during a four-day assault, as security forces carried out more arrests and intimidation in what residents said was a government attempt to rebuild a wall of fear in one of Syria’s largest cities….. “The residents in Raml will rally the same day the army pulls out,” said one, Ahmed Bogdash. “They are poor and they have nothing to lose.”….Another senior Palestinian official, Yasser Abed Rabbo, has described the attack on Raml as “a crime against humanity.” Speaking on the official Voice of Palestine Radio on Tuesday, Mr. Abed Rabbo said that the Syrian government had “lost rationality.”….
Syrian troops detain dozens, 1 dead in northwest, 17/08/2011
BEIRUT (AP) — A Syrian rights group says government troops have detained dozens of people overnight after cutting electricity in a Damascus neighborhood.
The group says the raids took place in the predominantly Kurdish neighborhood of Rukneddine early on Wednesday.
The London-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights also says a bullet killed a man in the northwestern Idlib province as he stood on his balcony. Troops were carrying out raids in the area at the time.
Ousted Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak criticized the regime of Syrian President Bashar Assad for committing crimes against his people, advising Assad to respond to the will of his people and relinquish power, Egyptian newspaper Al Gomhouria quoted …
Muslims Attack Christian Village in Egypt — 1 Murdered, Homes Looted and Torched (AUGUST 9, 2011)
(AINA) — Muslims attacked Christians in the village of Nazlet Faragallah, in the southern Egyptian Minya province, on Sunday evening. The attack continued until the early hours of Monday morning, August 8. One Copt was murdered and homes were looted and torched when Muslims from Nazlet Faragallah together with Muslims from four neighboring villages started their violence at approximately 8 PM, after breaking their Ramadan fast.
According to eyewitnesses, thousands of Muslims entered the village from all sides, firing automatic weapons (mostly in the air), looting and throwing Molotov Cocktails at several homes. “They even destroyed our irrigation pumps,” said one witness.
The first attack was on the house of Father Youanes, pastor of St. George Church, which lies at the head of the village. He was beaten and his home was looted and torched.
Maher Nassif Tobias (50), an employee at the local council, was murdered in his home. He was found by his son. His house was completely looted, including his livestock.
Security forces arrived 4 hours after the attack began and there were too few of them. “They only had batons in their hands, and were unable to control the situation,” said a Coptic village resident. “Our village is surrounded by corn fields. The Muslims came into the village to loot and quickly disappeared in the fields, the police could not follow them. They were coming from all directions at the same time.”
Syria’s stable currency amid turmoil sparks guessing game
By Borzou Daragahi, Aug 17 (Los Angeles Times) —
A sharp discrepancy between Syria’s nose-diving economy and its relatively stable currency is fueling speculation among observers that either another country, presumably strategic oil-rich ally Iran, has injected huge amounts of cash into its economy, or Damascus is quickly draining its foreign currency reserves.
Syria’s overall economy, stock market, vital tourism industry and foreign investment have collapsed, according to economists and analysts. It appears to have hemorrhaged cash, with the bulk flowing to Lebanon, which has long served as a conduit for Syrian finances.
But its currency, the Syrian pound, has held strong, staying about the same as before an uprising against President Bashar Assad began five months ago.
The disconnect between the teetering economy and the stable currency, which remains vital for keeping the country’s urban merchant class a pillar of support for the regime, has baffled some observers and led to speculation about possible influxes of cash.
“You have the collapse of exports and the collapse of foreign direct investment,” said a Western diplomat in Beirut who closely tracks the Syrian economy and spoke on condition of anonymity. “Given the fact that the currency has not collapsed, the indications are that money is coming in. No one knows from where, or how much.”
Homs activist: I rather die than go back to Syrian prisons.
By Sean T. Serioca
“They don’t know anything about Internet, they asked me: “which is your address?” to know my name on Facebook and my email. In Arabic “address” (‘anwan) stands only for the place where you live, so I told them my address in Homs and they started again shouting to humiliate me. If it was true that they had information, why they didn’t show me something I did online? You see how humiliating it is to be controlled by such people?”….
During the interrogation, it is even more important than confessions “to break you from the inside,” maintains Wassim, who was tortured for approximately 18 hours on the whole and released without having admitted anything relevant. As a consequence of the electroshocks, Wassim suffered a form of impairment of hearing for the following two months. “During the whole interrogation I had one guy on my right side, letting me hear the rumor of an electroshock baton, which can hurl your body 3 meters away,” recalls crying Wassim, “another guy was on my left side and he kept on beating me on the head…even if had confessed, they would have done this, to scare me.” After the first round of interrogations, they took him to another room, where his naked body was sprinkled with cold water and electroshocked with a baton for nearly three hours.” ….
UN Court Completes Unsealing of Indictment in Hariri Killing
By Massoud A. Derhally, Aug. 17 (Bloomberg) —
The United Nations court investigating the 2005 killing of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafiq Hariri completed the unsealing of its indictment in the case today, providing details of the allegations against four men described by local media as Hezbollah members.
The Wall Street Journal has a stunning report on Bashar al-Assad’s use of embassies around the world to perpetuate his reign of terror: Syria is taking its war against President Bashar al-Assad’s political opponents global, using diplomats in …
Syria Threatens Dissidents Around Globe, U.S. Says, Wall Street Journal –
UN calls back support personnel from Syria, Aug 17, 2011 19:06 Moscow Time
The UN has called back its support personnel from Syria where mass protests against President Bashar al-Assad’s regime have been continuing for five months. Reuters reported on Wednesday that 26 foreign employees of the mission have already left the country with their families.
Egypt Studying Removal of Subsidies on Diesel Fuel, Cabinet Says, 2011-08-17
By Abdel Latif Wahba
Aug. 17 (Bloomberg) — The Egyptian government is studying the removal of subsidies on diesel fuel for all manufacturing and tourism industries, the Cairo-based Cabinet said in a faxed statement today.
The Saudi reaction to Syria
….What is behind Saudi Arabia’s Syria policy? According to a prominent Saudi Arabia expert in the United States, Saudi Arabia is shifting from a counter-revolutionary position to one that now prioritizes the regional balance of power. According to Gregory Gause “King Abdullah was hesitant to break fully with Damascus, as demonstrations against the regime accelerated over the past five months, given the importance of Syria in regional politics. But the escalating violence of the past week, coming at the beginning of Ramadan, seemed to seal the issue. Dealing Iran a blow in regional politics trumps the risks of greater instability.”