Creating a Syrian Swamp: Assad’s ‘Plan B’

Creating a Syrian Swamp: Assad’s ‘Plan B’
By Joshua Landis
August 10, 2012

Is the regime’s “end game” coming soon? I fear not. Assad is likely to treat Syria as he did Iraq and Lebanon: he will work to break them apart. In 2005, a friend who was close to the regime told me that Assad and those around him were convinced that they could defeat President Bush’s attempts to change the regime in Syria. They said:

Bush thinks he can use Iraq against us. But Iraq is not a nation. We will help turn its factions against the US. It will turn into a swamp and suck the US in. This is what we did to Israel and the US in Lebanon in the 1980s.

Today, Assad will treat Syria as he did Lebanon and Iraq earlier. He will gamble that it is not a nation and will work to tear it apart. Already he has withdrawn from the Kurdish parts of Syria. Friends in Aleppo tell me that Assad is arming the Kurds there. He will arm the Arab tribes in the hope that they will resist central control. I am told that a number of the tribes of Aleppo gathered to condemn the Free Syrian Army following the killing of a leader of the al-Berri tribe, Ali Zeineddin al-Berri, also known as Zeno, who was accused of leading a pro-regime shabiha militia group. Assad will arm those that fear the Free Syrian Army, such as the Aleppo tribes, which he has used to police Aleppo. As Damascus and Aleppo slip out of his control, he may well try to destroy them sooner than allow them to fall intact to the Free Syrian Army. Anyone who has ruled Syria knows that Damascus is its linchpin. By reducing it to ruins, Syria may become ungovernable. He will build up the rural groups that have chafed under Damascus’ control.

In order to survive, Assad and his Alawite generals will struggle to turn Syria into Lebanon – a fractured nation, where no one community can rule. He may lose Syria, but could still remain a player, and his Alawite minority will not be destroyed. Today, Junblatt, Geagea, Gemayyal, Franjia and other warlords are respected members of parliament and society. All might have been taken to the international court and charged with crimes against humanity two decades ago. After all, somewhere between 100,000 to 150,000 Lebanese were killed out of a population of three million during the civil war. When the Lebanese came to terms with the fact that no one camp could impose its rule over the others, they had no choice but to bury the hatchet and move forward.

If Assad surrenders, hundreds of regime leaders will be executed or tried for crimes against their fellow countrymen. The broader Alawite community fears the possibility of aimless retribution. To avoid this, Assad is likely to pursue the Lebanon option: turn Syria into a swamp and create chaos out of Syria’s sects and factions. It is a strategy of playing upon divisions to sow chaos. Already the Syrian Army has largely been transformed into an Alawite militia. If Assad must withdraw from Damascus, he will have nowhere to fall back on but Latakia and the coastal mountains. I have argued that the Alawite region cannot be turned into an independent state, but it does provide Assad and the remnants of the Syrian Army a social base. Just as Lebanon’s Maronites did not create an independent state in the Lebanon Mountains, they did use it to deny Muslim forces undivided supremacy over Lebanon. The Syrian opposition will have difficulty defeating Assad’s army. This is certainly true if opposition forces remain as fragmented as they are today. Assad is gambling on his enemies being unable to unite. He is working assiduously to turn Syria into a swamp in order to save what he can of his power and the lives of those around him.

If Assad is successful in this ambition, there will be no clear endgame to the fighting in Syria. Syria’s Baathist regime cannot survive. It is already collapsing. Most state institutions are no longer functioning. Order has broken down in many parts of the country. New authorities are springing up as the old disappear. But Assad’s army in its transformed state is likely to remain a powerful force. It is difficult to see how a clear winner will emerge in Syria. A new national pact will have to be hammered out between the forces on the ground. But those forces are only just beginning to take shape in their new forms today.

Syria Comment News (No moderation of comments)

I will try abandoning moderation of the comment section for several weeks as an experiment. I have been receiving numerous complaints. I have had great trouble keeping good moderators because people are angry. Every moderator is attacked for being partisan and unfair. Their job becomes unsatisfying if not impossible. Consequently, I will try not to moderate the comment section for several weeks and pray that all commentators remain civil and resist attacks on other commentators. Attacking ideas is fine. Attacking people is not. I want to keep the comment section useful and friendly to all. Ideally comments will add valuable information for our readers. This blog is a group effort. Best to you all. Joshua

News Round Up

Will Syria’s Kurds benefit from the crisis?
By Jonathan Marcus BBC Diplomatic Correspondent

Sowing chaos?

…. Noted Syria expert Joshua Landis of the University of Oklahoma says that while Syria’s Kurds are a compact minority they are not a majority even in the north eastern border area with Turkey – where they constitute some 30-40% of the population.

They have sometimes tense relations with local Sunni Arab tribes who see this as an integral part of Syrian territory, reinforced by the fact that this is an area rich in oil resources vital to the Syrian economy.

Prof Landis argues that what is going on in the Kurdish north-east offers a useful pointer to President Assad’s “Plan B” should his control over key cities like Damascus and Aleppo crumble

He says that the “embattled president withdrew government forces from the north-east because he couldn’t control it and wanted to focus on the most important battles in Aleppo and Damascus”.

“But in the back of the president’s mind, there may be the thought that empowering the Kurds is a way of weakening the Sunni Arab majority and underlining the risks of fragmentation should his government fall. It’s a strategy of playing upon divisions to sow chaos,” he said.

This way, says Prof Landis, “the Syrian Army – which is rapidly becoming an Alawite militia, whilst still the strongest military force – may lose control over large swathes of the country, but will remain a vital factor in determining the political outcome in Syria”.

It is a bleak prospect.

Prof Landis asserts that President Assad “may lose Syria, but could still remain a player, and his Alawite minority will not be destroyed”.

“That’s the future of Syria,” he says, with little enthusiasm. “It’s what Lebanon was and what Iraq became.”

Insight: Syria rebels see future fight with foreign radicals
By Erika Solomon, ALEPPO, Syria | Tue Aug 7, 2012

A Free Syrian Army fighter screams in pain after he was injured in a leg by shrapnel from a shell fired from a Syrian Army tank in the Salaheddine neighbourhood of central Aleppo August 7, 2012.
REUTERS/Goran Tomasevic

(Reuters) – Abu Bakr, a Syrian rebel commander on the outskirts of Aleppo, is a devoted Islamist determined to overthrow President Bashar al-Assad. But the radical allies that have joined the rebels in recent months alarm even him.

“Let me be clear. I am an Islamist, my fighters are Islamists. But there is more than one type of Islamist,” he told Reuters. “These men coming fought in insurgencies like Iraq. They are too extreme, they want to blow up any symbol of the state, even schools.”

Seventeen months into the uprising against Assad, Syria’s rebels are grateful for the support of Islamist fighters from around the region. They bring weapons, money, expertise and determination to the fight.

But some worry that when the battle against Assad is over they may discover their allies – including fighters from the Gulf, Libya, Eastern Europe or as far as the Pakistan-Afghanistan border area – have different aims than most Syrians.

“Our goal is to make a new future, not destroy everything,” Abu Bakr said, sighing as he rattled his prayer beads. “As bloody as it is now, this stage is simple. We all have the same cause: topple the regime. When Bashar falls, we may find a new battlefront against our former allies.”

Abu Bakr and his comrades say they envision Syria as a conservative version of Turkey’s moderate Islamist rule, not an autocratic theocracy. They are unnerved by a recent kidnapping of foreign journalists and attacks on state infrastructure….

One of the most effective and elusive groups in Aleppo now sending reinforcements into Damascus is called Ahrar al-Sham, “The Free Men of Syria.” Its fighters accept the bulk of jihadist foreign fighters in Idlib and Aleppo, rebels say.

“They’re extremely effective and secretive. They coordinate with us to attack the regime but they don’t take orders from anyone. They get weapons and explosives smuggled from abroad that are much better,” said a rebel in Aleppo called Anwar.

Other groups are amateurs working alone, and it shows…


But most rebels don’t have clear answers for what they mean when they say they are Islamist or want an Islamic state.

“We want to build a state where our citizens are equal, Muslims and minorities,” said the young rebel Anwar, as he watched an Islamic TV station from a safe house in Aleppo.

“We want to be able to choose our own future, not have it be determined by poverty or our religion.”

The fighters from Syria are mostly poor, uneducated young men from rural areas. Decades of repressed anger have helped shape their ideas. Most say that as members of the country’s Sunni Muslim majority, their families were harassed and discriminated against by security forces.

….Commander Abu Bakr says that while he objects to the severe radical approach, he too hopes for an Islamic state.

“Let’s first get rid of the regime, re-establish stability, have national dialogue, and then gradually try to create the Islamic state and give people time to get used to it,” he said.

“I don’t want to immediately impose Sharia law and start cutting off people’s hands for stealing. I believe in Sharia. But if we force it on people, we will create fear. We have to assure minorities we will treat them well.”

Rebel fighters are exhausted and can’t afford to take on new opponents, said fighters from northern Idlib, in a convoy heading to the battle in neighboring Aleppo. Amr, a 20-year-old rebel, said his comrades had their hands full trying to topple the government and maintain order in areas they control.

“We already are fighting the regime and now we’re fighting crime. We just don’t have time to deal with these extremists,” he sighed. “But don’t worry, their day will come.”

On Damascus Streets, Front Lines Multiply
Neighborhood Patrols in Syrian Capital Take Up Arms for the Regime; In Some Areas, Rebels Are Manning the Checkpoints.

Syrian army fighters in Damascus in July. Regime backers have asserted control over much of the capital.

DAMASCUS—Syria’s capital, once a haven from the violence tearing through much of the country, now has multiple front lines and bears battle scars of its own.

A maze of checkpoints and neighborhood patrols run by the most hardened supporters of President Bashar al-Assad has allowed the government to reassert control in most areas—after rebel fighters stunned soldiers and residents last month.

Local councils of regime supporters, called Popular Committees, were months ago given the task by municipalities to guard their respective neighborhoods. Now, their members—mostly men in their 20s and 30s—have been armed with rifles and handguns, issued ID cards and given monthly salaries.

New license plates that read “protection of order” are displayed on a growing number of cars around the capital. The word for “order” in Arabic, locals point out, can also mean “regime,” a pun not lost on Syrians on both sides of the conflict.

But the weeklong government bombardment of crowded neighborhoods last month also gained rebel fighters some sympathy in other corners of the capital, making regime opponents out of displaced civilians and turning rebellious southern districts into nearly lawless enclaves. Still, many regime opponents say it was premature or reckless of rebels to bring the fight to the capital…..

Assad appears on TV with Iranian security chief
Washington Post

Syrian President Bashar al-Assad made a rare appearance with the head of Iran’s Supreme National Security Council on Tuesday in video footage broadcast on state television. Assad has made one appearance since the assassination of four top security officials on July 18. In video footage broadcast the following day, he was shown swearing in a new defense minister.

Saeed Jalili, a top security official in Iran and the country’s lead nuclear negotiator, visited Damascus on Tuesday to discuss the fate of 48 Iranians captured by rebels just outside the capital on Saturday, as well as the ongoing crisis in Syria.

“Kidnapping innocent people is not acceptable anywhere in the world,” Jalili said, according to the official Islamic Republic News Agency. He said Iran would do what it could to “secure release of the 48 innocent pilgrims kidnapped in Syria.”

He also said the only way to resolve the unrest in the country would be to find a “Syrian solution.”

LBC: Samaha confesses involvement in bombing plans
August 9, 2012

LBC television reported Thursday that detained ex-Information Minister Michel Samaha confessed under interrogation that he had transferred “explosives from Syria to Lebanon in order to carry out bombings in North Lebanon, particularly in the area of Akkar, with Syria’s knowledge.”

Guardian (GB): The Muslim Brotherhood wants a future for all Syrians2012-08-06

The future of democracy in Syria is the subject of many concerns: people are worried about the treatment of minorities and women, possible acts of revenge, and the likelihood of transitional justice. Some ask about universal human rights. Others …

State Department and Pentagon Plan for Post-Assad Syria By STEVEN LEE MYERS and THOM SHANKER, August 4, 2012

WASHINGTON — Even with fighting raging in Syria and President Bashar al-Assad digging in, the State Department and Pentagon are quietly sharpening plans to cope with a flood of refugees, help maintain basic health and municipal services, restart a shattered economy and avoid a security vacuum in the wake of Mr. Assad’s fall, administration officials…

State Department Spokesman Patrick Ventrell said at a daily press briefing Monday:

“What we’re focused on and our concern is that as the opposition comes together with the remaining elements of the regime that don’t have blood on their hands, that they create an inclusive Syria where the rights of all Syrians are respected. And so that’s our focus and that’s what we’re directly communicating to the opposition, and that’s certainly where our feelings are.”..

 Daily Caller: Behind the White House’s secret Syria plan 2012-08-07

 The White House won’t keep its own secrets, never mind those of the SEALs, Pentagon, or Israel — especially if leaking secrets helps President Obama look like a tough guy in his uphill re-election campaign. The latest leak is a gusher, and …

Divisions may hinder Muslim Brotherhood in Syria
© Oxford Analytica 2012 – Thursday, August 9 2012
At the start of the uprising in March 2011, the Muslim Brotherhood was not well placed to claim the leadership of post-Assad Syria: it had no organised presence inside the country and was beset by long-standing rivalries. However, the uprising has enabled it to bolster its credibility and re-establish a foothold among the domestic opposition. It is now on course to play a prominent role in the conflict — and the political system that follows the Assad family’s 40-year rule.
•The fall of the Assad regime will remove obstacles to increased Turkish, Qatari, and possibly Egyptian support.
•Both Iran and Saudi Arabia will resent the Brotherhood’s rise, with Riyadh trying to curtail its influence by supporting rival forces.
•The movement’s moderate positions are likely to make it appear as a ‘reasonable’ alternative to more radical Islamic forces.
What next
As soon as security conditions allow, the Muslim Brotherhood will return to Syria to claim a place within the new political order. This will not be an easy task. Although it will benefit from its connections with armed groups and foreign governments, it will face strong opposition from both Islamist and secular rivals. The movement will also need to address internal divisions, and rebuild its Damascus branch.
For decades, the Brotherhood has dominated the exiled opposition. This is a result of the mass exodus of its members that occurred between the 1963 Ba’athist coup that brought the Assads to power, and the regime’s final eradication of the movement’s presence inside Syria following the 1979-1982 Islamic uprising.
The Brotherhood played a leading role in the conferences held by exiled opponents in Turkey in the first half of 2011. It rapidly became the leading force within the main exiled opposition body, the Syrian National Council (SNC) that was created in Istanbul last August. It took about one-quarter of the seats and established alliances with many other members, including secular figures such as the SNC’s first president, Burhan Ghalioun. In addition to its size and experience, the Brotherhood has been able to influence the SNC’s decisions thanks to its close relations with the latter’s two main supporters, Turkey and Qatar (see QATAR: Foreign policy activism meets constraints – February 3, 2012).
Factionalism issues
However, the movement remains handicapped by factionalism based on long-running regional divisions. In the early 1970s, the Damascus branch seceded from the organisation and gradually ceased to play any significant role, even in exile. During the following decades, endemic rivalry persisted between the Aleppo and Hama branches. In 2010, the Brotherhood’s secretary-general, Aleppo branch member Ali Sadr al-Din al-Bayanuni, was replaced with a new leadership entirely composed of members of the Hama branch. This followed a number of leadership failures by Bayanuni, including his unfruitful alliance in 2006 with former Vice-President Abd al-Halim Khaddam, who by then was in exile.
The new leadership is headed by Riyad Shaqfa and his deputy Faruq Tayfur, the most senior Brotherhood representative within the SNC. Although the two branches have recently reconciled, the Aleppo branch has continued to act autonomously, to the extent that it runs its own coalition within the SNC, the National Action Group led by Ahmad Ramadan.
Rebuilding grass-root networks
The creation of a ‘liberated zone’ in the north could facilitate the Brotherhood’s return this year
After establishing its hegemony over the exiled opposition, the Brotherhood’s top priority has been to rebuild bridges with Syrian society. It has attempted to do this by channeling funds into the country, first for humanitarian purposes, then from late 2011 onwards, in support of armed groups. The reconstruction of the movement’s base inside Syria has thus been carried out on a clientelist basis rather than through the recruitment of genuine followers.
Its attempt to re-enter the Syrian political scene has relied on the movement’s own structures such as the Committee for the Protection of Civilians. The latter is an umbrella organisation that was created in December 2011 and subsequently secured the allegiance of several insurgent groups, the most powerful of which is the Khalid Bin al-Walid Brigade in Homs province.
Islamist competition
The Brotherhood’s rise may exacerbate Syria’s regional and ideological divisions
However, the Brotherhood has also been accused of using the SNC’s resources for its own purposes, in particular through its control of the Relief and Development Office. This issue has been a source of tensions not only with secular opponents, but also with other Islamist groups such as the Syrian National Movement. The latter constitutes a serious potential rival for the Brotherhood given that its leaders left Syria only after March 2011 and thus command a much fresher network of supporters on the ground.
Inside Syria, pro-Brotherhood brigades also compete with Saudi-backed military coalitions such as the Front of the Revolutionaries of Syria, and at least some branches of the Free Syrian Army that have reportedly distanced themselves from the Brotherhood-SNC-Qatar nexus (see SYRIA: Opposition splits cloud transition prospects – May 14, 2012).
Despite past tactical alliances with the Muslim Brothers, the Saudi monarchy is worried about the fact that their recent electoral victories in the region might encourage its own citizens to demand political reforms. In Syria, therefore, Riyadh has tended to support the Brotherhood’s rivals, particularly politically conservative forces such as Bedouin tribes and defected officers.
Policy agenda
Pragmatism would likely determine the movement’s actions once in power
In ideological terms, the Syrian Brotherhood espouses moderate positions in line with the regional movement. It has always advocated a form of ‘Islamic democracy’ that combines the institutions of a liberal democratic state (free multi-party elections, a powerful parliament, separation of power) with the ‘gradual Islamisation of law’. Over the last decade the organisation has clarified its position on religious minorities by rejecting any form of discrimination against them.
The Brotherhood’s economic policies advocate a radical break with the incumbent regime state-centred approach in favour of a liberal system characterised by minimal state intervention and maximum private initiative (see NORTH AFRICA: Islamists to be pragmatic on economy – April 10, 2012).
In the realm of foreign policy, the Brotherhood will have to walk a fine line between the advocacy of a nationalist agenda, which will be key to the movement’s legitimacy, and the need to follow a realistic course of action in order to preserve its relations with pro-Western states in the region
Nicholas D. Kristof: Obama AWOL in Syria
….As I see it, there are three main reasons for action in Syria.
First, the longer the fighting goes on, the more it destabilizes the region. Syria is now in a civil war linked to the Sunni-Shiite divide in the region. The more deaths, the more refugees, the more revenge killing, the tougher it will be to put Humpty Dumpty together. The longer the war persists, the more risk of spillover into Lebanon, Iraq and Jordan.
Second, Assad is believed to have many tons of sarin and VX nerve agents. Those chemical weapons could end up in the hands of jihadis or on the global black market, and we should work with Syrian rebels to help secure them if necessary.
Third, there’s a humanitarian imperative. It appears that several times more people have been killed in Syria than in Libya when that intervention began, and the toll is rising steeply.
Syrian rebels driven by religion, but on their own terms,” Wash Post
By Roula Khalaf and Abigail Fielding-Smith, Published: August 9

….Abu Berri says he became a committed member of the Salafists, the ultraconservative Sunni sect, after spending nine years in Saudi Arabia.

Many of his peers, he says, are also becoming Salafists, even those who have little understanding of this brand of puritanical Islam. Abdelr Razzaq Tlass, the charismatic leader of a brigade in the city of Homs, traded his mustache for a beard, he notes. “They grow beards to defy the regime,” he says. “In fact, we’re even willing to say we’re al-Qaeda to annoy the regime.”

Syrian activists often play down the religious aspect of the country’s revolution, insisting that in a conservative society it is only natural that people who are suffering should seek refuge in religion. But as the regime’s brutality has intensified, the rebel movement has become more radicalized. In this overwhelmingly Sunni Muslim struggle against a minority Alawite regime, Salafists and other Islamists say they are fighting a jihad against the Assads.

Crime Wave Engulfs Syria as Its Cities Reel From War
By an employee of THE NEW YORK TIMES and DAMIEN CAVE
Published: August 9, 2012

….Kidnapping, rare before, is now rampant, as a man named Hur discovered here last month. He simply wanted to drive home. The man shoving a pistol into his back had other plans. “Keep walking,” the gunman told Hur, 40, a successful businessman, as they approached his car. “Get in.”

Hur said he initially thought he was being arrested by government agents. But then, after blindfolding him, his three captors made a phone call that revealed baser motives.

“They asked my family to ransom me with 15 million Syrian pounds,” Hur said of the abductors’ demand for about $200,000. “They were criminals, not a political group. They told me they knew me and they knew my family could pay.”….

It was Iraq, circa 2003, in miniature: in areas where decades of suppressive government have suddenly been lifted, looting, violence and sectarianism have begun to thrive.

But the lawlessness may be more systemic. For years, the Assad government relied for control on private militias called shabiha that were paid by the government or by its wealthy supporters. With the government stretched financially and many businessmen fleeing or switching sides, those payments appear to have stopped, Ms. Hanano and others said, leading many militia members to pay themselves however they can, often with violence as a byproduct….

“In the Shadow of Assad’s Bombs
by Samar Yazbek, a novelist and journalist, who is als the authorof “A Woman in the Crossfire: Diaries of the Syrian Revolution.” Powerful personal account from an embattled village, written by an Alawi woman who has renounced the regime.
New York Times op-ed

….I was the only woman among them, and the young F.S.A. men treated me like part of the group. During that meeting it became clear that it’s a mistake to consider the F.S.A. as a single bloc. It is a hodgepodge of battalions, including secularists, moderate Islamists and all-too-ordinary people who joined up to defend their lives and their families.

At the end of our journey back to Saraqib, the commander told me, “We are one people, we and the Alawites are brothers. We had never thought about the sort of things that the regime is trying to stir up.”

I was silent for a moment, until I realized what he was telling me, the daughter of a well-known Alawite family that supports President Bashar al-Assad unconditionally. Some of my relatives have publicly disowned me for turning my back on the regime as many others have, announcing on Facebook that I am no longer considered one of them.

I squeezed the commander’s hand. ….

“There was an apple seller who came to Saraqib today. He was killed by that sniper up on the radio building. An army patrol passed by, took the apple cart and they all started eating the apples even as the merchant’s corpse was sprawled out on the ground,” she recounted. “The apple seller’s son was shouting and crying for someone to help him move his father so that he could give him a decent burial. One of them motioned at the son to go and ask the neighbors for help.”

Before the sound of a fighter jet flying overhead boomed, the woman said, “Poor guy. He was just a stranger who wanted to sell his apples.”

Comments (219)

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101. Altair said:

I think Prof. Landis’ hypothesis needs a bit more elaboration because in the analogies of Lebanon and Iraq, there were occupying powers, namely Israelis and Americans respectively. In these scenarios, swamps were being created for them, and as occupiers they were forced out.

But in the Syrian case, the one acting as the occupier is the Syrian government itself, the one with the most firepower and the one bombing its own cities. So Asad is a creating a swamp for his own government? Making it unmanageable means it will be unmanageable for him and his government, meaning they have already given up any hope of putting the country back together, and ironically, forcing themselves out of the Syrian heartland.

This might be the case, but it would only make sense if Asad and his followers were indeed planning a separate coastal retreat. Prof. Landis has argued before that an Alawi state would be untenable. Does that mean it will be an “Alawistan” enclave like “Maronistan” in Lebanon, one where the law cannot reach them? And then they would join a federal Syria with a weak central government?

The truth, it’s hard to know what these guys are planning because their “Goetterdaemmerung”-style, to go out in a ball of flames, seems suicidal to me, unless they really think they can crush the opposition (which seems impossible now) It’s certainly hard to discern a rational strategy.

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August 11th, 2012, 5:53 am


104. Ales said:

Intelligence services say to public what further interest of their countries.

They are posting and monitoring this blog too.

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August 11th, 2012, 7:26 am


105. Amir in Tel Aviv said:

“Moderation” equals censorship and silencing.
Good riddance!

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August 11th, 2012, 7:34 am


106. Syrialover said:

# 91. Altair

Good comment. Also, Lebanon’s outcomes were distorted by the ongoing occupation by Syria, and although Iraq is usually discussed in terms of American interference, Iran was actually an equally significant factor and is now dominant there.

I would also argue Syrians are culturally different from both.

And as you point out, the situation of a country being smashed and burned by its internal government has no parallel.

Another driver for Syrians to regroup and get things ticking over from the centre is the fact so much of Syria’s employment and business is linked to government. It’s also going to be crucial for attracting post-crisis reconstruction assistance and investment.

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August 11th, 2012, 7:40 am


107. Syrialover said:

Amir in Tel Aviv said (#94) said:

“Moderation” equals censorship and silencing.

No it doesn’t. It means keeping this forum from being trashed and overrun by tantrum throwers and unbalanced and strange internet lurkers.

This forum is very generous, tolerant and open to all comers.

In return for that policy, those who run this blog have a right to keep it to certain norms and standard and control anonymous outsiders who want to hijack it to serve their own often crazy agendas. Otherwise it will continue to deteriorate and be abandoned by serious followers.

More to the point, it’s completely unnecessary for the moderator to pay attention to criticism and hassling by those who have been regulated.

Those people who get politely reined in are getting feedback on being inappropriate (ie how they appear to others), and they are free to re-state their arguments in civil and rational terms.

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August 11th, 2012, 8:13 am


108. Syria no Kandahar said:

أحقر وانذل إرهابيين في تاريخ البشرية
خنازير الوهابيه
Freedom fighters supported by the west

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August 11th, 2012, 8:26 am


109. Observer said:

DeClerq stepped down and resigned and admitted the end of the apartheid regime why not the same for Syria?

Rumors are rife about many things from the stealing of organs to defections and I did point out my doubt until proven about the news that I read.

The point though is that if these rumors run amok then we will have many reasons for revenge and the cycle of violence will descend into hell.

Finally once again you refuse to address the issues I raised
1. The regime is incapable of reform and
2. If reform were to occur it would mean the end of the regime

If you do not agree then there is no point in any discussion you are 100% pro regime in my opinion.

As for Yugoslavia model I think it is much more likely than the one in South Africa and this is because there is no such thing as a Syrian National Identity that supersedes all and draws all the factions into buying into this entity. The divide and conquer policies of the last 40 years are coming home to roost.

Question for all on this blog
Do you consider yourself first as
1. Syrian
2. Arab Syrian
3. Christian Syrian
4. Sunni Syrian
5. Alawi Syrian
6. Kurdish Syrian
7. Purely based on your religion ethnicity sect

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August 11th, 2012, 8:36 am


110. irritated said:

#86 SL

Everyday they are more FSA dirty little stories of abductions, summary execution and tortures now officially reported in the media since the journalists are ‘allowed’ among the rebels.
Instead of government initiated massacres they are witnessing rebels initiated massacres. I guess their presence will not be tolerated long if they keep on reporting the excesses of the fighters for ‘justice’

Are we switching for organized thugs we know to disorganized thugs we don’t know?

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August 11th, 2012, 8:41 am


111. bronco said:

97. Observer

You agenda is clear from day one:
– You don’t believe in a Syrian identity
– Syria is an artificial country
– Syria should be divided according to ethnicity and religion
– That is not the consequence of the rebellion, but the real cause.

I believe the exact opposite.
There is no point in arguing anymore, as all your argumentation supposedly criticizing the regime is simply aimed at your agenda.
I guess among the opposition, we have many adepts. Enjoy.

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August 11th, 2012, 8:52 am


112. Citizen said:

محمد مماد ليس نسيم دنيا و من الكنية مماد يبدو أنه كردي و من لهجة القتلة هذا ريف شمالي حلب ! لا تعليق على فظاعة الفيديو !

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August 11th, 2012, 8:52 am


113. ann said:

Qatar offered Syrian ambassador $5.8mn for defection – report – 11 August, 2012

Qatar’s ambassador in Mauritania allegedly offered his Syrian counterpart an advance payment of US$1 million and a monthly salary of $20,000 over 20 years, trying to convince the diplomat to defect and voice support for the opposition.

Hamad Seed Albni was also offered a permanent residence in the Qatari capital Doha, but refused the proposition, claims Lebanese-based Al-Manar TV. The diplomat reportedly called the offer a “blatant interference” in Syria’s affairs and warned not to come up with such initiatives anymore.

Bashar al-Assad’s government has endured a number of high-profile defections recently. Diplomats representing Syria in the United Arab Emirates and Iraq, Abdel Latif al-Dabbagh and Nawaf al-Fares, abandoned their positions and so did the country’s Prime Minister Riyad Hijab. The officials explained their defections, saying they could not work for a regime oppressing its own people


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August 11th, 2012, 8:57 am


114. bronco said:

#83 Katamon

“However, Assad is more completely reliant on both Iran and Russia.”

Saudia Arabia and the GCC have been completely reliant on the USA for decades. Their whole country is managed and protected by the USA.

Yet for Syria it is new, as it was self-reliant and debt-free for decades.

Instead this new reliance could be seem as a positive and effective factor to pressure the regime for reforms and political transition to a more democratic system.

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August 11th, 2012, 9:01 am


115. ann said:

Syria’s new PM sworn in before president Assad – 2012-08-11

DAMASCUS, Aug. 11 (Xinhua) — Syria’s newly appointed Prime Minister Wael al-Halki was sworn in Saturday before the Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, the state-run SANA news agency said.

Assad appointed al-Halki Thursday after sacking the former breakaway Prime Minister Riad Hijab, who defected last Sunday and sought refuge in Jordan.

Halki, a 48-year-old gynecologist, acted as secretary-general of the Baath party’s branch in the southern Daraa province between 2000 and 2004. He was appointed as head of the doctors’ syndicate in 2010 and later served as health minister.


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August 11th, 2012, 9:05 am


116. Norman said:

With the people of Syria having no concern of their fellow Syrians, Syria lacks the qualities to be one nation, so does Lebanon and Iraq, the question about having one Syria with people hating each other or dividing it into states, that makes me think of marriages, would it better for the children if the parents who hate each other stay together for the sake of the children or would it be better if they get divorce,

If we look at history and i don’t mean recent history but the old Aramaic history, Syria had city states and will probably return to that,

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August 11th, 2012, 9:05 am


117. irritated said:

101. ann

Qatar’s foreign diplomacy: show them the money.

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August 11th, 2012, 9:08 am


118. Observer said:

you say that the FSA are now conducting abductions and practicing torture and that the people will not tolerate this much longer. I agree and the people will then revolt and go on to demonstrate and demand justice and the FSA will then attack the demonstrators and the people will then bear arms to overthrow the tyranny of the FSA. Well this is exactly what has happened over the last 18 months in Syria.
I will answer and tell you that I for one consider myself
Arab first and Syrian second even though my ancestors are a melange of ethnic groups and the difference between my Arab identity and Syrian one is very thin and narrow for I grew up with the true feeling that Syria is the Arab nation’s beating heart.
However like Majbali I do recognize that the policies and events of the last forty years including the events of the 80’s have fractured the country.

Luxembourg demanded to separate from Belgium and it was done peacefully without bloodshed; the same can be done with regard to Alawis and Kurds and Druze.
This is how it works and I will spell it for you
You have an apple and I have a knife and we wish to share the apple, I cut the apple and you choose the first piece. This is the essence of how to start the separation negotiation.

As for the accusation that I wish the break up of the country that is not true, like Majbali I think the countries in the ME are non viable and the 21st century will witness the redrawing of artificial borders inherited from the colonials.

I am for all of the regions of the ME to federate and create a union that is economic and cultural and religious and leave politics out of it.

As a matter of fact when people ask me where are you from I say I am from Damascus not from Syria or Lebanon for I do not recognize those borders in the first place. In this I am exactly like Hassan Nasrallah and Aytalloh Khomeni and alas Usama Ben Laden but also Michel Aflak and Bitar and the late Hafez and the late Saddam. All wanted this unity without borders and all with their corruption of power have screwed up royally.

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August 11th, 2012, 9:10 am


119. Citizen said:

Some info about NATO’s Secret Armies
In 1990, alarming evidence of NATO-sponsored terrorist attacks came to light. This is the shocking story of Operation Gladio; a tale of espionage, conspiracy and political violence

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August 11th, 2012, 9:11 am


120. bronco said:

104. Norman

Al countries will different religion and ethnicity go through such crisis. If you logic is true, why didn’t the USA split officially between Black, White and Latino states?
I think the Syrians have a strong common identity, despite the ethnical and religious differences. This is why these countries are unique and multicolored.

It is certainly harder to live with people with differences but ultimately it enriched the country in its diversity. Sharing of power and a good economical system can make this coexistence a rich experience. That’s what Syria must achieve.
Syria needs a marriage counselor, not a divorce

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August 11th, 2012, 9:18 am


121. Tara said:

An OB/GYN doctor as a thug PM. An ophthalmologist thug and now a GYN thug. That is creepy.

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August 11th, 2012, 9:18 am


122. Syrialover said:

#98 Irritated

Here’s a grown up reality to chew on and come to grips with: this is war.

People are fighting for their lives. Physically and emotionally.

And in Syria the rules and norms of this conflict have been set by Assad’s vicius and out of control state forces. Military forces that are doing something unprecedented: mass slaughtering citizens and smashing up the country they are meant to be serving.

Until you have actually physically fought in a war or been a victim of fullscale military attack you really don’t know anything about it.

You really don’t.

They are out exposed in a wild, raging ocean and the rest of us are sitting in a comfortable armchair in a calm, safe, position far inland.

The shame falls on those who are not comprehending their reality or even thinking about them at all, except to make debating points.

And shame beyond shame: debating points in support of the Assad regime.

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August 11th, 2012, 9:19 am


123. Observer said:

I agree with Norman that city states will be a realistic outcome of that.

One more point

The mirror image of Wahabi Takfiri Salfist racism is the Baath Party Secular Fundamentalist racism. They are mirror images of each other and both create hatred and violence without bounds be it the use of chemical weapons on the Kurds or the the leveling off of Hama and now Homs today.

By the way the first to use chemical weapons in the ME is Winston Churchill in Iraq in 1920 and when objections were raised he was surprised that anyone would care about the “savages of the marshes” being bombed with chemical weapons.

For your information Irritated the 1920 revolt by the Iraqis was to protest heavy taxation by the Brits. Something we are seeing today in Syria.

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August 11th, 2012, 9:23 am


124. Norman said:


You know that i happen to be Christian Syrian orthodox, but i consider myself first as

Syrian Arab, I do that because i feel with my fellow Syrians and Arabs more than i feel with Christians from the West, and that is what Arab nationalism is.

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August 11th, 2012, 9:24 am


125. bronco said:

#106 Observer

Maybe late in the 21th, who knows? For our generation this is science fiction.

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August 11th, 2012, 9:25 am


126. bronco said:

112. Norman

I guess that for Observer who denies a common identity for the Syrians, you are an oddity.
I am sure there are dozen of millions of oddities like you in Syria.

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August 11th, 2012, 9:28 am


127. Syrialover said:

Hey Bronco (#108), I agree with you!

It’s a strange feeling.

And Observer (#106), I find it hard to buy into your pessimistic scenario. Again, the opposite to how I usually react to your excellent comments.

This forum is confusing me. I need to go and look at or something to clear my head.

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August 11th, 2012, 9:29 am


128. ann said:

Military showdown continues in Syria’s Aleppo, Damascus’ suburb – 2012-08-11

DAMASCUS, Aug. 11 (Xinhua) — Military showdown between the armed insurgents and the Syrian troops have continued Saturday, mainly in northern Aleppo and a Damascus’ suburb.

Syrian troops continued their pursuit of armed insurgent groups at several districts in the northern province of Aleppo, state media said, adding that the troops have cleared the square of al- Mashhad district from “terrorist mercenaries.”

The official news agency SANA said an RPG shell launched by an armed group fell on Bawabet al-Qassab area in Aleppo and caused damages to the Armenian Orthodox archbishopric. It added that the armed groups suffered a shortage of ammunition following the Syrian army’s success in besieging them and destroying their headquarters and arsenals.

In Homs province, SANA said the Syrian forces clashed with an armed group in al-Sultaniya area in the city’s outskirts and killed all their members.

Also in Homs, 10 people of one family were killed in al-Dmeineh al-Sharqiya village on Friday when armed groups launched missiles and mortar shells on the village and hit their house.

In the southern province of Daraa, SANA said that the Syrian forces chased armed groups in Izraa, Dael and Bassra al-Shar and killed and wounded several terrorists.

Also in al-Tal, four staffers of the pro-government al-Ekhbaria TV were kidnapped Friday while covering the military operation in parts of the area.

Contact with the four staffers has been cut, while they were at al-Tal suburb, the TV said, accusing the armed insurgents of snatching the crew.

The TV urged what it described as the influential countries that support the armed rebels in Syria to press the kidnappers to release the crew and to honor the freedom of press.


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August 11th, 2012, 9:30 am


129. ann said:

Prof. Landis, I have a post in the SPAM Que 😀

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August 11th, 2012, 9:32 am


130. Citizen said:
America is in the midst of an unprecedented budget crisis, brought on in large part by its multiple wars. Nevertheless it is also on the point of several further interventions: in Yemen, Somalia, possibly Syria or Iran (where the CIA is said to be in contact with the drug-trafficking al-Qaeda offshoot Jundallah),68 and most assuredly in Libya.
Only the American public can stop them. But in order for the people to rise up and cry Stop! there must first be a better understanding of the dark alliances underlying America’s alleged humanitarian interventions.
This awareness may increase when Americans finally realize that there is domestic blowback from assisting terrorists as well. The long elaborate dance between Mohamed and his Justice Department overseers makes it clear that the handling of terrorists for corrupt purposes corrupts the handlers as well as the terrorists. Eventually both the handlers and the handled become in effect co-conspirators, with secrets about their collusion both parties need to conceal.
Until the public takes notice, that concealment of collusion will continue. And as long as it continues, we will continue to be denied the truth about what collusions underlay 9/11.
Worse, we are likely to see more terrorist attacks, at home as well as abroad, along with more illegal, costly, and unnecessary wars.

Peter Dale Scott, a former Canadian diplomat and English Professor at the University of California

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August 11th, 2012, 9:35 am


131. Syrialover said:

Now here’s a mysterious mystery.

I have now put in two separate comments about the SC moderator situation (both actually pro-moderator and criticizing the critics), but neither have appeared.

I wonder if this will.

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August 11th, 2012, 9:35 am


132. irritated said:

#110 SL

People are fighting for their lives. Physically and emotionally.

I guess all your reasoning applies also the soldiers of the Syrian army. Or you consider them as insensitive robots?

There is a difference of being in an attack and killing in cold blood individuals or whole families in a revenge frenzy.
Thugs are the ones who couldn’t care less about justice as they think they own the truth.
If there are many of these among the supporters of the regime, there seem to be proportionally as much among the FSA.

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August 11th, 2012, 9:41 am


133. Citizen said:

the moderation pushing to be nervous!

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August 11th, 2012, 9:42 am


134. Norman said:


The US is going to have a problem in the future if it does not find a way to integrate the Latino and diverse where they live, they concentrate in California and the southern states, they are keeping their language and sooner or later the US will not have the quality of a nation state, as more and more of these Latino have more affinity to Mexico than to the US ,

When Syrians push out of Damascus neighbourhood Alawat and people from the country side as not local, i see a major problem that some people think already of segregation instead of integration,
Free movement and anti discrimination laws in housing so people can be denied housing for their religion or ethnic background is essential for one state, Syria does not have this and does not have anti discrimination laws in employment so people can find jobs and settle in other areas than where they were born, registration where people live is essential to participate in their local decision making and decentralization so the people can rule themselves,

Observer, the problem withe Baath party is that it fell in the trap of one party system that attract opportunists and profiteers and deny good people from joining a corrupt system.

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August 11th, 2012, 9:43 am


135. ann said:

U.S., Turkey worry about possible chemical attack in Syria – 2012-08-11

ISTANBUL, Aug. 11 (Xinhua) — Visiting U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu said Saturday they are worried about a possible chemical weapons attack by the Syrian regime against the opposition.

The two officials made the remarks at a press conference shortly after their meeting in Istanbul, noting that the two countries are ready to intensify their coordination and work together for the worst scenarios in Syria.

“We have serious concerns about the possibility that Syrian government forces could use chemical weapons,” Davutoglu said.

The United States and Turkey will set up a working group to respond to the crisis in Syria as situation deteriorate there, they said.

The group will coordinate in the fields of military and intelligence and make political responses to the potential fallout in case of chemical attack, which would result in medical emergencies and a likely rise in the number of refugees fleeing Syria.


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August 11th, 2012, 10:00 am


136. Syrialover said:

Observer #111.

Chemical weapons were introduced and used in a big way by Germany against its European opponents on the battlefields of the first World War.

There was no formal international condemnation of chemical weapons until the mid-1920s.

As a result of those treaties, chemical weapons were then not used again in combat, including during WWII, until the 1980s when Saddam Hussein used them on a large scale against Iran and then the Kurds.

There is also a strong case made by some that these were also used in the Syrian Hama massacre of 1982.

This is why chemical weapons are now seen as more likely to be used by Middle Eastern dictators than anywhere else in the world.

Ugly and very scary, isn’t it.

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August 11th, 2012, 10:06 am


137. ann said:

Hillary Clinton puts forward U.S. priorities in tackling Syrian crisis – 2012-08-11

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August 11th, 2012, 10:13 am


138. Syrialover said:

# 118. Irritated

What I say also applies to the ordinary soldiers serving in the Syrian army.

I have enormous sympathy and concern for them, and have expressed this repeatedly on this forum.

This conflict is a terrible experience that their criminal and lunatic “leaders”, or rather self-appointed owners, have inflicted on their lives.

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August 11th, 2012, 10:16 am


139. Tara said:

I would like Ambassador Ford to be the next Secretary of State.

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August 11th, 2012, 10:17 am


140. bronco said:

120. Norman

Syria has a background of mixed religions and ethnicity. Contrary to the USA and most immigration countries, the Syrian society is not a country of immigration, thus it is culturally cohesive and tolerant.

Yet recently, the Islamist culture imported by Syrians working in the Gulf have started to grow and is looking for a place in Syria.
As their tenets are opposed by many Syrians’ and by the government, the antagonism became more apparent. It is a new phenomenon for Syria. Being an ‘alien’ culture, it can threaten the equilibrium of the country.
In my view, this is the main challenge of Syria: How to deal with this Islamist culture sneaking in the country? Tame it? oppose it? Destroy it? As this culture is finding some echos among sunni Moslems, it is very hard to deal with it efficiently without hurting the feelings of the average sunni.
If the Christian and Shia presence in Lebanon have denied the prominence of Islamists sunnis, in Syria, the Christian, Alawite, Kurds and Druze presence are doing the same.
If these communities influences weaken, the door will be open to Islamists to claim proeminence in Syria with little resistance from the other confused Sunnis.
These are some of the hidden challenges of the present war in Syria.

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August 11th, 2012, 10:20 am


141. Syrialover said:

#125 Tara

Yeah, me too. Ford would be very Syria-aware and supportive to the legitimate government that replaces the illegitimate one Syria has been suffering for 42 years.

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August 11th, 2012, 10:22 am


142. Tara said:


Plus he is humane, kind, and with completely different and innovative style than any other American Ambassador. He would make a great Secretary of State.

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August 11th, 2012, 10:25 am


143. omen said:

frederick douglas: Those who profess to favor freedom and yet depreciate agitation, are people who want crops without ploughing the ground; they want rain without thunder and lightning; they want the ocean without the roar of its many waters. The struggle may be a moral one, or it may be a physical one, or it may be both. But it must be a struggle. Power concedes nothing without a demand. It never did and it never will.

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August 11th, 2012, 10:29 am


144. irritated said:

They seem so happy and relaxed taking about chemical weapons: Miss Piggy went to her turkish hairdresser and took her botox shot

Syria must not become a haven for PKK: Clinton

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August 11th, 2012, 10:35 am


145. Amir in Tel Aviv said:

Your daily Amid and Akid

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August 11th, 2012, 10:35 am


146. Ghufran said:

وقع الطلاق النهائي بين المجالس العسكرية التي تشرف على القتال في الأراضي السورية، وقيادة ميليشيا الجيش السوري الحر المتواجدة في المخيمات بمدينة هاتاي التركية، بعد إصدار المجلس العسكري في مدينة حمص وريفها بيانا يشير إلى أن “المجلس العسكري هو المظلة الثورية الضامنة لأهداف الثورة، والتأكيد على ضرروة العمل المشترك بين جميع الكتائب ضمن إطار المجالس العسكرية من أجل التصدي للإنتهازيين الذين سيحاولون الإستيلاء على الثورة بعد سقوط النظام”.

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August 11th, 2012, 10:37 am


147. Syrialover said:


Perhaps Syrian-people-hating Bashar Assad could try botox to stop his head getting smaller and smaller.

Those latest photos with his Iranian buddies reveal it’s definitely shrinking.

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August 11th, 2012, 10:38 am


148. habib said:

126. bronco

Apart from obvious Palestinians, Syria does actually have a recent history of immigration, many Sunni families were settled in Syria by the Ottomans (partially to counter the Shias), and many Christians, mainly Armenians, fled to Syria from Turkish persecution after WW1.

Not to mention Kurds, Circassians and Greeks.

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August 11th, 2012, 10:40 am


149. Citizen said:

NATO exercises “Sea Breeze” in Ukraine, the Syrian crisis and Russia’s role – expert opinion
Operation Center at the Heart of Sea Breeze 2012

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August 11th, 2012, 10:50 am


150. ann said:

Photos of U.S. new military airships disclosed – 2012-08-11

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August 11th, 2012, 10:51 am


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