Five Books on Syria – Recommended by Nikolas van Dam

Nikolaos van Dam Recommends Five Books on Syria to Browser

The veteran Dutch diplomat and academic  explains what is important about each of his top-five picks on Syria and why meaningful political change in Syria will be difficult to achieve. He warns that any move towards democracy is likely to be accompanied by severe sectarian tension.

Tear down this wall, President Assad
By David W. Lesch Monday, May 23, 2011, Foreign Policy

….Assad’s initial strategic vision for an internationally respected and integrated Syria has been consumed by a Syrian paradigm of political survival. He desperately needs to break out of this stifling, anachronistic box and embrace a transformational role in his country. It will be difficult, with powerful pockets of resistance to any significant changes to the status quo potentially arrayed against him. Is he willing to boldly take them on? Can he be Gorbachev-like? Is he the father who did everything he could to ensure his children’s future? Because if he is not all of these things, he will once again be faced with two possibilities: He will either be violently overthrown or be president of a country that has become the North Korea of the Middle East. I doubt this is what he really wants.

Syria: Desperate measures, 16 May 2011
Economist Intelligence Unit – Business Middle East

The central bank has hiked deposit rates sharply in what seems to be a desperate bid to shore up ebbing confidence in both the local currency and the banking system

The Central Bank of Syria has announced a set of measures that seem to be aimed mainly at shoring up confidence in the local currency in the face of the extreme political turbulence that has hit the country since mid-March. The measures could succeed in their assumed objective of protecting the Syrian pound, but they risk imposing heavy costs on both banks and their business creditors. They also betray a certain desperation on the part of the authorities, and suggest that the state’s foreign exchange reserves could be sinking to dangerously low levels.

The central bank has addressed the problems of an exchange rate under pressure and shrinking liquidity in the banking system on three fronts: it has increased interest rates on deposits (in both local and foreign currency); it has cut the statutory reserve requirement of banks; and it has introduced a foreign exchange savings scheme.

Surprise package

Soundings by the Economist Intelligence Unit indicate that the central bank did not consult with banks about its plans, which were communicated through a statement from the governor, Adib Mayaleh, to Al-Thawrah, a state-owned newspaper. The increase in rates on Syrian pound deposits has been, in effect, 300 basis points: the recommended range for rates on time deposits has been set at 7-9%, compared with 5-7% previously, but the additional margin that banks are allowed to use has been narrowed by 100 basis points to plus or minus 1 percentage point (from 2) on condition that the gap between the highest and lowest rate is not more than 2 percentage points (previously 3). Given that banks will be unable to pass on the increases to all of their loan customers (as some facilities will have had fixed rates), the impact on lending rates for new customers and existing ones with variable rates will be severe. Syrian businesses have been able to borrow at 9-10% since deposit rates were cut at the end of 2010; lending rates are now likely to shoot up to about 15%. The central bank is evidently hoping that the higher deposit rates will stem the recent tide of withdrawals (which have been particularly marked in public-sector banks). Mr Mayaleh also said that he has decided to increase rates on foreign exchange deposits, to 2-3% over Libor for US dollars and 1-2% over Libor for euros. He said that this measure should encourage Syrians to keep their hard currency savings inside the country.

In response to banks’ complaints about a shortage of liquidity, the central bank has lowered the statutory reserve requirement to 5% of total deposits from 10% previously. This ratio can be cut to zero in relation to the portion of deposits devoted to financing projects.

Earlier this year the central bank increased the amount of foreign exchange that Syrians were permitted to buy for unspecified reasons to US$10,000 per month from US$3,000 previously. However, as pressure mounted on the local currency this dispensation was in effect suspended. Mr Mayaleh has now offered a scheme whereby a customer can make a one-off purchase up to US$120,000 per year on condition that it is left in a term deposit account. The funds will earn interest, but this will be deducted in the event that the funds are withdrawn before the minimum term of three months.

Pound on the slide

The central bank has chosen to take these measures after several weeks of pumping foreign exchange into the market in an effort to narrow the differential between the official exchange rate and rates offered on the black market. The Syrian pound is pegged against the SDR, but the official rate has hardly moved over the past few months. As a result of the intervention the gap between rates had started to narrow, but the resort to interest rate hikes suggests that the authorities may be starting to be concerned about the risk of running down the country’s foreign exchange reserves. These are estimated by the IMF to have been about US$20bn prior to the crisis, but this sum includes holdings of the largest state-owned bank as well as those of the central bank itself. The authorities appear to have shied away from the option of devaluation.

The measures appeared on balance to reassure the Syrian financial markets, at least to judge by the performance of the stockmarket, whose index rose by 2% on May 4th (as well as on the next three trading days), after steady declines over the previous six weeks. Bankers clearly hope that the authorities will compensate them through offering realistic rates on upcoming treasury bill issues and through placing some more foreign exchange in the banking system. It is also assumed that if the political situation stabilises, the authorities will be in a position to lower interest rates before too long.

The EU sanctions that went into effect on May 10th will not have a serious immediate impact on the Assad regime, but they serve as warning that one important source of development finance is now at risk.

Kuwaiti Investors Acquire Syria Duty Free’s Border Outlets
2011-05-24 By Lina Ibrahim

May 24 (Bloomberg) — Kuwaiti investors acquired duty-free shops operated at airports, ports and border crossings in Syria, according to a statement posted on the website of Syria Duty Free Ltd. The previous owners included the Makhlouf family, whose members were covered by recent U.S. and European Union asset sanctions related to human-rights abuses in Syria. The investors, who were not identified, bought all the shares in the company including those held by Sunset Ltd. and Dawn Ltd. and plan to disclose more information about the transaction, Syria Duty Free said in the statement dated May 20.

الحكومة تقرر تخفض سعر ليتر مادة المازوت من “20 ليرة إلى 15 ليرة “ Syria lowers the price of Mazout – Kar0sin oil – from 20 to 15 liras a liter. This is a big deal and will cost the government a lot of money.

أصدرت رئاسة مجلس الوزراء، يوم الثلاثاء، قرارا بتخفيض سعر ليتر مادة المازوت من (20 ليرة سورية) إلى (15 ليرة سورية)، وذلك بعد قيامها بتخفيض سعره في العام 2009 من (25 ليرة) إلى (20 ليرة).

An interesting analysis of the Kurds (in french Le Monde) about their delicate position in Syria in the uprising.
Que veulent les Kurdes syriens ?

Syrian rights group says death toll exceeds 1000 AP

Syria’s cyberdissidents fight from abroad
May 24, 2011 12:04 PM (Last updated: May 24, 2011 12:12 PM)
By Khaled Soubeih, Agence France Press


Syria’s cyberdissidents are determined to keep fighting for freedom in their homeland, which for 48 years has been ruled by the Baath party.

“We have no choice. We either keep fighting or we accept that our children will be ruled by the children of Bashar al-Assad, as our parents lived under Hafez,” Bashar’s late father, Samra said.

Massoud Akko, a 28-year-old Syrian Kurdish activist, is banned from travel in his native Syria. He managed to escape to Lebanon one year ago and today continues his activism from Norway.

“Our cause today is to restore dignity to all Syrians, no matter who they are, and to build our future with our own hands, the hands of the people, as in any civilised country,” Akko said.

Abed al-Hindi, a 28-year-old Christian from Damascus, fled to Lebanon in 2007 before moving to the United States, where he today works with, an organisation that promotes online activism.

“What every Syrian dreams of today is a state that is fair to all and has as its priority the safety and interests of its citizens,” Hindi told AFP….

Comments (68)

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51. Abughassan said:

More on Rami (not confirmed yet),he reportedly plans on liquidating most of his assets and take his empire to the UAE except that he will be a much smaller fish in the rich emirate. Taking him to court is fair but unlikely in the immediate future.As for Maher,nobody expects Bashar to prosecute his own brother but I doubt that we will hear much of him in the future. I heard that no one else will be given immunity.the regime is also preparing a list of new faces that may be a better fit for the next stage. I hope the opposition will come up with its own list.Walid Almuallem is likely to be a major player in the coming period,khaled aleboud’s name was circulated but he has some wounds he has to close in the Daraa area. Hafez makhlouf will “resign” ,Ms Buthaina is seen as a transitional figure with no political future,expats are not likely to take a leading role,but their influence,especially financial, will be felt in subtle ways. This peace is more than gossip but less than news.expect less heat from opposition mouth pieces and more moderation as soon as those political prisoners are freed. People who oppose the regime but are not in favor of a bloody regime change will be orphans if the regime does not release those prisoners and provide more details and a timetable for reform measures. We expect meaningful steps in the next few weeks or even days.

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May 24th, 2011, 11:08 pm


52. Revlon said:

43. Dear Syria no kandahar,
You said
” Based on your beautiful comment above MB should remain illegal in Syria to help keeping secular,then you can rmove Assad if you agree”

Who am I, to propose the exclusion of anyone?!
We are all human beings.
We neither designed, nor created who we are. We have a divine license to express our views.
Such, is both, a privilige and an obligation.

Moslem Brother party, and any other, under any name, should have the right to participate and contribute to the richness of the political life in Syria.

Laws should allow parties to form around any ideology, including religeon, as long as their program does not infringe on the basic human rights of others.

The vast majority of peole are centrists, and moderate.
This is a divine attribute of the human creation, some call it natural distribution.

Inclusion promotes moderation and centricity, while exclusion results in eccentricity and extremism.

Thank you, for inviting me to elaborate on my earlier comment.

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May 25th, 2011, 12:30 am


53. daleandersen said:

Thanks, Abughassan…

Sounds almost like Godfather II, where Michael Corleone’s trying to liquidate his mafia past and go straight: i.e., move out of the bad old New York mean streets and get into the semi-respectable Las Vegas casino business.

So the big question is: are the Assads and their extended “family” getting ready to dump the Alawite connection to save their skins and their holdings? You know how mafia people are: they’d eat their children before they’d part with money.

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May 25th, 2011, 12:31 am


54. Revlon said:

45. Dear louai,
You said: ” Revlon, is some one eles using your name?”
its really nice to see you looking for the common grounds and to know that you can be a ‘good finder’ , maybe its the first time i read a comment of yours easily without all the smoke and the strong emotions covering every words of yours , for me its good news , i hope one day all the Syrians will overcome the hatred and the blame game and start finally a civilized dialogue”

Most of my postings have been driven by events on the ground. It is no surprise that every time you read them you felt the heat and the smoke of emotions.

We have a vast common ground for agreement. It is as vast as our country itself. Every one and every ideology are needed to be part of it.

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May 25th, 2011, 12:46 am


55. MOHAMED KANJ said:

The biggest mistake and slap in the face to the “syrian revolution””, was americas’s and europes sanctions on the syrian government. These sanctions have swayed those syrians sitting in the middle of the 2sides of syria towards the Assad government. The more foreign intervention in syria increases, the more the syrian people will stand by Bashar al Assad and the government. Eventually these syrians demonstrating will be seen as collaborators with outside countries

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May 25th, 2011, 1:24 am


56. daleandersen said:


What do you expect Obama to do, dude? Ignore the killings? Pretend like they’re not happening?

You people, and by “you people” I mean Mohamed and those of his ilk, would cry and cuss and moan no matter what America did. Nothing satisfies you. You’re pathetic.

Hey, I have an idea. Tell Bashar next time he decides to hold a blood bath, to do it in private so the world won’t notice, okay?

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May 25th, 2011, 2:03 am


57. Louai said:

Dear Revlon,
Lets hope things on the ground will keep without blood or fire so we keep the heart open .

You said it all

‘We have a vast common ground for agreement. It is as vast as our country itself. Every one and every ideology are needed to be part of it’

i also agree with your other comment ‘Inclusion promotes moderation and centricity, while exclusion results in eccentricity and extremism.’ we saw that happening in many many countries ,

When you allow an extreme organization for example the new Nazi in Germany, you expose them to the public and specially to the youth who are normally pro any forbidden movement or idea However all should be build based on secular constitution to protect every one who is moderate and the minorities.

If our aim is dignity freedom and equality then the constitution should be firm and clear ban any group or organization that in its ideology the elimination of others or any group that claim superiority on others,
Its also essential to start immediately to change our education system to teach our children the culture of accepting the differences in other people opinion after all those years of the one colour politics.
People can believe in any thing they want as long as their believe dose not affect other people life style or other people’s life!

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May 25th, 2011, 2:20 am


58. Syria no kandahar said:

Alsahwa Alsoria
July 2012

-Prime min Najeeb Alghadban meets libanese temp prime minister Saad Alhariri.Saad blames Kostarica for interfering and not allowing him to do his job,he also congratulate Najeeb on recording his political science book from the state,they also talked about planning a trip to Bahamus this summer.Saad announced also that he is planning to register in classes in Damascus to learn Arabic and he was in the market for new Syrian wife.

-Mr Albianoni announces that he is for applying Alsharia in the Syria society and that every thing he has said in contrary to that in the past was a political game which is not forbidden in politics.
-Tourism minister fidaa alseed announces that he is against any compromise in Alsharia to facilitate Tourism,he stated that he wants every europian tourist to swim in tartous wearing alniqab.
-Fighting Cont in Tripoli in northern Lebanon between government forces and demonstrators demanding to establish Emara islamia in northern Lebanon similar
To Islamic Emarates of Syria.government forces killed 98 demonstrators .US and EU announced that every government has the right to defend itself and that these demonstrations were without liscence.When pre Obama was asked by CNN journalist:what about Syrian demonstrations last year,the prs replied: you know if bashar quit Iran we couldn’t care less what he did ,but he was stupid,it is all business you know.

-Explosion in dear Sydnia by a suicide bomber,10 people including 2 nuns ,dead.prs Alshakfa condems the act and blames the x pres Assad stating that he had left the explosives in it during his frequent visits to the dear.

-Gen grand mufti Alaroor meets with Christian patrioks and bishops.they complain to him about the frequent attacks on churches and that there people are all becoming refugees in turkey,Lebanon,Amman and Cyprus.Alaroor is considering to solve the problem by applying the Saudi rules and preventin the building of any church in Syria.As far as the refugee problems his holiness announced that once all of the infidels are gone there will be no problem because there will be none of theme to worry about,as far as the bishops and the patrioks is concern his holiness announced that he will hire them in Dar Alfta after they convert,he asked them to convert and have the Islam blessing under his hands to get the credit for that if at all possibl.

Together we will go back to the عصور الجاهليه

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May 25th, 2011, 2:22 am


59. Mohamed KAnj said:

Dale redneck Anderson –

U mention spilling blood by al Assad?

Did u forget ur monkey puppet Grammy award winning yes sir president , giving the green light to massacre innocent civilians I’n afghanistan, I’n Bahrain, Egypt , Tunisia , Palestine ? Why didn’t the monkey president worry about the blood of the 1000’s of palestinian children and women who died at the hands of those jewish cannibals? why didn’t ur monkey president step I’n and stop the blood on the streets I’n Bahrain ? Why did it take so long for the monkey to step I’n and help the Egyptian people and tunisian people I’n their struggle ? Double standards isn’t it mr red neck ? Why does obama ignore the killings and torture of innocent saudis at the hands of that whisky loving leader king Fahd ?

Dale , seems u been watching too much fox news.

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May 25th, 2011, 3:04 am


60. syau said:

#56 – daleanderson,

Your question in a previous post as to why no one has considered assasinating the president shows how deranged the mindset of the revolutionists is. As for you memo, I would suggest you send one to the Syrian revolution advising them their game of sectarian violence and attempted destabalisation of the country will not succeed.

America could possibly look at the atrocities that are being commited in Bahrain. At least the Syrian government is trying to regain stability while using their own army. Another idea is that they could look into the inhuman way Palestinians are being treated by the Israeli government and look into why Isreal has 236 Jewish-only settlements and outposts built on confiscated Palestinian land.

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May 25th, 2011, 3:06 am


61. daleandersen said:

I was right, Mohamed, you are pathetic. You attack the American President using racist terms. And you call me a redneck. Dude, you’re the redneck in the room. I’m surprised they let you keep your name. The prophet Mohammed would never refer to even the poorest black man as a monkey…

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May 25th, 2011, 4:00 am


62. Akbar Palace said:

“Monkeys” and “Cannibals” calling the Kettle Black

Why didn’t the monkey president worry about the blood of the 1000’s of palestinian children and women who died at the hands of those jewish cannibals?

Mohamed KAnj,

My “monkey president” didn’t “worry about the blood of the 1000’s (more like tens) of palestinian children and women” maybe because their husbands have fired thousands of rockets from crowded civilian areas (war crime) into Israeli population centers (war crime #2).

Meanwhile, your “hero”, Assad Jr. is killing more innocent people who aren’t doing anything except standing in the street denouncing the president-for-life.

The head “cannibal”, Benjamin Netanyahu, got 29 standing ovations in the US Congress yesterday. A testament to his wisdom and his ability to articulate is vision of peace (dispite the murderous Jihadists who are trying to take over the ME).

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May 25th, 2011, 7:33 am


63. Ghat Al Bird said:

As reported in US media , the friends of the man that got 29 standing ovations from what Rabbi Yosef called, “donkeys and cattle and are only on earth to serve the Jew” did the following:

Rae Abileah was arrested at the George Washington University Hospital in Washington D.C. after heckling Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, according to the anti-war group.

The 28-year-old Jewish American woman was allegedly tackled/beaten by members of the American-Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) during Netanyahu’s speech to Congress after she yelled, “stop Israeli war crimes.”

Abileah was taken to the George Washington University Hospital, where she was being treating for neck and shoulder injuries.

“You know I take it as a badge of honor, and so should you, that in our free societies that you can have protest,” Netanyahu said after being interrupted by Abileah. “You can’t have these protest in the farcical parliaments in Tehran or in Tripoli. This is real democracy.”

Speaking from her hospital bed, Abileah said she was in “great pain” but that it was nothing “compared to the pain and suffering that Palestinians go through on a regular basis.”

“I have been to Gaza and the West Bank, I have seen Palestinians homes bombed and bulldozed, I have talked to mothers whose children have been killed during the invasion of Gaza, I have seen the Jewish-only roads leading to ever-expanding settlements in the West Bank.”

“This kind of colonial occupation cannot continue,” she added. “As a Jew and a U.S. citizen, I feel obligated to rise up and speak out against stop these crimes being committed in my name and with my tax dollars.”

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May 25th, 2011, 11:28 am


64. AIG said:

It is a pity that Rae was harmed at all. But she freely speaks her mind and is not shot in the hospital, like the Assad regime that you support Ghat does to injured protesters.

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May 25th, 2011, 11:32 am


65. vlad-the-syrian said:

I adress a special thanks to Joshua for Nikolaos Van Dam’s article and my best whishes in those hard times

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May 25th, 2011, 9:57 pm


66. vlad-the-syrian said:


(r stands for racist)

appointed lier

to facts and truth you still oppose your lies. Can you show any evidence that injured protesters were shot dead in public hospitals ?

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May 25th, 2011, 10:02 pm


67. vlad-the-syrian said:


“29 standing ovations” hoho !

jee the american congress has become a CIRCUS 🙂

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May 25th, 2011, 10:06 pm


68. Usama said:

They counted the ovations hahahaha nice!

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May 26th, 2011, 1:58 am


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