Posted by Joshua on Sunday, November 6th, 2011
Two responses to Ghalioun Address
Today I watched a man speak to the Syrian people, not at them, for the first time in my life. I like Bourhan Ghalioun and his speech today, on the eve of the Eid holidays, is an important statement and a media coup against the Syrian regime. In the speech he has promised reforms, honoured the martyrs and promised a future Syria in which there will be no torture, nepotism and sectarianism. The Kurds will have their rights restored to them fully, and Syrian citizens will be equal under a fair and just constitution. He also acknowledged the efforts of the Syrian soldiers who have defected, and asked the Syrian army to uphold its oath to protect the country and not a regime. He has also warned that those who shoot people will not be excused if they say they were just following orders.
Ghalioun emphasised that whoever kills his people, steals from the country’s wealth, and that his future is a trial, and that his rule will end. This was a subtle warning to the Assad regime. He also warned that reform and a transition will not be easy, or quick. He has said that the council has many options, and that they have requested that the United Nations send independent observers to Syria. His soft spoken and calm manner is, in all honesty, a soothing balm to the turbulence and anger that many Syrians have been feeling over the past eight months. There was something in his speech that has been missing in discourse about Syria for a long time, hope…
Overall, I found the speech inspiring and it caused my skin to tingle. For the first time, I see a Syrian speaking to Syrians using clear, logical language. There was no rhetoric or tired slogans, and complete empathy with what the country is undergoing. Unlike the insulting and condescending speeches of Bashar al Assad, Ghalioun empathised with the sufferings of the average Syrians, and didn’t insult our intelligence with talk of conspiracies and subversive groups. For the first time in my life, I feel that I could belong to a real country.
Another Friend gave it 6/10 for these reasons
i just watched it for the first time (remember how I have long maintained that we are entering a long dark tunnel?)
- The books on the left and the flag on the right is smart.
- He looked me in the eye and spoke to the camera.
- Not reading from a text made him look smart. He was also firm and serious
- The rape comment was unnecessary, inaccurate and tribal
- Kurds are not the only relevant minority he should have talked about. The Alawi minority is by far the most critical. He missed his chance to drive a wedge between Bashar and his sect. He needed to assure the Alawis that this is not about them but about the leadership. He ought to have assured them that he and the SNC will do everything to assure their safety.
- He should have also talked to the Christians and said that this area was christian before the arrival of Islam and that everything will be done to ensure that they stay and add to the mosaic of Syrian society.
- He stole my line on the black tunnel (not fair).
- He should have ended by promising more appearances that would further explain to the Syrian people where he and the SNC stand on constitutional and other important matters. 8- This was his first real breakaway from the pack in an attempt to establish himself as the leader of the opposition.
- He did well enough but hardly a slam dunk (i rate it at 6 out of 10).
- While it is easy to criticise the man and his group, they are chipping away at the formidable power that has ruled this country unopposed for 4 decades.
- As to free elections to determine the outcome, Bashar has to decide whether to roll the dice and drop article 8 in favour of that or not. I stand by my stand that he will not. They will discuss, promise and may be even announce the article’s demise. I still don’t think it will pave the way for a real election.
REPORTING FROM BEIRUT — The Syrian exile community is abuzz about a videotaped speech addressed to the “Syrian people” on the eve of Eid al-Adha, the Muslim holiday that began Sunday. It is a kind of revolutionary manifesto. The speaker is …
Syria ignores Arab League peace plan CBS News
A friend traveling from Aleppo to Homs yesterday has this to say:
I didn’t see a single tank in all the usual places they are situated in in Idleb villages, rastan, Khan shaikhoon, etc. Not a single one. A friend drove 2 days ago saw them. They were there since earlier this summer. Seems tanks and army were pulled out from most places. Just arrived in Aleppo and watching aljazeera. They are giving the stage for “witness” after witness saying that the regime is putting more tanks and army units in some places! It is clear the SNC, aljazeera, the west decided to create a perception and take it to the next level. Even the checkpoints while entering Homs and Hama were extremely nice this time! They were waving people cheerfully while throwing eid greeting left and right!
Meet Syria’s Opposition by By Randa Slim in FP is excellent. Moon of Alabama below makes some criticisms, but they don’t undercut the main import of Slim’s article, which is very helpful.
A piece in Foreign Policy by Randa Slim, “a scholar at the Middle East Institute”, on the Syrian opposition : “a critical mass of Syrians has clearly opted for regime change.”
It does not provide one fact to support that conclusion. Scanning the news from Syria my impression is that the opposition to Bashar Assad, which obviously never achieved critical mass over the last months, is now shrinking.
Indeed just two days ago the Wall Street Journal prominently headlined: Syrian Activists Say Assad Gains Advantage
Last week, massive crowds gathered in several cities, including Damascus, to pledge their loyalty to Mr. Assad. Syria’s state television, broadcasting scenes of crowds chanting “The people want Bashar al-Assad,” said some two million people gathered at the capital’s Ummayad Square last Wednesday. It broadcast fresh scenes of a loyalist demonstration in the southern city of Suweida on Sunday.”At one point, what we call the silent majority came to be aligned with the street protests at least from a humanitarian and moral point of view. But now t hey’ve stepped back again,” Mr. Hussein said.
One can assess the quality of the propaganda messaged by that “scholar at the Middle East Institute” from this passage further down in the piece:Most of the Syrian opposition agrees on a few basic principles: toppling the Assad regime, maintaining the national unity of Syria, and remaining committed to the peaceful nature of the Syrian revolution. But there are sharp disagreements over dialogue with the regime, foreign intervention, and the militarization of the opposition .
So they are committed to a “peaceful” revolution but can not decide whether they want NATO to bomb their country or continue the militant guerrilla war against the regime. And the discussion about that shows their principle commitments to stay “peaceful”?….
Syria Crackdown Aided by U.S.-Europe Spy Gear
By Ben Elgin and Vernon Silver – Nov 3, 2011
Employees of Area SpA, a surveillance company based outside Milan, are crafting a network of probes and computer servers across Syria designed to vacuum up e-mails and Web-browsing sessions, according to a person familiar with the project and documents obtained by Bloomberg News.
As Syria’s crackdown on protests has claimed more than 3,000 lives since March, Italian technicians in telecom offices from Damascus to Aleppo have been busy equipping President Bashar al-Assad’s regime with the power to intercept, scan and catalog virtually every e-mail that flows through the country.
Employees of Area SpA, a surveillance company based outside Milan, are installing the system under the direction of Syrian intelligence agents, who’ve pushed the Italians to finish, saying they urgently need to track people, a person familiar with the project says. The Area employees have flown into Damascus in shifts this year as the violence has escalated, says the person, who has worked on the system for Area. …
Syria and Iran: the great game
Alastair Crooke, guardian, Friday 4 November 2011
Regime change in Syria is a strategic prize that outstrips Libya – which is why Saudi Arabia and the west are playing their part
This summer a senior Saudi official told John Hannah, Dick Cheney’s former chief of staff, that from the outset of the upheaval in Syria, the king has believed that regime change would be highly beneficial to Saudi interests: “The king knows that other than the collapse of the Islamic Republic itself, nothing would weaken Iran more than losing Syria.”
This is today’s “great game” – losing Syria. And this is how it is played: set up a hurried transitional council as sole representative of the Syrian people, irrespective of whether it has any real legs inside Syria; feed in armed insurgents from neighbouring states; impose sanctions that will hurt the middle classes; mount a media campaign to denigrate any Syrian efforts at reform; try to instigate divisions within the army and the elite; and ultimately President Assad will fall – so its initiators insist.
Europeans, Americans and certain Gulf states may see the Syria “game” as the logical successor to the supposedly successful Libya game in moulding the Arab awakening towards a western cultural paradigm. In terms of regional politics however, Syria is strategically more valuable, and Iran knows this. Iran has said that it will respond to any external intervention in Syria.
It is already no “game”, as the many killed by both sides attests to. The radical armed elements being used in Syria as auxiliaries to depose Assad run counter to the prospect of any outcome emerging within the western paradigm. These groups may well have a bloody and very undemocratic agenda of their own. I warned of this danger in connection to Afghanistan in the 80s:……
Once friends, Turkey and Iran are finding that their reactions to the Arab Spring revolutions are driving them apart and renewing an old regional rivalry….
French Foreign Minister Alain Juppe said Sunday it was clear that Syrian President Bashar al-Assad was not going to implement an Arab peace plan and there was “nothing more to expect” from his regime.
“I personally think there is nothing more to expect from this regime and that despite its occasional announcements it will not commit to a programme of reforms,” Juppe told Europe 1 radio.
“Different initiatives have been taken to try to bring Bashar al-Assad to dialogue. You can see what happened to the last one: Bashar al-Assad accepts the Arab League peace plan and the next day he massacres dozens more people in the streets,” he said.
Assad agreed last week to an Arab League peace plan aimed ending a brutal crackdown on opposition protests that the United Nations says has cost more than 3,000 lives since mid-March.
The roadmap called on Assad to withdraw security forces from protest hubs and engage in a national dialogue with his opponents, but more than 50 people have been killed since it was announced.
“I regret very much what is happening and it is not does reflect well on the United Nations,” Juppe said.
A UN Security Council resolution that had raised the prospect of potential measures against Damascus including sanctions was vetoed last month by Russia and China.
“There was a failure by the Security Council,” Juppe said, adding that France would continue to try to work within the UN to take action against Syria.
“France will never engage in a military operation if there is no United Nations mandate, and it is obvious now that there will not be a United Nations mandate,” he said.
“We are talking with the opposition, we are trying to help them get organised,” he said.