Posted by Joshua on Sunday, July 31st, 2011
Patrick Seale is the foremost Syria scholar. He has written the two best books on the rise of the Baath and Hafiz al-Assad. Bashar al-Assad closed his doors to Seale, believing he should find his own chronicler of Syrian politics just as he should tone up and revitalize the lineaments of the regime itself. His was a youthful plan, full of hope and confidence.
Seale worries that the country he has spent his life studying is slipping toward civil war. He does not have faith that the opposition can provide the unity and cohesion necessary to both bring down the Baathist state as well as rebuild it from the ground up. He councils dialogue and a more deliberate and cautious trajectory toward change.
One senses, however, that he is not convinced dialogue will work. No one has explained in greater detail than Seale himself that Hafiz’s key to stability was to fix the regime around family members and 30 or so loyal subordinates, or as I have phrased it: “it takes a village to rule Syria.” Bashar has not departed from his father’s model despite his efforts at modernization. Any real democratic opening would cause this “deep state,” as the Turks refer to the military elite that sustained their country’s Kemalist system, to crumble. Loyalty is its glue. Loyalty enforced with a large dose of force and patronage.
But more than this, Seale describes such disunity among the opposition that it is hard to imagine any faction being able to carry out talks without finding itself discredited and attacked by the remaining factions, which would use the setbacks inevitable in negotiations as the scaffolding for climbing over the negotiating party and pushing it aside. Real dialogue would require unity and a determined opposition leadership that could direct demonstrations even as it negotiated concessions from the regime. Agreeing to “bring down the regime” requires minimal unity. Disagreements can be postponed. But this “unity” is skin deep. It has big sectors of the populace anxious and sitting on the side lines. They know that once the state is destroyed, it may be too late for unity and too late to put Humpty Dumpty back together again. Then Syria may be on the road to becoming Iraq or Lebanon. I have copied only a small segment of Seale’s argument. It is worth reading it all.
Way out of the Syrian crisis
By Patrick Seale
Some observers believe that a dialogue between the regime and the opposition is the safest way forward….
……..The opposition faces a stark choice: either to go all out to bring the regime down, or to cooperate with it in building a new and better Syria. The first course is hazardous: if the Baathist state is torn down, what will replace it? The future is uncharted. The second course requires an act of faith: it means accepting that the regime truly wants to implement radical reforms by means of a national dialogue. Its attempt to launch such a dialogue has so far failed to convince.
The regime has mishandled the protest movement. Slow to grasp the nature of the popular challenge, it has been violent and incompetent in confronting it. The security services, like President Bashar Al Assad himself, seem to have been taken by surprise. By resorting to live fire against the protesters, they displayed indiscipline and arrogant contempt for the lives of ordinary citizens. Ordinary people want respect. This has been one of the motors of the Arab Spring.
Al Assad himself has fumbled. Of his three speeches in the past four months, two were public relations disasters and the third far from the rousing, dramatic appeal to the nation that his supporters had expected and the occasion demanded. Above all, he has failed to put an end to the killings, arbitrary arrests, beatings and torture which have sullied his and the country’s reputation.
Meanwhile, the Baath party — ‘leader of state and society’, according to the notorious article 8 of the Constitution — has been virtually silent, confirming the widespread belief that it has become a hollow shell, concerned only to protect its privileges and its corrupt network of patronage.
No forceful leadership
If the regime has shown itself to be weak, the opposition is weaker still. It wants to challenge the system, but it evidently does not know how to proceed. It is split in a dozen ways between secularists, civil rights activists, democrats — and Islamists; between angry unemployed youths in the street and venerable figures of the opposition, hallowed by years in prison; between the opposition in Syria and the exiles abroad; between those who call for western intervention and those who reject any form of foreign interference…..
A sectarian civil war on the Iraqi or Lebanese model is every Syrian’s nightmare. There must surely be another way out of the crisis. ….
Hama is being subdued before Ramadan. The government felt it could not risk leaving the city lying outside of government control. It could become the birth place of a real “Free Syrian Army” – a sort of Bengazi. Or it could become the incubator of an opposition Syrian government. Liz Sly reports: Syrian Tanks Storm Protest Epicenter of Hama. Whether the use of increased force will succeed in doing much but infuriate more Syrians is not clear. So far, that has been the outcome.
July 31 (Washington Post) — BEIRUT —Syrian troops launched a major offensive to crush a four-month old rebellion against the rule of President Bashar al-Assad early Sunday, sending tanks into the protest flashpoint of Hama and several other locations in what appeared to be an all-out effort to silence the revolt. Human rights groups reported scores of casualties, with at least 49 people killed in Hama and 20 deaths elsewhere, according to the Local Coordination Committees, a group that monitors and organizes protests. The toll was expected to rise as the crackdown continued. Troops were also reported to have swept into the eastern town of Deir al Zour, another major protest stronghold near the border with Iraq that had been overwhelmed by anti-government protesters in recent weeks.
Obama: Crackdown in Syria Is ‘Horrifying’, 2011-07-31
Washington (AP) — President Barack Obama is stepping up his criticism of Syria’s crackdown on protesters, charging that the Syrian president is “completely incapable and unwilling” to respond to what Obama calls the legitimate grievances of the Syrian people.
One Big Armed Gang in Syria
“An official at the US embassy in Damascus told the BBC World Service that “there is one big armed gang in Syria, and it’s named the Syrian government”…
Speaking to the BBC World Service’s Newshour programme, Harder said: “I think we can safely say it’s full-on warfare by the Syrian government on its own people. This full-on warfare in which the government is engaged in today, I think, amounts to nothing less than a last act of utter desperation. They’re killing their own people, they’re sending their tanks into their own cities. It’s ridiculous. There is one big armed gang in Syria and it’s named the Syrian government. That’s the armed gang that is pillaging its own cities, that’s the armed gang that is striking terror into the hearts of a lot of these people who are out there who just want to peacefully protest…. The government is not exactly a cohesive, coherent unit but rather a group of disparate groups within the government itself,… On one hand you have a purported reform movement.. and then you have warfare, then you have full-on attacks of Hama and Deir Ezzor (in the east), it just doesn’t make any sense.” …”
“By early evening, activists in Hama told the BBC that the city was quiet, and that the tanks had pulled out to the city’s perimeters after failing to gain control of the centre.”
“But our correspondent says the people of Hama remain defiant, with some still out in streets shouting: “We will not be killed again,” a reference to a massacre in 1982 when tens of thousands were killed.”
Youtube of three rather anxious soldiers in the village of Quriyya outside of Deir ez-Zor. Activists say they have split from the army and try to get them to reveal their faces on film. The soldiers are hesitant to be filmed, supposedly because they fear being identified and hunted down. Activists chant, “the people want the military to carry out a revolution against the regime” and try to get the soldiers to chant this slogan as well.
Brook Anderson, Palestinians in Lebanon voice growing support for Syrian protesters.
“I was against the revolution in the beginning. I thought the Syrian people were comfortable,” said Mohammed Qatantani, a 27-year-old shopkeeper who has taken many trips to Syria over the years, always admiring the good infrastructure, affordable healthcare and rights for Palestinians that he never saw in Lebanon.
“But then I saw the news: the mass graves, the executions and the torture. It looked like Israel had invaded Palestine. Oppression isn’t pretty wherever it happens,” he said. He added that he had been with the Egyptian revolution from day one, because of Mubarak’s treatment of Palestinians in Gaza: the repeated closure of the Rafah border crossing, and violent government clampdowns on those who protested. .
It was three weeks into the Syrian uprising – which began March 15 – when Qatantani says he began to change his mind, unable to believe his neighbor, a young man who sold CDs and was engaged to be married, was part of the armed gangs the Syrian government blamed for the unrest.
Is the video posted in your last article fake? It depends on what you mean.
Are there military members that have family ties that overcome the military ties? Yes. So far, the number is at the .01% rate. Not anything one would call a problem four months into a supposed massive social uprising where troops are ordered to blindly shoot into crowds.
Are there members of the Idlib/Jisr Ash Shaghur/Ar Rastan crowd in Turkey, including a few military family members, making videos for propaganda? Yes. This does not equate to a split in the military. Senior military leaders are not about to coup against the regime. When you see military leaders argue, like you have in Turkey, that is a serious problem. A few medium ranking officers from small towns making a video in a foreign country is not a threat to the regime.
Do these forces represent a military force? No. Just juicy video meat for people sitting in a bathtub to talk about.
I see the false claim that the 4th div was involved in every military operation has suddenly dropped from the opposition’s lies. So now it the ‘security forces’ and ‘shabiha’ forces that are to blame.
Would the military still be together if they were either ordered to, or forced to watch, blatant killing of their own civilians? Quite a lot of soldiers have been shot. So many that there is no way the force would still be together if they were all shot by their own troops for not obeying orders to shoot.
AMMAN – Syrian forces have arrested Sheikh Nawaf al-Bashir, head of the main Baqqara tribe in rebellious Deir al-Zor province and a prominent figure in the campaign against President Bashar Assad, opposition sources told Reuters on Sunday. Secret …
DAMASCUS, July 30 (Xinhua) — Armed groups attacked law- enforcement members and a police station in the northeastern city of Deir al-Zour and stole some weapons and ammunitions, the official SANA news agency reported late Saturday.
Armed groups cut off and barricaded some roads in the city to terrorize residents, said SANA, adding the law-enforcement members encountered these groups and exchanged gunfire with them.
It said law-enforcement members are still hunting these groups down and using the right methods in dealing with situation there, adding the residents of Deir al-Zour expressed their worries of the groups’ acts and stressed their refusal of any acts that would harm the country in general and Deir al-Zour in particular.
Meanwhile, the Syria-News, local news website, cited witnesses as saying that the city of Deir al-Zour is witnessing a proliferation of armed men and that the situation is so intense, as the water and electricity were cut off since Friday noon. It said there are large numbers of arrests in the nearby al-Bukmal city as well.
Security forces are conducting a large-scale house raids and arrests especially those whose ages range from 15 to 40, said the report, adding the families there don’t know where the detainees are taken to.
“There is a shortage of food and the families there are helping one another by exchanging what they have of food and water,” The website cited an unnamed journalist in the area as saying.
Activists said Deir al-Zour witnessed a large anti-government protest on Friday, as part of other protests that took to streets across the country, to press demands for the downfall of the leadership.
Local Coordination Committees (LCC), which tracks the protests in Syria, said the Syrian army had bombarded al-Jawza neighborhood, west of Deir al-Zour, with artilleries which left many injuries.
Rights group says 20 protesters killed across Syria – Turkish Weekly
Fighting erupts between military forces, residents in Deir al-Zor; several injured as forces open fire on anti-Assad demonstrators in Deraa.
Saboteurs target oil pipeline in Homs.
AMMAN- Syrian forces shot dead at least 20 civilians in attacks on pro-democracy demonstrations across the country on Friday, the Syrian human rights organization Sawasiah said.
Syrians in their thousands took to the streets nationwide for the 17th consecutive Friday to demand an end to President Bashar al-Assad’s 11-year rule, activists said by telephone, defying an intensifying military crackdown on an uprising for political freedoms.
“The security forces are continuing violent repression against peaceful demonstrations demanding freedom and the downfall of the regime, firing live ammunition at most protests all over Syria on Friday,” Sawasiah said in a statement sent to Reuters.
Sawasiah said it had the names of 20 people killed in the cities of Latakia, Hama, Homs, Deraa, Kiswa, Deir al-Zor and in and around the capital Damascus.
Residents said armed resistance erupted on Friday against President Bashar al-Assad’s forces in several neighborhoods of Deir al-Zor after the killing of five protesters, shot dead by Syrian security forces in a new effort to try to crush widening Sunni Muslim unrest against Assad.
Thousands took to streets across the country after Friday prayers to demand the downfall of President Bashar Assad, witnesses and activists said. Several other people were injured during the clashes.
MOSCOW/BELGRADE, (SANA) – Vice President of the Academy on Geopolitical Affairs Gen. Leonid Ivashov said on Saturday that what is currently taking place in Syria is a wide scale campaign carried out by Israel’s Mossad and western countries – particularly the United States and France – in an attempt to fragment Syria due to its independent policy, support for resistance against Israel and establishing strong relations with Iran.
In an interview with SANA’s correspondent in Moscow, Ivashov said that the west is also targeting Syria because of its position in the Arab world and its unique style of development that can serve as a role model of Arab people, noting that the international financial circles that organized the campaign against Syria don’t want the Syrian model to succeed and continue its independent policy.
He pointed out that the third stage of the U.S. plan to destabilize Syria is taking place, and that this stage consists of carrying out sabotage and assassinations, causing bloodshed, and taking the situation from a political track to a combat track.
Ivashov explained that the second stage consisted of inciting armed confrontations with the army and law-enforcement forces, while the first stage involved amassing funds and weapons, carrying out a strong media misdirection campaign, and organizing armed terrorist groups.
On a relevant note, Ivashov pointed out that the U.S. organized a training course in a neighboring country for Syrian opposition, providing them with instructions and directions to carry out acts of terrorism and sabotage in Syria and exploit the just demands of some Syrians, adding that the Syrian leadership began finding solutions to these demands by issuing a number of legislations and reform laws….