Landis and Seale on Prosepects for a Government Comeback

Antigovernment protesters gathered Friday after noon prayer in the coastal town of Baniyas, Syria, in a cellphone photo provided by an onlooker.
Anthony Shadid gives the best assessment today
Protests Across Syria Despite Military Presence
May 6, 2011 New York Times

The worst violence was reported in Homs, Syria’s third largest city, where activists described a chaotic, bloody day, as tanks entered the town. The government said 10 soldiers had been killed there by what it described as “terrorists,” while activists said at least 9 soldiers had defected to their side. Sixteen protesters were killed, they said.

“We answered the call to protest today, but the intelligence forces attacked us right away by opening fire on us,” said a resident in Homs, reached by telephone.

Another resident there said the security forces fired without provocation.

“They took us by surprise,” he said by phone, over the sound of gunfire.

Both sides in the seven-week struggle claimed victories of sorts on Friday. Thousands of demonstrators gathered again in dozens of towns and cities, despite the government’s deployment of security and military forces from the Mediterranean coast to the steppe in southern Syria. But the crackdown seemed to have slowed the force of the protests, and even some of the government’s opponents acknowledged that crowds may have been smaller than on past Fridays.

“The protests can’t get the momentum to increase the numbers on the ground, as we saw in Egypt and Tunisia,” said Radwan Ziadeh, a Syrian human rights advocate and visiting scholar at George Washington University in Washington. “The collective punishment of cities, mass arrests and the tactics of snipers have created some fear.”

President Bashar al-Assad, who inherited power from his father, Hafez, in 2000, initially claimed that Syria was immune to the tumult sweeping the Arab world. When the uprising erupted in Dara’a, a poor town near the Jordanian border, he initially responded with a mix of crackdown and concessions that proved largely rhetorical. For the past two weeks, the government has relied almost entirely on force to crush dissent, and there appears to be a sense in official circles that the government has gained the upper hand.

Over the past week, opposition figures said, Butheina Shaaban, an adviser to Mr. Assad, has reached out to some dissidents. One of them, Michel Kilo, said he met with Ms. Shaaban on Thursday and insisted that a dialogue could begin only after an end to the crackdown, recognition of the right to protest and agreement on a political solution to the crisis.

“I didn’t go to hold dialogue,” he said. “I went to express my opinion.”

Other opposition figures dismissed the tentative outreach and pointed to the arrests of two government opponents — Riad al-Seif, a former member of Parliament ailing with prostate cancer who was jailed twice in 2002, and Mouaz al-Khatib, a prominent Muslim cleric. Mr. Khatib was arrested Thursday, and Mr. Seif on Friday, after attending a small protest in the capital, Damascus, outside the Hassan Mosque that was quickly dispersed.

“These are maneuvers,” said Burhan Ghalioun, a Syrian scholar and director of the Center for Contemporary Oriental Studies at the Sorbonne in Paris. “They are maneuvering, and they are playing with the opposition to try to break its ranks.”

Obama administration officials say that while some figures in the Syrian leadership, Ms. Shaaban and Vice President Farouk al-Sharaa among them, seem to favor at least some reform, hard-liners in the leadership are ascendant. In the past two weeks, the military has been deployed in force to Dara’a, Baniyas on the Mediterranean coast and Rastan, a town near Homs. Thousands have been arrested, particularly in Dara’a and towns on the capital’s outskirts.

But officials say the ire of France and, in particular, Turkey, which had emerged as one of Syria’s closest allies, has worried the Syrian leadership. So has the threat of international action. On Friday, the European Union decided to impose a travel ban and a freeze of assets of 14 Syrian officials, though Mr. Assad was excluded.

“The government has been saying this will be over in two to three weeks,” an administration official said in Washington. “They seem to think they have control over the situation, that it’s dying down, but we don’t really understand why they think that.”

The toll on Friday paled before that of past weeks, especially April 22, when more than 100 people were killed as security forces opened fire on demonstrations across the country…..

With the Western media focused on bin Laden, the situation in Syria has been deteriorating
Justin Elliott of

While the U.S. media has been focused on Libya, the president’s birth certificate and Osama bin Laden, a dramatic and brutal showdown has been unfolding between the government of Syria and opposition protesters.

An estimated 500 to 600 civilians have been killed in the 50-day uprising, and forces of the Bashar al-Assad regime have repeatedly opened fire on protesters. Part of the reason for the lack of American media coverage is that Western reporters were expelled from the country early on, and most are now covering the situation from neighboring Lebanon.

For an update on the uprising and a take on the Obama administration’s Syria policy, I spoke to Joshua Landis, a professor at the University of Oklahoma and the proprietor of the well-respected blog Syria Comment.

Who makes up the opposition?

Well we know a certain sliver of the opposition well because there are a number of activists who have been supported by U.S. pro-democracy money for five years now. They’ve been working away developing websites and expertise on democratic transformation. They are very liberal, pro-American — everything that America likes. But we don’t know how big or important that group of liberals is. Civil society in Syria has been so severely restricted. Not as much as it had been in Iraq, but it’s not far from that scale. So we don’t know how powerful various parties would become if we take a lid off.

The strength of the opposition is that has no leadership, and therefore the leadership cannot be easily snuffed out. It is led by young activists in their 20s and early 30s who are determined and who have until very recently been able to keep the opposition focused on liberal slogans about freedom, unity, peace, anti-corruption, and regime change. They’ve shown great courage in the face of a very tough repression. But the great weakness of the opposition is that they have no leadership. There are no faces that people can identify with, and no personalities to reassure the silent majority that the future is going to be handled in a way that they would find acceptable.

Describe the new sanctions on Syria imposed by the Obama administration.

Well America already has several sets of sanctions. Sanctions because it is a terror-supporting state, according to the U.S. Primarily because it supports Hezbollah and Hamas. Sanctions placed by President Bush against people who interfere in Lebanon and people who are corrupt. And now Obama has added another lawyer, against the leaders of Syria’s security state, who are most directly responsible for clamping down on the protests. The effect of the sanctions overall has been to slow down the Syrian economy and to put the Syrians on a diet, to reduce their incomes. Sanctions scare away foreign investment. But the new sanctions so far are more symbolic than they are meaningful.

So has the administration had a consistent policy throughout this crisis?

The policy has been to show horror at the brutal treatment of the protesters, to denounce Syria’s actions, but not to do anything that would make it incumbent on the U.S. to intervene militarily as it did in Libya. There, Obama said that Gadhafi had to go. And once he said that, the pressure mounted quickly for the U.S. to do something. But Libya is 6 million people. Syria is 22 million. It is an ethnically and religiously divided society, like in Iraq. If the regime is toppled, it’s quite likely there would be a civil war. And if that happens, the calls for intervention will be very hard to resist.

There have been more and more criticisms from Republican leaders that the Obama administration has been too soft on Syria. Where is this coming from? Is this all about Israel?

It is largely about Israel. U.S. interest in Syria has almost always been a subset of the U.S.-Israel relationship. We have sanctions on Syria because it is part of the Arab-Israeli conflict, and they are trying to get their occupied territory — the Golan Heights — back. So they look for allies in the fight against Israel, and this makes them our enemy.

You mentioned the courage the protesters have shown. The numbers of dead seem quite high. How bad has the crackdown been?

There’s been 500 and 600 dead. The Syrian government has shot at people. They haven’t let the demonstrations grow. If you adjust for population, in Bahrain, the government killed twice as many of its citizens. They were given a pass, their ambassador was invited to the royal wedding in London. That’s because America has oil interests in the Gulf and wants to please Saudi Arabia, and America doesn’t care as much about Shiite dead because it doesn’t like Iran.

Have the demonstrations been entirely non-violent?

No. There have been about 80 Syrian soldiers that have been shot. The opposition claims that Syrian soldiers were shot by other government forces. But this has never been proven and is unlikely. The government is saying they are being shot by armed elements — either Salafists or Al Qaeda-type people, or just those that want to destabilize Syria. That argument wins sympathy from many Syrians. But many others want to see revolution. The country is split down the middle, along religious lines — like Iraq was.

Which side has the momentum right now?

The state. The chances are quite high that the Syrian government will be able to beat back the opposition because the government has a monopoly of power. The army and the security forces have remained loyal to the president. They have not split as they did in Libya. They have not turned on the president as they did in Egypt.

But if the regime does collapse, the state institutions will collapse, as they did in Iraq. Syria is a one-party state, which is the Baath Party. If the opposition takes over the government, the Baath Party will be purged. The state institutions like the military, the intelligence forces, and the Republican Guard will all be disbanded and perhaps some of the leadership will be tried. One can expect close to 2 million people losing their jobs or being affected directly by this. They’re going to fight to keep their privileges and their position, just as the Sunnis in Iraq fought. This would turn into a sectarian war. The slogans of freedom, although important, conceal a sectarian split in the country.

That scenario seems grim. Is there a possible positive outcome and what would it look like?

There is a possible positive outcome, which is that Bashar al-Assad remains in power and yet carries out deep reforms. That’s what a number of people are hoping for, that he will become humble and realize that in order to bring peace to Syria he’s going to have to enact deep reforms.

But based on what he’s doing right now, it would seem like things are going in the opposition direction.

Is This the End of the Assad Dynasty?
By Patrick SealeGreat clamour for change has arisen in more than a dozen Syrian cities in recent weeks. Has the time come for President Bashar al-Assad to give way to pressure from the street and perhaps even to bow out altogether? Asks Patrick Seale.

….The difficult and perilous task Bashar now faces is nothing less than the profound restructuring — under great popular pressure — of a fossilised system of governance inherited from his father, but which is no longer appropriate to the modern age, and no longer tolerated by the bulk of the population. Like other Arabs, Syrians want real political freedoms, the release of political prisoners, an independent judiciary, the punishment of corrupt bigwigs, a free press, a new law on political parties allowing for genuine pluralism (and the cancellation of article 8 of the constitution which enshrines the Ba’ath Party as “the leader of state and society”), and an end, once and for all, to arbitrary arrest, police brutality and torture.

Can Bashar meet these demands? Does he have the will and ability to do so? Can he hope to prevail over the entrenched interests of his extended family, of his intelligence and army chiefs, of powerful figures in his Alawite community, of rich Sunni merchants of Damascus traditionally allied to the Assad family, and of the small but powerful “new bourgeoisie,” made rich by the transition from a state-controlled to a market-oriented economy, over which he has himself presided in the past decade? All these disparate forces want no change in a system which has brought them privilege and wealth. Above all, can Bashar change the brutal methods of his police and security forces? Could anyone in just a few weeks hope to change habits of repression ingrained over half a century, and indeed far longer? (For autocracy is not an Assad invention.)

The Bashar years

Until the outbreak of the crisis, Bashar al-Assad had little or nothing of the menacing pose of a traditional Arab dictator. His manner was modest and, at 45, he looked astonishingly young. His tall willowy frame has none of the robustness of a fighter, while his gaze, questioning and often perplexed, has none of the certainties of a man born to power. He was a young doctor studying ophthalmology in London when the accidental death in 1994 of his elder brother, Basil, an altogether tougher character who was being groomed for the succession, propelled him somewhat reluctantly onto the political scene.

The country he came to rule in 2000 seemed backward in an increasingly globalised and technologically advanced world. His first reforms were therefore financial and commercial. Mobile phones and the internet were introduced. Private schools and universities proliferated. In 2004 private banks and insurance companies were allowed to operate for the first time, and a stock exchange was opened in March 2009. A political and economic alliance was forged with Turkey (and visas abolished), which allowed trade to grow along that border, benefiting Aleppo. The Old City of Damascus was revitalised, ancient courtyard houses restored and hotels and restaurants opened to cater for the growing number of tourists. Before the crisis erupted, Syria was negotiating to join the World Trade Organisation and conclude an association agreement with the European Union.

But Bashar’s years in power seem to have hardened him. He developed a taste for control — control over the media, over the university, over the economy (through cronies such as his exorbitantly rich cousin Rami Makhlouf), control over society at large. Free expression is not allowed. Political decision-making is restricted to a tight circle around the president and security services. Like his father, Bashar clearly does not like to be pushed around or to seem to yield to pressure. Even so, many Syrians still support him in the belief that, as an educated, modern and secular ruler, he is better placed than most to bring about necessary change.

At the time of writing, Bashar still seems to have a chance, if a slim one, of stabilising the situation and perhaps earning a further spell in power — but only if he calls a halt to the killing of protesters and takes the lead of the reform movement, and in effect carries out a silent coup against the hardliners.

But it may well be too late for that. Indeed, Bashar may already have lost authority to men like his brother, Maher al-Assad, commander of the regime’s Republican Guard, who seems to advocate crushing the protests by force. If the army and the security services remain loyal, it will be difficult for the opposition to unseat the regime. But there have been ominous rumours of army defections as well as reports that some members of the Ba’ath Party have resigned…..

some Islamists still dream of revenge, while minorities such as the Alawites fear that if the regime were to fall, they would be massacred in turn. Emerging from underground, the Muslim Brothers have now called on the people to join the protests. The cry for freedom risks being drowned by sectarian strife.

Such has been Bashar al-Assad’s harsh apprenticeship. He has had to surmount a series of regime-threatening crises much like those his father confronted in his time. Both Assads felt some satisfaction at managing to survive them and thus provide Syria with a measure of stability and security, especially compared with Iraq and Lebanon. There was, however, a price to pay. Having to live and survive in a hostile environment inevitably conferred great powers on the security services, guardians of the regime — to the increasing resentment of ordinary Syrians. A dialogue of the deaf ensued. The Assads’ intense preoccupation with external crises led them to neglect the internal scene. Who would need political freedoms, they no doubt thought, if given the benefits of security and stability? As the regime’s official daily newspaper Tishrin wrote on 25 April: “The most sublime form of freedom is the security of the nation.”

The recent explosion of popular anger has evidently taken Bashar by surprise, as it did other Arab autocrats. He has had to wrench his attention away from the perils and excitements of foreign policy to urgent challenges at home. To devise and implement far-reaching domestic reforms, as the present situation urgently demands, will require a radical change of focus. It will not be easy, and a favourable outcome is far from certain. Bashar now faces an internal threat to his regime at least as dangerous as any of the external threats he and his father confronted so successfully.

Yes, it does seem that way. And in order to enforce his control, he’s going to resort to greater sectarian divide-and-rule, which will ultimately weaken Syria and eliminate the possibility of deep reforms. So this looks like a lose-lose situation.

Comments (137)

Pages: « 1 2 [3] Show All

101. majedkhaldoon said:

You said
sectarian hate, false media reports, fabricated stories and outright lies.
You must be talking about the regime.

You claim Bashar is for unity. can you prove it?I mean by action.
Did we united with any other country, Am I missing something here, ?which country Syria united with?,please tell the truth

Dictators do not want to loose power,they will not lead us to unity,these revolutions have a great potential to unite us

Show me a video where the demonstrators carry weapons.
Al-Jazeera Video Syrian tanks enter ‘protest hub’ BaniyasOur professor posted above,look at it there was snipers from the goverment ,they are the one killed the nine soldiers in Banyas,they are the thugs from your regime who are doing the killing

Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

May 8th, 2011, 10:01 am


102. Observer said:

The civil war has already started on this blog. I read the comments and clearly there is a civil war in the minds and the descriptions of the pro and anti regime elements on this blog.

Once again, every minority in the ME would love to have a purely secular nation-state provided it keeps its ethnic and sectarian status intact. This is exactly how the change should happen where the majority does not oppress any minority. The problem is that the minorities would very much like to remain in sole control of power and not really share and be members of the nation-state at large.

Granted that the history of oppression in the past may have caused a great deal of apprehension from a blind and sectarian majority; however, there is no way that this system will continue to remain in place by the use of force.

The regime will fall eventually, it is not sustainable, it has an ever shrinking base of support and is using force in an escalation that is truly self destructive on the long run.

Objective analysis and not preconceived ideas and positions is what we need now.

Finally, this regime does have only one aspect of modernity. The use of the latest technology to control ans suppress and behind this veneer of modernity lies really a very shocking ruthless intoxication with power.

When I return to Syria from time to time, I am always amazed at how the figures of the regime do not seem to notice how ridiculous the posters and slogans are and how bad the country is.

Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

May 8th, 2011, 10:01 am


103. Souri333 (formerly Souri) said:


I don’t understand what you mean, but if Assad was faced by a Turkish drive to replace him with the MB, he must respond someway. In my humble opinion, it is “extremist” that Turkey interferes in Syria’s delicate internal affairs so brazenly and tries to ignite the sectarian problem rather than help to put it out.

Do you fully understand the situation? What we have is a Sunni Islamist uprising against an ‘Alawi’ ruler, and Erdogan just broke in as the Sunni superman who is going to rescue the Sunni Islamists from Assad. I was watching a show on a Wahhabi channel a few days ago and I heard Erdogan’s name about 50 times. What Erdogan did to Assad was very extreme in the Syrian measures.

Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

May 8th, 2011, 10:10 am


104. Souri333 (formerly Souri) said:

For the future, Assad must think seriously about organizing the Alawis (Nusayris) in Turkey into a political force and making use of them. It is a shame that Turkey has convinced many of them that they are ethnic Turks, obliterating their true ethnic identity. Hopefully that as Islamism rises in Turkey it will be easier for the Syrian Alawis to reconnect with their fellows in Turkey.

Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

May 8th, 2011, 10:28 am


105. Revlon said:

The revolution’s adress to Jr, read by Jr himself
Watch and listen

Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

May 8th, 2011, 10:29 am


106. Sophia said:

#100 Souri,

I think Turkey needs a stable Syria. It is true that Erdogan’s position right now is not clear but let the dust settle and you will see how thinks will turn out to be OK between Turkey and Syria.

In my opinion, the MB are putting a lot of hope in Erdogan but don’t forget that Erdogan comes from a brand of political Islam whose extremism was curbed by a strong secularism in Turkey. If you let the MB run things as they want in Syria, things may get ugly and they might come to threaten Erdogan’s own legitimacy in Turkey.

Erdogan is very nervous right now and it is understandable. I am giving him the benefit of the doubt.

Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

May 8th, 2011, 11:46 am


107. Mawal95 said:

Patrick Seale was boring, but I think we can all agree with him about this:

“The difficult task Bashar now faces is nothing less than the profound restructuring of a fossilised system of governance which is no longer appropriate to the modern age, and no longer wanted by the bulk of the population. To devise and implement far-reaching domestic reforms, as the present situation demands, will not be easy, and a favourable outcome is far from certain.”

Professor Josh said that “to bring peace to Syria Bashar is going to have to enact deep reforms”. To repeat what Patrick Seale just said: deep, far-reaching reforms can be difficult to design and implement, and can have consequences beyond what they were intended to have. Here’s an example. Souri333 said: “The regime will not allow any window for a ‘Sunni’ political power to emerge from, even if such power claims to be secular.” The problem is that if the regime were to allow competitive elections (as Souri333 wishes), and if an appeal to Islam as some sort of a moral anchor, some moral reference point in this world of ours, is effective in wining voters, then that appeal will happen. In order to disallow it from happening, the regime would have to disallow political parties from talking about moral fundamentals at all, in which case you’d have a sham.

Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

May 8th, 2011, 12:07 pm


108. Jad said:

Thank you very much for explaining.

Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

May 8th, 2011, 12:40 pm


109. Souri333 (formerly Souri) said:

I just watched on a Lebanese TV (NBN) a video of the revolutionists in Nawa (in Deraa province) beheading a security man in the street with a knife. It was very disturbing. And people wonder why the Alawis cling to power so much. You don’t know what it is like to be living with those savages. I am Sunni myself but I was threatened before by those extremists and I know how scary it is, because those people can do anything and it is impossible to reach any understanding or compromise with them.

Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

May 8th, 2011, 12:42 pm


110. Vedat The Turk said:

If anyone wants to know the discussion going on in Turkey vis-a-vis Syria, all they have to do is watch what the Turkish satellite channels.

Without exception, all of the news shows are framing the conflict as a battle that pits a despotic military regime against civilian demonstrators wanting better governance. Countless commentators have noted that in the long term the Batthist \”dictatorship\” (this is the term they use) is incompatible with Turkish values of democracy and justice. On TVT the lead commentator took the time to note that even in Turkeys darkest days of military rule there was never such a wide spread \”slaughter\” of innocent civilians (again these were his words).

The issue of the Muslim Brotherhood has not arisen. Indeed, the demonstrations are being reported as part of the wide spread Arab revolt towards democracy.

For those trying to determine what Turkeys reaction to crackdown in Syria will be should look to Erdogan\’s recent statements on the situation in Libya. The Turkish leader was highly critical of Quadaffi\’s killing of innocent civilians and demanded that he resign. This should not come as a suprise to anyone. After all Turkey is a democracy and views itself as a role model for the Muslim world. If Erdogan had not come down harshly on the Libyan dictator there would have been a high political price to pay from the Turkish electorate. There is nothing to indicate that his response to the Syrian leadership will be any different.

Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

May 8th, 2011, 12:47 pm


111. why-discuss said:

The Arab world must face its demons
Attacks on Christians are a wake-up call for fragmented Arab societies where disenfranchisement breeds bigotry.
“Islam is being manipulated by bigots and quasi-intellectuals who thrive on feeding hate to a constituency of young people frustrated by foreign domination and social injustice.
….This creeping sectarianism can be found not only in relations between Christians and Muslims but also between Muslims. Colonialism has left Lebanon with a sectarian system that pits Shia and Sunni Muslims against each other as well as against Christians. ”

Scores held in Egypt after sectarian clashes
At least 230 people injured in violence between Muslims and Christians that left 12 people dead in Cairo.

Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

May 8th, 2011, 12:49 pm


112. Vedat said:

@ Souri

Regarding your statement that Bashar Assad must organize the Alawites in Turkey to make use of them:

The Alawi in Turkey are already very well organized. The leader of the main opposition party in Parliament, Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu of the CHP, is an Alawite. As is several senior members of Erdoğans AK Party. Any attempt to appeal to Turkish Alawites for Syria’s benefit would have serious unintended repercussions. This is because such factionalism is highly disrespectful in Turkish society. Turkey is a highly nationalistic culture. It’s nationalism is so strong many commentators have called it racist. Whenever someone makes an appeal to one segment of society a common response is that we are all Turks, indefeasible.

Also, an attempt by a foreign leader to organize a religious minority in Turkey would cause significant problems for the countries Alawites. If anything, it would force them to act contrary to Syria’s request so as to prove that they place Turkeys interests ahead of any tribal consideration. Moreover it would be viewed as a very hostile move by the countries military.

Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

May 8th, 2011, 12:50 pm


113. NK said:


“Semper necessitas probandi incumbit ei qui agit”
The necessity of proof always lies with the person who lays charges.


In that case, we shouldn’t be telling people to demonstrate to begin with. Personally, while I support those who do go out, I don’t think I will be able to sleep at night knowing somebody died because I told them to demonstrate while I’m sitting at the comfort of my home thousands of miles away. Supporting is one thing instigating is another.

Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

May 8th, 2011, 12:51 pm


114. Jad said:

This video is from Iraq, it was an excustion of Almahdi Army.
It’s horrible that NBN show such thing, these lies are the reasons people get killed .

A better and apearantly true news: the army arrested Anas 3erou6 of Banyas, it said that he is leading them to where hi stock arms and in Homs people saying that the security arrested someone calling himself Amir Homs, and they walled around in Homs streets in a public show.

Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

May 8th, 2011, 12:55 pm


115. Solitarius said:

It seems that indeed neighborhoods in Homs were bombed with artillery or tanks last night. It seems that today it’s only gun fire. I don’t understand what warrants such use of force. Are they really bombing residential areas or is this just a scare tactic? I find it difficult to swallow that they would bomb houses just like that unless they prove to be packed with armed opposition firing at them. Still, this is not going to go well with the Homsis who are already pissed off.

Also we are hearing about the events in Hama.. the attack on a few government buildings etc.

the rhetoric on the syrian street seems extremely intolerant to the other now. Some of those that admit that there are deaths amongst the army are saying so what? these are infidels.. Even a girl that i know is an extremely moderate girl (in Damascus) now thinks that it’s fine for the opposition to pick up arms.. People are forgetting the sequence of events. We have to be clear on one thing, even if the regime committed atrocities in Daraa, and they did indeed, but the demonstrators on the street are the ones who can escalate and who keep pushing further and further and cornering the regime into using force. They definitely succeeded in allowing the regime to use force.. they left no room for doubt with any of us that extreme violence and systematic lies/media campaign have been used against the Syrian government.. So whatever their goal is.. the end result is that now the Syrian government is using full force.. and it seems that people cannot see this sequence of events.. and are picturing the issue as if the Syrian regime has been doing all the killing for the longest time.. and thus now the opposition has the right to bear arms. While in reality, it was from the first day after the regime committed the crime in Daraa that people picked up weapons against them down there.. and they also did unprovoked in Banyas, Douma and Homs (multiple early incidents)

Anyhow I feel like this discussion is now worthless and redundant.. We have a serious problem of Syrians reverting to their basic instinctive allegiances to their sects and you can see this in the real world as well as on facebook.

Unfortunately it’s also meaningless to discuss options and ideas.. because it’s all in the hands of two parties now.. the regime, and the furious people on the street..

Regarding Turkey.. I don’t believe that they care that much about the stability of Syria. Turks protect their borders well. Violence in Syria will not spread to Turkey but it can spread to Jordan and Lebanon. Turkey’s Kurdish problem will hardly be affected much.. I mean there is already a semi-independent Kurdish state in Iraq.. It’s not like the Syrian kurds are going to be the tipping point. At least that’s my understanding of how serious of a problem are the Syrian kurds to Turkey.

Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

May 8th, 2011, 12:56 pm


116. S.S said:

الفكر الوهابي القذر

Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

May 8th, 2011, 1:02 pm


117. S.S said:


You need videos. i will provide you with many
This is **** sectarian revolution

Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

May 8th, 2011, 1:06 pm


118. Sophia said:

Read this article by Anthony Shadid. I may be wrong but in two weeks form now the uprising would be nearly over.

Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

May 8th, 2011, 1:07 pm


119. Akbar Palace said:


Yes, our ideological mentor here on Syria Comment”, who we also warmingly refer to as “Professor Josh”, is now reluctantly admitting that Bashar Assad an

d his Baathist allies are not up to the job.

You may not know this, but all the years preceeding these spontaneous demonstrations, Professor Josh was the strongest supporter of Assad on this website.
The claim being that alth

ough Syria was an economic, social, political, and humanitarian back-water, Assad was the “best alternative” to ensure Syrian “security”.

That longstanding hypothesis has now been broken. The government doing the killing as they’ve done in the recent past.

What to do? Well, that’s easy: blame all the murders on this made up phenomenon called “salafis” and “Wahabis” (aka “terrorists”).

Well, is seems like every day a few dozen “terrorists” get killed. We can thank Bashar Assad for keeping Syria safe and keeping the poor Syrian citizen away from evils like freedom and prosperity.

As an American Jew, we thank Bashar Assad for keeping the Middle East safe from terrorism.

Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

May 8th, 2011, 1:16 pm


120. AIG said:

In order to for a regime to rule a country it must either have the consent of the people or the people must fear the regime. Both are not applicable anymore in Syria. The regime in its actions is bringing Syria to the edge of the abyss. Yes they can stay in power, like Mugabe did in Zimbabwe. They can drag Syria down with them, and perhaps that is what they will do.

Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

May 8th, 2011, 1:27 pm


121. Norman said:


As long as being a majority or a minority is dependent on one religion that he or she inherited from their father, i see that it will be very hard for Syria to have a real democracy, as EHSANI once said , Syria needs an Ataturk , he is right, the way that Hafiz Assad appeased the fanatics by pushing for their agenda is not working, a full separation of religion and state has to be the next plan to build a modern state.

In other news, It looks like Egypt is moving toward civil war sooner or later.

Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

May 8th, 2011, 1:35 pm


122. William Scott Scherk said:

Thank you, NK, for the answer to my puzzlement in post #59. What I still wonder about is this statement: Some Copts in Egypt are as sectarian as the Wahhabi Saudis, they imprisoned a girl who chose to become Muslim

Three points I wish to make.

— even though information on events in Syria is hobbled by the lack of a free media, it is still possible to get closer to the truth of any individual report. With some investigation, one can discard information that is unreliable.

— rumours can feed hysteria and underlie bad decisions and bad interpretations and bad arguments

— your confident statement that “they” (Copts) imprisoned a girl who chose to become Muslim is not true. The ‘girl’ spoke on television yesterday to an Egyptian audience. She denied any imprisonment. She denied having converted to Islam (see

It is very difficult to understand the values of people commenting in this forum. Some have declared their citizenship, their location, their interests, but most have not. NK, I have no idea where you live, how old you are, if you are a Syrian citizen, where you hail from, where you lived/live in Syria, whether or not you live under a western democratic regime. I have no idea how you have formed your political opinions or what kind of party you might support if Syria were free and you could participate in political life there.

Of course it is your choice to use a pseudonym — that does not bear any weight in discussion — but I am curious about your values and your commitments. Can you tell us a bit about yourself, and tell us what are your hopes for Syria? If outside Syria, will you return?

If there is a chance for a dialogue between camps/interests, how can you contribute to understanding, mutual respect, and a peaceful outcome in Syria?

Finally, what sources of information on Syria can you recommend — how do you form your impressions of reality on the ground?

Me, I am fifty-three, am bilingual French/English, Canadian, live in the suburbs of Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada. I have no religious affiliations whatsoever, am a ‘centrist’ (in the politics of Canada). I do not see ‘plots’ and conspiracies but rather ‘interests.’ My country has a polity that does not expect unanimity, but rather tries to manage competing interests under common goals.

As an aside, readers here may not know, but we recently had an election. Among other interesting notes, we elected several new folk to our House of Commons from communities of interest. Although their religious affiliations were not and will not be noted, we now have three Algerian-Canadians (two women), and a Tunisian (woman).

In my heart of hearts, I believe that Syrians will come through the present unrest, if somehow a majority can emerge that agrees upon a framework, a basic law for all. I would very much like to see where the common ground is here on Syria Comment. I believe there are many points of agreement between folks who seem utterly opposed to each other. I would urge the ‘off-site’ folks who have no desire to live and work in Syria — please identify what you have in common with your interlocutors. Imagine, if you would, that folks who know Syria intimately as a homeland and/or home were pressed to find their commonalities and agree a way forward.

I would very much like to see folks speaking in their own voices about what they can do together — less talk of ‘the other’ and his or her failings and more talk of a basic plan each feels can surmount the present crisis. What say Mouna, Jad, Michel Nahas, Why-Discuss, Shami, Mina, Montagnard, N.Z., Revlon, Solitarius, Qunfuz, Majedkhaldoon, Real Syrian, Tarek, Ziadsoury, Najib, Qifa Nabki? Is there a common ground at all? Is Syrian doomed to fail?

Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

May 8th, 2011, 1:44 pm


123. NK said:


Just because the title of a video on youtube says something, doesn’t mean the content supports the title. Listen to what these guys say at the very beginning,
لا سنية, لا علوية , بل سلمية
they then say بل اسلامية which is not all that bad considering this was shouted in front of a mosque after Friday prayer. And while I don’t agree with such shouts and while such shouts might be inconsiderate towards our Christian brethren, it’s far far from calling for sectarianism and advocating murder. Keep in mind that the “sectarian” slogans everyone is talking about are against Alawites who are Muslims too, so these slogans do not offend them at all!.

Where are the calls for murder and the ugly sectarian slogans ?

Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

May 8th, 2011, 2:04 pm


124. Shami said:

William ,some are not stired when the regime kills thousands of Syrians and they accept any excuse coming from the regime.
They see everything through their minority sectarian prisma,but dont worry on Syria ,what you see on this pro regime blog is not representative of the majority ,but it gives an idea of the sectarian minority syndrom of many alawites and islamophobic christians.They fear change because the regime told them that we are extremist salafis.
Syria,Tunisia,Egypt as Turkey will prove that Islam and liberal democracy are compatible.
Their views towards the muslims are not very different from the extremist zionists and necons.

Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

May 8th, 2011, 2:09 pm


125. Souri333 (formerly Souri) said:

The uprising may be over soon but the clashes between the government and the Wahhabis will continue for months. What the government is doing now is that they are trying to arrest every Wahhabi in Syria. This is a huge task that will take long months. It took them 10 days to clear Deraa alone, without its surrounding countryside.

Eventually they will go into Aleppo and Damascus to clear them too. At that stage, however, the Wahhabis will have lost the ability to mobilize the street and the media, so there should not be a big problem.

After clearing the country from the Wahhabis and other radical Islamists, Bashar will have to choose between either going into history as Syria’s Ataturk or imitating his father and going into the cesspool of history.

Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

May 8th, 2011, 2:20 pm


126. Mawal95 said:

For those who don’t have access to Syrian State TV and haven’t visited SANA.SY today, here are two news stories that deliver good anecdotal evidence of where some of the violence has been coming from in Syria:
I presume those stories are true.

Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

May 8th, 2011, 2:29 pm


127. Mouna said:

See national unity and justice at its best:

Everyone can see themselves in the list, be they Salafis, MBs, commies, Sunnis, Alawis, Druze, Shiite, Kurds … paranoids.

Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

May 8th, 2011, 2:38 pm


128. William Scott Scherk said:

Shami: William ,some are not stired when the regime kills thousands of Syrians and they accept any excuse coming from the regime.

I will be frank, Shami. If you cannot declare your interests and your location and your relation to Syria, I have no way of interpreting your comments. On the face of it, your use of ‘some’ and ‘they’ and ‘islamophic christians’ and ‘pro-regime blog’ are murky and unproductive.

How old are you? Where do you live? What languages do you speak and read? What is your connection to Syria? If you cannot identify yourself and otherwise not speak in terms of ‘THEM’ — I get no traction on your remarks.

They see everything through their sectarian prisma,so dont worry on Syria ,what you see on this pro regime blog is not representative of the majority ,but it gives an idea of the sectarian minority syndrom of many alawites and islamophobic christians.

I don’t care if this forum is representative. I don’t care what folks say about ‘them.’ I care what folks say in their own voices, declaring their interests and speaking for themselves in clear, intelligent, well-founded arguments — I care about opinions and proposals from those who can listen to and understand other voices without sorting the voices into general categories. You apparently have written off all ‘others’ and responded in no way to my appeals and thoughts.

Seriously, all I get from this comment is that you disdain (if not hate) a whole bunch of ‘Them.’

Declare yourself. Propose something concrete or thoughtful or tied to reality, or be part of the barking noise that I will ignore.

Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

May 8th, 2011, 2:46 pm


129. Shami said:

William no need to make a scandal ,”them” concern paranoid minority’s members who cultivate hatred and paranoia towards their environment.
They exist!.
It explains the killing of more than 20.000 civilians in Hama in few days.
Normal syrians dont kill 20.000 in few days.

Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

May 8th, 2011, 3:34 pm


130. Badr said:

Professor Landis,

I find your answer to Justin Elliott’s last question, which you left out from the main post, very revealing:

But based on what he’s doing right now, it would seem like things are going in the opposite direction.

Yes, it does seem that way. And in order to enforce his control, he’s going to resort to greater sectarian divide-and-rule, which will ultimately weaken Syria and eliminate the possibility of deep reforms. So this looks like a lose-lose situation.

Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

May 8th, 2011, 3:35 pm


131. Norman said:

Are you from Syria,

The problem is never Islam otherwise we would not find Christians in Syria,and Islam would not have spread to Asia and the EU, The problem is people like you who think that Islam and specifically Sunni Islam is essential for full citizenship. you and Majid are the enemies of real Islam.

Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

May 8th, 2011, 4:07 pm


132. Shami said:

Norman ,from where did you get that i’m for an islamic state,i’m for a civilian state which allow equality to all regardless religions and ethnicities.
And you are not among those that i called paranoid sectarian.

Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

May 8th, 2011, 4:32 pm


133. Shami said:

or civil state.

Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

May 8th, 2011, 4:35 pm


134. NK said:

William Scott Scherk

I don’t feel comfortable disclosing personal information because it might put my family back home in harms way. But I’ll try to give you a general idea about me and my background.
I’m Syrian from Aleppo, I’m in my early thirties, I moved to the U.S a few years back, I’m a non-practicing Sunni, I was born into relative wealth and privilege, I speak 3 languages Arabic, English and Turkish, I took German lessons for about a year and currently trying to learn Spanish, I’m a liberal, I refuse to restrict my choices by supporting any one party, because I simply believe almost all of them hide behind their ideologies while rarely practicing what they preach, thus I prefer to remain an independent.

For me the ideal Syria is one that adapts the U.S constitution or something very similar to it (building an 18 feet wall between religion and government), and of course dismantles the security apparatus and combines all the branches into one CIA-type branch that rarely interferes in day to day affairs of Syrians and focuses on protecting Syria from external threats/espionage.

Of course that’s too black&white, the Situation in Syria right now is all gray, Syria is governed by the security/army, the Syrian ministers hold no actual powers, the parliament is a joke, and the judicial system is non existent. The security personnel are above the law, so any meaningful reform will require reining in those corrupt and very powerful heads of security branches, I doubt Bashar has the power to strip those of their powers and influence (regardless of whether he wants to or not), you’re talking about national dialogue and finding common ground, what common grounds can the Syrian intellectuals find in their jail cells ? they were all arrested recently. meanwhile you hear everyday that the prisedent is meeting with the elders and notables from each Syrian city, but when you look closely, those notables are the same corrupt figures that the people are rising against, what kind of message is that ?

As for the talk of a basic plan for us here on SC, we actually agree on a lot of things, however the ball is not in our court, the regime has the initiative, they chose to crush the opposition and declared war on the Syrian protesters, so until the shooting stops, and a clear plan for reforms is laid out, there’s very little we can discuss.

Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

May 8th, 2011, 5:50 pm


135. Norman said:

Good to know,

NK, You do not have to be embarrassed to say that you are a doctor,
I like what you wrote but what about the 18 security agencies that we have in the US in addition to the CIA, including but not limited to FBI, ATF, National security agency Home land security and many others

so let us have in Syria what we have in the US, All of it and most importantly are the anti discrimination laws in housing and employment.

Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

May 8th, 2011, 8:33 pm


136. Revlon said:

Dear Mr. Scherk,
Thank you for sharing your personal background and views on Syria’s plight.
Common ground, as you have correctly noted is there.
I read it in the posts of names, that you listed.
I know first hand that it exists from being borne, raised, educated and lived / living in Syria and with family and Syrian friends from all walks of life.
Alas, bridges of trust that guide to these common grounds, have long, been broken.

As you may know, the newly introduced demonstrations laws consider supporters of demonstrations terrorists!
I would rather keep the regime security agents, on this blog guessing where I live or work, in or outside Syria.
Therefore, I hope you understand whey, I and other “terrorists” on this blog are not keen on sharing any, even remotely, personal information.

Whether commentors on this blog, including me, have or can reach a common ground serves only to pacify our minds, by obliging to our sense of duty to God, Conscience, or any morals we may hold.

The common ground that people, on this blog and on the ground agree upon, and strive for, are reforms that have been amply expressed by all good-will wishers.

My personal view is this:
– The time was ideal, at the beginning of this revolution, before any blood was shed, for the regime to call for transitional government to spear head reforms,
It could have been comprised of representatives from the regime, well known pro-reform figures, and revolution activists.
– The regime, with all of this blood on their hands, have become a problem in itself.
– Demonstrators who lost their loved ones and their surviving comrades, as I read on the facebook pages of the Syrian revolution and hear and see on YouTube videoclips, can not live with the notion of negotiating with them. To them, the ruling clan are wanted for justice, in Free Syria.

Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

May 8th, 2011, 9:55 pm


137. William Scott Scherk said:

Thanks to NK and Revlon for your responses — for the notes on identity and the notes on ‘common ground’ and the notes on the possible ways forward for Syria. Much appreciated, much to think about. I very much like your honesty and your humour, especially from the ‘terrorist’ Revlon.

Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

May 9th, 2011, 12:32 am


Pages: « 1 2 [3] Show All

Post a comment