Posted by Joshua on Friday, July 18th, 2008
"Observer," one of Syria Comment's keenest commentators, sent in this note on his recent trip to Syria. He writes:
I just returned from a trip to Europe and Syria with a short stay in Lebanon as well. Here are my observations
1. The Syrian regime never felt any significant pressure from being so called isolated. As long as the foundations of the regime remain stable and strong, they do not care one bit whether tourists come or stay home, investments flow in or out, and so on and so forth.
2. The state which I felt a mere three years ago was going towards a failed situation has recovered well. Infrastructure is being built and more importantly being maintained and repaired. It is by no means similar to what a first world country does, but it is a remarkable improvement.
3. The public is happy with stability and disgruntled with nepotism and corruption. If the last two items are tackled the populace will rally behind the regime even more
4. The ability to absorb and manage the near 2 million refugees from Iraq is a feat to be absolutely commended. Some are doing well having brought money and invested in local business, others are quite poor and destitute but still not hungry and all are sheltered.
5. The price of commodities has people unhappy but I saw much fewer begging than before and certainly a lot less than what I saw in Prague.
6. The alliance with Iran is unbreakable, the two countries have mutual investment and military and economic ties that will be near impossible to break short of a real threat of regime change.
7. The military is transformed into a more efficient force, although still in conventional terms no match for Israel, training is being conducted day and night. I happen to have stayed near an army shooting range and I could hear the firing both days and nights.
8. The KSA invested 1.5 billion dollars and with the Jordanian secret service trained the Hariri militia into a state that was completely destroyed in less than four hours by HA with the full awareness and even help from Syria as they poured 600 highly loyal and very well trained Druze into the Shouf mountains to put Walik Bek in his place while at the same time helping fully with the Alawite community near Tripoli.
9. In Paris, Assad got all he wanted, cooperation, recognition, while not committing to anything substantial and at the same time snubbing Olmert and more importantly Mubarak.
10. The Lebanese may opt for partition of the country if encouraged and helped by France and the US to avoid having the state de Jure that is non present, be controlled by the non-state but active HA. This will be a disaster for the country, especially since the Foreign policy of France is being conducted by impulsive Sarko le premier.
11. The entire south and the Dahyia has been fully rebuilt with Iranian help. The transformation is absolutely remarkable.
12. In Iraq, the US have stabilized the situation somewhat by doing essentially what Saddam did all along. Fear, co-opt some, bribe some, pay some, and divide some. Outside of the Green zone, there is really no true government but warlords, gangs, bandits, factions, and the like. Iran has essentially played a major role in stabilizing Iraq by having its hand in with every faction except the hard line Sunnis. Here Syria has been able to help due to the ties between the two Baath party factions.
13. Europe is tired of competing, and the population is fully frazzled at having to work harder, longer, and in a more frantic way than ever before. The elite have a vision of Europe equal to that of the US in all measures and the population see an incompetent parasitic bureaucracy that is out of touch with reality.
14. Returning to the US, I see that the public here is so oblivious to what the rest of the world is doing that it is truly amazing. In terms of energy efficiency every toilet has a water sparing system and every lighting is motion activated to reduce energy costs in every place I went to even in Syria and here we are still refusing to see the train coming down the track full speed ahead at us. The deer in the headlight is an apt description.
15. Finally the consensus in the ME from the 2006 war is that the Israeli public and the Israeli society have moved into a stage of development that they no longer are willing to fight. 3000 HA fighters fought to a standstill 30 000 Israelis. I wish you could see the pictures of Nasrallah in the region to have an idea of the depth of popularity that he enjoys.