SYRIA’S PRESIDENT ASSAD: WHY IS ANYONE SURPRISED?” by Brian J. Davis, Canadian Ambassador to Syria, 2003-2006uesd

SYRIA’S PRESIDENT ASSAD: WHY IS ANYONE SURPRISED?
By Brian J. Davis, Ottawa, ON: [bj.davis@rogers.com]
For Syria Comment
Tuesday, April 12, 2011

As Canadian Ambassador to Syria from 2003 to 2006, I had the opportunity to observe President Bashar Assad and his regime under intense stress as a result of the U.S. invasion of neighbouring Iraq, the UN Security Council Resolutions forcing Syria out of Lebanon following the assassination of PM Rafiq Hariri, U.S. sanctions against Syria, the war between Hezbollah and Israel in July 2006, and the virtual isolation of Syria by western powers.

Observing recent events, the only surprise to me about President Assad’s much anticipated speech of March 30th and his subsequent actions or inactions, as the case may be, was that so many Syrians and pundits appeared to expect more. Anyone who thought he would announce a radical shift in policies or a sudden declaration of democracy and increased freedoms should take a closer look at the kind of person he is and what motivates his regime.

Assad is a cautious, conservative leader. While he has slowly acquired the knowledge and skills of a President since assuming that mantle upon the death of his father in 2000, he lacks the natural instinctive talents of a leader. He is not the kind of person who will take risks or be creative. He likes to take his time to study an issue and he is particularly fond of placing these into a logical framework of cause and effect.

As for being a “reformer”, too much is made of his time as a student in the UK. He was there for a very short time and was cocooned in the expatriate Arab community. He did not immerse himself in genuine every day British or European life that would have exposed him to democracy, freedoms and the exercise of civil rights. Indeed, his formative years were spent under the family tree. Using a tired but, in this case, appropriate aphorism, he is an apple who has not fallen far from that tree. Assad is not a cosmopolite and expectations that he would be the “reformer” are simply misplaced.

Bashar Assad is a decent, intelligent man but without particular charisma or strategic brilliance. I believe he genuinely wants to be a popular president. He and his wife have made strides in this regard. They have been far more visible to the common Syrian, trying to demonstrate a human touch by dining publicly in restaurants, driving their own cars, and making more public appearances than his father. He took a lively interest in information technology even before becoming president and has continued to nurture this sector, striking a responsive chord with the Syrian youth.

Because he is perceived to have stood up to the U.S. (with regard to Iraq) and to Israel (through his support for Hezbollah and Hamas), he has achieved considerable popularity on the “Arab street” across the region. This distinguishes him from President Mubarak of Egypt and President Ben Ali of Tunisia, who were seen to have aligned themselves with western powers, rather than fighting for the rights of Arabs, especially those of Palestinians. It remains to be seen if that popularity will endure, given his efforts to smother the current wave of demands for more freedoms being made to him.

Assad would like to see Syria’s economy improve, create jobs for the large number of unemployed youth and attract foreign investment, not only because he genuinely cares for his country but because success in those areas would strengthen the regime. It would attenuate the growing dissatisfaction of a population that is faced with a decaying education system, limited job prospects, a growing gap between rich and poor, endemic corruption, and restrictions on freedoms, particularly those of expression and association.

One of the lessons Assad learned well from his father, but which also seems to reflect his own character, is not to act in haste or under threat. A careful examination of how he has behaved since becoming president shows that he will never easily concede to anything under pressure. Indeed, he has made a number of decisions that were not even necessarily in Syria’s interests rather than be seen to give in to outside arm twisting (even his recent speech can be seen in that light). So, for those who know him, there will have been no surprise that he offered nothing in his speech and as little as necessary ever since.

Despite the above, there is little doubt that Assad and his cohorts are worried about current developments around the Middle East and in Syria. While his regime may have some delusions of being different from others that have come under attack, it also recognizes that there is considerable dissatisfaction among average Syrians.

In his speech, Assad employed the time-honoured practice of many autocratic leaders in the Middle East and elsewhere of blaming the demonstrations on interference by outside forces, making every effort to wrap himself in the flag and to call on Syrians to join him in defending the nation. Indeed, there probably has been foreign meddling and, while not nearly as significant as Assad would have everyone believe, there may have been enough to persuade the credulous.

President Assad also appealed to the Syrian desire for stability in a sea of strife. With ready examples of the sectarian troubles in neighbouring Iraq and Lebanon and Syria’s own post-WWII history of coups and outside interference, Syrians will be reluctant to abandon their unspoken pact of accepting restraints on their freedoms in exchange for the safety and stability provided by the Assad regime.

Assad has often alluded to what would happen if his regime collapsed. Après moi le déluge! And, there is a real danger that Syria could go the way of Iraq. It is a society with many minorities and no potential leaders to replace Assad (essentially because the regime has rid itself of any threats). Assad will fight to the end to retain power for fear that his minority Alawite clan could face retaliation for the decades of abuse of power and because all the power, prestige and wealth that his regime has accumulated over that time would be lost.

Assad may well win this round, maintaining his traditionally tight control of his people. Indeed, I believe he will. However, if he runs true to form, he will then take steps in the coming weeks and months to institute more of the types of “reforms” he has been slowly introducing over the past 11 years. This is simply a process of buying time. He is unlikely to open Syria up to broad freedoms, to independent political parties or to any other moves that could jeopardize his regime’s control of the country. In the end, one has to be realistic, true democracy, which assumes the peaceful change of leaders and governments, is not something that holds any appeal for Assad and his clique. Democracy or even significantly greater freedoms would lessen the regime’s control and this will simply not occur in Syria without a revolution of some kind.

Such a revolution will not likely occur in the short term, because Syrians are not yet ready to unite against the Assad regime and pay the cost in blood that this would take. Indeed, many Syrians still believe he is a reformer at heart and is battling others in his circle to implement reforms. This is pure delusion. While there are strains within the regime, its leaders realize they must stick together to survive. In Assad’s early years in office, one might have accepted that he faced considerable constraints on his decision making. The clique would not have been confident of his abilities. He had to earn his spurs. With time, he has consolidated his position and now must take responsibility for the ongoing abuses of human rights and for the lack of progress in most areas.

It is my belief that he now does call the shots when it comes to foreign and security policies. There will be discussion and debate within his entourage but he makes the final decision. That is not to say that there are not occasional ‘excesses’ committed by some of the security and intelligence services. However, Assad has the power and the authority to override these if he wishes. So, when political activists are detained and held without trial for months or even years, Assad has to be held accountable for it. After 11 years in power, he cannot be given a pass by saying that he does not control the elements in his regime who are doing those things. From personal experience, I have seen him override actions by his intelligence services, when he believed it was in his own best interests or Syria’s to do so.

Where he may have more limitations on his actions is in the economic sector. Many of his relatives and powerful allies, including some of the wealthy Sunni merchants that support him, have become rich through monopolies they have been awarded and through a variety of benefits that accrue to them by virtue of their ties to the regime. Any changes that could threaten the revenues of this group will go through an informal vetting and Assad will not be able to proceed without getting a majority of them on board.

With that caveat, I believe Assad is willing to liberalize only on the economic front. He is gambling that if the economy improves sufficiently, many of the reasons for dissatisfaction will fall away and Syrians will be less inclined to make demands in other areas. A successful economy coupled with his personal popularity will be the recipe for long-term survival. This may seem rather short-sighted in light of historical lessons one can take from other countries that have tried that method, but Assad has been much impressed with China’s evolution along those lines (although anyone who knows China well realizes that its resistance to socio-political liberalization is an ongoing battle and that a successful economy does not immunize one from a society’s desire for freedoms).

Something that is sometimes forgotten is that neither Assad nor any of his closest confidantes (other than his wife) have real experience living in open, successful societies. They are a very inward group, interested in their own survival, in enjoying a luxurious and quasi-feudal lifestyle, and in furthering their wealth and power. They are not equipped to provide Assad with advice based on true understanding of how open economies and societies work or how to succeed in a global economy. One way or another, virtually every close advisor brought on board with international knowledge and experience has been undermined by the clique and fallen by the way side. I can remember long personal discussions with three such people, who were themselves often bewildered by the close-minded responses they got to suggestions and advice they put forward. Thus, while Assad genuinely wishes to see the Syrian economy grow, he does not really know how to make it happen.

As an example, in meetings with Assad and some of his senior advisors and ministers, I had discussions about the importance of the “rule of law“ to economic development. I often asked: what company will invest millions of dollars to establish operations in Syria, if it cannot be confident that the legal system will treat it fairly when the inevitable disputes arise? It was obvious in those kinds of discussions that while everyone nodded their heads in agreement, there was little true understanding of the implications. Nor was there any serious effort to consider how the legal system, as just one example of an area badly in need of reform, might be revamped to create a key underpinning for attracting foreign investment.

To sum up, we should not be fooled. Assad and his regime have one overriding objective and that is to survive. He believes that Syria’s situation is different from that of countries like Egypt, Tunis and Libya, and it is different: not in terms of its problems but in its demographics, history and internal power structure. Assad is confident that these factors, along with his popularity and with Syrian reluctance to gamble on freedoms that could open the door to sectarian strife, are among the reasons he did not need to offer much in his speech and why he believes he can regain the upper hand without offering the kinds of reforms that will undermine the regime

He saw what happened in Tunis and Egypt when they began offering concessions under public pressure. He has opted to project an image of strength and not concede anything vital to his control. In fact, it is somewhat surprising that he has made some concessions on the religious front so soon after his speech. These concessions will play well to the more conservative elements of Syrian society, including in Deraa, where so much of the trouble has originated, but they will be read by many as a sign of weakness and nervousness on the part of the regime. While I would be surprised to see the Emergency Law revoked, if that did happen, I would expect it to be replaced by other laws allowing the regime to exercise essentially the same controls.

Even if Assad survives this time, the seeds of his regime’s downfall have already been sown. It is just a matter of when it will happen. If the recent changes in Egypt and Tunis lead to greater freedoms and more democratic and successful societies, the death knell for Assad and company will occur sooner. On the other hand, should those countries fall into violence and chaos or find themselves under the thumb of yet another autocratic regime, Syrians may be less eager to divest themselves of Assad, who is likeable, a known quantity, and reasonably benign towards those who behave.

A key factor in determining the duration of his reign will be the health of the economy. There is an incredible degree of frustration and hopelessness among the Syrian youth. At some point, this will boil over, unless more jobs can be created. If the gap between the rich and the poor continues to grow, pressures will build. Syria’s oil supplies are dwindling and the revenues from exporting oil are decreasing. Barring the discovery of major new oil or gas fields, this will put more pressure on the Syrian economy to fund various subsidies, to overcome the effects of the current multi-year drought, to offer health and other services to its people. Without direct foreign investment that actually creates jobs, the prospects are bleak. They will remain so as long as Syria remains a pariah state and as long as it is unable to reform its institutions and create a more open, law-based society and economy. Unfortunately, I do not believe that Assad has either the knowledge or the skills to make that happen. Even if he did, at some point reform will be in conflict with his survival. When that happens, either reforms or Assad and his regime will be shown the door.

Brian J. Davis
659 Farmington Ave,
Ottawa, ON
Canada  K1V 7H4
Tel: 613-695-1328
Cell: 613-698-7475
SYRIA’S PRESIDENT ASSAD: WHY IS ANYONE SURPRISED?
As Canadian Ambassador to Syria from 2003 to 2006, I had the opportunity to observe President Bashar Assad and his regime under intense stress as a result of the U.S. invasion of neighbouring Iraq, the UN Security Council Resolutions forcing Syria out of Lebanon following the assassination of PM Rafiq Hariri, U.S. sanctions against Syria, the war between Hezbollah and Israel in July 2006, and the virtual isolation of Syria by western powers.
Observing recent events, the only surprise to me about President Assad’s much anticipated speech of March 30th and his subsequent actions or inactions, as the case may be, was that so many Syrians and pundits appeared to expect more. Anyone who thought he would announce a radical shift in policies or a sudden declaration of democracy and increased freedoms should take a closer look at the kind of person he is and what motivates his regime.
Assad is a cautious, conservative leader. While he has slowly acquired the knowledge and skills of a President since assuming that mantle upon the death of his father in 2000, he lacks the natural   instinctive talents of a leader. He is not the kind of person who will take risks or be creative. He likes to take his time to study an issue and he is particularly fond of placing these into a logical framework of cause and effect.
As for being a “reformer”, too much is made of his time as a student in the UK. He was there for a very short time and was cocooned in the expatriate Arab community. He did not immerse himself in genuine every day British or European life that would have exposed him to democracy, freedoms and the exercise of civil rights. Indeed, his formative years were spent under the family tree. Using a tired but, in this case, appropriate aphorism, he is an apple who has not fallen far from that tree. Assad is not a cosmopolite and expectations that he would be the “reformer” are simply misplaced.
Bashar Assad is a decent, intelligent man but without particular charisma or strategic brilliance. I believe he genuinely wants to be a popular president. He and his wife have made strides in this regard. They have been far more visible to the common Syrian, trying to demonstrate a human touch by dining publicly in restaurants, driving their own cars, and making more public appearances than his father. He took a lively interest in information technology even before becoming president and has continued to nurture this sector, striking a responsive chord with the Syrian youth.
Because he is perceived to have stood up to the U.S. (with regard to Iraq) and to Israel (through his support for Hezbollah and Hamas), he has achieved considerable popularity on the “Arab street” across the region. This distinguishes him from President Mubarak of Egypt and President Ben Ali of Tunisia, who were seen to have aligned themselves with western powers, rather than fighting for the rights of Arabs, especially those of Palestinians. It remains to be seen if that popularity will endure, given his efforts to smother the current wave of demands for more freedoms being made to him.
Assad would like to see Syria’s economy improve, create jobs for the large number of unemployed youth and attract foreign investment, not only because he genuinely cares for his country but because success in those areas would strengthen the regime. It would attenuate the growing dissatisfaction of a population that is faced with a decaying education system, limited job prospects, a growing gap between rich and poor, endemic corruption, and restrictions on freedoms, particularly those of  expression and association.
One of the lessons Assad learned well from his father, but which also seems to reflect his own character, is not to act in haste or under threat. A careful examination of how he has behaved since becoming president shows that he will never easily concede to anything under pressure. Indeed, he has made a number of decisions that were not even necessarily in Syria’s interests rather than be seen to give in to outside arm twisting (even his recent speech can be seen in that light). So, for those who know him, there will have been no surprise that he offered nothing in his speech and as little as necessary ever since.
Despite the above, there is little doubt that Assad and his cohorts are worried about current developments around the Middle East and in Syria. While his regime may have some delusions of being different from others that have come under attack, it also recognizes that there is considerable dissatisfaction among average Syrians.
In his speech, Assad employed the time-honoured practice of many autocratic leaders in the Middle East and elsewhere of blaming the demonstrations on interference by outside forces, making every effort to wrap himself in the flag and to call on Syrians to join him in defending the nation. Indeed, there probably has been foreign meddling and, while not nearly as significant as Assad would have everyone believe, there may have been enough to persuade the credulous.
President Assad also appealed to the Syrian desire for stability in a sea of strife. With ready examples of the sectarian troubles in neighbouring Iraq and Lebanon and Syria’s own post-WWII history of coups and outside interference, Syrians will be reluctant to abandon their unspoken pact of accepting restraints on their freedoms in exchange for the safety and stability provided by the Assad regime.
Assad has often alluded to what would happen if his regime collapsed. Après moi le déluge! And, there is a real danger that Syria could go the way of Iraq. It is a society with many minorities and no potential leaders to replace Assad (essentially because the regime has rid itself of any threats). Assad will fight to the end to retain power for fear that his minority Alawite clan could face retaliation for the decades of abuse of power and because all the power, prestige and wealth that his regime has accumulated over that time would be lost.
Assad may well win this round, maintaining his traditionally tight control of his people. Indeed, I believe he will. However, if he runs true to form, he will then take steps in the coming weeks and months to institute more of the types of “reforms” he has been slowly introducing over the past 11 years. This is simply a process of buying time. He is unlikely to open Syria up to broad freedoms, to independent political parties or to any other moves that could jeopardize his regime’s control of the country. In the end, one has to be realistic, true democracy, which assumes the peaceful change of leaders and governments, is not something that holds any appeal for Assad and his clique. Democracy or even significantly greater freedoms would lessen the regime’s control and this will simply not occur in Syria  without a revolution of some kind.
Such a revolution will not likely occur in the short term, because Syrians are not yet ready to unite against the Assad regime and pay the cost in blood that this would take. Indeed, many Syrians still believe he is a reformer at heart and is battling others in his circle to implement reforms. This is pure delusion. While there are strains within the regime, its leaders realize they must stick together to survive. In Assad’s early years in office, one might have accepted that he faced considerable constraints on his decision making. The clique would not have been confident of his abilities. He had to earn his spurs. With time, he has consolidated his position and now must take responsibility for the ongoing abuses of human rights and for the lack of progress in most areas.
It is my belief that he now does call the shots when it comes to foreign and security policies. There will be discussion and debate within his entourage but he makes the final decision. That is not to say that there are not occasional ‘excesses’ committed by some of the security and intelligence services. However, Assad has the power and the authority to override these if he wishes. So, when political activists are detained and held without trial for months or even years, Assad has to be held accountable for it. After 11 years in power, he cannot be given a pass by saying that he does not control the elements in his regime who are doing those things. From personal experience, I have seen him override actions by his intelligence services, when he believed it was in his own best interests or Syria’s to do so.
Where he may have more limitations on his actions is in the economic sector. Many of his relatives and powerful allies, including some of the wealthy Sunni merchants that support him, have become rich through monopolies they have been awarded and through a variety of benefits that accrue to them by virtue of their ties to the regime. Any changes that could threaten the revenues of this group will go through an informal vetting and Assad will not be able to proceed without getting a majority of them on board.
With that caveat, I believe Assad is willing to liberalize only on the economic front. He is gambling that if the economy improves sufficiently, many of the reasons for dissatisfaction will fall away and Syrians will be less inclined to make demands in other areas. A successful economy coupled with his personal popularity will be the recipe for long-term survival. This may seem rather short-sighted in light of historical lessons one can take from other countries that have tried that method, but Assad has been much impressed with China’s evolution along those lines (although anyone who knows China well realizes that its resistance to socio-political liberalization is an ongoing battle and that a successful economy does not immunize one from a society’s desire for freedoms).
Something that is sometimes forgotten is that neither Assad nor any of his closest confidantes (other than his wife) have real experience living in open, successful societies. They are a very inward group, interested in their own survival, in enjoying a luxurious and quasi-feudal lifestyle, and in furthering their wealth and power. They are not equipped to provide Assad with advice based on true understanding of how open economies and societies work or how to succeed in a global economy. One way or another, virtually every close advisor brought on board with international knowledge and experience has been undermined by the clique and fallen by the way side. I can remember long personal discussions with three such people, who were themselves often bewildered by the close-minded responses they got to suggestions and advice they put forward. Thus, while Assad genuinely wishes to see the Syrian economy grow, he does not really know how to make it happen.
As an example, in meetings with Assad and some of his senior advisors and ministers, I had discussions about the importance of the “rule of law“  to economic development. I often asked: what company will invest millions of dollars to establish operations in Syria, if it cannot be confident that the legal system will treat it fairly when the inevitable disputes arise? It was obvious in those kinds of discussions that while everyone nodded their heads in agreement, there was little true understanding of the implications. Nor was there any serious effort to consider how the legal system, as just one example of an area badly in need of reform, might be revamped to create a key underpinning for attracting foreign investment.
To sum up, we should not be fooled.  Assad and his regime have one overriding objective and that is to survive. He believes that Syria’s situation is different from that of countries like Egypt, Tunis and Libya, and it is different: not in terms of its problems but in its demographics, history and internal power structure. Assad is confident that these factors,  along with his popularity and with Syrian reluctance to gamble on freedoms that could open the door to sectarian strife, are among the reasons he did not need to offer much in his speech and why he believes he can regain the upper hand without offering the kinds of reforms that will undermine the regime
He saw what happened in Tunis and Egypt when they began offering concessions under public pressure. He has opted to project an image of strength and not concede anything vital to his control. In fact, it is somewhat surprising that he has made some concessions on the religious front so soon after his speech. These concessions will play well to the more conservative elements of Syrian society, including in Deraa, where so much of the trouble has originated, but they will be read by many as a sign of weakness and nervousness on the part of the regime. While I would be surprised to see the Emergency Law revoked, if that did happen, I would expect it to be replaced by other laws allowing the regime to exercise essentially the same controls.
Even if Assad survives this time, the seeds of his regime’s downfall have already been sown. It is just a matter of when it will happen. If the recent changes in Egypt and Tunis lead to greater freedoms and more democratic and successful societies, the death knell for Assad and company will occur sooner. On the other hand, should those countries fall into violence and chaos or find themselves under the thumb of yet another autocratic regime, Syrians may be less eager to divest themselves of Assad, who is likeable, a known quantity, and reasonably benign towards those who behave.
A key factor in determining the duration of his reign will be the health of the economy. There is an incredible degree of frustration and hopelessness among the Syrian youth. At some point, this will boil over, unless more jobs can be created. If the gap between the rich and the poor continues to grow, pressures will build. Syria’s oil supplies are dwindling and the revenues from exporting oil are decreasing. Barring the discovery of major new oil or gas fields, this will put more pressure on the Syrian economy to fund various subsidies, to overcome the effects of the current multi-year drought, to offer health and other services to its people. Without direct foreign investment that actually creates jobs, the prospects are bleak. They will remain so as long as Syria remains a pariah state and as long as it is unable to reform its institutions and create a more open, law-based society and economy. Unfortunately, I do not believe that Assad has either the knowledge or the skills to make that happen. Even if he did, at some point reform will be in conflict with his survival. When that happens, either reforms or Assad and his regime will be shown the door.

Comments (160)


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151. jad said:

#147
The video you post is old, it’s from a small Syrian village where 10 guys kidnapped this man and they did all kind of torture and humiliation to him and record it to blackmail his family because he was talking to a girl from their village whom he met at a work.
They finally let the guy go when his father brought some respected men from his village to let him go and immediately after the video went online the father sue those who torture his son.
This video has nothing to do with Syrian police.

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April 13th, 2011, 8:50 pm

 

152. ziadsoury said:

Dear Prof Landis,

Where there is smoke there is fire. I can’t for sure say who killed these soldiers so I would not point fingers. All I ask for is for an independent investigation with forensic experts. They can tell us who murdered these soldiers. If the Syrian government wanted to find out they would have done with the all the martyrs for the last month.

BTW, both Rif3at and Khadam have committed crimes against the Syrian people and humanity and need to be tried in The Hague.

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April 13th, 2011, 9:34 pm

 

153. SOURI said:

http://www.alwatan.sy/dindex.php?idn=99449

أكد السفير الفرنسي بدمشق إريك شوفالييه أن ما تمر به سورية اليوم جرى تضخيمه إعلامياً بشكل كبير، مشيراً إلى أنها فترة عصيبة سيتم تجاوزها، والشعب السوري يمر بأوقات صعبة وحرجة جداً من تاريخه وبحاجة إلى أصدقاء حقيقيين للوقوف إلى جانبه.

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April 13th, 2011, 9:57 pm

 

154. Revlon said:

Day 30th of the Syrian People’s Revolution: The Status Quo

THE REVOLUTION
The brutal crackdown has left hundreds of martyrs;
Al Fat7a upon their souls; May God bestow solace upon their families and empower them with solace.

The rising people have maintained commendable discipline in sticking to peaceful activism.
The size of demonstrations and sit-ins is on the rise.
Ladies and families have joined in, at the hot spots of Dar3a and Baniyas
The stage has expanded to include all of Muhafazat, and many more days of the week.
Points of gatherings have diversifyied. They now include Mosques, squares, streets, and campuses.

The regime
It took the ruling clan a few hours to implement operation Wa2dulfitnah; It has taken them weeks pondering their promised “reforms”.

The clan has reluctantly and shyly acknowledged the just demands of the demonstrators; They have yet to acknowledge the revolution itself.

The clan has realized that their official security forces and republican guards can not hold back the rising and widely spreading tide of the protests.
They have deployed small units from republican guards to oversee and force the engagement of regular army forces in their crackdown on the people’s revolution.
They have unleashed an armed, PARAMILITIA(Al-Lijan Al-Amniya) to terrorize neighborhoods.

THE DUEL
Disciplined, peaceful activism against regime’s hooliganism
Courage against the regime’s belligerence
Youth, families and university students against regime’s heavy boots and gangsters
Free sprits against paid thugs
Chants and slogans against regime’s batons, torture and machineguns.
Free media coverage against police-controlled propoganda
Found hope against lost cause.

DESTINATION
Downing the system has become the goal of the revolution.
The brutal, mischievous handling of demonstrations has convinced the lingering few that the system can not be a trusted partner in the solution.
The clan has to step down!

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April 13th, 2011, 11:13 pm

 

155. loai said:

I am amazed by your ignorance of the Syrian people
by your willingness to ignore the hope of freedom
by your complicity in the crimes committed against the people
your Assad is finish and the Syrian will not stop as you hope

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April 14th, 2011, 6:51 am

 

156. syrian free christian said:

This article is an unparalled testemonial of how bad our president is , we all know he lacks the minimum skills and intellegence or even presence needed to become a leader or president . the problem in syria cannot be solved under his rule or any of his family around simply because any talk of reform would mean putting themseleves accountable !! the rule of no law and order has been the main remark of his raign , add blood to that now .
on of my friends told me clearly that muslim sunnies wont stop unless he is out , we will see unfortunatly lots and lots of bloodshed .
i only wish to know whats his wifes position on all of this ? why cant she convince him that he did well 12 years and its time to leave and enjoy life with 40 billion dollars and 3 kids !!
i dont know why he dosent learn from history and insist on having a bullet in his head !! really strange hunger for power that i have no explanation for .

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April 14th, 2011, 11:14 am

 

157. Habib darweesh said:

I am just tired of reading and seeing propaganda from pro and anti Asad people.Very few of you can present a balanced view of what is going on. I decided to stop praising or criticizing Asad until I see what he wants to do in the next few weeks. Most of us agree that Syria needs freedom and democracy but nobody wants to wait and give moderate people a chance to save the country. Allowing idiots and religious zealots to decide the future of Syria is suicidal,and giving another 11 years to the regime is slow death. Too many leaders and not enough patriots !,

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April 14th, 2011, 10:37 pm

 

158. Said said:

The article is very interesting. But it is very much focused on the family-Alassad-ability or willing to change. The Syrian economic situation is deteriorating due to the “normal” development challenges, but more important due to the corruption. People are uprising to be free from the no more intolerable blackmail-networking of the regime. The everyday black-taxes you must buy for the security units to avoid troubles or the blackmailing you have to face every time you want to conduct a small or big business make people tiered of the regime. This black taxes finance the repression machine of the regime, driven by big names: Makluf Holding, Mokabarat-unitis of Asef Shwokat, Maher Alssad and others. People feel unsecured economically. The corruption is an old phenomena in the Syrian Regime. But, with the neo-liberalism and controlled liberalization the corruption/blackmail became an everyday practice. You feel you are in a Mafia-state. You must pay without discussions. Pay with money better than to pay with blood.

How one can expected that FDI will come to invest in Syria without guaranties from the monopolies to share the market or the power, and why? They have their 200% profit and there are no protests.

The regime lost its credibility. Nobody trust the promises of the regime. Maybe Bashar Alassad had some popularity under the Syrian youth, because they believe that he doesn’t know everything is happening. In His speech, he said: NO No, the guard around me support my reform. But I was slowly with it. So, He put himself in the same front with the hated so called “Old guard”.

About the reform: This regime can not be reformed, can not fight the corruption, the most important problem of the people and of the economy.
Why? Because the regime is simply the corruption-driver. Will Alassad ask to arrest his cousin Makluf? Will he ask his relatives, how they get rich within a couple of years?

For them it is the same: to step down or to give up their power and daily predation through boodle or monopoly.

The time comes. The situation is bad enough to say: there is no back. The blood is flowing everyday. And every died protester produces more protesters. Alone because of the unfair treatment with people. The dirty deals with Kurds and Muslem brothers will not help to calm the sad and angry mass everywhere.

If not now, it will take decades to have the chance again. The regime will anyway revenge every protester asked for step down of Bashar or destroyed a figure of his father. For protesters, it is also a matter of live and dead.

We -Syrians- hope to get support from international community to disclose the crimes of the regime in the last month. We know Syria is not very interesting -economically- for oil companies and we don’t wish a war like in Iraq or now in Libya. But we ask for support for basic human rights in Syria. Or at least we ask to stop supporting the regime.

We believe that the international community is supporting the regime, because they fear of the unknown outcomes. But be sure that Syrians will not accept conservative sunni regime… And trust the Syrian people. They are able to build a government and democratic regime. Thank the globalized media, everyone knows now -at least theatrically- how to elect. Also don’t forget the high educated Syrian in Europe and in the USA. All of them are eager to play a role in the new democratic Syria.

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April 15th, 2011, 9:48 am

 

159. Usama said:

Mr. Davis,

As a Syrian born Canadian citizen, I see great hypocrisy in what you say. It’s as if you believe that opening to western ideals will make things better for Syria. Here in Canada, we’re having the fourth election in 7 years, and I can already see it won’t change anything. The leader that comes might be different, but the outcome is ALWAYS the same. It’s always about making health care better, or the economy better, or social programs in general better, but that never happens. In fact all of the governments have fabricated or misrepresented data to show they are doing something better, when they are not. People can go demonstrate freely, but only as long as they register their rally ahead of time. People can assemble peacefully and say anything they wish (as long as it’s not Holocaust-denying, or even simply down playing thereof), but at the end the government will keep doing what it wants. Mr. Harkat had to spend 8 years in jail without charge, and without even being allowed to see any evidence against himself for “national security reasons”, but hey our martial law isn’t called martial law, so it’s not martial law, right? We can go on and on about the 2010 G20 protest fiasco and the abuses of Toronto Police, but then I would diverge even more (I’m sure you’re more familiar with the events than I am anyway). Canada is not a nation at war, and if you consider us being in Afghanistan as being at war, then you do not know what being at war is. Having your troops on the other side of the world is not being at war. Having your troops ready for any possible military assault on your own land is. Here in Windsor, Ontario, I am seeing more homeless people and beggars on the streets than I’ve seen growing up in Lattakia. Before spending billions on wars on the other side of the world, and spending millions on trying to justify that spending on the other side of the world, why don’t you spend the mere thousands here in Windsor to get your own citizens off the streets and give them some food? I’ve lived in Toronto for a few years before, and you can’t deny it is infinitely worse there.

The Muslim Brotherhood is nothing more than a terrorist organization with a name appealing to many Muslims. We can go back in history to its creation and see that it was a movement fostered by the British and French occupations of Greater Syria, Egypt, and Arabia. As a Syrian, I encourage the president to put all those people down. Do I sound like a monster? Maybe even inhumane? I don’t care. As a Syrian, I was never interested in what westerners think about me or my country, because no matter how much good we do, their response is always “not enough”, like Bashar al-Assad himself pointed out in many speeches. All you want from Syria is to sign a biased peace agreement with Israel and let go of the Palestinian people. Bashar al-Assad could have sold out his people like Mubarak, like Hussain, like Abdullah (both of them), like Hariri, and so on, and then Syria today would be a “friendly” nation with a “friendly” president whose human rights “offences” are acceptable. At the same time Assad would be able to build his riches as well as those in his inner circle and the whole world would be one happy place. But he didn’t! And by that virtue alone, this leader whom you don’t see as a real leader, whom you don’t see as an intelligent tactician, whom you don’t see as having any leading instincts, is the beloved leader of the Syrian people whether you like it or not.

The totals of the current protest movement is at best numbered at up to 100,000, let’s say 200,000 so you don’t cry foul. Syria has 22,000,000 people. 22,000,000 people who were taught in schools that Muslims and Christians are equal, while Muslim Brotherhood try to teach their kids that Alawites, and even normal Shiites, are as deplorable as Nasara (Christians), with all belonging at the bottom of society ruled rightfully by Sunnis. The Syrian government has abundant representation from all religions and sects in Syria, while looking down south in the Gulf, you find that governments are not only 95% Sunni, but also almost all composed of relatives of the leaders themselves. But hey, those Gulf leaders are “friendly” and hence are champions of justice and the people, according to people like you. Of course, I’m talking about your actions, not your words, because one speaks louder than the other.

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April 19th, 2011, 4:14 am

 

160. Omar Elbatal said:

Dear Prof Landis,

As a syrian living in Syria, i can say that the people are starting to show their anger, they do not want the little changes that you have written about, the emergency law does not mean a thing to the poor or the unemployed, they need food and jobs, the Baath party can not creat jobs, becuase its too corrupt and they want to become partners with every medium to large size company , there is no law to protect any investment, i have a good friend that came back to syria after living overseas for 10 years, he brought with him very little money around 40000 USD which is nothing in syria as you know, but one of his brothers got a good connection with Maher Alassad, they drink and play cards togather, his brother was able to get money from Maher to start a 3.5 Bil. Lira to build a residental complax, now my friend and the other three brothers are driving cars worth a million USD , Audi 6 s and BMW X 5 and the newest hybrid BMW 700 series…..
the land where they are building was bought ilegally, the permits approved in days, and this is syria, i have a ton of stories like these…….
I belive that Assad will not survive, its going to be a bloody ending, because the leaders of Army and the security forces are with him almost 100% but the majority of the people are not with him, dont look at these staged pro Assad celebrations
he cant kill 20 million out of 24 million….

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April 21st, 2011, 7:43 pm

 

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