“Syria: the boldness of Bashar al-Assad” by Brian Whitaker

Brian Whitaker has the best commentary on the Assad speech that I have read so far – and not just because he quotes from Syria Comment – although it helps.

Syria: the boldness of Bashar al-Assad
Brian Whitaker, Guardian, Thursday 31 March 2011

Bashar al-Assad’s seemingly relaxed attitude to reform is either supreme confidence or extreme recklessness

Syria president al-Assad Syria’s president Bashar al-Assad insists they’ll be no hasty concessions to protesters, as happened in Tunisia and Egypt. Photograph: Khaled al-Hariri/Reuters

Bashar al-Assad doesn’t really look like an Arab president. Or a dictator, come to that. He doesn’t have the arrogant grandeur of a Ben Ali or the self-centred pomposity of a Mubarak. Seeing him reminds me of some gangly scoutmaster: the sort who gets very dogmatic about granny knots and clove hitches but still has trouble keeping tents up in a strong wind.

Considering the public mood in the Middle East this may even give Assad an advantage. The less any leader resembles Ben Ali or Mubarak at the moment, the better, and his pep talk on Wednesday to the Damascus scout troop – sorry, parliament – seemed to be much appreciated. “Dyb dyb dyb dob dob dob,” they chanted at every opportunity. Well, not exactly, but they might just as well have done. They clapped a lot, interrupted him with loyal declarations of support and even lauded him with poems.

Assad, for his part, looked comfortable and relaxed (he was, after all, among friends) and seldom referred to his notes. He smiled from time to time and chuckled at his own jokes. It’s easy to see why many Syrians prefer him to his dad though, to be honest, it’s very hard not to be more likeable than Hafez al-Assad.

It was when Assad came to the now-obligatory section of his speech where embattled presidents blame foreign conspiracies for the demonstrations that I started to feel confused. Surely he had got it the wrong way round. Others have been saying that the aim of the “foreign conspiracy”, if such it is, is to keep Assad in power, not to remove him. What about that article in Haaretz the other day describing Assad as “Israel’s favourite Arab dictator”? Or Hillary Clinton praising him as a “reformer”?

Contrary to the impression given in some of the news reports, Assad did talk about reform, and talked about it rather a lot. Syria is already reforming, he said, and will continue to do so. But just when it seemed that he might be on the point of announcing some specific new reforms, he stopped speaking and the parliament gave him a final round of applause.

To understand why, we have to look at an interview Assad gave to the Wall Street Journal at the end of January – which he also mentioned in his speech on Wednesday. Interviewed shortly after Ben Ali had been ousted from Tunisia and when the Egyptian uprising was just a few days old, he said:

“If you did not see the need for reform before what happened in Egypt and in Tunisia, it is too late to do any reform. This is first. Second, if you do it just because of what happened in Tunisia and Egypt, then it is going to be a reaction, not an action; and as long as what you are doing is a reaction you are going to fail.”

So Assad is trying a different tack. Reform, yes, but all in good time. There will be no hasty concessions to protesters as happened in Tunisia and Egypt; that would be a sign of weakness and would only encourage further demands. Instead, the relevant ministries will announce their plans in due course, after full and careful consideration, etc, etc.

That is certainly a bold strategy, but in the midst of growing turmoil it’s either a sign of supreme confidence or extreme recklessness.

So how will it play out in Syria? For hardcore regime supporters, it’s an attitude they can understand and admire. One of them, quoted in Joshua Landis’s Syria Comment blog, said:

“Finally, I respect Bashar. He has showed that he is a real man. He has spared the country bloodshed. Any sign of weakness, it would have been the start of the end …
“All the modern and reform-minded people are dreamers. They live abroad and think that Syria can become a London/Paris/NY if we just reform. It is either civil war or the status quo …

“Kentucky Fried Chicken? We can do without it. Those that don’t like it can leave to their fancy foreign capitals or Beirut. They are welcome [to visit Syria] in the summer to enjoy the food and arghile and go back to their democracy.”

But what of the others, almost certainly the majority, who are not hard core? What faith can they place in the assurances of steady reform? Since Assad came to power 11 years ago, a few reforms – very modest ones in comparison with what needs to be done – have been accomplished, perhaps not at a snail’s pace but certainly at a speed that could be overtaken by a tortoise. Even Assad conceded in his speech: “The state has made promises of reform and they have not been carried out.”

There is no guarantee, though, that reforms promised for the future will be any more radical than those of the past. In the words of another Syrian quoted by Landis:

“Somebody has decided that either all Syrians are dumb and [the regime] can continue to trick them for ever or that civil war is much better than giving the people more power.”

One of the most telling parts of Wednesday’s performance was not Assad’s speech itself but what it revealed about the sycophancy of Syria’s parliament. This is clearly not a place for hammering out laws and policies through the cut and thrust of debate. It is a temple for the Assad cult and changing that will take more than reform. It will take a revolution.

Syria moves to scrap emergency law, Al-Jazeera

State media says committee set up by president to study abolition of decades-old law will finish work by April 25.

“Friday is going to be a real … precipitating moment here: how people will protest. Will they continue to protest for just reforms or could we see something more drastic perhaps – people protesting to the end of his rule?” he said.

During his speech, which lasted almost one hour, Assad hit out at social networking websites and pan-Arabic satellite television news channels for stoking and reporting the protests.

He said he supported reforms but offered no new commitment to change Syria’s rigid, one-party political system.

“I know that the Syrian people have been awaiting this speech since last week, but I was waiting to get the full picture … to avoid giving an emotional address that would put the people at ease but have no real effect, at a time when our enemies are targeting Syria,” said Assad.

Patrick Seale, a Middle East expert and a biographer of Assad’s father, said the speech was a “missed opportunity”.

“Syria does need reform on many fronts. We have to try to understand his situation … [but] we don’t know the extent of domestic pressures on him,” Seale told Al Jazeera.

“He is, of course, surrounded by a lot of people – several thousand people perhaps – who have a stake in the stability of the regime.

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“He has to think of them too. The intresting thing about the speech, I think, is what it reveals about him. There’s obviously a stubborn streak in his character, which we know he inherited from his father.

“He doesn’t like to be pushed around. If you look at the last 10 years of his rule, he has been pushed a great deal; he has survived a whole series of crises, which have obviously shaped his present character.”

Protesters emboldened by uprisings in the Arab worldare pushing for reforms in a country where power is concentrated in the hands of Assad, his family and the security apparatus.

The president’s speech came a day after the cabinet resigned, but Assad appointed Naji al-Otari, the resigning premier, as a caretaker prime minister. Otari has been prime minister since 2003.

The 32-member cabinet will continue running the country”s affairs until the formation of a new government.

The new cabinet, which is expected to be announced by the end of the week, will face the task of implementing the reforms.

JONATHAN CHENG, 1 April 2011, The Australian

SYRIA, in contrast to many other regional dictatorial states, is unlikely to fall further into a crisis of revolution or civil conflict.

Even though demonstrations and protests against the Assad regime have dominated the headlines as of late, internal and external factors strongly favour Bashar al-Assad, the current President, staying at the helm.

The dynamic duo of popular respect and fear for the regime ensures the support of a large majority of the populace. The current regime’s pragmatic foreign policy orientation dictates acquiescence of neighbours and the wider international community towards whatever action Assad deems necessary.

If anything, one might even argue that the recent Middle East turmoil may be giving Assad the leeway he needs to pursue economic and infrastructural reform, at the expense of Syrian hardliners who have sought to prevent the country from moving in a liberalising direction.

Even though the minority Alawite sect (8 to 10 per cent) is considered the strongest pillar of his regime, both Assad and his predecessor and father, Hafiz al-Assad, succeeded in building a support base among the majority Sunnis.

By granting Sunni urbanites significant leeway in the economic sphere, and also avenues for advancement in the state structure, a tacit Alawite-Sunni contract was formed. In addition, as a secular Baathist regime, the Assad regime has avoided playing the “religion card” too much.

This, combined with its co-opting of other religious groups into the military and economic elite, has allowed Assad’s regime to be much more resistant to inter-religious tension than some other regional countries.

In Bahrain, for instance, the Sunni al-Khalifa family subjected the Shi’ite majority to discrimination, by actively favouring the minority Sunni segments of society. The repercussions there, as we see today, have been a large uprising against the state.

However, such support for the regime is intermingled with fear of the security apparatus. Unlike in Egypt or Tunisia, Syrians can pointedly remember a time and place where the Assads turned the army against the populace: Hama.

In 1982, Hafiz al-Assad ordered the Syrian army to bombard this city indiscriminately, resulting in a victory over the Islamist Muslim Brotherhood but also the deaths of 10,000-30,000 Syrian nationals. This fear will make any mass uprising unlikely.

With foreign policy, Assad’s Syria has continued to act in a pragmatic and informed fashion, ensuring both domestic and external support for its position. Unlike Hosni Mubarak’s Egypt, it maintained its position as part of the “resistance” axis against Israeli and American aggression, justifying its so-called leadership in the pan-Arab struggle against international Zionism. Syrian nationals, as such, are generally satisfied with the regime’s foreign orientation.

On the flip side, Syria has also acted cautiously enough to garner sufficient respect and understanding even from its foes. The US and Israel, while often critical of Syria’s support for resistance (or “terrorist”) groups, see “ideological” Iran as a much greater threat.

Even if Assad’s base is to weaken, we will not see an intervention similar to that of Libya, where both conservative Arab and Western actors have taken their chance to try to get rid of Muammar Gaddafi.

There is also the question: “If not Assad, then who?” It is generally understood that within Syrian politics, Assad stands as a moderate, if not a liberal. Since his ascension to the “throne” in 2000, his actions have generally been limited by two concerns.

First, he had to consolidate his rule at the centre against potential opponents, most notably some of his father’s key advisers and hardline family members. Secondly, and in tandem with this, he had to react to two national security threats; the American entrenchment in his backyard, Iraq, and the Israeli war against Hezbollah in Lebanon.

In this context, Assad was pushed to a more extreme position than he would have liked, in order to appease the hardliners back home in Damascus. Since 2008, with a fading and weakening American presence and an empowered Hezbollah in Lebanon, we have seen what Assad’s true intentions are.

He does seem to be pushing for a gradual liberalisation of the economy, warmer ties with neighbours, and even negotiations with Israel. Domestically, these protests might therefore be the plank on which Assad can push reforms across.

With all these issues in mind, it is clear that there is neither the international impetus nor domestic will to push for a change in government.

Protest marches and demonstrations will not match the scale or mass achieved in Egypt, Tunisia, Bahrain and Yemen. Some reforms seem to be forthcoming, and considering the alternatives, it would be best for the limited opposition to accept what they can get.

The proposed changes in Assad’s government, while in effect minor, considering the concentration of power in the presidency and security services, is still a step forward. Whether or not one believes Bashar al-Assad is a reformer, it is clear there are hardliners in the Syrian ruling establishment willing to use force.

If they win out, due to “unreasonable” demands or the increasing use of violence by protesters, one might see a bloodbath in Syria, with no international assistance to save them.

Jonathan Cheng is based at the Centre for Arab & Islamic Studies, Australian National University and the University of New South Wales at the Australian Defence Force Academy

Israel fears the alternative if Syria’s Assad falls
LA Times

As popular unrest threatens to topple another Arab neighbor, Israel finds itself again quietly rooting for the survival of an autocratic yet predictable regime, rather than face an untested new government in its place.

Syrian President Bashar Assad’s race to tamp down public unrest is stirring anxiety in Israel that is even higher than its hand-wringing over Egypt’s recent regime change. Unlike Israel and Egypt, Israel and Syria have no peace agreement, and Syria, with a large arsenal of sophisticated weapons, is one of Israel’s strongest enemies.

Though Israel has frequently criticized Assad for cozying up to Iran, arming Lebanon’s Hezbollah movement and sheltering leaders of the Palestinian militant group Hamas, many in Israel think their country might be better off if Assad keeps the reins of power.

“You want to work with the devil you know,” said Moshe Maoz, a former government advisor and Syria expert at Hebrew University’s Harry S. Truman Institute for the Advancement of Peace.

Several Israeli government and military officials declined to speak in depth about Assad, fearing any comments could backfire given the strong anti-Israel sentiments in the Arab world. That’s what happened when some Israeli officials attempted to bolster Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak before he resigned Feb. 11.

“Officially it’s better to avoid any reaction and watch the situation,” said Maj. Gen. Amos Gilad, the Defense Ministry’s policy director. He predicted Assad’s regime would survive the unrest.

Privately, Israeli officials confirmed that although Assad is no friend, he’s probably better than the immediate alternatives, which could include civil war, an Iraq-style insurgency or an Islamist takeover by the Muslim Brotherhood…..

Syria must change or be changed
Haytham Manna – Guardian

The young protesters in Syria will not be put off by President Bashar al-Assad’s refusal to listen…….This tide of democratic change had become irreversible.

The resignation of the government led by Naji Atari will not suffice in quelling the popular demand for change. Neither would the ending of the state of emergency, which President Bashar al-Assad unexpectedly kept in place yesterday. Although these would be steps in the right direction, they don’t go far enough. The previous Tunisian and Egyptian governments offered similar changes and they too were spurned. The Syrian regime needs to understand that the youth are demanding a new politics that ushers in a genuine democracy.

The Syrian authorities have lost all political legitimacy. The government’s opposition to the Iraq war and its support for Palestinian resistance can no longer be used as an excuse to obstruct internal changebecause the non-governmental political community shares these exact positions..

The youth who marched in Deraa are the same young people who welcomed the Lebanese refugees during the Israeli bombardment in 2006, and who raised funds for the Palestinian people in Gaza. They followed the struggle of the Egyptian youth in Tahrir Square. They regard themselves as the legitimate representatives of the Arab revolution, rejecting all forms of sectarianism and violence because they have for too long been the victims of authoritarian violence. They are building a model capable of restoring hope……

Despite all that has occured in the region, the Syrian authorities are determined to go on regardless. The best answer to their actions is that put forward by the Youth Movement for Democratic Change: “If you do not change, you are going to be changed.”

Comments (52)

jad said:

3 major announcement today by the Syrian President:

– the committee for lifting the emergency law
بتوجيه من السيد الرئيس بشار الأسد شكلت القيادة القطرية لجنة تضم عدداً من كبار القانونيين لدراسة وإنجاز تشريع يضمن المحافظة على أمن الوطن وكرامة المواطن ومكافحة الإرهاب وذلك تمهيداً لرفع حالة الطوارئ على أن تنهي اللجنة دراستها قبل 25 نيسان 2011.

– A committee for investigation regarding what happened in Daraa and Lattakia
وجه السيد رئيس الجمهورية رئيس مجلس القضاء الأعلى بتشكيل لجنة قضائية خاصة لإجراء تحقيقات فورية في جميع القضايا التي أودت بحياة عدد من المواطنين المدنيين والعسكريين في محافظتي درعا واللاذقية.

وتمارس اللجنة عملها وفقا لأحكام القوانين النافذة ولها أن تستعين بمن تراه مناسبا لإنجاز المهمة الموكلة إليها كما أن لها الحق في طلب أي معلومات أو وثائق لدى أي جهة كانت.

– A committee to study the Syrian Kurd’s issue
تعزيزا للوحدة الوطنية وجه السيد الرئيس بشار الأسد بتشكيل لجنة لدراسة تنفيذ توصية المؤتمر القطري العاشر المتعلقة بحل مشكلة إحصاء عام 1962 في محافظة الحسكة على أن تنهي اللجنة دراستها قبل الخامس عشر من نيسان 2011 وترفعها للرئيس الأسد تمهيدا لإصدار الصك القانوني المناسب.

March 31st, 2011, 10:13 am


Majhool said:


1- لجنة
2- لجنة

After لجنة there will be a time table. They are going to drag this thing and water it down.

People are really angry from the speech, i am fearful of what’s next.

March 31st, 2011, 10:35 am


EIU said:

How much credence can be given to committees derived from the regional command of the Baath party and operating under the remit of the resolutions of the 10th congress of the Baath party, held back in June 2005?

To jog memories, here’s a chunk from the EIU’s report on that congress — uncannily similar in many respects to the latest offering.

(By the way the Reuters photographer credited with the picture you feature is missing, and Suleiman al-Khalidi, heding the Reuters reporting team after Khaled Oweis was kicked ouat (what is it with these Arab reporters) has been arrested.)

The meeting was the first plenary session of the party since the congress held in 2000 to endorse the leadership of Mr Assad, who had recently been sworn in as president on the death of his father, Hafez al-Assad. Mr Assad’s speech to the June congress was brief, and he avoided any specific references to any new initiatives for either political or economic reform. Instead, he spoke of the role of the Baath party in protecting the virtues of Arab nationalism from external assault and defending it from cultural, political and technological trends that had “overwhelmed Arabs and threatened their existence and cultural identity”. He ascribed to the “enemies of the Arab nation” the aim of “transforming us into a negative reactive mass, which absorbs everything that is thrown at it without the will over even the possibility of thinking of rejecting or accepting it”. The tone of his remarks doused intense speculation ahead of the congress that the president planned to use the congress as a platform to announce far-reaching reforms that would move Syria towards a genuine multiparty system of the kind called for by the US and others, or that there was set to be a real easing of control over the media and restrictions on political association.
At the end of the four days of proceedings, the congress made some modest recommendations for political reform. These centred around reducing the party’s involvement in the day-to-day activities of the government and allowing other parties to engage in political activity. At present, parties are allowed to operate only in affiliation with the Baath party and on condition that they base their policies on socialist principles. These requirements are set to be dropped, allowing parties to operate outside the Baath-dominated “National Front”. However, when the new party law is unveiled there are likely to be significant restrictions on what kinds of parties can be formed and what activities they can engage in. These will be in addition to requirements already laid out at the congress specifying that new parties should not have a religious or ethnic grounding. Underscoring the limits on political pluralism, the congress made no mention of amending the article (No. 8) in the constitution that declares the Baath party to be the leading party of state and society, nor was there any call for the abolition of Law 49 of 1980, which makes membership of the Muslim Brotherhood a capital offence. The congress also called only for a “review” of the emergency regulations that have been in force since a state of emergency was imposed more than 40 years ago—a significantly weaker formulation than had been hoped for by many before the start of the congress.

March 31st, 2011, 10:36 am


jad said:

The government/regime set April 25th as THE deadline, it’s shorter than what Tunisia and Egypt took to lift theirs, should I try that or follow the chaos and the unknown?
لحاء الكذاب لورا الباب
The way I see it is that these protests are already done lots of changes that we must capitalize on instead of throwing them out, the fear we always have is almost gone, the Amn person will think hundred times before he hit us, the domestic newspaper are already writing many taboo matters we would never dream of, criticizing the President by name, getting the corruption issue out in public with names wasn’t possible before this movement.
Don’t you see that what the Syrian protesters already made to our society, it’s a big step forward and because of them nobody can push us back even with all the brutality they might use.
We must keep the pressure on the government until they deliver but we have to know where to stop, don’t let those young Syrians who died go for nothing.

March 31st, 2011, 11:03 am


NK said:


While I really prefer evolution, those committees consist of the likes of the MPs yesterday. Do you trust those to study anything ? investigate anything ?. Those are people who were put in there positions by the prisedent and could easily be thrown out by the prisedent, they’re inherently incapable of standing up for their own ideas, let alone stand up to the prisedent “Thy will be done”.

Of the 3 committees only the 1st have any real value in the long run, the other two while important won’t have direct effect on Syrian standard of living.

Now go ahead and read what is asked of the committee ? their job is to (study) and (formulate) a new legislation that will protect the security of Syria, the dignity of its citizens, and fight terrorism. Their job is not to study lifting the emergency law, the dead line is for drafting this new law not lifting the state of emergency.

The state of emergency should be lifted without preconditions, then if there’s a real need for a patriot act, by all means, let them study it for years not just a month. plus most Americans are against the patriotic act and they want it abolished, I’m not sure why you’re excited about having a Syrian version of it, which no doubt will be almost as restrictive as the emergency law itself!.

March 31st, 2011, 11:57 am


Ziad said:

Was Bashar heckled by protesters yesterday outside the parliament after the speech? Why only CNN reported it?

March 31st, 2011, 12:18 pm


jad said:

No he wasn’t heckled.
This is what I read about the incident:
There was a woman who approached the president’s car with paper in her hand but with the circumstances we have right now in Syria the security personnels get nervous and didn’t know if it was an attack or an innocent attempt to reach the president with some requests, as many Syrians do when they meet the president, this is why all of these security men went to protect the car since the president was driving it.
CNN was quick to jump to conclusion without any prove, typical of many station lately, they announce some news then when it proves that it was fake and incorrect they don’t go out and correct it and it stays as reality.

You live in the states and every draft of every little thing go into many readings and committees and studies before it’s approved, some takes years and years to be approved and then even after approving any law if the political mood swing they go and undo it. Right?
Why we in Syria must and should and have to do everything instantly? Don;t get me wrong, I’m all for taking decisions now, but we have to be a bit reasonable in what we wish and what we can get.
Syria wont be Sweden tomorrow, it will never ever become Sweden so let’s hope and work to become turkey or Malaysia.

” I’m not sure why you’re excited about having a Syrian version of it” Did you see me in person that I was so excited about the new law when I put it on? NO, so stick to the subject and stay away from personal attack.

March 31st, 2011, 12:27 pm


SOURI said:

What Assad did was the right thing. Assad understands his society better than a British or American observer, and he understands what is going on in Syria better than outsiders.

Assad knew what he was doing. Like I explained before, Assad was trying to isolate the radical Islamists from the rest of Islamists.

People who are demonstrating are mostly radical Islamists who will NOT stop no matter how many concessions Bashar offers them. Offering concessions to those people will only encourage and embolden them to continue what they are doing to the end.

Most Syrians don’t support the demonstrations. Bashar does not need to give many concessions to those people because they are already against the demonstrations and will not demonstrate.

So what we have is: a majority that is against the demonstrations, and a radical minority that will NOT stop the demonstrations no matter what you offer them.

How do you act in such a situation? The correct act is what Bashar did. By offering some concessions, Bashar will guarantee that the majority will not turn against him when he decides to quell the radicals violently.

It does not matter if the radicals go out tomorrow demonstrating. Eventually, people will get tired of them and they will become more tolerant of violent action against them.

Bashar now is trying to convince the majority of Syrians that he is not a brutal dictator and that he is willing to listen to what the radicals want. However, this period of tolerance will not last forever, and the majority of Syrians understands that and will keep silent when the government finally acts to eradicate the Wahhabis.

March 31st, 2011, 12:33 pm


Ziad said:

Thank you JAD for the prompt response. I notice that few persons are like me and keep tuned to SC. I keep this page open in the background while working and refresh it every 5 mins.

March 31st, 2011, 12:35 pm


edward said:

The only reforms Bashar brought to Syria during his 11 years in power was the detention of school kids for writing anti-regime graffiti, and sentencing a school girl blogger Tal AlMalouhi to 5 years in prison for being “an American spy”. This is a new low, even by the poor standards of Arab despots.

March 31st, 2011, 1:14 pm


jad said:

Just to make you smile a bit 🙂

من وحي الأحداث: شاهد عيان اتجوز شاهدة عيان جابو ولد سمو خبر كاذب

March 31st, 2011, 1:26 pm


NK said:


You got offended because I said you were excited ? come on.

Anyways, you’re right in the U.S we do debate a lot, nothing takes 6 years though (they took the decision in 2005 and been working on it, among other things, ever since).
I agree we have to be reasonable in what we demand and what can actually be implemented.

We’ve been talking about emergency law for years now, and to this very instance we still have no clear date on when it will be lifted. Syria does have a legal system and a constitution, the emergency law, is basically a law to abolish all laws, I’m not sure why lifting it needs such a lengthy debate.
Why do we need an anti-terrorism law to replace the emergency law ? when was the last time Syria was targeted by a terrorist attack ?

The way I see it, we have 3 camps today, the regime camp (no reform), the revolutionaries (immediate and total reform) and those on the sidelines (steady reform) and those are the majority of Syrians. To get any reform done and avoid chaos we need those on the sidelines to remain on the sidelines, but what happened in the last 2 days, it looks like a lot of those on the sideline are leaning toward joining the regime’s camp against the revolutionaries, and this will be a disaster because then we won’t get any reform at all. I don’t want to be typing this same exact thing come 2022.

The last joke I heard
مندس تجوز مندسة جابو خبر يوهن نفسية الأمة

March 31st, 2011, 1:44 pm


BOLD SYRIAN!!! said:


March 31st, 2011, 2:28 pm


norman said:

This is very good take on Syria,

SYRIA: Economic hardship feeds social unrest, says analyst Lahcen Achy
Comments (1) (0)(6)March 31, 2011 | 6:57 am

Editor’s note: The post is from an analyst with the Carnegie Middle East Center. Neither the Los Angeles Times nor Babylon & Beyond endorses the positions of the analysts, nor does Carnegie endorse the positions of The Times or its blog.

Syria’s economic challenges are feeding the population’s growing anger, which recently led to protests in the south and are creating a nationwide uprising.

Despite an impressive annual economic growth rate of 5% over the last five years, reforms to gradually shift from a state-led to a market-oriented economy, and a promising trade-diversification strategy, Syria faces critical economic and social challenges. Its poverty rate remains high, with one out of every three Syrians living below the poverty line, and social and regional inequalities are increasing.

The social contract that prevailed in the 1980s and 1990s — in which the state guaranteed jobs to college graduates and offered free public services and cheap food for its population — no longer holds.

Five factors are of particular concern:

First, with a steady population growth of 2.5% per year, about 250,000 job-seekers enter the labor market annually. The public sector, which employs about 30% of the workforce, has created about 20,000 jobs per year since the mid-1990s. Although the private sector has created jobs at two to three times this rate, it also has not kept up with population growth. The official unemployment rate is around 10% but one of two jobs is of poor quality, with low pay and no social protection. On the other hand, youth unemployment exceeds 30%.

Second, successive seasons of drought have led to a 25% decline in the agricultural sector’s output, which provides jobs to 20% of the labor force and contributes a 20% share of the gross domestic product. To improve their living conditions, huge numbers of people have left their villages and migrated to the cities. As a result, the poverty rate in Syria’s urban southern region has doubled during the last five years. Although the government recently put in place cash transfers to low-income households — to offset the effect of reforms on their living conditions — their affect has been limited.

Third, due to cumbersome bureaucratic procedures and a lack of transparent regulations, the private sector in Syria is dominated by large companies that are well connected to the regime or very small businesses forced to join the informal sector to escape administrative barriers. Corruption throughout the administration has become widespread, with decisions often made on an arbitrary basis. The private sector also faces challenges in securing credit to start businesses. Although 14 private banks operated in the country in 2010 — compared with just three in 2004 — access to capital by private entrepreneurs has not eased as banks continue to grant loans based on connections rather than the soundness of projects. The 2010 World Bank Doing Business report ranked Syria 181 out of 183 countries when it came to access to credit.

Fourth, the importance of oil revenues as a share of GDP is declining, as are the rents redistributed by the state. Oil revenues fell from more than 14% of GDP in the early 2000s to about 4% last year due to depleting reserves. So far, the poor have borne most of the burden from this decline through cuts in the government’s social spending. The government has not been able to offset the loss of oil revenues with an increase in tax revenues, which represented about 11% of GDP during the last decade, compared with 15% in Egypt and 24% in Morocco.

Fifth, income inequality in Syria has increased during the last decade. Although the average monthly salary of employees jumped by more than 20% between 2006 and 2009, the increase was canceled out by excessive inflation. In addition, wage increases benefited those with higher-education degrees much more than less-educated people, who make up 60% of the labor force.

As Syria tries to address these economic problems, it faces several major challenges. One is the unequal distribution of services by region. The eastern and southern regions are the most vulnerable due to drought and poor infrastructure, and face declining economic opportunities, increasing child labor and rising deprivation.

Another challenge includes the transition to a market-oriented economy and the need to open trade and investment to competition. The Syrian government still needs to tackle the factors that inhibit a strong private sector by reducing corruption and administrative red tape and providing an efficient physical and technological infrastructure. Though this shift would provide a substitute to the rent-seeking private sector that has flourished, it could also impose new constraints on the government.

Finally, Syria needs to spend part of its sizable foreign assets — which represent the equivalent of 10 months of imports — and increase its debt, which is 27% of GDP, to help its population during the economic transition by spending more money on education and healthcare as well as providing safety nets to the poor. Syria’s economic reforms will not only help reduce protesters’ anger but could help give them the increased freedom that many citizens also seek.

— Lahcen Achy of the Carnegie Middle East Center in Beirut. Achy is a resident scholar at the Carnegie Middle East Center who specializes in the political economy of the Middle East.

Upper photo: An anti-government protest in Syria following last week’s Friday prayers. Credit: Muzaffar Salman / Associated Press

Lower photo: Lahcen Achy. Credit: Carnegie Middle East Center

Twitter: @latimesworld
Facebook: latimesworldMore in: Carnegie Endowment, Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, Carnegie Middle East Center, Economics, Politics, Syria

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March 31st, 2011, 2:29 pm


why-discuss said:


When is Obama planning to repel the Patriot Act that bares many similarities to Syria Emergency law? Is the US in a state of war? Is any of its land occupied by foreign troups?
When is Obama going to close the illegal Guantanamo, promised in the election?
It seems that in US too politicians do not always stand to their promises.

March 31st, 2011, 2:30 pm


SOURI said:

I just could never understand how the emergency law in Syria would be lifted when 30-40% of the population do not recognize the regime and want to overthrow it and establish an Islamist regime?

March 31st, 2011, 2:50 pm


SOURI said:

More losses for the Syrian economy:

Fuel subsidies to remain until August


March 31st, 2011, 2:54 pm


jad said:

Dear NK,
“it looks like a lot of those on the sideline are leaning toward joining the regime camp against revolutionaries,”
I agree on what you wrote, I can talk about myself;
When the call for protests start on FB I was actually leaning toward it a bit, I believe in the need of a movement to put pressure on the regime and take us away from this horrible state Syria is in;
Corruption by every and anyone who has any position regardless how low or high that position is.
Steeling billions of dollars from the Syrian people without any guilt and making poverty rise to an unprecedented level of Syrian history and leading to the ugliest form the social unjust.
The cruelty of our security personnel, their ignorance of any human rights, as well as the inexistent of any protection of many people if they declare their views publicly along the unjust those people is exposed to.
Mismanagement of almost all and every aspect of the Syrian system, be it energy, natural resources, industry, agricultural, even economy, no clear plans and goals, no real transparency with the Syrians about any decision taken even when all signs are leading to the wrong direction.
The pollution in everything; socially and environmentally.
The spread of religion on the expenses of education, science, literature, art and sport.
Those are few of things that I see in Syria and why I believe that democracy is the solution.

However, The turning point for me to get back to the sideline and even at some points to lean towards the regime was the moment when the revolutionists message start to go toward ‘violence’ ‘Sectarianism’ and calling for international involvement and the vagueness toward who are those people are and what are they promoting as solutions. That was enough signs for me that the Freedom call is just a cover for something bigger than what I want to see and something that I totally and strongly refuse, reject and won’t support under any circumstances.
Things went even worse when I start to see a glimpse of what may happen if for any reason violence erupt and sectarian feeling start to spread with a strong message by every media I check (Alarabiya, BBC, CNN, France24, Orient…..and even the comments, the lies and the bloody pictures by the ‘revolution’ site) all of them showed an unlimited support to such distractive message and calling for more blood.
I, like many others came to a conclusion that leaning (not moving) closer to the side of the regime at these moments is the safest to all of us and to Syria the country, and going in a more predictable road regardless that it might be long and slow is better than chaos.
I’m a peaceful person by nature, I believe in dialog and collaboration not in conflicts and violence. I have no political links to any political party inside Syria, never have, and on top of all these things I brought up in a way to highly respect every human live over anything else.
I do believe, hope and pray that things will get better after this event not the opposite as many of the revolutionists and the media are promoting. Many of the Syrians already opened their eyes to reality and things won’t be the way it was before, don’t think that the regime is getting any green light to do whatever they want the way it used before, no, we are all watching and we are all asking it to deliver its promises.
Even if people go out tomorrow Syrians are already SCARED, DISGUSTED and in DEFENSIVE mode of what they saw and they wont support this for any longer.
Enough of the killing and violence, the message is already out. it’s time for wisdom to prevail over madness.

March 31st, 2011, 2:56 pm


NK said:


Please, don’t insult my intelligence, the patriot act does not suspend Civil law, and does not hinder freedoms of U.S Citizens, Institutions, or the press, and have no real effect on U.S citizens personal lives. Emergency law on the other hand …

As for Guantanamo, it’s not a core issue for U.S Citizens, those detained there are NOT US CITIZENS, they are not protected by the U.S constitution, and while the prison is immoral, again it has no effect on U.S citizens whatsoever.

Politicians are crooks by definition, all around the world, however, please name one U.S politician who has been promising the same thing for 11 years, have delivered nothing, and still in office while maintaining a zero tolerance policy against those who dissent.

P.S The U.S is officially engaged in 2 major wars (Iraq and Afghanistan) and a 3rd “mini war” (Libya), and is under real terrorism threat.

March 31st, 2011, 3:14 pm


nafdik said:


What I fail to understand in your change of opinion from protest sympathizer to the sideline is how you equate the calls for violence with actual violence.

On FB many people write many things. So if somebody calls for violence we do not know how representative he is of the movement, there is a possibility that he is a regime stooge trying to sway people like you.

Many of the demos we saw on Youtube had people chanting Selmiee Selmiee. I do not recall a single opposition figure calling for violence.

But the regime itself did not only call for violence it actually killed over 100 Syrians. Why did this action not sway you back into the anti-regime corner?

March 31st, 2011, 3:15 pm


Ziad said:


The US president can order the indefinite detention or the assassination of any US citizen if he deems him a threat to the nation.

March 31st, 2011, 3:23 pm


EHSANI2 said:

Dr. Landis,

I wish that Mr. Dardari will win the nod to become the country’s next Prime Minister. I don’t have high hopes. All indications are that someone else will get the job. Let us hope that the small tiny odds in favor of Mr. Dardari come true.

March 31st, 2011, 3:39 pm


Ziad said:


Don’t you think it is better for the country for Dardari to be Economy minister?

March 31st, 2011, 3:45 pm


Jad said:

Dear Ehsani,
If they put Dardari as the prime minister I’ll be back to Syria and go to Friday paryer tomo and join the revolution.

Don’t push it, I’m packing!

March 31st, 2011, 3:48 pm


EHSANI2 said:


Your view is not in a minority. Mine is. I, respectfully, do not agree with you.


The ministery for trade and the economy is not a powerful one. The current post of Mr. Dardari is the highest but for the Prime Minister. He is either out or the next PM. Sadly, I fear it is the former. After all, we don’t want JAD to join the revolution or end up in Daraa or Lattakia before Friday

March 31st, 2011, 3:53 pm


why-discuss said:


The Act dramatically reduced restrictions on law enforcement agencies’ ability to search telephone, e-mail communications, medical, financial, and other records; eased restrictions on foreign intelligence gathering within the United States; expanded the Secretary of the Treasury’s authority to regulate financial transactions, particularly those involving foreign individuals and entities; and broadened the discretion of law enforcement and immigration authorities in detaining and deporting immigrants suspected of terrorism-related acts”

You mean this does not hinders freedom: wiretapping, search of medical records… broadened discretion in law enforcement.. ??????

The USA have started the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, they are the occupiers. No american land is occupied by a foreign country, it is the other way around.
Mobarak and Ben Ali were also fighting the panacea “Terrorist war” justifying the Emergency law in their country…

March 31st, 2011, 4:05 pm


NK said:


This is exactly what makes me agitated. It means the regime successfully manipulated the opinion of majority into believing “it’s me or sectarian war” and marginalized the 3rd option which is peaceful dissent.
Today they announced what looks like HUGE steps towards reform, when they are indeed, just more promises, and in a month time they will probably announce that the committees finished preparing their reports and sent them to the parliament for further discussion and another 11 years will pass before our own eyes waiting for those reforms.
If we learned anything from the past 11 years, it should be the fact that the regime will never take any steps unless it’s pressured into taking those steps, allowing things to slip back into the way they were is probably the gravest of mistakes.



“Targeted killing is the targeting and killing, by a government or its agents, of a civilian or “unlawful combatant” taking a direct part in hostilities in the context of an armed conflict who is not in that government’s custody and cannot be reasonably apprehended. The target is a person taking part in an armed conflict or terrorism, whether by bearing arms or otherwise, who has thereby lost the immunity from being targeted that they would otherwise have under the Geneva Conventions.”


Before launching a targeted killing attack, the U.S. engages in a review process. The U.S. military and the CIA each maintain their own separate list of terrorists linked to al-Qaeda and its affiliates who are approved for capture or killing.

Scott Silliman, executive director of Duke University’s Center on Law, Ethics, and National Security, says that if the U.S. military is involved, there is: “a very sophisticated target-review process that checks and cross-checks any potential target with regard to constraints of international law, appropriateness of choice of munitions, blast effects as they relate to collateral damage, etc.” The military’s list is maintained by the U.S. Joint Special Operations Command.
CIA Director Leon Panetta

Decisions to add names to the CIA target list are all reviewed carefully by policy people and by attorneys. Principles such as necessity, proportionality, and limiting collateral damage (to persons and property) always apply. A memo drafted by analysts in the CIA’s Counter-Terrorism Center, usually two to three pages long, that reflects the name of the suspected terrorist, the latest intelligence on his activities, and the case for why he should be added to the CIA target list, is circulated to high-level officials, including the CIA general counsel and sometimes Director Leon E. Panetta.

For a person to be targeted, he must be deemed to be a continuing threat to U.S. persons or interests. The list is generally about two dozen names long, though its length varies as targets are added and removed. The list mainly comprises al-Qaeda leaders and those playing a direct role in planning or executing attacks. Espousing violence or providing financial support to al-Qaeda do not meet the threshold, officials said, but providing training to would-be terrorists or helping them get to al-Qaeda camps probably would. Nearly every key step takes place within the CIA’s Langley, Virginia, headquarters, from proposing targets to piloting the remote-controlled drones. The National Security Council oversees the program.”

So no, the US prisedent can not snap his fingers and order the killing of US citizens.


They still need warrants to search and wiretap, you also missed the “immigrants” part. And yes the U.S are the occupier, still war is war.

March 31st, 2011, 4:11 pm


EIU said:

Ehsani — Dardari as PM would be radical, especially if he had powers to act. Doesn’t seem likely though: if the choice is between getting rid of Rami and dispensing with Dardari, probably no contest.

The decree on amending the 2004 law on investment in border areas looked like closing the door after the horse had bolted.

Fiscal position looks problematic now that the third mobile licence deal seems to have bombed — although oil revenue is holding up, thanks to Gulfsands (more good news for Rami).

March 31st, 2011, 4:19 pm


SOURI said:


I think what you are hoping for is unlikely. I like you wish that Mr. Dardari wins the post, but given the circumstance, I am not very optimistic.

I think president Assad was avoiding to replace the government because he wanted to keep Dardari in his place. If the president forms a new government, I think it will be hard for him to keep Dardari in the government. The calcified mummies that dominate Syrian media and institutions have made Dardari’s reputation very bad among the Syrians.

Like I said before, the current events will most probably make economic reform in Syria slower. We have already seen an example today when fuel subsidies were extended until August.

I don’t know much about the Syrian budget, but I don’t think all this spending on salary raises will help the government in its plans to invest in infrastructure, education, and healthcare. This is also a setback for the economy.

Let’s just wish that the president finds somebody like Dardari who understands economic reform. The most that I wish for now is for Dardari to remain in his post as an economic adviser to the prime minister.

If president Assad really chooses Dardari as the new PM, it will be a very brave move by him, but it will also cause significant frustration among many Syrians who are already frustrated because of the economic situation.

Let’s hope that the president surprises everybody and chooses Dardari. Who knows what might happen…

March 31st, 2011, 4:20 pm


SOURI said:


I don’t think Rami will have anything to do with the new mobile license. What you say is probably meant to agitate people, but Assad is not that detached from reality and it is pretty obvious that Rami won’t have as much influence from now on as he used to have.

March 31st, 2011, 4:29 pm



Dark rooms have been set up in Tripoli by Syrian opposition


March 31st, 2011, 4:36 pm


EHSANI2 said:


Your comment is on the money. You are absolutely correct. Mr. Dardari has been attacked by the local media and has been blamed for the plight of the poor. He is blamed for widening the income gap. The truth, however, is otherwise. Mr. Dardari ought to have hired his own PR and media people to educate the public about his polices and to explain the rationale behind them. Sadly, this is not a convention in Syria. The President will face the pressure to go for a populist PM who is more keen to increase the participation of the public sector than reduce it. This would be a huge mistake. The recent increase in public sector salaries was ill advised and does not bode well for a Dardari type person getting the nod. This is a critical choice for the President. This is his chance to show independence from the party, at least when it comes to economic matters. I am not holding my breath and how I would love to be surprised this time.

March 31st, 2011, 5:08 pm


SOURI said:

The Wahhabis understand now that their very existence in Syria is at stake, so they have no choice but to come out tomorrow with all their force and try to agitate the other Islamists to join them. I suspect that tomorrow is going to be a loud day, but I am not sure if the Wahhabis will succeed in drawing other people to join them.

If Wahhabis come out forcefully tomorrow and the regime manages to defeat them, then it is probably going to be the end of Wahhabism in Syria. So be careful Wahhabis because this is your final battle.

March 31st, 2011, 5:11 pm


SOURI said:


I was holding my breath too, but now I am almost sure that the economic reform in Syria will be put on hold. It is sad reality, but the regime cannot move on with reform under the current circumstances.

Syria’s economy has always been a very sad story, so what’s new?

March 31st, 2011, 5:18 pm


Amir in Tel Aviv said:

Asad’s reforms:

“…Syrian security forces will deploy tomorrow at the gates of the mosques and anyone not carrying an ID will be denied entry. Troops will seize IDs and give them back one hour after the prayers”. [naharnet.com]

March 31st, 2011, 5:40 pm


Alterion said:


Glad to see there are still a few names I recognize. I wonder how many of you are back in the good ol’ Arab Republic of Syria right now. To sum up the situation for you around here, it sucks! And of course, Dardari sucks the most (this is for you Ehsani2 🙂 Good to see you stuck around all of these years. Good God, it seems like ages.

March 31st, 2011, 5:59 pm


NK said:


خطاب الأسد: سبعة أضاليل لا تطمس قطرة دم واحدة
صبحي حديدي

الذين علّقوا عليه الآمال، طيلة الأيام التي أعقبت اندلاع الإنتفاضة السورية، خابت آمالهم في أن يقول مفردة واحدة تشي بأنه استمع إلى رسالة الشعب، أو ينوي الإستماع إليها في أجل قريب؛ أو أن ينطق مفردة عزاء واحدة لأهالي الشهداء الذين سقطوا، ويسقطون، هذه الساعة أيضاً، في درعا والصنمين واللاذقية وسائر أرجاء سورية.
والذين كانوا قد تفاءلوا بعهده، منذ أن تمّ توريثه في حزيران (يونيو) 2000، بعد ساعات من وفاة أبيه، وراهنوا على شبابه وانفتاحه ومزاجه المعلوماتي وسنوات إقامته في بريطانيا… خاب فألهم أكثر ممّا خاب طيلة 11 سنة من عهده، وليس محزناً تماماً أن لا يمحض المرء المراهنين أولئك فضيلة اكتشاف لا يبدو متأخراً، فحسب؛ بل يستدعي نقداً ذاتياً شجاعاً، وانخراطاً في معسكر التفاؤل الآخر، الصحيح والمشروع والتاريخي: صفّ الشعب، حيث تتواصل الإنتفاضة.
بيد أنّ خطاب بشار الأسد، أمام ما يسمّيه النظام ‘مجلس الشعب’، كان أبعد أثراً من حكاية الآمال الخائبة والتفاؤل الجهيض، وانطوى على سلسلة أضاليل سيقت عن سابق عمد وتصميم، واستهتار برسالة المحكوم إلى الحاكم، واستخفاف بجراح الشعب وأحزانه. ولعلّ التضليل الأوّل كان إصرار الأسد على مخادعة نفسه بنفسه، والإلتفاف على تصريحات كان قد أدلى بها قبل أسابيع قليلة لصحيفة ‘وول ستريت جورنال’، حول أولويات الإصلاح، وجداوله الزمنية التي قد لا يقطف ثمارها إلا أبناء جيل لاحق؛ فضلاً، بالطبع، عن حصانة نظامه ضدّ ايّ تحرّك شعبي، هو ‘المقاوِم’ و’الممانِع’.
فهو، في ذلك الحوار كما في خطابه الأخير، اعتبر أنك إذا لم تكن قد بدأتَ بالإصلاحات منذ زمن سابق على انتفاضات العرب، فإنك قد تأخرتَ الآن، وستبدو إصلاحاتك بمثابة خضوع للضغط الشعبي؛ والدولة التي تخضع لضغوط الداخل، يمكن أن تخضع أيضاً لضغوط الخارج. الأسد اعترف في خطبته أنّ الدولة قد تأخرت، ولكن الشعب يقول اليوم إنها لم تتأخر عن عام 2005، حين أوصى المؤتمر القطري العاشر بسلسلة إجراءات، فحسب؛ بل تأخرت عن سنة 2000، حين تولى الوريث السلطة من أبيه؛ وعن سنة 41 سنة من حكم ‘الحركة التصحيحية’، بالنظر إلى أنّ حكم الابن ليس سوى مواصلة لحكم الأب. ثمّ ما الذي يعيب نظام حكم، لا يكفّ عن ادعاء الإنفتاح على الشعب والتمتع بحبّ الجماهير، إذا خضع لضغط شعبي يدور حول حاجات ومطالب وحقوق مشروعة شتى؟
هذه، تحديداً، هي معادلة التضليل الثانية: ‘في الوضع الداخلي بنيت سياستنا على التطوير وعلى الإنفتاح، على التواصل المباشر بيني وبين الشعب والمواطنين، وبغض النظر عما إذا كان هناك من سلبيات وإيجابيات’، قال الأسد. ولكن أيّ انفتاح هذا الذي لا يقبل الضغط من شارع شعبي غرضه إصلاح البلد، ويقارنه بضغوط خارجية تستهدف تركيع البلد؟ وكيف يصحّ الحديث عن انفتاح بين نظام الأسد والشعب، إذا كان اعترف بنفسه أنه ‘ينقصنا دائماً التواصل’، و’الدولة طرحت وعوداً بالإصلاح ولم تنفذها’، و’لدينا دائما مشكلة في التواصل’؟ ثمّ كيف يفهم الشارع السوري، ثمّ العالم قاطبة في الواقع، تأخّر الأسد في الحديث إلى الشعب، وإنابة أمثال فاروق الشرع وبثينة شعبان ورستم غزالي وتامر الحجة… للنطق بالنيابة عنه؟ وهل هذا عذر، أم ذنب أقبح، أن يقول: ‘هذه الكلمة ينتظرها الشعب السوري منذ الأسبوع الماضي، وأنا تأخرت بإلقائها بشكل مقصود ريثما تكتمل الصورة في ذهني’؟ وأيّ خلاصات عجاف هذه التي اكتملت، في نهاية المطاف!
التضليل الثالث هو إغداق المدائح على مدينة درعا، وأنّ ‘أهل درعا هم أهل الوطنية الصادقة والعروبة الأصيلة، أهل درعا هم أهل النخوة والشهامة والكرامة’، و’هم مَنْ سيقومون بتطويق القلّة القليلة التي أرادت إثارة الفوضى وتخريب اللحمة الوطنية’؛ وفي الآن ذاته استكثار صفة الشهيد على عشرات القتلى من أبناء المحافظة، والسكوت التامّ عن مظالم المواطنين هناك، المحلية منها التي تخصّ فساد رجال السلطة وتسلطهم واستبدادهم، قبل تلك الوطنية التي تعني سورية بأسرها. وأي وسيلة لتكذيب بثينة شعبان، في تبجحها بأنّ الأسد يعتبر ضحايا درعا ‘شهداء الوطن’، أفضل من الإستماع إلى الأسد نفسه وهو يراهم ‘ضحايا الفتنة’، ليس أكثر؟
ويا لها من ‘فتنة’، هذه التي يشعلها مواطنون سوريون عزّل، يهتفون بالوحدة الوطنية بين مختلف مكوّنات المجتمع السوري، الإثنية والدينية والمذهبية والطائفية! ماذا ترك الأسد، في نقطة التضليل الرابعة، لمفارز ‘الشبيحة’ الهمجية، طبعة نظامه من ‘بلطجية’ أنظمة الإستبداد العربية الأخرى، التي تأتمر بأوامر أبناء عمومة الرئاسة: نمير بديع الأسد (بطل الفيديو الشهير الذي يُظهره، صحبة رجاله المسلحين، يقتحم شركة الهرم للحوالات، في قلب دمشق، ويسطو على قرابة 43 مليون ليرة سورية)؛ وفواز جميل الأسد (بطل معركة شهيرة دارت، في سنة 1988، بين رجاله وحوّامات وزوارق البحرية السورية التي حاولت التصدّي لقوارب التهريب)؛ ومنذر جميل الأسد (الذي صدر بحقّه حكم بالسجن خمس سنوات، ليس بتهمة ‘وهن عزيمة الامّة’ بالطبع، بل بجرم التزوير واستخدام مزوّر، ولكنه ما يزال حرّاً طليقاً!’…
التضليل الخامس في خطبة الأسد هو الحديث عن محاسبة المسؤولين: ‘من الضروري أن نبحث عن الأسباب والمسببين، ونحقق ونحاسب’؛ ولكن هل ينتظر منه طفل سوري، فكيف بنساء ورجال وشيوخ هذا البلد العظيم المنتفض، أن يحاسب أهل بيته، أوّلاً… أو حتى أخيراً! فإذا وضعنا قادة ‘الشبيحة’ جانباً، متى سيحاسب الأسد ابن خالته، العميد عاطف نجيب، رئيس فرع الأمن السياسي في محافظة درعا، وصاحب الأمر باستخدام الذخيرة الحيّة ضدّ المتظاهرين، وقبله الأمر باعتقال 16 طفلاً والإبقاء عليهم قيد الإحتجاز طيلة شهر ونيف؟ ولو لم يكن هذا العميد على صلة قرابة مباشرة برأس النظام، هل كان سيتجاسر على فتح النار دون الرجوع إلى القصر، أو الرجوع إلى العميد ماهر الأسد؟ أم يصحّ، أيضاً، الافتراض بأنه لم يتجاسر على اتخاذ قرار خطير كهذا، وأنّ الإذن بـ’وأد الفتنة’ جاء من الأعلى بالفعل؟
سياق التضليل السادس أنّ الأسد ألمح ـ على نحو عارض، ليست نيّة التعمّد خافية عنه ـ إلى أنّ الذين يعارضون الإصلاح والمحاسبة هم ‘أصحاب المصالح والفساد وأنتم تعرفونهم. قلّة كانت موجودة ولم تعد موجودة الآن. قلّة محدودة جداً تعرفونها بالاسم’. والحال أنّ السوريين يعرفونهم بالاسم، حقاً، ولكن ما يعرفونه أيضاً، وما يتقصّد الأسد التعمية عليه، هو أنّ هؤلاء ليسوا ‘قلّة محدودة جداً’، وهم موجودون على رأس مناصبهم ومواقعهم وصلاحياتهم؛ ابتداء من تمساح المال والأشغال والإستثمار رامي مخلوف، ابن خال الرئاسة الذي هتفت جماهير درعا ضدّه، وليس انتهاء بوزير الإدارة المحلية تامر الحجة (المرشّح الآتي لرئاسة الوزراء، كما تقول بعض التقارير) الذي شاع دوره في فضيحة جمعية الشهيد السكنية في حلب، عندما كان محافظاً هناك).
ومن الطريف أنّ الأسد، في الفقرة ذاتها، كذّب الذين كانوا ينسبون إليه نوايا إصلاحية، ويرجعون السبب في عدم تنفيذها إلى البطانة التي من حوله، ممّن يعيقون الإصلاح ويطالبون بالحفاظ على عقلية الماضي، سواء بدافع اقتفاء مصالحهم الشخصية، أو تمسكاً بعقائد جامدة تخصّ التنظير لـ’اشتراكية’ حزب البعث. وها أنه يقول بكلّ الوضوح: ‘كان يسألني هذا السؤال أكثر من مسؤول مرّوا بسورية مؤخراً من الأجانب. يريد أن يطمئن بأن الرئيس إصلاحي ولكن مَنْ حوله يمنعونه، وقلت له بالعكس، هم يدفعونني بشكل كبير’!
التضليل السابع، وهو أشبه باستئناف نكتة عتيقة مكرورة، تستهدف ذرّ الرماد في عيون مفترَضة تفتّحت منذ عقود على الحقيقة الأخرى الساطعة، وهي أنّ الأسد اختار ‘مجلس الشعب’ لتوجيه كلمته، لأنّ أعضاءه هم الذين يمثّلون الشعب. والحال أنّ هذا مجلس دمى متحرّكة بائسة، لم تعد تضحك طفلاً، ولا تشبه أشدّ الكرنفالات ابتذالاً وسماجة، وهو ـ رغم تغيّر بعض أعضائه اسماً، وليس البتة وظيفة وتهريجاً ـ المجلس ذاته الذي أسبغ ‘الشرعية’ على توريث بشار الأسد سنة 2000، وعدّل الدستور على النحو الأكثر كاريكاتورية في تاريخ أية أمّة، لكي ينحشر الفتى في الثوب الفضفاض الذي خلّفه الأسد الأب، ساعة رحيله.
ولو كان الأسد ينتمي إلى زمانه، في الحدود الدنيا لمنطق العصر واشتراطات الأوان، لأوحى إلى معاونيه الأمنيين أن يأمروا هؤلاء المهرّجين بالإقلال من تهريجهم، لأنّ العالم بأسره كان ينتظر خطابه، ولكانوا سمعوا وأطاعوا. ولو كانت نرجسيته العُظامية أقلّ تفشياً في مزاجه الشخصي، إذْ من الحكمة للمرء أن لا يتحدّث عن خصاله كرجل سياسة، لكان أوصى بأن لا يخرج عليه عضو يهتف له إنّ سورية والعالم العربي قليلة عليه، وموقعه قيادة العالم؛ هذا بمعزل عن أبيات الشعر السقيم وهتافات النفاق الجوفاء.
ثمة، إلى هذا، أضاليل أخرى تخصّ رفض الأسد توصيف أنماط الإنتفاضات الشعبية العربية بأية تسمية أخرى غير ‘الحالة الشعبية’؛ ولا نعرف، حقاً، ما هو العيار الفلسفي في هذا التعبير الغائم، وماذا تشمل الحالة، أو لا تشمل. وكذلك تبرّمه من تعبير ‘الموجة’ في الحديث عن هذه الإنتفاضات، لباعث أوّل يخصّ آماله في أن لا تزحف الموجة إلى سورية، كما للمرء أن يتكهن؛ ولرغبة في التفلسف الإضافي حول ‘التحكّم’ بالموجة، وكأنّ في وسعه وقفها أو إسكاتها أو تجميدها، حتى يفرغ من تأملاته فيجد الحلول للتحكّم بها.
مثله التضليل حول وجود ‘مؤامرة’، سواء تسلّحت بأسلحة ثقيلة، أو دارت على نحو افتراضي عبر شبكة الإنترنت ومواقع التواصل الاجتماعي، حيث يفلح المتآمرون في كلّ هدف: ‘زوّروا المعلومات، زوّروا الصوت، زوّروا الصورة، زوّروا كل شيء’، يقول الأسد. مدهش، مع ذلك، أنّ هذا ‘الرئيس الشاب’ كان قد سُوّق إلى الشعب السوري في صورة ‘رائد المعلوماتية’، وكان منصبه الوحيد الرسمي، قبيل توريثه، هو رئاسة ‘الجمعية المعلوماتية السورية’؛ فأيّ عجب في أن ينقلب السحر على الساحر؟ ثمّ إذا كانت ‘المؤامرة الإفتراضية’ عليه، أفليست له أيضاً، وفي متناول أجهزة نظامه؟ ألا يدخل أفراد تلك الأجهزة على الـ’تويتر’ والـ’فيسبوك’ مثل سواهم، بل يمتهن بعضهم فنون اختراق المواقع المعارضة وتخريبها؟
وأخيراً، إذْ يستمع المواطنون السوريون إلى الأسد وهو يتهم أمريكا وإسرائيل بالتآمر عليه، فضلاً عن دول أخرى ‘قريبة’؛ كيف لهم، إذاً، أن يقرأوا حماس وزيرة الخارجية الأمريكية، هيلاري كلنتون، لنظام الأسد، وتوصيفه بـ’الرئيس الإصلاحي’؟ وكيف تجب قراءة القلق الإسرائيلي الشديد على مصير نظام الأسد… أحبّ دكتاتور إلى قلب إسرائيل، كما ساجل سلمان مصالحة في مقالة لافتة نشرتها ‘هآرتز’ قبل أيام؟ وهل هتاف الشارع السوري ‘الله! سورية! حرّية وبسّ’ هو، حقاً، ذروة المؤامرات الخارجية؛ والهتاف البديل ‘الله! سورية! بشار وبسّ!’ هو ذروة الوطنية؟
وكيف لهذه الأضاليل، وعشرات سواها، أن تطمس قطرة دم زكية واحدة، سالت من جسد شهيد؟

‘ كاتب وباحث سوري يقيم في باريس

March 31st, 2011, 6:00 pm


souria said:

Unfortunately we still have to deal until now with a dictator , I cannot believe that he is a doctor, first statement by Epocrate oath do not harm and look what is he doing to his innocent people exactly like his father who ruined Syria for 30 years.

Why Alawi people in Syria have to pay for bashar crimes against syrian especially many of they are protesting against him.

At the end we are praying all of us who are against this dictator that him and his family end is coming soon.
by the way i am alawi but at the same time i am Sunni, christian, durzi i belong to all religions in Syria

Viva Syria and god bless all innocent people in darra , Lattakia and all cities in Syria
who were killed by this dictator government bashar, maher, asif, rustem gazali and the rest of this criminal government

March 31st, 2011, 6:07 pm


jad said:

Those guys are playing a very dangerous game of spreading rumors and making everybody on the edge. They are also playing of using women praying in the mosque as means for pushing people to react, this is a true FITNEH by definition.
They are even calling to stage conflict with the security just to force violence to occur even when it’s not needed…is that peaceful? Who the hell is advising them to come up with such evil plans?

I jusr read this hilarious comment by one of the guys about the admin call to use big 6bl 🙂

يا أدمن وكيف بدو يهرب اللي شايل الطبل بدك يقابل ربه شايل طبل الله يسامحك يا زلمه
14 minutes ago
and another one doesn’t like al6bl idea

هذا اللي طلع معك يا أدمن بعد طول تفكير – الطبل ممكن ربما، ولكن لا تنسى أن التصفيق هي عادة بعثية قذرة أستغرب كلما رأيتها في المظاهرات

P.S. If anyone want to see tomorrow (Friday April 1st) demonstration in Daraa and some confrontation and gun shots, it’s already online, check it out before they remove it 😉
مظاهرات سوريا يوم الجمعه 1 / 4 / 2011

March 31st, 2011, 6:39 pm


NK said:

This was Daraa on the 29th it seems

March 31st, 2011, 6:41 pm


NK said:


I think this was a reaction to what Amir mentioned in #34

““…Syrian security forces will deploy tomorrow at the gates of the mosques and anyone not carrying an ID will be denied entry. Troops will seize IDs and give them back one hour after the prayers”. [naharnet.com]”

Where is this video you mentioned ? the song ? lol, it’s a song.

March 31st, 2011, 6:53 pm


Nour said:


I may have missed something, but how come we never see women in those demonstrations?

March 31st, 2011, 7:09 pm


jad said:

It’s madness of what they just post… YouTube for student inside their school are being used by a teacher!
Do you approve using student younger than 18yo in this struggle, knowing for sure that those kids might become targets and killed????
الثورة السورية – المدارس || طلاب المدارس الحكومية والمعلمين يعلنون بدء الاعتصام التضامني مع الشهداء .. هكذا هم طلابنا .. وهكذا هم شباب الحرية ..

March 31st, 2011, 7:14 pm


jad said:

No worries NOUR,
Women are going to be used tomorrow, how low is too low for those idiots:

رجو من كل الأخوات اللذين سيقومون بصلاة الجمعة في مساجدنا وجوامعنا الكريمة هناك خطة لزرع بلبلة داخل مصليات النساء وأقحام المؤمنات والمؤمنين في نار الفتنة :الخطة كالتالي :1- ستقوم إمرأة من المخربين عند انتهاء صلاة الجمعة بالهتاف ضد الرئيس والحكومة والبلد2- سيتدخل رجلين من المخربين بهيئة رجال أمن ويقومون بالاعتداء عليها ومن ثم الاعتداء …على المؤمنات الصالحات لأجل إثارة الفتنةالرجاء من الاخوات المؤمنات أخذ الحذر والحيطه

March 31st, 2011, 7:16 pm


NK said:


I don’t really have an answer, we’re talking about Daraa here where most women are housewives, also it’s highly unlikely if women did participate that they will mingle with men, they will most likely gather in a group on their own.
You also have to remember that these guys are being harassed by security forces, they are under siege ( Al Jazeera confirmed this), so I bet it’s not that safe.

Again Daraa is really a small rural town, and people there are conservative.


It doesn’t matter if we approve or not, personally I would ask kids to stay home and skip school in such times, but we really have no idea what’s the situation like in Daraa, Al Jazeera tried to get into town yesterday. The reporter said the army had Machine guns deployed in the middle of the road, and that the soldiers denied them entry “for their own safety” and ordered them to head back toward Damascus.

March 31st, 2011, 7:20 pm



The die has been cast

The US asks its citizen to leave Syria


March 31st, 2011, 7:35 pm


NK said:

Dear JAD

You’re reading things out of context, that last statement is warning women of what the regime might do, and asking them to be careful. Why is that low ? I wouldn’t put these plots beyond what the security forces might do.

March 31st, 2011, 7:37 pm


jad said:

“الى شباب الثوره // اي منطقة يتم تحريرها يجب ان يتم عمل لجان شعبية فيها وذلك لحمايتكم من مرتزقة الامن .. سيتم نشر وتغطية اخبار جميع المحافظات أول بأول ولذا نرجوا ان تكونوا على اتصال دائم بنا على الايميل”

How are we going to believe that what is called for is peaceful? It’s a call for war.

I think I already know what those guys are calling for and the President is right.
The organizers are the only one to be blamed for any person to die tomorrow.

March 31st, 2011, 7:43 pm


NAJIB said:

One question that no one seems to be addressing is where & how will Syria or the ‘syrian regime’ (to use the terminology of this blog) and its allies (iran, and the resistance movements) strike back against their perceived enemies.

we could expect more assistance and support to the Palestinian revolution for example.

security threats and ‘collabos’ in Lebanon will probably be dealt with as a existential threats.

and of course as someone previously noted we should also expect the eradication of the all Wahabis & takfiris in general from Syria.

This should create a breathing space for the president to further advance and speedup the reforms.

March 31st, 2011, 9:08 pm


NK said:

To answer your question one should first know who are those enemies, all the officials said Syria is being targeted, they never really said who was targeting Syria.

As for the Wahhabis, who exactly is a “Wahhabi”, will the Syrian regime massacre all those people in Daraa ? will the regime repeat what happened in the 80s where an army officer will board a bus, order all men down, then execute them all ?

March 31st, 2011, 10:10 pm


NAJIB said:

Syria’s enemies could be easily discovered in its regional & foreign policies.

it seems much more difficult to start a ‘fitnah’ or communitarian strife that leads to massacres today than in the 80’s . people are much more informed, more immune to hate messages, they can’t be fooled that easily.

Syrian security forces should provide demonstrators with rest areas and free snacks, tea & coffee and refreshments.
for unless they match the huge turnout of the 29th, they will only discredit & ridicule themselves.

i think the only result these demonstrators can achieve is to tarnish syria’s image abroad thus somehow weakening it on the regional and international arenas.

April 1st, 2011, 5:04 pm


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