"Why Syria is Unlikely to be Next.... for Now," by Bassam Haddad - Syria Comment

“Why Syria is Unlikely to be Next…. for Now,” by Bassam Haddad

Bassam Haddad, who is in Beirut, will respond to comments in the “comment section” today. A good chance to discuss the likelihood of change in Syria and limits of stability. I thank Bassam in advanc

Why Syria Is Unlikely to be Next . . . for Now
Bassam Haddad March 9, 2011 for Arab Reform Bullitin

As millions of Arabs stir their respective countries with demonstrations and slogans of change and transition, certain Arab states have been generally spared, including some oil rich countries and Syria. Syria stands out as a powerful regional player without the benefit of economic prosperity and with a domestic political climate that leaves a lot to be desired. Some say it combines the heavy-handedness of the Tunisian regime, the economic woes of Egypt, the hereditary rule aspects of Morocco and Jordan, and a narrower leadership base than any other country across the Arab world. Why, then, is all relatively quiet on the Syrian front?

We can delude ourselves by resorting to facile explanations related to the threat of severe coercion facing a potential uprising in Syria—which certainly does exist. But the reality of the matter is more complex. To begin with, one must account for the unexpected: a clumsy incident involving a disproportionately brutal reaction against civilians, even in Syria, will spin structural variables out of control.

“Syria is not Egypt”

Any cursory review of the Syrian press, or the press on Syria, reveals that many Syrians empathize with the grievances of their rebellious Arab brethren and share many of them. This includes those who actually protested in small numbers and were harassed and/or beaten on Friday, February 4th, the planned “Day of Anger” in Syria, and during the few days prior. Other sporadic incidents took place in the past few weeks, but none rose to the level of an explicit anti-regime demonstration, as happened in Egypt and elsewhere. This puts Syria in stark contrast with Egypt.

Egyptian protesters grew in courage gradually as civil society snatched gains such as degrees of freedom of the press, freedom of speech, and freedom of organization and contestation by truly independent political parties, not least among whom is the Muslim Brotherhood, even if by proxy. On the other hand, Syrian civil society does not enjoy nearly the same measures of liberty. Syrian President Bashar al-Assad was correct in saying that Syria is not Egypt in a January 31 Wall Street Journal interview. The reverse is equally true.

As repressive as the government of former President Hosni Mubarak might have been, Egypt’s public space was much more open than that of Syria. Independent papers, parties, and political activists have proliferated in Egypt for the better part of the past decade, gaining adherents and mobilizing supporters via various forms of networking. With time, the components of, and room for, collective action have broadened considerably. Between 2004 and 2010 more than 6,000 small- and medium-sized protests took place throughout Egypt, most of them labor protests. Over the past decade in Egypt, these led to a level of individual and group empowerment—as well as re-politicization of the society—from which Syrians are quite removed.

In addition, while social polarization and poverty are increasing in Syria and social safety nets are deteriorating, the overall socioeconomic conditions are nowhere near those endured in Egypt. Furthermore, the heterogeneity of Syrian society (in terms of politics, region, community, sect, and ethnicity) exacerbates divisions among those affected and discourages cohesion among the opposition. Snowballing demonstrations that would dramatically raise the cost of brutal reaction in Syria are thus unlikely for the time being. As matters stand today, the calculus of the ordinary Syrian does not favor going to the streets – absent an unexpected incident of regime brutality, of course.

…Nor is it Tunisia or Libya

Individual and group decisions are not motivated solely by social connectivity, legal permissiveness, and collective action. Otherwise, Tunisia’s revolt would have not seen the light of day, as Tunisians dwelled in a security atmosphere intolerant of independent organization and collective action, much like Syria’s today. But Tunisia’s state, regime, and government did not overlap nearly as much as those of Syria do, and certainly the Tunisian coercive apparatuses and army were not as closely knit around the heights of power as they are in Syria. As a result, expecting the Syrian army/security services to jettison al-Assad as their Tunisian counterparts did to Ben Ali is simply a non-starter.

At the same time, despite the existence within both the Libyan and Syrian regimes of a will and rationale to fight for survival, state-society relationships in Syria are much thicker than those of Libya, where detachment at the top has reached delusional levels. For instance, the Syrian regime has promoted a new cross-sectarian business class often with considerable roots in traditional city quarters. If something is afoot in Syria, however, it is likely to come from the northern cities.

The “Resistance” Factor

Discussions of Syria’s vulnerability to internal protests often posit Damascus’s resistance status to explain why Syria will be spared: i.e., that because of Syria’s confrontational stance toward Israel and the United States’ brutal policies in the region, the regime enjoys a form of Arab nationalist legitimacy. In particular, Syria’s support for Hezbollah and Hamas is considered a unique and legitimate tool for manifesting such confrontation to imperialism. After all, President Bashar al-Assad polls quite well throughout the region compared to other Arab leaders, and enjoys significant popularity among various segments of Syrian society.

Still, overemphasizing the regime “resistance legitimacy” is problematic on two counts: first, even in Egypt, where Mubarak was viewed as a U.S. protégé and Israel’s accomplice, the demonstrators did not make that point a major issue. Second, the region is entering a new era in which Syria’s confrontational stance might become less unique, as Egypt and other Arab governments take more independent positions and withdraw from the strong U.S. orbit.

It is difficult to make blanket predictions due to the constant dynamism of the factors involved. While Syria’s confrontational positions regarding Israel and the United States might be increasingly popular in the region, the citizens of democratizing Arab states will want governments that are more responsive to them regarding domestic as well as foreign policies. The Syrian government will face this growing demand in due time. For now many factors weigh against revolution in Syria, barring an extraordinary event such as an excessively violent regime reaction to a demonstration or other incident. Observers would be wise not to hold their breath.

Bassam Haddad is Director of the Middle East Studies Program and teaches in the Department of Public and International Affairs at George Mason University. He served as founding editor of the Arab Studies Journal and is co-founder of Jadaliyya e-zine.

Also see Steven Heydemann and Reinoud Leenders
: “Resilient Authoritarianism in the Middle East: Lessons from Syria and Iran & Implications for Democracy Promotion,” Policy paper Hivos/UvA, March 2011.

….Promoting and assisting judicial reform, pertaining to, for example, Syria’s administrative courts may underpin reformists and help bend authoritarian politics in directions compatible with greater respect for political rights and civil liberties. What is critical to such efforts, however, is to ensure that they do not become regime reinforcing, but create meaningful constraints on the arbitrary exercise of authoritarian power.

Other strategies that exploit or foster cracks within ruling coalitions, strengthen the position of reformists within regimes, and foster the emergence of interest groups able to imagine that their interests are no longer entirely dependent on the persistence of an existing authoritarian regime could well prove to be a potent addition to existing strategies of democratic reform…..

….Work with civil society organizations should not be abandoned, …. addressing the obstacles to civic collective action, improving democratic practices within CSOs, and targeting regime regulation of civic sectors as a factor that Western governments take into account in their relationships with authoritarian regimes would all be positive steps in this direction.

Regime legitimacy, fed by nationalist agendas, needs to be taken seriously in foreign-led democracy promotion. ….it may be appropriate to designate third parties who, from a nationalist perspective, are less circumspect or who may enjoy credentials congruent with the Iranian and Syrian regimes’ nationalist platforms. In turn, pro-democracy activists in both countries stand a better chance to succeed if they challenge the authoritarian regimes’ virtual monopoly on nationalist appeals by incorporating in their programs their own nationalist alternatives. In such attempts it is essential that nationalist themes are reconciled with values and convictions compatible with greater pluralism, political rights and civil liberties. ….

A rejoinder:

Jerusalem Post: Shalom predicts collapse of Iranian, Syrian regimes
2011-03-11

The protests in Syria and Iran, and intensified sanctions against the latter, will succeed in bringing down the regimes of Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and Syrian President Bashar Assad, Vice Premier Silvan Shalom told The Jerusalem Post

Ibrahim Hamidi traveled with President Assad to the Jazirah to inaugurate plans for bring water 1258 million cubic meters from the Tigris to irrigate northeastern Syria. He explains how it is to work.

عناية بالشأنين الاجتماعي والاقتصادي لتثبيت الاستقرار في شرق سورية
الخميس, 10 مارس 2011

الأسد ومساعدوه في منطقة الحسكة.jpg
الحسكة (شمال شرقي سورية) – إبراهيم حميدي
الأسد ومساعدوه في منطقة الحسكة.jpg

أكدت زيارة الرئيس بشار الأسد الى محافظة الحسكة قبل أيام لوضع حجر الأساس لإطلاق مشروع استراتيجي وتنموي على أساس جر مياه نهر دجلة وتوفير مياه الري والشرب الى الأهالي، أن المنطقة الشرقية، التي تعتبر السلة الغذائية والمخزون الاقتصادي لسورية، ستحظى بـ «عناية كبيرة» في الفترة المقبلة.

المشروع الاستراتيجي، الذي أطلق بعد دراسات معمقة، يوازي في أهميته «سد الثورة» على نهر الفرات الذي دشن قبل ثلاثة عقود، من حيث قدرته على تحقيق «الاستقرار الاقتصادي والاجتماعي» لأهالي محافظة الحسكة، كما كان الحال مع الفرات في محافظتي الرقة ودير الزور في شرق البلاد.

وبحسب المعلومات، فان المشروع الجديد يقوم على جر 1250 مليون متر مكعب سنوياً من مياه نهر دجلة الى الأراضي المجاورة بحيث يؤدي الى ري أكثر من 200 ألف هكتار من الأراضي وتوفير 125 مليون متر مكعب من مياه الشرب، تماماً كما حصل مع سد الفرات في سبعينات القرن الماضي. يضاف الى ذلك، أن إنتاج القمح سيرتفع من 50 ألف طن الى نصف مليون طن سنويا، علماً أن الإنتاج السوري من القمح كان بحدود 2.7 مليون طن. كما تقدم المنطقة الشرقية نسبة كبيرة من إنتاج سورية من النفط البالغ نحو 400 ألف برميل يومياً ومن الغاز حيث ينتج نحو 30 مليون متر مكعب يومياً…….

Comments (72)


nafdik said:

There is one and only one reason that the Syrian people are not moving against the regime:

HAMA

The Syrian army has proven that it will not side with the people even in the most extreme cases and will collaborate with the regime in mass murder to preserve the status quo.

The first step to prepare for change in Syria is to persecute the Hama criminals who are still alive. This of course can not be done from within Syria but should be driven by human rights organisations and Syrians living outside.

March 11th, 2011, 9:28 am

 

alle said:

Thanks to both messrs. Landis & Haddad for providing this opportunity. Some comments, not really questions:

Regional dynamics: Something that separates Syria from Libya is, I think, that there’s less of a chance that a rebellion would gain foreign support in its early stages. Most regional players are unhappy with the Assad regime, but still tend to view it as the least bad option available, while in Libya anything except civil war was seen as better than Gaddafi. I’m not sure this makes much of a difference for the mood on the street, but it might be a factor for more calculating opposition leaders and for those with foreign ties.

The Libya effect: The Libyan situation is really out of hand, already a civil war with regional splits and looming Western intervention. I’m thinking this should probably work against any effort to start a Syrian street revolution, since fears of religious strife are already present in Syria. (If anyone has paid attention to it, I would love to hear something on how official/semiofficial Syrian media has been dealing with the Libyan crisis.)

The Kurds: The idea that a revolt could start from the northern cities, like Aleppo, strikes me as on the money, but I also think there’s another possible igniter: the Kurds. The Kurdish groups have seen very little benefit from Bashar. Repression against them has in many ways actually hardened since the late 90s, and while economic reforms have been good for the country as a whole, they have often been perceived as unfavorable to rural and provincial communities, including Kurdish areas.

Also, you have a strong exile connection to Kurdish groups in surrounding countries and abroad, where there is a — this is my impression — distinctly more hardline position on the Baathist regime than in much of the Arab opposition. And least but not least, the Kurdish groups have shown before that they have a capacity for street mobilization, even if localized, that is far greater than most national/Arab opposition groups — most significantly in Qamishli ’04.

On the other hand, if unrest begins among Kurdish groups, the regime could play the separatist card to insulate it from the Arab mainstream opposition.

Would love to hear some comments on this!

March 11th, 2011, 9:51 am

 

aron said:

Thanks to both messrs. Landis & Haddad for providing this opportunity. Some comments, not really questions:

Regional dynamics: Something that separates Syria from Libya is, I think, that there’s less of a chance that a rebellion would gain foreign support in its early stages. Most regional players are unhappy with the Assad regime, but still tend to view it as the least bad option available, while in Libya anything except civil war was seen as better than Gaddafi. I’m not sure this makes much of a difference for the mood on the street, but it might be a factor for more calculating opposition leaders and for those with foreign ties.

The Libya effect: The Libyan situation is really out of hand, already a civil war with regional splits and looming Western intervention. I’m thinking this should probably work against any effort to start a Syrian street revolution, since fears of religious strife are already present in Syria. (If anyone has paid attention to it, I would be very interested in how official/semiofficial Syrian media has been dealing with the Libyan crisis!)

The Kurds: The idea that a revolt could start from the northern cities, like Aleppo, strikes me as on the money, but I also think there’s another possible igniter: the Kurds. The Kurdish groups have seen very little benefit from Bashar. Repression against them has in many ways actually hardened since the late 90s, and while economic reforms have been good for the country as a whole, they have often been perceived as unfavorable to rural and provincial communities, including Kurdish areas.

Also, you have a strong exile connection to Kurdish groups in surrounding countries and abroad, where there is a — this is my impression — distinctly more hardline position on the Baathist regime than in much of the Arab opposition. And least but not least, the Kurdish groups have shown before that they have a capacity for street mobilization, even if localized, that is far greater than most national/Arab opposition groups — most significantly in Qamishli ’04.

On the other hand, if unrest begins among Kurdish groups, the regime could play the separatist card to insulate it from the Arab mainstream opposition.

I would love to hear some comments on this!

March 11th, 2011, 10:03 am

 

MONTAGNARD said:

NAFDIK
If that was the only path to change, then how come Rafaat Al-Assad and Abdel-Halim Khaddam are not being prosecuted? They both live in exile in Europe, outside Syria. They both were vice presidents to Hafez Assad. They both were very close to Hafez and involved in the decision making and actions leading to what took place in Hama in 1982. They both are getting old and are not expected to live for too long. What is stopping anyone, including human rights organizations from suing them in Europe?

March 11th, 2011, 10:14 am

 

Mr.President said:

nafdik,
Syria’s Muslim Brotherhood leaders and commanders are living abroad. why not prosecute them for killing many Syrian civilians during HAMA time.
I do not agree with you. Syrians are not afraid of another HAMA. HAMA failed because most Syrians REFUSED to join the MB HAMA stand against the government. Syrians know that civil war in their country means kiss the Golan goodbye. it means Saudi domniation of Syria thru Lebanon. it means half Syria is gone to the kurds,…

March 11th, 2011, 11:12 am

 

Malik Al-Abdeh said:

Interesting piece by Bassam but I notice that the same old argument being deployed time and time again that there is a “Syrian exception.” I do not accept that there is a Syrian exception. I wrote a short rebuttal in this blog entry:

http://syriaintransition.com/2011/03/11/dont-rule-out-revolution-in-syria-just-yet/

Syrians, like all Arab peoples, want democratic change and freedom and end to corruption. That means a free press, dismantling the secret police, and free and fair, multi-party, multi-candidate elections.
The people may give Bashar a window of opportunity of a few weeks or a few months. Ultimately however, their patience will run out. Let’s not forget that it took a space of one whole year for the East European Communist regime to collapse. Others like Yugoslavia and Albania took even longer.
It would be foolish to rule out a revolution in Syria just yet.

March 11th, 2011, 11:54 am

 

Ghat Al Bird said:

The points raised by Professor Haddad are as relevant as one can deduce without an in depth discussions between the pros and cons.

The changes wrought on the socalled “Arab World” in the last 50 years or so as well as the present “days of rage” and/or revolutions have not changed the constant reality of Israel as a dominant and Western, specifically American supported and abetting presence within the Arab world.

Wether one is moved to accept or not accept the “logo” of the Arab world and I am not advocating a pro or con I can from a personal point of view having resided in several Arab speaking nations generalize and suggest that the difference betwee a Libyan and a Syrian for example is quite alike the difference between an American from Mississipi and a fellow American from Maine. So are the differences between an Egyptian and a Libyan or Tunisian.

One can only surmise about the prayers that a day of rage or revolution occur asap in Syria by non Christians or Muslims in their temples.

March 11th, 2011, 12:55 pm

 

Majhool said:

“We can delude ourselves by resorting to facile explanations related to the threat of severe coercion facing a potential uprising in Syria—which certainly does exist”

If it exists how come its a delusion? I suggest you re-write this sentence.

Every time i speak to an happy Syrian the issue of Hama-like brutality present itself to the discussion.

Of course its not the only reason people are not revolting but its MAJOR one.

March 11th, 2011, 1:02 pm

 

nafdik said:

Montagnard,

I agree 100% Khaddam and Rifaat should be the prime target of a campaign to bring them to justice for their work in Hama.

Mr President,

The MB have the full wrath of the Syrian regime ‘justice’ system working to punish them. So I do not see the need to add any external pressure.

March 11th, 2011, 1:18 pm

 

Ziad said:

Malik

All indications are that there is really a “Syrian Exception”. Syrians today are not in the mood or have the motivation to protest asking for a regime change. There was no shortage of calls to protest that all were ignored. Syria’s enemies keep digging dirt and throwing mud balls on the wall hoping that one might stick, but none does.

The fact that an estimated 4000 thousand protested a single incident of police brutality proofs that fear of the security apparatus is not what is keeping them from protesting. Also the fact that the interior minister showed up in person tells me that the government is nervously and closely watching the pulse of the Syrian people. We watched videos on SC few days ago showed Haitham al-Maleh, and others, harshly criticizing the government and the mukhabarat. They must have known that critique alone does not land you in jail. The reason why there is a “Syrian Exception” is up for debate. The reason might be that the people are experiencing a gradual change to the better. When I read the news, I get the impression that most ministers in the government are capable technocrats trying hard to improve Syrian society and economy with the resources at hand. Also serious attempts to curb corruption are being made.

Another factor may be the lack of credible and trustworthy opposition, none inside, inept and treasonous outside. Years ago when Michel Kilo was convicted, I was angry, but then I watched a video where he practically invited the US to invade Syria to rid her of its government. If he got 15 years in jail, I’d say double it.

March 11th, 2011, 1:58 pm

 

MONTAGNARD said:

What makes Syria standout as being different from other Arab nations in its recent history, since its independence, is actually its rebellious past.
Unlike most Arab Republics, Kingdoms or Principalities, who have not seen as many rebellions, coups, unions, and cessions, Syria in a sense, has been the avant-garde.
Ad to that its wars with Israel, its lengthy military involvement in Lebanon, and the fact that it is still in a state of war with Israel.
All these trials and tribulations of the past did not stop the Syrian people and governments from trying to seek change in their social-political order by civil or military means.
Enter Hama.
The trauma of Hama and its immense effect on both the government and the people, have been so traumatic, that it not only left deep scars, but I dare to say, it altered the Syrian psyche.
Although it has been twenty nine years since February 1982, when the Hama trauma, tragedy (some will call it massacre and some will call it law enforcement action) occurred, no healing has taken place.
Syria needs to come to terms with Hama, in order for Syria to be able to move beyond Hama.
A way must be found to have a national reconciliation, so Syria can move on to better and bigger things.
How are Syrians to tolerate each other, trust each other, work together, when criminal accusations are being exchanged? A genuine healing process must take place, grievances from all sides must be acknowledged.
Incrimination and accusations will only add to the festering of the deep wound. Ignoring it will prolong the state of denial.
A responsible, mature approach is needed now.
Twenty nine years is too long to carry a grudge and mistrust between the people of one country.

March 11th, 2011, 3:42 pm

 

nafdik said:

Montagnard,

Agree with what you say about the need for national reconciliation about Hama tragedy (I like your use of the neutral term).

How do you see this happening?

March 11th, 2011, 3:50 pm

 

Syrian Nationalist Party said:

“……Another factor may be the lack of credible and trustworthy opposition, none inside, inept and treasonous outside…”

Yep, that is what Saddam henchmen used to say, that is what the dictators of Tunisia and Egypt said as well, that is what Saleh, Abdullah (small) and Khaddafi are saying now. At one point, honorable people will realize the brain washing, learn from the web and free media, that the dictator and his henchmen are by far more treasonous, corrupt and cowards than them seeking foreign support and will act decisively. At one point they will understand that the Ziad’s of the world are the one first in line to join the other Intihazi’s and take that 100k check from foreign Intel agencies, once the opportunity presented itself to them, so they can officially be on the payroll barking liberation calls on the web, that no legitimate opposition, inside or outside, not even wandering citizen will listen to. On top of it, they exclusively call themselves either a regime supporter or the legitimate opposition, depend who is paying of course.

“…….The fact that an estimated 4000 thousand protested a single incident of police brutality proofs that fear of the security apparatus is not what is keeping them from protesting….”

Of course not, “Shirti” has no power in Syria, they are not protesting because they know they have no guns, cash or support, they don’t want to face 30,000+ strong Presidential Guards of the Republican Brigade that Maher, the President Brother, in charge of to insure safety of the Baathist Regime. Hama, maybe in the past, but the Guards, State Security Court and Marshall Laws still present.

March 11th, 2011, 4:02 pm

 

Majhool said:

This is getting a lot of traction on facebook

نحن مواطنون سوريون، شباب وكهول، نساء ورجال، تقلقنا مظاهر التفكير والسلوك والممارسات الطائفية، ونجد فيها خطرا على الانتماء الوطني السوري الجامع، وعلى مبدأ المواطنة الذي لا نتساوى إلا على أرضيته.
إننا نعلن احترامنا التام لكل عقائد السوريين وأديانهم، ولن نشارك في النيل من أي منها، ولن نجامل من يفعلون ذلك؛
إننا لن نحابي أصولنا الدينية والمذهبية على حساب الوطنية السورية الجامعة؛
إننا سنعمل من أجل مزيد من التعارف والتواصل مع سوريين مختلفي المنابت، وعلى توطيد الثقة بيننا، لأن المرء عدو ما يجهل، ومن يجهل؛
إن حسنا بالعدالة وحسنا الوطني يلزماننا بتفهم مواطنينا المغايرين لنا في الدين أو المذهب، وبأن نضع أنفسنا في مكانهم، ونعمل على فهم ما يقلقهم، ولا نرضى لهم ما لا نرضاه لأنفسنا، ولن نمارس أي ضرب من المخاتلة أو الغش في هذا الشأن؛
إننا نرفض أية امتيازات سياسية أو اجتماعية أو حقوقية متصلة بالأصل والانتماء الموروث من أي جهة صدرت، وخاصة من جهة الدولة، كما لا نرضى بإشغال أية جماعة أهلية خاصة موقعا امتيازيا من الدولة؛
إننا نرى في التعدد الديني والمذهبي في بلدنا عامل إثراء عظيم، على أن يبقي في حيز المجتمع، وأن تنصب الحواجز القانونية والثقافية والسياسية التي تحول دون تسربه إلى الدولة ومؤسساتها؛
إننا لا نقبل أي شكل من أشكال التمييز بين السوريين، ونُدرج اعتراضنا على الطائفية في سياق التطلع إلى سورية ديمقراطية، توفر الحريات العامة لسكانها جميعا، لتكون دولة مواطنين أحرار متساوين؛
إننا نرفض أن نُعرّف بانتماءاتنا الموروثة، ونرفض المحاصة الطائفية ومنطق الكوتات، ونعترض على التأسيس المعرفي له عبر صنع الصور النمطية الثابتة لأي من الجماعات الدينية والمذهبية المكونة لمجتمعنا؛
إننا نتطلع إلى أفق سياسي وحقوقي يتوفر فيه قانون يُجرِّم التحريض الطائفي، ويعاقب ممارسيه؛
إننا نعمل أيضا من أجل المساواة الاجتماعية، والتخلص من الفقر والجوع والهامشية والبطالة، وإلى تقليل الفوارق الجهوية في بلدنا، ونرى الفقر والفوارق الجهوية تربة خصبة للانقسامات الاجتماعية والتهييج الطائفي والفئوي؛
إننا لا نقر أي شكل من أشكال التمييز الإثني والقومي، ونرى أن فتح باب واحد للتمييز يفتح أبواب التمييز كلها؛
إننا نكافح ضد التمييز الجنسي، ونعمل من أجل المساواة بين النساء والرجال؛
إننا نتطلع إلى تطور التعليم والتفتح الثقافي والاستنارة العامة والترقي الأخلاقي في مجتمعنا، باعتبار أن ذلك يقوي الروابط والوطنية والإنسانية بين الناس؛
إننا نلزم أنفسنا باعتدال النبرة وعدل الفكرة، ولن ننجر إلى ممارسة العنف اللفظي أو أي نوع من الإسفاف؛
إننا لن ننعزل عن مواطنينا، ولن نتحول إلى طائفة أو عصبة خاصة
كاتب الميثاق..ياسين حاج صال

March 11th, 2011, 5:06 pm

 

Alex said:

If the experiment in Egypt eventually succeeds, and hopefully it will, Syria can not stay as is for too long, a few years max.

But it is ridiculous to continue to claim that Hama is THE reason Syrians are not revolting. The implication there is that “the regime” is more savage than any other regime in the Arab world.

When Romanian dictator Nicolae (and wife Elena) ceausescu were executed in Dec 1989, Israel’s friends in the media rushed to write opinion pieces predicting that Hafez Assad was next. Ceausescu had an informer among every 5 Romanians. He was ruthless. And the collapse of the Soviet Union was supposed to lead to an easy collapse of all “Soviet backed dictators” … especially that all of them led countries that went through hard times economically for years and years. Poland, Romania, Bulgaria, East Germany, Hungary, … all collapsed.

Well, President Assad was not next … not even close. He was soon the center of Middle East diplomacy as America’s secretary of State James Baker started to visit him on a regular basis seeking his support and his wise opinions.

Syria is not “the Syrian regime” … and “the Syrian regime” is not “Hama”

There is a more fundamental reason why we will not easily experience a revolution. Syria must be doing something right.

I remember on this blog in 2005 and 2006 and 2007 many of you here used to post Khaddam’s predictions that “within 3 months” the regime will be removed… and you used to believe in them … and to also get motivated after Junblatt threatens that “we must cut the head of the sanke in Damascus” … or when the Bush administration threatens …

So if you get the urge to “analyze” again that THE reason Syrians did not revolt yet is Hama … then you are still at the level of “I hate the Syrian regime and I will come here to tell everyone that it is an evil regime”.

Having said that, I will again express my conviction that “the Syrian regime” is very smart and will therefore realize that it will be very difficult to avoid some popular, necessary reforms now that Egypt led the way. There won’t be immediate pressure because sadly Egypt will most likely go through some difficult year or two before it stabilizes (and Iraq and Lebanon are still in a messy state). But … in a few years.

March 11th, 2011, 5:59 pm

 

nafdik said:

Alex,

You are mixing el-habel bel-nabel, so it is very difficult to deconstruct and answer the bundle of text that you just sent.

I will give it a shot:

“But it is ridiculous to continue to claim that Hama is THE reason Syrians are not revolting. The implication there is that “the regime” is more savage than any other regime in the Arab world.”

Yes you are correct the regime is probably the most savage in the Arab world after Saddam. The reason is the cohesion between the Army, the mukhabarat, the political wing and newly the ultra-rich.

In Egypt, Tunisia and partially Libya the dictators were unable to ask the army to commit atrocities. (in the case of Libya there was a split in the army). The people can not beat the army if the army unleashes full power with no constraint. This is the lesson of Hama: the army is behind and part of the regime and the regime will stop at nothing to preserve itself.

“When Romanian dictator Nicolae (and wife Elena) ceausescu were executed in Dec 1989, Israel’s friends ….”

So what does that have to do with Hama? If the Romanian army was ready to wipe out a few cities the revolution would have failed.

“Syria is not “the Syrian regime””

But the Syrian regime IS the Syrian regime.

“I remember on this blog in 2005 and 2006 and 2007 many of you here used to post Khaddam’s …”

We remember many things but we will never forget Hama.

“I will again express my conviction that “the Syrian regime” is very smart”

Nobody is doubting how smart the regime is. But we want our freedom. The IQ of our rulers is not a quality we care for.
So far the smartest dictator of those who have been tested is Gaddafi. I would rather have a stupid Mubarak sitting in his villa on the beach.

March 11th, 2011, 6:17 pm

 
 

Jihad said:

Can we stop the ridiculous claims about Facebook. Enough already. Is the “founder” of Facebook giving people money left and right to continue peddling silly propaganda.

Can we stop also the other ridiculous claims about this or that country exceptionalism. The Tunisian dictatorship and its sponsors in the West, especially in France, used to say that Tunisia is an exception in the Arab world because look what we have done: we have a middle class, we have liberated women (but the women and men tortured and emprisoned by Ben Ali’s regime were never mentioned). The list of lies was long. Yet, it took the courageous act of a single young man, the late Mohamad Bouazizi, to topple the French and US puppet and ignite the whole of the Arab world.

No one can really predict what might happen in this or that Arab country, including Syria. The thing that frightens Syrians the most is to end up like Iraq. For the most, the tragey of Hama is a distant memory. But the slaughter in Iraq is a daily occurrence since 2003. Look also at Algeria. Do you think people there are happy with the military dictatorship that runs the country with the blessing of France and the US. However, the trauma of the 1990s that claimed the lives of more than 200,000 people still haunt them. The mass killings only stopped in 2004.

One can only hope that these people’s revolts won’t get hijacked and in the end calls for more Arab cooperation and solidarity will grow.

In the meantime, people should not forget that the colonization of Palestine by rabid Western Zionists continue. The latest news about it: the criminal court of the Western Zionist colony ordered a Palestinian family in Jerusalem to give up a room in her house along with the yard to rabid US-Zionists funded by rabid US-Christian and Jewish Zionists.

March 11th, 2011, 7:55 pm

 

Alex said:

Nafdik,

I will simplify things for you.

You only want to analyze the situation by always managing to conclude that the rigime is the most brutal and its brutality explains everything about Syria.

In your last two comments you did it again … trying to compare Syria to Libya and to Saddam.

What I am trying to say is that I have been experiencing the same kind of “analysis” from the same people since the 80’s. The Ceausescu reference was an example that is very relevant for today: At the time all you would hear was that Syria was next …. because the Syrian dictator is just as bad as the other fallen dictator, Ceausescu

All of you are dreaming … you want to describe Bashar Assad as another Saddam or another Qaddafi …

Your predecessors got it totally wrong in the 80’s, and you will probably get it wrong.

I do not want a revolution in Syria not because I am like those “Qaddafi supporters” you showed us in that video you linked, but that is beyond your ability to understand… the only thing you can see is what you want to see … if there is a revolution, it is because he regime was brutal … if there is no revolution, it is … because the regime is brutal.

If the Lebanese who demonstrated successfully against the same regime and its army in 2005 did not convince you that today’s “regime” in not 1982’s regime, then I won’t try to convince you.

March 11th, 2011, 7:56 pm

 

majedkhaldoon said:

Saddam Husein was a brutal dictator,he was forced out by US invasion,
Kaddhafi is a verocious and evil murderer,it looks that he will be removed by forces from outside Libya,hopefully Egyptian
Assad loyalist saying Syrian regime will use the army to fight the syrian people,the Syrian Army will be the spark of the change.
Even Alex agrees that with Egypt has changed,Syria will change,I hope Assad and his wife and kids do not fight, I do not want them to die

Inna Ghadan Le Nathereh Qareeb

March 11th, 2011, 8:10 pm

 

Jihad said:

Can the ridiculous claims about Facebook (and Twitter) stop. Enough already. It is as if the “founder” of Facebook is paying people left and right to peddle such propaganda.

As for the repeated claims of exceptionalism of this or that Arab country, it is also totally ridiculous. No one can really claim what might or might not happen in different Arab countries, including Syria. However, there is a shared dynamic making people less and less afraid to challenge their oppressive governments. During the reign of the Tunisian dictatorship, which governed with the blessings of France and the US, we used to hear that the Tunisians are an exception in the Arab world. Look they have a middle class, their women are liberated while ignoring for obvious reasons the thousands of men and women imprisoned and humiliated on a daily basis, etc. It took the sacrifice of one courageous young man, the late Mohamad Bouazizi, to topple the Tunisian dictator and to ignite much of the Arab world.

As for Syria, I think the majority might have more on their minds what happened in Iraq. It is fresh in their memories. We can take Algeria as an example. Does really one think that the Algerians are really happy with the military dictatorship that runs the country. But if you talk to many of them, they have on their mind the horrible massacres that ravaged Algeria between 1992 and 2004, of which the Army while still enjoying the blessings of France and the US is mostly responsible.

One can only hope that the revolts won’t be hijacked and derailed from their noble objectives. In the meantime, we should not forget that the colonization of Palestine by rabid Western Zionists continues. The criminal (called justice) court ordered a Palestinian family in Jerusalem to “share” its home (a room and the home’s yard) with rabid Jewish Zionists financed by a rabid American Jewish-Zionist, Irving Moscovitz, who collects money in the US and benefits from US tax exemptions. Thats is Barack Bushama’s peace!

March 11th, 2011, 9:10 pm

 

Bassam Haddad said:

Dear Malik,
Thanks for commenting. your comments below echo the piece, almost in detail. And so do many of the other comments. I think it is important to recognize the purpose of the piece i wrote.

(a) it is not ruling out anything, as it clearly states, and
(b) it is published in the context of US discussion on the matter, and addresses some claims/concerns. that is why the piece argues specifically that Syria is not likely to be next. And i tried to explain why in 900 words, which is a nightmare.

As to the point about Syria is not an exception, I agree. I did not argue for Syria being an exception. I argued that, absent a brutal regime response in the coming weeks/months, Syria is not likely to be next.

Please note that I do not agree with the writer you argue with below. Not all those who say Syria will not be next refer to the right reasons. Some indeed treat Syria as a complete exception. That is not sound analysis. The “exception,” if you want to use the word, is that we have not yet seen a broad manifestation of intent by Syrians; it is not that most are content in Syria, as some may claim.

I don’t think anyone is ruling out revolution or revolt anywhere in the region. But that does not mean they are equally likely to happen next.

6. MALIK AL-ABDEH said:

Interesting piece by Bassam but I notice that the same old argument being deployed time and time again that there is a “Syrian exception.” I do not accept that there is a Syrian exception. I wrote a short rebuttal in this blog entry:

http://syriaintransition.com/2011/03/11/dont-rule-out-revolution-in-syria-just-yet/

Syrians, like all Arab peoples, want democratic change and freedom and end to corruption. That means a free press, dismantling the secret police, and free and fair, multi-party, multi-candidate elections.
The people may give Bashar a window of opportunity of a few weeks or a few months. Ultimately however, their patience will run out. Let’s not forget that it took a space of one whole year for the East European Communist regime to collapse. Others like Yugoslavia and Albania took even longer.
It would be foolish to rule out a revolution in Syria just yet.

March 11th, 2011, 9:27 pm

 

Bassam Haddad said:

Dear Majhool,

Thanks for your comment. Same as above. In fact, you critiqued and responded for me! Thanks. The argument about coercion is problematic when it is assumed that it is the ONLY reason why Syria is not likely to be next. As you aptly wrote, “it is not the only reason, but it is a major one.” yes. The piece said that much when discussing the calculus of the ordinary citizen under normal circumstances. I hate to say this, but now, after Libya, this calculus will hold more sway in individual and group decision-making.

Also note that the comment about deluding ourselves refers to writers who present a reductionist account of Syrian politics. Matters are more complex. I will not repeat the rest of it here.

I do want to say that one would do well to follow the events in Tunisia, Egypt, and Libya (as well as Yemen, Bahrain, and Saudi Arabia), as EVERYONE is watching and drawing implications, not just us.

8. MAJHOOL said:

“We can delude ourselves by resorting to facile explanations related to the threat of severe coercion facing a potential uprising in Syria—which certainly does exist”

If it exists how come its a delusion? I suggest you re-write this sentence.

Every time i speak to an happy Syrian the issue of Hama-like brutality present itself to the discussion.

Of course its not the only reason people are not revolting but its MAJOR one.

March 11th, 2011, 1:02 pm

March 11th, 2011, 9:37 pm

 

Jihad said:

Mr. Bassam Haddad’s claim that Syria is not Egypt nor is it Tunisia or Libya resembles the “great insight” manifested recently by a former US Ambassador to Morocco who wrote: “Morocco is not Tunisia or Egypt or Yemen.”

Yemeni officials also pretend that Yemen is not Libya, Tunisia or Egypt.

Hek, Chinese officials could easily say that China is not Libya, Tunisia or Egypt.

Even the governor of Wisconsin thinks that Wisonsin is not Tunisia or Egypt!

One has to be more original!

March 11th, 2011, 9:53 pm

 

Bassam Haddad said:

Dear Jihad,

The former US Ambassador to Morocco has been saying some very problematic things about the Arab world for years. That’s another matter.

The utterance of these words (x is not a, b, c) is not what ought to be the focus, but the rationale given is. I am happy to discuss this with you should you be interested. The cliché is tired, you’re right, but when one is trying to say don’t hold your breath for now (which is what the article is saying) and points to particular factors comparatively, it is inescapable.

Again, note the context in which this is written, and let’s get to the issues.
b

March 11th, 2011, 10:05 pm

 

Revlon said:

Dear Mr. Haddad,
Thank you for sharing your perspective on Syria comment, on the subject of why Syria is unlikely to be next, for now?

Your comment concludes that a Syrian uprising has failed to be, since it has lacked factors that were operative in the success of Egyptian and Tunisian uprising models.
Please allow me to make comment on three points of yours and pose a question.

Ground social networks. Yes, I would like to single out the imposed lack of social networks as the main factor that has deprived the Syrian public from fashioning a concerted and purposeful uprising

Economy factor. I do not believe that economical factors would be less operative in the Syrian than they were in the Egyptian and Tunisian models. Economic statistics do not matter, how people feel about their current daily living and jobs and how much better it can potentially be, does matter. The Libyan, Bahraini, Omani, and potentiali the Saudi are living examples. Jobless rate in Syria is very high, a fact made bitterer to swallow by non-existing joblessness in the governing clan, the Aalawite, the Baathists, and the benefactors.

The resistance factor! That Syria’s foreign policies supporting Hezbollah and resisting Israel has helped mitigate public resentment. On the contrary, the public has been highly resentful of the regime’s self-portrayal as the bastion of resistance against Israel. Everyone knows that, had Israel returned the Golan Heights in return for normalization of relations, an Egyptian model would have emerged in Syria. The US and Israel, in attempt to counterbalance a predictable public descent, would tacitly and materially support the persistence of the regime, through indefinite extension of the emergency laws, only this time in the name of protecting peace from extremists, terrorists, Muslim brothers, whichever name would seem more appropriate for that moment. Both Israel and the Syrian regime, now stand to benefit from the lessons of the Egyptian model.

How is the Syrian Model different from the Libyan and Tunisian Ones? It is as Ziad said, Hama massacre. Its devastating trumatic effect on the Syrian public minds lives on. There is no Tunisian or Libyan equivalence.

My question to you mr. Haddad is the following: in the abscence of a real opportunity for ground networking to evolve, what should virtual groups change in order to be more effective.
Cheers.

March 12th, 2011, 12:54 am

 

Revlon said:

MR PRESIDENT,
Moslem brothers party members who took part in the Hama rebellion were exterminated by H. Asad’s regime then.

With them, however, thousands of innocent civilians, women, men, and children mercilessly perished under the rebels of their homes in the old quarter of Hama city, or summarily executed on site by Asad’s army forces. What followed was disgraceful; Destroyed houses were looted and jewellery snatched from hands, necks and ears of victims. Eyewitnesses reported seeing mountain and west bound, victorious armed vehicles carrying looted furniture.

It is pitiful that Asad Jr. regards Hama massacre as a success story in the fight against terrorism. Such serves to show how cold blooded and disconnected from the conscience of the Syrian masses are him and his protégé, you MR.PRESIDENT.

The vast majority of Hama population and the Syrians were not then, and are not now MB’s. They still however carry a deep sense of guilt and demeaning helplessness for not rising to rescue their innocent brethren. They did not have ten the 24 hr access to, and potential coverage by Al Jazeera space station. They do have both now!

Syrians did not lose two wars with Israel. It was the coward Asad and his regime that did. The only war they have so far won is that of the subjugation of its own, unarmed people.

Hama plight will continue to haunt Asad, you MR.PRESIDENT, and the perpetrators even in sleep. The pain that its memories bring to the surviving witnesses is very hard to bear. Redemption is only possible, after bringing all the perpetrators and accomplices to Justice. I, like the vast majority of Syrians pray to God that we live to see that moment.
See you then MR. PRESIDENT.

March 12th, 2011, 6:25 am

 

majedkhaldoon said:

There is a syrian ship that left Tartous Syria, going toward Tripoli,Libya,on board there is 500 military vehicle,and troops,to help Gaddafi
US military ships are monitoring this ship

March 12th, 2011, 7:39 am

 

Mr.President said:

Revlon,
A lot of the Syrian Muslim Brothers members fled to Jordan, Saudi, and Europe. These were the countries that funded the MB in the hope of controlling Syria. It is the Syrian MB who started assassinating Syrian civilians. MB was hoping to create a civil war between different sects of our Syrian society. I do not claim that looting and ugly practices were not done by the army. I hold the MB fully responsible for that. The MB was planning to march to Alwite areas and massacres non Sunni families. That was the reason all other cities of Syria refused to honor the MB plea to join in. YES most Sunnis refused and the Muslim brothers were left to themselves in their strong hold of Hama. I am sure you know that Hama sits at the foot of the great Syrian mountains were most minorities do live.
Maybe, using your analysis, we Sunni should go back couple of hundred years during the time of Ibn Taymiyeh. He and his followers, for years, practiced going to minorities areas and just butchering non Sunni children and looting everything their families had. Should we Sunni be put on trial for that? Should we Sunni financially compensate other Syrian minorities? We forced them to run away to the mountains and we lived the easy life in the valleys. We got the education and until the 1970 and they had none.

March 12th, 2011, 11:41 am

 

FHMETKom said:

are these news about syria sending aircrafts to help ghaddagi against the revolution true?
gosh it makes me sick

March 12th, 2011, 11:51 am

 

Alex said:

Majed, can you provide the source of your news?

This is what champress has on this topic today

http://www.champress.net/index.php?q=ar/Article/view/85224

And Syria voted for opening a communication channel with the Libyan opposition at the Arab league meeting this week.

I seriously doubt Syria will send new troops now. But they might have sent pilots in the past, before the revolution started.

March 12th, 2011, 12:21 pm

 

Nadim Shehadi said:

What worries me in this conversation is the implication that Syian exception applies to the people – that they are either content, lethargic, afraid or have no aspirations. I think they deserve better.

March 12th, 2011, 12:26 pm

 

Is a No-Fly Zone the only option to take against Libya? « Though Cowards Flinch said:

[…] As I said regarding your point on the tribes, the onus is upon the rebellion to gather as many supporters as possible, from across the tribal landscape. Additionally, of course, it should be making some statements as to what kind of government it wants in lieu of Gaddafi’s. One reason why Sarkozy has received criticism for pledging support for the National Transition Council is because there has been no diplomatic input, and at the moment the rebels’ demands are uncertain, other than to get rid of the Colonel and promote support for a NFZ (mirrored today by leaders of the Arab League, opposed by Syria who are providing air support for Gaddafi, safe in the knowledge that their country will not rebel). […]

March 12th, 2011, 1:26 pm

 

Syrian Nationalist Party said:

@REVLON, why don’t you go on M.B. websites to leaves your comments. Why not leave it at Khaddam website, or chase Shahabi in Newport Beach and yell at him in those fancy restaurants he frequents. Ask M.B. why did they join Khaddam bankrupt NSF, rather than deal with his HAMA crimes! he was in charge and so as Shahabi. Or you just want to direct your hatred, place guilt and vent on Alawites. How about the crimes committed by Sunni Baathists, before Alawaites managed to take over, you forgive those as well because they are Sunnis?

Others:

SNP concluded long ago that Bashar is a nice boy-pretty face front, we do not believe Bashar Assad is running Syria as a Dictator, but that is the problem, he is not, should he do that, Syria will have taken turn long time ago. It is obvious that there are others that have more real power in the running of Syria Baathist State apparatus than he does. It could be certain individuals, Maher, Asef, etc. but most likely there is some secret or hidden group comprised of various interests that is pretty much controlling the scene. Bashar wishes and aspirations seem to be always diluted or outright over-ruled by this hidden group. On the other hand, while it appears that this group is maligned to changes in Syria, you can credit it with the successful foreign policy of Syria, of which Bashar alone could have forfeited more than Iskenderun.

March 12th, 2011, 1:27 pm

 

Shami said:

Mr President ,Could you explain ,for what reason the alawites who support asad are inclined to use other than their real identity ,preferably,they like to appear as sunnis who are eager to show to the world that asad regime is supported in Syria by non alawites.
On the other hand we rarely saw alawites who support the regime on the net ,this forum is a proof of this situation.Anyway,you are no more obliged to underline your religious identity.
Asad crimes touched all Syria and not only Hama ,all political backgrounds.
Now ,it’s clear that the historical repercussion of Hama massacre scares many in the alawite community , for that reason ,the syrian people must act wisely ,when the accountability process of asad regime will be launched.

March 12th, 2011, 1:28 pm

 

Shami said:

SNP,you forgot Tlass.

March 12th, 2011, 1:38 pm

 

Ibrahim Almasry(Egypt) said:

Egypt is not Tunisia
Libya is not Egypt or Tunisia..Yemen is not…

If I link you to ‘expert’ links and analysis that predicted that it was unlikely Egypt will follow Tunisia and how unlikely for Both Libya and Yemen to follow suit..this post will take an entire page. in fact one American expert on middle east issues declared that both Libya and Yemen will never revolt..bet he’s eating his hat soon.

The fact remains, you can never predict a revolution or state it unlikely to happen ‘soon’ as a fact
http://syriaintransition.com/2011/03/11/dont-rule-out-revolution-in-syria-just-yet/

The fact is neither country that has rebelled has much similarities with the other, every one is a case of its own.. so saying Syria is unlikely to follow is at best an wishful assumption regardless of the situations on the ground.

Unlike classic European revolutions dire economics played a very meek role as in all 4 countries it was the middle class, the well-off and the educated who have took the lead role and pushed the masses. Basing your assumption on poverty is naiive, on freedom of press is absurd(as there were no press freedoms whatosever in both the Libya and Tunisia case). Thinking that people can only revolt if they hope the army will side with them is absurd.. so is Syria unlikely to follow suit?no it isn’t..you can never know and any prediction of a revolution or none is very simplistic thinking.

Hope you have your hat ready mr.expert

March 12th, 2011, 2:24 pm

 

Ziad said:

MR.PRESIDENT #29
A detailed and objective history of the Hama/MB episode has yet to be written. There is no good side/bad side in this. Long before MB’s criminal acts leading to Hama, the wife of the head of the MB was gunned down by Syrian security officers in Germany.

One big motivator in this is blood feud. It is amazing how tribal all of us still are. The first instinct to any injustice done to us is to take revenge on the perpetrator’s tribe, clan, or group. In the lack of a functioning justice system, this is easier and faster and more satisfying than trying to locate and punish the perpetrator. Yesterday, a commenter on the story that Syrians captured a large shipment of weapons from Iraq suggested that all Iraqis are ungrateful and suggested to throw out all Iraqi refugees from Syria. Revenge is a better explanation to the endless killings in Iraq and Pakistan that sectarianism.

…during the time of Ibn Taymiyeh. He and his followers, for years, practiced going to minorities areas and just butchering non Sunni children and looting everything their families had.

I do not feel any particular attraction to Ibn Taymiyeh’s school of thought, but let us not falsify history. Neither he nor any of his followers went around butchering non sunny children. I could not find any source for such event. If you have one please cite it.

March 12th, 2011, 2:47 pm

 

Shami said:

Well said Ibrahim from Egypt.

March 12th, 2011, 6:23 pm

 

trustquest said:

Voices are getting higher and higher in Syria…I hope this is a good sign to hear one person in Syria starts speaking of the plights of political prisoners who actually reflect the plight of the political life in Syria.
Human rights defenders Razan Zaitoneh, speaks loudly on the injustice of the imprisonment of the citizens for their opinions.

March 12th, 2011, 6:44 pm

 

Alex said:

Any chance this “Syria in transition Keeping up-to-date with what’s really happening” site will be enthusiastic to “keep up to date” about what is really happening by posting The denial from Syrian foreign ministry about all those rumors that Syria is sending ships and fighters to help Qaddafi?

Nope … and if they did, they will prsent it in their typical propagandist tone. They want us to rebel against the state owned Al-Baath newspaper so that we can replace it with their fliped version of the same.

March 12th, 2011, 7:08 pm

 

Bassam Haddad said:

Dear Revlon and Ibrahim (AlMasry),

Thanks for your comments/questions. I have very spotty internet now, but will address your queries tomorrow. I enjoyed reading them.
bassam

March 12th, 2011, 10:03 pm

 

Norman said:

I see two reasons that are sparing Syria, one is that the people like if not love president Assad and second is that in Syria the Syrian people see movement and change in their country, might not be as fast as they like but they seem to trust the intention of president Assad, for all of you who seem to indicate that the Syrian people hated president Hafiz Assad, you all are very wrong as if that was the case president Bashar Assad would have not become president and the people would have used the death of Hafiz Assad to change the regime,
I still remember that with all the corruption at that time nobody and i mean nobody blamed Hafiz Assad for it, it was always and still said that the president is good but the people around him are to blame, actually Hafiz Assad was known for his disciplined and the good way of raising his children to the contrary of what his brothers did .

March 12th, 2011, 10:17 pm

 

Parent said:

Dear Norman,
As a Syrian, I would like to thank you for your interest in Syrian affairs. Your comments on Syriacomment reflect a passion for the Syrian question.

You write the name “Assad”, the western way. The correct Arabic transcription of its sound is Asad. As such I have a hunch you are not Syrian. Please correct me if I am wrong!

Your opinion of the legacy and saga of the regime under the father and now his son is rosy and does not reflect the pulse of the street.

I hope someday you could afford to visit Syria and listen to what ordinary people have to say about “their beloved president/s”.

March 12th, 2011, 11:36 pm

 

Parent said:

Dear Norman,
I would like to provide my own take on one of your arguments.

“you all are very wrong as if that was the case president Bashar Assad would have not become president and the people would have used the death of Hafiz Assad to change the regime”.

This argument is often posed by the regime itself and its proponents. The context in which Asad jr. assumed power may help clarify the issue.

First, the death of the late president was met by Syrians with mixed feelings.
Those of deep relief; a nightmarish era of repression finally ended.
Those of fear of potential turmoil that could result from uncontrollable armed clash between competing forces within Asad clan. Particularly, people were mortified by the prospect of a comeback of Rifaat Asad, who is H. Asad’s ruthless brother. The latter is currently enjoying the billions of dollars in Marbilla, Spain. He earned it from his famous daylight armed rubbery of the Syrian Central bank in Damascus, under the nose and watch of H. Asad!

Second, There was no vacuum of power as a result of the father’s death.
It remained in the hands of Asad’s surviving family and the close Alawite clan.
Emergency laws and security forces were their legal and executive arms.
The hasty amendment of the constitution and the following parliamentary elections and presidential referendum were charades.

Third, at the time, Asad Jr., had no good or bad past, for people to weave their opinion around. It was only logical for them to show support for the promising young doctor over the well known evil alternative, his uncle Rifaat.

Asad Jr. has been in power for over 10 years now.
People are still governed by Emergency laws and terrorised (State Terrorism) by security forces.
The grandiose economic plan to revive the losing public sector has dismally failed. Jobless rate is higher than when he assumed power.
The Golan Heights is still occupied.
Their popular support for Hezbollah and Hamas is but a negotiation card to deal with Israel and USA. It is worth mentioning, that Hamas and Hezbollah ideologies are anathema to the Syrian regime. They both adopt Islamic ideologies and embrace democracy.
Salam

March 13th, 2011, 1:27 am

 

Norman said:

Parent,

I am from Syria , so i am Syrian from Hama, i write his name the way it is written in English as this is an American web Site devoted to Syria and read by Americans and other westerners, I went to school in Syria, so i speak and write Arabic and i am very familiar with Hafiz Assad time and what his brother did , i also remember how ordinary Bashar and his brothers and sister were treated when they grew up in Syria and how much that gave credit to Hafiz and his wife.

The Syrian GDP doubled in the last 10 years during Bashar Assad presidency and the people of Syria see a dynamic country that is trying in spite of the sanction to modernize and improve the lives of her people .

March 13th, 2011, 9:23 am

 

Ghat Al Bird said:

As Norman said in #46 above “this is an American website…” and since it is I am taking this opportunity, given the “days of rage and revolutions”, as well as criticisms of the present status in Syria to share the following quotes.

“A democracy is nothing more than mob rule,” said Thomas Jefferson, “where 51 percent of the people may take away the rights of the other 49.” James Madison agreed, “Democracy is the most vile form of government.” Their Federalist rivals concurred.

“Democracy,” said John Adams, “never lasts long. It soon wastes, exhausts and murders itself. There is never a democracy that did not commit suicide.”

March 13th, 2011, 11:19 am

 

Mr.President said:

Shami,
You attack my argument by questioning my spiritual belief. That is a cheap shot. It is funny that a religious minority like you, who self-proclaimed a leadership and authority role to determine who and who is not part of the sect. You do that based on the few notes that I wrote.

That was exactly what Muslim Brothers did during Hama episode. In fact, one can easily conclude that Hama was a sad test that proved, once again, that Syrians are least likely to kill each other lebanon/Bosina/Kosovo style. Hafaz Asad regime did not survive because of what he did in Hama. On the contrary, he survived because the Sunni Majority refused the calling, the methods, and the self proclaimed authority of the Sunni minority. The Muslim Brothers understood that and changed their methods.

I do not support the Syrian Regime. I would like to see true political, social, economic, and RELIGIOUS changes that allow Syria to prosper and move forward.

March 13th, 2011, 12:03 pm

 

Shami said:

Mr President,you told us that the people of Syria did not suffer the killing of their brothers and sisters in Hama and they backed the evil bross Hafez and Rifaat because you swallowed the version of Asad without any criticism based on decent research.
Mr President, what is your knowledge on the sociology and history of Hama prior to these events that left thousands of innocent civilians ,mostly children and women killed in the most brutal and coward way.
In fact ,the brotherhood context was a bad excuse.
Yoou labeled yourself a Sufi ,i remind you that Hama is the capital of Sufism in al Sham ,the city refuge of the morrocan sheikh Maamun al Fasi,Al Alwan ,the Kilanis ,Al Hamed…,its sufi shouyoukh were systematically killed with their familly members ,almost all of them not members of the ikhwan and it began before 1982.
This massacre can be explained from the existence of deep hatred that was cultivated within Asad environment against Hama as whole.

March 13th, 2011, 2:45 pm

 

norman said:

Hi Ghat,

Normal said :
(( Democracy is like a religion, It might be good as any religion, but you do not need to be religious to be a good God fearing human being and you do not have to be elected democratically to be a good God fearing leader.))

March 13th, 2011, 2:54 pm

 

Bassam Haddad said:

Dear Revlon and Ibrahim Almasry, (i copied both of your comments below for easy access)

I’m happy to respond to your queries below.

Revlon,
i am not in a position to tell Syrians what they can do, but there is clearly no alternative to organizing. Given the difficulty of organizing publicly in Syria, especially with a political intent, the task is that much more onerous. But i am confident that much organizing is taking place as we write/speak. The wall of fear is slowly crumbling, even if slower/faster in some cases. One important route that has been followed in other countries under similar circumstances is “Generic Networking,” which is the act of connecting with each other without an explicit purpose, though it is not a mystery why folks would connect at a time like this. Such networks can then play a productive role under changing circumstances. The networking can be cyber-based or direct.

Ibrahim,
you rightly point point out that one cannot predict the occurrence of a revolution. That is correct from the social-scientific point of view, and no one actually predicted the Tunisian or Egyptian revolutions of late

but you collapse issues and differences between countries when you also attack “likelihoods.” If you re-read the piece, I was not predicting. The first part of your statement below is true. But the second is disputable not because one CAN predict, but because it is very problematic to say you can’t talk about likelihood. Of course you can. And those people/experts who said Egypt is not Tunisia or it is unlikely to follow suit were wrong. And i might be wrong too in the case of Syria. I guess we’ll wait and see. But but the nature of the concept of “likelihood,” it is not predictive, you see? Canada is not likely to have a revolution soon, nor is Germany or Brazil, or South Africa. Note, I’m not saying Syria is not likely to have a revolution “soon.” I’m saying, in response to some analysts, it’ not likely to be next after Egypt or, maybe, Libya, and i stated the reasons why, with one caveat.

It would serve us all better if we just analyze existing conditions. but, when you have people saying Syria WILL BE NEXT, and someone like me says that’s not likely, and here’s why, it does not go against logic and is not impermissible ever, as you suggest. it’s a way to engage in a conversation without descending to the level of prediction. In that sense, you are on point to criticize “predictions.”

As to your other comments about poverty, the army, and the middle class, i’m not sure who your addressing, because i am not making those arguments. And those who did, are uninformed about the wold history of revolutions, which, if you look closely, we still don’t have in Tunisia and Egypt.

The closest we MIGHT come to revolution at THIS point is if Qaddafi is defeated. The infrastructure of the previous regimes in Tunisia and Egypt, is still in tact, but softer and less repressive. We have to wait and see. Another reason why your comments on the permissibility of “likelihoods” ought to be tempered a bit.

Salam to everyone. I enjoyed conversing with you. feel free to email me at Bassamhaddad@mac.com or read our e-zine at http://www.jadaliyya.com for more on the Arab revolutions/revolts/protests/struggles.

Ibrahim Wrote:

“The fact remains, you can never predict a revolution or state it unlikely to happen ’soon’ as a fact”

———————————————-

26. REVLON said:

Dear Mr. Haddad,
Thank you for sharing your perspective on Syria comment, on the subject of why Syria is unlikely to be next, for now?

. . .

My question to you mr. Haddad is the following: in the abscence of a real opportunity for ground networking to evolve, what should virtual groups change in order to be more effective.
Cheers.

37. IBRAHIM ALMASRY(EGYPT) said:

Egypt is not Tunisia
Libya is not Egypt or Tunisia..Yemen is not…

If I link you to ‘expert’ links and analysis that predicted that it was unlikely Egypt will follow Tunisia and how unlikely for Both Libya and Yemen to follow suit..this post will take an entire page. in fact one American expert on middle east issues declared that both Libya and Yemen will never revolt..bet he’s eating his hat soon.

The fact remains, you can never predict a revolution or state it unlikely to happen ’soon’ as a fact
http://syriaintransition.com/2011/03/11/dont-rule-out-revolution-in-syria-just-yet/

The fact is neither country that has rebelled has much similarities with the other, every one is a case of its own.. so saying Syria is unlikely to follow is at best an wishful assumption regardless of the situations on the ground.

Unlike classic European revolutions dire economics played a very meek role as in all 4 countries it was the middle class, the well-off and the educated who have took the lead role and pushed the masses. Basing your assumption on poverty is naiive, on freedom of press is absurd(as there were no press freedoms whatosever in both the Libya and Tunisia case). Thinking that people can only revolt if they hope the army will side with them is absurd.. so is Syria unlikely to follow suit?no it isn’t..you can never know and any prediction of a revolution or none is very simplistic thinking.

Hope you have your hat ready mr.expert

March 13th, 2011, 6:08 pm

 

melt said:

It is very clear that a bloodbath will occur should there be a popular uprising in Syria. The Nusairis know that any successful revolt will be Sunni-led and supported. The Syrian army is top-heavy with Nusairis, Druze, Christians and pliant ‘Sunnis’. Whatever ones opinion is, there WILL be a mass slaughter of Nusairis once Syria is liberated.

March 14th, 2011, 5:44 am

 

Aziz said:

It is very clear that a bloodbath will occur should there be a popular uprising in Syria. The Nusairis know that any successful revolt will be Sunni-led and supported. The Syrian armed forces are top-heavy with Nusairis, Druze, Christians and ‘pliant Sunnis’. Whatever ones opinion is, there WILL be a mass slaughter of primarily Nusairis once Syria is liberated.

March 14th, 2011, 5:46 am

 

Shami said:

Aziz ,it should not happen as you predict ,the aim is not to repeat the behavior of Asad against innocent people but to build a liberal democracy in which the alawites as any other syrians are protected by the law.One of the most respectable arab is an alawite ,his name is Aref Dalila.Anyone who attack an innocent alawite is as evil than Rifaat and Hafez and only such people deserve jail.
Of course ,there will be no place for people like Ben Laden in Syria.

March 14th, 2011, 8:00 pm

 

MONTAGNARD said:

Shami
It looks like MELT #51 and AZIZ #52 are “nom de guerre” for the Mossad officer that is fanning the FITNA flames on SC, don’t you agree?

March 14th, 2011, 9:48 pm

 

Shami said:

Fort probablement,montagnard.

March 14th, 2011, 11:58 pm

 

Jad said:

Dear friend Shami,
Thank you very much for replying to #51-52.
Have a nice day 🙂

March 15th, 2011, 12:27 am

 

micho said:

oh please shami stop talking nonsense we both know that if bashar falls it will be on the hand of sunnis that will go on an persecute everyone who isn’t sunni and you can call for a revolution all you want until arabs get out of this sectarian mentality we are going nowhere just look at egypt they are still in that mentality muslims are still being disrespectful to christians , and please do you even know what was before hafez alassad? it was decades of coups after coups there was a time where presidents would last less than 24hrs so please stop heralding nosense that will take back syria 50 years back if not more , and you can hate bashar all you want but you cant denie that his has taken steps in the right direction

March 15th, 2011, 1:38 am

 

MONTAGNARD said:

MICHO
The only nonsense is coming from you. Shami reflects Syrian tolerance, and he cares for fellow Syrians. Go find another site to spread your nonsense.

March 15th, 2011, 11:55 am

 

micho said:

good job on reading selectively where did i say he didn’t care about his fellow syrians ? but his thinking is very naive if he thinks that extremist sunnis wont persecute Christians and Shiites if they get remotely close to power which can easily happen

March 15th, 2011, 12:29 pm

 

norman said:

MICHO,
That is a valid question , the history of the MB is not encouraging but they can tell us what they think about who can qualify to be Syrian with all the obligations and the rights, they are still mute in this regard .

March 15th, 2011, 12:34 pm

 

micho said:

while i agree that we need a democracy like any other country it is not as people claim it is the revolution has to start in our heads before it goes to the streets

March 15th, 2011, 12:40 pm

 

MONTAGNARD said:

MICHO
Extremists will never take over power in Syria. Syria is not Afghanistan. Syria is civilized and the sunnis in Syria are civilized like all Syrians are and there is no tolerance for extremism. You are talking non sense. Go spread your hatred and sectarian extremism somewhere else. You will be wasting your time and our time on this site.

March 15th, 2011, 2:10 pm

 

norman said:

mont,
As you know , I agree with you on almost everything , I do not agree with you that MICHO is a hater, he is just concern on the intention of what SHAMI calls Majority rule toward the minority in Syria, They can set that concern to rest by calling for equal rights to all Syrians and the right for any Syrian to be president, i doubt that you hear that officially from them .

March 15th, 2011, 2:44 pm

 

LeoLeoni said:

It’s despicable to hear minorities again and again perpetrate delusions that if the dictator is gone then the masses will exterminate the minorities. Instead, minorities should stand hand in hand with their fellow Syrians in seeking what is right, that is, a liberal democratic state where all Syrians are treated equally.

MELT,

“Nuseireys” is an offensive slur and I ask you to please refrain from using that. They are called Alawites. The majority of Sunnis in Syria are not blood thirsty or radical. Most are normal citizens and are just affiliated with their sect by name, that is, religion is not their primary identity.

March 15th, 2011, 4:05 pm

 

MONTAGNARD said:

NORMAN
Having red Shami’s posts over a period of time, I noticed a shift in his use of words and a shift in his thinking. People evolve and interact and he certainly has convinced me that he believes in including all Syrians both the sunni majority and all minorities in shaping the future of Syria and I am sure he can tell you that he considers them equal. He stated before in one of his posts, that there is no place in Syria for Ben Ladens.
My reply to Micho was in line with my belief that the Syrians in both the sunni majority and all minority groups are civilized and tolerant and care for each other and love Syria.
The extremist nuts are not tolerated in Syria. I repeat Syria is not Afghanistan. I don’t know if Micho is a hater or not, that was not my point. I just can’t see any circumstance were the extremists can take over in Syria and start butchering and killing people based on disagreement. Micho if he is for real, he needs to be more responsible with his words, as they are hateful words that I totally reject.
As for your concerns regarding equal rights, my sense is that the majority and I mean everybody, including the sunnis agree with you. We just need to make sure that we the majority, and I mean everybody, articulate and support the respect of equal rights under law for all Syrians.
I think we are still in agreement Norman.

March 15th, 2011, 5:16 pm

 

jad said:

MONTAGNARD, Norman,
I agree with Montagnard, Mr. Shami’s comment deserve our support, he showed that he developed a more moderate speech and it’s very unfair for anybody not to encourage him for his effort.
I’m thankful for Shami’s comments and honesty on SC.

Thank you again Shami 🙂

March 15th, 2011, 5:35 pm

 

micho said:

how about before you jump on my throat and start claiming that i’m a “hater” reread my posts where did i say that sunnis are not civilised but in the chaos of the revolution different dangerous groups ( muslim brothehood who is know for its history of violence in syria) might be up to grab the power

March 15th, 2011, 6:10 pm

 

Ibrahim AlMasry said:

hey Norman, I bought you a fedora and some condiments..you can collect them tomorrow and enjoy your meal

March 15th, 2011, 7:28 pm

 

Shami said:

Many thanks,Montagnard and Jad for your supportive words.
What micho has said is sad but not definitely horrible and nowadays,many honnest people in Syria share his fear,he will get a response from me in the next few days,because i have to meet a project deadline soon and the matter deserves an elaborated answer.

March 15th, 2011, 8:33 pm

 

micho said:

thank you for understanding me 🙂

March 15th, 2011, 11:43 pm

 

Ihab said:

Another rubbish analysis form one of the ‘experts’ that belongs to the dustbin of history.
BBC had a similar one like couple of months ago. “why Egypt is unlikely to follow Tunisia” why don’t you experts do something more useful with your lives. suggestion: anything that doesn’t require an educated opinion.

April 22nd, 2011, 11:08 am

 

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