Yes, what about Syria?

Israel/PalestineMiddle East
on 108 Comments

Yesterday, Annie did a brief round-up of the U.S. and Russia stand-off on Syria. I cannot claim, either, to be an expert on the Ba’athist regime and opposition groups in Syria, although I have recently worked with Syrians in London raising funds and awareness on behalf of people affected by the violence, and hosted Syrian artists in exile such as Ali Ferzat. I find myself in the – perhaps not unusual – position of fending off triumphant whataboutery regarding Syria from Israel apologists, and wanting to defend Syrian people, under attack by their own government forces and hired thugs, from the insinuation that they are waging a US/Zionist/Saudi Arabia proxy war against a true friend of Palestine. It does not surprise me that the aforementioned imperialist powers would seek to exploit the conflict for their own ends, or that elements of the armed opposition are committing sectarian atrocities, but the democratic aspirations and suffering of the Syrian people shelled and hounded out of their homes by the Syrian army is genuine enough.

Last month, Max Blumenthal wrote an impressive post on his principled decision to leave Al Akhbar. It’s worth reading the whole piece, but I excerpt two salient paragraphs here:

I can not disagree with anyone who claims that the United States and the Saudi royals aim to ratchet up their regional influence on the backs of the shabby Syrian National Council while Israel cheers on the sidelines. Though it is far from certain whether these forces will realize a fraction of their goals, it is imperative to reject the foreign designs on Syria and Lebanon, just as authentic Syrian dissidents like Michel Kilo have done. Yet the mere existence of Western meddling does not automatically make Assad a subaltern anti-imperial hero at the helm of a “frontline resisting state,” as Ghorayeb has sought to paint him. Nor does it offer any legitimate grounds for nickel-and-diming civilian casualty counts, blaming the victims of his regime, or hyping the Muslim Threat Factor to delegitimize the internal opposition.

In the end, Assad will be remembered as an authoritarian tyrant whose regime represented little more than the interests of a rich neoliberal business class and a fascistic security apparatus. Those who have thrown their intellectual weight behind his campaign of brutality have cast the sincerity of their commitment to popular struggle and anti-imperial resistance into serious doubt. By denying the Syrian people the right to revolution while supporting the Palestinian struggle, they are no less hypocritical than the Zionists who cynically celebrate the Syrian uprising while seeking to crush any iteration of Palestinian resistance. In my opinion, the right to resist tyranny is indivisible and universal. It can be denied to no one.

On Jadaliyya, Khalid Saghieh takes self-proclaimed anti-imperialists who rubbish the Syrian popular uprising to task:

Some loudly proclaim that what is happening in Syria is nothing but an imperialist conspiracy led by Western superpowers in collusion with Israel, designed to overthrow the bastion of resistance. Intentionally or not, they repeat the propaganda of the Syrian regime while shaping their argument in contrast to the regime’s rhetoric. In doing so, they excuse themselves from supporting the Syrian uprising, and all other past uprisings, because the outcomes are not guaranteed with regard to the Palestinian cause. In other words, they don’t categorize the Syrian rebels as conspirators, but they withhold any support for them because their uprising will eventually benefit the imperialistic enterprise that supports Zionism. Such people tout the slogan “Palestine is our compass,” despite knowing that the world cannot be seen through one lens. Most likely, they hide behind their support for the Palestinian cause to compensate for the morally reprehensible failure to support a nation of citizens besieged by massacres.

These last months at boycott Israel (BDS) actions, I have encountered this frequent, snide retort from Israel apologists: ‘What about Syria?’. And I think of my Syrian friends, wretched with grief and distress for their families, despairing for the future of their homeland – fighting every day, tirelessly – sometimes ineptly – to raise awareness and aid money, and to counter Ba’athist regime propaganda that the people in the streets defending themselves are ‘armed terrorists'; I can hear in the voices of these vile people who object to me picketing their Israeli cultural events that they don’t care one bit for Syrian humanity, in fact that they are delighted by this Arab conflict – they embrace it as a sort of gift from god. Surely this is one of the greatest examples right now of the moral bankruptcy of the Zionist narrative, so dependent as it is on exploiting others’ suffering to deflect criticism from Israeli state crimes. 

So I turn to the words of ‘Rita from Syria’ on OpenDemocracy:

Repeated experiences of military operations at the hands of regime forces in many parts of Syria, has left many scathing about the regime’s claim to protect its own citizenry. It has became well-known that being a child, a woman, an old man, a civilian, a neutral or even someone loyal to the regime does not protect you from death by a sniper’s bullet, a mortar shell or even tank fire. The number of civilians killed since the beginning of the revolution during military operations is many times more than double the number of militants. This is because the army follows what is tantamount to a scorched-earth policy: a policy aimed at quelling any kind of opposition in the Syrian street through using intimidation and the systematic mass slaughter of its own population. In the face of such overwhelming brutality and however life-threatening it is, more and more are forced to flee their homes… ”At this moment while you are reading this article, some families are fleeing their houses, and some of them have been spending days homeless. Some children are losing their joyful spirit, and also some freedom fighters are giving their lives for their country.”

While it is unforgivable how the bloodshed and instability in Syria are being exploited by Israel – and its declared and undeclared allies– and supporters of Palestinian human rights are understandably wary of mainstream Western press on the conflict, can we stop treating the Syrian people’s uprising with such contempt? 

108 Responses

  1. Krauss
    July 23, 2012, 9:43 am

    I’m divided.

    Assad’s a brutal dictator. He butchers his own people. That he has got to go isn’t just for pragmatic purposes, the moral case is overwhelming.

    But as always the left refuses to think of the next step. Who will replace them?
    Iraqi Christians got religiously cleansed from the post-Iraq invasion. The reason why many of them had mixed feelings about Saddam, just as Egyptian Christians had mixed feelings about Mubarak, was that the secular dictators were bad for everyone, but at least it was an equal burden.

    The people who replaced both were islamists, for the most part, and who are bigots and have driven out much of the Iraqi Christian population out of the country due to persecution, the same is slowly happening in Egypt too.

    And the Christian minorities in Syria, as well as other ethnic groups who are not perfectly aligned with the pro-Muslim Brotherhood forces now face the same threat in Syria.

    But again, what is the alternative? Support Assad? Support Saddam or Mubarak(if the option had been available)?

    No, that cannot be the option. But instead of just blandly supporting whatever comes next, the left should look carefully at those who come next and try to support the genuine liberals. Because the islamists may guarantee the first election, but you’re never sure about the next(just ask the people of Gaza).

    My contention is to try to maintain some kind of ethnic/religious harmony and beware of the islamists who are rarely better than what they replace. Since they have the majority behind them, they can afford the luxury of time and need not be as brutal as the dictators, but nonetheless steer the country towards a less liberal, more oppressive direction.

    Just the take mistakenly praised Erdogan of Egypt. Since his party has taken power, the murder of women has increased a crippling 1000 % (and this is according to the government’s own statistics).

    Yet there is no widespread crackdown. It’s a more subtle, slow-moving glacial effect that is slowly crushing civil liberties for women, minorities, gays etc.

    I would want a more thorough review of what options a liberal could support, instead of the whole ‘well these people are rebels, so by definition they must be good people’. That was how the left viewed the revolutions in Iran too, and can anybody say that the religious police in Iran has worked to improve the country? This goes beyond the nuclear program(whether you think they build a bomb or not). Iran was a secular country in the 1970s. And do you know that the #1 reason why women get imprisoned in Iran is because of rape? Namely, they get raped and then they get a sentence by a religious court for ‘indecency’ and then guess what happens in the confines of prison with sadistic male prison guard involved?

    No, the blind support of Islamists is a scourge. Assad’s got to go, but the support for what is coming after him has to be much more critical.
    And to those who say ‘well we can’t have too many opinions about other people’s affairs’. The left has always been internationalist, that’s one of our greatest strengths. I don’t see a reluctance of the left to get involved on behalf of poorer third world people on economic matters. So why should we ignore our moral compass on social/cultural issues?

    • anan
      July 23, 2012, 10:55 am

      Krauss, it was the Iraqi resistance (post 2003, not the 1980-2003 Iraqi resistance that became the Iraqi establishment in 2003) that tried to ethnically cleanse Iraq of Christians. Maliki, the Government of Iraq and the Iraqi Army tried to persuade Iraqi Christians to stay in Iraq. Many Iraqi Christians stayed in Iraq but moved to Kurdistan.

      • Ranjit Suresh
        July 23, 2012, 12:23 pm

        Anan, it’s okay. Save your breath. We know you care neither for Christians nor Muslims. Neither for Sunni’s nor Shiites nor Druze nor Alawites. Anyone who makes apologies for people like Netanyahu, for the Israeli invasion of Lebanon (which was all Arafat’s fault according to you, Arafat a man who was assassinated by cowards who could not even admit their crime), for telling fairy-tales about a tolerant multicultural Israeli society, for making bloodless assertions that the people of the world should submit to the rule of a financial elite led, no doubt, by nations like your imaginary hi-tech, prosperous garrison state.

        You care for your own people. Most of the rest of us care for all mankind.

      • Annie Robbins
        July 23, 2012, 2:52 pm

        ranjit, anan’s bio says he’s been here since 2010 but somehow i can find any comments before this month where we are now seemingly inundated with his commentary. i’m doing my best to ignore him hoping he was dissolve into the void.

      • anan
        July 23, 2012, 3:15 pm

        Ranjit Suresh, please don’t impugn the motives of others. I don’t impugn your motives.

        Arafat destroyed Lebanon. Ask your older levantine friends what they think about Arafat. Ask Lebanese Forces, Amal, Hezbollah, Aoun groupies, Druze. Almost all of them hate Arafat.

        For that matter many Indian soldiers have occupied Lebanon for decades as part of UNFIL (a 20 K UN occupation army in Lebanon.) Ask Indian vets from Lebanon about Arafat.

        Who is making apologies for Bibi? Bibi does some very bad things and some very good things. More than any other country on earth Israel stood by India during the 1999 Kargil War. And their help was substantial and useful. Israel helped Iran fight Saddam 1980-1988. Both of these were good things that benefited the world. Israel also mistreats Palestinians which is very inappropriate. Israel is a mixed country . . . as is every other country on earth. Israel is a normal country.

        “the people of the world should submit to the rule of a financial elite led, no doubt, by nations like your imaginary hi-tech, prosperous garrison state.” No idea what you are talking about. I do think that free markets have lifted many poor people around the world out of poverty. That is good.

        The human race is one family. We should all care for each other.

        “fairy-tales about a tolerant multicultural Israeli society” Do you know friends in the tech industry? If so, you might know one of the many Indians, Chinese and Koreans working or studying in Israel. They are treated very well. Israel deals with diversity very well and brings immigrants from all over the world . . . with one huge proviso. If you happen to be Palestinians . . . Oh my God. All of a sudden it is “Arab mind” this, “Pali” that. It makes no sense. And it is unworthy of a great, good and ancient people such as Israel.

        We both want Israelis to act according to Israeli values, culture and traditions . . . to treat their Palestinian siblings with Justice. What is the best way to go about doing this?

        I think the best way is to be a close friend and ally of both Palestinians and Israelis and try to bring them together. Do you agree?

      • Mooser
        July 23, 2012, 3:17 pm

        anan’s bio says he’s been here since 2010 but somehow i can find any comments “

        Are you sure he isn’t a witty zombie? Come back to eat our brains?

      • RoHa
        July 23, 2012, 8:08 pm

        “And it is unworthy of a great, good and ancient people such as Israel.”
        Can you give any reason for thinking of them as great, good, or even ancient?

        “We both want Israelis to act according to Israeli values, culture and traditions”
        You mean the values of exclusivity and ethic supremacy, the culture of murder and theft, and the tradtion of lies, and ethnic cleansing?

      • traintosiberia
        July 23, 2012, 8:34 pm

        “Araft destryoed Lebanon. “-Anan
        Nothing can be further from the truth.Itwas the Israeli intransigence and calculated pressure through US that Arafat agreed to move to Lebaonon.Israel then used an atatck on one of its staff in Uk to unleash Lebanon war despite Arafat holding the truce for 11 months. Israel also bombed Tuniasia not soon after to kill Arafat and its colleagues.

      • MRW
        July 24, 2012, 10:22 am

        Arafat destroyed Lebanon.

        Not according to Uri Avnery who quotes Israeli generals and what they did wrong.

      • anan
        July 24, 2012, 12:15 pm

        traintosiberia, look at Lebanon through Lebanese eyes.

        Arafat played a major role in starting the Syrian civil war in 1975. Arafat murdered many Shiite, Druze and Christian Lebanese for many years. The Shia, Druze and Christians tried to defeat Arafat without Israeli help and failed. They requested Israeli help in 1982.

        Arafat is a piece of Khera. Sectarian and racist to the bone. He has harmed the Palestinian, Lebanese, Jordanian and Israeli people more than almost anyone else. But the greatest horror Arafat committed was against the Lebanese people.

    • Kathleen
      July 23, 2012, 3:25 pm

      “Assad’s a brutal dictator. He butchers his own people.” And the Bush and Obama administration’s do not like that. They want to make sure just who can do the butchering or torturing. When the U.S. does it “collateral damage” When Assad does it “massacre” Oh yeah I get it

    • ColinWright
      July 23, 2012, 3:32 pm

      “…I’m divided.

      Assad’s a brutal dictator. He butchers his own people. That he has got to go isn’t just for pragmatic purposes, the moral case is overwhelming.

      But as always the left refuses to think of the next step. Who will replace them?”

      The same argument could be made about Israel. You think it’s all going to be sweetness and light in free Palestine? I doubt it.

      The same argument was made about Mubarak in Egypt. For that matter, it was made about Nazi Germany. From about 1943 on, Franco was (and I have no reason to think he was not being entirely sincere) pointing out the consequences of letting Russia totally defeat Hitler.

      None of these are ever good reasons to sanction the continuation of gross evil. Even as botched a fiasco as Iraq did get rid of Saddam Hussein — and I dare say the various peoples of Iraq will eventually struggle through to some more humane arrangement than Hussein’s state.

      At least equally important, it’s too late to turn back anyway. Assad’s regime has become completely illegitimate. Attempting to shore it up at this point would cost more lives than letting it fall would.

      I agree that far too little thought has been given to what will replace Assad, and what if any parameters those outside Syria should attempt to impose. Disarm everyone and just let them do what they can with clubs and kitchen knives?

      However, this is not sufficient reason to leave Assad in power. Indeed, since it’s doubtful if he could regain control, the best thing for all is to think about what can be done to push him off the cliff as soon as possible. Letting him continue to try to hang on will only add to the final butcher’s bill.

      • anan
        July 24, 2012, 1:29 am

        ColinWright, brilliant comment. All of it.

        “You think it’s all going to be sweetness and light in free Palestine? I doubt it.” Precisely. Look at what happened when the Israelis left Gaza.

        Palestine imports $4 billion and exports approx $500 million a year. Collects less tax revenue than international aid. Huge budget deficit and surging national debt. Extremely dependent on very expensive ocean desalinized water. Which makes agriculture impractical, which forces Palestine to export goods and services to pay for imported water and imported food. Palestine also has deep political challenges, including partisanship between Mustafa Barghouti, Hamas and Fatah.

        “The same argument was made about Mubarak in Egypt. For that matter, it was made about Nazi Germany. From about 1943 on, Franco was (and I have no reason to think he was not being entirely sincere) pointing out the consequences of letting Russia totally defeat Hitler.

        None of these are ever good reasons to sanction the continuation of gross evil.” 100% right.

        “I dare say the various peoples of Iraq will eventually struggle through to some more humane arrangement than Hussein’s state.” Has already happened. The tipping point in Iraq was 2008. Iraq is the fastest growing mid sized economy in the world. Before yesterday’s horror, violence in Iraq had fallen to the lowest level since the 1990s. Iraq is a generally free democracy.

        “At least equally important, it’s too late to turn back anyway. Assad’s regime has become completely illegitimate. Attempting to shore it up at this point would cost more lives than letting it fall would.” Correct.

        “I agree that far too little thought has been given to what will replace Assad, and what if any parameters those outside Syria should attempt to impose.” True.
        “Disarm everyone and just let them do what they can with clubs and kitchen knives?” Obviously impractical. The international community is unwilling to send large numbers of ground troops to Syria.

        “However, this is not sufficient reason to leave Assad in power. Indeed, since it’s doubtful if he could regain control, the best thing for all is to think about what can be done to push him off the cliff as soon as possible. Letting him continue to try to hang on will only add to the final butcher’s bill.” True again.

        Elsewhere I believe you mentioned that Turkey is the most important country with respect to Syria (not to mention a rapidly rising great world power that drives destinies all over the globe). 100% correct. John McCain has asked the NATO alliance and his fellow Americans to stand 100% shoulder to shoulder with Turkey. And expressed deep sadness that Turkey was being partly abandoned by her NATO allies.

        McCain is right. Trust the Turks. Follow the Turks. The Turks know what they are doing. Because of the Turkish role we should be cautiously optimistic about Syria and the FSA. The Turks know how to take care of business . . . how to knock heads or break heads if they have to. We should trust Turkey to do right.

  2. anan
    July 23, 2012, 9:49 am

    Eleanor Kilroy, I have been struck by how strongly and universally Palestinians who live in Israel, Gaza, West Bank, Lebonon, Syria, Jordan, Egypt, the Gulf, and North Africa have come out in favor of the FSA against Assad.

    Several Palestinian blogs seem to be converting themselves into Assad hate websites.

    Assad has no Palestinian support base left. He does have some academic leftists in Europe, America and Russia who back him. And some Shiites who hate Assad but fear the Free Syrian Army. And Shia traitors such as Khamenei and Nasrallah. Even the Russian people are starting to distance themselves from Assad.

    Regarding Israel. Do you think the FSA would welcome Israeli assistance? So far the Israelis don’t seem to have offered. The FSA wants Arab League, Turkish, European, American, Sunni world and international community help. But does the FSA want Israeli help as well?

    How concerned are you about international Takfiri in the FSA? This concern is brought up a lot by Iraqis and Israelis who are wary of the FSA. How do you think the FSA should alleviate Iraqi and Israeli fears and paranoia?

    • ColinWright
      July 23, 2012, 3:59 pm

      “Regarding Israel. Do you think the FSA would welcome Israeli assistance? So far the Israelis don’t seem to have offered. The FSA wants Arab League, Turkish, European, American, Sunni world and international community help. But does the FSA want Israeli help as well?”

      The morality of that aside, what makes you think the FSA has a death wish?

    • AllenBee
      July 23, 2012, 4:02 pm

      On Annie’s original Syria thread, someone linked to Vijay Prashad. [thank you, btw]

      iirc, Prashad explained that Assad has been a reliable border guard for Israel. The picture that seems to be coming into focus is that Assad has made gestures to keep Israel and US happy but has received nothing in return — something like Khatami in Iran — while simultaneously attempting to phase in internal reforms of Syria’s “old guard” by slowly replacing that entrenched deadwood with sophisticated technocrats and introducing economic and social reforms. The US has been unhelpful at every turn.

      The mere fact that WINEP speaks with one voice seeking the ouster of Assad — even supporting his assassination, is evidence enough for me that Israel sees some advantage in creating and sustaining chaos in Syria.

      Tracking Hillary Clinton’s numerous speeches and pronouncements on Assad, from ~2009 to the present, demonstrates a distinct ratcheting up of the pressure to remove Assad. The policy Clinton has been following was established by the Bush Admin. and Dick Cheney’s office.

      Deep deep in the background — the Cheney administration supported the notions of Jeanne Kirkpatrick. During her stint as UN ambassador, Kirkpatrick worked diligently to fracture the Saudi-African alliance against Israel. Some of Kirkpatrick’s earliest mentors were uber zionists, and Kirkpatrick was as well. She was stridently pro-Israel, anti-Palestine, anti-Iran. Now, Kirkpatrick’s agenda is complete: Saudi Arabia & Qatar are forging temporary, tactical alliances with Israel & US with the goal of harming Iran. As Vijay observes, the alliances are not the result of a long-term vision but have at heart the determination to preserve Arab monarchies.

      Israel firsters (WINEP) are probably supporting the overthrow of Assad, even tho it will harm Israel’s interests, because Israel firsters think chaos in Syria will harm Iran.

      As usual, the Israel first anti-Iran clowns are wrong at every level of their analysis, but they don’t pay the price, Syrian people do.

      Back in the 1950s, when US oil companies (Aramco) were building TAPLINE to get Saudi oil to the Mediterranean, Israel was a headache so TAPLINE needed Syria for a workaround but Syria resisted out of sympathy with Palestinian Muslims. US ginned up a war with Syria; within a short time, problem solved.
      A similar scenario may be playing out again.

      Anybody know what the Clintons’ good friend Marc Rich is doing these days?

      • anan
        July 24, 2012, 1:42 am

        AllenBee wrote:
        “Prashad explained that Assad has been a reliable border guard for Israel.” Strongly disagree. None the less too many Israelis actually support Assad. Completely irrational. Assad was Israel’s enemy too. Assad was certainly the enemy of the Iraqi people and the American people. May Assad fall soon Inshallah!

        “The picture that seems to be coming into focus is that Assad has made gestures to keep Israel and US happy but has received nothing in return — something like Khatami in Iran — while simultaneously attempting to phase in internal reforms of Syria’s “old guard” by slowly replacing that entrenched deadwood with sophisticated technocrats and introducing economic and social reforms. The US has been unhelpful at every turn.”

        Assad has done very little for Israel and is one of America’s worst enemies. He has done didley squat for America. Recently Assad tried to organize a genocide against the Iraqi people 2003-2007, killing many Iraqi Security Forces, Iraqi civilians and MNF-I (including US soldiers.) Syria’s economy is a big government socialistic wreck.

        The US tried very hard to reach a deal with Khatami. Khatami also tried to reach a deal with the US. Unfortunately the Supreme Leader–the cruel lying fake illegitimate Marja Khamenei–blocked Khatami’s best efforts.

        “The mere fact that WINEP speaks with one voice seeking the ouster of Assad — even supporting his assassination, is evidence enough for me that Israel sees some advantage in creating and sustaining chaos in Syria.” My sense is that many important Israelis think that Assad is actually a semi ally of sorts and that Israel would be best off facilitating Assad staying in power. Absolutely 100% wrong in my opinion.

        “Tracking Hillary Clinton’s numerous speeches and pronouncements on Assad, from ~2009 to the present, demonstrates a distinct ratcheting up of the pressure to remove Assad. The policy Clinton has been following was established by the Bush Admin. and Dick Cheney’s office.” 100% right. May God bless Mrs. Secretary Clinton.

        “Deep deep in the background — the Cheney administration supported the notions of Jeanne Kirkpatrick. During her stint as UN ambassador, Kirkpatrick worked diligently to fracture the Saudi-African alliance against Israel. Some of Kirkpatrick’s earliest mentors were uber zionists, and Kirkpatrick was as well. She was stridently pro-Israel, anti-Palestine, anti-Iran. Now, Kirkpatrick’s agenda is complete: Saudi Arabia & Qatar are forging temporary, tactical alliances with Israel & US with the goal of harming Iran.”
        Interesting. America is best served by freedom and success around the world.
        “As Vijay observes, the alliances are not the result of a long-term vision but have at heart the determination to preserve Arab monarchies.” I don’t think so. America since 2003 has generally supported freedom in Arabia. This isn’t going to change . . . even if the US doesn’t feel strong enough yet to openly acknowledge this just yet . . . less the Arab dictators and Pakistani Army retaliates.

        “Israel firsters (WINEP) are probably supporting the overthrow of Assad, even tho it will harm Israel’s interests, because Israel firsters think chaos in Syria will harm Iran.” Don’t agree. My sense, again, is that many Israelis are quietly supporting the Allawites and Assad.

        “As usual, the Israel first anti-Iran clowns are wrong at every level of their analysis, but they don’t pay the price, Syrian people do.” The root cause of the suffering is the nasty Assad.

        “Back in the 1950s, when US oil companies (Aramco) were building TAPLINE to get Saudi oil to the Mediterranean, Israel was a headache so TAPLINE needed Syria for a workaround but Syria resisted out of sympathy with Palestinian Muslims. US ginned up a war with Syria; within a short time, problem solved.”
        Evidence?

  3. AmericaFirstforaChange
    July 23, 2012, 10:40 am

    Israel lobby pushing Syrian regime change to weaken Iran:

    link to tinyurl.com

    • W.Jones
      July 23, 2012, 11:29 am

      NYT story 15 minutes ago: “Iraq Insurgents Kill Nearly 100 After Declaring New Offensive”

      This is what they are trying to turn Syria into.

      With Syria it’s the same kind of mentality about “regime change” that has been around ever since they started funding the Mujihadeen against the secular but Authoritarian Afghani government, then moving on to Iraq, etc: President X opposes our foreign policy, and is by the way authoritarian/Communist etc. So fund a Civil War with fundamentalist opposition or invade. Then when the fundamentalists take over, invade. Then form an agreement with them, then invade again. Repeat.

      The beating will continue until morale improves.

      • Kathleen
        July 30, 2012, 7:46 am

        Feith, Wolfowitz, Cheney knew what would happen in Iraq once they took the lid off and sent in too few troops and Bremer disbanded the Iraqi army. Kill each other. Just what the neocons ordered. Chaos, death and destruction. No plans for keeping any peace in Iraq at that time

  4. W.Jones
    July 23, 2012, 10:41 am

    I spoke with a Christian Syrian priest recently, and his view is that the situation is being misrepresented in the West against their government. In fact, the militarist opposition is an extreme conservative group, which in other places the US labels as terrorists. NATO’s leadership is backing them to break up the country, not to modernize it.

    He feels that if the “opposition” gets in power they will do to Christians and other minorities the same kind of things that are happening in Iraq now with lots of Christians becoming refugees. In Syria, the Christians are 20% of the population. They want to avoid having the militarist fundamentalists take over the country. He pointed out that the Lebanese also do not support the fundamentalists, because the Lebanese are Christians and Shiite minorities themselves.

    I responded, “Yes, but isn’t it bad that the current government is Authoritarian?” He responded that you have to understand the middle east culture. Maybe a government that would be authoritarian in the developed west is common for what is in a different region. Basically, the conclusion I came away with is that while it is better for their country to reform its government democratically, the path of arming fundamentalist opposition group simply because those groups are the force most likely to overthrow them is not a path likely to build democracy.

    • W.Jones
      July 23, 2012, 10:59 am

      I agree with the first part of the passage from Max Blumenthal. He then may be misrepresenting those who reject the current kind of “uprising” there:

      Those who have thrown their intellectual weight behind his campaign of brutality have cast the sincerity of their commitment to popular struggle and anti-imperial resistance into serious doubt. By denying the Syrian people the right to revolution while supporting the Palestinian struggle, they are no less hypocritical than the Zionists who cynically celebrate the Syrian uprising while seeking to crush any iteration of Palestinian resistance.

      I want to assert instead- and Blumenthal may agree- that rejecting the fundamentalist “uprising” does not mean one strongly supports the government’s authoritarianism.

      Please allow me to give an example. Up to and during WWII, there were lots of Russians I am sure who wanted Stalin replaced, and there were in fact Russian groups that opposed him from a democratic point of view. Stalin was brutal and imprisoned millions of Russians in Siberia.

      When Hitler came, some villages welcomed him, thinking he would be better. In fact, a group of Russian POWS joined him. Their expectation was very wrong. Hitler viewed Russians as inferior and massacred entire villages. In the end, the Russian people ended up rallying to the Soviet forces, even though 10-20 years later they performed deStalinization.

      The moral of the story is that on paper there can be a temptation to support the “opposition” in a war because the government is bad, even though in fact the opposition is much worse. Just as it would be delusional to think Hitler would democratize Russia, it seems unlikely that supporting a takeover by fundamentalist forces would lead to a modernization and reform of the country.

    • AllenBee
      July 23, 2012, 4:46 pm

      Thank you, W Jones. That’s the way I understand the situation as well.

      I’m afraid I have to take issue with Eleanor’s assessment. I understand that she is talking to people who have suffered horribly and are personally caught up in a tragic situation.

      But it is simply not an accurate representation of the whole situation to make statements such as ‘Assad has been a brutal tyrant for 40 years.’

      Blumenthal has done a lot of very good work, but this statement —

      “In the end, Assad will be remembered as an authoritarian tyrant whose regime represented little more than the interests of a rich neoliberal business class and a fascistic security apparatus. Those who have thrown their intellectual weight behind his campaign of brutality have cast the sincerity of their commitment to popular struggle and anti-imperial resistance into serious doubt.”

      — is viewing the trailer and thinking it is the whole dramatic arc. Max’s Marxist hat is fitting a bit too tight.
      According to analysts who have interviewed Assad and assessed his strengths, weaknesses, goals and obstacles, Assad is the opposite of the “rich neoliberal”; and constantly conflating Basher with his father in order to be able to say “tyranny for 40 years” fails to take account of witnesses such as the Syrian BBC journalist who said, “we lived in peace for most of my life;” and fails to acknowledge Assad’s slow, hard slog to reform Syria FROM his father’s era; against predictions that after Syria pullout from Lebanon Assad would fail; against all of US bets & actions against Assad’s efforts; and mindless of Assad’s tremendous assistance to US in the war on terruh.

      You doubtless spoke with people who have suffered greatly, Eleanor; but I suspect their present state of distress does not represent the entire story of Assad’s rule, nor do they seem to account for the reality that the US-Israel and western interests play a huge rule in their suffering.

  5. American
    July 23, 2012, 11:44 am

    Whatever is going on in Syria, it is one of many revolt attempts in the ME as we have already seen in Tunisia, Egypt, Libya and Bahrain.
    I think it’s also a given that outside powers are if not directly aiding, are nudging by some means, if only in their official statements, the outcome the outside powers want to see.
    It is, for outside powers, the US and Israel in particular, still all about the ME “overall”, each event like Syria is just a mile marker on the road to an outcome for the region.
    Not taking away from the struggles or suffering of the populations involved in Syria or any other countries, but it’s like that box of cholocates, no one knows what the filling is until they bite into it.

    Stephen Walt does a realistic outline on the outcome scenarios — the Good, the Bad and the Ugly. And says no. 2, The Bad is his bet. In all possible outcomes the US loses it’s influence because of some good that comes for the countries involved in the Good and The Bad that makes these countries capable of ignoring the US even more. In the Ugly everyone loses.

    link to walt.foreignpolicy.com

  6. ToivoS
    July 23, 2012, 2:41 pm

    Elenore finishes her piece with can we stop treating the Syrian people’s uprising with such contempt?

    It is tragic what happened to the people’s rebellion against hated Assad regime. I do not treat them with contempt. There is much going on in Syria that I do not understand but it should be clear by now that the original rebellion from 17 months ago has now been preempted by other forces. What began as unarmed demonstrations changed into war, at first civil but now an invasion of outsiders.

    Nonviolent resistance is now totally irrelevant. To support the FSA or SNC is to support Western imperialism’s designs to reshape the region to their benefit. Unfortunately, the Syrian people will be the victims no matter what side wins.

    • anan
      July 24, 2012, 12:18 pm

      “To support the FSA or SNC is to support Western imperialism’s designs to reshape the region to their benefit. Unfortunately, the Syrian people will be the victims no matter what side wins.”

      Why are you spouting Nasrallah/Khamenei/Russian propaganda? The solution in my view is for Russia dn the FSA/SNC to sign an agreement. That way Assad collapses soon and Syria can move on.

      • demize
        July 24, 2012, 2:12 pm

        Yeah “move on” to the balkanized warring rump state that Libya now is. So Israel can have another go at Lebanon and have unrestricted regional hegemony. Your touching concern is duly noted.

  7. Annie Robbins
    July 23, 2012, 3:43 pm

    eleanor, thank you for the article. i think we need more discussion of syria on the site and find 2 articles in 2 days encouraging.

    thanks for linking to max. this thing with Al Akhbar was completely off my radar. particularly i found his “Ghorayeb’s daftest work ” reference and link /attack on Arab Third Wayers abhorrent and very informative in mapping out the ideological types being referenced.

    i think it is a mistake to assume people who are reluctant to throw their support behind an opposition heavily infiltrated and supported by a cast of shady characters are regime supporters.

    it’s hard viewing things from an outside global perspective when one is in the thick of it. being on the front lines of a war or having family there suffering is a very different experience than being an armchair analyst (that is what i am). naturally i care about the suffering of the syrian people and naturally i want to support them in transforming their government..but..their movement has very much been co-opted by people who could care less about anything other than their own geopolitical goals. it doesn’t mean i don’t see the brutality of the regime, it means i have no faith there can be a solution in the near future that will not call for a brutally violent longlasting upheaval because of the amount of people who support the regime or support reform of the regime vs ousting them coupled with the kind of actions the cia/mossad are known for supporting via their ME sidekicks.

    also, not to beat a dead horse but..there are armed terrorists on the street. that’s the nature of revolts where outside interventionists support really whacked out characters to carry out their agenda. there are armed mercenaries in syria, i have no doubt about that. and the link to rita from syria..numerous times she mentions snipers alluding to the impression those snipers are from the regime. i’m perfectly willing to engage over the regime using snipers and where are the agent provocateurs? do you assume they do not exist because they do. how does she know some of those snipers are not agent provocateurs? because they just wouldn’t do that?

    why does the legitimate syrian resistance not willing to dialogue with the regime? certainly demands could be made with the international observers. how can there be any guarantee the country will not break down into warring ethnic factions with horrid retributions under these conditions of foreign infiltration? what do you think of the same characters we’ve supported in libya transferring to syria?

    after iraq there are people who simply do not trust foreign intervention, at all. i’m one of them. that doesn’t make us supporters of assad. and, i think it is unfortunate, given you have syrian friends who are part of the resistance, that you didn’t cite some of them and instead chose to link to an anonymous online persona.

    • Eleanor Kilroy
      July 23, 2012, 4:21 pm

      Hi Annie, if I cited my Syrian friends I would have to cite them as anonymous sources – that is how scared they are of retribution against their families. It makes more sense for me, therefore, to cite an OpenDemocracy contributor.

      Dialogue with the regime? What kind of dialogue can be held with an authoritarian, repressive regime under which Syrians have lived in fear for over four decades, and what would it achieve – more time and power to crackdown on protesters and displace thousands more civilians? Hasn’t the Syrian government lost its legitimacy to be a partner in dialogue?

      I don’t have all the answers, and I will never claim to. I appreciate that critics of the opposition groups are not necessarily regime supporters, but the flippant, contemptuous manner in which some talkbacks on this site and others dismiss courageous resistance by ordinary Syrians is disturbing.

      Rami Khouri at The Daily Star this wkend: ‘… the bigger story that links Syria with the other Arab uprisings and recent Middle Eastern developments is that the will and actions of indigenous Arabs, Iranians and Turks will always have a greater impact than anything done by powers abroad. The striking inability of the Americans, Russians and their assorted allies to shape events in Syria follow similar serial failures in recent decades in their attempts to promote Arab-Israeli peace, democratic transformations, economic trajectories or other such strategic issues.

      Only when local people across the Middle East took matters into their own hands did conditions change, and history resume. The sentiments of ordinary people such as those in Bab al-Hawa, Midan, Deir al-Zor and Deraa are far more significant that the pronouncements of the world’s powers. The sooner we learn this lesson, the better off we will all be.’

      Read more: link to dailystar.com.lb
      (The Daily Star :: Lebanon News :: http://www.dailystar.com.lb)

      • AllenBee
        July 23, 2012, 4:55 pm

        Sergei Lavrov has made repeated attempts to set up dialogue between “resistance” and Assad. Assad has repeatedly said he is willing and eager to sit down and talk. The opposition movements have insisted that “no talk of a transition government can take place until Assad steps down.” Assad will not agree to that. Assad is doubly resistant to such a non-starter since he’s extended several favors to the US and to Israel and gotten nothing in return. (similar to Khatami’s overtures that were rebuffed by Bush admin, culminating in Axis of Evil).

        It is the same gambit — the same handful of sand — that Dennis Ross has thrown into Iran negotiations: FIRST agree to preconditions, then we can negotiate. (btw, anybody got a bead on Jeff Feltman’s activities lately?)

      • W.Jones
        July 23, 2012, 6:52 pm

        Do you remember when in 2003 they had the countdown on US TV about the time given to Saddam he had left before he would reveal his nuclear weapons that actually he didn’t have? Then when the countdown got to 0 the war was declared.

      • AllenBee
        July 23, 2012, 5:33 pm

        Eleanor, you delude yourself if you think the Iranian protest in 2009 was “home grown.”

        Here’s a clue: parse this recent statement on CAMERA’s website:

        “NOTE: It’s no secret that Iran is under the control of a fanatical religious dictatorship believing in a doomsday scenario. It’s foolhardy to assume that such a dictatorship will not risk the repercussions of perpetrating a nuclear attack. What is it about this reality that so many C-SPAN listeners are incapable of grasping? What are this caller’s sources for his worldview? Host Slen fails to ask. This is the C-SPAN way.

        How can Iran simultaneously be a dictatorship and have “fraudulent elections that erupted in a Green Movement protest?

        As Stephen Kinzer has written, Iran is the ONLY Islamic state in the region that has the elements of a democracy and HAS elections.

        As Eric Brill has demonstrated exhaustively, the 2009 elections were fair enough to make the outcome unmistakable: a majority of the Iranian people re-elected Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

        The rest of CAMERA’s rant is so detached from reality that one hopes Avigail Abarbanel has some free time to deal with another set of nutcases.

        The world looks with apprehension upon Iran especially concerning the Iranian nuclear threat. The annihilationist intention of Iran’s leaders, including President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, toward Israel have been documented repeatedly. Ahmadinejad, a religious fanatic who apparently believes world conflict will hasten the return of Shi’ite Islam’s messianic “Twelfth Imam,” has frequently advocated the destruction of Israel.

        The trope that Ahmadinejad is a religious fanatic etc. is lifted straight out of Yossi Melman’s “Nuclear Sphinx of Tehran,” a work that delivered orgasms of fear and delight to Israelis, according to Haggai Ram in Iranophobia: The Logic of an Israeli Obsession. It’s a bogus assessment, more readily applicable to Israeli settlers from Brooklyn than to the broad swathe of Iranians and certainly not to Ahmadinejad — a very pious Muslim but not a “fanatic.”

        back to CAMERA:

        For example, on Oct. 26, 2005, in a speech to a “World Without Zionism” conference in Tehran, he vowed that “Israel must be wiped off the map.” The Iranian president called for Israel to be “uprooted” in a press conference with Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad in Damascus on Feb. 25, 2010, one of a number of more recent such statements.

        Iran’s hostile attitude toward the United States – since the country’s violent takeover by the Muslim fundamentalist regime in 1979 – has been demonstrated by its occupation of the American embassy in Tehran that same year and seizure of American diplomats, and its strong continuing support of terrorist entities hostile to American interests such as Hamas and especially Hezbollah, whose 1983 truck bombing killed 241 American Marines at the multinational force barracks in Beirut, Lebanon. Iran was linked to the bombing of U.S. military housing in Dhahran, Saudi Arabia, in 1996, in which several dozen Americans were murdered and many more wounded and more recently to arming anti-American insurgents in Iraq and Afghanistan. Iran reportedly was behind the recent plot to assassinate the Saudi ambassador in Washington, D.C.

        CAMERA is like the woman who has been divorced and crabby for the past 20 years and can still recite every single frickn’ time the filthy bastard failed to put the lid down on the toilet, while conveniently forgetting that she tried to strangle him in his sleep. Specifically, CAMERA ignores that fact that Israel & US trained the Shah’s SAVAK that tortured Iranian civilians; slaughtered as many as a dozen Iranian diplomats from 1980 to the early 1990s in Israel’s “moral” quest to find airman Rod Arad (see Ronen Bergman, “The Secret War with Iran,” pp. 158-160); fails to mention that Israel profited — enormously — from weapons sales to Iran throughout the Iraq war, a situation about which an Israeli Defense Ministry official said, “We didn’t make any ethical assessment at all. All that interested us was to sell, sell, sell more Israeli weapons and let the Iraqis and Iranians kill each other with them.” (Bergman, p. 43)

        CAMERA concludes:

        On the other hand, Israel has never threatened any country with destruction. What is it about this reality that so many C-SPAN listeners are incapable of grasping?”

        What can anyone say to a statement like that? It reflects the level of mendacity — if not outright, psychopathic detachment from reality — that one has come to associate with Israel firsters, Eleanor.

        Given that evidence of the deluded mindset with which an Israel firster responds to an anonymous comment from a concerned American taxpayer, how should a reasonable and prudent person assess the kind of information high-level Israelis are whispering into the ears of US congressmen and key decision makers?
        How could anyone place even a grain of credibility in statements that come out of Israel firsters like CAMERA & fellow travelers?

      • traintosiberia
        July 23, 2012, 8:44 pm

        Eleanor
        It was on US TV showing popular protests against the election result in Iran.Problem was same as was in the TV portrayal of Russian popular protests against Putin. The last one was from Greek crowd protesting against neoliberalism ( an US/UK /German product).TV banked on American stupidity
        The first one was people celebrating something in Tehran with winter clothes on while the protest against election was supposed to be taking place in summer .TV banks always on American stupidity.

        Rebels bank on same propaganda.Thats why they tried their best to get a BBC correspondent killed!

      • demize
        July 24, 2012, 2:17 pm

        Except foreign NGO’S were and are trying to influence Russian domestic politics. It’s just more aggressive shall we say in Syria with mercenaries, special forces, spies and various other scum carrying out a destabilize and terrorized template. But let’s not tell our benevolent liberal interventionist here. The non western controlled elements of SNC have been subsumed by FSA scoundrels.

      • anan
        July 24, 2012, 5:34 pm

        AllenBee, the Greens rock!!! Go Greens!

      • Kathleen
        July 30, 2012, 7:48 am

        I hear lots of Cspan callers calling out Israel’s aggression and double standards. That scale is tilting

      • Annie Robbins
        July 23, 2012, 8:31 pm

        the flippant, contemptuous manner in which some talkbacks on this site and others dismiss courageous resistance by ordinary Syrians is disturbing.

        i have yet to read anyone dismiss courageous resistance by ordinary Syrians on this site. maybe my radar is just off. thanks for the khouri link.

      • Eleanor Kilroy
        July 24, 2012, 4:48 am

        Hi Annie, it was the talkbacks to your piece that inspired me to post this. I have no problem with skepticism of MSM reporting on this conflict, total mistrust of meddling foreign powers, and fear of armed groups – I am with you all on this. What concerns me is that the voices and stories of ordinary Syrian people who are defending their lives against the Ba’athist regime forces get lost in a debate by commenters whose only apparent interest in the situation is a further platform for scoring political points against Apartheid Israel and its allies (or conversely, with the Israel apologists I encounter): suddenly resistance and rebels and opposition are given inverted commas, as though this is all a US/Zionist/Saudi orchestrated conspiracy. This gives the impression of contempt for their genuine struggle.

        Fyi, I just read this Amnesty report on Palestinian refugees in Syria:
        Trapped – Palestinian refugees from Syria talk to Amnesty International

        By Noor Al-Bazzaz, member of Amnesty International’s Syria research team

        It was the shelling that finally drove Abu al-‘Izz to flee his native Syria. In the Bashabsheh transit camp in al-Ramtha he says: “I could not bear the shelling any longer, I had to leave to save my family”. We got the same response from Syrians and Palestinian refugees also fleeing the violence in Syria whom I met in Jordan.

        In the past two weeks hundreds of refugees from Syria have reportedly entered Jordan daily, mostly from Dera’a governorate. Almost everyone I spoke to said they were smuggled out of Syria and delivered to Jordan’s unofficial border crossings by the Free Syrian Army.

        The journey they say is long and dangerous, often paved with snipers and check points. Mothers spoke of giving their children sleeping medicine so that they do not make a noise during the journey and attract attention from security forces.

        A woman tells me: “There were three hundred of us leaving that night, if my baby cried she could have caused three hundred deaths.” Holding her baby up to me, she laughed. ”Can you imagine this little one responsible for three hundred lives?”

        The decision to leave Syria appeared to have been thoroughly calculated by everyone I spoke to – weighing up the risks of the journey against the probability of reaching safety in Jordan, which borders the governorate of Dera’a.

        For Palestinian refugees leaving Syria, however, the risk of the journey could well be outweighing the prospect of safety and stability in Jordan, amid reports of restrictions on them at the Jordanian borders and inside the transit camps.

        If so, this could be leaving many Palestinians trapped under shelling in Syria with nowhere to go.

        For Syrian refugees, if they are able to secure a Jordanian national as their guarantor, they may have the opportunity to be ‘bailed out’ of the transit camps in al-Ramtha, a small town in north Jordan near the border with Syria.

        But since April 2012, the guarantor system ceased to apply to Palestinian refugees coming from Syria, leaving around 140 Palestinians detained in the CyberCity camp in Jordan.

        A Syrian woman ‘Laila’, who is married to a Palestinian man, tells me that while she can be bailed out, she cannot leave CyberCity camp because her daughter is considered Palestinian and, is therefore, not covered by the guarantor system.

        Her husband meanwhile is being treated at a hospital in Irbid for injuries sustained during shelling in Dera’a. She tells me that in order to visit her husband, she is accompanied by police from the camp. “It is humiliating, I feel like a criminal. I am embarrassed; I tell people the police are there for my own protection.”

        Like many other Syrian refugees, ‘Laila’ tells me she hopes to return to Syria if Bashar al-Assad’s government is toppled, but in the meantime she longs to live in a home with her daughter and husband.

        A few hours later I see the school bus returning children back to the camp; ‘Laila’ is one of several women waiting for the bus. She embraces her daughter and they walk back to their room. The scene resembled any ordinary school run yet there was something fundamentally sombre about it.

        Um Mustafa, a Jordanian woman married to a Palestinian refugee from Dera’a, shares a similar story. She tells me she is free to leave the CyberCity camp, but points to the infant in her lap and says she would have to leave her Palestinian daughter too. Restlessly, Um Mustafa tells me ‘I know this issue is political, but there must be a solution, how long can we live like this?’

        While some of the Palestinians have fled from a variety of different neighbourhoods in Syria, a significant number of those in Jordan fled from the Palestinian refugee camp just north of Dera’a city. In the past several months, the camp has reportedly been targeted repeatedly by mortar rocket attacks, military raids and has been a regular site for clashes. One Palestinian man spoke emotionally about the shelling of the Quds mosque inside the camp at the end of June.

        However, despite the increasing violence in Dera’a governorate, the number of Palestinians entering Jordan appears to have dropped significantly, in contrast with the increase in other refugees coming from Syria.

        This is possibly a sign that Palestinians in Syria have been dissuaded by the severe restrictions imposed on the Palestinians who made it Jordan. There are also worrying reports of Palestinians being refused entry at the Jordanian border.

        A Palestinian man ‘Ahmed’, born and raised in the Dera’a refugee camp, tells me ‘I feel a deep pain in my heart. Everyday I wait to hear news that one of my friends or relatives in Dera’a have been martyred’.

        ‘Ahmed’ entered Jordan prior to April 2012 and is now residing in Irbid; he says he knows of Palestinian families who have tried to flee Dera’a to escape intense shelling and military operations. Some, he reports, have become internally displaced in surrounding areas while others, realising they had no other choice, returned to the Dera’a camp. His own family remains trapped there.

        An overwhelming sense of claustrophobia and isolation began to resonate the more we spoke to Palestinian refugees from Syria. At the end of our meeting, ‘Ahmed’ offered us his relatives’ contact details. He said, “Please, even if you cannot change anything, keep in contact with them so that at least they know that there are people watching this issue. You cannot imagine what it feels like to be alone and trapped.”

        link to livewire.amnesty.org

      • AllenBee
        July 24, 2012, 7:24 am

        Eleanor, you are over-invested in “effects” — the horrible suffering of Syrian people caught up in whatever is going on in their country,

        and with this statement —

        “What concerns me is that the voices and stories of ordinary Syrian people who are defending their lives against the Ba’athist regime forces

        — you tip your hand that you take it for granted that the “Ba’athist regime” is the “cause” of the suffering.

        Effects do not cause causes.

        Some of us are sceptical about what we are being led to believe are the causal factors of the suffering of the Syrian people.
        ===

        Annie passed along a link to a report by Guardian journalist Charlie Skelton that traced some of those causal factors — and factotums.
        Thanks, Annie, and recommend Skelton’s research to all who are concerned about the suffering of the Syrian people.

      • Eleanor Kilroy
        July 24, 2012, 8:22 am

        No, that link is to an article that exposes the characters that claim to speak for the courageous Syrians on the ground – political opportunists the lot of them, as is usually the way.

        Yes, I do ‘take it for granted’ – and from reliable sources, and experience living and studying in Syria – that, in your words, ‘the “Ba’athist regime” is the “cause” of the suffering.’ For the most part it most definitely is.

      • Annie Robbins
        July 24, 2012, 12:18 pm

        eleanor, those who ‘claim to speak for the courageous syrians’ are using their suffering, and their revolution, to make gains for themselves and another movement, one that’s been supported by foreigners with imperialist intent. they are usurping the movement.

        it is not that we deny those courageous syrians, it is that those who have the inroads to the msm (for example the ‘syrian observatory for human rights’), have reports rife with disinformation and distortion. this has been documented time and again. here is an article form a very pro SOHR website (carry many stories on the homepage) which i think somewhat accurately characterizes what happened to the original movement and how it was highjacked by violent actors..many from outside syria. Haytham Manna: Foreign influence and arms have split Syria’s civil movement, making peace ever more remote link to supportkurds.org

        i urge you to read it. i do not agree with everything, but think it holds many truths.

        i wonder if it could be possible for you to understand the criticisms made against these actors, who have co-opted the movement for their own gain (many who work with those who ‘claim to speak for the courageous syrians’) and hence blur the distinction between ordinary citizens (which is the point of infiltrators anyway, to ride on the back of a popular movement), is not the same as disparaging the very real grievances of the syrian people.

        Yes, I do ‘take it for granted’ – and from reliable sources, and experience living and studying in Syria – that, in your words, ‘the “Ba’athist regime” is the “cause” of the suffering.’

        are you not aware there are massacres that have taken place, originally blamed by the press on the regime, later retracted. massacres of innocents, their lives used to set up the regime? who would do that for the purpose of world opinion? (for the nyt retraction/’adjustment’ read link to whowhatwhy.com )

        there are two powerful forces at play here and those courageous syrian people are in the middle. of the powerful forces, the ba’ath and US/IS/SA/qatar….i’m not quite understanding how it is you determine the ba’ath regime as more powerful or influential in this conflict and furthermore i am baffled how it is you do not seem to place any of blame for the deaths of innocent civilians at the feet of the opposition infiltrators. if you could be convinced they have carried out atrocious massacres of civilians merely for the purpose of flipping world opinion perhaps it might influence the balance and gravity of your opinion.

        but either way, i hope you do not continue to hear the criticisms launched against those co-opting the syrian people’s aspirations as criticisms directed at them.

        this fight between western powers against assad is an old wound. those characters inserted themselves into the arab spring movement to grab the opportunity since the wind was at it’s back. but US/IS/the SA royal family and all those cohorts are not arab springers. they are rip offs and they are very very powerful. that’s who our criticisms are aimed after.

        about those rapes: link to whowhatwhy.com

        When we went to the facebook page cited, we found it was from a man named Hadi Al Bahra. Al Bahra’s personal facebook page shows that he is a male, from Damascus, Syria— but is based in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia. Al Bahra is the General Director of Saudia Online, a portal for all things Saudi. Saudi Arabia, a country with its own abominable record on treatment of women and human rights generally, is a leading advocate for military intervention to overthrow Assad.

        More on Al Bahra here: He was born in Syria, and migrated to the US at 18, decades ago.

        We contacted Mr. Al Bahra by email, seeking to interview him, but he did not respond.

        ***

        Beyond that very vague “report” from Saudi Arabia, we know nothing. We don’t know who the “Syrian expatriate” and her husband are. We have no way of knowing that they exist, and if they do, that they actually told Al Bahra the story posted on the Women Under Siege website. Even if they did, we don’t know that they are telling the truth. Even if they are, we don’t know that whoever told them that story was telling them the truth. And even if everyone is telling the truth, it still doesn’t mean that Bashar Assad is behind a campaign of deliberate sexual brutalization—or that such claims should be the basis for massive foreign military power to effect regime change in Syria.

        read it all and question everything

      • Eleanor Kilroy
        July 24, 2012, 2:05 pm

        Annie, you are reading and quoting from me selectively. The quotes are

        1) Yes, I do ‘take it for granted’ – and from reliable sources, and experience living and studying in Syria – that, in your words, ‘the “Ba’athist regime” is the “cause” of the suffering.’ For the most part it most definitely is.

        2) I have no problem with skepticism of MSM reporting on this conflict, total mistrust of meddling foreign powers, and fear of armed groups – I am with you all on this.

        Yet you write ‘i wonder if it could be possible for you to understand the criticisms made against these actors’

        Seems like I have. Anyway, let’s agree to disagree on this subject.

      • AllenBee
        July 24, 2012, 2:29 pm

        Eleanor, first off, know that I’m on your side; I hate what is happening to the Syrian people. I’ve only observed it thru media but you’ve been exposed to it personally. That’s a powerful dose of emotion.

        Second, “the Ba’athist regime” was your term.
        Quite honestly, I don’t know exactly what is meant by “Ba’athist regime” in the context of Syria. Do you mind explaining what you mean by that term?

        I’m aware of stresses among Alawites, Sunnis, and Shia that Assad worked to ease (i.e. Bashar is Alawite, his wife is Sunni. Their marriage was not a hit with Assad’s mother but he married her anyway — why would he now deliberately create cross-group fissures?); I think I understand that group tensions are being exacerbated to cause divisions — similar to what took place in Iraq. But where does the Ba’athist factor come in?

      • Annie Robbins
        July 24, 2012, 5:07 pm

        ok, we can agree to disagree and thank you very much for the exchange. i would like to leave off here with a couple more links:

        link to atimes.com

        German intelligence: al-Qaeda all over Syria
        By John Rosenthal

        German intelligence estimates that “around 90″ terror attacks that “can be attributed to organizations that are close to al-Qaeda or jihadist groups” were carried out in Syria between the end of December and the beginning of July, as reported by the German daily Die Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung (FAZ). This was revealed by the German government in a response to a parliamentary question.

        In response to the same question, the German government admitted that it had received several reports from the German foreign intelligence service, the BND, on the May 25 massacre in the Syrian town of Houla. But it noted that the content of these reports was to remain classified “by reason of national interest”, Like many other Western governments, Germany expelled Syria’s ambassador in the immediate aftermath of the massacre, holding the Syrian government responsible for the violence.

        …..

        Writing in Bild, longtime German war correspondent Jurgen Todenhofer accused the rebels of “deliberately killing civilians and then presenting them as victims of the government”. He described this “massacre-marketing strategy” as being “among the most disgusting things that I have ever experienced in an armed conflict”.

        also, if you have not seen humanitarian war i recommend, Amnesty International gets top billing. link to laguerrehumanitaire.fr

    • yonah fredman
      July 23, 2012, 4:27 pm

      annie robbins- Do you now accept that the Syrian people want Assad gone or are you still holding on to the poll numbers you quoted yesterday?

      Regarding Israel supporters and their feelings towards the murdered and suffering Syrians. Certainly those who have hardened their hearts to Palestinian suffering have probably hardened their hearts to Syrian suffering as well. It is a struggle to not harden one’s heart, but it is a struggle worth fighting. Obviously it is not sufficient and attempts to calibrate one’s politics whether it is in one’s own mind or in friendly political conversation adds only a little intellectual input, but doesn’t change the real mindset. (None of this is “sufficient”.)

      on a political note, can anyone cite a dictator as harsh as assad who has reformed under pressure since WWII or even previously. And since Assad represents the alawite population and they fear destruction through the ballot box, what motivation does he have for reform?

    • RoHa
      July 23, 2012, 9:13 pm

      “why does the legitimate syrian resistance not willing to dialogue with the regime?”

      For that matter, why won’t they talk with the regime?

      • ColinWright
        July 24, 2012, 5:40 pm

        “why does the legitimate syrian resistance not willing to dialogue with the regime?”

        Well, first off, because ‘dialogue’ is not a verb.

        Secondly, because there’s nothing to talk about? Why didn’t the Allies ‘dialogue’ with Nazi Germany in 1944? Why didn’t the police issue a public appeal to the Green River Killer to enter into negotiations?

        The Syrian resistance wants Assad gone. What is there to discuss?

    • anan
      July 24, 2012, 12:35 pm

      Annie Robbins:
      “i think it is a mistake to assume people who are reluctant to throw their support behind an opposition heavily infiltrated and supported by a cast of shady characters are regime supporters.”

      Depends how and why they do it. If someone is concerned about Gulf extremist backed Salafis, that is justified. When Maliki expresses his fears, he is justified (think very highly of Maliki btw). However your comments were in my view over the top.

      Annie Robbins, civil wars are almost always proxy regional and international wars. When has this not been true?

      “why does the legitimate syrian resistance not willing to dialogue with the regime?”
      They don’t. That is the reality of it. Hillary, Baker, many American, European and Russian diplomats have plead with them to negotiate with Assad and they don’t want to do it.

      The ideal scenario in my view would be an internationally organized (with international occupation troops) free election. With Assad’s extended family getting sanctuary in some foreign country (maybe Russia?) The problem is that the large majority of Syrians strongly oppose this idea and there is nothing that you, Annie Robbins, can do to persuade them otherwise.

      “how can there be any guarantee the country will not break down into warring ethnic factions with horrid retributions under these conditions of foreign infiltration?” There isn’t. That is life. Syria is a more racist and sectarian place than Iraq. That has consequences. This said, the world must do whatever it can to prevent a genocide against the Allawites. They are an ancient religion (comparable in some ways to Judaism) that should be preserved.

      “what do you think of the same characters we’ve supported in libya transferring to syria?” By “we” are you saying that you are Saudi? If you are opposed to the Saudi extremists, then you are wise. But don’t underestimate their power. Their lobby is much more powerful than the Israeli lobby. They greatly influence politics and governance all over the world. And not for the better.

      “after iraq there are people who simply do not trust foreign intervention, at all. i’m one of them.” Foreign interventions happen all the time all over the world. For example Assad is in some ways a puppet regime kept afloat by Russian, Hezbollah and IRGC Kuds occupation troops. So say and believe many FSA.

      Iraqis would disagree with you on many things. For example, many of the leaders of the Iraqi resistance against Saddam during the 1980-2003 Iraqi civil war proudly say that they convinced 15 or more countries to help them. Their goal was to serve Iraq. This included persuading as many foreign countries as possible to help them.

      • RoHa
        July 24, 2012, 8:54 pm

        “For example, many of the leaders of the Iraqi resistance against Saddam during the 1980-2003 Iraqi civil war”

        Pretty quiet civil war most of the time.

        ” Their goal was to serve Iraq.”

        But instead the country was destroyed.

  8. ColinWright
    July 23, 2012, 3:43 pm

    “Israel lobby pushing Syrian regime change to weaken Iran…”

    Nu? Israel also pushed Hamas to weaken the PLO, and invaded Lebanon and created Hezbollah.

    Syria’s a big place. Maybe they’ll make themselves an even more formidable enemy.

    The Israelis really are off their nut — and they’re starting to believe their own bullshit. Surely they themselves realize Iran is not a threat to them? If anything, it’s a gift — it forces the Sunni Arab regimes of the Gulf to align themselves with the US — and by implication, with Israel itself.

    • anan
      July 24, 2012, 12:38 pm

      ColinWright, many middle east minorities and muslim minorities see Israel as a potential ally. If only the Israelis were wise enough to realize it. Israel has many potential allies among the Iranians and Lebanese Shia. The greatest threat to Israel comes from Salafi wackos backed by Gulf extremists. We still need to see but part of the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood might join them.

      • ColinWright
        July 24, 2012, 5:46 pm

        “ColinWright, many middle east minorities and muslim minorities see Israel as a potential ally. If only the Israelis were wise enough to realize it. Israel has many potential allies among the Iranians and Lebanese Shia. “

        One is immediately reminded of the many ethnic groups that looked to the Germans for salvation when Hitler invaded the Soviet Union in 1941.

        Happily, exactly like the Nazis, Israel is prevented from taking advantage of this by her own ideological and racist preoccupations.

        I will, incidentally, note that Iran is roughly one thousand miles from Israel and has a population of seventy million. You refer to Israel ‘having many allies among the Iranians.’ There’s something demented about a nation of only eight million seriously attempting to intervene in the internal affairs of a country ten times its size and a thousand miles away. It’s evidence of unbelievable arrogance.

  9. ColinWright
    July 23, 2012, 4:03 pm

    “I spoke with a Christian Syrian priest recently, and his view is that the situation is being misrepresented in the West against their government. In fact, the militarist opposition is an extreme conservative group, which in other places the US labels as terrorists. NATO’s leadership is backing them to break up the country, not to modernize it…”

    Real objective source. In any case, I doubt if NATO wants to break up Syria. They probably just wish the Syrian problem would go away somehow.

    But more to the point, it’s too late. Talk about keeping Assad is inane — he’s gone.

    It’s only a question of how soon. And since I fail to see how leaving him to struggle longer than absolutely necessary can affect the subsequent situation for the better, I say step on his fingers and let him fall to his death. It’ll only save lives to do so.

    Meantime, if someone has a workable plan to encourage an arrangement that is both reasonably popular with the Sunni Arab population and affords safeguards for the various minorities, I’m all for it. That really strikes me as the only goal worth pursuing.

    Turkish occupation! This probably isn’t such a great idea, really — but it does have the virtue that it would make the Israelis squeal.

    • anan
      July 24, 2012, 12:42 pm

      Very good comment again ColinWright. You seem to be the smartest person on this website. :-) Certainly a lot smarter than I am.

      “Turkish occupation! This probably isn’t such a great idea, really — but it does have the virtue that it would make the Israelis squeal.” A Turkish lead international occupation force would be ideal for the Syrian people. Not so good for Turkey. Unfortuantely, Turkey isn’t interested. Israel would greatly benefit from Turkish occupation of Syria.

      Israel doesn’t realize how lucky she is to live in Turkey’s area of influence. Turkey is a friend of Israel who also happens to be a friend of the Palestinians. A great asset. If Israel were smart, she would agree to Turkish mediation of the conflict with Palestine. That way if the Palestinians do not live up to their commitments, they would suffer Turkey’s wrath.

      • ColinWright
        July 24, 2012, 5:52 pm

        “If Israel were smart, she would agree to Turkish mediation of the conflict with Palestine. That way if the Palestinians do not live up to their commitments, they would suffer Turkey’s wrath…”

        It’s possible Turkey wouldn’t want to flail all and sundry at Israel’s behest.

        Besides, Turkey’s not Israel. The rest of the world expects her to conform to the more basic principles of international morality. Israel’s the only one with a hunting license and no bag limit in this zoo.

  10. ColinWright
    July 23, 2012, 4:12 pm

    The funny bit about all this is that most of the ‘dark hand’ theorists are probably looking in the wrong direction.

    The one power with both the most power to influence the situation in Syria and a number of vital concerns about precisely what transpires is Turkey. I’d try to figure out what their game plan is and decide whether I liked it. Hopefully, they have a game plan. The last thing we need is a lot of random splashing at this point.

    Certainly Turkey has the ability to make whatever faction she favors very powerful. It would be a bad idea to attempt to pursue anything that ran at cross-purposes to Turkey’s agenda.

    • ToivoS
      July 23, 2012, 7:11 pm

      Colin writes Hopefully, they [Turkey] have a game plan. The last thing we need is a lot of random splashing at this point.

      That is the big puzzle. We should anticipate that their policy is incoherent. I have a conjecture on this question.

      Edogan is the one behind Turkey’s interference out of loyalty to some kind of Muslim Brotherhood ideology. Secular Turks realize this is a very dangerous game and not in Turkey’s national self interest. However, they are letting him go ahead and pursue this policy so that when the inevitable blow back occurs, Erdogan can be ousted from power and hopefully discredit the entire Islamist movement in Turkey. So yes, something positive could come out of this.

      • ColinWright
        July 23, 2012, 10:18 pm

        ” So yes, something positive could come out of this.”

        What? The secular Turks will have miscalculated and Erdogan will emerge stronger than ever?

        I am not for a ‘secular Turkey’ any more than I am for anything else. If Erdogan is able to produce a Turkey in which more of Turkey’s inhabitants are happy with how things are arranged than they were before — great. It’s secondary to me as to whether this involves becoming a pleasing replica of New Hampshire or means they all gather on nights of the full moon for a nice group howl. I don’t have to join them for the group howl in any event, so I don’t see the problem.

    • anan
      July 24, 2012, 12:43 pm

      Another brilliant comment. If you e-mail me offline Colin, I could share some other things about Turkey.

      Turkey is a great and rising force for global good. The crossroads of many civilizations and cultures. Turkey influences everything.

      • demize
        July 24, 2012, 2:32 pm

        Quite the little pair you too. #gag you align yourself with John McCain and Joe Lieberman these are your allies, what does that tell you? You are so brilliant, yet you can’t see an imperialist campaign right before your eyes. Yay Saddam is gone only millions dead and ethnic cleansing now the cleansed Christians from Iraq who escaped to Syria can get massacred in Syria whopper purple thumbs, elections…

      • Annie Robbins
        July 24, 2012, 4:09 pm

        demize, did you here about the latest massacres in iraq? i think it was anan recently mentioning it was ‘stable’. sheesh.

        link to moonofalabama.org

        Al Baghdadi, maybe people do not remeber Al Baghdadi was also the name of the ‘fake’ ‘fabricated’ ever morphing leader of AQ in iraq, who they killed several times over. or something.

      • anan
        July 24, 2012, 4:46 pm

        Annie Robbins, taking pleasure at the mass murder of Iraqis? Probably not. But to Iraqi eyes, you might sound that way.

        Assad, Jordan, Gulf, Libya, Sudan, Egypt, Pakistan and other countries sent vast numbers of foreign fighters and large amounts of money to Iraq to mass murder Iraqis. Unfortunately they succeeded in part. Assad’s own people now claim that 50,000 fighters in the FSA are veterans who fought in Iraq as part of the Iraqi resistance. Sadly there is something to this. :-(

        Violence is down over 96%. The Iraqi Army won. Yes that piece of khera scum Baghdadi has again shown his hatred for the Iraqi people through the worst terrorist attack against Iraq in two years. He should watch out. The ISF will track him down. Where will he go? Where will he hide? Annie Robbins, it would be a mistake for the enemies of Iraq to think Iraq is weak.

        9/11 didn’t mean that America was unstable. Nor does this terrorist attack mean that Iraq is unstable.

      • demize
        July 24, 2012, 4:56 pm

        Indeed @Annie its a virtual Derry in The East just how they like it; divided and conquered. There is also a campaign to destabilize the Maliki government in play. Now elements of the Sunni insurgency that was part of nominal resistance to US occupation is being utilized as an Anti-Shia destabiliztion force in Iraq and as mercenaries in Syria.

      • anan
        July 24, 2012, 5:47 pm

        John McCain and Lieberman have been close allies and friends of the great Turkish people for decades. They continue to be among the most pro Turkish members of Congress. Unfortunately some people have begun to smear Turkey and pro Turkish respected Americans such as McCain and Lieberman.

        McCain is also attacked because he opposed giving away wireless frequencies for free instead of selling them for hundreds of billions of dollars, for supporting reducing the number of years a product stays on patent, for campaign finance reform, for supporting carban cap and trade and environmentalism; and for many other courageous stands.

        Have you read McCain’s books? Do you know his personal history? He is an inspirational figure.

        I don’t know what you mean with imperialism. Do you mean that Turkey is imperialist? We disagree if you do.

        “Yay Saddam is gone only millions dead and ethnic cleansing now the cleansed Christians from Iraq who escaped to Syria can get massacred in Syria whopper purple thumbs, elections…”

        Yes you are right to be happy that devil spawn Saddam is gone, perhaps to the deepest of the 7 Jahannum pits. Too bad that Saddam killed millions before the Iraqis ended his life.

        The Iraqi Government and Iraqi Army pleaded with Iraqi Christians to stay in Iraq and not flee. Many Iraqi Christians fled to Iraqi Kurdistan. Many who fled to Syria have returned home. You should blame the Iraqi resistance for trying to organize a genocide against Iraqi Christians.

        And yes we agree that Syria should have free elections like in Iraq, Turkey, Tunisia and Israel and that Syria should become a free democracy similar to Iraq, turkey, Tunisia and Israel.

      • ColinWright
        July 24, 2012, 5:55 pm

        “…Syria should become a free democracy similar to…Israel.”

        Where were you planning to expel all the indigenous inhabitants of Syria to, and who is it who is to move in and have the franchise in their place? I don’t understand.

      • Mooser
        July 24, 2012, 9:33 pm

        “and pro Turkish respected Americans such as McCain and Lieberman.”

        Anan, you could not have picked two less respected people in America. And McCain’s service record is a disgrace, the only thing between him and a court-martial was his father’s position as an Admiral. And Lieberman is a super-Zionist.

      • Kathleen
        July 29, 2012, 9:49 pm

        Annie would not take pleasure in the killing of any innocent individual. Anyone who reads at MW would certainly know that

      • Annie Robbins
        July 30, 2012, 3:25 am

        kathleen , i don’t take anything anan says seriously, i just ignore him.

      • anan
        July 30, 2012, 3:36 am

        Kathleen:
        “Annie Robbins, taking pleasure at the mass murder of Iraqis? Probably not. But to Iraqi eyes, you might sound that way.” was written on July 24th. At that time I had hardly read anything Annie Robbins had ever written. My views about her have evolved since then.

        Annie Robbins, your recent comments indicate that you have a heart and are well intentioned. I deeply and sincerely apologize if I have offended you in any way.

        Kathleen, many non Iraqi Arabs, Europeans and Americans are anti Iraqi racists. This is the reason for my suspicions about Annie Robbins earlier.

  11. Les
    July 23, 2012, 4:31 pm

    Robert Fisk: Sectarianism bites into Syria’s rebels

    The deathwish of fighters in Damascus terrifies many who oppose Assad
    Robert Fisk Sunday 22 July 2012

    A young Syrian turned up just over a week ago at a smart office block in Beirut with a terrifying message. Without giving his name, he said he wanted to speak to another Syrian who worked in the office, a well-educated man who left his country months ago. The visitor was taken upstairs and introduced himself. “I was sent to you by the shebab,” he said – shebab might be translated as “the youth” or “the guys” and it meant he worked for the armed Syrian opposition – “and we need your help.”

    His story was as revealing as it was frightening. Damascus was about to be attacked. But the fighters were out of control. There were drug addicts among them. “Some of our people are on drugs,” the visitor said. “They will take anyone out. We can’t guarantee what some of these men will do. If they went into Malki [a mixed, middle-class area of central Damascus], we couldn’t protect any of the people who live there. We are against the Salafists who are fighting – there are good Syrians, Druze and Ishmaeilis [Alawites] who are with us. But if we capture Damascus, we don’t know how to run a small town, let alone a country.”

    It was a true civil war story. There were bad guys among the good guys and good guys among the bad. But sectarianism is biting into the Syrian revolution. At the end of last week, one Syrian told me that “they are bayoneting people in the villages around Damascus”. Women, they say, have been raped outside the city of Homs – one estimate puts the number of victims as high as 200 – and the rapists are on both sides. The Syrian in Beirut knew all this and gave his visitor the following advice.

    “Organise neighbourhood committees, well-dressed men who must be clearly identified and who must protect everyone, Christians, Druze, Sunnis, Alawites, everyone.”

    Five days later, the same Syrian received a phone call from an unidentified man in Damascus. “Boss, take your family out of Damascus. Give my phone number to your mum – she can call me if she has trouble on the way to the Lebanese border.”

    Up to 50,000 Syrians are believed to have fled into Lebanon last week. The man’s mother was not among them; she could find no one to take her the 40 miles to safety.

    The stories coming out of Syria now are of suspicion, chaos and death. President Bashar al-Assad’s personal jet left Damascus on Wednesday night for the coastal town of Lattakia. Was Bashar fleeing his capital? No. It transpired the plane was carrying the body of his murdered brother-in-law, Assaf Shawkat, for burial near his native city of Tartous. In Lebanon, Sunni Muslims were already wildly celebrating his death. For it is Shawkat – his name actually appeared in a UN report that was later censored – who is widely believed to have planned and ordered the assassination of the former Lebanese prime minister Rafiq Hariri, whose convoy was bombed in Beirut on 14 February 2005. Hariri, a Sunni, had fallen out with Assad over Syria’s role in Lebanon. Shawkat was the hatchet-man. Now the bomber had been bombed to death himself.

    Two months ago, it is said in Damascus, there was an attempt to poison Shawkat and the two other men who were assassinated with him last week, General Daoud Rajha, the Christian defence minister, and the Sunni general, Hassan Turkmani, head of Assad’s “crisis cell”. But the cook put 15 poison tablets into their food rather than the prescribed five – such was his enthusiasm – and the men could taste the food was bad. The cook escaped. This is the most accurate of several “poisoning” stories, but there is no reason to disbelieve it. There is nothing new in treachery in the regime. Bashar’s uncle Rifaat – now residing in Mayfair – twice tried to stage a military coup against Bashar’s father, Hafez.

    Bashar Assad received some advice last month from a Syrian with whom he is acquainted: if he ended his strikes against civilians, the Europeans would be content to let him remain in power for at least two more years – because the west wanted direct oil pipelines from Qatar and Saudi Arabia via Jordan and Syria to the Mediterranean in order to end Russia’s stranglehold on Europe’s gas and oil. Assad’s reply came in his last speech. “There are people with patriotic intentions,” he said. “But they don’t know the nature of the conflict.” All the evidence suggests that it is Assad himself who has not grasped the “nature” of this conflict.

    Two of his relatives, however, do apparently understand it. Mohamed Makhlouf, the president’s uncle on his mother’s side, and his son Rami, Assad’s first cousin, have been seeking a deal with the French government to allow them to live in exile in Paris if the regime collapses. The Makhloufs have been at the centre of the government’s corruption in Syria and they are one of the reasons for the revolt and its 17,000 fatalities. For despite the dictatorship and its secret police apparatus, corruption was the glue that held the regime together.

    Northern Syria, for example, has always been a vast smuggling zone, a place where every man in almost every family owned a rifle – this was one reason why the Assads always appointed tough former military men as provincial governors in the Aleppo region – and goods flowed from Turkey through Syria to Jordan and the Gulf. But once Syria’s economy began to slide, the mutual corruption of state and banditry, and between a minority Alawite-led regime and its favourites in the Christian and majority Sunni communities, meant that the glue began to melt.

    If this initially took the form of unarmed demonstrations across the country – provoked by the torture and murder of a 13-year-old boy by secret policemen in Deraa in March last year – armed men did appear rapidly on the streets of some towns. There is video footage of gunmen on the streets of Deraa that same month and al-Jazeera footage of armed men fighting Syrian troops just across the northern border of Lebanon in April 2011. Mysteriously, al-Jazeera chose not to broadcast it.

    Now, of course, Saudi Arabia and Qatar, where al-Jazeera is based, make no secret of the funds and weapons they are running into Turkey and Lebanon for the resistance – without apparently caring very much who the “resisters” are. The Lebanese army managed to stop one out of five shiploads of guns, but the others, carried on Sierra Leone-registered vessels, were able to unload.

    One of the two organisations that claimed responsibility for last week’s Damascus bombing, Liwa Islam – the Islam Brigade – raises again the Salafist element in Syria’s armed opposition. One newly arrived refugee from Syria told me last week that they have forbidden alcohol and openly say they intend to die fighting in Damascus. Given the savage response of the Syrian regime, they may get their last wish.

    link to independent.co.uk

    • W.Jones
      July 23, 2012, 7:12 pm

      Yeah and who really did in the Lebanese prime minister?

    • ToivoS
      July 24, 2012, 12:48 am

      Les be careful with Fisk. I too was once a Robert Fisk fan. But his articles are not reliable. Check out the “Angry Arab” and “Robert Fisk” to get a sense of his isolation from Lebanese politics. Many years ago he made his name reporting from Lebanon (the massacres at the Palestinian refugee camps for example) but in recent years he has become quite irrelevant.

    • anan
      July 24, 2012, 12:44 pm

      Not a bad article by Fisk’s standards.

      • Kathleen
        July 30, 2012, 7:51 am

        Standards of truth and accuracy. Not something we hear very often in the U.S. MSM about the I/P conflct

  12. rws450
    July 23, 2012, 4:32 pm

    This is a really important conflict for Palestine and the entire Middle East. It needs much more discussion and clarification of facts vs propaganda.

    Here is the overview of a Palestinian from Deheisheh:
    >> I think there is some misunderstanding regarding my stand on Syria,
    >> and in part, perhaps I am to blame for this. Let me clarify by making some
    >> very brief observations: First, the regime in Syria has been involved in
    >> systematic violations over the years and in my view its practices do call
    >> for some serious changes, even in its structure and funtions. I can never be
    >> in support of any tribal regime even if comes from the angels. Secondly, on
    >> the whole, the so-called rebels are a bunch of sell-outs, corrupt and
    >> ill-maining groups. In my view, they will provide a worse alternative than
    >> the Assad regime. Third, the developments in Syria are quite worrisome, in
    >> that the change I have been advocating should be peaceful and transitional
    >> in nature. I said this repeatedly before in my writings and in talks I gave
    >> about Syria, even to the Syrian community. Fourth, the US and the west are
    >> not nuetral parties to this conflict: actually this conflict is being turned
    >> into a first-rate international conflict and its consequences can be more
    >> detrimental than anybody may expect. Finally, the real victim in this
    >> conflict are the Syrian people themselves: they are being caught in the
    >> middle of an awful situation.
    >>

    A few good alternative analyses:
    “Truth about Syria”
    link to palestinechronicle.com

    How leftist “anti-zionists” are allied with Israel:
    link to deliberation.info

  13. Rusty Pipes
    July 23, 2012, 5:05 pm

    I know many Arab-Americans who have been excited by the developments of the Arab Spring across the Middle East — many of whom have followed events in the country in which they have family connections as well as others. I also have a friend who tried to get a student group related to another Middle Eastern country established several years ago; he discovered that when they strayed from cultural interests into politics, they had widely divergent views about the old country and the types of changes they would like to see happen there, often related to which point in the country’s history their parents chose to leave it. While exiles may have strong attachments to the old country and safety concerns about their friends and relatives who remain there, their opinions are varied.

    The Syrians who were involved in peaceful protest in Syrian cities were mostly allied with the coordinating committees, who were seeking reforms and open to dialogue with the regime. They are not in the forefront of the exile-dominated SNC or the FSA, both of which have called for regime change and outside military intervention. The Guardian had a very informative article about the spokespeople for the major opposition groups in American and British media: The Syrian opposition: who’s doing the talking?

    I do not doubt that there are many Syrians who have left the country for various reasons over the past 40 years who long to return to the old country. Many of them talk about “freedom,” but they may not define it in the same way. I hope that the crisis in Syria can be resolved in a way that furthers the human rights of all Syrians. Armed intervention from outside actors is not likely to further that cause.

    • Annie Robbins
      July 23, 2012, 8:27 pm

      thanks for the link rusty, a must read.

    • traintosiberia
      July 23, 2012, 9:55 pm

      Thye all sound like Chalabi who was foisted on US by Israel.

      • anan
        July 24, 2012, 12:50 pm

        Chalabi was very close to Sayyed Muqtada al Sadr and a close friend of Khamenei. Bremer, Garner, UN, US State Department, UK all disliked Chalabi from the start.

        There is a connection between Shia and Israel. But Chalabi wasn’t some kind of Israeli puppet.

      • Kathleen
        July 29, 2012, 9:50 pm

        Is he the oil minister in Iraq now?

      • anan
        July 30, 2012, 3:30 am

        Kathleen, I think Abdul Karim Luaibi Bahedh is still oil minister.

        I don’t think Maliki wants Chalabi to get an important ministry right now.

      • Ellen
        July 30, 2012, 8:11 am

        Not an Israeli puppet? Maybe, but a piece of work.

        This guy had an office in Douglass Feith’s law firm long before he hit the stage. When Bush figured out that the US was backing a con man and thief of the highest order and ordered him cut off, Feith, Wolfowitz and Co. ignored the administration and continued to work with him and protect him. State and the CIA were incredulous that this group in the Pentagon could run loose over the Administration. It was then that Bush began to realize he was a puppet of others and Chalabi was their instrument.

        Chalabi is living in comfort with guarded protection. I’ve always wondered if his hand were in the missing billions sent to Irak.

      • anan
        July 30, 2012, 5:11 pm

        Ellen, Chalabi comes from an old and powerful Iraqi family. Think of him like Sayyed Muqtada Al Sadr’s older mentor (which is in fact what he is in large part.)

        Chalabi was always very close to Khamenei. [In my opinion he should have been used to try to create an Iranian/US/Iraqi alliance. Sadly didn’t happen.]

        There is a large section of what you call neocons who have been open to a US/Shia/Iran/Iraq axis against the greater enemy . . . KSA (and the Pakistani Army and Egyptian Ikhwan). This section was close to Chalabi. Unfortunately their attempts at reaching out to Iran failed.

        Here is the interesting thing . . . in the middle east Wolfowitz and Feith are seen as more open to good relations with the Shia. Wolfowitz had an Iraqi Shiite girlfriend for example.

        I have always had a soft spot for Wolfowitz. He is an idealist who genuinely believed that a successful and strong Iraq would be good for the world and America. Very different from the much darker Cheney.

        “Chalabi is living in comfort with guarded protection. I’ve always wondered if his hand were in the missing billions sent to Irak.”

        Chalabi is rich! And very well connected. Strangely enough this is a small world. If you are friends with many Iraqis there is a chance that Chalabi is within your network (two or three or four places removed.) It is amazing how much this guy gets around.

        I am not as negative as you are about Chalabi; because I still hope that the US and Iran form an alliance (that Turkey, Iraq, Afghanistan and other good countries of conscience can join). Chalabi may yet play a small role in making that happen.

    • Danaa
      July 23, 2012, 11:11 pm

      Yes, that’s a good link, Rusty. It does seem that what was there in the original opposition to Assad – which sought reforms and possibly a transition to a more open/democratic government – has been completely hijacked, somewhere along the way.

      It appears that the majority of the armed “rebels” are more like the kind of extremist terrorists no-one, least of all Syrians, would want to see come into power. many are mercenaries paid for and bought by SA/US – that much is becoming clear. They – and most of the FSA – certainly have shown very few “democratic” inclination, and there’s reason to believe that is not the goal.

      What we have in Syria is an attempt at a violent regime change, and to hell with the Syrian people. Anyone who supports these so-called “rebels” – who have shown little interest in any diplomatic solution – is effectively putting themselves in direct opposition to what is good for the Syrian people. Many many innocent Syrians were killed willy-nilly by the mercenaries flooding into Syria, sometimes just so that photo-ops can be staged and ‘massacres’ pinned on the Syrian government. Now, how sick is that?

      We must face the truth that what we see here is empire enacting “punitive action” partly because it feels thwarted elsewhere (Iraq), partly because they (cf the US with “little nato”, and tiny-tot un in tow) are egged on – or rather propelled – by Israel, which has it’s own purposes clearly identified. Syria is the way to Iran, which is why WINEP – one of Israel’s mouthpieces support the violence in Syria. In fact, all the neocons speak with one voice on Syria, and Eleanor Kilroy – and Max Blumenthal – should seriously wonder how could they possibly find themselves on the same side as the Iraq butchers.

      Personally, I don’t think we can believe or go along with the narrative of what the Syrian “activists” abroad are pushing – and I’d doubt anything peddled by them. There’s reason to believe that these are mostly Chalabis-in-training, whether or not Assad’s regime was/is authoritarian. If the goal is to depose authoritarian regimes why not bahrain? or Saudi Arabia? how about israel – which to the Palestinians caught in their web of occupation and oppression – is every bit as cruel and tyranical as Assad ever was.

      Those who advocate promoting civil war in Syria under the guise of “humanitarian intervention’ should seriously consider the ones they pitch their tent with.

      For the voices of reason and clarity on all this i can’t recommend Moon of Alabama enough. I am right with annie on that.

      • anan
        July 24, 2012, 12:52 pm

        What is the “empire”? Are Hong Kong, Singapore, Seoul, Tokyo, Mumbai and São Paulo important centers of this “empire”?

        The world changes fast.

  14. RoHa
    July 23, 2012, 8:44 pm

    I would like to see Syria become a secular socialist democracy similar to, say, Norway, but I don’t think any of the parties actually involved share my wish.

    I certainly don’t think the rebels have any intention of establishing such a country. Assad wants to stay in power. The Russians want to keep their naval base. China want to prevent US domination of the region. The US wants to get the Russians out and to put the private bankers in control of Syria. Israel wants the country destroyed in the way Iraq was destroyed.

    I don’t see a lot of light at the end of this tunnel.

    • ColinWright
      July 24, 2012, 5:58 pm

      “I don’t see a lot of light at the end of this tunnel.”

      I’m inclined to agree. Worse, there seems to be an almost universal lack of concern about what will befall the Syrians. Everyone’s trying to use this as a stage for their own particular morality play.

      • anan
        July 24, 2012, 6:13 pm

        Sadly, ColinWright is probably right. :-(

        There needs to be more compassion and respect for Syrians, even if the Syrians are a former enemy.

      • RoHa
        July 24, 2012, 9:14 pm

        “even if the Syrians are a former enemy.”

        Enemy of whom? Syrian forces have fought against Israel, Iraq (as a U.S. and British ally), Jordan, and Lebanese militias. Which one are you thinking of?

      • RoHa
        July 24, 2012, 9:17 pm

        “Worse, there seems to be an almost universal lack of concern about what will befall the Syrians.”

        Meh. They are just Arabs. Who cares?

  15. traintosiberia
    July 23, 2012, 9:10 pm

    Should we allow a paedophile to babysit another child who may or may not be in danger?
    Bahrain? Yemen? Do they ring bell?
    How many Libyan were killed by NATO and how many immigrants were killed by militant compared to Ghaddafi’s forces? Remeber the Viagra from Suasan Rice humanitarian clinic?
    How many Iraqis were killed by US in 3 yaers compared to Saddam in 30 years?

    Lets not forget the the perverted symbiosis between Islamic fundamentalism and US from Xinxiang to Baluchistan or from 1980s Afghanistan to 1996 Chechenya.
    There was a civil war in Lebanon in 2006 where the Salafist forces crossed the border from Jordan and Syria at the instigation of Saudi thinking that they were fighting Israel! Aaprently a lot of people coming to Syria thinking same. It is no differnet than what happened to Iraq in 2003 where Americans went thinking of links between Iraq and WMD/911 marketed by US media.If it can happen in US , it can happen anywhere ,more so in that part of the world with history of war,lack of education,and basic services and decades old pent up anger combined with right use of twitter/facebook/Al jazeera/VOA world service.

    • anan
      July 24, 2012, 12:54 pm

      traintosiberia, you seem badly informed. Do you even know how many Iraqis Saddam killed?

      The Takfiri extremists in Xinxiang are a threat to the whole world.

      • ColinWright
        July 24, 2012, 6:05 pm

        “…The Takfiri extremists in Xinxiang are a threat to the whole world.”

        Lol. Now there’s an improbable statement. The Takfiri (whoever on earth they are) have as many nuclear weapons as Israel? They have a gun pointed at half the world’s oil supply like Iran?

        What is it? They are astride the Silk Road? Do tell. How on earth can some presumably impoverished and numerically rather small group in Sinkiang be a ‘threat to the whole world’?

        One has visions of hordes of genocidal horsemen emerging from Central Asia. I’m really having a hard time conjuring up what this threat could be.

        Oh well. Maybe I’ll find out. Colin’s laughter dies on his lips as savage ‘Takfiri’ camel riders come over the crest of the hill and descend on Chez Wright…

        They’re not going to screw up my new deck, are they? Where do you get this stuff?

      • anan
        July 24, 2012, 7:14 pm

        Al Qaeda and Taliban linked networks operate in Xinxiang. Many poor fools from Xinjiang are brought to Taliban/AQ linked bases in Pakistan (and even some parts of Afghanistan where the ANA and ISAF are not present such as Nuristan) and brainwashed by malevolent pseudo religious propagandists [Takfiri are actually traitors to Islam . . . but they claim to be the best muslims in the entire world].

        Do not underestimate the threat they pose. They are not only China’s problem; they are the world’s problem.

        Takfiri is a word used by muslims to describe self professed muslims that claim that other muslims are not “real muslims” and then try to kill them for knowing the truth and betraying it.

        The Takfiri have killed many tens of millions since 632 AD. Mostly muslims, but many nonmuslims as well. Many muslims use the world “Takfiri” the way some use the four letter word starting with “F#%*”

        Their goal in Iraq was a genocide against the four fifths of Iraqis that happened to be Shia and Kurds and any Sunni Arabs who dared collaborate with Shia and Kurds. They also attacked Iraqi Christians. They have killed many tens of thousands of Pakistani civilians. Not just Shia, Ahmedi and Sufi, but many Sunnis too.

        Led by Osama Bin Laden they killed vast numbers of civilians in Gilgit Kashmir in 1988, Mazar-e-Sharif in 1998, Mumbai, Madrid 2004, and New York 2001.

        The reason they are so difficult to defeat is that they are backed by large parts of the establishments of very powerful countries. Two of these countries are more powerful than Khamenei. Many fear that Morsi might be partly in league with these forces. Let us hope he isn’t for our own sakes.

        “How on earth can some presumably impoverished and numerically rather small group in Sinkiang be a ‘threat to the whole world’?” Because they are closely interlinked with a powerful global network. By themselves you are correct that they wouldn’t be that dangerous.

      • Mooser
        July 24, 2012, 8:46 pm

        How long are we going to have to put up with this? My God, I’m almost beginning to wish it was Witty-come-back.

      • justicewillprevail
        July 25, 2012, 1:33 am

        And your evidence for all this waffle and spurious faux observations is…? Hot air and a cartoon idea of the world.

      • ColinWright
        July 25, 2012, 2:19 am

        The irony is that I remain quite unconvinced this group even exists as a coherent entity — much less threatens me with extinction. In fact, I’m quite confident it doesn’t.

        On the other hand, I am very worried about the measures those who profess to oppose it propose. These latter are a threat.

        I’d just as soon not spend my golden years in a fascistic state fighting an apocalyptic war of its own invention against a quarter of mankind.

        If that’s okay with you.

      • ColinWright
        July 25, 2012, 3:41 am

        “Al Qaeda and Taliban linked networks operate in Xinxiang. Many poor fools from Xinjiang are brought to Taliban/AQ linked bases in Pakistan (and even some parts of Afghanistan where the ANA and ISAF are not present such as Nuristan) and brainwashed by malevolent pseudo religious propagandists [Takfiri are actually traitors to Islam . . . but they claim to be the best muslims in the entire world].

        Do not underestimate the threat they pose. They are not only China’s problem; they are the world’s problem…”

        I don’t know whether you collected all this wholesale from some hate site or just invented it off your own bat, but even a quick glance at the results of a search reveals your beliefs are largely a fantasy — albeit a singularly dangerous one.

        You are either a shameless propagandist or suffering from serious paranoid delusions. In any case, as I say, the most serious danger I perceive is not from those you claim exist, but from you yourself and those like you. After all, Osama bin Laden is dead. It’s perfectly possible Mitt Romney will become president.

      • Roya
        July 25, 2012, 4:21 am

        You are either a shameless propagandist or suffering from serious paranoid delusions.

        It seems to me that anan was hired as a black propagandist. He’s hurting the Zionist side so much with his ostensibly Zionist comments that it helps us.

      • Kathleen
        July 30, 2012, 7:53 am

        Interesting that American officials claim to know how many Iraqis Saddam killed but will not address how many Iraqi people the U.S. killed as a direct consequence of the illegal and immoral invasion. And the U.S. media is happy to comply

  16. Keith
    July 23, 2012, 9:43 pm

    “By denying the Syrian people the right to revolution while supporting the Palestinian struggle….”

    Quite obviously, Max Blumenthal is a liberal and, as such, needs to provide ideological support for yet another “humanitarian intervention.” The comparison of the struggle of the Palestinians against a powerful oppressor, supported and armed by imperial America, with the US/Saudi/Qatari/Turkey/NATO/al Qaeda supported “rebels,” is ludicrous. I am unaware of any reliable information which suggests that there would have been a “revolution” without the outside support of the imperial powers, including al Qaeda fighters from Libya. As things now stand, this is an imperial intervention aimed at regime change. The massive loss of life is a direct consequence of this intervention. The continuation of this intervention, far from shortening the conflict and saving lives, will, in the words of Vijay Prashad, result in massive new killing, spilling into Lebanon. I provide a link to a brief video interview:
    link to zcommunications.org

    I continue to be disturbed by the number of arm chair interventionists that frequent Mondoweiss. Some folks seem overly anxious to resort to military force and killing to “save lives.” This is crazy. Uncle Sam is a serial mass-murder, not the type to protect the weak or spread democracy, yet some folks seem to look for any excuse to cheer on the empire based upon flimsy media propaganda. Do I know all of the ins and outs of the situation? No, of course not. Yet another reason not to rush in where angels fear to tread. What I do know is that empires don’t intervene for humanitarian reasons, and that massive violence and destruction makes the situation worse. And its going to get worse. Empire wants regime change and will likely prevail, but I am not going to cheer. That is what “humanitarian” liberal war-mongers do.

    Final comment. As for the “authoritarian” Assad regime, in view of past imperial interference, and current imperial interference, what type of regime is even possible? How to deal with sectarian conflicts virtually built into the region due to the imposed national boundaries designed to keep the various nations weak and divided? How does Syria compare to Lebanon, to Saudi Arabia, to Qatar, to Ethiopia, to Egypt, etc? The big difference is that the empire isn’t trying to destabilize Saudi Arabia, is it? Change in the region can only come from the people of the region without outside interference. Moral support for grass roots efforts for change is fine, however, attempting to justify the massive influx of money, weapons and mercenaries into Syria from the Gulf Monarchies is war-mongering in my book.

  17. rws450
    July 24, 2012, 11:58 am

    I find it much more disturbing that Democracy Now and many other progressive media continue to uncritically repeat the mantra of “activists”. Today they followed the worst US media in changing the Syrian statement from one thing to another. Judge for yourself:

    DN Title:
    “Syrian Officials Say Foreign Invasion Would Be Met by Chemical Weapons”

    DN SUMMARY:
    On Monday, the Syrian government drew international rebukes after vowing to use chemical weapons in the event of an attack by foreign countries. This is Syrian Foreign Ministry spokesperson Jihad Makdissi.

    Jihad Makdissi: “Any stocks of WMD or any unconventional weapons that the Syrian Arab Republic possesses would never, would never be used against civilians or against the Syrian people during this crisis at any circumstances, no matter how the crisis would evolve, no matter how. So this is the title. All the stocks of these weapons that Syrian Arab Republic possesses are monitored and guarded by the Syria army. These weapons are meant to be used only and strictly in the event of external aggression against the Syrian Arab Republic.”

    Notice the “subtle” change in the statement?

    Democracy Now has been failing badly to be an “exception to the rulers” on this issue. They have replayed Hillary Clinton and the agit prop of SNC and the “Syrian Observatory for Human Rights” countless times with barely a murmur of contrary analysis or reports. Even Foreign Affairs has a report which questions the narrative.
    link to foreignpolicy.com

    • anan
      July 24, 2012, 12:06 pm

      Wow. Amy Goodman might be improving. Good.

    • Roya
      July 24, 2012, 1:56 pm

      rws450 look up where Democracy Now! gets its funding and you will no longer be surprised.

  18. demize
    July 24, 2012, 9:02 pm

    I want to write a counter article for Mondoweiss the title will be “Dear Eleanor Rigby My Syrian Friends say your Syrian Friends are full of s**t” Phil? Max??

    • Rusty Pipes
      July 25, 2012, 12:46 pm

      The title might need a little work and Phil and Adam are on semi-vacation this week. But I think there are many on this site who would be interested in the perspectives of other Syrian expats, not just those whose opinions are represented by the SNC spokespeople.

  19. piotr
    July 24, 2012, 10:50 pm

    “Dialogue with the regime? What kind of dialogue can be held with an authoritarian, repressive regime under which Syrians have lived in fear for over four decades…”

    The same could be said about Burma/Myammar. Or Khaddafi.

    As we know from Libya and other places, there are profound problems with changing a regime through a violent uprising. When the competition for power is mediated by violence, the most violent will get power. And the winners may have difficulties keeping the country together, and when they manage that, they may have difficulties shedding the violent habits that got them to power, as we see in Libya, or in Algeria and Syria itself for that matter.

    The West, Turkey and Wahhabi powers (Saudis, Qatar) are not on the side of angels here. And they may fail.

Leave a Reply