November 28, 2011

#Notes To Self regarding Syria

I am jotting these observations and thoughts down for the record and for the future. I hope I can cover all the points I jotted down in my head first - been doing nothing but reading article after article on Syria, talking to Syrian friends, both inside and outside the country, and engaging some Syrians online to get their version of events.

I am also subjected to more vile emails and over 1000 hacking attempts. Hence I feel there must be a good amount of truth in my previous post on Syria. In any event, this post is going to consist of thoughts/remarks/questions and maybe an analysis would deduct itself by itself.

This post is for me first and foremost, not for any reader. So am not too concerned here if I make sense to you or not.

1. Spoke to Syrian family who is Christian, they told me that over 150 Christians were massacred in Homs. They believe it is "armed men" who are not tied to the regime, they were told they are bearded - the family did not say it but they implied they were Islamist/Terrorist.

2. By the same token, read several reports from Christian observers who traveled to Syria during the period September - November 11, they seem to confirm that "armed groups" are killing citizens and mutilating them, according to them they visited the government hospital in Homs and can testify to that - these reporters were invited by the Syrian government, so it is very likely that they only had access to the official version.

3. On the other hand, several videos and testimonies from residents living in Homs and elsewhere attest a) the capture of Iranian Quds Brigades, Hezbollah fighters and of course the confirmation of what I stated in my previous post - namely Muqtada Al-Sadr sending his militia in.

4. According to some reports of the FSA (Free Syrian Army), the number of soldiers defecting is around 50'000, of course this can't be verified, but most of the videos I took the pain to watch of FSA all the soldiers confirm no.3 and say they have defected because they refuse orders to shoot on their own unarmed people.

5. According to other reports, those who maintain the nucleus of the armed forces and the security apparatus are directly related to the Assad family, the name of Maher Al-Assad the brother comes up frequently.

6. Also watched a video in Arabic where Rifaat Al-Assad was giving a lecture in Paris, he by the way met with Bernard Henri Levy in October/November (one of the masterminds for Libya), in that video he was talking about Hama - he of course denied his role in the massacres of Hama, but more interestingly he blamed Hama on Iraq, saying that Saddam Hussein sent Takfiris, to support the Muslim Brotherhood in Hama, and this group were anti shia, anti alawite anti ismaili. Watching this video of Rifaat Al-Assad confirmed to me the inherent sectarianism of the hardcore Alawite - of course these allegations are baloney since Saddam Hussein and his Baath were allergic to anything called Muslim Brothers or Salafists/Takfiris, furthermore in the 80's for the record, there was no such trend as takfiri/salafi, there were only the Muslim Brotherhood. The Salafist ideology came later onto the political scene. (also read an article which stated that there was a secret meeting between Sharon, Rifaat Al-Assad and US in 1982 organized by Kissinger -note Iran/Iraq war and Syria's stand)

7. So who are these armed groups currently at work in Syria - a) the Shabiha for sure b) Iranian , Hezbollah and Sadr militias c) BBC ran a video in which it also showed fighters/arms coming in from Lebanon and alluded to porous borders with Turkey.

8. On the regional level several developments I need to note :

a) the almost take over by Qatar of the Arab League
b) Libya's NTC offering help to the FAS also just read on Turkish newspaper that France training Syrian "rebels"- Got to be careful with such allegations/psyops as 1)compulsory military service in Syria and 2)FSA hardly needs training.
c) Belhadj of Libya arrested by Zintan brigades on a "special mission" to Turkey for carrying a fake passport
d) Iran stating that it has missiles that can reach Turkey, which is really a threat.
e) Turkey increasing its condemnation regarding Syria along with Qatar (more so than any Arab country I must say)
f) Russia sending a military ship to Syrian coastal waters - read the same for Iran.
g) Americans keeping a low profile on the matter
h) a rejection of any military NATO intervention and no fly zone by AL and EU
i) the Juppe France proposal for "Humanitarian Corridors" has also been rejected so far.
l) Iraq adamant about preserving the Assad regime from fear of an "Islamist" take over that will ruin its "democracy" (as per the statements of Talabani, Maliki and Zebari)And of course Lebanon.
m) Jordan also had its objections to economic sanctions vis a vis Syria - I think Jordan is trying to keep out of it as much as possible as some commentators alluded to fears of some sort of Hezbollah retaliation from inside Syrian territory.
n) Israel broke the silence only once on Syria which is kind of strange for Israel -stating that Assad's end is like that of Saddam and Gaddafi and since I have not read anything else from the Jewish state.

9. on the ground these are the observations I made again and again. The protests seem to be concentrated or should I say the armed conflict (which is not really a good term because there is no equality in balance of power here) in the periphery of Damascus - like Homs, Deir Ezzor, Idlib, Hama etc (maybe to the exception of Aleppo). From the Syrians I have spoken to, they confirm to me that there are sporadic unarmed demonstrations in Damascus but mainly in the "poor areas" and that overall the security situation there is good.

10. another observation I can't sidestep, is that Assad regime does still have support mainly in Damascus and maybe Aleppo (urban elites)and those supporters that include ordinary Syrians who are neither Alawites nor Baathists, seem to believe that there is a conspiracy against Syria by US/Qatar/Israel/Turkey/Saudi Arabia/ Europe. What I find objectionable is their denial of the hideous repression taking place outside of the capital. Either they don't have access to the information or they are absolutely convinced by the official version that all the killings, torture etc are done by infiltrators.
Another observation is that these protests which started off unarmed and peaceful, seem to be concentrated in the poor provincial areas so there is definitely a class element to them - looking at several videos from Syria the statement - they live well and we are poor - comes up again and again.

11. Another thing that still leaves me quite perplexed - two years ago in November 2009, I wrote a post and mentioned at length Syria - namely a) the great rapprochement between Syria and Turkey b) Sarkozy praising a new era of trust with Syria c) the relative normalization of diplomatic contacts with the USA - an ambassador was dispatched d) the piece of news of back door diplomacy with Israel in Turkey - the latter playing the mediator and very important e) the fall out with Maliki of Iraq in which the latter accused Syria of sending in terrorists/insurgents which Syria denied and last note not to forget the bombing of alleged Syrian nuclear site.

So what went wrong since 2009 ? Of course one may argue at face value the terrible repression /crackdown against unarmed civilians which is one aspect but there is more. Definitely there is more. I believe that Syria's ouverture to Turkey and France as well as Syria's rapprochement to Saudi Arabia during the period was not well viewed by Iran, hence that (partially) explains Maliki's (Iraq's) fall out with Syria for well over 6 months. I think that Assad was quickly called back to the Iranian fold sensing Turkey's ambitions in the "New" Middle East.
(Turkey-Gaza,Syria, possibly new Egypt, Libya) (cross out Syria now)

12. Also been reading statements from the Syrian opposition - some maintain insistence on a civil non armed disobedience movement, others inside and outside are clamoring for no fly zones, and some even go so far as to call for a NATO military strike arguing that sanctions are not enough.

13. the worrisome aspect for me is the regional political recuperation of an initially peaceful, unarmed, spontaneous, valid mass protest against social injustice. One can argue that this is expected, just as other protests in the Arab world have been politically recuperated by various outside forces (an argument that is quite valid for Egypt today for example). This regional interference coupled with the brutal repression on the inside is leading to what some may call a low insurrection or low civil war that will not flare up the way it did in Iraq. I suspect that the regime will try to keep whatever "civil war" or more like a sectarian war - because it is really taking up the colors of a sectarian cleansing on the outskirts of the capital, i.e outside of Damascus and possibly Aleppo.

14. I maintain that it is in both Iran's and Israel's interest to have this kind of longish low level insurrection in Syria, I also believe that Iran is betting it will come out victorious like it did in Iraq. Insofar as Israel is concerned and also Iran by the way, and this is something that both left and right seem to miss - in the long run any dismantling of any Arab state is beneficial. Could it be that the Assad regime has resorted to such a sectarian outlook that it can't see that or could it be that events have gone so far and so much out of control that it simply can't backtrack anymore ?

15) my final note to myself - last but not least - what is the political stand to take vis à vis Syria now ? Of course condemnation of the crackdown, no doubt about it, all these videos streaming in can't all be possibly lying. And surely all these people including women and children are not terrorists or insurgents, like the regime claims. Also some of the torture is so hideous, eyes gouged out, horrible mutilation, such a reminder of the sectarian cleansing that took place in Iraq by the Shiite militias.

Also the fact that Iraq US installed puppets backed by Iran are so adamant about their "own democracy" yet support the brutal repression in Syria and call for no foreign intervention when they themselves were installed by one of the most brutal foreign interventions in contemporary history, raises all kinds of red flags for me.

But also by the same token Qatari/AL EU US interference does not go down well with me.
Insofar as the Arab League is concerned - my question is - how come they suddenly woke up after decades of sleep when it came to Syria - why did we not see the same efforts vis à vis Gaza, or Iraq (with their silence) and as for Libya -where we clearly saw AL backing a NATO intervention.

I do note the different tone vis à vis Syria, the long process of sanctions as opposed to a direct military intervention - I believe this is due to the fact that Syria contrary to Iraq is backed by Russia and more importantly by Iran and its proxies in Iraq and Lebanon. Which was not definitely not the case for Iraq (weakened after a decade of sanctions and with no backing whatsoever), and the same parallel goes for Libya (also Libya was quickly isolated even though the Russian paid lip service to Gaddafi when in effect they went ahead and recognized the NTC) They did not put up a similar fight as they are doing for Syria. That is for sure.

The other thing that gnaws at me - another parallel with Iraq - in 2003, many antiwar, left, liberal progressive (which for me don't mean anything anymore by the way) went ahead with the slogan - not to the US no to Saddam. Is it possible to use the same slogan for Syria today - and say no to NATO no to Assad seeing what happened to Iraq ? By saying no to US no to Assad are we not saying yes to Iran or yes to Israel or yes to Turkey ? This is a valid question.

But also what are the families of these poor people on the inside to do ? Just go on being massacred like sheep ? Who will stop the carnage if there is no backing ? The only hope would be an independent patriotic Syrian Resistance that is visionary enough not to fall in either camp.
Quite a few Syrians are banking on that. I for my part will refrain for the moment from more notes on Syria - I shall be a quiet observer and jot down more notes for the record, bearing in mind all the above. And before finishing off - I must also note that pro Assad supporters online give their 100% support to the Bahrain protesters (who are funded/backed by A.Chalabi Iraq, Sadr Iraq, Hezbollah Lebanon, Qatar and Iran) and wish for the downfall of "Sunni" Saudi Arabia, and the genocide of all Sunnis - if that is not sectarianism I don't know what is.