Wednesday, December 29, 2004

Posting from Damascus

Dear Readers, It will be much harder to post intelligently from Damascus. The Internet just isn't fast enough to get around the proper articles in a timely fashion. The US embassy allows Fulbrighters to use an embassy computer that has a satellite connection, but I have only been able to open my email once out of 4 days trying. (They say this has nothing to do with the intervention of the Government, which can't read or interfere with satellite stuff.) I will go to the regular internet cafes and see if the results are better. They very well may be. Much information comes to me via email. So without it on a regular basis, I will be blind.

Michael Young wrote about the same subject as I did in his last post and linked to me. (I would link to him now, but my computer is too slow to make it feasible.) He argues that Syria could very well be a center for Iraq's terror organizations. He argues Abdul Halim Khaddam has his networks into Iraq, suggesting that other Syrian officials and services also do, and that the Syria state - at least the tangle of officials and bureacracies that make it up - may all be looking the other way on what their brethren are doing. [I miss-paraphrased Michael a few days ago, claiming that he suggested that "Khaddam is probably at the center" of Iraqi resistence. He suggested no such thing and I hope he will accept my appologies for any misleading para-phrase.] Only the Syrian opposition in exile is suggesting that Khaddam is at the center of things. The US and Iraqi governments are arguing that the Syrian intelligence is at the heart of planning in Iraq, but they have not named Khaddam as the main organizer.

Khaddam has known contacts to Iraq, Young suggests, because he presided over the oil-electricity deal General Petreus struck with Syria last year, rather than leaving the task to the appropriate minister in Syria. Michael is right that under normal circumstances ministers would have done the deal. But nothing along the Iraq-Syrian border was normal in 2003. This is why a US General was brokering the deal for Iraq and not an Iraqi minister. One can understand why the Syrian government would not regard the situation as normal and assign someone with more military and political clout.

But nothing can prove that the Syrian intelligence is not at the bottom of things in Iraq, nor that the Ba`th has not rediscovered its common ideological roots after 40 years of separation. The same, of course, is also true of Iraqi accusations against Syria, none of which have actually been demonstrated. Why have we not seen the photos of terrorists with Khaddam? The Iraqi Government has every reason to try to shift the blame for the successes and potency of the resistance onto secret Syrian organizations.

After all, Iraqi forces have been a disaster themselves at finding hard evidence about the resistance's leadership. American officers argue that the resistance knows more about the movement of American troops than the Americans know about the resistance. Not good. A big stain on the Iraqi intelligence. Of course the weakness of Iraqi forces and their unwillingness to fight in a number of cities is also an embarrassment that can't be covered up by blaming Syria. The failure of Iraqi intelligence and defense forces cannot be placed at Syria's door, although, it is hard to think that someone won't try.

All the same, this does not exculpate Syria. It is easy to speculate right know. Washington has upped the pressure on Damascus in so many ways these last months that there must be many people in the Syrian administration arguing for just the type of hardball policies Damascus is now being accused of. Most Syrian's are with the resistance in their hearts and believe America is in Iraq for no good. My mother-in-law asked me if I thought the Americans were stealing Iraqi oil. She also allowed as how she couldn't believe the resistance would cut off the heads of Iraqis. Her views are widespread. She was a teacher for 25 years and reads several newspapers a day. Of course, she also likes al-Manar television, Hizbullah's channel.

Having just gone through the painful process of looking for an apartment in Damascus, it is quite clear that Syria is experiencing very big changes, that most people are only just waking up to. Rents have gone through the roof. Most Syrians blame this on Iraqis and other foreigners, but there are several other more important reasons. The new renter’s law, which is now two years old, has completely eliminated socialism of rental properties and has caused a major revolution in the ability of property owners to accumulate wealth.

I will talk about this and the newly proposed agricultural laws that will do the same thing for rural property in an upcoming post. In the mean time, be patient as I learn the new system here.


At 12/29/2004 10:05:00 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

If you need high speed internet, pop across the border to Irbid. You'll find the world's largest collection of internet cafes, as well as an antidote to Syrian repression in thriving Jordan.

At 12/30/2004 01:50:00 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hey Joshua,

Mother in laws make good reference to measure the pulse of the street in Damascus!
If you need a faster Internet connection, you are welcome to come to Lebanon.

At 12/30/2004 04:46:00 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

It is very surprising that no comments are mentioned to the massive confiscations of lands by the Syrian governments over the past 40 years which has passed without any sort of compensation under the pretext of socialism which we see nothing of it today.


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