Saturday, May 21, 2005

Change is Coming - but How?

Change is coming to Syria - there is no way to deny it. How it will happen and how controlled it will be, no one can say. As one Syrian friend said to me, "Will it be in five years, ten years, or next year? I cannot say, but it is coming."

The signs are everywhere. One top Alawite official joked to a Sunni friend, "Will you treat us well in the future?" This kind of remark revealing the anxiety of regime figures about the future, but still couched in a joke to indicate insouciance, would not have been heard a year ago.

Everyone at the dinner table had a story like the one related above, indicating that that the elite is anxious and beginning to take evasive action to prepare for change - what kind of change? Who knows?

Some top officials are beginning serious campaigns to improve their images, carrying out high-minded social projects to beautify Damascus or support cultural life. Others are finding ways to deny their connection with and involvement in the darker chapters of regime history. They are pondering judgement day and vacuuming the house, putting out flowers, and making themselves presentable.

Sami Moubayed's excellent article "Soft de-Baathification in Syria," published in al-Ahram Weekly points out that "The Baath Party Conference, scheduled for June, is expected to pave the way for a general amnesty, releasing political prisoners and permitting the return of those banished for political reasons."

One of the reasons driving this reconciliation project, directed at healing the old wounds caused by Syria's long years of political turmoil and dictatorship, is undoubtedly the fear of revenge. Sami points out that it was begun by Basil al-Asad in 1994, but that others, such as Mustafa Tlas, have been pushing it hard by getting the portraits of Syria's past leaders added to the Parliament walls. They had been "airbrushed" from Syrian history, as Sami wrote.

If Syria is to have a soft transition to a new political order, and avoid sinking into the sort of bloodletting and vendetta driven chaos that has overtaken Iraq, a reconciliation process is crucial. Only by making amends, can the present power-brokers hope to secure their safety in the future. To truly make amends, there is still much reconciliation to come.

All the same, the rapid augmentation of the reconciliation process indicates that people at the top are getting nervous and thinking of the day when they may no longer be in power.

Washington is upping the heat on Syria about supporting Iraqi insurgents.

In an angry indictment, US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice on Friday broadened US accusations that Syria was contributing to violent insurgencies in Iraq.

After a meeting with Iraq's planning minister, Barham Salih, Rice again accused Syria of supporting terror. To that she added an allegation that Syria may also be providing financial support for insurgents as well as "allowing its territory to be used to organize terrorist attacks against innocent Iraqis."
Last week, saw a major campaign to choke off the infiltration of foreign fighters along the border with Syria. There are plans to move much of the U.S. Army's 3rd Armored Cavalry Regiment to the border from the Baghdad area. Lt. Col. Steven Boylan, a spokesman for coalition forces in Iraq, said: "It's really now a war against the Iraqi people conducted by foreigners," said

Zarqawi in Syria?
"Zarqawi and his top-level administrators met at least five times outside Iraq," an American official who prefers to remain anonymous said. He added that the last meeting was held in Syria one month ago. The same source claimed Zarqawi had ordered an increase in the number of suicide attacks in Iraq after the meeting in Syria as he was concerned over the stability and decrease of resistance in Iraq following the elections. No meetings had been held in Iran according to the same source, who said they received this information through Al Qaeda members under arrest.

General John P. Abizaid, commander of the U.S. forces in the Middle East, said, "it is obvious that insurgents have some kind of activities in Syria and the administration should do its best to prevent these."
Never trust and anonymous official. If US intelligence has good information about Zarqawi traveling to Syria, General Abizaid would have said so. He seems fairly trustworthy.

A number of American officials hate Syria and will say anything to promote US hostility toward it. We saw how Bolton do this over and over again, and he was Under-secretary of State for Arms Control, no little chicken. He inflated claims about WMD development in Syria; he claimed Syria was developing nuclear weapons when CIA and State clearly warned him against such allegations; he insisted that Syria was hiding Iraqi WMD for a year after US officials knew this was false, having established from debriefed Iraqi scientists and politicians that Iraq had destroyed its WMD. He said Syria was part of the Pakistani nuclear racket, which Baradei had to deny.

Sec. of Def. Rumsfeld and V.P. Cheney protected Bolton and encouraged him to spin. I don't know whom one should trust from the US government, but if a statement is made by an “anonymous American official,” and not someone willing to back it up with his name and reputation, it is wise not to believe it.

Syria denied the accusations immediately. A Syrian official told Reuters news agency that the claims are a part of the political pressure campaign applied on Syria administration.
Who are the suicide bombers of Iraq? According to the web-sites of radical Muslim organizations who provide lists of martyrs, they are an internationalist brigade of Arabs, with the largest share in the online lists from Saudi Arabia and a significant minority from other countries on Iraq's borders, such as Syria and Kuwait.

The roster of the dead on just one extremist Web site reviewed by The Washington Post runs to nearly 250 names, ranging from a 13-year-old Syrian boy said to have died fighting the Americans in Fallujah to the reigning kung fu champion of Jordan, who sneaked off to wage war by telling his family he was going to a tournament. Among the dead are students of engineering and English, the son of a Moroccan restaurateur and a smattering of Europeanized Arabs.

There are also long lists of names about whom nothing more is recorded than a country of origin and the word "martyr."... U.S. military estimates cited by security analysts put the number of active jihadists at about 1,000, or less than 10 percent of the number of fighters in a mostly Iraqi-dominated insurgency. But military officials now say the foreigners are responsible for a higher percentage of the suicide bombings.


At 5/21/2005 03:57:00 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Condo blaming foreigners for the resistance movement as if there was an Iraqi consensus about the occupation...

At 5/21/2005 05:03:00 PM, Blogger Anton Efendi said...

Five years, ten years? hahahaha.

You're assuming that the Syrians will be able to sit still for that long. You're also assuming that the regime will survive for that long. You're also assuming that the world will sit idly for another five years of "reform" like the first five years of Bashar's "Damascus Spring" which is by all means a marvel of penetrating reforms!!

ahhhh... good one!

At 5/21/2005 07:39:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

In alquds there is an article about zarqawi and Syria :جماعة الزرقاوي تنفي عقد اجتماعات في سورية

دبي ـ اف ب: نفت جماعة الاردني المتطرف ابو مصعب الزرقاوي، زعيم تنظيم القاعدة في العراق في بيان نشر علي موقع اسلامي علي الانترنت ان تكون عقدت اجتماعات في سورية للتخطيط لسلسلة من التفجيرات الاخيرة في العراق كما اعلن مؤخرا مسؤول عسكري امريكي , we all in Syria hope for change and there is no doubt people are less scared than before, but also still the information flow is very restricted in Syria, and you hear good news only. For example a lot has been said, praising the governement for giving 2 years valid passports to many opposition people in exile, and granting them safe entrance to the country, as the regime is trying to unit Syria etc. ..But, many of them have been arrested on the border. One who has been living in SaudiaArabia even died in prison, because he was not allowed to use his medicin.And finally the commitee for human rights adviced exiled Syrians not to come back cause their saftey would be in great danger! That, plus the fact that there have been many arrests latley.

At 5/21/2005 10:02:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Change is indeed coming. If the transition is smooth and peaceful, Syria has the potential to be a great country - much better than Jordan and Lebanon...

At 5/23/2005 03:24:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Please pardon my countryman Tony for his comments. He is a neo-con apologist, and he should start all his comments with a statement to divulge this fact. How long has Tony lived in Syria? Has he ever lived in Syria? Has he ever met Syrians from all confessions and regions? No, he has (possibly) read the profile of Syria on the Library of Congress website, and he might have met a few Syrian expatriates. I am now 78, I have lived over 20 years in Lebanon, over 20 years in Syria, and over 20 years in the USA (I speak Arabic 90% of the time as 90% of my friends are Arabs). I have close Syrian friends from the Sunni, Shi'i, 'Alawi, Druze, Isma'ili, Christian (all of the nine "old" denominations, and even a few Protestants), and Jewish communities; I have even met two men who belong to the Yazidi faith...
What I am saying here is that some of us are sick and tired of Tony's comments about Syria. Tony should stick to Lebanon, where people can tell immediately where his views come from, while in Syria, I believe that some of the people who look at your site may survive reading his posts without dying of laughter.
Josh: Please poll your audience, and come to a decision about Tony. The article by Sami Moubayyed is excellent.


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