Tuesday, September 06, 2005

Farid Ghadry Instills Confidence

Journalists are battling over the question of whether President Asad will cancel his New York trip. Elaph and al-Seyassa - both notorious for being gossip rags - started the conjecture a few days ago. Elaph's account was copied by al-Mustaqbal today, presumably giving it more credibility. But Sami al-Khaymi, the smart Syrian ambassador in London, says it is still on in this story:


Beirut, 5 Sept. (AKI) - There are conflicting reports regarding the planned visit of Syria's president Bashar al-Assad to New York in mid-September to represent his country at a crucial summit on United Nations reform. Syrian sources have told Adnkronos International (AKI) that the president would not be attending the meeting in New York, but did not give reasons for the decision. However, Syria's ambassador to London, Sami al-Khaymi, interviewed by Lebanese television network LBC, said the "the visit is confirmed even if there could be last minute changes".
The following story gives us a small glimpse into the moral quandaries of Arab militants who go to join the fighting in Iraq. It also suggests that it isn't hard to get to Iraq though Syria, despite the growing number of Syrian arrests.


Rabat, 5 Sept. (AKI) - The Syria authorities have arrested and deported a Moroccan militant, Izzedine al-Nuwail. The man had already crossed from Syria into neighbouring Iraq to join the insurgency, but his career as an insurgent was cut short when he reportedly refused to carry out a suicide attack on a busy Baghdad market and returned to Syria.

During his stay in Damascus, Izzedine said he had behaved "normally, often going to the grand Omayyade mosque". Taking minor Syrian roads, he managed to slip across the border into northwestern Iraq. However, he refused to drive a vehicle packed with explosives into a market in Baghdad where many women shopped with their children. He returned to Syria, where he was arrested and handed over to Moroccan police in Rabat.

Izzedine had allegedly traveled to Damascus with two other men from the Moroccan city of Casablanca, where the group allegedly recruited a Syrian and a Jordanian. The Syrian border is believed to be one of the main entry points for militants to cross into Iraq, where the northwestern part of the country has become one of the main war zones for United States troops battling the insurgency.
This opinion piece by the Saudi journalist Wafaa al-Rasheed, expresses the way many feel in Syria. Sectarianism remains one of the most difficult problems throughout the region. The Syrian government does little diffuse its true source - intolerance and scriptural rigidity. Although Syrian schoolbooks teach that Christians will go to heaven after the Muslims and are a protected people, they do not teach equality. The Christians are blamed for the existence of sectarianism in the Middle East because they refused to accept the Koran as revelation. Syrian school books do not mention the existence of different Muslim sects. Instead they continue to teach that there is only one way to follow Islam, which is to follow Sunni customs and traditions.

"The graves which we dig for ourselves," by Wafaa Al Rasheed
From Mideastwire.com
Wafaa Al Rasheed, a Saudi writer, wrote in Al Hayat, a pan-Arab newspaper, on September 5: "Poor Iraq, and poor are its libraries, museums, and streets, for Arab people and statues have become bereft of all feeling… History has never witnessed a country whose own people seem to be conspiring against it to tear it apart." Iraq is a country that is occupied by those who claimed they are liberating it, while its own people are writing a constitution that will result in Shiite control over the country, something which will give Americans the excuse to divide Iraq, Al Rasheed said.

"This is how we were raised, to live in constant fear of the Shiite crescent 'boogeyman' in the region and the implementation of the non-integration policy which we apply on those whom we consider minorities," Al Rasheed wrote.

Believing this perspective to be "one of the most dangerous factors facing reform in political Arab thought," Al Rasheed said: "Yes, there are Sunnis and yes there are Shiites among us .... And there are Arabs, Kurds, and Berbers, and with their differences, they all have their rights as we do ours. And no, it does not involve a war over who rules whom, as the foreigners wish to impose on us, unless we make it so. The neo-colonialist is bringing us up on division and there are people among us that are feeding this division, with their ... programmed ideologies that are meant to sow divisions among our Muslims, [in a racist manner]."

Those who ruled Iraq failed to integrate the Iraqis under one political equation because the Iraqi ruler was marketing an American political equation based on sectarianism, claiming that this sectarian equation will confront the ideology of the Iranian revolution. The political sectarianism in Iraq was booming in the 1980s and it is booming again today. "If we don’t solve this sectarian conflict in Iraq, we will be digging our own graves," Al Rasheed concluded. - Al Hayat, United Kingdom
One of the indications for how "tribal" and clannish Middle East societies remain is the practice of marrying cousins. There are no good statistics on this practice in Syria. At the outset of the Iraq War, a New York Times journalist wrote that over 50% of Iraqis marry cousins. He used the statistic to explain how difficult it would be to bring democracy to Iraq, as it is commonly believed that "tribalism" is a detriment to democracy because it causes people to respond to political demands not as individuals but members of a proscriptive group. I wasn't sure whether to believe the high statistic because no source was cited. But this article from Kuwait based on a good study, claims that over 50% of Kuwaitis marry cousins. Most Syrians say the number is probably much smaller for Syria, but their conjecture is anecdotal.

Marriage between cousins remains popular, despite Kuwait's development
“The wheels of development that have altered and improved the Kuwaiti social life in the past four decades have failed to revolutionize the practice of marrying into families. Kuwaiti people still prefer to wed their relations as certified by current statistics, which reveal that 55.7 percent of marriages take place between relatives. Researcher Yacoub Al Kindry went on to clarify that marriage to first cousins from either the mother or the father’s side is the most widespread kind and constitutes 18 percent of all marriages that occur in Kuwait,” Sayidaty, a weekly Saudi women’s magazine, reported in its August 27 publication.
Qatar will invest nearly $10 billion in Syria in the next few year
On September 5, the independent Al Wasat newspaper reported that Syrian sources revealed that some Qatari banks are planning to invest $10 billion in Syria over the next ten years, and that there is a preliminary agreement between Syria and a Qatari insurance company to start working in Syria. The sources confirmed that the launching of the Syrian-Qatari Holding Insurance Company will be set soon after the ratification of the agreement by Sheikh Tamim Bin Hamad II, with a capital of $200 million, Al Wasat stated.

Similarly, the Yemeni Press Agency “Saba’” reported that the Islamic International Qatar Bank has completed all the legal requirements that will allow them to open a bank in Syria with a capital of $100 million, and that it is set to open soon. - Al Wasat, Bahrain
Farid Ghadry's Reform Party of Syria, ever willing to spin, is very excited about the prospect that the United States and Europe will bring down the Syrian government. He writes, "We strongly believe that the Syrian opposition will be ready within six months to provide a democratic alternative to Baschar al-Assad."

Some one needs to inform Ghadry that the National Fronts attempt to bring the various opposition groups together in Paris this summer has fallen apart, amidst widespread backbiting and distrust. Ghadry writes of the Mehlis investigation in a circular put out by RPS today:
Never again will we get another opportunity like this where all of Europe and the US are united against Assad and are backed, in any action they take, by the International Law. The international community has an obligation to help the Syrian people.

The Syrian opposition is getting stronger everyday. Ever since the Reform Party became public in 2003, there have been at least a dozen more such political organizations that have sprung-up to life; some secretly inside Syria. In the next six months, we know of at least three national conferences that will be held by the Syrian opposition in Europe. Behind the scene deals are being struck between the various strong groups to show unity and cohesiveness and more importantly a democratic alternative to Assad.

For Syria to avoid the fate of Iraq, the Syrian opposition must have a Transitional Parliament in place agreed upon by the various political powerhouses and smaller groups including the independent intellectuals that would show no clear majority by any one group over another. We also must have a vision in place of how we, the Syrian people, can control violence by making sure that all elements of our society are included in the political process and only the criminals and the corrupt are held responsible. Those two steps are "Work in Progress" and are being nurtured today prior to the liberation of our country. We strongly believe that the Syrian opposition will be ready within six months to provide a democratic alternative to Baschar al-Assad.

If Assad is accused by the Mehlis Report and subsequently indicted by an independent Lebanese government, it would certainly take few months to force the issue. The instability it will create in Syria will, in the short term, embolden the opposition to unite further knowing that the regime is in its final stages of being dismantled and, in the long term, help us focus on what comes "After Assad". The tool of dismantlement of the Syrian regime with the backing of the international community and the international law is within our grasp. Let us not waste this opportunity.

Copyrights © 2003-2005 - Reform Party of Syria (RPS) except where otherwise noted - all rights reserved.
By meeting with Ghadry the other day, the National Security Council people were surely happy to have him trumpet the success of his meeting, just as they must have been pleased with his attempt to associate his "government in exile" with the US government. The NSC hopes to increase psychological pressure on Syria. Their cynical deployment of Ghadry, like some energizer bunny that has an off and on switch, is presumably accompanied by much back-slapping and guffawing at the NSC. After all, it was Farid Ghadry who told us last April that all Washington had to do to overturn the Assad regime was to drop leaflets from planes over the city of Damascus, asking the people to rise up. I guess this tactic was culled from the successful technique used by Washington in Iraq in 1991? It was a smart suggestion that the NSC for some reason neglected to implement.

Kamal al-Lubwani, a respected leader of the internal Syrian opposition, said that Ghadry was "duplicitous" during his interview with Joe Pace, published by "Syria Comment" this Friday. He also said that Ghadry had no support "whatsoever" within Syria. Not a good write-up. Here are Lubwani's full comments to Joe Pace's questions:
What are you’re thoughts on the Syrian opposition in America, such as Farid Ghadry’s party [Syrian Reform Party]?

In politics, everyone tries to promote their own interests and they have a right to pursue their interests. But they are different from us — their circumstances and their demands differ. We are living inside the country so our demands are oriented towards internal affairs. They are interesting in being able to come and go freely and in investing. They may be duplicitous because they have two different loyalties—one to Syria and one to America. We might be able to work together and they might be able to help us, especially if they can influence US decision making and we would be willing to welcome them, but on the condition that the program comes from the inside.

Does Farid Ghadry’s party have any base or support in Syria?

None whatsoever. He doesn’t have anyone inside the country and anyone who did cooperate with him would be accused of treason and arrested. His party has called for military invasion of Syria, so nobody is going to work with him. Nabil Fayad joined his party because state security sent Nabil. They sent him to Washington to figure out what was going on and he succeeded—he infiltrated the party and the Americans. I tried to warn them but they didn’t listen to me. There is no doubt that Nabil is an agent of the regime—a cheap, petty man—and it was Ghadry’s mistake to cooperate with a man like that.
Another Ghadry story: two days ago Ghadry sent around a circular claiming that Syria was promoting Civil War in Lebanon by secretly sending Syrian Palestinians into Lebanon as fighters. Here is Farid's story. Compare it with the press account, which follows it:
"Assad Wants a Civil War in Lebanon"

Washington DC, September 4, 2005/RPS/ --
Back on February 25 of this year, RPS published a story entitled: "Syrian Intelligence Recruiting Old Fedayeen to Fight in Lebanon" in which RPS described the means by which recruitment was taking place by Syrian Intelligence for Palestinians living in the Neirab refugee camp outside Aleppo to "fight in Lebanon because the Palestinians are going to be butchered".

These efforts are bearing fruit today.

According to Lebanese sources, a fight took place today in Northern Lebanon between Palestinian elements living in the Badawi refugee camp and the Lebanese armed forces that lasted for two hours....

This may be the beginning of Syrian interference in Lebanon on a scale that would divert attention away from the Mehlis report and would sink Lebanon into another attempt at igniting a civil war...
Here is the press account:
Two Lebanese soldiers hurt in clashes with murder suspects in refugee camp From mideastwire.com

Al-Jazeera reported on September 4 that clashes have taken place between Lebanese Army forces and armed men in the Palestinian refugee camp of Al-Baddawi, in Tripoli, northern Lebanon. Eyewitnesses said the security tension occurred after the army forces tried to arrest suspects in a murder case. The suspects responded by hurling hand grenades, resulting in the wounding of two Lebanese soldiers. - Al Jazeera, Qatar

These are the Palestinian fighters that Ghadry tells us Syria is using to ignite the coming Lebanese civil war. Almost as good as the leaflet story. It instills confidence that the boys at the National Security Council are using Ghadry to develop Washington's Syria policy. Ghadry should make a healthy contribution to good governance in Syria.

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