Friday, April 22, 2011

Revolt in Syria


Some years ago I spent a couple of weeks in Syria. People are friendly towards foreigners there, and mostly they assumed I was British or American. When they discovered I was Irish, they invariably embraced me as a comrade in arms. At the time, the IRA was at the height of using armed struggle, or “physical force” as they called it, to oust British rule in northern Ireland. Syrians, well fed on government propaganda, happily considered me to be a fellow anti-imperialist. When they discovered that my female companion was Dutch, they leapt for joy. The Dutch soccer team, PSV Eindhoven, had just won the European Champions Cup. A Dutch-Irish couple seemed too good to be true. Wherever we went we were feted like celebrities.
Today demonstrations continue to erupt across the dictator infested Arab world. While most of our attention is taken with what seems to be a bloody stalemate, or worse, in Libya, hundreds of protestors have been killed in Syria. President Assad’s regime is at least as repressive as that of Gaddafi’s Libya.

Now Assad suggests that he will implement reform, like ending 48 years of emergency rule. Repeat: 48 years of emergency rule! Can this guy be for real? Think about it like this: Syria was put under emergency rule when the Beatles were teenagers playing in a bar in Hamburg! This sounds like a sick joke. People have taken to the street, and the autocrat now promises reform, but thinks he can keep his job. As Jordanian commentator Hasan Abu Nimah has put it, this is "too little too late". Even as Assad announced the end to emergency rule this week, fresh reports were published of the killing of demonstrators in the city of Homs. Meanwhile, the opposition in the street has formulated nine demands:
1. A democratic constitution
2. Ending of the state of emergency
3. Release of all political prisoners
4. A new political parties law
5. A new elections law
6. Formation of a Truth and Reconciliation Committee
7. Full political rights for Kurds
8. Reform of media laws
9. Restructuring of the security and intelligence apparatus

It is exceeding unlikely that Reformer Assad will accede to many of these demands. And we know that this regime is capable of great violence. In 1982, when his father faced an Islamist revolt in the city of Hama, he pounded the city with artillery and then finished it off in lethal style: full death toll – 20,000 dead Syrians. Objectively, that means in one week in 1982 the Assad family business killed many more Arabs than the great evil Israel has done in over six decades of conflict.
So, should the West be sending our forces hurtling into Syria like in Libya, or even like neighbor Iraq. Not quite. Syria is a complex country. Assad belongs to the Alawite Islamic minority, which comprises 11% of the population, 74% are Sunni Muslim, 10% are Christian and 5% are Druze. Ethnically the population is a mix of Arab, Armenian and Kurds. A further complication is that Syria is an ally of Iran – a cynical partnership if there ever was one, as the two governments in effect despise what the other espouses, one being a Shia theocracy and the other a secular socialist republic.
What they share is an anti-imperialist attitude towards the West and the use of the Israel-Palestine issue as the whipping boy that drums up feverish support. The latter gives each an opportunity to involve themselves with Hezbollah, and thereby play a key role in Lebanon’s so called domestic politics.
I wish there were some way I could pay my Syrian friends back for their kindness during my visit all those years ago. Like all the people of the Middle East – Iranian, Iraqi, Libyan, Tunisian, Egyptian, Bahraini, Yemeni, Saudi, Afghani and Palestinian – they deserve the right to have responsible governance and democratic freedoms.
But we cannot simply wish away tyrants like Assad. There are Republicans in the USA who have criticized President Obama’s intervention in Libya, yet who call for intervention in Syria as an opportunity to hurt Iran. These hawks disregard the lessons of Iraq and Afghanistan, where military intervention has worsened the lot of the civilian population.
They should bear in mind the warning of former CIA operative Robert Baer in The Financial Times that: “the potential for violence in Syria makes Libya and Yemen look mild. Moreover, chances are good that chaos in Syria risks spilling into neighbouring countries – notably Lebanon, Jordan and Iraq, and maybe even the Arab side of the Gulf, which is already riven by sectarian divisions. This is a worst case scenario, but the point is if it comes about, there will be no way the west could just stand by and hope for the best.”


First published in technorati



4 comments:

  1. From Syrian
    You are delusional and detached from the reality on the ground. Those protesters are mainly Sunni Islamic extremists, and THEY are the ones doing most of the killings. In most cases, the government sends security, police and the army, UNARMED, to these protests. They are met with anti-government terrorists with guns, knives, and other weapons. The people who burn buildings and hospitals, and shoot at and kill innocent people, deserve to be shot at. In any other country, including the US and Canada, this would be considered terrorism and violence, and reciprocation against such criminals would be the same, if not tougher, then the Syrian response. Don't forget that last year at the G20 summit in Canada, authorities, in TWO DAYS, arrested over 1,100 PEACEFUL protesters after beating them. In Syria, the only 'protesters' that get shot at are the violent ones. You seem insistent on calling these people 'peaceful,' but one look at their videos will show you that these people, who wantonly kill people to cause chaos, attack shops and hospitals and buildings, are not looking for peace. In those same videos, they are shouting extremist and sectarian slogans, such as killing all non-Sunnis and destroying all places of worship that are not Sunni in origin (KEY opposition demands). They take their lies further by propagating false information when ever they commit crimes, claiming that the government was at fault for everything. Such incidents include the many killings and mutilation of soldiers and generals. Despite video and pictorial evidence CLEARLY pointing to the so-called 'peaceful protesters,' they hope that no one looks at them, and writes them off, instead, as people who were killed because 'They refused to shoot at protesters.' You are just as bad as they are by compounding their lies.

    You also need to get a grip on history. The Hama incident was an armed insurrection by the radical group, the Muslim Brotherhood. Their acts of terrorism began in the 70s. President Hafez al-Assad tried to negotiate with those jackals, but their demands were unwavering; total genocide of non-Sunnis, Islamic government ruling under Sharia law, and basically everything the US claims is wrong with Iran, were their demands. The president then warned that the army was going to go on the offensive after the Muslim Brotherhood killed 86 people in a single terrorist attack. He gave the town a warning, asking everyone who isn't a part of the terrorist group to leave, and everyone who is, to surrender. He gave them a lot of time. The Muslim Brotherhood would not stand down, and they were deservedly crushed under the might of the Syrian army.

    Your body count of those killed by Israel is remarkably off. You stated, "Objectively, that means in one week in 1982 the Assad family business killed many more Arabs than the great evil Israel has done in over six decades of conflict." This is patently false, and you know it. You are conveniently erasing from existence the thousands of people killed by Israel in 1947, 1948, 1956, 1967, 1973, 1979, 1982, 2000, 2006, and 2008/2009. You are also neglectful of the hundreds of people that were killed by Israel in one-off attacks mostly against Lebanon in between all of those years. You COMPLETELY ignore the fact that in 1982, when Israel invaded Lebanon for the SECOND time, in mere days, they killed more then 25,000 Lebanese, and countless tens of thousands more then onward until their partial withdrawal from Southern Lebanon in 2000. The death toll in Lebanon from that bloody conflict was 250,000. Saying that Israel was responsible for even 100,000 of those deaths is probably and understatement.

    Stop lying to your readers. Those who want to look at history and current events OBJECTIVELY (A word you misused in your inane quote I had highlighted above), WILL find the truth, and sniveling propagandists such as yourself will be tossed into the dustbin of history.

    Syrian

    ReplyDelete
  2. Syrian
    You are delusional and detached from the reality on the ground. Those protesters are mainly Sunni Islamic extremists, and THEY are the ones doing most of the killings. In most cases, the government sends security, police and the army, UNARMED, to these protests. They are met with anti-government terrorists with guns, knives, and other weapons. The people who burn buildings and hospitals, and shoot at and kill innocent people, deserve to be shot at. In any other country, including the US and Canada, this would be considered terrorism and violence, and reciprocation against such criminals would be the same, if not tougher, then the Syrian response. Don't forget that last year at the G20 summit in Canada, authorities, in TWO DAYS, arrested over 1,100 PEACEFUL protesters after beating them. In Syria, the only 'protesters' that get shot at are the violent ones. You seem insistent on calling these people 'peaceful,' but one look at their videos will show you that these people, who wantonly kill people to cause chaos, attack shops and hospitals and buildings, are not looking for peace. In those same videos, they are shouting extremist and sectarian slogans, such as killing all non-Sunnis and destroying all places of worship that are not Sunni in origin (KEY opposition demands). They take their lies further by propagating false information when ever they commit crimes, claiming that the government was at fault for everything. Such incidents include the many killings and mutilation of soldiers and generals. Despite video and pictorial evidence CLEARLY pointing to the so-called 'peaceful protesters,' they hope that no one looks at them, and writes them off, instead, as people who were killed because 'They refused to shoot at protesters.' You are just as bad as they are by compounding their lies.

    You also need to get a grip on history. The Hama incident was an armed insurrection by the radical group, the Muslim Brotherhood. Their acts of terrorism began in the 70s. President Hafez al-Assad tried to negotiate with those jackals, but their demands were unwavering; total genocide of non-Sunnis, Islamic government ruling under Sharia law, and basically everything the US claims is wrong with Iran, were their demands. The president then warned that the army was going to go on the offensive after the Muslim Brotherhood killed 86 people in a single terrorist attack. He gave the town a warning, asking everyone who isn't a part of the terrorist group to leave, and everyone who is, to surrender. He gave them a lot of time. The Muslim Brotherhood would not stand down, and they were deservedly crushed under the might of the Syrian army.

    Your body count of those killed by Israel is remarkably off. You stated, "Objectively, that means in one week in 1982 the Assad family business killed many more Arabs than the great evil Israel has done in over six decades of conflict." This is patently false, and you know it. You are conveniently erasing from existence the thousands of people killed by Israel in 1947, 1948, 1956, 1967, 1973, 1979, 1982, 2000, 2006, and 2008/2009. You are also neglectful of the hundreds of people that were killed by Israel in one-off attacks mostly against Lebanon in between all of those years. You COMPLETELY ignore the fact that in 1982, when Israel invaded Lebanon for the SECOND time, in mere days, they killed more then 25,000 Lebanese, and countless tens of thousands more then onward until their partial withdrawal from Southern Lebanon in 2000. The death toll in Lebanon from that bloody conflict was 250,000. Saying that Israel was responsible for even 100,000 of those deaths is probably and understatement.

    Stop lying to your readers. Those who want to look at history and current events OBJECTIVELY (A word you misused in your inane quote I had highlighted above), WILL find the truth, and sniveling propagandists such as yourself will be tossed into the dustbin of history.

    ReplyDelete
  3. Dear Syrian, Thanks for your comment. Here is an extract from a press release from Amnesty International from two days ago: "at least 26 more protesters have died in recent days, bringing the total to some 220 over the past month. On Sunday, security forces reportedly killed 17 protesters in Homs and three mourners at a funeral in nearby Talbisah, with five more protesters reported killed in Latakia on Monday.
    A tribal leader, Muhammad al-‘Aliwi, also died in custody on Monday, possibly as a result of torture. 'The concessions now being made by the government have been achieved at a very heavy cost in human lives,' said Malcolm Smart. 'There must be no more slaughter. Syria’s President must take firm action now to stop the bloody crackdown by his security forces and ensure that those responsible for it are held to account.'" Now, who is delusional? Furthermore, as I write reports are coming in from all the world's leading news agencies that security forces today have killed dozens of protesters in Syria's bloodiest day yet. No doubt "Syrian" will consider this to be propaganda.

    ReplyDelete
  4. oalmasri
    Great article and well said.... and Syrian you're the one who is delusional, the peaceful protesters are the ones being attacked by government security forces, I don't know where you got your info from, you should stop listening to your propaganda-filled Syrian channel.

    Again, well written article.

    Keep it up,

    Omar
    http://www.o-posts.net

    ReplyDelete