Sunday, December 18, 2011

Vaclav Havel and the Arab Spring

Vaclav Havel, former Czech President, architect of the "Velvet Revolution" and dissident playwright has sadly died today aged 75.

On becoming President in 1990, he spoke of the fallen communist regime as “a monstrous, ramshackle machine” which had bequeathed not merely economic failure but also “a spoiled moral environment”.

“We have become morally ill because we are used to saying one thing and thinking another,” he explained. “We have learned not to believe in anything, not to care about each other. Love, friendship, mercy, humility and forgiveness lost their depth and dimension.”

“Some say I’m a naive dreamer trying to combine the incompatible: politics and morality,” he wrote in Summer Meditations (1992). “I am convinced that we will never build a democratic state based on law if we do not at the same time build a state that is ... humane, moral, intellectual and spiritual, and cultural.”

Some might say that Havel's political and moral philosophy is a million miles away from Arab and Islamic doctrines. Since the dawn of history, human communities have tried to govern themselves in ways that ensured their own survival, stability and economic wellbeing, often at the expense of other communities. Religions and man-made laws serve such ends but also breed conflicts and wars if they are uncompromising and devoid of basic moral and humane values.

Today, there are no real or uniform political, philosophical and moral doctrines in the Arab world. There are only ruling classes who seek power, wealth and glory for themselves first, their tribes second and their nations third (if at all).

Arab kings, princes and presidents (and many Western leaders) strongly believe that the Arabs are not ready for democracy and cannot sustain such values. If a human being can be "humane, moral, intellectual, spiritual, and cultural" so can the society to which he belongs. Inspired leadership, enlightened education and compassionate moral codes are what make a good society great.

Democracy, with all its faults, allows societies to compromise, regenerate themselves and flourish whereas autocracy and theocracy allow the ruling classes to thrive while their nations wither and die.

The Arab Spring may initially swap dictators for Islamic fundamentalists to bring back some moral code into politics. No uncompromising fundamentalist regime is, however, likely to survive for long when the vast majority of Arab youth are craving freedom, opportunity and inspired leadership.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Gingrich is right, Palestinians are an invented people

He has, after all, a Phd in history and knows exactly what he is talking about.

There was no "State of Palestine" under Ottoman rule, nor was there a State of Israel.

There were lots of Palestinian Arabs and some Palestinian jews. They lived side by side in relative harmony  until European jews flooded Palestine, displaced the Palestinian Arabs and invented the State of Israel.

There were no fat white settlers  in America before the 17th century, nor was there a "United Republic of Apaches and Blackfeet".  There were, however, 8 million native Red Indians who have been all but wiped out by the new settlers who invented the United States of America.

Funny how men in pursuit of high office in the United States of America almost always turn into moral Judas; they are quick to re-write history and exchange personal integrity for the cheapest Jewish votes.

Saturday, December 03, 2011

The Alawite "state within a state" begins to implode

The French created the Alawite State in and around Lattakia in the 1920s to divide and rule Syria.  They encouraged Alawites to join the new army because the more-affluent and urban Sunni majority preferred civilian life.

As they rose through the ranks and their numbers swelled the armed forces, the Alawites proceeded to build a state within a state from the late 1960s onwards motivated by deep-seated fear of Sunni persecution and lust for power.

Not only did they take control of the armed forces, intelligence agencies and the police but also the Baath party, state enterprises, trade flows and oil revenues. They co-opted the greedy Sunni merchants of Aleppo and Damascus and the fearful Christian, Druze and other minorities' leaders. Their project was not complete until they drove out the middle classes, muzzled the intelligentsia and bought long-term protection from Iran.

The real losers in the last 41 years have been the poorer Sunni majority, two generations of expatriates and their dependent families back home and Syria's development as a healthy, effective and modern nation state.

Dismantling this extraordinary "state within a state" will not be easy let alone rebuilding Syria. International sanctions do not have much effect on such a state and could hurt ordinary Syrians. This regime has plenty of foreign reserves and gold stashed away and can go on funding its killing machine for at least six months. That said, the Assad tribe has already sown the seeds of its own destruction.

The regime has hardly any friends left in the world and its security apparatus is coming under attack not just from defectors but also international powers. While it can  survive for a few more months, Assad himself, his inner circle and extended family have no choice but to negotiate a safe-exit deal with the Russians or risk being slaughtered.

Splits within the Alawite community are also bound to emerge in coming weeks. Other Alawite tribes may even offer the Assad clan to the international community as sacrificial lambs if faced with a real threat of annihilation.

Friday, November 25, 2011

Waterboarding for Assad

First the Human Rights Watch report then the Arab League suspension and now the threat of foreign intervention. What next?

Will this regime ever come to its senses? If the Assad clan and their armed thugs are ever caught they should be tried not just for crimes against humanity but also high treason.

Their refusal to meet public demands for free and fair elections and deliberate escalation of violence have been tearing the country's economy and social and sectarian fabric apart for months. They are now opening the door for unwelcome intervention and long-term exploitation by foreign powers.

Syria has little to offer but let us not be blind to foreign political, economic and military agendas. In essence:

Russia: Now friendless in the Middle East but for Syria, arms sales and maintaining their only naval base in the Mediterranean at Tartous

Turkey: Economic rewards, encouraging the Kurds to resettle in Syria and acting as Nato's watchdog and power broker in the Middle East

Iran: exporting Shi'a theocracy along the Iran-Iraq-Syria-Lebanon crescent to provide strategic depth against long-term Western, Israeli and the Sunni Arab threats

France: unprincipled as ever, and more so with the Hungarian vulture Sarkozy, who foments national discord and violent conflicts to sell arms and win reconstruction contracts

USA and Britain: under the thumbs of Jewish lobbies and their banks, weakening Syria, prising it away from Iran and exporting cultural trash

China: will not support popular democratic uprisings as a matter of princple as they threaten its own autocratic system

Arab League: Sunni desire to curtail Iran's rising influence mixed with some concern over civilian deaths and wanting to be seen to have teeth for a change

Saudi Arabia &  Qatar: arming Syrian men with long beards and dellusional Wahhabi ideals

Israel: Has almost given up on the regime as a long-term ally in maintaining peace in the Golan!

and the list goes on...

At the heart of Syria's troubles is a rotten little patch in Qardaha that gave birth to the worst Alawite family the country has seen for generations. What more do they want? They have milked the country dry and subjugated the entire population for 42 years. Syria today is a shameful example of how to deprive two generations of their liberty, dreams and self-esteem.

Their heads will roll. Deep down I really hope they don't. They deserve a better fate: hard labour for life with waterboarding, beatings and electric shocks for nightly treats. Why should they miss out on such exquisite pleasures as their political prisoners have enjoyed for decades?

Thursday, October 20, 2011

The "King of All African Kings" is hunted down like an animal

He could have retired in dignity but,  like all despots, he believed his own hubris and met the end that he deserved.

Mr Assad, do not fight the people. Take a good look at this picture, learn from history,  pack your bags and go.

Tuesday, August 09, 2011

The beginning of foreign intervention in Syria

Today's visit to Damascus by Turkey's foreign minister is a watershed in Syria's modern history.

The visit marks the beginning of foreign  intervention in the country to install a new regime and alter the balance of power in the region.  Iran will lose its Syrian protege and Russia will keep its naval base in Tartous.

Turkey is a member of NATO but also capable of playing its own game; it can easily intervene militarily (with NATO's blessing) to help remove Assad while appeasing Russia. Its own prize will be stronger political and economic influence in the region and as a bonus more Kurds will choose to live in Syria rather than Turkey! Israel will cautiously play along if the new regime will be more interested in re-building Syria than recovering the Golan for the next decade or so.

If Assad and his brother are not assasinated in the next few months or  El-Qardaha is not flattened by fighter bombers, Turkey will surely want to establish an exclusion zone deep into northern Syria as a first step towards whipping the Assad clan into submission. The regime has some strong ground troops (essentially two loyal and well-equipped Alawite divisions) but no real air cover and the country can also be "invaded" from the sea and from the east. 

There is always a  heavy price to pay for foreign intervention and no wise and patriotic Syrian wants it. Sadly it is now almost inevitable.  Peaceful protesters and the smattering of anti-regime armed groups are simply incapable of putting an end to the regime's daily murders. Conservative Arab regimes and foreign powers, with their own political agendas, have seen Assad shoot himself in the foot and will now move in for the kill. Perhaps they will be motivated to do it before the economy becomes too much of a liability!

Why can't Assad do the honourable thing, save the nation and his own skin and just quit?

Monday, July 04, 2011

Are we savages beyond compare?

Syrians are peace-loving, hospitable, mild-mannered and generous people, or so our parents and school teachers led us to believe.

This video tells a very different story (please be aware that it contains bloody and distressing scenes).  It makes you feel ashamed of your own identity, history, flag, passport, constitution and everything that the country stands for.  

It makes you question the very foundations of the Syrian state.  Were the French right to divide us up from the very beginning into ungovernable savage mountain people, ignorant farmers and sly and greedy city dwellers? (See 1920s map).

This uprising has brought out the worst and the best in people but it is still very hard to accept that some Syrians can be so barbaric and cruel.  This is precisely what the regime wants us to think and fear.  It wants to remind us of our supposed ugly past and regional and ethnic hatreds and to demonstrate, “by example”, how we would behave towards each other if it collapsed.

Just remember the faces and accents of the militias in this video, which was taken by one of their own gang members in Daraa.  Thankfully it is just a minority but no one should ever be allowed to get away with such ugly crimes against humanity.

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Threat of Turkish invasion suffocates Syrian regime

Western powers, through Turkey, have tried hard to persuade Assad to lead a peaceful transition to a genuine multi-party democracy but failed. They are giving him one last chance despite the intransigence of the primitive savages in his extended family.

The alliance of  Western powers, Israel and conservative Sunni Arab governments would like nothing more than to end Iran’s influence in Syria and Lebanon. If this cannot be done peacefully then Turkey will be happy to oblige militarily on behalf of the alliance.

Turkey has welcomed 13,000 Syrian refugees, not just on humanitarian grounds, but also to give the alliance a pretext for military intervention in Syria if necessary. When the regime was left in no doubt about the alliance’s intentions, it moved swiftly to stem the flood of refugees, cutting off all major roads to Turkey in the border region.

The choice given to Assad and his clan was made crystal clear: make way for a democratic government, and we will guarantee your safety, or die. The threat will work but not until  Damascus and Aleppo have seen a massive popular uprising. The regime has maintained a tight grip on both cities and when small protests have erupted in the suburbs they have been dealt with quickly and with less brutality than that inflicted on other towns and villages. The protests will continue to grow each week and the more people are hurt the more widespread the protests will become and the easier it will be for the Western alliance to intervene.

Iran can do little to protect its protégés in the region. The era of igniting conflicts on the Lebanese/Israeli border at will is over. Such attempts will be catastrophic for both the beleaguered Syrian army and Hizbullah. Missiles or no missiles, neither can cope with a three-pronged attack from the south (Israel), the west (naval forces) and the north (Turkey), not to mention aerial bombardment.

The Syrian regime is all but finished; it is only a matter of time before it implodes or is obliterated. If the Assad tribe still possesses an ounce of intelligence and sanity it should yield to the will of the people now and save its own skin. No despot who sleeps on feathers fights to the end against overwhelming force.

Monday, June 20, 2011

Another ventriloquist speech


Saturday, June 11, 2011

Tuyus jabalieh heading for the slaughterhouse

In Syria we refer to stubborn belligerent idiots as “tuyus jabalieh” or mountain goats. No one can reason with them. They bully, torment, torture and then kill everyone in sight just to prove that they have the firepower and will use it as they please. Yet, when faced with superior power, they do not fight back; they go quiet, squirm and flee. Force is the only language they understand.

The psychopathic Assad family and its close relatives think it is brave to kill the defenceless, mutilate their bodies, bomb their houses, burn their crops and slaughter their animals. Genghis Khan was a brutal warrior; Maher Al Assad is just a coward and spoilt brat with limited intelligence, a bad temper and too much loot soaked with Lebanese and Syrian blood.

Where were he and the rest of the Assad clan when Israeli jets buzzed their palaces in the Alawite Mountains and bombed military sites near Damascus and Deir Al Zor? Have they ever tried to defend the country or fight for the return of the Golan which their father lost through incompetence and stubborn bravado?

Supreme idiocy is in their genes; they are now shooting down their political options one by one, burning their bridges with the civilised world and pushing themselves into a tight corner. In the end they will flee then be pursued and slaughtered. In the meantime many more innocent men women and children will fall victims to the Assads’ insatiable greed and lust for power.

Turkish Prime Minister Erdogan has despaired with them after trying hard to save them from themselves and now even the Israelis are giving up on them as true long-term allies! Their naive message to the West that Syria would descend into chaos if they were to fall does not impress anyone. The world can see through their criminal attempts to ignite sectarian wars in a country that respects diversity and religious freedom. The Iranians, Russians and Chinese all have their own agendas and will be quick to switch sides or find new Syrian allies when the Assads are mortally wounded.

Nor will the Syrian public fall for their lies and pitiful tactic of alternating between brutality and apparent civility; more than 1,500 people have already been murdered in cold blood and when the current show of force in Jisr Al-Shugour is over the regime will again (yawn) offer meaningless concessions then shoot down more protesters.

The people are no longer afraid and many are determined to fight for freedom and avenge the death, torture or incarceration of their relatives, friends and other fellow citizens.

The Genie is out of the bottle and will not calm down until it has consigned this regime and its sympathisers to the dustbin of history.

Friday, June 03, 2011

Can they sink any lower?

Who are those psychopaths who have been let loose by the Assad clan to inflict such barbarity on an innocent child like Hamza Ali al-Khateeb?

Where is the sophisticated Asma Al-Assad now? Is she shopping at Harrods for an expensive new toy for little Hafez?

The poor woman is not my soft target for today after running out of ideas. Her misfortune (or misjudgment) of marrying into such a monsterous feudal family is her's to live with for the rest of her life, but why should the rest of the country?

We never chose to live with these primitive murderous bastards. Of course they are now fighting for survival and we should not be surprised by their desparate acts. The horrific torture and mutilation of a 13-year old child shows clearly that they are losing control of their senses and their hired thugs.

I have absolutely no doubt that the country has now reached the point of no return, that the end of this regime is drawing near and that the final scene will be extremely ugly.

I wish Asma had stuck to her career in investment banking. Not only has she given the regime an air of respectability but also a 10-year lease of life through her persistent charm offensives. Her charm cannot bring Hamza back to life but his death will breath life back into Syria.

Tuesday, May 03, 2011

Turkey yet again sets a good example for Syria

It has been reported that some regime elements are in favour of negotiating with the opposition. They “complain” that there are no visible or credible opposition leaders with whom they can negotiate; hence the only option is a crackdown to restore peace and order and a continuation of the status quo.

Where have we heard this fine line of argument before? Could it be the Israelis who, for 40 years, have ensured that no organised and effective Palestinian opposition could ever grow and develop?

The Turkish President Abdullah Gul says “we hope that a multiparty democratic order will be established in Syria that reflects the will of the people”. Turkish Prime Minister, Erdogan, has been working tirelessly behind the scenes for a number of years to persuade the regime to save itself from an ugly end by peacefully relinquishing its monopoly over power and putting an end to corruption and cronyism at the highest levels, but to no avail. Our Turkish neighbours may have their own long-term economic and political agendas but, unlike fundamentalist Iran, they do want to play a positive and stabilising regional role and support genuine progress next door.

In the last four decades, Syria has been transformed from a fairly efficient, somewhat-idealistic and semi-corrupt one-party state into a feudal principality with extreme concentration of power and wealth and dysfunctional administrative, legal and social institutions. In other words, while other nations have embraced universal values and enlightened development paths Syria has generally gone backwards for 40 years. Ordinary Syrians have survived on state handouts and remittances from relatives living abroad. Any perceptible improvement in their lives has been achieved by them through sweat and blood. This was never going to be sustainable. The regime has survived for so long because it has successfully driven out the urban middle class, co-opted the merchant class and minority religious leaders, fed its sophisticated security apparatus with oil money and kept its rival tribes at bay by awarding them smuggling and other economic licenses.

The Assad clan knew they could not continue to feed the system for ever with oil revenues dwindling and youth unemployment exploding. They have used the Iran card to ward off potential American-Israeli military adventures and blackmail Gulf Arabs. They have used the starry-eyed, London-educated Bashar Assad and his London-born wife as a façade to convince Islamophobic European governments with deep pockets and doubting capitalist investors of their good intentions and modernising instincts. This strategy had, until 8 weeks ago, worked reasonably well and effectively bought them a further 10-year lease of life.

Where do they go from here?

It is difficult to see how a feudal system, complete with war lords like Maher Assad can reform itself peacefully and gracefully. Many oppressed and impoverished Syrians had put up with the system in the hope of better times. Some intellectuals and those who stand to benefit most from genuine political and economic reforms have, until perhaps very recently, been prepared to give the regime the benefit of the doubt. Those in the regime who genuinely want to start a slow and peaceful transition to a (possibly corrupt and fractious) multi-party system may win the argument when the uprising reaches a tipping point and they are faced with the prospect of flight or total annihilation. Unfortunately for them, the dynamics will not change without more blood being shed and their superficial reforms will be dismissed as being too little late and too late. Many humiliated and oppressed Syrians, especially those with murdered relatives, will want their blood and a complete cleansing of the system.

One possible, but as-yet unrealistic and in the long-term undesirable scenario (because it comes with a price tag) is a military coup that eventually leads to better overall democratic outcome than anything modernising elements in the regime can do. Such a coup cannot succeed without some Western and Turkish backing to counter Iranian support of the regime.

The best possible outcome is for patriotic army officers to turn their guns on mountain goats (tuyus jabalieh) like Maher Assad and others like him who are holding the country to ransom and are quite prepared to bring temple down onto all our heads.

Friday, April 22, 2011

Exploding bullets - don't look if you are squeamish

Regime snipers are now firing exploding bullets at innocent civilians, hunting them down like wild animals.

This image is bad enough but the video clip is even more harrowing. The skull of a 10-year old boy has been blown apart scattering his brain all around his body.

This is the same regime that presents itself to the rest of the world as cultured and civilised. It is the same regime that lost the Golan and has not for decades fired a single bullet to liberate it.

Ceaușescu Lite

Dear Asma

Tell your husband to quit. If he and his clan have any sense at all, they should start packing their bags now. South America makes a good hiding place and they accept dollars in most supermarkets.

Your in-laws may have a stubborn streak but they are no martyrs. Men who sleep on feathers do not willingly fall on their swords.

It is over, run before the angry crowds tear you and your family apart. I'd really hate to see you on the front cover of Vogue again, dressed in black.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Syria's baboons & stubborn mountain goats

The second half of This short amateur video was captured in Banias (a small town in northern Syria). It shows how blatant, sadistic and vindictive regime thugs can be.

This second video was posted on Facebook. The beatings and torture are all too evident on the faces and backs of these brave men from Banias.

Unfortunately for Syrians, the stubborn mountain goats that have ruled the country for 40 years will not give in until they have brought the country to its knees and murdered thousands of innocent civilians. The fools among the Assad clan (and they are in the majority) have had many chances to reform and repent but have chosen the path of arrogance, domination, greed and destruction. It is now too late. The popular uprising is unstoppable and we are staring at the abyss.

The battle ground is widening and foreign powers are beginning to exploit the instability to their own advantage. They are encouraging and funding the religious and political factions that will best serve their own strategic interests. Iran has already mobilised Hizballah with instructions to destabilise Lebanon or ignite another war with Israel as a warning shot to Western powers and conservative Sunni rulers in the region.

Syria's despotic regime is betting on its ability to crush the uprising and trigger a major international conflict in the face of existential threat. Only a regime implosion or an army coup, led by patriotic and secular generals, can save Syria from a worse fate than that of Iraq.

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Syria needs a military coup and Turkish-style democracy

The popular uprising in Syria will spiral out of control and rivers of blood will flow unless Assad's brothers and cousins are stripped of their powers immediately and put under house arrest and the army is deployed in force in all the main population centres.

That of course is pure fantasy. Assad is too weak among his clan; the higher echelons of the armed forces have been corrupted or rendered powerless under the watchful eyes of military intelligence. Some have been compromised through Iranian indoctrination and infiltration. The arrival of two Iranian warships at the port of Latakia on 25 February, in the wake of the Tunisian and Egyptian uprising, was probably no coincidence.

The current war of attrition between the regime's special units and the demonstrators can only escalate. Empty promises of reform, official media lies and the shooting of unarmed civilians will simply inflame public anger and lead to the destruction of property and violent acts of revenge.

There is no credible force in Syria except the army. Patriotic officers cannot however mobilise their units until the regime begins to implode and its intelligence networks start to break down through widespread public revolt.

Deploying the army in population centres now can give Assad breathing space to lift the state of emergency and proceed quickly with implementing real democratic multi-party reforms, leading to a new constitution. Unfortunately, this looks highly unlikely as the regime has always been fearful of a military coup and Assad does not seem able to prevail over his uncompromising and greedy clan (most of whom have already secured their families' future for decades ahead by amassing vast international fortunes and obtaining foreign passports).

The road to a truly representative, civilian and non-sectarian government in Syria will be traumatic and tortuous. Such a government will not see the light of day or survive for long without the protection of an uncompromised and patriotic army. Turkey provides a good government model for Syria but sadly much blood will be spilled before the country emerges from the dark age of dictatorship and endemic corruption.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Assad - the beginning of the end

Look at me, says sweet Assad, do I look like a tyrant and a killer? My witnesses were God and Buthaina when I ordered the special units not to fire a single bullet at the demonstrators in Dara'a. Yes, 37 dead but it was all a terrible mistake, the dumb policemen just went too far.

I have been crying out for reforms ever since I returned from London but my stubborn and ignorant clan would not let me go down that path. Today though, I have triumphed over them. I can now press on with implementing all the radical reform plans that I have kept in my top drawer for many years: no emergency laws, no censorship, no one-party system, no kangaroo courts, no unemployment and what's more I am increasing your salaries by 30% straight away. Isn't this good news? There really is no reason for you to demonstrate and cause more trouble. Keep me in power for ever and I will look after you for ever. You will bask in freedom and wealth and life will be just wonderful from now on.

After the long stick, quickly came the carrot. The declaration of good intentions is a super-sized carrot dangled in front of an angry crowd. Far too quick and too good to believe. The purpose is crystal clear: to pacify and divide the Syrian people and pre-empt a major nation-wide uprising.

Will he deliver, can he deliver? The regime recognizes danger when it sees it and just has to do something. Assad will move quickly to present a reformist facade at home and abroad but proceed at a snail's pace in delivering anything real that can make a material difference to people's lives. Too much damage has been done to the country's social and moral fabric, institutions and infrastructure to be able deliver enough real jobs for the unemployed and under-employed millions to lift them out of poverty.

Syria needs US$80 billion of investment per year but is now getting just US$2.0 billion! Even if the world was persuaded to invest such a colossal amount in the country, not much of it would trickle down to the young man and woman in the street. Much of the investment over the last decade has been "taxed" away by the regime and its cronies. Is this likely to change? Perhaps but chances are any genuine change will be too little and too late.

Still, I am hopeful. Assad himself has good survival instincts but acts as a somewhat comic benevelont dictator with not enough money or real power among his clan or the mad dogs whom he depends on to protect the regime. The Syrian people are not stupid. They have learned all the tricks the regime has employed in the last 40 years to deceive them and deprive them of their liberty, deny them a dignified existence and rob them of their creative potential. The people do not want bloodshed and sectarian conflicts but have now broken down the wall of fear and the wall of silence. They will be no less vigilant and determined to see real reforms through than the good people of Egypt and Tunisia.

Let us never forget the 37 innocent citizens of Dara'a who have been murdered. All they were trying to do is make Syria a better country for their children and all of us.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Syrian regime bushy tailed but claws not yet out

The recent events in Tunisia, Egypt, Bahrain and Yemen and several street protests in Syria have put the regime on high alert.

Assad and his inner circle are confident they can keep the protests small and manageable and prevent a widespead revolution. They are probably right. The tools at their disposal are many and formidable: the extensive intelligence networks that permeate every neighbourhood and organisation in the land, threats, arrests, brute force, media manipulation, mobilisation of mouthpieces and loyal community leaders at home and abroad, bribery, insincere dialogue with protesters and calculated sabotage of peaceful demonstrations, as happened in Dara'a, to provide a pretext for intervention and to scare the silent majority into submission. In desparation they can even let off bombs in city centres or provoke a clash with Israel in Lebanon or the Golan with backing from Iran if necessary.

The regime is smart enough to make this a painful and long game whose ultimate goal is to throw a large enough piece of meat to the hungry protesters while digging its claws deeper into our flesh. The Syrian people are however smart enough to wear the regime down through patience, calmness and determination.

A dictatorship will always make mistakes because it pays people who are not so smart to keep it safe and because its control networks usually break down as chaos ensues in more than one location simultaneously. When serious mistakes are made the situation can spiral out of control with unpredictable and violent consequences.

The best outcome is not a revolution, a massacre or a bleeding to death of the regime or the protesters through chaos and violent clashes. The best outcome is for the regime to reform before it destroys the country or gets annihilated.

It is true that there is no organised opposition of any significance at home or abroad. The regime has made sure of that. However, ordinary Syrians have the power to persuade the regime to opt for peaceful change by continuing to protest peacefully, by making simple, realistic and clear demands (such as more jobs, better housing, freedom of expression, sacking of corrupt officials..etc) and by showing restraint and determination to be heard and not be intimated by threats or brute force.

Assad is at once a culprit and a victim of dictatorship. This explains why he has not delivered on his promises of reform since the Damascus Spring and why he has yielded to pressure from the hard-headed and power-crazed idiots that surround him. He and his wife have predictably yielded to the allure of the cult of personality which leads to delusions of invincibility; they have truly come to believe that the adulation of the masses is genuine and that together they personify resistance against the enemies of Arab nationalism, modernity and technological progress. How could the Syrian people not trust or love them?

Most likely the regime is entrapped in its own delusions and fears and simply incapable of reform but it would be a great mistake to seek to wound it fatally through a widespread and violent uprising. The consequences of violence on all sides are too ugly to contemplate. The regime must be given yet another chance to change from within. Frequent, coordinated, low-level and non-violent protests in as many population centres in the country as possible stand a better chance of succeeding than any other means.

No sane Syrian wants a Libyan-style solution to dictatorship but equally no Syrian dictator has lost his sanity so completely as to ignore the writing on the wall.

Why is out of action at this time?

It is rather curious that has been down since the troubles/demonstrations in Syria began about a week ago. The site provides links to many Syrian blogs which disseminate news and general commentary from within and outside Syria. The blogs reflect a wide spread of opinions on events in the country and are therefore a good barometer of political and non-political sentiment.

A "cached" link to the site is still operational and visitors can therefore access the long list of Syrian blogs via this link: (cached link)

Is it the sheer weight of traffic or something more sinister that has put it out of action at this time?

Friday, March 04, 2011

We saw the Arab revolutions coming

By Wadah Khanfar, Al Jazeera's Director General

(extract & comment):

"On February 11, the day Hosni Mubarak stepped down as president of Egypt, Al Jazeera faced a welcome dilemma: Scenes of elation were playing out not just in Cairo but throughout the region, and even with our vast network of journalists, we found it difficult to be everywhere at once. From North Africa to the Arabian Peninsula, Arabs were celebrating the reclamation of their self-confidence, dignity and hope.

The popular revolutions now sweeping the region are long overdue. Yet in some ways, they could not have come before now. These are uprisings whose sons and daughters are well educated and idealistic enough to envision a better future, yet realistic enough to work for it without falling into despair. These revolutions are led by the Internet generation, for whom equality of voice and influence is the norm. Their leaders' influence is the product of their own effort, determination and skill, unconstrained by rigid ideologies and extremism.

It is now clear to all that the modern, post-colonial Arab state has failed miserably, even in what it believed it was best at: Maintaining security and stability. Over the decades, Arab interior ministers and police chiefs devoted enormous resources and expertise to monitoring and spying on their own people. Yet now, the security machineries in Tunisia, Egypt and Libya have disintegrated in short order, while the rest of the authoritarian and repressive regimes in the region can see the writing on the wall.

These revolutions have exposed not just the failure of traditional politicians but also the moral, political and economic bankruptcy of the old Arab elites. Those elites not only attempted to control their own people, but also sought to shape and taint the views of news media in the region and across the world."

This article first appeared in The Washington Post then Al Jazeera's website.


"...while the rest of the authoritarian and repressive regimes in the region can see the writing on the wall"

In Syria, the government has attempted to buy time and pre-empt street protests by bribing millions of government employees (including in particular the security services) with massive pay rises that can only result in higher inflation and worsening conditions for the rest of the population.

The regime certainly does see the writing on the wall but believes it can nip any rebellion in the bud and outsmart the population. Over the last 40 years, it has been successful by systematically eliminating opponents and applying the Chinese model of alternating between strong repression and milder repression. The result has been a hollowing out of the nation of basic ingredients for real economic, technological and cultural progress. Revolution will eventually come but unfortunately it will be bloodier, uglier and more protracted than the Libyan one.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

The Libyan womaniser & megalomaniac goes trigger happy

Young Arabs have a lot to thank Tim Berners-Lee and Julian Assange for.

No longer will self-appointed psychopaths like Gaddafi, who has held on to power for 42 years, be able to prevent desparate Arab youths from taking control of their own lives. The Internet has brought information democracy into their own bedrooms and images of how other, less fortunate but healthier, societies live and breathe.

Power corrupts; absolute power corrupts absolutely and oil-funded absolute power gives birth to delusional megalomaniacs. Only God knows how much pain and suffering a pathetic man like Gaddafi, and tens of thousands of brain-washed and trigger-happy militias, can inflict on a defenceless civilian population.

Despots never learn from history nor do they believe that their subjects could possibly stop worshiping and glorifying them. Aleady more than 100 in Baida and Benghazi are dead and hundreds are injured. More tragedies will undoubtedly follow.

The best thing the Libyan people can do for their leader now is to drive him deep into the Sahara desert and leave him there with a tent and 42 goats.

Wednesday, February 02, 2011

Mubarak out but tyranny lives on

Mubarak's days are numbered. Whether he personally authorised the regime's thugs to attack protesters in Tahrir Square yesterday is neither here or there. He will be booted out by the people and the Americans, but there is no regime change in Egypt.

The army is firmly in charge and its current chiefs all have very strong and deep-rooted links with the US, especially Vice President Omar Sulaiman (72) and Field Marshal Hussein Tantawi, Commander in Chief of the Armed Forces and Minister of Defense (74). The army will have to give some ground to the opposition groups in coming months but there will be no change of policy towards the US or Israel.

Ordinary Egyptians are unlikely to gain much from the fall of Mubarak. Food and fuel prices may be cut and the unemployed may receive some handouts in coming months but political and economic power will remain concentrated in the hands of army and business elite loyal to the US. The army will no doubt yield to opposition demands for a degree of power sharing, to include the Muslim Brotherhood, but will do so only to appease the masses and hypoctritical Western governments with deep pockets.

Real change in Egypt will be painfully slow for the majority. Rebuilding democratic institutions and accountable state machiney takes at least two generations. The army will continue to play on peoples' fears of instability and external threats and wield huge influence over the political system.

Without an end to the Arab-Israeli conflict, the Middle East cannot easily shake off the tyranny of autocracy and theocracy. Egypt's and Syria's regimes thrive on it while desparate Muslim youths sacrifice their lives thinking they can make the world better for their parents and brothers and sisters but succeed only in sowing fear in the minds of the middle classes and Western powers. The spotaneous explosion of anger on the streets of Tunis and Cairo shows that at least young Arabs are not walking zombies and that there is nothing to fear except fear itself. Hopefully this will translate into real, albeit slow, change in the right direction for the region.

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Assad is nervous, claim Israeli spies

(Shamelessly copied from an Israeli blog):

Syria's Assad nervous about Tunisia-style uprising

From Intelligence Online (registration required):
The intelligence services in Syria are doing everything possible to prevent a copycat uprising in the country, following the overthrow of Ben Ali in Tunisia.

President Bashar Al Assad held a meeting with the principal as well as regional heads of Syria’s security services on January 16. On the agenda was how to ensure that the current wave of opposition in Tunisia, Algeria and Egypt does not spread to Syria’s streets.

In a bid to preempt unrest, Assad ordered a crack-down on corrupt officials. He also told the security services to position their officers in meeting places throughout the country, in the souks and in town centres, ready to deal swiftly with any demonstrations of opposition. Military security was also told to increase the pace with which it takes down satellite TV dishes (IOL 632).

The various units in charge of phone tapping are going to increase their presence in call centres, and they are going to set up an emergency plan that, in case of trouble, will isolate a village, a town or even a region from the rest of the fixed and mobile telephony network.

On January 17, Assad took a highly rare meeting with Interior Minister Saed Samour, police officials from the different regions and the heads of Criminal Security branches: usually, the president only takes meetings with the interior minister and the head of Political Security.
If Assad is good at anything, it is staying in power.

Washington Bribes Corrupt Egyptian Generals

An Egyptian military delegation visiting its paymasters in Washington two days ago was told not to intimidate the population, ease Mubarak out of office and take control. The delegation was promised additional financial and material support to enable an interim military government to introduce partial political reforms, cut food prices and help the unemployed.

In other words, Washington and the Israeli lobby are trying to buy more time and prevent the complete meltdown of a client state.

A slightly cleaner and more nationalistic government would probably open the Raffah crossing to Gaza and threaten to revoke the peace agreement with Israel, thus costing Washington and Israel a great deal more to appease and fund. That would be a good medium term outcome for starving ordinary Egyptians but not sustainble politically or economically. The nation wants radical change. Until the majority is lifted out of poverty, it is unlikely that any future government will enjoy popularity or stability.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

The oppressed finally take to the streets

Tunisia and now Egypt. Mubarak's regime will not crack that easily; the Israelis , Americans and local army chiefs and business barons are firmly behind it.

The demonstrations have built up some momentum but change in Egypt can only come about when people take to the streets in their millions and paralyse the country for weeks not days.

What have they got to lose and who cares what comes after the chaos? Could it possibly be any worse than the decades-long humiliation, subjugation and near-starvation of a great nation by an aging despot backed by foreign enemies?

In Syria, we of course have our own home-grown little despot regime. While it has plundered, mismanaged and abused the country for a whole generation it has at least shied away from becoming a total stooge of any foreign power. I call this smart but not smart enough. One day young Syrians too will take to the streets out of sheer frustration with corruption, lack of freedom and lack of jobs. An oppressive regime cannot continue to feed itself and all of the hungry people at the same time!