(Note; This blog post referred to a statement released by the Syrian National Coalition on February 19th 2014. The statement has since been removed from the coalition’s website, but its substance can still be read here)
The Syrian National Coalition recently released a statement denouncing what it perceived to be Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s media exploitation of Israel’s medical care for wounded Syrian in the Golan area.
Calling it “nothing more than a publicity gimmick”, the statement from the SNC’s media center went on to say that “the Israeli entity stood against the Syrian uprising from the start”, and that wounded Syrian civilians were “forcedly [sic] taken to Israeli hospitals and are being employed today for marketing their political agenda”.
This one press release by the SNC may very well prove to be one of the most self-damaging statements ever released by a political organization. Not only did the SNC fall into a trap by reacting hastily to goading from its opponents, but by denouncing an act of charity that has saved so many Syrian lives, even from a country that has historically been an adversary to Syria, the SNC has very much called into question the Syrian political opposition’s ability to engage in any post-conflict reconciliation with those communities that stood with the regime during the war. If you can’t even bring yourself to say thank you to medical aid from Israel, how on earth are you ever going to bring yourself to meet the greater challenge of living and let live with those Syrians who fought for the regimw over the years. To say nothing of the vindication of those parties very much against any sort of help to the Syrian opposition, whom those parties see as potential adversaries in the future.
The Huffington Post recently published an article by Jeffrey Sachs, Director of the Earth Institute at Columbia University calling for the United States and the international community to drop its demand that Assad relinquish power, viewing it as the main reason the conflict has dragged on for so long. On Twitter, Sachs has elaborated on his viewpoint, claiming that all Bashar Assad wants is to preserve his rule, and that if the Syrian people just surrendered and acquiesced to living under thirty more years of his family’s tyranny, then the terrible bloodshed in Syria would stop overnight.
On a practical level, there are two main problems with Sachs’s suggestion that the Syrian people surrender to Assad so as to spare themselves anymore of his bloody repression. First, Sachs commits the cardinal sin that so many other “anti-establishment” Lefists have committed when talking about Syria; ridiculously exaggerating and inflating the USA’s role and influence on events in Syria.
Second, Sachs seems to be oblivious to the fact that some towns and villages in the country did indeed try exactly what he is suggesting, the foremost being my own hometown of Telkelakh. Today, ninety percent of its inhabitants have been made refugees, scattered all over the region, the fallout from a truce the regime blatantly broke in the summer of 2013.
For reasons I have yet to understand, alot of people seem to be finding the blog through Google searches for Western Union branches in Istanbul. So, as a service to yabanjees looking to send or receive remittances in this lovely city, here is a short, to the point guide on how Western Union works in Istanbul.
In the runup to the Geneva 2 peace talks, there was widespread speculation that the opposition team at the negotiations lacked the leverage and influence among rebel brigades on the ground in Syria, to make any agreement meaningful (a point that became moot as the talks concluded with no agreements whatsoever having been reached).
And yet recent events on the ground in Homs, where a UN and Red Crescent aid convoy to besieged rebel areas was shelled and shot up by regime shabihas in the city, and the murder of the British doctor Abbas Khan, just mere hours before his scheduled release from the regime jails, clearly indicate that far from being a president in firm control of his intelligence services and militiamen, Bashar Assad is a man who finds himself trapped by a narrative of his own making.
By failing to defeat an opposition he has consistently painted as posing an existential threat to his own Alawite constituency, a narrative that has also made impossible even minor confidence building measures such as permitting aid to the besieged rebel areas, and the release of high profile prisoners such as Dr Khan, measures which could have been built on to eventually ensure a political arrangement to end the conflict, Assad has trapped himself in a course of action that can only end in one way; his death at the hands of his fellow Alawites.
Within the past forty-eight hours, Bashar Assad’s helicopter gunships and warplanes have unleashed yet more indiscriminate bombings on the city of Aleppo and the Damascus countryside, on a scale not seen since the German Blitz on London in WW2. The civilian death toll from air attacks just for the three days of February now stands at 111, more than double the number deaths from other sources.
While civilian opposition areas get battered by Assad’s barrel bombs on a daily basis, just as frequently opposition towns are targeted by the homicidal suicide bombers of ISIS, a terrorist outfit so extreme, so deep into collusion with the regime, that even Al-Qaeda’s affiliates in Syria want nothing to do with it.
The “Geneva II Peace Talks” utterly failed to deliver on peace, and by the time of Geneva III,Geneva IV, Geneva XVI, ISIS will have taken control of those parts of Syria Assad has not turned into rubble. The times demand drastic action, if the world is to be spared a Syria divided between the extremism of the Assad regime, and the extremism of ISIS. For the sake of the country, the region and ultimately the world, Assad’s airforce must be obliterated down to the last aircraft and helicopter.
Yesterday, the political program “BBC This Week” aired an opinion segment by the Syrian-British TV producer Halla Diyab. Diyab, who holds a Ph.D from Leicester University, used the segment to express her horror and disgust at the UK government’s recent decision, to accept the relocation of five hundred of the most vulnerable Syrian women and children refugees to the United Kingdom.
Of all the things there are in the world to be outraged about, Diyab had to go and get mad over assistance to refugees, proving yet again what a wonderful litmus test of one’s true morality and humanity the Syrian conflict has proven to be, as yet another fake “moderate” and “liberal” is exposed for the prejudiced bigot she actually is.
In the past week, discussions about Syria have shifted to the possibility of the implementation of local “truces” between the regime and rebel areas, the idea being that both sides would adhere to a cease-fire, and free movement of goods and people would be permitted across the front lines.
To gauge the feasibility and long term viability of such localized ceasefires, it would be helpful if there were past examples of such agreements between the regime and a rebel area; some instance where an understanding was reached to suspend the fighting, to allow steps towards reconciliation to be taken. Past agreements and their outcomes would be immensely useful to inform and guide the recent discussion on the possibility of any future “truces”.
Fortunately, we do actually have such an example of a past truce; the ceasefire in my home village of Telkelakh in early 2013.
Professor Joshua Landis is one of the most respected and highly regarded analysts on Syria and the Middle East. Having studied in Syria for a time, he married from Syria, and has been an expert on the country for decades. He runs the very highly respected website Syria Comment.
Professor Landis was kind enough to post an article I wrote regarding some of my observations during eighteen months of living in Tartous.
Yesterday, the New York Times newspaper published yet another article on “disillusioned Syrian activists”. These kinds of pieces have been cropping up all over the place in recent months. They follow a pretty standard format; so and so who wont give his real name felt betrayed because the Islamists “hijacked” the revolution. Such and such experienced corruption and looting among some revo groups and so decided to leave the country for a visa to Sweden. Flan ibn flan lost hope after the regime didn’t just roll over and die after seeing the awesome power of thirty man demonstrations in some Damascus side-street of a side-street.
Now, these kinds of articles have become so common that they’ve become cliched. But for the next week, the NYT’s article is going to be retweeted ad nauseam by Assad’s Leftist and socialist and “I-blame-da-man-for-everything-wrong-in-my-life” groupies. And so…here we go again. Again. Especially as, on closer inspection, there’s really next to nothing in the article that the pro-regime supporters can take comfort from.
In the past five years, I’ve lived in no less than six different countries in the Middle East. When you’re always on the move, with no permanent home to call your own, you always have to consider carefully what to keep, and what to discard.
The one possession I’ve kept with me since my high school days in Saudi Arabia, has been my Sony FM-medium-shortwave radio. Having spent almost my entire life in the Middle East, my radio has always been essential to me when news was limited, censored or in the case of Syria, I was cut off from the very infrastructure of a modern society (you know, things like electricity and communications).
During the first Gulf War, my radio helped me keep up to date on all the news, and bypass the censored and sanitized local news sources. During my university days in Jordan, it helped me keep up with the BBC’s coverage of football matches.