Was it Worth it?

Having followed the arguments on Joshua’s blog over the lat few days, I find myself finally temped to attempt my own debunking of the thesis he expounded on Creative Syria and which assigns an A to the Assads on matters of security. But I shall brief.

First, it should be clear by now, and we have indeed debated this matter on this blog on numerous occasions (for instance here, here and here), that the minoritarian character of the Assad regime has served to erode the very practical inter-communal arrangements and institutions, not to mention the overall spirit of tolerance, that made this part of the Middle East, that was haphazardly amalgamated into the modern state of Syria, a bit less prone to communal violence. Meanwhile, the Assads have so far failed to propose any alternative arrangement for inter-communal relations other than their illegitimate, authoritarian, cliquish and corrupt rule. Indeed, the Assads are not even remotely interested in providing a framework for the emergence of such an alternative, exactly because they know very well that it will add another layer of illegitimacy to their rule and will eventually spell their doom.

As such, the security that the Assads have provided for us had a very heavy price and came at the expense of everything else.

The most visible and heart-wrenching price is, of course, the more than 30,000 that were reported dead and the 17,000 that were reported missing in the “events” of the mid 70s and early 80s, and the more than 50,000 who paid a little unscheduled “visit to their aunt’s place” as they say (that is, to prison for those who are not too familiar with Syrian slang), with all the trimmings (i.e. torture) and with some of them staying for as long as 30 years.

But the list also includes: civil rights, the economy, development, hell, even sovereignty (for the Assads have to take some, if not a lot, of blame for the Golan Heights, after all, Assad Sr. was Defense Minister when it was lost and he never managed to get it back when he was President. Indeed, as I noted I my own post on Creative Syria, the “late Syrian President Hafiz al-Assad, for all his alleged foresight, has sought and failed throughout the 90s to get a deal that he could have had way back in 1978.”)

So, I guess, it is only fair to ask whether the kind of “security” delivered by the Assads was indeed worth the price that was paid for it. I, for one, don’t think so. I, for one, think that we could have found other ways to maintain our security and ensure stability of our country without having had to put up with an authoritarian regime and to sacrifice our basic right to “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.”

The Assads had the choice not to deprive us of this right, but they did not take it. The security they delivered pertained mostly to their survival and the advancement of their interests, not to ours. But they do get an A on that indeed.

50 thoughts on “Was it Worth it?

  1. Ammar, you are right that Joshua was a bit too generous to “Syria” in that article, for example he made Israel totally responsible for ALL the casualties in the west bank, because they controlled it, whereas he did not apply the same rules to Syria which controlled parts of Lebanon for many years (to a lesser extent) … so I agree the numbers are not that one-sided.Now, here is the part which should start a nice discussion here:My very non-scientific ongoing poll of any Syrian I know tells me that so many Syrians are thankful to the regime for that aspect at least … Damascus is indeed one of the safest cities in the world, and despite all the legendary stories about the scary moukhabarat, your friend in Damascus did a good job of greatly reducing the visibility of those security apparatus members without losing control, despite what is going on in Lebanon and Iraq.One can give them good marks for things like managing the sudden total withdrawal of the Syrian army from Lebanon without any visible disturbances in the army .. remember for example how many Syrian opponents in Lebanese and Kuwaiti press predicted that the regime would not survive the anger in the army following the humiliating withdrawal from Lebanon?Many Syrians used to doubt at some point if that security was worth the price …. When the whole mideast was doing well security wise during Clinton’s early years for example, Syrians were wondering why is Syria still loaded with intelligence and security agencies.But after the way Syria held so well despite the war next door, and the controlled withdrawal from Lebanon, many now are more inclined to appreciate their superior security.

  2. I admit the regime was adroit at brainwashing the people, a people who wanted with their all their might to believe, hence to be brainwashed. We all had our moments in our youth when we though the world of our leader Hafiz al-Assad, when we were actually proud of him. But, some people choose to face the real music while they dance, others, filled with so much insecurity, prefer to dance to their own illusions, not to mention toe that were handed down to them. We do indeed have our work cut out for us to reverse this brainwashing. Alex: “your friend in Damascus did a good job of greatly reducing the visibility of those security apparatus members without losing control, despite what is going on in Lebanon and Iraq.”Indeed, he did so, in Damascus. But not Qamishly. Hell, not even in Lattakia. We often fall into the trap of reducing Syria to Damascus. I, occasionally, do to. But, this not what’s really out there. What’s out there is much more complex than you and I think or would like think. Alex: “One can give them good marks for things like managing the sudden total withdrawal of the Syrian army from Lebanon without any visible disturbances in the army.”The Syrian army is nothing. We only have a few workable divisions directly controlled by the Assads, and whose sole purpose is to defend their rule. So long as the key figures in these divisions are still receiving their benefits, and so long as some trickle down mechanism is still at work internally, there is no reason why these divisions should not remain loyal to their masters. Indeed, the Assads were always good at providing security for their rule and their grip on power, but this is not the same as provide security for the country. If there is going to insecurity in the country, the Assads will be the major source of it, much like in the good old 70s and 80s. Most Syrians, including the Alawites, were afraid of the wantonness of Rifaat’s Defense Brigades than they were with the bombs of the Brotherhood. Alex: “But after the way Syria held so well despite the war next door, and the controlled withdrawal from Lebanon, many now are more inclined to appreciate their superior security.”Syria held so well, because the Syrian regime was responsible for channeling the mayhem to Iraq. But let me put it this way, Syria is holding well these days because, so far, no group is seeking to really destabilize it on the inside, not in a violent sense anyway. Let’s hope and pray that we don’t have to see the day when the Assad security apparatuses have to go after a real threat to the security of the country, because, believe me, they will fail miserably. Don’t they fail each time Israel carries out a little something inside Damascus, like assassinate a certain Hamas figure in Damascus a few months ago? You might want to check the latest entry in my Arabic blog, Zandaqa, in this regard well.

  3. Ok, here is an annoying thing that I don’t know the explanation for. These days I make it a practice to take opportunities to talk to random syrian people online…(who i guess respond because they wonder why a strange american girl name ‘Zenobia’ of all things is talking to them. Anyhow, after a certain period of introduction and chat, I generally get to a where i ask them what they think of the government, politics, and the president. I hate to break the news, but in almost every case, the person was critical of the government functioning to a degree (certainly in the past), and definitely objected to human rights abuses, but overwhelmingly they defend Bashar Assad (and that is even if they have a negative view of the regime as a whole). There is an extraordinary amount of hope attached to this man, for some mysterious reason. And people trust him, and believe that he is a big improvement over his father. I then started asking all my relatives in Syria too, and was shocked to find the same results…despite their abhorence of the ongoing corruption..and economic failures, they still think Bashar Assad is not to blame. Most of the persons I was speaking to (and including my relatives) are seemingly average middle class citizens…not elites by any means. Anyhow, perhaps this is what is meant by saying that the population is simply not discontent enough to want a total unheaval of the govt, and certainly not an outside driven overthrow. At the same time, I dont’ think this means that the citizenry doesn’t want democratic practices to be established or that they don’t dramatically protest against human rights abuses.

  4. Hi Zenobia, we are all insomniac I guess. Indeed, it is fascinating about Bashar, isn’t it? The \man is a total moron, ut people still defend him. But you know why. Because if people stopped defending him, they will have to come face to face with the ugly reality they are dealing with and, more importantly, with the more ugly responsibility that they have to do something about it. There is also the little thing in our collective unconscious that teaches us to remain at awe vis-à-vis the ruler/caliph/sultan/emir/president. It’s not that easy to completely shake off this idea. Still, personally, I put more stress on the first part of my argument.

  5. Ammar, Zenobia is west coast … the rest of us are east coast!:)I have a 4Am type of question: Since we have Zenobia the psychologist here, what do you think is the effet (if any) of your “moron” label .. if this blog’s content reaches him sometimes?I agree by the way with Zenobia … I know some people who used to totally hate his father but they love Bashar.And my grand mother loves him.But you have to consider that unique case: the regiem is mostly not popular, the presdient is very popular .. people do not want to punish the president even if they got fed up with the regime.

  6. Zenobia, Ammar,Yep, they think Bashar is not to blame. And I am sure they do not blame themselves.It’ s the fault of that man, right there, behind the curtain.Dementia is alive and well in Syria, Lebanon and the region at large.

  7. The grotesque measure of death per capita suggested by Joshua Landis is an idea that is based on flawed logic and that will never ever be taken seriously by anyone antwhere in this world. I am so certain that this concept will result in outright condemnation of its author and that in this case even Mr. Landis’ standing as an academic will be tarnished beyond repair.If one is to use say 1/100 deaths as an acceptable measure then what we are in effect suggesting is that individual human rights are dispensable for the good of the political dictator. But what is worse is that such a measure places much less value on human life in a large political entity than a smaller one. This means that in a country of say 1.5 billion people executing 15,000,000 is deemed acceptable when compared to say 10,001 in a coutry of 1 million.When a global warming study suggested that the “statistical value” of a human life is to be taken into consideration in determining the kind of policies to adopt in combatting global warming it was attacked, villified and rejected by the international community. The idea of death per capita is theproduct of a sick mind, a mind bent on reverse engineering, decide what outcome you prefer and then find a justification for it. Joshua Landis has lost the right to be taken seriously.

  8. The big majority people hate bashar but there is the usual hypocrisy that exist in such countries, they think it’s better to beg for their natural rights than to be confronted to the reality and the risk of a high risk uprising.But for sure ,if asad is toppled no one syrian will die for him.

  9. It’s soooo easy to criticize and while much of the criticism might be valid. I only hear how we could have been better if this and that happened. But in reality the most pragmatic examples to what Syria might have become, if the Assads did not come to power, would be Syria’s “brotherly” countries. So can anyone here please humor me and tell me which Arabic state can be a superior model that we can envy/follow? thanks in advance Tarekhttp://innocent-criminal.blogspot.com/

  10. Well, I am about to become East Coast for a month- as of tomorrow, so i will have to work harder to keep up in the middle of the night! anyhow, it seems like there are a number of things at play to explain my findings. (And unless I am asking the wrong people, i think anonymous is wrong – the majority of people do not hate Bashar…..) They actually defend him in one part…with the ‘well, he is much better than what we had’ argument. But in addition, they really seems to sympathize with him… or like! him as a person. That is what it seems. I mean I almost what to compare it to George W. Bush – who also is like the teflon president for a huge portion of americans… despite his obvious limitations… in huge part because people identify with some aspect of his personality (his anti-intellectualism?) and LIKE him.And to add a little bit of confession here….. When I saw Bashar Assad on Charlie Rose, I found that I LIKED HIM! I mean it was disconcerting, but truthfully – I felt that he came off very mild and amiable. All laughing and speaking in this polite manner. I was thinking…’aaawww that guy wouldn’t order anybody to be killed…..he’s so good natured’. As well, I have interviewed a lot of people for the purpose of assessing their personality, (and yes, this was not a private interview but one plastered all over the western world…but still) I have to say – he got an A+ for presentation. He is either an amazing actor or coached extremely well….or ….he really truly believes in himself, or he is a absolute contradiction. I will put my money on the last two descriptions. For this reason, it doesn’t matter who calls him a moron. The proof is in the pudding. People defend him.And I think both reasons Ammar cited are important explanations, plus something Josey Wales implied. One, syrians are very big on loyalty (i am learning)…or something like obediance to authority and status. So, they don’t want to abandon the King, so to speak. Two, (and yes more importantly) they don’t want to face reality and have to take responsibility for taking any action. Three, I noticed that Syrians are a very paranoid culture. (sorry if i offend anyone here, but it is undeniable. ) People are convinced of the “man behind the curtain” – as Josey Wales put it – who is the cause of all problems. People are highly inclined to believe in amazing amounts of conspiracy to a fetishizing level. (Did you guys see the comment from ‘Lebanese Geeks.com in the comments section of Landis’ Michael Young Post??? that type of thing blows my mind)But the paranoia is clearly defensive again. If one supposes a grand master conspiracy that predetermines or controls everything, then there is nothing to do. I think there is indeed a high degree of victimhood in the mentality of the syrian people, and I am not saying that it might be for valid reasons or a natural product – given the history. But it is nonetheless, a horribly self-sabotaging collective psychological phenomenon.

  11. Zenobia, it is not only in interviews, Bashar has been polite and excessively modest all his life … Here is what happens when he goes to a restaurant on the weekend.Some think he is acting, but at the age of 16 he was also respecting a lineup like anyone else in Syria (more than anyone else)Syrians want him to succeed. It is a mistake to experct a Nicolae Ceauşescu ending.Those who advocate Democracy in Syria are partly right in pushing hard for that to happen soon. If Bashar managed to improve the standard of living in a dramatic way, a majority of Syrians will not bother at all to follow up on the democracy thing… security and good economy will do.Of course things will change if they somehow prove he ordered the Hariri murder (they found nothing yet) or if the economy deteriorates quickly … And that might be the indirect way to topple him … by applying constant outside pressure to keeep him busy with outside threats, he will fail economically and the Syrians will not want him anymore.

  12. You know who, I think excessive public use of the “moron” label is what got me to the East coast. Be that as it may, I think Bashar does indeed believe in himself, excessively so if you ask me, I hope this excessive belief in oneself will get Bashar to the East Coast as well, or at least as far as The Hague. Indeed, it is not going to be easy to get people in Syria to the point where they are going to hate Bashar personally, hence the need to expose his darker side, which is not really that difficult to do if we have the right access to the media. Arab media so far still avoid taking on leaders in any direct manner, not even al-Hurra will do that. This is the real essence of our problem in this regard. We can formulate a message that can debunk the myth surrounding any number of Arab leaders, provided that we have the right continuous access to the media. Blogging and old-style pamphleteering might go a certain way still, but, who is really reading these days. No, you cannot beat the visual media’s effect in this game. IC, no Arab country might be better off than Syria, but that still does not get the Assads off the hook. They screwed up Syria. They will not the only ones, but since this happened on their watch and as a result of much of their policies, they have to bear the brunt of the blame. This is the price for consolidating power in your hand. You get credit for everything and you get blamed for everything. Of course, I also know that when we want to come up with realistic solutions to our problems, we should then take notice of the other objective reasons for them out there. Blaming the Assads for all our ills is good opposition propaganda, but is not a cure-all for our problems. But first, we need to take on the Assads, and that means taking on Bashar, and that means attempting to find a solution to the media access problem, meanwhile, let’s see if we can something started through various attempts at labeling using the limited access to the media we have. Hence my use of the “moron” label, among others on this blog. I will keep on trying until something stick, or somebody else’s labels stick. Meanwhile, and as Alex noted, a “good” Brammertz report or serious economic failure would “help” our case immensely as democracy advocates. But don’t you even start pointing out to the “moral” and “ethical” dilemmas involved here. I, for one, am quite aware of them, which is why I only push within certain limits, I just want to create the necessary conditions fort he Street to has its say in the matter, for something internal to well up, but, if the Street should clutch tenaciously to its quietist stance for too long a time, then fuck it, certain things cannot be rushed. If the people are not ready, then, they are not ready we have to accept that. I am not going to go all Bolshevik on them, albeit I cannot guarantee that others won’t. In fact, I might even guarantee that others will. This is the essence of my fear and my desire for wanting to push for change now. Meanwhile, Washington is a good place to raise my kids, and I could be as a good an American as any.

  13. bashar,can not be separated from brothers,sister cousins,uncles,they belong to the same house and mentality,they control everything in syria,economy,republican guard,moukhabarat,torture rooms,they are maher,basel,maher,majd,fawaz,rami,bushr they are even more corrupt than the former team.at the top in the picture posted by Alex, is shaleesh ,bodyguard and cousin of bashar,and as the other members,a big thief.Syria deserve better.

  14. “Power tends to corrupt and absolute power corrupts absolutely.” – Lord ActonI have to start off by saying that I do not know anything in depth about the Syrian government. However, from what I do know…Bashar was never ment to be president. He was Hafezs’ son, but he was always in the shadow of his brother and probably came to peace with it in his teens. However, after the death of his brother, he knew that he was the only one left to fill the place of his father. Bashar probably did have good intentions for the country, but when he was put in the middle of everything and realized his place in Syria, he realized that change is hard in a well established regime as it was. Now, I don’t know if he did or did not order any killings, but if he did, he must have a lot of carisma to act like he does.

  15. Alex my good friend,I have been reading your comments and others on Josh and Ammar blogs…. You would be an excellent choice to head an image improvement PR campaign to help of the Syrian regime” or let’s say Assad only”. Dr Bouthina Shaban failed before, But I see a big improvement for sure. I am afraid Dr . Assad may fail you as he did for others.

  16. :)Atassi, I knew that comment was coming! .. especially after the photo I posted above!But to balance things a bit (although it is too late for that) I will try to find some bad things to say about “him”.And stop getting me in trouble with Dr. Shabaan!(joking again)more seriously: I am not, and I will not get involved with any side politically, I assure you.And I know that I might follow Ammar’s conclusions a year from now … I realize he used to think similarly to me a year or two ago. But I am still not there … so I need to be convinced by myself… I am hoping things would be better (not great, but better) if few other things are difirent from the time Ammar was there.Yalla … tolerate me for a while.

  17. Hey, i’ll tolerate you. I liked the picture; I think it made the point perfectly.Meanwhile, I am glad to hear that ammar is not going to go all ‘Bolshevik’…..laugh….But …so when is the rally, demonstration, unroar in DC…???? assuming you were serious. I am sure many of us, myself included could drum up some PR to get good ‘body count’ (live ones) to show up. You said you have people working on it, but let us know.

  18. Very Interesting discussion Folks. I agree with Ammar’s take on things Completely. I used to think that Bashar was trying to change things and that he lacks a little bit of experience and control but once he has it he would get Syria on the right track. But over the years he managed to destroy the successes of his dad in foreign policies, and he still kept the incompetent team in charge to reach the total isolation of today. Then his failures in Lebanon when he seemed like he was getting out on his own in 2001 to the killing of Hariri last year (I thought that he was not ruling and that his brother or inlaw did it), but then the speeches and the other assassinations followed and the defiant tone etc…no one got punished and they even killed Kanaan to hide their crime. It was too obvious and now with the current arrest wave and the alliance with Iran, the guy proves not only that he is inexperienced but also malicious and very corrupt. I don’t care if he dines every day with the people (I used to get impressed by that too), Saddam Hussein used to visit people’s houses and open their fridges on TV to make sure they are eating well. This guy only dines with the wealthy, the people are getting poorer and his cousins move “their” money (what was stolen from the economy) to Dubai and other safe havens. Iraq war did the most damage to Syria and the Syrians because people are afraid of getting the same violent outcome, plus it increased islamic extremism and the hatred toward the civilized west. The Syrian regime has a ruthless bloody history and no one got ever punished for it, so it is still there no matter how nice the face looks. Syrians are afraid and the regime knows how to play on divisions and scare the minorities who prefer stability over the unknown. But we have to start somewhere…and expose the regime for what it is, just a big mafia interested in money and power.There is no reason to cover the regime when it represses freedom of speech in 2006, check out my comparison with the Ottomanshttp://freesyria.wordpress.com/2006/05/21/may-6-1916-flashback-to-dark-ottoman-history-for-syria-and-lebanon/For a better SyriaFares

  19. http://freesyria.wordpress.com/ Free Michel Kilo NowAlex, don’t worry, I am sure the Assads will take care of you for us. They are good at converting smart people into opponents. Ahem, Wink, Nod. Hi Zenobia, I was definitely serious with regard to the demonstration. We are making contacts now to see if we can make this into a collaborative effort with a number of organizations and campuses across the country so we can get the numbers. I will post on this matter, of course, as things develop. I should have some more concrete things to say by the middle next week. I really appreciate your interest, my dear. Good work on your site Fares, good luck with it. I would also like to remind people here of the old saying so popular in our part of the world, for very obvious reasons: The hand that you cannot fight, kiss it, and pray that God may break it.I think the spirit of this saying is deeply inlaid in the fabric of our brain and consciousness that we don’t have to fake anything. We really love the ruler, and we really hate the ruler. But while we can freely express the first sentiment, we have to wait until the ruler is deposed or diseased until we express the latter. So, expect nothing but love for Bashar these days. But don’t read too much into that. Questions of hate and love under authoritarian regimes tend to be a bit more complicated than we’d like to think, and they impact different strata of society differently.

  20. wow, that is an amazing little adage. …. and i think it is soo true. The sentiment towards the rulers are indeed very complex, love and hate being two sides of the same coin. And once a feeling of betrayal sets in (assuming this ruler inevitably fails), the anger and hate will be proportionate to the adoration and love that was once heaped upon the ‘king’.

  21. Fares,I guess I’m saying X = YYou are saying -X = -YDespite my positive tone and your negative tone, we both know the simple basic problems and opportunities and limitations in Syria today.Ammar, Zenobia and all the other Insomniacs: Sorry, today I am not staying here much longer. I will go to sleep early today (1:34AM)Take good care of the Blog please.

  22. As an Iranian, I am happy to be reading this very interesting blog and discussion.But one said: “First we have to get rid of Bashar, before we can establish democracy …”Well, we Iranians got out of the pothole only to fall into the well of barbaric Mohammedanism and Islamic enslavement.How are you guys going to deal with Islamism? I don’t even see the concern here. When you first get rid of Bashar, all hell will break loose and you will get Klashnikovs, not democracy.What is your roadmap? You dont seem to have one. Nobody is talking about a roadmap here. Just complaining how bad Bashar is — which is old news.If you want to achieve progress, you need to have a roadmap, and you need to creatively find a solution to the danger of Islamism.Otherwise, you will be discussing this every night, into the wee hours of the morning, for another 27 years. That is right. We overthrew the Shah 27 years ago, and we were saying, max 2 years, max 3 years, and we are still counting.Get real – and produce a roadmap that people can buy into it. You will be surprised to see that even the regime people, if their interests are covered, will also buy into a practical, fair, progressive, and secure roadmap.How are you going to stop the Islamists from voting themselves into power in your democracy? If you don’t have a solution, then the problem is yours, not Bashar’s.best

  23. oh no!Anonymous you sound too much like me!That was not me! … Zenobia will now notice that we both use the word “creative” … and just before that I state “I am now going to sleep” … a good cover.I swear I do never say “barbaric Mohammedanism and Islamic enslavement.”As for the point he made: I will add to it that many Iranian leftists and intellectuals thought the revolution was also partly theirs, only to find out that they were totally kicked out of it… for those ex-communist party Syrian opposition members who believe they can unite with the MB “FOR NOW” until they get rid of the regime…On the other hand, the case of Syria is different from Iran1) Syria does have a sunni majority, but it has a much larger minority segment.2) the MB, or many leaers in the MB at least, are more modern and “moderate” than the clergy in Iran in 1978 … at least they are giving the impression they are.Ammar?

  24. laugh…….alex is pretending to be an Iranian blogger again……..at 5 in the amno, i think you are off the hook. you never would say “the well of barbaric Mohammedanism and Islamic enslavement.”!I think he has a point, but i agree also that Syria is very different from Iran. Different enough we hope. I dont’ know about Iran, but a syrian was telling me over the weekend that the MB in Syria derives from (what he describes as) a very pathetic and uneducated class of people. He said their appeal has always been reactionary – not about their having something substantive to offer. He thinks is very different from the MB say in Egypt or Iran. And he asserted that even if one cut them in to a parlimentary system, that it would be only a matter of time before they would be voted out due to a lack of substantive governing abilities or real benefits to anyone. I have no idea if this was a valid argument ( i didn’t state it well either), but it was interesting to me.

  25. oh Thank you thank you!And that’s right .. I can post comments at 4Am, but 5Am is beyond me…. or maybe that could be why I was saying things like “barbaric Mohammedanism “?!Nevermind.I think the “danger” of Syria turning into a fundamentalist state depends on a number of potentially supportive factors1)As long as the united States and Israel are perceived to be commiting violent acts against Arabs and Muslims, there will be increasing anger and turn towards religion and fundamentalist ideas in Syria (and inthe rest of the Arab world)… If Israel and the US really want to help Arabs get democracy, they should take that into account.2) If the process of “overthrowing the regime” gets violent, for example if it fgets to a point were Alawite army units clash with armed Sunni opposition forces .. then congratulations … we have a guaranteed hyper religious sentiments, they will lead to Iraq-like situation of: we can only trust our own people to govern us… once there is blood, a winner and a loser, there will be hate and revenge … so my “anonymous” supporter from Iran’s point of “a road map”, or I would add: “what to do if …” would be useful to discuss in this forum.3) If it does not get into violent clashes, but politically, the other “lesser” partners in the NSF start making too many demands and not being reasonable (given their size … say, the Assyrians)… the MB and those backing Khaddam will react by kicking them out and making it a more “islamic” coalition …Just few thoughts … not implying that FOR SURE this will happen. I never go with certainty in teh Middle East … everything is possible (including a wonderful semi-peaceful opposition take over) … I doubt, but it is possible.

  26. Alex said ,Syria does have a sunni majority, but it has a much larger minority segmentAlex,Iran has a more diverse population than Syria,the persians make up some 50% of the iranian population,the western regions are inhabited by large minorities,millions of kurds,millions of azeri using a turkish dialect,millions of arabs…the east is populated by baluchis,turcomans…

  27. Anonymous,You are right. I have some wonderful Zoroastrian and Bahai Iranian friends by the way.I was obviously not clear … I was discussing religion onlyWhat is the percentage of Shia in Iran? about 90%? … so Sunnis and Christians could not complain if Iran was led by the Shia.Syira is about 70% Sunni Muslim I think … still a clear majority, but htere ia more sizable minority that need to be accomodated in power sharing arrangements … especialy complicated when you are trying to run an opposition coalition in charge of coming up with a new constitution, and structure for the army leadership … not fun.

  28. alex and Zenobia,Yes, Bashar is a very polite nd amiable person.. most of those who know him would attest to that.. but then again, so am I!.. but that does not mean that I can run a country!.. nor does it give me the right to do it to the exclusion of everyone else!!.. Most observers agree that Bashar has proven himself to be totally incompetent and ineffective as a leader.. The fact also remains that he presides over a corrupt and bankrupt regime, and that the collective aim of that regime is self-enrichment, irrespective of the interests of the country or its people..

  29. Alex,look at the arabs and the azeris ,the majority are shias but in Iran ,religious belonging is not a factor of unity.Paradoxically iranian people are more westernized and modern than the arab people.The iranian regime doesnt represent the real face of the iranian people.

  30. Last Wednesday, a 29-year-old Istanbul lawyer walked into Turkey’s highest administrative court, declared, “I am a soldier of Allah” and shot five judges. This Ankara court in February ruled against a head-scarved nursery school teacher. The assassin said he wanted to “punish” the judges for upholding laws that date back to the founding of Ataturk’s republic. The above incident has been blamed on the religious government of Erdogan. The judges’ pictures had appeared in an extremist newspaper, and their requests for better security after receiving death threats were ignored by the government. The thousands of demonstrators criticizing the government have been urged to continue by the chief of the military. Mr. Erdogan denounced the shooting and then the general for butting into politics. If Turkey can still experience such scenes after more than 80 years of authoritarian secularism, what hope would a country like Syria have should the Moslem brothers or other fundamentalists reach power? As the Syrian Brit. Said, leading a country takes more than a so-called “nice guy” at the helm. Thus far, Bashar has shown no sign that he is qualified to lead this nation. Having said this, letting the country fall into the hands of a religious group would be far worse. As critical as I have been of this leadership, the truth is that Hafez Assad did have a honeymoon period between 1970 and 1978 when the country’s economy boomed. The Moslem Brothers of course had other ideas. Their attempt to topple the regime has put the country on a downhill slope ever since. The Alawi led regime has decided that this is about its survival. Under the façade of one Syrian people, the reality has been an “us against them” attitude ever since. I don’t think there is any point sugar-coating this fact. A lot of people keep asking why Bashar does not do what is good for the country. What they seem to assume is that Bashar feels as the leader of one country and one people. I beg to differ.

  31. I agree with Ehsani2.. Bashar’s only loyalty is to his close family and to his ‘people’.. If that happens to co-incide witht he interests of the country at large, then that’s fine.. otherwise, his choices are clear… ‘Me, me, me, then my brothers, then my cousins… and the rest of the country can get stuffed!!..’

  32. Thank you Ammar for appreciating my site, you are welcome to comment in it as well. Alex, when you have bad news coming from the Region and Syria every day, and you see that it is getting worse and worse, and your dreams of having a country to be proud of and become a contributor to its success dwindle little by little to become nightmares then your tone will become negative.Syria now is getting worse and worse and it is definitely not on the right track and it might blow up the whole region for the regime’s survival and Iran’s adventures. Definitely the Dad was much better and smarter and knew how not to cross the red lines internationally(not that I liked him but at least you had some control) …this guy is maverick and he is fighting for his survival. What pisses me off even more is that he has been promoting islamism too much lately (to add credibility to his system) and turning the country into fanatism and darkness for what??? the people and country situation is worsening every day. I would say Syria would be better with the “Ikhwan” Muslim Brothers on conditions that they are moderate and respect the minorities (similar to Turkey’s movement) and allow a democratic system and allow Lebanon to prosper again. Hamas got into power and now people see its defects so any islamic movement has to deliver in order to stay in power.Also with the USA supporting any middle eastern regime (including the current one) it better be not fanatic. For this regime to be kept in power it needs to open up and be accountable (Carte Blanche should not be given to anyone anymore). But judging how they behave to pressure by playing games I see no hope, there is no will to give up anything.FaresCheck out my friend’s French translation of the Syrian Eulogies by Michel KiloNECROLOGIES… DE SYRIE

  33. Hi there, sorry for not taking a more active part in this debate, but today I had a series of meetings with a few you-know-whos to plot the overthrow of the you-know-what. They all went rather well, but o guarantees of any success of course, after all, we are dealing with the politics of dreams. Anyway, I am really great to see an Iranian on board. This is adds a really useful perspective to our discussions as the fates of both the Iranian and the Syrian regimes seem to be strongly linked at this stage, though not necessarily inseparably so. The diversity of Iran is indeed quite amazing, and it will be interesting to monitor the developments in the Kurdish and Arab regions in particular, for a the Iranian mullahs attempt to dabble and play in Iraq, developments there are bound to influence the situation in Iran especially in the majority Arab and Kurdish provinces, the last few demonstrations, riots, arrests, and explosions in these area can attest to that. Regarding the MB in Syria, let me say that I wouldn’t dismiss them off-hand as incapable leaders. On the contrary, I think many of their members show much promise as professionals and might provide some good technocratic skills to make the MB current a rather serious contender in the Syrian political scene. If we want to offset that, we have to take the MB seriously and plan our next moves very carefully, so as not to be swamped. These particular mullahs have no plans to return to the mosques once the battle is over. In fact, the real battle is over the soul of Syria and it will only begin after regimefall.This is why we need that roadmap that has been mentioned here. But, and for argument’s sake, let me ask you here: what do you think this roadmap should include?

  34. I mean: “a road!”since I already messed up my “joke”, I’ll have to answer the question:You start setting the road map by specifiying:1) objectives (goals)2) you assign relative weights (importance) to each of these goals. (from 1 to 10 for example)3) You try to estimate realistic probabilities of reaching these objectives through taking different roads …The above is, again, using Simon’s decision making process studies… applied in Management and economics. Whenever you have a large group of very different peope meeting to make important decisions … it is the best way to go through this comprehensive process in order to make each one realize his objective, and how likely it is to reach them through different routes … this is where you find if your group can agree on both goals and tactics … I’m sure they talked about so many things, like all politicians do … but there is this tendency to want to agree which makes you ignore areas of potential disagreement…. which is only a decision to delay confronting those potential disagreements. a waste of time.

  35. As Alex notes, the “leftist” who were spearheading the anti-Shah revolution, were the first to be devoured by the beast. Not only they were kicked out, but they were hunted down and executed. Some say as many as 100,000 (probably more like 20,000 – 40,000).For those who want Bashar to be destroyed “first” and who do not offer a replacement TODAY – I question their sincerety. Do you want to see a free and democratic Syria, or do you just want to take personal revenge on this moron Bashar? If the issue is the former, then lets stop dwelling on Bashar and his cousins, and lets see how we can get the progressive forces and the centrist forces, the enlightened forces, etc. together to come up with a practical solution that produces RESULTS, rather than REVENGES and power grabs.My knowledge of Syria is rather limited. But I sense that even the ruling clas in Syria has a sense that they are cornered and oftentimes they have to act in disgusting ways that they feel they have no choice, as they must feel an existential threat from the opposition.Zenobia – Iran is different, but the dialectics are quitesimilar. The differences do not govern IMO. The similarities and universalities are quite more vast than the differences. I have developed a cynicism towards the cultural crowds who wish to stress differences at the expense of commonalities, because I see that in the last analysis history is moved more by the unchic and pedestrian commonalities and by the empirical fundamentals.In terms of nationalities – Iran is pretty homogenous, more so than Syria. As noted, 85% are Shiite Iranians (mainly Persians, Azaris, Shiite Kurds), and then we have Sunni Kurds, Arabs, Baluchis. For all practical purposes, Azaris identify with the Persians.Fares – you say that if MB is in power, they have to deliver. That is if they accept the democratic process. But they don’t. Their first priority is to subvert democracy, because they know they CANNOT deliver. So if they cannot deliver and wish to remain in power, then the process must be subverted. Islamists have a long history in doing this, and Iraq is probably the best example to date. There is no such thing as a “moderate” or reformed Islamist. Iranians thought for 8 years that Khatami will deliver. And he indeed delivered Ahmaqinejad. And w.r.t. Turkey, I am sure that if the military sabre was not dangling over their heads, you would see a very different course of development over there.Ammar, the MB may indeed have capable individuals. What is important is that a minimum of checks and balances be built into the embryonic system so that even the worst meaning MB character (and you will see them all come out of the woodwork at the worst possible time for the progressive forces, in order to claim leadership of the multitudes) – that even the worst MB characters cannot abuse and subvert the system. I concur with your skepticism, and as you say, MB should be allowed to play, but not to swamp. They have no particular plans to return to the mosques, once they have tasted the sweet taste of power. But the battle is “not over”. The battle in fact starts at the time that Bashar is dethroned – as you have noted.And this is why you (and us) need a roadmap – a constitutional process with TEETH – i.e. one with sanctions built in against those who wish to abuse the process.Behnam (the Iranian)

  36. What has to be resisted is the temptation to reduce the issue to the person of Bashar and his ruling clique. That only if he were to be removed, then Syria will quantum leap into a lower energy orbit of bliss and utopia. Obviously there is a system in place – no matter how arbitrary it may appear, it is still a system that is rather stable and delivers a certain status quo. Question is – what system do you wish to replace it with? Where is a proposed constitution for Syria? On which website is it published? How does it compare to a modern constitution with a bill of rights, and how is it going to be sold to Syrians, upon the demise of the current regime? Do the opposition forces, even the MB agree to this constitution or roadmap (constitutional process)? Does anybody know what it is? Who is willing to go public with this process and put his head on the line? Or is everybody waiting for Bashar to be dethroned, and then get into the fight and amass as many points for himself/his group/his party/his ideologues – by force if necessary?If a constitution cannot be arrived at a priori, then where is an outline to this constitution? If we cannot arrive at an outline, then where is the process that would lead to a liberal democratic and secular constitution? If we cannot even get our act together to agree on a process where security is guaranteed (by external forces if need be), then maybe we should not be in this business of regime change and we should admit to our own impotence and admit that oppositional politics is a matter of personal hobby and interest – and not a matter of building a nation, a country, a modern state.You cannot attain a perfect liberal democratic system upon the demise of Bashar a posteriori. This is a long term historical process. So what is the minimum that is acceptable to the secular opposition, that is also acceptable to the not-so seculars, and the not-so oppositions, but that will make it probable that the new system is NOT subvertible by Islamists and other tyrannical forces (such as Baathist ultra-nationalists), and would guarantee immediate economic growth to keep everybody happy during the crucial first few years while the state is embryonic?Any thoughts along these lines are appreciated. What I find utterly boring is to enumerate the misdeeds of Bashar and his atrocities for the umpteenth time. Believe me, us Iranians have been engaged in enumerating misdeeds for 27 years, and another 33 years before that – and have lost the apetite for it.I can give you my own “creative” ideas based on half-baked and limited knowledge of the Syrian condition.Behnam

  37. Dear IranianThank you for showing up here!By the way, I disagree with Ammar’s hopes in the other option (the way it is today) but I agree that he needs to give it the chance it deserves. Many Syrians are startign to like it … even if you and I are almost convinced it is a bad option.And Ammar already has an excellent proposal for the future structure of Syrian “democracy” that takes into account all the worries that minorities, and “enlightened” people have if change takes place … but I have no idea why Ammar does not push that proposal every day and everywhere!I’m sure he’ll answer you next. He’s probably still awake:)

  38. Alex, how did you know? Am I rally this predictable? You make me sound boring. Behnam, as a strategy, we really have to focus on the Assads at this stage. We have to isolate them domestically, regionally and internationally. But yes, we should avoid falling into the trap of believing or letting the people believe that everything is going to become peachy just after the fall of the Assads. We have to acknowledge that the country has some serious problems, not all of them related to the Assads’ misdeed, and they are going to take time before they are resolved. As for your other questions, the National Salvation Front will be providing a more concrete vision in this regard in early June. As for the “excellent proposal” Alex referred to, I will indeed need to elaborate on this matter soon.

  39. sunni islam does not possess clerical hierarchy or centralized institutions ,we had never known an imam in the seat of the ruler as it is today in Iran or in south Iraq.As for the consitution ,most of the syrian opposition,MB included are in favor of the reinstitution of the 1950 constitution.

  40. ok..i am awake. Despite now being physically East Coast, I am clearly mentally west coast……..and i want to say:Yes, Behnam, thanx for your contribution to the dialogue. Well said. Where is the damn plan…is right.We need a road! well mapped and a terrifically savy bunch of PR. One can isolate regionally , internationally, locally…endlessly, but at the end of the day, if one doesn’t have an alternative to sell….. no one will buy. And without the rule of law in place and some ammunition behind it, no security can be guarenteed. And without some measure of security ensured, no one will risk their life to depose even the most corrupt leader.People are so furious at Joshua for his arguments. but in defence of Joshua……. he focuses from a particular vantage point – a valid one- and one that recognizes that at bottom the single most important thing that people care about… is staying alive.

  41. and there are only 45 comments on here….for the one post!so maybe we need some more!

  42. Hmmmm … now I have competition. I used to own the 2AM to 4AM time slot. It’s ok, I’m sure Zenobia will adjust soon to Eastern time.

  43. Indeed, the 1950 constitution has been proposed and adopted as a transitional arrangement. A new Syrian constitution will need to be discussed on a larger-scale during the transitional period, in order for more people to be represented in an open political process. As for the roadmap, you’re quite right, unless we have something attractive to sell at the end of the day, isolating the Assads will not lead anywhere. A for PR figures, well, you have communicating with one of them for quite a while now, Zenobia. Indeed, I think PR is going of my things in the Front. Oh well.

  44. Hi everyone,I am new to reading this blog, but am very thrilled to see the debates that go on here… In any case, being Lebanese, I am only familiar with internal Syrian politics from a Lebanese point of view. Having said that, I wonder what everyone thinks the effect of the following things (past and future) on the Syrian regime are/will be:1- The UN investigation into the Hariri assassination, given that all fingers seem to point towards the Syrian regime. How will the Syrian populace react to that? My guess is with the usual conspiracy theory crap…2- The defection of Khaddam. How popular is the man anyway?3- The links that the Syrian opposition, whether Khaddam, Kilo and co, or the Brotherhood, have established (and are establishing) with each other and with a semi “liberated” Lebanon (at least to some degree from Syrian regime influence). I have my own opinions on the matter, but I think you all might have more informed insights into this. Cheers, R

  45. Hi there R, welcome on board, we have inded been discussing the questions you raised for quite a while now, and we are bound to raise them again in the next few weeks, as Brammertz prepare to submit his new report. So bear with us, we will retunr to your important questions soon.

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