A Carefully Worded Message!

The State Department has just followed the EU leads and issued its own condemnation of the ongoing crackdown against dissidents and activists in Syria. Yet, and albeit the language in both cases was pretty stern, it does not appear that there exist any plans for going beyond rhetoric at this stage. Indeed, everybody seems to be waiting for the upcoming UN report into the Hariri assassination, which means that if any action is going to take place, it won’t happen until mid June or thereafter. But, and while this attitude might make some sense politically speaking, it, nonetheless, gives the Assads a free hand to keep on doing what they are doing for a few more weeks, because it has become very obvious now that the Assads do not respond well to rhetoric. They, too, can wax poetic on us.

Meanwhile, the well-known Syrian commentator, Hassan M. Yousef, has taken a rather brave and quite revealing stand by criticizing the arrest of Michel Kilo in the official newspaper Tishreen, albeit the last part of his article in which he clearly comes out denouncing the arrest as “wrong” was printed only in the electronic version. Still, publishing such an article at this stage by an official newspaper is rather significant, as it indicates the existence of a certain critical amount of discontent on part of many key figures even within official institutions. The very calculations that seem to have been involved here, that is, publishing the column while reserving the most critical part to the electronic version, indicates that people on the editorial level knew that they were taking a major risk here. Still, they were willing to take it.

The thinking that seems to lie behind this move is interesting as well. Hassan writes that arrest of Kilo and others has encouraged the development of “an anti-Syria media blitz,” which the country can do without. In other words, the move, we are told, is harming the country. This means that policies enacted by the people who were behind this decision are harming the country. Knowing, however, that the people involved here are the heads country’s major security apparatuses, who seem to be implementing a policy set by Assef Chawkat, a view shared by many activists inside Syria, then, publishing this seemingly simple criticism is a really big deal. Indeed, it is a major sign that figures within the official establishment are now more than willing to voice their discontent with the policies of the Assads, because, they can now see where these policies are leading.

People are beginning to differentiate between the Assads and the country as a whole, and the loyalty to the country is emerging as the stronger motive. This is major development indeed, and even though it may for remain for a while as an isolated percolation, it is, in fact, far from being isolated, and is manifestation of a major underlying current out there, waiting for us to tap into.

Can we all see now the wisdom behind repeated pleas for isolating the Assads? For criticizing the Assads regime in particular rather than the Syrian or even the Baath regime?

Indeed, a policy that focuses on isolating the Assads and making them the ultimate fall guys at this stage would convert even the most ardent conspiracy theorists to the cause of regime change. For when you show these people that the parochial interests of the Assads are leading to the adoption of certain policies that can facilitate the implementation of perceived anti-Syria designs, and when these people end up buying into this logic, – and they are, because it does have a rather huge kernel of truth in it: the Assads’ policies are indeed mostly to blame for Syria’s difficult situation these days, – then this leaves them little choice but to challenge the regime. For these people are, in the final analysis, true patriots.

The people at the State Department, the White House, the European Union and elsewhere, should indeed understand that, if phrased carefully to take under account the necessity of internally isolating the Assads and cutting them off even from their traditional bases of power, their verbal condemnations can go a long way in supporting the cause for change in Syria.

8 thoughts on “A Carefully Worded Message!

  1. Ammar,Good Article, however you are too optimistic and drawing a lot of happy conclusions from a simple article by a newspaper that is usually full of garbage. Who knows when this guy will get arrested or if he is doing it based on orders to relieve some pressure off the government and the regime. Everything written by the syrian media is calculated. The regime strategy is to always try to put some cosmetic decorations on dirty actions including using the media. How many years people have been allowed to critisize the government but tell me what changed.Also I agree with you that the US reaction is late and not strong. I think they have a deal with Assad, he did manage to deliver about 60 people/islamist accused of meddling and terrorism in Irag (could be innocent people) at the same time of the arrests, just like they delivered the brother of Saddam Hussein at the time of Hariri’s murder (which did not help at the time) . The tactics are fair and balance, make nice on the Iraq front in return for more control internally. Even if Syria is hurting big time it seems like Assad is still useful to the americans.I don’t know what will happen…unless some generals make a move, Assad will stay in power it seems, and don’t count on outside forces for any changeFares

  2. I wonder if Assad Senior had managed to sign a peace deal with Israel, how would Syria and the region would look like now…I’ll probably write about that sometime or may be you could do the writingFareshttp://freesyria.wordpress.com

  3. It’s not because I believe that the Syria media does not publish garbage. It’s because I know some of the people involved in the background of this issue. I know what sort of calculations went through their heads. In truth, there is discontent with the Assads in Syria, but there is also a lot of fear and suspicion and angst. If we keep on digging through it all though, I believe we are bound to struck “discontent” on the head, and it is bound to well up. How long will this take, and what shape will it assume, this is indeed an open question. As for your second question, it will be just too depressing for me to think about this particular what-might-have-been.

  4. Thanks for your inside information Ammar. I don’t know really what is going on in Syria these days internally other that what I read.However these days remind me of the 80s when I was in middle school, back then people did not like the regime as well (specially 85 reelection/86), but they could not do anything for fear of the brutal regime and lack of power.That is when Assad became a God almost. The people were smart back then as well…Anyway for a change, to avoid any blood bath Romanian style, which I doubt Syrians would go for (people who would do it are already brainwashed by the regime probably), you need to count on the army. Do you think there are any generals to count on with enough power to have an impact? and why is Rifaat rumored to go back? is it just to consolidate the family power or does he have a role to play? Does the US have a vision for a better Syria? or they are just amateur who don’t know better and are happy with status quo?I am typing this a 2nd time, I lost the first somehowCheers and keep up the good work

  5. My views on Rifaat ca be found here. As for whether the Syrians will go for a blood bath or not, frankly, we have to take under consideration here that the mores of Syrian society have changed drastically over the last three decades. So that traditional tolerance we are all so proud of seems to have been seriously diluted. Moreover, the blood bath, if it’s going to take place, is not going to be the product of the grassroots acting out on its own, but of a dabbling from above. That is, it’s the Assads who will orchestrate and deliver the first few salvos in the blood bath. The definitely have the right mores for that.

  6. Ammar, I agree to some extent with Fares regarding what I see as exssesive optimism. Actually, I do not see the Yousef essay as pro Michel Kilo. Instead he seems to be arguing that Mr. Kilo should not have been arrested because the repercussions of this arrest are harmful for the current Syrian regime. That can be interpreted as saying that the authorities are free to arrest Mr. Kilo and many others like him provided that the mechanism does not give rise to a potentially harmful backlash.Again I am in full agreement with you on the need for strong meaningful action by the international community . The Assads must be reminded of the admonition that “there ain’t no such thing as a free lunch”. If they find out , and unfortunately this has been the case, that they can do what they please to stiffle dissent and abuse all accepted standards of human rights then they would.They, the Assads, have found out that the policy of eliminating dissent is very effective indeed. As soon as a major thinker , writer, journalist …is arrested or even killed, some organizations demonstrate and hold press conferences for the first few days after the arrest/elimination by the authorities and then in a week or so most of the rucus dies off. Meanwhile the authorities would have paralyzed the daily opperations of the dissenters by depriving them of the major talent and injecting fear into the other members. I only hope that a catalyst comes to the rescue of the few couragous dissenters very soon. The Assad regime must be prevented from scoring another strike against freedom of expression.

  7. What I was trying to say here is that people like H. M. Yousef who cannot express themselves freely on such brazen issue, did nonetheless maneuver to find a way to voice a serious criticism of the authorities. These people are working under very serious restrictions, seeing that they are trying to work from within the system, nonetheless, their insistence on being critical at this stage, their insistence on tackling such an issues, where the traditional impulse would have informed them not to approach it even with a thirty nine and half foot bar, should be seen as a sign of serious discontent with the current policies of the regime. It’s an argument bolstered not only by such anecdotal episodes, but also by continuing contact with these people. This said, I am, of course, quite aware that none of this is sufficient. I am not trying to make a mountain out of molehill, believe me, I am quite aware of how far we are from even scratching the surface. We have much work ahead of us to create a serious internal push for reform in the face of the Assads’ continuing oppression. But my point is that the right message does have an audience in Syria, that is, we do have something to actually work.

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