The Bounni-Brammertz Conundrum!

Despite the attempt of regime sympathizers to deny it, the wife of jailed lawyer and human rights activist Anwar al-Bounni has come outconfirming the reality of her husband continuing hunger strike which is about to enter its third week.But the mere attempt at denial here is a sign that the Assad regime does indeed feel embarrassed by this development and is feeling the brunt of international pressures and condemnation in this regard.


There are even rumors now that the regime might issue a pardon in benefit of all democracy activists and opposition members who were arrested in connection with what became known as the Beirut-Damascus Declaration. I wouldn’t make much of these rumors, however, other than to note that they come as a sign of increasing strains within the regime.

But the Assads themselves are unlikely to yield at this stage, because, like everyone else these days, they, too, are in a wait-and-see mode with regard to the upcoming report by Brammertz. This means that just about everything in the country will be on hold until that critical date of June 15, a date which might just enter the annals of Syria’s modern history, albeit this may not necessarily be such a positive development. All will depend on the content of the report.

A weak, technical and/or vague report will serve to empower the regime, boost the confidence of its leaders and unleash the Assads on the helpless crowds of activists, dissidents and opposition members. But the Assads could also choose here to play it a bit smarter than their natural instincts and inclinations will suggest, as they could opt to behave more magnanimously towards the opposition and might just issue a new more pragmatic party law, one that could appeal to many of them. Naturally, this move will be designed to help consolidate the Assads’ grip on power, undercut the rising threat of the external opposition and offset increasing international pressures.

Considering the exemplary tenacity, if not downright foolhardiness, of the Assads, however, even a nod in this regard will likely remain devoid of any follow through, a fact that can only pave the way to another crackdown down the road.

Thus, and in all cases, a weak report by Brammertz can only lead to a crackdown in Syria, and, of course, a more overt dabbling in Lebanese affairs as well, either in the immediate aftermath of the repot, or in the following weeks.

A strong report, on the other hand, will come as a major shock to the regime and could throw the Assads off-guard for a while, seeing that they seem to be acting these days under the wishful assumption that Brammertz’s findings are not that conclusive, and/or that he is much more “reasonable” than Mehlis had been. Such a development, therefore, could create some confusion among the Assads and could result in the reappearance of certain fissures within the ruling establishment, which would create a brief window of opportunity (few days to few weeks) for some kind of internal challenge to take place.

Failure to take advantage to this opportunity, however, which is the most likely outcome giving the fact that the Assads seem to hold the most efficient and critical units in the army and security apparatuses under their direct contorl, will give the Assads enough time to catch their breath and reaffirm their control of the country’s key institutions, and regions, thus thwarting any potential move against them.

But even should a challenge be launched against the Assads, one which could assume the guise of an attempted coup, or a regional mutiny, its chances for success, without immediate external backing, especially military, will be quite minimal.

Therefore, should the current US administration ever be interested in supporting such a scenario in Syria, its top military leaders should then carefully watch out for any telling developments in the aftermath of June 15th, and the administration should be ready to intervene directly from their bases in Iraq, even if the identity of the people involved in the anti-Assads camp is not clearly established in the early days of whatever move or rebellion.

The other likely scenario in this case is to isolate the regime, economically and politically, until such time that the Syrian opposition can coordinate some kind of a people-power movement to challenge the regime, or until the country simply collapses under the deadweight of the regime and the strain of increasing economic hardships. For Syria is not Iraq, it simply does not have the necessary resources (especially oil) to wear out a prolonged period of economic sanctions, even if neighboring countries ended up violating the sanction rules through smuggling activities. Moreover, the Assads are unlikely to tap into their famed food and cash reserves to help their people, not even to help maintain their grip on the country. Such is their greed.

In all cases, some degree of violence seems well-nigh inevitable, the criminal, cliquish and authoritarian nature of the Assads regime being the main determinant in this regard.

But, and while we wait to see which one of these scenarios is going to unfold, Mr. Anwar al-Bounni might need to contemplate the wisdom behind his continuing hunger strike, seeing that the authorities are unlikely to be responsive any time soon.

21 thoughts on “The Bounni-Brammertz Conundrum!

  1. As an American citizen, I can scarcely put into words how the course of action suggested by Ammar here (albeit conditionally) is definitely NOT in America’s interest.…should the current US administration ever be interested in supporting such a scenario in Syria, its top military leaders should then carefully watch out for any telling developments in the aftermath of June 15th, and the administration should be ready to intervene directly from their bases in Iraq, even if the identity of the people involved in the anti-Assads camp is not clearly established in the early days of whatever move or rebellion.Ammar, with all due respect, this would be a blatantly irresponsible and disastrous policy. I oppose it 100%.

  2. Sure you can do that George, but just so we can be clear: I am not endorsing this option here. I am just highlighting the various scenarios involved, as I had done repeatedly before. Personally, I opt for the longer-term approach, because, for all its risks, it is the only one that allows a chance to organize some “popular” push against the regime. Apparently, I haven’t made this as clear as I should. I probably relied too much on my previous posts in this regard. As for why I occasionally highlight such “unpopular” and potentially controversial options as I did above, it’s simple really: because, if there are people within the administration who are contemplating such an option, they might as well be advised as to the more appropriate time for that, for if we cannot avert the crisis, we still have to insist on playing a role in managing it to help minimize the damage and see whether we can still extract some benefits for the country. As Syrians, we don’t have the luxury to say to anyone here: this is your mess, you clean it up. Our lives are at take in all cases, so whoever makes a mess of things, the responsibility for cleaning it is ultimately still ours, regardless of consideration of fairness. So, if the US wants to strike against Syria (and that a BIG if at this stage, so let’s not lose too much sleep over it), I’d definitely want to be involved, no matter how opposed to the overall policy I might be. It’s my country, my people, my family, my friends, my mess.

  3. I know you are not going to like what i am saying,but for god sake how can you call for an invasion of Syria with all the death that will result of Syrians and American just to change a regime ,even economic sanctions will result in significant misery ,to change a regime to somthing we do not know and without a plan is the ultimate disaster but why should we care we do not live in Syria.only Syrians living in Syria and will suffer the result of a change should be the ones to lead it.

  4. Ok Norman, good, I see you have read my comment. I just want people who have visited this blog before and who had time to read through my previous posts, as you and George have, to give me the benefit of the doubt sometimes, it is not easy to strike the right tone and dot every “I” and cross ever “T” in each post, albeit, of course, I do have the responsibility of trying, always.

  5. As controversial as the issue of military responses is, it is definitely worth considering, especially if it is an inevitability as Ammar outlined.But, even though it is a sensitive issue especially in the current context of things, it should be noted that “military backing” does not necessarily mean “invasion;” and, whatever happens, it never necessarily has to become an occupation. That said, there are other ways in which the US could help such forces assuming they already exist internally, and definitely should support them if the case arises through material and logistical aid.Also, and I understand this probably has to do with our location more than anything else, but it seems that our consideration of external pressuer here has largely been Americo-centric. This may be because the powers that be in America today are more likely than any other world leaders to jump at the opportunity to expand influence in the Middle East, or simply recognizing its presence just around the corner. Nevertheless, coordinated international pressure is also something that should not be ignored…

  6. Ammar,This has been a tough line in the sand for you. You keep thinking of crossing it but you then opt to say, “May be one day but not yet”. With all due respect, you are ambiguous on this point even though you keep trying to explain your views as best as you can. In my personal opinion, you ought to answer this question with a yes or no answer:Are you or are not in favor of military foreign troop involvement to topple the regime?I think your answer in the past has been “yes but not yet”. I don’t want to put words in your mouth. But I really think that it would help if you can answer my question with a simple yes or no without time considerations.

  7. Ammar,am not quite sure about the first scenario, regardless than the fact that I resent it.. am not sure it could work this easily, I was in Syria, and in latakia in particular, just a couple of months ago.. and I dont think such a window for a real internal coup could ever be opened. the regime is very well on top of every vicious unit in the army, which u know very well.. and now bashar has centralized the regime more than ever, its making it more and more like his father[s I:m not sure how u can see the potentials for a real coup here…I would definitley support the second option.. if it was an option too.. but I donno.. the syrian people has lost their morale. I donno if it is an option really…

  8. The syrian goverment is moving agresevly on the economy and as long as the people are making money and having freedom to worship there will be no uprising.Syrians do not want mahum.

  9. Ammar, notice that I gave you the benefit of the doubt with the phrase “albeit conditionally” when I described the course of action that you “suggested”, I did not say “endorsed”.Yes, your post was very speculative in nature, I understand that, I read it carefully.But I’m glad you posted the clarification, because the initial piece could set off alarm bells for those unfamiliar with your general themes or who have not met you personally.

  10. Definitely, Ammar … when it comes to “US troops in Syria” I would try much harder to pick the right words … even if you did not mean it this way, even if you try to NOT give that impression by carefully choosing your words, many people already have the impression that you MIGHT consider this option (because you really dislike the regime, and because you sounded undecided about it in the past, and because you live in Washington …), and given those components of prior knowledge about your opinions, many readers will much more easily make that perceptual mistake.This makes me think of the other, less serious, case yesterday when Joshua got the impression that Rime was “upbeat” about the NSF … she did not want to give that impression, but her words, Joshua believes, surely could be interpreted that way.And I agree with Ehsani (finally!)… Ammar you are very ambiguous on this, or undecided … for example, here you are providing advice to the would be invaders? You even used Red color and italics for emphasis on that point…. Why? I got the strong impression that had this subject not been very taboo, you would have come out more clearly for US military intervention NOW .. during this upcoming “window of opportunity”.As I told Joshua earlier, as a blogger, you are allowed to express your personal opinion and to “make mistakes” (his case with Rime) … but this is a very sensitive issue, there in no room for ambiguity. You noticed I like taking the middle road on many issues. But when it comes to the possibility of relying on foreign troops for regime change in Syria … I agree with George Ajjan: I am 100% against it … no matter what. Nothing could be worse.

  11. I think the ambiguity that has been in the posts recently is largely a result of Ammar’s own indecision or uncertainty about it. It is truly a difficult moral dilemma, and it certainly doesn’t help that when Arab liberals come to America they find that the liberals here are unconditionally against a foreign intervention that could help liberalize Syria. The American left certainly shares the blame for the strange and forced flirtation of Arab liberals with the neoconservatives.But I think we all need to be more clear here: George and others, when you say you are 100% against military backing, do you mean you are 100% against an invasion, military and logistical assistance to an existing internal rebellion, or any meddling whatsoever?While I am 100% against a full-scale invasion and occupation at this point, if the situation arises where a formidable internal opponent has actually threatened the regime, I can’t think of any reason why the US should not offer it financial, military, and intelligence support. Besides, I think we overestimate the integrity and cogency of the Syrian military today. Its leaders are opportunists, not ideologues. If an invasion is ever imminent, it is more likely that many of these leaders will defect to ensure themselves positions in the new government, rather than commit suicide in the face of a real military. Their obsession is power, not Baathism or Assad.

  12. Yaman,If and when enough Syrian people, inside syria, feel that it is worth taking a risk on their own life to get rid of their current leaders, then they will do that without needing any foreign invasion, or assistance, or moral support.Nicolae Ceauşescu was taken out by his own people and his own army.One can not keep helping the Syrian people until they are convinced that a revolution with outside help is their wisest option… The Romanians did it when they wanted to do it.And if and when they do, I will fully respect their opinion.

  13. In principle, I am opposed to war. In principle, I am also opposed to tyranny. But as we all know, sometimes these two principles do conflict, which opens Pandora’s Box of violent possibilities for all of us. The issue to me, then, is about violence per se, not necessarily, if at all, about national sovereignty and foreign invasion. So, if I can bring myself to be at peace with violence, I will be able to give you a definite “yes” or “no” on whether I subscribe to the necessity of regime change in Syria through military action (be it external, internal or a combination of both). But, so long as the issue remains unresolved inside of me, I will continue to perform this mediocre tap dance around it. And so, at times I will say that I am opposed to violence, and at others, I’ll give advice on how to use violent tactics more efficiently so as to achieve a certain desired objective while minimizing the potential collateral damage.This is might seem like a very cowardly stance on my part, not to mention self-serving, perhaps it is and so be it, I am going to reserve to myself the right to be a self-serving coward until such time that I know that my words can actually help influence developments with relation to Syria, or anywhere else for that matter. At this stage, and for all my high-level contacts and all the attention that I seem to attract these days, I really doubt that I have such an effect. In other words, I am not in a position to actually make the call on this issue, I am not even in a position where I can seriously influence the position of those who can make such a call, but I could one day be in a position where, regardless of who actually makes the call and regardless of the nature of the call itself, I can influence the unfolding scenario, whatever it is, in view of minimizing losses and maximizing benefits. That is my goal. So I analyze a situation and discuss various scenarios and provide policy advice all in the hope not of actually influencing the outcome, but of getting a notice and, hence, a chance to help manage the impending mayhem. Indeed, some people are attracted to mayhem as vultures and scavengers, others, as heelers and peacemakers. I hope that I belong to the latter category, but I wouldn’t really know for sure until I am in the thick of it all. For times of trouble do tend to challenge one’s basic assumptions about oneself.

  14. Here is a news story from the Kuwaiti, http://www.alseyassah.com/alseyassah. Unfortunately their links don’t work the next day so I am pasting the whole store in. I don’t know how credible this story is (Al Seyassah mixes hype with reality and exagarate things sometimes) but it is very dangerous and not really welcome news for Peace in Syria. It is based on some Israeli (mainly) and western intelligence reports that smugling weapons to Syria have reached dangerous and crtical levels. That Jordan, Lebanon and Iraq are fedup with Syrian Regime and have opened their borders to smugling all kind of weapons to arm the internal opposition, arabic cells and the Kurds. Smugling is mainly in the Turkish/Iraqi/Syrian triangle, Daraa province near Jordan and the Syrian coast. What Syrian authorities are catching and foiling the attempts is nothing compared to what is successful. The reports claim that this is Payback for Syrian meddling in and destabalizing the neighbours states. I’ll comment in next عملاً بالمثل…ولدعم المعارضة الداخلية والأكراد في مواجهة النظام الأردن والعراق ولبنان تفتح حدودها لتهريب السلاح إلى سورية لندن-كتب حميد غريافي:دفعت الدول المحيطة بسورية والمتضررة من تدخلاتها السافرة وشبه العلنية في شؤونها الداخلية عبر اختراق حدودها بالأسلحة والعناصر الإرهابية, »حدة مبادلة نظام دمشق بالمثل, بإدخال كميات كبيرة من الأسلحة والمتفجرات ولكن إلى أجنحة المعارضة السورية الداخلية وإلى خلايا أمنية عربية تعمل سراً في مختلف المناطق السورية وخصوصاً على الحدود مع العراق والمثلث الكردي-السوري-التركي في أقصى الشمال-الشرقي السوري, فيما يبدو أن هذه الدول وهي لبنان والأردن والعراق وتركيا والأكراد, فتحت كل جسورها مع هذه المعارضات السورية في الداخل والخارج, اعتماداً عليها في تفجير الأوضاع الداخلية في دمشق والمناطق الشرقية المحاذية لحدود العراق وفي مدن الساحل والوسط الشماليين التي تشهد هي الأخرى تدفق عمليات تهريب أسلحة من البحر«.وأكدت تقارير استخبارية غربية وإسرائيلية من بيروت وعمان وتل ابيب واربيل الكردية عاصمة منطقة الحكم الذاتي في العراق, »إن تزايد عمليات تهريب الأسلحة والعناصر إلى سورية من الدول المجاورة لها بلغت حدود استخدام طائرات نقل تفرغ حمولاتها من الأسلحة في أحد المطارات في تلك المنطقة الكردية حيث يجري نقلها إلى الأراضي السورية عبر عشرات الشاحنات والفانات والسيارات الخصوصية الصغيرة التي يقودها مقاتلون من الحزب الديمقراطي الكردستاني بزعامة مسعود برزاني لتوزيعها وخزنها في المناطق الشرقية الكردية السورية مثل القامشلي في محافظة الحسكة وفي بلدات مثل عامودا والدباسية وتل كوجك وعين ديوار وصولاً إلى مدن وقرى في محافظة دير الزور الملاصقة«.وقال تقرير استخباري إسرائيلي ورد المؤسسات الأمنية التابعة لبعض كبريات دول الاتحاد الأوروبي الاثنين الماضي, إن »الأردنيين الذين اكتووا منذ السبعينات بالتدخل الاستخباري السوري في شؤونهم, والذين ردوا بالمثل في مراحل سابقة ولكن بشكل محدود جداً, قد يكونون اتخذوا قراراً دراماتيكياً الاسبوع الأسبق بعد مصادرتهم كميات كبيرة من الأسلحة بينها صواريخ كاتيوشا ولاد واعتقالهم 19 فلسطينياً من حركة »حماس« تدربوا في دمشق وتسللوا من حدودها إلى الأردن لشن موجة إرهابية واسعة النطاق حسب اعترافات بعضهم على شاشات التلفزة- اتخذوا قراراً بفتح معابر حدودية باتجاه الأراضي السورية لتزويد المعارضة الداخلية السورية وجماعات جديدة من عملائهم داخل سورية بأنواع مختلفة من الأسلحة بينها صواريخ مماثلة وقاذفات آر.بي.جي ومدافع هاون من أعيرة متوسطة المدى, بعدما سمحوا لقادة كبار من المعارضين السوريين بالانتقال من الخارج إلى عمان«.وقال التقرير العبري الذي بلغ لندن أول من أمس إن »نفس خطوط التهريب السورية إلى الأردن قرب مدينة درعا السورية التي يجري فيها تخزين الأسلحة والمتفجرات قبل نقلها إلى الأراضي الأردنية, باتت تستخدم على أيدي الاستخبارات الأردنية لتهريب السلاح إلى سورية, فيما تحدث عمليات تبادل تهريب للأسلحة والعناصر بين الأردن وسورية في مناطق جبل الدروز, وخصوصاً في المناطق المحيطة بصلخد الدرزية السورية الواقعة على خطوط التماس مع الأردن«.وذكر التقرير الإسرائيلي أن »المهربين اللبنانيين التقليديين للأسلحة والعناصر البشرية الذين عملوا لصالح الاستخبارات السورية طوال الأعوام العشرين الماضية في اختراق حدود لبنان ونقل الأسلحة إلى بعض فئاته, قد يكونون انقلبوا الآن وباتوا يهربون الأسلحة والرجال إلى فئات المعارضة السورية التي تحشد طاقاتها استعداداً لمواجهة نظام البعث القائم حتى نضجت الأمور داخلياً ودولياً«.وقال التقرير إن الساحل السوري الشمالي »يشهد منذ أشهر على امتداد أكثر من 100 كيلومتر, عمليات تهريب أسلحة ومعدات ومتفجرات ليلية تتم بواسطة زوارق صغيرة تنقل حمولات بواخر راسية خارج المياه الإقليمية السورية وقادمة من قبرص وتركيا وأوروبا وأحياناً كثيرة من الشواطئ اللبنانية.وتعقيباً على معلومات هذه التقارير, قدرت أوساط أمنية في بيروت أن تكون عمليات تهريب الأسلحة إلى سورية خلال الأشهر الستة الماضية »ازدادت ثلاثة أضعاف, وأن ما أعلنته المديرية العامة لأمن الدولة في العاصمة اللبنانية في منتصف هذا الشهر من أنها تمكنت في الرابع عشر منه من اعتقال أفراد شبكة تهريب السلاح بين لبنان وسورية, هو جزء ضئيل لا يكاد يذكر مقارنة بعمليات التهريب الحاصلة بالفعل«.

  15. Ammar help me here, do you think the Seyassah article is true or at least partially or just an imagination?Over the last year and including today (the attack in Damascus) it seems that there are more and more terrorist cells in the country. The syrian media potrays them as Islamic cells belonging to Alqaeda and Jund Al Sham, but the source is not neutral so you don’t what the reality is…All I know is that the policies of Syrian regime are so unwise by having hostile relations with Lebanon and Jordan, plus helping in increasing violence the Iraq, turning more islamic by face and appearence ofcourse and using what suits them to manipulate the masses, the alliance with Iran which is not helpful and get the Syrian people nothing. On the internal front, not knowing how to distinguish between people who love the country and people who want to harm it, and doing everything possible to increase the tyranny and the people frustration.If violence starts in Syria then God help us all. It would be like Iraq now or even worse. I don’t trust this regime in anything they do, including may be using terrorism as a way to attract the west sympathy. Time to stop being the bad guy in the region and open up politically and economically.For a better SyriaFreesyria.wordpress.com

  16. Indeed, Fares, the article is mere propaganda, and is meant as a message against the Syrian regime not to be involved in supporting radical groups in Jordan, and to monitor the borders more closely. The Assads are likely to respond by accusing Jordan of supporting Islamist terrorist. The Assads are actively truing to recreate the conditions of the 80s, because they believe they know how to deal with them.Unfortunately, people who play with fire, as you know, end up burning themselves and all around them. WE are going to see mayhem soon, and I am not sure who’s going to help us.

  17. Ah yes, I also need to say to Yaman that his reading of what I wrote and I am going through in general is the more accurate one, both with regard to how I feel about things, and with regard to what type of military intervention I proposed, namely tactical support and not invasion. But since most commentators thought that I was advocating invasion, and wanted me to come out clearly and address this issue, I opted to address the issue through my comment above, which represents the best answer that I can give at this stage, regardless of how unsatisfactory it might appear to some.

  18. Ammar, you are right, I was thinking the same thing, the authorities want the 80s instability back again because that will give them another 20 years in Power. But the conditions are different and Iraq is already in civil war, so it is very dangerous playing with fire. This regime is very incompetent and very machievelian. We can’t even believe Syrian news anymoreHow is this going to end???

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