Rebels With a Cause, But Not Much Consensus

Syrian opposition fighters are committed to Bashar al-Assad’s ouster, but disagree on just about everything else.


As President Bashar al-Assad’s forces disintegrate, the Syrian civil war is devolving into a battle between Sunni rebel groups and Alawite-dominated militias fighting in support of the old regime. This may increase the rebels’ chances of victory, but it also means that the work to rebuild Syria after Assad falls will be even more challenging. Continue reading

Obama’s Syrian Gamble

Quoted at length by Ben Evansky in LiveShots

Ammar Abdulhamid is a Syrian human rights and democracy activist, who was forced to flee Syria in 2005 after he criticized Syrian President Bashar al Assad. He says the administration is rewarding bad behavior and that the U.S. decision will only embolden Assad’s regime. Moreover, Abdulhamid is convinced that this kind of concession is “another sign of confusion and weakness on the part of the Obama administration ‪

Daniel Levy a Senior Fellow and Co-Director of the Middle East Task Force at the New America Foundation, and tells Fox News that having an ambassador on the ground is not a gift to the Syrians, but rather part of a toolbox to help conduct effective diplomacy. He says “It is actually easier for the Syrians to avoid and sidestep the pressing issues on the bilateral U.S.-Syrian agenda if American diplomacy is intermittent, fleeting, or low-level .” Levy believes the “non-high-level engagement” that was used during the Bush presidency “was a very poor one indeed, and to continue that approach as its original architects are advocating would be to repeat those mistakes and to invite continued failure.”

Ammar Abdulhamid, founder and executive director of the Tharwa Foundation, a nonprofit organization dedicated to democracy promotion in the broader Middle East and North Africa region, believes the administration is mistaken if it thinks that having an ambassador in Syria, “will facilitate the communication process with its leadership (and) are missing the point.” He says “successive administrations have sent numerous high level delegations to Syria…and that all have fallen on deaf ears.”‪ ‪

Yet it seems that the Obama administration is not considering abandoning its policy, despite the threat by a few senators of holding up the ambassador’s nomination, due to the reports of Syria supplying Scuds to Hezbollah, indeed Secretary of State Hillary Clinton recently told reporters that the presence of an ambassador will give the administration a better insight into what’s happening in Syria.‪ ‪

Abdulhamid says that time and time again the U.S. has implored the Syrians to stop terror attacks… prevent the flow of arms to Hezbollah…and to cooperate with UN inspectors who are looking into its aggressive nuclear program. He says in return for Syria’s help, the Obama administration even dropped its insistence on the release of political prisoners and improving the human rights situation in Syria.‪ Abdulhamid has a few words of advice for the administration; he says that “history has shown us that the only thing the current leaders of Syria care about is empowering and enriching themselves at the expense of their people, theirs is a mafia-regime par excellence, and no amount of pragmatism and real politick can change this fact.”‪ ‪

Last month the U.S. Senate Committee on Foreign Relations backed Obama’s nominee Ambassador Richard Ford and sent his nomination to the U.S. Senate. A date for a vote on his confirmation has yet to be announced.‪‪


Rosy Scenarios & Regional Realities!

The Saudis, led by prince Bandar, seems to be doing a really great job trying to break up the HISH Alliance. They are doing this by engaging both the weakest and strongest links in the Alliance. Indeed, and rather than trying to wean the proven hopeless Assads off of their dependence on Iran and Hezbollah, as the pro-engagement crowd in the US was want to do, the Saudis went straight to the source, to the puppet-masters themselves, and showed them the wisdom of divesting themselves from the pesky and troublemaking Assads. In the meantime, they managed to sponsor an important summit in Mecca in which they sponsored a deal between the warring factions in Gaza, and reestablished their patronage over the weakest link in the Alliance – Hamas. Continue reading

Heretical Nuances!

This is a link to some very interesting interview in Damascus with one of the leaders of the Iraqi Sunni insurgents. It shows very clearly how openly the Assads support the insurgents. Still, I seriously doubt whether this revelation will have much influence over the ongoing debate over engaging the Assads, seeing that pro-engagement groups will point to it as an additional reason for why the US should engage the Assads, while those who stand against engagement will see in it a further evidence of why the Assads should be punished rather than engaged. Continue reading

A Tragicomedy of Errors!

Voices are being raised on a daily basis tying progress in resolving the current situation in Iraq and the standoff with Iran to a peaceful conclusion of the Arab-Israeli Conflict. The most recent such call came from none other than Graham Fuller writing in the Winter issue of the Washington Quarterly (not available on the Internet). But, and while Fuller makes many excellent arguments with regard to the current dynamics in the region, his perspective, albeit far more nuanced and inclusive than most, is still too narrow. Continue reading

The HISHee Rebellion!

The assassination of Pierre Gemayel is not some haphazard ill-timed event, but a carefully calculated one meant to help push Lebanon further and further along the path of internal implosion. And the HISH (Hezbollah-Iran-Syria-Hamas) Alliance is definitely to blame here, the particular considerations related to their particular decision-making and implantation strategies notwithstanding. Continue reading