Some quotes and then some thoughts about the violence in Syria.
First, Helena Cobban who is one of the best English-language bloggers on the Middle East on the situation in Syria as of November 25:
Turkey's AK government has shifted into a position of much stronger support for the Syrian opposition, with PM Erdogan now openly calling for the resignation of Syria's President Asad, while leaders and members of the militarized, oppositionist 'Free Syrian Army' have been given considerable freedom to organize in the encampments of Syrian refugees in Turkey.Then Eric Margolis, who uses his judgement as a source. His judgement agrees with mine, but without documentation, will not be persuasive to anyone inclined to disagree with him.
Attempts by western governments to win a UNSC resolution that would, as with Resolution 1970 in re Libya, have provided a basis for future military action against Syria were rebuffed when both Russia and China vetoed it.
The Arab League has launched its own strong-seeming diplomatic and political intervention that requires the Syrian government to end the use of repression and violence, engage in negotiations with the opposition, and allow the entry of Arab league monitors-- actually, the deadline for that latter step was November 25.
The Arab League-cum-NATO military action against Libya (which was also supported by NATO member Turkey) had been cited as a desired precedent by many in the Syrian opposition. That action was eventually successful in taking over the whole of Libya and killing President Qadhafi. But it took them seven months and a lot of bloody fighting to achieve that; and the outcome inside Libya has been very far from what most pro-democracy, pro-rights activists in the west had hoped for.
Syria’s conflict is confusing. It began a year ago when insurgent groups slipped in from neighboring Lebanon. They were armed, supplied and trained by the CIA, Britain’s MI6, and Israel’s Mossad. Their finances came from the US Congress, which voted in the 1980’s to fund overthrowing Syria’s Assad regime because of its antagonism to Israel and support for Palestinians, and from the Saudis.The harshest sanctions ever imposed, those against Saddam Hussein's Iraq that killed more than half of a million people, mostly children and the elderly did not accomplish or even threaten regime change. The economy collapsing, especially when Syria will continue to have some supplies of basic foods would actually make regime survival easier.
In the 1920’s, a leading Zionist thinker, Vladimir Jabotinsky, proclaimed the Arab world was a brittle mosaic of tribes and clans. A few sharp raps, he predicted, would splinter the whole fragile mess and leave a new Jewish state as paramount power of the Mideast and its oil. He was thinking primarily of Syria, Lebanon and Iraq.
These armed Syrian groups of mercenaries, Assad-hating Lebanese fascists, and CIA-cultivated anti-Assad exiles lit the fuse in Syria. Their attacks, mainly along the Lebanese border, ignited resistance by long repressed Sunni Muslim conservatives, bitter foes of the Assad’s Alawi-dominated regime. Alawi – an offshoot of Iran’s Shia and Turkey’s Alevi –tend to be poor, clannish and disliked by mainstream Sunni as heretics.
Many of Syria’s smaller cities and towns have revolted, but not yet its large cities, Damascus, Latakia and Aleppo but their vital economies are collapsing.
More from Margolis:
Syria is a long-time ally of Iran. The Western powers and Israel are avid to tear apart Syria, thus dealing a severe blow to not only Iran, but Syria’s other allies, Lebanon’s Hezbullah and Palestine’s Hamas.And Neelabh Mishra from an Indian publication, Outlook India:
Equally important, if Syria collapses, its highly strategic Golan Heights, annexed by Israel since 1967, will remain unchallenged in Israel’s hands. Golan is Israel’s primary source of ground water.
A splintering Syria will be a catastrophe for the central Mideast. But the US, France, Israel and Britain are so blinded by their anti-Iran passion, they are ready to destroy Syria to get at Great Satan Iranian. That’s like burning down your house to get rid of mice.
The so-called uprising in Syria lies largely along an arc of towns near the borders—with Lebanon, Iraq or Turkey—indicating a degree of backing from across the borders. Non-western diplomats talk of four strands of opposition: a) Peasants uncomfortable with the recent market-driven policies of the Assad government. It’s an ‘economic resentment’, articulated in the terminology of popular non-fundamentalist Islam. b) Progressive sections of the middle classes, who genuinely want democratic reforms. c) Wahabi hardline Islamists backed by fundamentalist Arab elements, largely from Saudi Arabia. d) People who resented the secularist, Arab socialist Ba’ath party takeover and left Syria for western pastures. They have made their money in the West, live there and want to refashion Syria with western support, in the western image, and allied to western interests.My position on Syria has not changed much over the last few weeks. The plan presented by Assad according to Outlook India is much more democratic than that presented by Egypt's pro-US military dictatorship. Given that Assad is able to rally large demonstrations of support, it is more likely than not that despite the funds that I (agreeing with Eric Margolis) am sure Saudi Arabia and Turkey are making available to rebels, the Syrian protests will fade out in a manner similar to the eventual fade of Iran's Green protests.
Government leaders like Bouthaina and foreign minister Walid al-Moallem differentiate between what they call the opposition rooted in the country and the violent armed bands, backed by foreign powers, which infiltrate their peaceful demonstrations. Certain Syria-based opposition groups responded to the government’s negotiation initiative, opened through the offices of the Grand Mufti Ahmad Badreddin Hassoun. He told us his son was recently assassinated by fundamentalist Islamists. About democratic reforms, Bouthaina sounds quite candid: “We are serious in recognising that reforms are Syria’s need of the hour.” Hence, she says, the government has lifted the emergency enforced for decades in Syria and announced a timeline for multi-party parliamentary elections in February next year, governorate elections, also in November 2012, and presidential elections in 2014. Therefore the government accepted the Arab League’s proposal for widened talks with the opposition, but it is adamant in not compromising with Syria’s secular ethos.
The same basic reason holds. In Iran, there was no compelling argument that the central claim, of electoral fraud, was true, so there was no fuel to sustain increases unrest in the face of government efforts to stifle that unrest. In Syria, in the end I expect to see that support among the population of Syria for what we saw in Libya or Iraq instead of non-violent elections on dates already announced will not remain at high enough levels to sustain the uprising.
An opposition needs a compelling story. The votes were stolen would have been a compelling story in Iran if evidence to support it had emerged. Assad is not respecting the wishes of the majority of Syrians by remaining would have been a more compelling story if Assad had not announced election dates.
What I hope Assad does now is that in February, come what may, the polls remain open long enough that there is no question the regime made an effort to gauge the will of the people in the revolting towns. The central cities are very likely to be open, and enough of the population resides in those cities that if the opposition is able to hamper voting along the border, numerically the election results can still be persuasive.
I guess the US and Israel hope Turkey has invaded by then. An invasion would be a bad move. Turkey would not prove to be better at holding Syrian territory than Israel was at holding Lebanese territory. Hezbollah-style rather than tank-heavy armies are the way of the future in the Middle East. Turkey would be helping Syria revolutionize its armed forces if it tries to take territory. It would be a horrible move for Turkey and I would have been sure six months ago that Erdogan would not make a mistake like that, but am less certain today.
Saudi Arabia is leading the pro-US dictatorships into more active hostility with Syria but short of a war against Turkey, Assad's hold on power is not particularly threatened for the time it will take to reach elections, which will give us a lot of new information about the legitimacy of Assad's regime.
As has become usual from Barack Obama, US policy is squarely on the side of useless preventable loss of human life and a total disregard Arab or non-Jewish life in the Middle East. The US' current policy regarding Syria is as bad Obama's Middle East policies almost always are. Fortunately, Syria has a better than even chance of averting the fate the US has planned for it on Israel's behalf.