Category Archives: Syria

Bashar al-Assad, King Abdul, and Jordanian Humor, again………….

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I believe, if I were in his shoes, I would step down,” King Abdullah told the BBC. “If Bashar has the interest of his country, he would step down, but he would also create an ability to reach out and start a new phase of Syrian political life.”……. (King Abdul of Jordan)

This is the closest that the Jordanian king has ever come to humor, as far as I recall (unless you consider his Star Trek scene). No Arab leader has ever shown any inclination to leave office unless forced to. No Arab bureaucrat has ever shown any inclination to leave office unless forced to. That includes kings, dictators, and their flunkies and minions. It includes Jordanian kings (his father King Hussein killed a lot of people, mostly fellow-humorless Palestinians, in order to stay in power). Maybe I have been wrong about Jordanians; maybe there is a glimmer of some humor somewhere over there. But I need more evidence.
(Of course, the Syrians use their own interrogators and torturers, they don’t import any from Jordan, Unlike the regime in Bahrain and UAE)
Cheers
mhg



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Hillary Clinton on Syria, Nasrallah on Syria, Iran on Syria……

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eAsiaMediaHub US EAP Media Hub: #SecClinton: Assad has lost his legitimacy to rule & he should step down #Syria

Hezbollah Secretary-General Hassan Nasrallah on Friday warned Israel and the US that a war against Iran and Syria would lead to an all-out regional conflict. “They should understand that a war on Iran and Syria will not remain in Iran and Syrian territory, but it will engulf the whole region and there is no escaping this reality,” Nasrallah said during a televised speech honoring “Martyrs’ Day.”……. “Iran is strong, united and has a one-of-a-kind leader and it will retaliate harshly,” he said in his speech, which was delivered in Beirut’s southern neighborhood ………..”

Hezbollah Secretary General Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah called on the US administration and the Zionist entity to understand very well that a war against Iran and Syria will not stay inside Iran and Syria, but will roll instead and spread out to the entire region.……..


Hassan Nasrallah
is sticking by the Syrian regime, even as the Iranian patrons are (very) slowly moving away. Perhaps the Iranians can see some writing on the wall, or hedging their bets as all politicians (by definition) do. Clearly one does not expect Nasrallah to see eye to eye with Secretary Clinton on Syria, certainly on Lebanon, but diverging from a possible Iranian view is unusual. Of course he diverges only from the views expressed by President Ahmadinejad, which are not necessarily the views of Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, not these d
ays.
Meanwhile a consensus is emerging that the Assad dynasty rule is about to expire. Things are getting interesting in Syria, but they will get even more interesting after the fall of the Ba’ath party.
Cheers
mhg



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Thwarted in Iraq, Buoyed in Libya: McCain Seeks a New Maysaloon in Syria……….

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With NATO bombing of Libya set to end, U.S. Sen. John McCain on Sunday raised the possibility of some kind of military attack on Syria, where the government of Bashar Assad has been accused of brutally cracking down on protesters. “Now that military operations in Libya are ending, there will be renewed focus on what partial military operations might be considered to protect civilian lives in Syria,” McCain (R-Ariz.) said at a meeting of the World Economic Forum in Jordan. “The Assad regime should not consider that it can get away with mass murder. Kadafi made that mistake and it cost him everything.” There was no immediate response from the Assad government, which has blamed “armed groups” for the violence that has swept the nation since mid-March. ……….. Still, there is a school of thought that an impasse has been reached seven months into the protest movement and some kind of foreign intervention may be the only way……….

Foreign intervention? How about Chinese intervention? Or Iranian intervention? Are they as kosher as French intervention?  Maybe McCain will join Sarkozy in leading a new Battle of Maysaloon to retake Syria.


The French reneged (along with the British) on their promise to the Arabs under the Hashemites of Hijaz after World War I. The Brits installed Faisal as King of Syria, only to see the French invade and kick him out to Iraq. Later on, the British allowed Ibn Saud and his Wahhabi forces to invade Hijaz and annex it to their Nejdi kingdom. Jordan and Iraq were the consolation prize.
Cheers
mhg



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Khamenei on “Islamic” Arab Uprisings…………..

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Supreme Leader of the Islamic Revolution Ayatollah Seyyed Ali Khamenei has said the great Islamic movements that have recently arisen in the Muslim world are a prelude to a greater development and the rule of Islam. The Leader made the remarks on Tuesday during a meeting with scholars and intellectuals who attended the fifth meeting of the Ahl al-Bayt World Assembly, which was held in Tehran on Sunday. He also said, “Our stance is to support and strengthen these movements, and we hope that these Islamic movements will bring an end to the hegemony of the main enemies, namely the Zionists and the United States.” In addition, the Leader advised Muslims to be vigilant about the enemies’ threats, especially their plots to create division between Shias and Sunnis. These plots are politically motivated, he said, adding, “The global arrogance (the forces of imperialism) are especially pursuing a policy of Shiaophobia in addition to the policy of Islamophobia………….Mehr News Agency

Ayatollah Khamenei is wrong, of course, in labeling the Arab uprisings generally as Islamist, calling them “Islamic movements”. They started as quite secular movements in Tunisia and Egypt, and most Islamists like Salafis and many others either opposed or at least hesitated about them. The Islamists, ever opportunistic, especially the Salafis, have jumped on the bandwagon. Yet he has a point in that the Arab states undergoing uprisings are becoming more Islamist. Egypt will almost certainly become more “Islamist”, as will Libya although I suspect Libya is more susceptible to the threat of the Salafi movement. Syria will certainly become much more Islamist and much less secular than under the Baath, if Assad is overthrown, unless the military takes over again. Syria has had a long history of religious tolerance, even more so than Egypt in recent decades. Islamists have a leading role in both the Libyan and Syrian uprisings. Bahrain is already co-governed by the Salafis and Wahhabis who also fear a Shi’a resurgence if the Apartheid system is dismantled. As for Yemen? Who knows. Only Tunisia has some hope of blocking the ambitions of the Islamist parties.
Khamenei is quite right about the dangers of Shiaphobia and Islamophobi
a.
Cheers
mhg

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Syria and Iraq and the Arabs: the New Iranian-Turkish Regional Rivalry………….

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President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad calls for dialogue between the Syrian government and the opposition and urges the government to respect people’s rights. “We are of the opinion that that nations and governments should resolve their problems with each other (through dialogue),” Ahmadinejad tells Portugal’s Radiotelevisao Portuguesa when asked about Iran’s position toward uprisings in Syria. Ahmadinejad adds, “Governments and nations should respect rights and freedom.”……….Mehr News Agency (Iran)

Iran criticizes Turkey for agreeing to host NATO’s missile defense system, saying Iran does not expect Turkey as a neighbor and friendly country to adopt policies that would create tension in the region. “We expect our friendly countries and neighbors to show more vigilance and by considering the region’s security interests do not pave the way for policies that create tension that will definitely lead to ‘complicated consequences’,” Foreign Ministry spokesman Ramin Mehmanparast says. Turkey has recently agreed to host an early warning radar as part of NATO’s missile defense system which is allegedly aimed to counter missile threats by Iran. Mehmanparast says Iran believes the deployment radar system in Turkey will not serve “regional stability and security” even for the host country………. Mehr News Agency

These two news items from Iran reflect newly reshuffled cards in the game of musical chairs in our region. There is no doubt now that the Iranians are bracing for change in Syria. Even if the protests in Syrian cities are crushed, regimes like the Ba’ath one in Syria are considered an anomaly now (as are other regimes, but that is for another post). Change is coming and not just in Syria, but whether it is ‘change you can believe in’ depends on your view and your politics.
The Iranians have looked at the players in Syria and probably decided to get ready for any eventuality. It is likely that they have decided to adopt their own Syrian faction: everyone else seems to have their own “Islamist” factions in Syria these days. Sect is not an issue when it comes to politics: the Iranian mullahs are not as ‘pure’ as the Wahhabi potentates in Saudi Arabia, or maybe they can’t afford to be that pure given the demographics of most countries in the region by sect. They may be getting ready to throw the secular Ba’ath regime under the bus, hoping for another “Hamas”. What favors this tack is that the mullahs also know that they have one important card in Syria no matter who comes to power in Damascus: the Golan Heights. The Likud or Kadima will never give up the Golan, which means any new Damascus regime will probably keep its Iranian (and hence its Lebanese) options open. The Iranians invented the game of chess and that is how they play the regional politics, yet they are not immune to the unrest.
Then there is Turkey, which had been sympathetic to the Iranian position on the nuclear issue. Until now. The Arab Spring has reshuffled the regional cards and created new opportunities, and it is not done yet. Silent and latent rivalries, dating back to the Persian-Ottoman struggle over Arab territories like Iraq, are warming up. This is exacerbated by the total paralysis of the Arab system and the inability of the Arab oligarchs to shape events in the region. Despite the billions spent on weapons and on international networking, the region’s fate is still determined by three non-Arab parties and the West. Egypt may regain its pre-Mubarak role as a major regional player, as “the” Arab player, but that depends on how things develop in Cairo. The Iranian-Turkish rivalry in Iraq is more commercial than political since the Iranians seem to have an overwhelming political and cultural and geographic advantage. The Iranian hand in Iraq has been strengthened by the loud disapproval of some Arab regimes of the new order in Iraq.
Syria is another matter: it is a smaller and poorer country. But Syria also has its own issue with Turkey: the small region of Alexandretta that the Syrians claim should be theirs.
When the dust settles on this new Arab Spring, and that may be a few years from now, what we shall see will most likely be quite different from what we now expect.
This also includes developments inside Iran.
Cheers
mhg



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Al Qaeda in Lebanon: Who Killed Hariri? Who Really Knows? Who Really Cares?…………

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In focusing entirely on the alleged links between four Hezbollah activists and the 2005 bombing that killed Prime Minister Rafik Hariri, the indictment issued by the Special Tribunal for Lebanon earlier this month has continued the practice of the U.N investigation before it of refusing to acknowledge the much stronger evidence that an Al-Qaeda cell was responsible for the assassination. Several members of an Al-Qaeda cell confessed in 2006 to having carried out the crime, but later recanted their confessions, claiming they were tortured. However, the transcript of one of the interrogations, which was published by a Beirut newspaper in 2007, shows that the testimony was being provided without coercion and that it suggested that Al-Qaeda had indeed ordered the assassination. But the United Nations International Independent Investigation Commission (UNIIIC) was determined to pin the crime either on Syria or its Lebanese ally Hezbollah and refused to pursue the Al-Qaeda angle…………”

An interesting angle introduced about the Hariri assassination. This adds yet more “parties of interest” to the whole tedious boring saga. Let’s see what we have now:


  • Originally Syria was accused and convicted in (some) media of the assassination in 2005. That created pressure on the Syrian regime to evacuate its forces from Lebanon (they had overstayed their welcome anyway). For some time the Syrian angle was the one pushed by the March 14 right-wing Lebanese bloc and by the Saudi and Israeli and Western media. Hariri allies went all over Western media swearing that the Syrians were behind the assassinations.
  •  
  • In 2006 the war between Israel and Lebanon (actually Hezbollah) erupted. The Israelis, who usually trounce regular Arab armies easily, were humiliated for the second time in six years by an Arab guerrilla army.

  • The West started to cozy up to the Assad regime in Syria in recent years (before the Arab Spring and Summer). The Saudi King visited Damascus and he and Assad flew together into Beirut.  They looked almost sweet together.

  • Lo and behold, suddenly news leaked that in fact it was not Syria that was being suspected, not anymore. It was Hezbollah or more accurately some Hezbollah officials who were suspected of the assassination of Hariri. Some reports in Middle East right-wing media even threw in the names of Iranian leaders like Khamenei and others as possible suspects.

  • Hezbollah’s Hassan Nasrallah hinted, nay strongly suggested, that the Israelis may have been behind the assassination. He noted that Israel stood to gain the most from it (getting the Syrians out of Lebanon, dividing the Lebanese, dividing the Arabs to the extent that some regimes supported Israel in the war of 2006).

  • Now al-Qaeda is being introduced as yet another suspect.

  • Most Lebanese seem to have lost faith in the Hariri tribunal and think, probably quite rightly, that it is being used as a political tool. Now where would they get this idea?

  • Most Arabs, those who care at all, look at the tribunal through the prism of their own political (and sectarian) inclinations. These are the Arabs of the East, of the Asian side: Lebanon, Syria, and the Gulf GCC states. These are the Arab regions were sectarian passions are strong.

  • The other Arabs (Iraq, Yemen, Egypt, North Africa, Sudan, Somalia, Djibouti) don’t give a rat’s ass about the whole Hariri STL thing.

  • Who killed Hariri and so many others who were nearby in 2005? I haven’t the foggiest idea. But I do suspect one thing: the STL tribunal may not know anymore than I do. Possibly only the killers know.
  • (No, Hugo Chavez had nothing to do with it).

Cheers
mhg



m.h.ghuloum@gmail.com

From Tehran to Riyadh: of Revolutions and Selective Memories………

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Supreme Leader of the Islamic Revolution Ayatollah Seyyed Ali Khamenei announced on Wednesday that “we are very worried about situation in Bahrain.” The Leader made the remarks as he addressed worshippers at prayers marking Eid ul-Fitr. The Leader called on people in Egypt, Libya, Tunisia and Yemen to vigilantly guard their revolutions so that the arrogant powers would not hijack their revolutions. “Muslim nations whether in Egypt, Libya, Tunisia, Yemen, and in the rest of countries need to be vigilant today. They should not allow the victories they have gained to be hijacked by enemies.” The Leader also pointed to NATO attacks on Muammar Gaddafi’s regime, saying those countries which consider themselves as owners of the Libyan revolution are those past colonial powers who helped suppress the Libyan nation………….

I agree with the ayatollah about Egypt, Libya, Tunisia, Yemen, and Bahrain, especially Bahrain. But he forgot all about the protests and the repression in Syria. Must have been a simple lapse; people do forget one or two countries sometimes. That is also the reason why Saudi media focus on Egypt, Libya, Tunisia, and Syria, and forget all about the struggle and the repression in Bahrain.
And about those parliamentary elections next March: it would be interesting to see who is allowed to run and who isn’t.

Cheers
mhg



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Is Iran Hedging on Syria? Saving Assad from his Party…………….

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Iran, Syria’s closest ally, called on the government in Damascus to recognize its people’s “legitimate” demands on Saturday, in the first such remarks to come from the Persian country since the five-month-old uprising against President Bashar al-Assad started. Although the remarks, by Iran’s foreign minister, Ali Akbar Salehi, did not advocate any specific changes, they were the first public sign of growing unease with the crisis in Syria — even as Iran has maintained an unyielding crackdown on its own dissenters. Other governments in the region are increasingly worried that the crisis could spill beyond Syria’s borders…………….

A little late, but not too late: maybe they see something new. This is a serious development for Syria. Iran is the last ally left, other than Hezbollah. The Iranians see the writing on the wall, but the Syrian regime does not. The Iranians worry about a “Libyan” solution for Syria
whereby Nato forces (Turks and others) would interfere, with the help and alibi provided by a couple of Gulf states like UAE and/or Qatar (other Arab countries are smarter than intervening in a bloody civil strife). Now if one day Hezbollah surprises everyone and comes out and calls on the Syrians to respect the rights of their people………
Cheers
mhg



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Syria Divided: Arab Spring, Arab Toothpaste………….

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On one of the city’s main streets, families have still gathered every night on the sidewalks and in the medians for nighttime picnics. Vendors crowd around selling hookahs, popcorn, sandwiches and coffee. Traffic moves slowly as people park cars by the sidewalk and open doors and windows to let music stream out to entertain the crowds……. But Aleppo’s reluctance to join the revolution goes beyond any alleged cowardice. As a financially stable city, Aleppo was already less likely to revolt, and since the nationwide unrest erupted in mid-March, residents have by turns been made complacent by government enticements and scared by the overwhelming presence of security agents and spies. Whereas Damascus is the capital and administrative hub of Syria, Aleppo is the economic center where much of the money flows, said Ammar Abdulhamid, a Syrian opposition activist and dissident in the United States. Many of the country’s factories, textile plants and pharmaceutical companies are in the city………….

The regime in Syria, just like those in Libya and Yemen, just like all Arab regimes whether dictatorships or monarchies, clings to power. As a Ba’ath Party regime, it is more willing to kill its own people than say, even the Mubarak regime in Egypt. The Ba’ath Party has had a specially dark and bloody history, in both Iraq and Syria. It started as an imitator of Europe’s Fascist “Nationalist” parties, but later acquired socialists pretensions after the expansion of Soviet power. Yet it soon descended, especially in Iraq, to a basically tribal power center (tribal in the literal sense and in the broader sense of a clan or a sect). In that, the Ba’ath rule became no different from any dictatorship or absolute monarchy; only it was bloodier than both other cases because of the mutual mistrust with the people. Neither Nasser nor Sadat or Mubarak in Egypt were ever nearly as repressive as the Ba’ath, nor were most Arab monarchies with one exception (some would say two exceptions).
No doubt the Syrian toothpaste is out of the tube. Yet the shape of the future is unknown. Arab despots are very creative in bargaining with their people and clinging to their power under different, new, guises. And the outside world (especially the West) does not like any change not of its own making. That is why the overall verdict on the so-called Arab Spring is undecided, yet.
Cheers
mhg




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Political Advertisement: Syrian Uprising Spills over into Lebanon…………

Gangs of supporters of Syrian President Bashar Assad armed with whips and clubs assaulted a small anti-regime protest in front of the Syrian Embassy in the Lebanese capital of Beirut, leaving several injured. According to accounts of the victims, mostly Lebanese activists and members of civil society organizations, gathered in front of the embassy Tuesday night to show support for those killed by Assad’s gunmen in the Syrian city of Hama when groups of men began striking them and whipping them with belts……. “It was all planned. They came, started chanting for Bashar and then started getting closer to us,” said Saad Kurdi, one of the anti-regime protestors. “We didn’t provoke them. As they chanted ‘We sacrifice ourselves for you, Bashar,’ we chanted over them, ‘We sacrifice for you, Syria,’ and then they attacked us.” Demonstrators blamed the Lebanese Syrian Socialist Nationalist Party, known for being closely aligned with the increasingly isolated Baathist regime in Damascus, for inciting Syrian laborers around the neighborhood to attack them. Lebanon is home to a large community of Syrians who work in construction and many other blue-collar jobs.…………

It was bound to happen. Lebanese unrest has always spilled into Syria in some way, and Syrian unrest has now reached Lebanon. The Lebanese parties are divided between pro-regime (Syrian regime) like Hezbollah and General Michel Aoun and opponents of the regime like the Phalangists and the Hariri allies. There are also some ethnic racist elements: some Lebanese tend to look down on Syrians who work in their country and there have been incidents of mob attacks and abuses. On the other hand the Syrians controlled Lebanon from 1976 until 2005. Oddly, the Syrian forces entered Lebanon during the civil war in order to prevent the defeat of some of the right-wing parties that are now strongly anti-Syrian.
About the chant of “We sacrifice ourselves for you, Bashar,“: this is common in Arab states, where dictators or absolute monarchs have their paid agents march and chant. The late Saddam Hussein used the chant extensively on the streets of Baghdad and Amman. Nobody would sacrifice their lives for any Arab leader: it is all like the advertisements one sees on television, all paid for (like soap or Corona or Pepsi).

Cheers
mhg




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