Wednesday, May 24, 2006

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.