Monday, June 12, 2006

Back to Action!

No, believe it or not, I haven’t watched a single match from the World Cup so far. Indeed, I just had enough time to keep up with the scores at the end of a long day. But I do hope to get a chance to follow the finals when the time comes (because I really feel like I am living in Mogadishu at this stage).

So, my short two-day absence from the blogosphere was not soccer-related in anyway, as some might have predicted. Indeed, I am not that predictable yet all due thanks and praise to my heretical stars. Let’s just say that the official explanation for my absence is that I was otherwise preoccupied. This will have to do for now.

But, and in order to cover some of the developments that took place during my absence, for heavens forbid that I should avoid tackling such thorny issues, albeit rather courtly and retroactively. So, let me make the following points:

  • The credibility of the National Salvation Front does not rest upon anyone’s views and opinions at this stage, regardless of who he/she happens to be, but on the actions of its leaders over the next few weeks and months. We all know who Khaddam is and we all know who Bayanouni is and we all know who the current critics are and we all know the background of each one of the people involved in this matter on all sides of the multi-dimensional equation and we all have some reasonable assessment of their main motives, but politics in the final analysis is about actions and context and the ability of the main players to tailor their actions to the context and /or influence the context through their actions. The NSF has just been born and its particular interaction with the geopolitical context is something that people have to be patient enough to observe. Indeed, it will be as equally foolish to expect the NSF to be the ideal and final solution to all our problems as it is to dismiss it off-hand, considering the clout and diversity of the people taking part in it.

  • The Brammertz Report came as most of us have expected, but not necessarily hoped, bland, short and technical. And though it did not blame anyone directly it also failed to exonerate anyone. In fact, insisting on highlighting the potential connection between the Hariri assassination and the Madinah Bank scandal is a very telling sign that the main line of inquiry does still assume a certain high-level Syrian involvement in the matter, all this talk elsewhere in the report about other potential scenarios for the assassination notwithstanding. Be that as it may, we now have another year of waiting ahead of us. For most of this year, the Assads regime will likely act in a very confident manner and, to me, that has always been a rather welcome attitude on their part, albeit internal dissidents will pay a heavy price for that. The important thing here is for the opposition not to behave in a similar manner or to relapse into its former apathetic tendencies and desperate ethos.

  • There was a story that received very little attention over the last few days, but one that could have major consequences on the longer run. The story of the little ambiguous crisis between the Assads regime and the rulers of Qatar. The sensationalistic Kuwaiti newspaper Al-Siayssah reports that the arrest of over 100 Syrian workers in Doha in the last couple of weeks came as a preventive measure designed to foil a plot hatched by Assef Chawkat himself to blow up Qatari interests in order to punish the Qatari rulers for voting for UNSC Resolution 1680. The matter, the reports goes, seems to have been contained for now following an unscheduled brief visit by the Qatari prince to Damascus, which was in itself followed by an equally brief and low-key visit by the Bahraini Monarch. As I noted above, Al-Siyassah is notorious for sensationalist style, but its stories are usually not all together fabrications. Indeed, my Qatari contacts do tell me that Doha is indeed rife with rumors to this effect, and that this has been the case even before the appearance of Al-Siyassah’s report. I am not sure what to make of that though, but if there is any kernel of truth here, then there is only one conclusion to make: the Assads seem to have completely relapsed in their thinking to the 80s, they are reliving that period with all its machinations and all its angst, and are more than wiling to adopt the selfsame methods. Syria may not be able to withstand the consequences of this foolishness again.