Tuesday, February 28, 2006

The Qardaha Boyz!

Small and seemingly minor events can sometimes convey the truth much more clearly and effectively than any amount of deep political analysis.

While security officers are busy rounding up young students and activists for daring to try to establish a democratic youth forum where they can exchange ideas about the future of their country, members of the President’s family (yeah, those good old Qaradah Boyz) long known for their involvement in smuggling activities, kidnapping, extortion and heists, seem to have decided to flex their muscles a little and show the country who’s really the boss there. They did so by stealing the Mercedes Phantom belonging to the country’s new Minister of Interior, Brig Gen Bassam Abdulmajid, in a move that constitutes a major blow to his yet un-established prestige. Boohoo.

Not to be outdone, Bashar is to said to be planning to hijack his father’s presidential airplane and…,

Oh yes, I forget, he has already done so. Damn!

Well, he needs to do something wild anyhow and pretty soon too, lest his own credentials be subject to questioning. After all, he is the Grand Old Pouting Boy of the Qardaha Boyz and his is the burden of constantly proving it and living up to its requirements. So, this recent attempt at trying to minimize the audacity of his own Gang’s move by saying that the stolen car actually belonged to the former Minister of Interior, the all too tragically suicided Ghazi Kanaan, is just too pale and serve to further weaken his hand. Tsk. Tsk.

Ah the pressure of it all.

Hell, if things continued along these lines, it might just become easier to deal with the country’s failing economy. So there!

Saturday, February 25, 2006

A Casual Exchange with a Young and Inquisitive Mind!

Over the last few days, with a young man from the good old country.

Can you elaborate on the recent decision by the Bush Administration to allocate 5 million USD to fund the activities of the Syrian opposition?

In general, the sum involved is too miniscule really to finance any serious effort at destabilizing the Syrian regime, but it could help finance some small-scale meetings, travels, and the production of some necessary literature to explain the opposition’s point of view.

The importance of this symbolic gesture is that it crystallizes the position of the current Administration in the US regarding the Syrian regime – simply that it needs to be replaced and that viable alternatives to it need to be sought out and supported. The Syrian internal opposition may not be able to come out publicly and endorse this gesture for both ideological and tactical reasons. But, I seriously think that they need to revise both: the tactics and the ideology.

There are countries out there that accept massive US aid and yet can and do disagree, and quite publicly so, with some of the US policies in the region, e.g. Egypt. As such, accepting assistance from the US is not going to enslave anybody. On the other hand, creating contacts and linkages with the US on a variety of levels is extremely important at this stage, seeing that the future of our country will be shaped to large extant by its policies, whether we like it or not - (this is what happens to countries that squander 50 years of precious independence on petty sectarian squabbles rather than work to meet the serious developmental challenges that their country is facing – we find ourselves having to start all over again and under much tougher conditions. And the worst is yet to come! Ana Souri, Ah ya niyali!).

Cynicism aside, it is important to show the Syrian people that the opposition can sit down and negotiate with the powers that be in this world, after all, if we wanted incompetent morons to be responsible of our country’s relations with the world, our glorious regime seems to full of them. And just look where they got us for heavens sake!!!!

Other than Ghadri and Jbaili, who do you think will apply for such a not-so generous grant?

Well, believe me there are quite a few takers around, both inside and outside the country (including yours truly), most, if not all, are very credible and honest people (including yours truly), and though many of them seem to remain unknown for the wider public (including yours truly), perhaps this monetary support, no matter how miniscule at this stage, might help them overcome that barrier (including, perhaps, yours truly - for yours truly is not so sure about becoming famous).

Moreover, I hope that this funding will be used to help funds such activities that can help create broader coalition movements, establish specific programs and objectives and bridge the critical divide separating old and young activists.

But, being the cynical person that I am, I can assure you that people will focus on the pursuit of ineffective short-term goals and conceptual issues, leaving the future of our country to be determined solely on the basis of actions and policies adopted by the US and the EU, not to mention the regime itself, which, for all its stupidity can still outmaneuver us at any given time and for quite a while to come. Meanwhile, Islamist, tribalist and sectarian divides will continue to fester.

So, what do you suggest by way of handling this situation?

My strategy for dealing with this situation, if I can ever claim to have one, is to work quietly to establish an alternative form of leadership among young people (i.e. those below 40) from different communities – a strategy that will quietly work to both mount a civil disobedience movement that can help bring about the downfall of the regime on the short run, and, more importantly, one that will help us manage the ensuing chaos that will emerge as a "natural" consequence of:

a) vendetta tactics by the regime and its supporters,
b) the rise of extremist Islamists and other sectarian elements, who will benefit from the security problems that usually accompany such transitional periods to mount their own campaign against every modern façade and vestige in our society, and
c) the rise of the usual assortment of opportunists and demagogues who tend to rear their heads in such historical moments as well.

The real battle, then, is that that will ensue after regimefall, and it will take years for dust to settle on this one.

The trick to winning this battle, and the war, is to be able to choose the moment for fully joining in and to show the necessary patience in this regard. At the very least, this is a decade-long battle, and the war itself will likely take a few decades. It is not independence or sovereignty that is at stake here, it is the quality of our life and our ability as human beings to take an active part in working out our own destiny.

So, and in the face of my growing cynicism, all my “politicking” still leads me to this very idealistic point. Oh well, I am but a senile and cynical fool who still believes in human dignity. Shhhh… mums the word.

Where does the US and France fit into this?

Everywhere. I don’t think we have it in us to oppose them at this stage. I am not even sure if it is wise to do so. Every time we try to oppose "imperialist designs" we end up falling victims to the most unenlightened, authoritarian and corrupt elements in our society.

So, do you propose that we should just give up and latch on to this passing wagon to achieve some personal goals?

I propose that we be less ideological and more pragmatic. No. I am not calling for latching on to the passing wagon, I am just suggesting that we should not stand in its way, because, and thanks to the incompetence of our political leadership, including that in the opposition, the vehicle has gained too much momentum and we will not be able to stop it using our own naked and starved bodies.

Moreover, I am not suggesting that our sovereignty will be directly compromised by the French and the Americans through some sort of an Iraqi-style occupation. I think we will be facing a more subtle form of hegemony, and, as such, our response needs to be equally subtle. Brashness is not a prerogative of small isolated states. We need much more pragmatism here and much less idealism and ideology. Our idealism is better served by planning ahead and setting our eyes on the future, and by constantly rearranging our priorities to reflect the uneasy balance between principle, necessity and feasibility.

We cannot attain all our desired goals now, we have to prioritize, and we have to do so within the context of changing geopolitical realities all around us. The world is growing smaller and more interdependent by the minute, issues of sovereignty are becoming extremely meaningless, and usually amount to nothing more than turf wars between the haves. Our real concern should rather focus on development, education, participation, networking. In other words, we should focus on people more. I am not sure what role Syria can play in the future of humanity, I am not even sure if I care. What I do care and am rather sure about is this: Syrians do have a fair chance of playing a very important role.

Sounds like a nicely-worded sell out to me…

It may indeed be, I am selling out on quite a few traditional concepts in favor of new ones, ones that I have fashioned for myself on the basis of my own experiences in life, as meager and chaotic as they are. Even your average American or French citizen could find my new ideas offensive. For I take no pride in national belonging, you see. Nor do I take pride in pain, albeit nations have given us plenty of it to go around. But I do take some pride in my scattered little personal achievements, those little positive manifestations of my own humanity, no matter how fleeting and ephemeral - and that will have to suffice. I have no ideology to peddle, and no preconceived ideas or notions, only a few thought, a few doubts, and perhaps they too will suffice, in a land so full of convictions. A leadership based on doubt, rather than conviction, this is what I would like to nourish, to foster, if I ever get the chance to.

Thursday, February 23, 2006

The Plight of Syria’s Young Activists!

Writing for Syria Comment, Joe Pace makes an excellent point about the plight of Syria’s young activists. Turned off by the not-too-surprising gap that separates them from the older generation of activists, and making more convenient victims for the predatory practices of the country’s security services, simply because they are unknown figures and their arrests fail to generate any international backlash, these people are the real risk-takers in the contemporary activist scene in Syria, and has been since the early days of independence.

To protect, nourish and inspire these activists, a special network needs to be established one that helps provide them with platforms from which they can declare their ideas and voice their concerns, and conduits through which they can dialogue and debate regarding their country’s future and their role in it.

We, at the Tharwa Project, were on the verge of launching just such a program, when I had to pack up and leave before it was too late, thus availing myself of exactly that kind of opportunity that would not be available to younger activists, as Jo aptly points out. A younger activist would get in trouble for doing much less than anything I have done. My guilty conscience swells with pride.

Now that we are about to resume our activities in Syria again (while I am still wallowing in the relative safety and comfort of life in the Imperial Center), the fate of all those young people who have joined our organization, especially as parts of our One Day for Syria Network, will weigh heavily upon my chest.

You cannot build a meaningful future for the young ones without their participation, but, once they participate, they somehow end up as fodder for “our” causes. In a sense, all revolutions feed on their children and all parents are but pimps, no matter how unwilling.

Tuesday, February 21, 2006

Another small step!

The Temporary Committee for the Damascus Declaration has announced plans to form a Permanent Committee that will include opposition figures from inside and outside the country. The new Committee will be made up of 23 members, eight of them will be chosen from the Syrian opposition abroad.

Although the Temporary Committee did not specify exactly what the new Permanent Committee is supposed to do, it will be interesting to see, nonetheless, what external opposition figures will be chosen in this regard.

Indeed, members of the TC have already distanced themselves from both Khaddam and Bayanouni (Khaddam for his past, and Bayanouni for his willingness to overlook that past), while condemning both Rifa’at Assad and Farid Ghadri (Rifa’at, the uncle of the current president and a long time contender to the presidential throne, for his past as well, and Ghadri for his declared willingness to support an American military intervention in the country).

In this, the opposition seems to be trying to steer a fine line between seeking foreign help, via Syrian opposition members abroad whose image has not been severely tarnished in popular imagination (after all, all opposition members abroad have a tarnished image thanks to the Baath propaganda machine and the gullibility of our people), while asserting their rejection of foreign intervention in the country (hence the loud rejection of any financial help from the US government).

And so, political maneuvers continue, while the street marches to a different drum. When that seemingly magical moment comes, the Street will produce its own opposition figures and movements, and will stomp on us all. And yet, I am still willing to wager on the Street for all the mayhem that popular dynamics can bring - for sometimes you just have to go through raging fire to get to the other side.

Sunday, February 19, 2006

How Judicious!

Another protest demonstration took place in Damascus yesterday, this time it involved a groups of judges protesting the President’s decision to lay them off, a move that had been billed in the media at the time as part of anti-corruption campaign targeting the country’s infamous judiciary system. The constitutionality of the President’s decree in this regard has always been suspect as it infringed on the separation of powers instituted by the Baath Constitution itself.

Still protestors did not blame the President himself for this declaration, but pointed their fingers at his PM, Muhammad Naji Otri. Mr. Otri, the demonstrating judges claimed, conned the President somehow into adopting this move in defense of his drug-smuggling buddies from his hometown of Aleppo.

As a reward for their judiciousness, the President is said to have consented to meet with the protestors’ representatives on Monday.

So, the regime’s dirty laundry continues to be hung in public for all to see. Methinks this is the President’s Fruits of the Loins that I see. Oh, how vulgar! And, how appropriate!

Saturday, February 18, 2006

Setting Up Priorities!

It is not clear to me yet whether all this grandstanding by the US and Israel vis-à-vis Hamas will actually amount to a full-fledged boycott. I hope not. Because moving against Hamas, Hezbollah, Syria and Iran at the same time is simply untenable. The US has to prioritize, and has to prioritize right.

Hamas and Hezbollah (and Muqtada al-Sadr too, for he represents a part of the extremists' alliance) can be neutralized through developments in the internal affairs of their countries, so that the focus should remain on Syria and, more importantly, Iran.

But in order for this to happen, the US has to adopt the right policy in each case. Isolating Hamas is simply not the right policy. Isolating Hezbollah, on the other hand, by supporting the emerging tripartite alliance between Jumblatt, Hariri and Jaajaa, is. Nasrallah’s confidence needs to be shaken a little. Meanwhile, let’s hope that none of the trio named above should get assassinated anytime soon.

Muqtada can be made busy should trouble be create for his candidate for PM, Jaafari, and through some entanglement with the Kurds.

As for the ever troubling Syria and Iran, well, both should obviously be handled through the UN at this stage. Iran’s nuclear defiance might furnish the grounds for some measure of sanctions against it, which, if framed propoerly, might be endorsed by the Russians and the Chinese. But I doubt that Russia and China will cooperate against Syria, not unless some backroom deal has been struck.

This notwithsanding, it should be clear by now that some movement to further isolate and pressure the Syrian regime is indeed needed. The moment seems ripe for somehow, despite what naysayers might have to say.

I wax more philosophic on this in my recent post on Tharwalizations.

Thursday, February 16, 2006

The Chicken Revolution!

Did I say a while ago that the best option for Syria will be to work out a Jasmine Revolution? Sorry, I actually meant a Chicken Revolution. To judge by the way things are going at this stage, it is really a mini revolution still, but it might just be the spark that can begin it all.

I am talking about the few hundreds Syrian workers affiliated with the poultry industry in Syria who have staged a protest demonstration against the Syrian government. Yes, you heard it, a protest demonstration, in Damascus, hundreds of people carrying banners in front of PM office, protesting against government neglect of their plight.

For it seems that the authorities large-scale culling policies meant as a preemptive move to contain Bird Flu, coupled with popular boycott of poultry and poultry products, have hit hard against the interests of the over 2 million Syrians who work in the industry. And the government, it seems, was doing nothing to ease their suffering. Surprise, surprise.

Well, what’s so surprising really, at least for some, was that when people actually saw their livelihood threatened, they broke the barrier of fear and took to the street, albeit in a very civil manner, so far.

Let’s see if how our inept authorities will handle this situation. If they screwed things up, as they usually do, a lot more people have a lot more reasons to take to the streets as well, and they might just up the ante, and there a million ways how they could do that, and thanks to satellite TV, they are not exactly totally uninformed about this. And people can actually be quite creative when they finally break through the barrier of fear. And they tend to develop their own organizational structures, ones which can be quite independent of any existing opposition or civil society movements and parties.

No, things may not happen so quickly, but this might just be the beginning.

And to think that only yesterday, literally, I blogged about possibility of bread riots and the danger this can pose to the regime. I do feel vindicated somehow.

But again, I remind, myself and others, that things might still take more time than we like, and they might even take a nasty turn at any given moment, spiraling out of control or leading to major and brutal government crackdown.

Still, those taciturn comatosed Syrian masses might just be waking up, finally. Oh boy.

Coupled with increasing pressures from the US, this could usher in a new set of dynamics onto an esrswhile quite a stale and uninspiring scene.

A Not So Flowery Revelation!

A flurry of conflicting reports about arrests, releases, harassments and hostage-takings against Syrian dissidents and their family members are streaming out of Syria.

Is this part of a new full-fledged crackdown? Or is it the usual round of intimidations and scare tactics? Well, it’s too early to tell really.

But, in view of the recently appointed hard-line cabinet, the former possibility seems to be the more likely one at this stage. Bashar & Co. seem to be consolidating their hold on the reigns of power in the country by way of preparing themselves for the worst.

Still, even here, one can easily detect a certain amount of hesitancy in their tactics, or a certain desire to leave the doors open for the possibility of striking some kind of a deal, be it with some figures from the country’s internal opposition, or with the international community. Our little mischievous demons seem to believe that some possibility for salvation does still exist somehow. But who can blame them for such a wishful thought? After all, damnation is not the kind of prospects with which one can easily reconcile oneself.

But damnation is all there is left to give on all sides. The Hour is nigh, and the Accounting promises to be terrible. All I can do at this stage is hope that the Bewitching Hour will be swift and short-lived, and that, at the end of the day, there will still be something for us to salvage, something worth salvaging.

I hate to be a prophet of gloom and doom, and I might still end up, as I hope to end up, by being wrong about this. In fact, everything I am doing at this stage, no matter how big or small it seems to be, is meant to help prove me wrong in this connection. Perhaps we can still wrestle some chance for a smoother more humane transition from the jaws of impending mayhem. Perhaps.

But let us not put too much into this perhaps, and let us too prepare oursleves for the worst. They will create the mayhem, and we will have to manage it.

Tuesday, February 14, 2006

Syrian Panem et Baath Circenses!

Syrians are patriots. Let there be no doubt about that. But their patriotism is not any different from any other variety out there, that is, it is no less susceptible to exploitation and/or degradation.

Indeed, and with regard to the former, the Syrian regime seems to have developed it into a virtual art-form, albeit a not too highly refined one – the members of the regimes are simply too rogue for refinement even in this regard.

Still, the ability to exploit the patriotism of the Syrian people has its limits. After all, people don’t live on patriotism alone, and the regime’s willingness to orchestrate one freak show after another will only get it the kind of fickle popular support that authoritarian regimes usually get in their dotage.

For in the final analysis, people care more about their panem then their circenses. And panem these days is a very inclusive term, it actually means much more than bread. Much more.

It means affordable quality education, it means affordable quality healthcare system, it means reasonable retirement plans that people can actually look forward to and not only dread and postpone, it means the ability to create enough jobs, and failing that, then, at the very least, the ability to provide a certain social security network that can actually make a difference in one’s life... And these re only the basics.

When a socialist regime can no longer deliver on such expectations, then this socialist regime’s days are numbered, its military might notwithstanding. And what military might are we referring to here? The Syrian army is a joke, and Syrian soldiers, their sectarian backgrounds notwithstanding, are as much victims here as anybody else. As such, their suport is as fickle as that of taxdrivers who know very well how to disappear when they are most needed.

The Syrian regime can survive a lot of things, but it cannot survive bread riots. In order to avoid such riots, the regime needs to do much more than playing that old divide-and-conquer game it plays so well. It needs to do more than play on ethnic and sectarian fears and enflame sectarian and ethnic sentiments and passions. The regime wil not be able to rule when the country collapses from under it. Managing civic mayhem has never been easy, and under these cirucmstances, it is bound to be fatal, to both regime and country.

To counter this, the opposition needs to rally the people on its side, by highlighting the regime’s failure in responding to people’s basic needs. That is, they need to redefine the opposition in developmental and economic terms, rather than in purely political terms.

Ours, we should start arguing, is not a fight against oppression only. No. Ours is a fight for the improvement of the living standards of all Syrians and for the improvement of our basic lot in this world as a people.

But in order for our message to be effective here, we need to start fielding the right people, and the right spokespersons, ones that can reflect the image that is commensurate with the message. We need to recruit professionals from all different walks of life and we need to begin discussing specific plans for the development of Syria for once we are in power.

The gap in credibility, if not legitimacy, from which we continue to suffer, as far as the Syrian people are concerned, not to mention the representatives of the international community, can only be bridged when we succeed in offering credible visions and plans for the country’s future. Such visions need to be detailed and comprehensive, and they need to be formulated in public and not behind closed doors – that will defeat their purpose.

The Syrian people should know that plans for the future of their country are being made by Syrians, and that their input is more tan welcome.

The process itself will thus play a role in galvanizing support on the street and breeching that communication gap between people and opposition. It will also add more pressure on the Syria regime, which will hard pressed to match our rhetoric by actual moves on the ground, moves that it does not really know how to make.

In fact, the regime seems resigned not even to try, as the recent cabinet reshuffle indicates. For war cabinets, their rhetoric notwithstanding, tend to adopt austerity measures, and not deliver on economic reforms.

The Panem Challenge will go a long way in helping us bring a long-awaited end to our long-running Baath circenses.

Mumble Freedom!

Yes, we will mumble freedom first, to spell it out letter by letter, before we can shout it out. After all being free is a learning process. In practical terms, people are born neither free nor bonded, but with an internal readiness for both. Whatever happens to them next is a process of nurture and learning. Should society inform them that they are slaves, their learning could inform them otherwise. We are in essence but creatures of this ongoing interaction between what we are taught and what we learn from our own individual experiences in life.

So far, our historical experiences as in the contemporary Middle East have afforded little chance to learn much about our individuality and about the legitimacy of individual expression of difference and nonconformity.

We are still in the early phases of a long learning process, and not matter how we attempt to speed it up, and there is no reason to think we cannot do so, we still need to give it time. People need to crawl before they can walk and to mumble before they can talk, and to purge themselves of all the wrong answers before they can open up their minds and souls to accept the right ones.

And the next wrong answer that we (i.e. we as a people, and, more importantly, as a liberal elite) need to purge our souls of is Islam, not necessarily Islam as a faith system, but Islam as a holistic sociopolitical ideology. This is why we need to let our societies experiment with political Islamism, regardless of the heavy costs that will be involved. Indeed, and rather than spend ourselves in useless attempts at trying to stem the tide, we need to learn how we can roll with it, survive it, create niches and havens for ourselves within it, check its potential sweep of our societies, and ride it out, all while preparing ourselves for the eventual task of assuming control over the management of our pre-modern societies and of paving their way for eventual integration into the folds of modern states.

Crisis management, our ability to survive the upcoming phase of regional mayhem requires that we learn the fine art and sophisticated science of crisis management. We were born in crisis, and the best we can do to survive it is to learn how to manage it.

Perhaps this is more of a commentary on the human condition itself, but, and be that as it may, it seems pretty clear at this stage that we seem to suffer from a more acute manifestation of it, and although, we tend to export our crisis to others, and hence to globalize it, the real solution of it, still lies in our hands. The world will attempt to “manage” us, but, it will eventually be up to us to learn how to manage ourselves, so that we can end up being part of the solution, and not part of the problem.

My musings might seem a bit too weird today, but hey, have I ever appeard ordinary?

Saturday, February 11, 2006

The Good Boycott!

The boycott against Danish goods by righteous believing Muslims all over the world, albeit hardly justifiable on any logical ground in this case, does, nonetheless, signal an interesting development that should in principle be encouraged.

For while we need to point out that resort to this procedure in this case may not be correct, the method itself, we should notes, is a very legitimate, effective and downright civilized manner for expressing discontent – one that is far superior morally and tactically to rioting and arson.

Now that Muslims can see how effective this method is, and now that liberal forces in the region can see that as well, recourse to this practice should be encouraged more and more but with regard to a different set of issues that are fare more relevant to our lives than Danish cartoons and caricatures: rising prices of basic goods, lack of effective anti-corruption mechanisms, government neglect of certain rural and urban areas and populations, continuing recourse to repression by security forces, etc.

Our countries can offer plenty of choices in this regard as we know, and while boycotts may not seem to represent the right tactic here, the concepts of civic action and people power are the very things that need to be stressed here.

Yet, even boycotts can actually have a role in this regard. For when certain services and certain goods seem to be monopolized by specific figures and institutions in the country to the detriment of the common good, boycotts may indeed represent the most effective tactic to protest these monopolies.

Syrians, for instance, can resort to occasional and/or long-term boycotts to express their anger with the corruption affiliated with the mobile phone services, which, as every Syrian knows, are monopolized by the President’s maternal cousin and are unreasonably expensive.

But even if expense is not an issue here, the corruption of the President’s cousin is too well-known and has long become the subject of daily conversation that calling for a boycott against one of his most profitable businesses might still be advisable, as it would send a strong message to the regime that the people are getting fed up with their corruption.

But will the Syrian people be willing to cooperate in taking part in such an activity when the target is so close to home that it can actually cause them serious trouble? Or is their jihadist zeal reserved only for use against far away adversaries, and empty structures, ones that have no chance of fighting back, or so they may seem?

My money is on this latter possibility of course. But my hope naturally lies in the attempt to help people break through the barrier of fear and see the relevance of using civil disobedience tactics against the real blasphemers and their all too real oppressors.

Friday, February 10, 2006

The Scheming!

Everybody can smell blood now. Everybody is rushing to get a piece of the Falling Cow, as we say in Syria. Good old, very old, Syria – our long Infested Womb.

Is it any wonder then that the Cleric and the Charlatan should be forming a pact? But then, politics make strange fuck-fellows and all that.

So be it. I would have been surprised had things turned out any different. The scenario in my head needs not be revised. Things are going as planned by some collective universal madness that we like to misrepresent, if not disparage, by calling it fate.

Meanwhile, our Ambassador of the Dead is indignant with the continuous barrage of accusations from the Living Administration, that ever unfathomable entity to whom he has been delegated in search of leniency and some saving grace.

Still, our Body-Snatchers’ days are numbered, their Ambassador’s zeal and their Victims’ resignation notwithstanding.

And the storm that is brewing will burn us all, bystanders included. For the world has grown too small for anybody to remain untouchable, or innocent.

Indeed, we are all culprits in the unfolding madness now, and this our

“hand will rather

The multitudinous seas in incarnadine,
Making the green one red.”

Macbeth - Act 2. Scene II

Tuesday, February 07, 2006

The Petulant Lot & their Not So Petty Challenge!

Syrian officials did not show any sign of real remorse for the failure of their security apparatuses to protect the Danish Embassy from vandals. On the contrary, they were defiant: it is the Danes who should apologize for even criticizing the arson of their embassy. For by doing so, they failed to appreciate the real efforts of the security people who took quite a beating for trying to protect the embassy of the infidels.

Well, that twist of logic should not be so surprising really. Baath officials have never acknowledged mistakes or shown any signs of remorse for anything before (not even for the loss of the Golan Heights), and they are not about to do so now. So there.

But no, we should not fail to see the emerging bigger picture here. We should not fail to take under consideration’s Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s defiance of the international community, nor Muqtada Sadr’s pledge to fight for Syria and Iran, nor Khalid Mishaal’s assertion that Hamas will never acknowledge Israel’s right to exist. The Axis of Evil, minus N. Korea, is making a move here and is throwing the glove in the face of the international community.

No, this is not a simple petty defiance, but a calculated move based on the assumption that the international community, for all its current bluster, has no choice but to yield. After all, this Petulant Lot may not be wrong in assuming that it holds, if not hordes, all keys to regional stability.

So, what will the international community to do? Fuck that. What will the US, France, Great Britain and Germany to do? How will they respond to this challenge? Will they plan a new military venture? If so, do they have what it takes to get the Russians at least on their side?

I doubt it. But unless they can come up with something to break down this alliance, the bad guys, no matter how petulant they happen to be, seem poised to win a very major and decisive round. This is the problem with brinkmanship diplomacy, it does give fools the chance to be winners.

The only thing that I can advice at this stage to beak this alliance is to focus on Syria, which is clearly the weakest link here.

But, and this is quite important, any move against the Syrian regime should come only as part of a clear strategy for dealing with the real threat here, namely: Iran. If such a strategy is not agreed and soon, whatever move is made, be it unilateral or multilateral, and whether it involves Russia or not (the Chinese are a lost cause here) will likely strengthen Iran’s hand on the long run (and, by default, China as well).

Petulant brinkmanship can only be defeated through the judicious application of power. The Petulant Lot needs to be reminded of its fragility and its real size soon. For the more confused the international community is, the more momentum is gained by this Lot, and the more likely that it would push forward with its foolish strategy.

Things should be managed in such a way that, for one, Ahmadinejad is made to take the blame, so as to allow for some internal mechanism to remove him or at least curb his powers.

Second, Muqtada Sadr could be neutralized by entangling him in some internal squabble with other Shia Iraqi leaders.

Third, Khalid Mishaal’s role could be neutralized if Hamas is brought on board, which could indeed happen if only pressures on it were decreased for the time being, and it was left to administer its newly-gained and very troubled and troubling realm in relative peace and quiet.

This leaves Syria and Hezbollah.

But then, and with regard to Syria, the ransacking of the Danish Embassy(ies) affords another opportunity for orchestrating a new pressure campaign against the regime, which could include high profile meetings with opposition figures in Europe and the US. Some kind of a multilateral action or statement, even if outside the purview of the UN, should also be made. It might even be time to renew calls for investigating the President in relation with the ongoing probe into the Hariri assassination. A new corruption scandal or revelation wouldn’t hurt either, especially at a time when there is so much popular anger with regards to rising prices of basic foodstuffs and commodities in the country.

As for Hezbollah, well, only Israel can actually keep it pinned down and anxious for a while. Next time a rocket is fired across the border, the Israeli response should be a bit less subdued, albeit it should be limited to Hezbollah areas only.

These are only tactical moves of course meant to help contain the situation for the time being. The endgame is not in sight yet. For the endgame requires more intensive consultations between the Permanent Five, or even the G8 members, to enable the adoption of an actual new vision for the region, and so that a clear implementation strategy of this vision is agreed.

Indeed, those who want to be involved in the region need to set clear goals and guidelines for their involvement. For one cannot effectively manage anything, be it chaos or order, without having a clear vision and strategy in mind. How about a region like ours then?

Such moves would have seemed quite unlikely a mere few days ago, but now, with the nuclear stand-off with Iran rearing its ugly head again, and due to the climate of anger and anticipation created by the new Rushdiesque, currently sweeping across the world, perhaps the time for that has finally come.

Monday, February 06, 2006

Curious Facts!

Each time a demonstration goes awry in Damascus, the event often takes place on a weekend, involving empty buildings and minimal, if any, civilian casualties. Even last year’s incident in Mazzeh, when an alleged “terrorist” cell attacked a UN headquarters, the building had been empty for years, albeit a woman bystander was killed. This and those Syrians arrested in Beirut for involvement in the riots that took place there, not to mention the burning of the Danish embassy in Beirut, bespeaks volumes. The world cannot afford to ignore these obvious signs anymore, this regime is bent on self-destruction, and an alternative to it should be engineered fast before the entire country breaks under its deadweight.


For a more cultural take on this whole Danish Cartoon Affair, please check out my recent post on my new blog "Tharwalizations," and my earlier one on our Tharwa new group blogs. The blogs comes as part of a community that we are experimenting with as part of our pla to re-launch the Tharwa Project soon, albeit in a new garb. As you sift through the various blogs, please bear in mind that we are still in the trial phase and that postings will be somewhat haphazard at this early stage. The Tharwa Team, not to mention yours truly, is juggling a bit too many things at once.

Additionally, my wife has her own interesting way of looking at this affair. I tend to wax poetic on this matter in my Arabic blog as well. Meanwhile our daughter, Ola, offers a few youthful thoughts on the recent opposition conference in her own blog: The Way to the Future...

Sunday, February 05, 2006

The Unraveling!

Syria’s back in the headlines again, indeed, something is unraveling there. But what is it exactly? Is it the regime? Is it the opposition? Or is the entire country unraveling?

But then, perhaps we are all unraveling, all to the enjoyment of our viewers all over the world. Hey Bob, here goes the freaking region again. Don’t those people ever get tired of being mad?

Well, I guess not. We wouldn’t be true to form if we did. Besides, there is a certain intriguing, if not downright bewitching, quality to our madness that keeps the entire world fixated upon us, and we’d just die, not to mention kill, to remain the center of global attention. In some crazy way, but not so counterintuitive really, this does justify our “faith.” When you are chosen, it does not matter in the least for which you are chosen: blessedness or damnation, so long as you are chosen.

And we are chosen. Ours is the story, no, the history, of the continuous unraveling of all those who are chosen. If you cannot make any sense of that, just keep on watching our continuous show, for eventually, it will dawn upon you. It will dawn upon you, and you will get caught up in its intricacies just like the rest of us. Chosenness rubs off.

Thursday, February 02, 2006

The Heretical Oppositionist!

Dear Poetic Soul,

Thank you for posting this letter below, which does indeed clarify a few things.

Personally though, and since I prefer to remain as an independent political activist, the current format of the Syrian National Council works best for me, developing the SNC into a party will come as a turn off not only for me, but for many other people as well, as this whole development with Mr. Aljbaili indicates.

Still, what we have done in our recent conference and what we hope to accomplish in the future is to go even beyond the SNC format and establish an even larger coalition, including parties, organizations and activists based in Syria itself. For, like it or not, and for the majority of the Syrian people, internal movements will always have a greater legitimacy in their minds, no matter what we do or say – this is an emotional matter after all.

But, if we can create coalitions that unite us with certain known internal groups, then this whole issue will become secondary really. This is at least my vision and hope.

Note here that I say coalitions, that is, in the plural. For regardless of all our talk concerning national unity and establishing joint fronts and programs, ideological disputes and personality conflicts are bound to take place paving the way to schisms, splits and fractures. Such a development comes as a natural occurrence of the political process and is not in itself harmful, so long as we don’t engage in any mudslinging, especially via the media.

So, and by conclusion, let me take the opportunity to say good luck to Mohammed Aljbaili in his Rally For Syria, and to Mr. Farid Ghadri in his Syrian Democratic Coalition, and, above all, to my new friend Mr. Hussam al-Deiri in his Ahrar Movement.

The citizens of Syria have a legitimate right to voice their opposition to the Syrian regime wherever they happen to be and however they see fit. I will not dispute their methods or programs so long as they affirm their commitment to:

  1. Maintaining the existing and internationally recognized borders of Syria, including seeking the return of the Golan Heights.
  2. Bringing about democratic change in Syria by peaceful means.
  3. Rejecting any military intervention in the country outside the mandate and purview of the UN Security Council.
  4. Rejecting economic sanctions that can hurt the Syrian people.
In this, point 3 does require some explanation, for let’s not forget here that UNSC Resolution 1636 does invoke chapter VII of the UN Charter which sanctions the use of force against the Syrian regime to ensure compliance. So, should the UNSC determine that military action against the Syrian regime is necessary, no matter how unlikely this development seems today, Syria’s opposition groups will have to reconsider their positions on this matter depending on whatever variables will be available at the time.

For now, let’s all continue to build our groups, currents, platforms and coalitions, not to mention vision, and let’s all continue to lobby for our primary cause, namely: brining about the downfall of the decrepit Assad regime in Syria and offering the Syrian people a real and long-awaited chance to build a more enlightened and democratic alternative.

Heretically yours,