Saturday, March 26, 2011

Syria: Sorting Rumors from Willful Disinformation

The absence of independent journalists covering the events in Syria has made it impossible to get a clear sense of what is going on the ground. The official Syrian media is a mouthpiece of the regime and routinely engages in decietful and outright false reporting.  The most recent example is the implausible story of the Egyptian-American Tweed with a cellphone, paraded as proof of a foreign (American-Saudi-Wahhabi-Israeli) plot to destroy Syria.  On the other hand, trying to piece together the view from the other side by watching blurry youtube videos of uncertain provenance or tweets of second and third hand information is equally troubling. The events in Lattakia, my hometown, is a case in point.  Who shot at the civilians? a. security forces, b. regime goons in civilian clothes? or c. "foreign" elements trying to sow sectarian discord as the government claims.  Judging from recent history, the Arab autocrat's playbook would  suggest that the answer is a and b. Yet, it is impossible to verify my impression.

This lack of credible information puts the Syrian public in a tough spot and given the sectarian sensitivities, makes them more susceptible to sectarian fear mongering on the part of the regime.   Although there is little doubt that some opposing the regime have sectarian agendas, the vast majority do not.  And as to the uprising being the work of other meddling countries, there is absolutely no proof that I can see.  Neither the start of the trouble in Daraa nor any subsequent demonstration seemed to be other that hastily organized and largely leaderless protests. The organized opposition groups seemed to have little clout, not much of a popular base and seem believed like most everyone else that the Syrian people was not ready.

Having said that, the more the regime bungles the response to these demonstrations with more violence and deaths the more violent the response and the more protracted the conflict will be, allowing opportunistic groups with specific agendas come in and sow discord. 

No comments: