Saturday, January 28, 2012

Syrian Regime Loosing its Grip on Power

Despite the regime's continued bluster in the face of Arab league and UN diplomatic maneuvering, the events on the ground suggests that its authority is rapidly unraveling. Josh Landis, in a piece with a notable change of tone about the regime, says that it is doomed but it will hang on for another year or two.   It is hard to see how it can last that long.  For several months only parts of Homs were no-go areas for the regime.  Over the last two weeks, several areas across the country have managed keep the security forces at bay with the help of the FSA. Notable areas include the town of Zabadani as well as  Douma and Saqba, minutes from the center of Damascus, the once impregnable seat of Assad's power. This will embolden opposition demonstrators and hasten the flow of deserters from the armed forces. It is also likely to rattle some Bashar's reluctant supporters and many fence-sitters enough to get them to switch sides. The real question is what the regime's insiders will do now that it has become crystal clear that unless forced, Bashar will not alter his "iron fist" policy to accommodate any political transition plan whether it came form AL or the UN. One exception might be Russia as they may have enough leverage with the regime to have them change course. Although given Russia's interest in a continued toehold in the Mediterranean, it may push Bashar aside but will not advocate for  . Several possible end game scenarios have been discussed. One of the options, predicts a palace coup that would replace Bashar and launch a transition process. Most of the others are too depressing to contemplate.

Given the violence and trauma of the last eleven months and given that any predicted transition will very likely involve a period of chaos, I fear the specter of retributive violence and its effect on the fabric of Syrian society.  In preparation for this eventuality, activists and opposition leaders should systematically quash any and all sectarian incitement and emphasize that a representative democratic state is meant to benefit all Syrians, even those who had supported the present regime. The revolution would be considered a failure if it succeeded in toppling the regime and then failed to capture the hearts of all Syrians.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Is Bashar Following in Ghaddafi's Footsteps?

Bashar's fourth speech since the uprisings was long on hot air and short on substance, not unlike his first three. In fact there is nothing, absolutely nothing new in the speech that should inspire hope that some modicum of reality or pragmatism has seeped into his thick skull. On the contrary as the crisis deepens and his regime unravels, Bashar's tone has be become more desperately defiant. The speech was rambling, full of hubris, faulty logic, paranoid delusions, outright lies and false bravado. Some the explanatory details he gave were laughable were the consequences of such a disturbed thought process not so tragic for the people of Syria. We now learn, for example, that there are 60, not 62 or 73, but exactly 60 media outlets worldwide who have conspired to tarnish the image of Syrian regime by falsifying and fabrication news about Syria.

The president  paints every last opponent of the his regime with the same terrorist, traitor, agent of foreign powers brush. It follows that they have to be crushed with an iron fist. In effect, he says, there is no opposition to talk to. As in his ABC interview, which was incidentally, according to him, also edited to make him look bad, he shows no remorse, no guilt and no admission of wrongdoing.  All the while his security forces and shabeeha thugs continue to kill, maim, imprison and torture unarmed civilians.  As Bashar mocks the AL in his speech, his henchmen are playing a shell game with Observers rendering the whole exercise a farce. Some honorable individual observers have had enough and walked out.

How can anyone then, against such a putrid background, take any of Bashar's talk of reform seriously? How can anyone  still think that there is any sliver of hope that a negotiated settlement is possible? Bashar has had 11 months to respond to this challenge of his authority and the only response has been an unrelenting and increasingly brutal crackdown. Compromise is not possible when the side with the overwhelming force, the side that can instantaneously stop the killing if it chooses to,  refuses to do so.

The regime's path is not only destructive for Syria, it is eventually self-destructive.  The only way I can foresee a somewhat orderly transition is for a palace revolt that would bring in more pragmatic elements capable of steering the country away form the abyss.  This unfortunately, is a long shot and I am increasingly worried that Bashar's path will take Syria down the same path as Libya: civil war, with or without foreign military intervention.

Monday, January 02, 2012

Is this the freedom that you want?

Off a back alley, on the floor of a small room,
you lie  in a pool of crimson blood, dying
the doctor, with nothing but a bandage 
is unable to heal your gaping wounds

Your family pleads with strangers in orange vests
from far off Egypt, Sudan and Mauritania
because your privileged compatriots in the  City
show no empathy for your ilk

You are but a hoax to them, a conspiracy,
a figment of fevered, primitive minds,
who demand the right to freedom and dignity
and place their fate in the hands of  the divine

Your protestations are disturbing to them,
you expose their fake modernity for what it is,
the basest form of human existence,
privilege as reward for absolute subservience

They are the modern slaves whose master,
a deified leader with no redeeming qualities,
demands absolute obedience and yet,
unlike your God, shows no mercy or compassion

And so when one of the privileged
stands by your expiring body and chides:
"Is this the freedom that you want?"
you answer: "Yes, God save your rotten soul....."