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Thread: Syria: a civil war (closed)

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    Council Member tequila's Avatar
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    Default Syria: a civil war (closed)

    Moderator's Note: On 5th June 2012 this thread's title was changed from 'Uprising in Syria now?' to 'Syria: a civil war'.


    I'm sure we've all heard about the shootings of protesters in Deraa yesterday. Apparently more shooting has gone on today, with more protesters killed, combined with announcements of tentative reforms.

    Obviously the sectarian underbelly of Syrian politics has been rearing its ugly head, with anti-Alawite chants in Deraa and supposedly Alawites changing their Facebook profiles to Bashar Assad's face.

    The regime appears caught on the horns of a dilemma again regarding violence against protesters. Killing 20 or so people in Deraa has not deterred thousands more from turning out. Gunfire appears to be the order of the day again today - will this only spark more protests?
    Last edited by davidbfpo; 06-05-2012 at 04:49 PM. Reason: Add Mod's Note

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    Default Deja vu?

    Syria: Assad speech offers little new

    I guess it could be said that Assad had his chance to make the necessary political changes but he blew it.

    This reminded me of what happened in South Africa in 1985 with President P. W. Botha's infamous Rubicon Speech.

    Additionally from Great expectations: Pres. PW Botha’s Rubicon speech of 1985

    Spurning the expectations of bold reforms, Botha projected himself as the uncompromising leader of a white minority determined to fight to the end for its survival. The speech triggered a massive outflow of capital and intensified sanctions against South Africa. A line in Botha’s speech, “Today we have crossed the Rubicon”, promptly became the object of scorn and ridicule.
    Perhaps Assad has given HIS Rubicon Speech and as such doomed his regime as a result?

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    Default How could this be ?

    Young Assad is a "reformer" - quoting Ms Clinton.

    The question, of course, is whether he is as willing and as able, as his Old Man, to build new parking lots.

    Regards

    Mike

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    Default Syria at 'The Rubicon'?

    Syria cannot be compared to South Africa, as JMA suggested; there is very little external investment in the economy and whilst some might have informal sanctions as party to 'evil' that is nothing like the informal, formal and legal sanctions on South Africa.

    There is a parallel in the lack of legitimacy, the use of a state of emergency (for fifty years in Syria) and I suspect an internal debate between repression and reform. What I found in South Africa amidst the police and securocrats before the Rubicon speech, way back in 1985, was a realisation that reform had to come and repression was only a temporary option.

    Somehow I doubt if Assad realises he has lost.
    davidbfpo

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    Quote Originally Posted by davidbfpo View Post
    Syria cannot be compared to South Africa, as JMA suggested; there is very little external investment in the economy and whilst some might have informal sanctions as party to 'evil' that is nothing like the informal, formal and legal sanctions on South Africa.

    There is a parallel in the lack of legitimacy, the use of a state of emergency (for fifty years in Syria) and I suspect an internal debate between repression and reform. What I found in South Africa amidst the police and securocrats before the Rubicon speech, way back in 1985, was a realisation that reform had to come and repression was only a temporary option.

    Somehow I doubt if Assad realises he has lost.
    "Crossing the Rubicon" as in passing a point of no return. A head of state clearly reading the internal and external mood badly wrong and thereby hastening and indeed ensuring the end of the regime. Lets sit back and see what happens now.

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    Council Member tequila's Avatar
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    I think perhaps the best analogy with South Africa is that both Botha and Assad presided over regimes whose base support was in a minority which dominated the military and security services and which was terrified of the consequences of releasing control. In Syria's case, unfortunately, there is no Mandela figure who exercises overarching moral control over a semi-unified opposition. Instead there is an inchoate and disparate opposition and thus no guarantee for the Alawites that they will not be purged from the country if the Assad regime falls.

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    Quote Originally Posted by davidbfpo View Post
    Somehow I doubt if Assad realises he has lost.
    Really? Not long ago people were saying the same thing about Ghaddafi. Syria isn't the same. What we "know" about what's going on in Syria is patchy and I think it's a little too early to be speculating about the fall of Assad Jr. Besides, he has the "backing" of Turkey and Lebanon (and Russia) both of which cannot afford a destabilsied Syria (not to mention Jordan). Whatever Assad does will be partly tempered by what happens to Ghaddfi; who's showing everyone what he's made of and thrown a spanner in the works in the process. In fact I think Libya will set an example to other states that the "Egyptian" or "Tunisian" models aren't exportable.

    On a different note, I wonder how the Obama admuinistration feels about what, to my eyes at least, loks like the Bush doctrine (of spreading democracy) coming to fruition (albeit not in a manner Bush Jr. envisaged)?

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    Quote Originally Posted by Tukhachevskii View Post
    Really? Not long ago people were saying the same thing about Ghaddafi. Syria isn't the same. What we "know" about what's going on in Syria is patchy and I think it's a little too early to be speculating about the fall of Assad Jr. Besides, he has the "backing" of Turkey and Lebanon (and Russia) both of which cannot afford a destabilsied Syria (not to mention Jordan). Whatever Assad does will be partly tempered by what happens to Ghaddfi; who's showing everyone what he's made of and thrown a spanner in the works in the process. In fact I think Libya will set an example to other states that the "Egyptian" or "Tunisian" models aren't exportable.

    On a different note, I wonder how the Obama admuinistration feels about what, to my eyes at least, loks like the Bush doctrine (of spreading democracy) coming to fruition (albeit not in a manner Bush Jr. envisaged)?
    Surely you don't need a Harold MacMillan to educate you that there is a Wind of Change blowing through the Arab world?

    It may not take week, it may not take a month, or even a year or two but that wind is sure to blow through Syria as well. And the West should keep the fires burning there that the Wind of Change will fan.

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    Default An Arab "1848"

    Just a question ?

    Regards

    Mike

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    Quote Originally Posted by jmm99 View Post
    Just a question ?

    Regards

    Mike
    Good thinking, yes seems a lot like the "Springtime of the Peoples" in Europe in 1848.

    ... puts Europe about 150 years ahead on the curve... which is also probably correct.

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    Quote Originally Posted by JMA View Post
    Good thinking, yes seems a lot like the "Springtime of the Peoples" in Europe in 1848.

    ... puts Europe about 150 years ahead on the curve... which is also probably correct.
    Why not include the peasant revolts of the middle ages? Or 1789? or 1968? Or even the Arab Revolt and the Young Turks (is this a punctuated equilibrium situation or the continuation of a century old process of Arab Nationalism that began with the Arab "revolts" against the European powers and the Ottomans...in which case you could go back farther)? Are they, in fact, comparable phenomena either ontologically or causatively? I can't say, but apparently you have all the answers. I have a problem with universalising comparisons which imply an almost "whiggish" conception of the march of progress/reason/liberty. Sociologist Charles Tilly's classic but oft ignored book Big Structures, Large Processes, Huge Comparisons covers a lot of these concerns better than I could ever articulate them. He also has an excellent criticism of theories of revolution based upon J-Curve hypotheses.
    Last edited by Tukhachevskii; 04-01-2011 at 12:09 PM. Reason: housekeeping

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    Default The Syrian Time Bomb

    A true expert on the country, Patrick Seale has a short comment on FP and sub-titled:
    Forget Libya. Washington should pay closer attention to the violent protests imperiling the Assad regime in Damascus. If there's one country where unrest could truly set the Middle East alight, it's Syria.
    Link:http://www.foreignpolicy.com/article...yrian_timebomb
    davidbfpo

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    Quote Originally Posted by Tukhachevskii View Post
    Why not include the peasant revolts of the middle ages? Or 1789? or 1968? Or even the Arab Revolt and the Young Turks (is this a punctuated equilibrium situation or the continuation of a century old process of Arab Nationalism that began with the Arab "revolts" against the European powers and the Ottomans...in which case you could go back farther)? Are they, in fact, comparable phenomena either ontologically or causatively? I can't say, but apparently you have all the answers. I have a problem with universalising comparisons which imply an almost "whiggish" conception of the march of progress/reason/liberty. Sociologist Charles Tilly's classic but oft ignored book Big Structures, Large Processes, Huge Comparisons covers a lot of these concerns better than I could ever articulate them. He also has an excellent criticism of theories of revolution based upon J-Curve hypotheses.
    What touched a nerve here? Maybe that the Arabs are 150 years behind Europe on the political development, human freedom, etc etc curve? Relax... that is about to change.

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    Quote Originally Posted by davidbfpo View Post
    A true expert on the country, Patrick Seale has a short comment on FP and sub-titled:

    Link:http://www.foreignpolicy.com/article...yrian_timebomb
    Seale makes the assertion that:

    ...the United States would be wise to spend a little less time thinking about Libya and a little more time thinking about a state that truly has implications on U.S. national interests.
    Is he for real? Surely the US with its massive Department of State and CIA staffs with their various "desks" will be able to juggle a number of balls in the air at the same time?

    But then Seale should realise that the key to the whole area is Iran. Even GWB could see that.

    Seriously David, isn't this the problem of country specific "experts"? They tend to see their country of interest as the centre of the universe?

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    Default There are many "true" experts around to choose from...

    Quote Originally Posted by davidbfpo View Post
    A true expert on the country, Patrick Seale has a short comment on FP and sub-titled:

    Link:http://www.foreignpolicy.com/article...yrian_timebomb
    ...we could also quote Michael Bruning, The Study House that Assad Built...

    It is true that Assad has even fewer enthusiastic supporters beyond his small group of co-opted elites than did former Tunisian President Zine el-Abidine Ben Ali and former Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak, but the regime’s opposition has even less popular support. Unlike other dictators in the region, Assad is seen by many as a counterweight to sectarian disintegration rather than as a champion of sectarian interests. Moreover, Syrians have had frequent and direct exposure to the devastating outcomes of sectarian conflicts in Iraq and Lebanon. In 2005 and 2006, hundreds of thousands of Lebanese and Iraqi refugees flowed into Damascus, reminding Syrians of the dire consequences of religiously fueled carnage. And seeing how sectarianism has stunted Lebanon and Iraq, Syria’s equally pluralist society has good reason to acquiesce to Assad’s leadership.

    Moreover, Assad’s comparable youth (he is 45, Ben Ali is 74, Mubarak is 82, and Qaddafi is 68) and his record of staunch anti-Westernism give him a layer of protection that the other leaders did not enjoy. Many Syrians perceive his opposition to the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq and his anti-Israel policies as desirable and in the national interest. In fact, Assad’s reputation in the West as an unyielding pariah has translated into popularity in his own country. In a somewhat twisted way, his willingness to stand up to the United States comports with the theme of Arab dignity that has rallied protesters throughout the region. While a similar anti-Western stance was taken by Qaddafi, Syria’s geographical proximity to the Arab-Israeli conflict (and its direct involvement) has lent Assad’s rhetoric of resistance much greater credibility than Qaddafi’s, especially after Qaddafi improved relations with the United States in the 2000s.

    or, as a counterpoint, Tony Burdans', Syria's Assad no longer in vogue...

    Other commentators who dismissed the likelihood of the Assad regime falling pointed to solidarity among the Alawite elite. Unlike the Egyptian army, which functioned independently of Mubarak and broke with him at a key moment, the Syrian brass, as part of a small religious minority, views its fate and safety as inextricably linked to Assad’s and therefore will not fail to crack down on protests.

    Still, that threat has not deterred all the protesters. And on March 22, the sectarian dimension of the conflict became explicit: the Deraa demonstrators broke a long-standing taboo, chanting, “No to Iran, no to Hezbollah, we want a God-fearing Muslim” -- by which they meant, “We want a Sunni Muslim running the country.” In a show of solidarity with the regime, Alawites replaced their own headshots on Facebook with pictures of Bashar.
    There were experts a plenty during the Cold War (many of whom failed to predict its end no less), and I can see you your Seale and raise you a Pipes, Fred Lawson, Nikolas van Dam, Rabinovotch, Batatu, Dawisha, Perthes, Lesch, Ziser, Moaz (&c). We could throw "experts" at each other till the cows come home.
    Last edited by Tukhachevskii; 04-02-2011 at 11:41 AM.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Tukhachevskii View Post
    ...we could also quote Michael Bruning, The Study House that Assad Built...




    or, as a counterpoint, Tony Burdans', Syria's Assad no longer in vogue...



    There were experts a plenty during the Cold War (many of whom failed to predict its end no less), and I can see you your Seale and raise you a Pipes, Fred Lawson, Nikolas van Dam, Rabinovotch, Batatu, Dawisha, Perthes, Lesch, Ziser, Moaz (&c). We could throw "experts" at each other till the cows come home.
    OK, so that's what they (the so-called experts) think, now what do you think?

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    Quote Originally Posted by JMA View Post
    OK, so that's what they (the so-called experts) think, now what do you think?
    1. I am not an expert (although I have studied and been taught by a lot of them.

    2. My intitial appraisal of the situation based upon what information I have (which I have interpreted contectually based upon past study) is located in post #7 above. It's not detailed, certainly isn't predictive and I don't claim to have any priveleged insight with regards to Syria. Ultimately, we cannot say for certian what trajectory events will take other than events have their own way of altering the situation (how's that for an honourable mention of Macmillan ["event's, dear boy, events..."]). Prior to Ghaddafi digging his heels in people thought that states in the MENA would fall like dominoes. Assad now knows that, with NATO embroiled in a war against the Lybian government (Ghadafi is, after all, still the leader in de facto if not de jure terms; legitimacy is a difficult metric to apply), that elements of international society (among them Russia who has strateguc/naval interests in Syria) as well as other states (such as Turkey which is a NATO member state and almost scuppered NATO's application iof airpower) will not sanction any further extension of the "Bush 2.0" doctrine (that's an attempt at humour by the way, not a polemical statement). With the international and regional balance of opinion tiliting in favour of stability (by any means) as oppsoed to "assisted regime change/state capture", which is essentially what NATO is doing, Asad knows he has to act carefully (they'll be no repeat of Hama, nor need there be). Asad's may rule may be based upon the control of key posts by his fellow co-religionists but has has, since 2000, successully co-opted the Sunni elite/borgeoisie(sp?) many of whom will see their gains in the regime threatened and will stand aside or grumble but, I don't think, they'll "switch" sides. Asad is a shrewd as his father and, geopolitically, he has "friends". Importantly, Syria isn't economically important to Europe nor is it on Europe's doorstep which applys the brakes a little when it comes to prodding regional actors into action. Things are open ended, anyone may make a mistake, or events may take a turn for the worse but I am certain that things aren't as clear cut as statements/commentators that proclaim "Asad will fall" predict them to be.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Tukhachevskii View Post
    1. I am not an expert (although I have studied and been taught by a lot of them.

    2. My intitial appraisal of the situation based upon what information I have...
    [snipped]
    Thank you for the detailed reply. Lets see how it all pans out there.

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    Default A massacre?

    75 killed in deadliest day of Syria uprising

    Syrian security forces fired bullets and tear gas Friday on pro-democracy demonstrations across the country, killing at least 75 people — including a young boy — in the bloodiest day of the uprising against President Bashar Assad's authoritarian regime, Amnesty International said, citing local activists.
    Remember the Sharpeville massacre in South Africa of 21 March 1960 that outraged the world? 69 killed and 180 injured/wounded.



    Time to raise this at the UNSC? I think so.

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    Quote Originally Posted by JMA View Post
    Time to raise this at the UNSC? I think so.
    I would be enormously happy to see the Asad regime toppled or held to account. However, I see little point raising it at the UNSC--unlike their abstentions on Libya, there's no chance that China or Russia would support any sort of action against Syria.
    They mostly come at night. Mostly.


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