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Thread: Syria under Bashir Assad (closed end 2014)

  1. #21
    Council Member davidbfpo's Avatar
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    Default What some said in 2011

    A few selected quotes from the previous thread do help:

    In April 2011, a true expert on the country, Patrick Seale had 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

    From an ICG report in July 2011:
    Desperate to survive at all costs, Syria’s regime appears to be digging its grave. It did not have to be so. The protest movement is strong and getting stronger but yet to reach critical mass. Unlike toppled Arab leaders, President Bashar Assad enjoyed some genuine popularity. Many Syrians dread chaos and their nation’s fragmentation. But whatever opportunity the regime once possessed is being jeopardised by its actions. Brutal repression has overshadowed belated, half-hearted reform suggestions; Bashar has squandered credibility; his regime has lost much of the legitimacy derived from its foreign policy. The international community, largely from fear of the alternative to the status quo, waits and watches, eschewing for now direct involvement. That is the right policy, as there is little to gain and much to lose from a more interventionist approach, but not necessarily for the right reasons. The Syrian people have proved remarkably resistant to sectarian or divisive tendencies, defying regime prophecies of confessional strife and Islamisation. That does not guarantee a stable, democratic future. But is a good start that deserves recognition and support....
    Link:http://www.crisisgroup.org/~/media/F...%20Suicide.pdf

    In December 2011 a BBC reporter:
    ..the longer this goes on, the greater the chance that a once noble struggle for democracy on the streets will become an ugly sectarian conflict.
    That will do as a "taster".
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  2. #22
    Council Member davidbfpo's Avatar
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    Default Crumbling?

    I chose the word carefully and the question mark. partly the catalyst being the reported defection of the Syrian Prime Minister, who via a spokesman stated to the BBC:
    I have defected from the terrorist, murderous regime and [am] joining the holy revolution
    From The Daily Telegraph:
    Riyad Hijab will have deserted as prime minister of Syria because he thinks that President Bashar al-Assad is bound to be overthrown. After four years as a provincial governor and cabinet minister, he is better placed to make that judgement than any foreign diplomat or outside observer. The real significance of Mr Hijab's defection is that it betrays the future expectations of a man who knows how Syrian politics work.
    Link:http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-middle-east-19160410 and http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worl...as-regime.html

    Yes, the Prime Minister is not the real head of government, even more so when Syria is becoming a brutal, civil war and the men with weapons dominate. Some will note a similar pattern of high-level defections during the fall of Gadafy in Libya, not replicated elsewhere in the "Arab Spring".
    Last edited by davidbfpo; 08-07-2012 at 11:09 AM. Reason: Add links
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    Quote Originally Posted by davidbfpo View Post
    I chose the word carefully and the question mark. partly the catalyst being the reported defection of the Syrian Prime Minister, who via a spokesman stated to the BBC:

    From The Daily Telegraph:

    Link:http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-middle-east-19160410 and http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worl...as-regime.html

    Yes, the Prime Minister is not the real head of government, even more so when Syria is becoming a brutal, civil war and the men with weapons dominate. Some will note a similar pattern of high-level defections during the fall of Gadafy in Libya, not replicated elsewhere in the "Arab Spring".
    It's one thing to defect and another to defect after being sacked. Furthermore, his references to a "holy revolution" may well reveal where his actual sympathies lie (he's a Sunni). The "defection" of Sunnis to the so-called FSA shouldn't be a surprise.

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    "Crumbling" is a good word choice. The Assad regime still has a lot of power and advantages relative to the rebels, but the trends are heading down for Assad and IMO the regime's days are numbered.
    Supporting "time-limited, scope limited military actions" for 20 years.

  5. #25
    Council Member Surferbeetle's Avatar
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    My departing advice on how to save Syria, By Kofi Annan, August 2, 2012 4:52 pm, Financial Times, www.ft.com

    While the Security Council is trapped in stalemate, so too is Syria. The government has attempted to suppress, through extreme violence, a popular and widespread movement that, after 40 years of dictatorship, has decided it can no longer be intimidated. The result has been an increasing loss of control on the ground, and the opposition has turned to its own military campaign to fight back. Yet, it remains unclear how the government can be brought down through force alone.

    However there is also a political impasse. A mass movement, born in the demand for civil and political rights and the empowerment of voices for change, emerged in Syria after March 2011. But, for all the extraordinary courage that it took for the protesters to march each day in the face of escalating violence by the government, this did not become a movement that bridged Syria’s communal divisions. Opportunities to overcome this were then lost in increasing violence.

    Military means alone will not end the crisis. Similarly, a political agenda that is neither inclusive nor comprehensive will fail. The distribution of force and the divisions in Syrian society are such that only a serious negotiated political transition can hope to end the repressive rule of the past and avoid a future descent into a vengeful sectarian war.
    There are clear common interests among the regional and international powers in a managed political transition. A conflagration threatens an explosion in the region that could affect the rest of the world. But it takes leadership to compromise to overcome the destructive lure of national rivalries. Joint action requires bilateral and collective efforts by all countries with influence over the actors on the ground in Syria, to press upon the parties that a political solution is essential.

    For Russia, China and Iran this means they must take concerted efforts to persuade Syria’s leadership to change course and embrace a political transition, realising the current government has lost all legitimacy. A first move by the government is vital, as its intransigence and refusal to implement the six-point peace plan has been the greatest obstacle to any peaceful political process, ensuring the distrust of the opposition in proposals for a negotiated transition.

    For the US, UK, France, Turkey Saudi Arabia and Qatar this means pressing the opposition to embrace a fully inclusive political process – that will include communities and institutions currently associated with the government. This also means recognising that the future of Syria rises and falls on more than the fate of just one man.
    Iranians Seized in Syria Include Military, Rebels Say, By Ladane Nasseri and Glen Carey , August 06, 2012 3:06 AM EDT, Bloomberg News, http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2012-0...-in-syria.html

    Syrian rebels said a group of people captured near Damascus included members of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard, according to a video broadcast by Al Arabiya, as fighting raged outside the capital and in Aleppo.

    The claim contradicted Iranian descriptions of the abducted people as pilgrims. Iran’s Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Salehi urged Turkey and Qatar, which have backed the Syrian opposition, to help release the captives, the official Islamic Republic News Agency reported. IRNA said 48 pilgrims were abducted.
    Sapere Aude

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    There are clear common interests among the regional and international powers in a managed political transition. A conflagration threatens an explosion in the region that could affect the rest of the world. But it takes leadership to compromise to overcome the destructive lure of national rivalries. Joint action requires bilateral and collective efforts by all countries with influence over the actors on the ground in Syria, to press upon the parties that a political solution is essential.
    Kofi is tilting at windmills.
    Supporting "time-limited, scope limited military actions" for 20 years.

  7. #27
    Council Member davidbfpo's Avatar
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    Default Complexity with a dash of Irish

    Amongst all the possibilities I was surprised to read this sub-title on FP Blog:
    Meet the Irish-Libyan commander giving Bashar al-Assad nightmares
    SWC will know I like to spot kith & kin links and there is a thread on the theme:http://council.smallwarsjournal.com/...ead.php?t=8829

    Quite an interesting story nevertheless:http://www.foreignpolicy.com/article...apon?page=full

    It ends with the commander's comment, itself a warning about the previous issue of intervention:
    The complexity of the situation here makes me feel like we were just playing games in Libya last year.
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  8. #28
    Council Member Fuchs's Avatar
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    It's interesting how the rebels temporarily grabbed control of different patches of the country (or the cities).

    I suspect this has disrupted the domestic intelligence capabilities to the degree that the regime was spiralling out of control of enough a share of the population to make the current overt mess possible.


    What the Syrians (including the rebels) need right now the most is imho a domestic political push for a future without excessive payback against the Assad backers. This might swing the middle class to the rebels, reduce regime supporter's resolution and improve the prospect for a post-war period without mass emigration of minorities / much ethnic cleansing. A charismatic and formerly non-political celebrity could probably personify the push.

  9. #29
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    A good place sometimes to find a commentary on today's situation, a review of four new books on Syria; which starts with:
    Pity the modern dictator. Time was he could bump off a recalcitrant opposition figure, take out a dissident stronghold, massacre the entire population of a town and the world would be none the wiser. There might be a pesky reporter trying to get to the truth, but that could be taken care of, as President Assad’s security forces demonstrated earlier this year.

    Yet the digital world has made it much harder to brush war crimes and atrocities under the kilim. Thanks to Youtube, Facebook and Twitter, surveillance states now find themselves under constant surveillance in turn. The spies are spied upon, lifting the lid — albeit only partially — on what is happening inside places like Syria. Factor in nosy- parkers like Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International, UN observer teams, ceasefire monitors and grandee envoys dropping by with television cameras, and the dictator bent on subduing a popular revolution with the gloves off has his work cut out these days.
    Which ends with:
    This quartet offers little in the way of optimism for Syria. Bleakness is the order of the day. Assad will not go quietly. The minorities are right to fear for the future. The fulcrum of Arab nationalism has become the site of a proxy war for influence between Sunni and Shia Islam. However soon he departs, whatever follows minority Alawite rule, it is surely difficult to predict anything but sectarian strife for years to come.
    Link:http://www.spectator.co.uk/issues/11...ttled-dystopia
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    Prof Joshua Landis' prediction via the BBC:

    Prof Landis argues that what is going on in the Kurdish north-east offers a useful pointer to President Assad's "Plan B" should his control over key cities like Damascus and Aleppo crumble.

    He says that the "embattled president withdrew government forces from the north-east because he couldn't control it and wanted to focus on the most important battles in Aleppo and Damascus".

    "But in the back of the president's mind, there may be the thought that empowering the Kurds is a way of weakening the Sunni Arab majority and underlining the risks of fragmentation should his government fall. It's a strategy of playing upon divisions to sow chaos," he said.

    This way, says Prof Landis, "the Syrian Army - which is rapidly becoming an Alawite militia, whilst still the strongest military force - may lose control over large swathes of the country, but will remain a vital factor in determining the political outcome in Syria".

    It is a bleak prospect.

    Prof Landis asserts that President Assad "may lose Syria, but could still remain a player, and his Alawite minority will not be destroyed".

    "That's the future of Syria," he says, with little enthusiasm. "It's what Lebanon was and what Iraq became."
    I think that's the likely alternative to a complete Assad collapse.
    Supporting "time-limited, scope limited military actions" for 20 years.

  11. #31
    Council Member Surferbeetle's Avatar
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    Some insightful observations for your consideration; A conversation between Mr Charlie Rose (JD) and King Abdullah II of Jordan posted at Bloomberg TV on 8/8/2012

    8/8: King Abdullah II of Jordan on Syria, http://www.bloomberg.com/video/8-8-k...3JmE~letg.html

    Charlie Rose: King Abdullah II of Jordan on his country's role in the Middle East, the role of the Muslim Brotherhood in the region and the ongoing conflict in Syria
    Sapere Aude

  12. #32
    Council Member AdamG's Avatar
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    (Reuters) - The United States and its allies are discussing a worst-case scenario that could require tens of thousands of ground troops to go into Syria to secure chemical and biological weapons sites following the fall of President Bashar al-Assad's government, according to U.S. and diplomatic officials.
    http://www.reuters.com/article/2012/...87G02420120817
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  13. #33
    Council Member davidbfpo's Avatar
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    Default Single purpose intervention?

    I cannot see how an external intervention to safeguard the Syrian state's stockpiles of chemical and other weapons can be separated from the wider context.

    Perhaps an Arab League & UN intervention is an option for such a single purpose intervention. Finding willing participants will be a challenge and from memory the UN has found it hard to get competent military contingents, let alone move fast.

    There are historical, regional examples when Western nations with small UN peacekeeping contingents moved quickly to intervene on agreed ceasefire lines when local and international agreement was present - that time is past (Canada & Scandinavian forces IIRC).

    The most capable regional military power, Israel, has been very quiet on a post-Assad Syria and currently is reported as more concerned with the "far enemy" Iran.
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    I cannot see how an external intervention to safeguard the Syrian state's stockpiles of chemical and other weapons can be separated from the wider context.
    Sounds more like an excuse to justify force structure. Deploying thousands of troops will most likely be ineffective, while a much less expensive and probably more effective method would be for our intelligence assets to start making deals for the powers that be and will be in Syria (pay offs and other deals) to secure the chemical and alleged biological weapons. I agree if we make WMD the issue while turning a blind eye to the overall context we're going to make bigger mess that will undermine our interests far more than a few chemical weapons.

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    Default A different path ...

    I am curious if anyone thinks that the US, Britain, and France could back out of the corner that they have painted themselves into and support, or at least not violently oppose, Assad remaining in power.

    Or do our interests in remaining closely tied to the Saudis and contra to anything Iranian trump any interest we actually have in Syria.
    Last edited by TheCurmudgeon; 08-18-2012 at 01:32 PM.
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    Quote Originally Posted by TheCurmudgeon View Post
    I am curious if anyone thinks that the US, Britain, and France could back out of the corner that they have painted themselves into and support, or at least not violently oppose, Assad remaining in power.
    I don't think any of the three feel they are in a corner. The almost universal consensus is that Asad is going down. Western countries are happy not to be in the driver's seat on this one (or be left responsible for the post-Asad reconstruction), and will let the Saudis, Qataris, and Turks do the not-so-covert arming of the opposition.

    Sure, policymakers wish it would happen faster, worry about spillover and blowback (arms, radical jihadists), and worry about CW stockpiles. Generally, however, I think the view is that this will prove to be a gain in the end, and produce a Syria that will (eventually) be more friendly to the West and more responsive to its population than the Ba'thist dictatorship was.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Bill Moore View Post
    Sounds more like an excuse to justify force structure. Deploying thousands of troops will most likely be ineffective, while a much less expensive and probably more effective method would be for our intelligence assets to start making deals for the powers that be and will be in Syria (pay offs and other deals) to secure the chemical and alleged biological weapons. I agree if we make WMD the issue while turning a blind eye to the overall context we're going to make bigger mess that will undermine our interests far more than a few chemical weapons.
    It is a lot more than a few, covert deals aren't really possible, and the concern is genuine (even if one feels it is misplaced). I don't think massive ground intervention is a terribly likely outcome, however.
    They mostly come at night. Mostly.


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    Quote Originally Posted by Rex Brynen View Post
    I don't think any of the three feel they are in a corner. The almost universal consensus is that Asad is going down.
    Perhaps among the Western powers. I don't think that is as inevitable as they would like to believe.

    Quote Originally Posted by Rex Brynen View Post
    Sure, policymakers wish it would happen faster, worry about spillover and blowback (arms, radical jihadists), and worry about CW stockpiles. Generally, however, I think the view is that this will prove to be a gain in the end, and produce a Syria that will (eventually) be more friendly to the West and more responsive to its population than the Ba'thist dictatorship was.
    I am not so confident that the result will be a better Syria, or even a better Middle East. Anyone interested in getting involved here is doing it based on their own interests not those of the Syrians (us included). Assad may have been a dictator but he kept a lid on things. I am not positive that letting those existing hatreds fed by outside interests is a better path.
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    Quote Originally Posted by TheCurmudgeon View Post
    Perhaps among the Western powers. I don't think that is as inevitable as they would like to believe.
    Possibly not, but I don't see that as a reason to try to stop him from falling. He'd be a first-class liability to anyone who intervened on his side, IMO.

    Quote Originally Posted by TheCurmudgeon View Post
    I am not so confident that the result will be a better Syria, or even a better Middle East.
    I'm also not that confident of those things... but again, it's happening and we're not going to un-happen it. Most likely Syria and the Middle East will be neither better nor worse, just different, with different opportunities and threats. What the parties involved do with and about those threats and opportunities will define whether things go better or worse.

    Quote Originally Posted by TheCurmudgeon View Post
    Anyone interested in getting involved here is doing it based on their own interests not those of the Syrians (us included).
    This of course is true, but it might be added that those who are not interested in getting involved are also acting according to their own perceived interests. There seems to be a pretty general disinterest in getting involved in any way beyond peripheral engagement with minimal commitment, suggesting that most parties do not see commitment as compatible with their interests.

    Of course there are risks involved in letting things play out and dealing with whatever emerges, but there is no risk-free course of action, and I can see why decision makers would think that course of action presents less risk than any commitment to trying to direct the outcome.

    Quote Originally Posted by TheCurmudgeon View Post
    Assad may have been a dictator but he kept a lid on things. I am not positive that letting those existing hatreds fed by outside interests is a better path.
    A better path than what? Assad is clearly no longer able to keep a lid on things, and I see no point in trying to restore his ability to keep a lid on things... even in the unlikely event that we could do that, why would we want to? Not like he was ever any friend of ours.

    It's not always up to us to dictate outcomes, and trying to dictate outcomes can get us into an epic load of mess.
    “The whole aim of practical politics is to keep the populace alarmed (and hence clamorous to be led to safety) by menacing it with an endless series of hobgoblins, all of them imaginary”

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    Posted by Rex

    It is a lot more than a few, covert deals aren't really possible, and the concern is genuine (even if one feels it is misplaced). I don't think massive ground intervention is a terribly likely outcome, however.
    Covert deals in that part of the world are always possible, but of course not guarunteed. A lot of things are genuine concerns, and chemical weapons is one of them, but it must be viewed in the overall context of the situation to evaluate if it is worth the potentially much larger political risk to our interests if we put a large U.S. or coalition presence on the ground. We can't afford to get tunnel vision and simply see the chemical weapon warning light.

    Most importantly it doesn't take thousands of troops to secure facilities unless you're defending them against large conventional forces. I think the assumption is enough troops to secure the site(s) long enough to neutralize, not park thousand of troops in country indefinitely.

    We consistently fail when we attempt to prevent a group from getting weapons whether small arms, IEDs, and WMD (except for a successful operation that stopped the Nazi's from getting the bomb). It is almost equivalent to stopping the flow of illegal drugs. While oversimplifying for purpose of making a point, guns don't kill people, people kill people. The same line of reasoning applies to IEDs, WMD, etc. We can't simply focus on the weapon, we need a strategy for mitigating the threat (the people that will use it), which get backs to my larger point we have to appreciate/understand the larger context or we may make the threat worse.

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