Syria in Battle: Things Assad Can Do

A Syrian soldier stands near a clock with a portrait of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad in Haffeh town near Latakia city 14 June 2012. (Photo: Reuters - Khaled al-Hariri)

By: Ibrahim al-Amin

Published Thursday, June 14, 2012

No voice rises above the sound of the battle. This slogan prevails in Syrian decision-making circles. But some in those circles are more explicit: no voice rises above the sound of the bullets.

This group pays no heed to any other steps that need to be taken, even as part of that same battle. Moreover, informed observers get the strong impression that the decision-makers are not listening to anyone else – to those who declare their alignment with Syria against the foreign onslaught it faces, but believe a solution must include other, perhaps more important, components, or that the violent aspect should be confined within one circle, that the people would be able to renounce in due course.

The security and military confrontations are underway, under whatever label. Those who are capable of intervening in them provide means of support to either the regime or the armed opposition. There are also the criminal elements among the gunmen, which are interconnected and have diverse sectarian and regional affiliations. They have started running what Syrians call the “kidnap bureaus” responsible for actions aimed at spreading sectarian tensions, in addition to smuggling operations within and into the country in order to provide other groups with weapons, or even information. Most members of this category used to work as informers for the state in order to avoid criminal prosecution, or were fugitives who were in hiding in Syria or had disappeared to neighboring countries.

In rural areas of some troubled provinces, delegations of security and civilian envoys have been arriving, saying they were despatched by the presidential palace on special missions. They have arranged meetings with village or district “notables,” sometimes attended by opposition activists, to listen to their demands. So far these have focused largely on the release of detainees and the transfer of certain security or military officers away from the locality, in addition to numerous development demands.

In some cases, it seems that this has succeeded in containing local anger and forestalling explosions. Pardons have even been provided to deserters from the army and other lawbreakers. These range from people who exploited the crisis to carry out illegal activities, such as unlicensed construction, or hoarding or exporting basic consumer goods to “crisis merchants” who do not care who controls the area concerned. They pay protection money to both sides, the regime and the armed opposition groups, as is the case in several regions.

In practice, these are the only tangible manifestations people can sense of what is referred to as the comprehensive reform process. The other steps taken in that process – like lifting the state of emergency, halting the use of state security courts, changing Article VIII of the Constitution, the new laws on political parties, media and associations, and the dozens of other measures decreed over the past year – have had no practical impact. For the security state continues to operate. It is immaterial whether a detainee held in custody is referred to an investigating magistrate or not. The security alert makes the authorities behave as though the state of emergency is still in place.

As for the Baath party, it continues to enjoy privileges it was supposed to relinquish in favor of the state as a whole. Yet senior figures in the state feel that the party’s overbearing interference and influence largely persist – and where they have retreated, this has been in favor of power-centers within the regime rather than the state’s institutions.

Nothing appears to be different about the new licensed political parties that have become active. The extremely low turnout at the parliamentary elections meanwhile exposed the lack of public confidence in the thought that anything has changed. The polls also revealed that those in charge of nominating candidates retain the same acquisitive attitude. The results showed that the mentality prevailing over the Baathists, and over the political and security administration, is unaltered.

The same applies to the media. So long as the censor vies with the security man at the borders, and glares over the shoulder of the Syria reader, nobody will believe that Reformed Syria is any different. Even the question has become surreal: With all this violence, bloodshed and fighting of every variety, are there still people who worry that public opinion might be influenced by some article or commentary?

Nevertheless, due to the decision-making process in Syria, it must be reiterated that to separate the struggle for deep-seated reform from the political and security process means only one thing: attempting to keep things as they are. That sends a message of despair to two sections of the public: the pro-regime, and the hesitant. And it incentivizes the opposition public, some of which justifies the resort to arms by arguing that no change will ever come from this regime.

There are many things which need to be done. There is nothing today preventing the retrial of those responsible for the first crime in Daraa. Nothing prevents the indictment of Rami Makhlouf and his “Dardari-era business” colleagues, the confiscation of their funds, and their reinvestment in development programs in Syria’s ravaged rural areas. Nothing prevents the Baath party leadership being sacked and forced into long overdue retirement. Nothing prevents the transfer of real authority to the government. Nothing prevents the cancellation of expropriation orders issued against millions of square meters of land.

Most important of all, there is nothing preventing President Bashar al-Assad from declaring that he is president of Syria in his capacity as a Syrian citizen, and that henceforth nobody can exploit their family, party or sectarian ties to him to abuse a people who are being exhausted by a crisis that threatens torrents of blood.

The military confrontation itself calls out for many things that can be done. It is no longer acceptable to blame the rusty machinery of state, the shoddy administration, or the impact of years of lethargy. This has ceased to convince. For the military and security confrontation has demonstrated, over the course of the past year, the deficient state of the security forces themselves. It has shown that they are as decrepit as the other departments. They need to be restructured, rehabilitated, and brought up to date with the realities of the age, so they can perform their allocated function without interfering in citizens’ lives.

Nothing prevents action from being taken today to reorganize the security forces. It has been widely circulated, after all, that Assad himself said the deficiencies of the security forces forced him to call in the army early on, and led to mistakes which resulted in hundreds of civilian and military deaths.

Ibrahim al-Amin is editor-in-chief of Al-Akhbar.

This article is an edited translation from the Arabic Edition.

Comments

I wish I could ride to power on an American tank! But unfortunately I have no takhween with me at the moment ...

I'm surprised to see this. It strikes me as a retreat into an earlier position, when hopes of liberal democratisation were mixed with fears of externally directed revolutionary death squads. I should have thought that by now it would be impossible to deny that 'the regime' is fighting an internationally backed and highly organised insurgency, and is in no position to make any concessions to liberal peace-time demands whatsoever.

I have read Mr Ibrahim's articles with great interest, in deference to his vast knowledge in matters of Lebanese policies, the actors that shape them, and their diverse motivations and interest groups.

However, I am puzzled by his suggestion that Bashar A-Assad can implement all of these laudable steps, reforming the constitution of Syria, revoking military tribunals for civilians, etc. Steps that are laudable and necessary to promote a more egalitarian society in Syria, that is without question. My doubt goes to the man himself, and the atrocities already committed by his regime. It is extremely doubtful that Sunni Syrians, will ever accede the continuation of Assad the war criminal in any future Syrian government.

Which begs the question, 'can these reforms ever be implemented?
By whom? Assad?

Conrad must be a Westerner, not because he repeats as gospel Western prop about " atrocities already committed by his regime" as if USA and others do not praise all time "reforms" by Saudis or Bahrain king, not mentioning the much worse atrocities already committed by Obama regime. After all, some folks from the ME repeat the same prop, esp when being payed by money from "reforming" Saudi royals.

No, Conrad must be a Westerner because he is so eager to parrot sectarian propaganda by the same "reforming" Saudi royals. He is sure that Sunnis are all against Assad. No, while NATO/Zionists/Saudis do their best to turn the ME into sectarian hell, Sunnis are not fools, and, I suppose, a majority of them know who is their real foe - i.e. imperialism and Zionism and their GCC lackeys, just because the majority of the ME peoples know it no matter of what creed. The polls of opinions show it clear enough.

I attribute your use of ME instead of "Middle East" to your love of typing capitals in rapid succession.

Who are you Mina, to speak for Sunnis when the overwhelming majority of them, especially the millions of Syrian ones, are against Bashar and go preach your anti-imperialistic drivel to your friends in Amal and Hezbollah who were totally silent on their allies who came to power on American tanks in Afghanistan and Iraq and tooks billions from them, not uttering a single word of takhween towards them like their wholesale takhween of all of the Syrian opposition or your beloved Assadi regime which collaborated with the Americans in Gulf War I, for which they were rewarded by the Americans with the occuaption of Lebanon, something which benefitted them in the billions. And spare me your bogus takhween as we don't need lessons from the hypocrites of the "mumana'a" who don't engage in any criticism towards their traitors when the other side, Sunnis, fought and confronted their traitors long before the takhween carnival of the "mumana'a" hypocrites and please enlighten us to these opinion polls which show Sunnis supporting the Assadi regime?!

I am not "Mina", and I do not support Amal and if I support Hezballa it is only for their anti-imperialism, just as I support any person of any faith - I am an atheist - for the same.

But a sectarian and proud of it Abu Umar just cannot get it into his sectarian-disabled mind, so he supports the worst foes of the ME people - NATO and GCC royals, because they are not Shia.

Of course, opinion polls of the ME people show that they mostly see USA and Israel, not Iran or Hezballa as their foes, and they are right, of course.

And yes, USA bombs and tanks are actively supported by Abu Umar provided they are turned against his foes, i.e people of "wrong" creed or just not lackeys enough of the same USA or Gulf royals (thus not lackeys enough of Zionists(.

Who said that sectarianism is confined to religion as there all sorts of sectarianism such as racial, nationalistic, ethnic and tribal sectarianism so your denial of your sectarianism is bogus as you also whitewash the blatant Shi'ite sectarianism of Hezbollah who were totally silent on the treachery of their allies who rode to power on American tanks into power in Afghanistan and Iraq, taking billions from them along the way, while making takhween of all of the Syrian opposition proving beyond a shadow of a doubt that their takhween is the pinnacle of hypocrisy and the difference with Sunnis, and there are many traitors and hypocrites among them too, is that many of them opposed and confronted the treachery of the Sunni tyrants and their court scholars who justified this treachery and this happened in many Sunni countries like Egypt, Jordan and Saudi Arabia where the treachery of the British stooge, King Abdul-Aziz, was opposed by two groups which shared the same sectarian affiliation and where in Gulf War I and II, dozens of Saudi shuyookh and thousands of their followers opposed the treachery and collaboration of the Saudi regime and thousands of them are in Saudi dungeons. This is never mentioned by the propagandists of the bogus "mumana'a" camp or a liar like As'ad Abu Khalil who makes takhween of all Sunni Islamists or the shuyookh in Saudi and this is the huge difference between sectarian hypocrites like Hezbollah who didn't engage in an iota of self-criticism when its buddies rode to power on American tanks and many Sunnis who opposed the traitors of their fellow sect. So we don't need lessons from hypocrites like yourself in self-criticism towards the treachery of the Sunni tyrants like the ones in the Gulf when their treachery was opposed more than 70 years ago by their own people, long before Shi'ite sectarians started to use this issue in their anti-Sunni propaganda and when the overwhelming majority of the Iran-Syria axis, leadership and followers, approved of their allies riding into power on American tanks, and the deafening silence of Amal and Hezbollah is more than enough proof towards this hypocrisy, so go preach your anti-imperialistic drivel to the sectarian charlatans of the "mumana'a" and my sectarianism didn't cause me to be silent on the traitors of the Gulf unlike your "mumana'a" hypocrites, nor do I give a damn that you and As'ad condemn this, as if he was the only person in the Arab world to call out his people for being silent towards their treachery with the West as he boasts. As for opinion polls, I was talking about opinion polls showing Sunni support for Bashar, which has certainly changed after the Syrian uprising, and many of them have negative views of Hezbollah and Iran after their support of Bashar and if you want to engage in guilt by association as you have done numerous times, then Iran and Hezbollah are totally guilty in this aspect and the Iranian regime and its allies were the biggest supporters of the American invasion and occupation of Afghanistan and Iraq, though they didn't want them to get too comfortable, and they would have never come to power were it not for the Americans and the Iranian regime directly assisted the Americans when it opened it's airspace for American warplanes to attack Afghanistan, so your "mumana'a" buddies have no problem with American military might used against their sectarian foes, Saddam and Taliban whose "mumana'a" didnt suffice nor did the "mumana'a" of the Palestinians in Lebanon suffice, despite their brave stand against the Zionists after the 82' invasion, for Amal which waged a war on them and the fatwa of eating cats and dogs from Abdul-Amir Qabalan, or what the army of Hafez al-Assad did to Palestinians in Tal az-Za'tar, Tripoli and Saida, so the Palestinian cause is cynically and hypocritically used to uphold the Assadi regime and Shi'ite hegemonical power. Get off your high horse Lidia, and go preach to your buddies in Amal and Hezbollah who preach what they don't practise and who lavishly honour Chalabi and Ja'fari. Hamas are "traitors" according to many in Hezbollah, but those two who collaborated with the Americans are what? "Mumana'een'?! Are you also going to accuse the majority of the Palestinian people who oppose Bashar of being "traitors"?

hey? when are you gonna blow yourself up and kill some shias in the process. YOu know the ones that rode to power on american tanks and whose allies in Lebanon, the so-called mumanaa'a camp, are silent about them getting to power on american tanks and don't speak of their takhween?
So do you want to ride to power on american tanks in Syria? is that what you want. Do you want us to not mention your takhween?
I have a request for you. Can you please make a youtube video of yourself singing "rode to power on American tanks" to the tune of "Fattoom Fattoom Fattoomeh". Do you know that song? I am sure you do. Sallem Abu-umar, ya 3abkari inta.

I oppose that criminal tactic, when are you going to join your shabeeha buddies in fighting the "nawasib Bakris" for the sake of Imam Ali as one of the shabeeha was reported to have said in Houla? When are you going to bow down to the pictures of Bashar and say "La ilah illah Bashar" and "Bashar Akbar"? What do the Syrian Sunnis in Houla have to do with the criminal Ibn Muljim who killed Haidara?! And no, I don't want to ride on American tanks like your buddies in Afghanistan and Iraq, but I want the right for Lebanese Sunnis to help their brethren in Syria just like many of the "mumana'a" camp are logistically supporting Bashar who also demand that anti-Bashar Syrians go to their graves smiling while the Assadi regime and their allies send their condolences like Hafez al-Assad did with Kamal Jumblatt and Bashar did with Hamza al-Khatib, "iqtul qateel wamshee bi-janaztu". And my takhween is more sincere than the bogus takhween of Amal and Hezbollah who approve of the collaboration of their allies who rode to power on American tanks, "as-suqoot 'alamat ar-ridha", and I am willing to call out the Sunni leaders and their court scholars for their treachery unlike your hypocritical masters in Amal and Hezbollah. You heard of the saying, put up or shut up, and let the hypocrites of Amal and Hezbollah use the same standards of takhween towards their treacherous allies that they direct to all of the Syrian opposition, something they will never do because of their sectarian cowardice. You can keep snickering and stewing in your rage Hezbeleb, but you can't run away from this bitter reality and you should go back to Hezbollah media relations to tell them to send a better propagandist unlike a vapid shabeeh like yourself and you have the gall to talk about the narrow-mindness of the Syrian opposition forgetting that Al-Arabiyah and Al-Jazeera hosted hundreds of pro-Bashar figures while Amal, Hezbollah and Ad-Dunya didn't host a single anti-Bashar figure. Though I am not surprised as the student follows the master like your shaykh, Muhammad Yazbek, who compared A'isha and Talha to the American-Zionist camp, forgetting his buddies like Chalabi and Ja'fari. Yes, I heard of that ditty sung by the shabeeh Durayd Lahham, have you heard of the saying, kama tudeen tudaan?

hey, that wasn't an invitation for you to tell me what you think. I am only mocking you. Don't bother writing stuff because I don't read hate-filled sectarians like you. excuse me while I go find a tank so I can "fight the power that be" and you go to ride to power on american tanks. I promise I will not call you your takhween when you do.

So why respond in the first place if you cannot live up to you and your party's bogus standards of "mumana'a", supporting your allies' collaboration with the Americans? And your damn right I will be a hate-filled sectarian when your buddies in Iraq like Chalabi, Maliki, Aal-Hakeem, Ja'fari were smiling and laughing with Bush, Rumsfeld and Wolfowitz while declaring Abu Bakr and Umar, "Sanamy Quraysh" and "Aj-Jibt wa-Taghut", so the Zionist Wolfowitz is better than Abu Bakr and Umar as demonstrated by the actions of your allies? Is this the madhab of Ahl al-Bayt?!
http://www.defense.gov/home/photoessays/2005-04/p20050412c2.html
Look at your "mumani' buddy Ja'fari

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