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Date 2004-12-19 00:34:17
From [email protected]
To [email protected]
[email protected]
[email protected]
Others MessageId: <[email protected]>
InReplyTo: [email protected]
Text
Colleagues:

Note the report below.

Does this check out?

If so, please pay this guy well and immediately for this, and let's get him on board.

He will follow up with a report on the recent Damascus bombing. He wants to be paid for that also.

Tony
----- Original Message -----
From: bILAl reda
To: [email protected]
Sent: Saturday, December 18, 2004 6:18 PM
Subject: Hello Tony Sullivan
Syria must jettison 'hide-all' strategy
By Ziad Haydar
Special to The Daily Star
Thursday, December 16, 2004
Hello Tony, [email protected]
To proceed our previous conversation for stratfor request, I knew from very confident sources in Syria inside the Ba'th party that the party leadership is planning to Islamize the party to give the regime some Islamic and popular legitimacy on one hand, and to absorb the ascendence of the fundamentalist Islamism in Syria on the other hand, the vice-president Abdul-halim Khadam is leading this process which is very new and in its first step of planning. This info is very new and secret and this process is similar of what Saddam Hussein has done after the Gulf war when he brought the Wahabbi Salafi groups to Iraq to islamize the society in front of the Shi'ism in Iraq and later brought Abu Mus'ab al-Zarqawi and the Islamist fighters to fight the coalition forces.
Please let's our correspondence be at this email and using my nickname on the bottom.
All the best,
Bilal,
Now you can pursue the article :)
Several months ago, while on a trip to several European countries, I had the opportunity of meeting a good number of Syrians and Arabs living abroad.
Among the amazing questions I was asked, both as a Syrian and journalist living in Damascus, was whether the Mazzeh incidents were staged or real - in reference to the event that took place in that neighborhood of Damascus
last April. An outbreak of gunfire resulted in the death of several people, and the detention of the alleged perpetrators. According to official reports, the incident was not the work of any political organization. The important point here, however, was not the incident itself, but rather the way Syrians living abroad perceived it. No one seemed to believe what official sources had said about what had happened.
Here is another example: When the Israeli Air Force bombed the area of Ain al-Saheb in October 2003, targeting a Palestinian refugee camp abandoned a year earlier, Israel television showed footage of fighters training in a facility to indicate that these were actual Palestinian fighters in the Ain al-Saheb camp. For those who saw the footage, its shortcomings were obvious as the pictures probably dated from the early 1980's. What was important though was that the Syrian authorities from the outset prevented anyone from getting close to the site and only offered an official
explanation about the attack after a considerable delay. The Syrian ambassador in Spain, however, did speak about the incident, promising there would be an appropriate Syrian response. The Syrian Foreign Ministry hastened to deny that any official Syrian response had been given, only to issue words similar to the ambassador's eight days later.
Meanwhile, not a single camera was allowed at the Ain al-Saheb location to record the aftermath of the attack, although it had taken place near a residential area. The official response was that "Syria has credibility" and, therefore, Western journalists on its territory should rely on that to answer their networks' questions about the camp and the results of the bombardment. Within this context, we can ask: Why doesn't the Syrian state ever test its credibility in the eyes of others?
When the former Hamas official, Izzeddin Sheikh Khalil, was assassinated in Damascus approximately three months ago, a colleague from the BBC got in touch with me to say that rumors were circulating in Lebanon to the effect that Syria was behind the incident. The gist of the matter here is that the finger of accusation still pointed to Syria, even when it was the victim. And painful as it may be to say so, the Syrians themselves are often to blame for this.
Why is this so? Why are the Syrians authorities rarely believed? The answer to such questions is easy, though we at the same time reject its implications. The reason is that in the past four years, successive Syrian information ministers have asked it without seeing the wisdom of analyzing the situation on the ground and gaining in-depth knowledge of journalistic ethics and of how journalists work.
When the Mazzeh incident took place, journalists complained of not being able to use their mobile telephones to report on what had taken place, since the mobile network virtually broke down. In addition, the neighborhood was entirely surrounded by police, there was a total information blackout, and for the first few hours after the incident, no official source could be reached. After the incident was over, when journalists finally were allowed to enter the area, the director of one news organization was attacked by a group of students (were they really students?) who accused him of being a spy and demanded that he be put on trial for wanting to damage Syria's image. The man's car was willfully damaged, until he managed to calm the crowd down and take their picture as they hailed the president.
These were the first pictures of the incident out of Syria and, later on, Syrian television aired pictures of a weapons cache found in the area, but not before several hours had already elapsed. By that time, Israeli media had already reached the ears of the world and presented their own version of events. The confusion among the ranks of Syrian officials meant that they had lost a golden opportunity to tell their side of the story. When, a month later, the official results of the investigation were announced, they were unimpressive and redundant. Tardiness, bad timing and poor crisis mismanagement harm Syria's image internationally. The methods displayed by officials are liable on their own, even if unwittingly, to profoundly affect the image of any country.
Syria still deals with many issues in an unjustifiably and incomprehensibly secretive manner. Syria's border police still look suspiciously at those entering or leaving the country and the word "forbidden" is the term most often on the mind of civil servants, whether civilian or military. Journalists are repeatedly told that it is "forbidden" to take pictures, "forbidden" to ask questions and sometimes even "forbidden" to be where the action is. And, if by chance representatives of the state are patient enough to hear people's complaints against what is "forbidden," their fallback answer to this is "we received no instructions to take action."
As a further example of the difficulties faced by media, Syrian television monopolizes all unlicensed satellite transmissions, except in very rare cases. Added to that are the difficulties foreign reporters face when asking for a Syrian visa and when trying to extend their stay in the country. That's aside from the fact that their electronic equipment is impounded at Damascus airport and that they are constantly shadowed by an Information Ministry employee (allegedly there to assist them). The Syrian authorities behave as if they have more to hide than to share. It is incumbent upon every Arab and foreign journalist, at least those who want to describe the reality in Syria to the outside world, to inform Syrian government officials that if they behave as if they have something to hide, this will only allow journalists to imagine the worst about what it is they are hiding. Even if an official is only trying to hide a tear in his suit, a journalist will imagine that he is concealing a bomb under his desk. Perhaps a bomb that might go off if that official ever speaks the truth.
Ziad Haydar is a Damascus-based Syrian journalist. He wrote this commentary for THE DAILY STAR

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