Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Spillover!

The dithering is beginning to have an impact on neighboring countries. Pandemonium paves way to spillover, and spillover to regional chaos.

Monday May 14, 2012

Death toll:  22, including 10 in Homs City, 5 in Daraa, and 1 in each of Hama, Damascus, Rural Damascus and Deir Ezzor. In Rastan, Homs Province, 9 locals and 23 troops loyal to Assad were killed in clashes following an attempt by loyalist troops to retake the restive town that has been under rebel control for months.

50 Syrian refugees who took part in a hunger strike in Jordan’s city of Ramtha were expelled by Jordanian authorities who drove them to the borders with Syria and left them there after confiscating their papers. Local recruits of the FSA saved the 50 refugees, however, and escorted them back safely to Daraa City. The hungers strike was staged to protest living conditions in local refugee camps and restrictions on their movements imposed by Jordanian authorities, which made seeking medical treatment difficult.

News
Op-Eds & Special Reports

Our recent visit to Kosovo continues to generate controversy. Good.

Recent media reports of contacts between the representatives of the Syrian opposition and the authorities of the so-called "Republic of Kosovo" have attracted a lot of attention. This does not only include "sharing experience" in organizing separatist movements aimed at overthrowing existing regimes, but also preparation of Syrian fighters in Kosovo with the use of areas that are similar to Syria in terms of landscape. It is not ruled out that training centers at the former bases of the “Kosovo Liberation Army” will be established. Such intentions cannot but cause concern. They run counter to the efforts of the UN/LAS Special Envoy Kofi Annan, backed by the international community. In addition, the transformation of Kosovo into an international training ground for militants of various armed groups could become a serious destabilizing factor that goes beyond the Balkan region.We call on the international presences acting in Kosovo to take all necessary measures to prevent such plans.

And here’s some coverage in Croatian

And here’s Kosovo’s Foreign Minister’s response to the allegations by the Russian Foreign Ministry. Minister Enver Hoxhaj is one of the officials we met during our visit to Kosovo and his offer of political support was as clear then as it is now.

"We were among the first governments in Europe who was supporting the opposition in Libya and in other Arab countries last year, because we were fighting for the same aspirations, for the same values," he said. "We have the same approach to Syria and have some diplomatic contacts between my government and (the) Syrian opposition," Hoxhaj said. "We are supporting very much their cause." Asked if Kosovo had established training centers for Syrian rebels, Hoxhaj said: "Not at all."

Some of my comments at a recent panel discussion at Woodrow Wilson Center on May 9 are quoted here. The Entire panel discussion is available in audio here

Nonviolence & the Syrian State Current

As Deborah Amos noted in her NPR report yesterday, there is indeed a wide-scale arrest campaign targeting local activists, especially those leading the nonviolent movement. The problem with her report is that the main figures that were interviewed in this regard, that is, to represent these nonviolent activists, are those who belong to the Building the Syrian State Current, AKA Syrian State Current or occasionally Binaa Syria. 

Founders and leaders of the SSC are coming more and more under the spotlight of late, getting invited to attend conferences and meetings with officials abroad, basking in the glow of being domestic opposition, hence, legitimate. But that’s a very troubling assessment, and reflects a continuing misunderstanding of the nature of the protest movement. The movement is too indigenous and grassroots to be represented by the urban elites of Damascus and Aleppo, and the founders of SSC are mostly from there or have been living there for last few years or decades.

Despite the fact that some of them have long histories in nonviolence advocacy, they have never developed any major popular bases and have never managed to engender more than a vague awareness of the literature of nonviolence. Their goal was more evolution than revolution. In this, they were no different than traditional opposition figures and movements: they failed to see that the momentum building around them was more revolutionary than evolutionary.

By comparison to traditional opposition figures and parties, they were to some extant more connected to the grassroots, but not by much. They exhibited the same elitist tendencies. Their minds belonged to Ghandi but their hearts and souls to Marx. And no serious attempt was ever made at indigenization of the thoughts of either men, despite occasional individual endeavors in this regard that failed to generate much interest. Ghandi’s philosophy was meant as a way of life, a model to be put into practice, but they sought to teach it as doctrine, hence they made it and kept it as an elitist exercise. And Marx’s input lent itself to countless interpretations, but there was little debate of that.

Since the beginning of the revolution, most attempts at reaching out made by SSC leaders were aimed at an international audience rather than local communities, where they have little influence. For all their talk about nonviolence and basic rights, they had nothing but indignation to the “average” Syrian. They had the mentality to stewards and trustees, rather than public servants.

For this, and despite occasional harassment and arrests, SSC founders and leaders are often allowed to meet and travel freely. Why? They oppose international intervention and the increasing militarization of the revolution, and that suits the Assads rather well.

The fact that people are demanding intervention and have chosen the course of armed insurrection after many months of violent crackdown by the Assads, does not matter. After all, the flock needs a shepherd, and the ignorant masses are being exploited by all those external opposition members who have their own agendas. So, the mentality of SSC leaders is not that different than their “enemies” represented by the SNC: they all claim what is rightfully not theirs, and will never be: ownership of the revolution, and the right to represent a populace that they all at heart fear and disdain.

The likeability and western temperament of some of the founders of SSC should not blind international policymakers and journalists to the realities of who they are. After all, westrn veneers and likeability were the main reasons why so many in the international community thought of Assad and Asma as the reform-minded couple.

The international community should be on a search not for the likeable and the westernized, for the relevant and pragmatic. Some likeable westernized figures will emerge and need to be engaged and empowered, but only inasmuch as they are or can be made to be relevant. Irrelevant figures cannot keep a country together, no matter how well-intentioned they are.

Until members of our intellectual elite learn to view themselves as public servants, and the people as being worthy of service, not entities to be controlled, for all their shortcomings, they will remain part of the problem not the solution. You have to be truly “of the people” to serve the people, and that’s a reference to state of mind, not social class.

Video Highlights

And towns and neighborhoods across the country continue to come under fire at night: Sabouniyeh Neighborhood, Hama City http://youtu.be/2p2Tx9Ulh-I Elsewhere in Hama City http://youtu.be/eVUzmB5wcvE Habeet, Idlib http://youtu.be/43ly3e_jB2M Kafar Batna, Rural Damascus http://youtu.be/8R1R8uL9J9w Aqrabah, Rural Damascus http://youtu.be/I5zrbAp5AV8 Kafrenboudeh, Hama http://youtu.be/8iRwuk74zV8

Rastan, Homs Province: local FSA commander declares their success in destroying a loyalist checkpoint at the outskirts of the town including a number of BMPs and tanks that were taking part in pounding the town over the last few days http://youtu.be/j3iTAMOouFI This is how the FSA members carried out the attack http://youtu.be/aNf34LOx8Eo , http://youtu.be/79k6ZdKIOaE A local FSA commander is martyred http://youtu.be/tbZQukUR1PY An injured child cries and asks for his father http://youtu.be/uvRJVkmrvmY An injured little girl who cannot be saved http://youtu.be/vnXU5xm1mVY As result of the previous pounding, 4 martyrs http://youtu.be/SETKVsG5vRg

In Deir Baalbah Neighborhood, pro-Assad militias discard bodies of locals that they have tortured and killed http://youtu.be/xCRsK_K3yQc In Jouret Al-Shayah, local have to drive fast to dodge snipers http://youtu.be/cEZ2g9K5zkQ Gunfire and burning house in Bayadah http://youtu.be/QVI57_fC35o In Qoussour, locals say the presence of UN monitors was too brief to allow them to pull out the dead bodies from the rubble and the streets http://youtu.be/KnxUGn7A-HE

Qourieyh, Deir Ezzor: the town gets pounded by pro-Assad militias http://youtu.be/E-TGlz4IafE

Kafar Zeiteh, Hama Province, loyalist troops shoot their way in http://youtu.be/h0ZimSEfNVg , http://youtu.be/ysPIcgYiww8

In the town of Corine, Idlib, locals bemoan their martyred children in the presence of UN monitors http://youtu.be/fGChCuL9gmk

In the town of Elbab, Aleppo Province, UN monitors were at hand when locals were fired upon by security forces. We don’t see the actual shooting here, but we here people talking with UN monitors, still in their case, about the incident http://youtu.be/vfnmOWVXplk

Syrian Cartoonist’s Ali Ferzat’s take on the Syrian opposition and international support