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20 April 2012


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Medicine Man

Your analysis seems apt to me, except for one minor assumption that I cannot follow.

"The Arab spring was a direct product of this neocon and academic fathead meddling in the Arab and Islamic worlds." Is the assumption I speak of. I don't remember there being much indication that neocons or academics fomented/clumsily triggered the Arab spring, unless you are counting Julian Assange amongst the latter of those two groups.

I don't argue that the lib-academia and jacobin set both acted pretty much how you describe once the Arab spring was underway, regardless of how it started.

FB Ali

Col Lang,

I fully agree with your description and analysis of the Syrian situation, past and present.

I don't understand the US and European efforts to drive Assad into a corner; surely they can't expect him to fold his tent and sneak away? It is quite plausible that Assad is trying to give the Annan mission a chance to succeed, but the West seems bent on torpedoing it.

The key lies with Turkey. Kunuri thought that its strong anti-Assad stand was due to Erdogan feeling personally slighted. Yet he also said that Turkish opinion is clear about the danger of being used for advancing other people's agenda. Perhaps they will realise that it is not in their interest to create anarchy in Syria.

Margaret Steinfels

Any chance he'd go back to being an ophthalmologist (I believe that is what he was studying before taking up family responsibilities)?

The beaver


IMHO he will chosse #1. He is backing his brother Mahar ( he is the one going for the blood bath) all the way to keep the dynasty going

Syrian Nationalist Party

He should have been smart enough to know that he can not fight millions of own people, the Syrian Sunnis, Arab money and mercenaries / media power, NATO, Global Islamist movements and the Neocons in USA, all that and win. He should have a minimum of intelligence to know how to make quick changes and preempt various scenarios, turning the Syrians at least on his side of the battle. Like his Alawite father, Syrians were just his weakling serf of no concerns to him or his multitude of Alawites Security apparatus. For an entire year, he played with hot air speeches, incarcerating tens of thousands and murdering nearly 20,000 of his Syrian serf slaves. Now, he is on his own, and will most likely ends up dead with his entire family like all other idiot dictators before him. His government will go broke soon and he will have no cash left to pay for anything except what Iran send his criminal regime. That bring Iran oil installations into the wide picture of Syrian resistant and freedom fighters, and possible transfer of Syria's conflict and revolution into an Iranian one after those installations taken out and the blame game starts between the Munafekeen Mullahs, the Iranian Civil Politicians, the Streets and the Iranian oppositions.



He might like that but the option is gone. pl



You remember incorrectly, but then, you are not here... pl

Paul Escobar

Mr. Lang,

Option #1 is Assad's only real option. The other options are only offered to mortals, and he is not one anymore. When he accepted his duties, he became a symbol of his peoples rule.

If his people offered Assad's head on a platter (Option #2), the symbol of their rule would resemble defeat & lifelessness.

If his people allowed Assad to flee (Option #3), the symbol of their rule would resemble some rat fleeing certain defeat.

Either way, his people could no longer inspire men to risk their lives for such a rule.

Of course, there is 'Option #4'. If Assad were to leave the Earth due to fatal attack...it is not clear what would happen to the symbol. It could either be crushed, or reinforced. This is the most uncertain option...and, IMO, the most likely option.

David Habakkuk

F.B. Ali,

I do not think there is much in the way of coherent strategic thinking going on. In general a basic point in strategy is to be somewhat cautious about leaving others without a line of retreat -- and also about leaving oneself without one.

If one is going to do either of these things, and even more both, it is prudent at least to try to think through how the escalation of confrontation which is an obvious possible result is likely to play out.

The most spectacular recent example of failure to do this is Netanyahu's policy towards Iran. Together with his fellow-travellers in the U.S. and elsewhere, he has given a positively virtuoso display of how to cut off everyone's line of retreat.

However, American and European policymakers have also been wilfully obtuse about the dangers of backing the Iranians into a corner. And they have likewise not reflected sufficiently on how to avoid ending up with a choice between a humiliating demonstration of impotence, and a potentially catastrophic escalation.

That policy towards Syria reflects a similiar frivolity is deeply depressing. But, given that so little was learnt from our debacle in Iraq, it is hardly very surprising.


I was in Damascus in early 2010 and I was pleasantly shocked to see perhaps the cleanest city in the world, with streets bustling with people, several very large modern universities, and a blend of incredible history (Damascus Road) and a forward-looking country clearly out to join the modern world. I did not get to travel around the country, so I cannot claim to have a total view of Syria. Nevertheless, Col. Lang's general picture is quite accurate. The added dimension that must be included, to complete the picture is the aftermath of Libya, which is the template for what the Colonel is describing about Assad's future. After Russia and China foolishly allowed themselves to be duped into abstaining from the UN Security Council resolution, establishing the no-fly zone and "humanitarian intervention" in Libya, they have adamently refused to endorse another such "R2P" ("Responsibility to Protect") fiasco in Syria. The UNSC vetoes by Russia and China, and the intense diplomatic interventions to support the Kofi Annan UN/Arab League peace mission have altered the equation somewhat. Clearly, France, Britain, Team Obama (but not the JCS), Turkey, Saudi Arabia, Qatar and a few others are out to overthrow and kill President Assad and turn over the keys to Damascus to a bunch of Saudi-funded neo-Salafi and Muslim Brotherhood feudalists. Russia now has a permanent naval deployment in the Eastern Mediterranean. Foreign Minister Lavrov, as I understand it, has delivered a blunt message to Hillary Clinton in the last 24 hours that it's time to pull back from the flight-foward to arm the Free Syrian Army and annoint the Syrian National Council as the government-in-the-wings in some liberated zone inside Syrian territory. Even some powerful people in Erdogan's ruling party in Turkey are calling on him to back off of his threats of cross-border invasion to secure the liberated zones, because Turkey should not get in the middle of a confrontation with Russia. China, for its part, blocked the R2P end-of-sovereignty push from getting formal UN backing in 2005, and ever since, China has been wary of any efforts to create a humanitarian interventionist rationale for destablizing governments on the grounds of human rights abuses, as defined by some Western powers. If anyone thinks this is over the top, I urge you to read the text of Presidential Study Directive 10, which was signed by President Obama in August 2011. It defines "the prevention of mass atrocities" as a "core interest" of the United States and establishes a Board within the NSC to judge countries that are potential violators. Last I checked, the NSC team had compiled a list of 80 countries to be watched. Where does this madness end? Certainly Syria is the current precedent for humanitarian interventionist wars. Obama, Susan Rice, Samantha Power, Derek Challot and the rest of this crew populating the Obama Administration are no different than the Cheney neocons.

Charles I

A referral to the ICC should close that door, but who would allow him to practice where? And can an ophthalmologist's salary support Mrs Assad in the style accustomed, i.e., with a country for a credit card

The beaver

Mr Harper,

I read somewhere, can't recall where, that Samantha Power was given 120 days to design and implement the "atrocities prevention board", that is, by December 2011. It looks also that it was at the same time that U.S. covert operations began to be conducted against Syria.

Babak Makkinejad

US and EU leaders did in fact drive Iran into a corner. It was when Iranians declared their readiness for war this past Februry-March that the leaders of US and EU started beating a hasty retreat.

Twice in less than 6 years US and EU leader and planners brought Iran to the point that she stated that she will go to war.

I suppose the game in Syria - now that they have retreated from war with Iran - is to try to harm Iran in some other manner.

In Syria, US & EU leaders face not Syrian Ba;ath state alone - but also Iran, Russia, and China.

US and EU will fail in Syria.

They will fail in Syria for the same reason that will fail elsewhere in the Middle East - their policies are certain to bring death and misery to millions of people.

US and EU leaders have singularly failed to outline a positive vision of the future and act upon it.

Babak Makkinejad

The madness ends when US planners and leaders answer the question: "Is there money to do this?" with a negative.

In regars to Turkey in Syria - will not happen: neither money nor soldiers are there for years of occupation.

Furthermore, Turkey will be politically ruining her relations with Russia and Iran. And for what?

"Justice & Development" Party was elected to deliver equitable development of Turkey for the non-Westernized population of Turkey and not to go in search of Foreign adventure.

Babak Makkinejad


Had a Concert of the Middle East existed, the further political evolution of Syria could have been decided among the leaders of the Concert.

In its absence, Syrian political crisis has been endowed with a geopolitical significance that it does not intrinsically posess.

NATO states and their local allies are now fighting against Russia, Iran, and their local allies.

In my opinion, the situation in Syria cannot go back to what it was before last Spring (2011) but it will not be to the liking of NATO states either.

I personally expect that NATO project for Syria to fail since it is devoid of positive content.

FB Ali

David Habakkuk,

You are probably right in your assessment. But, there must be some thinking behind this ongoing stupidity. I think the objectives being followed, however clumsily, are: (1) At best, to prepare the ground so that Turkey can be pushed into intervening, and (2) Failing that, to create long-term chaos in the country. Either outcome would weaken Iran, which would suit the West, Israel and the Arabs (though the first one wouldn’t be to Israel’s liking).

I think Annan is making a serious effort to avert any such outcomes, though he is not getting much help from Ban ki-Moon (who seems to have become as much of a Western tool as the IAEA head). Assad hasn’t shown much dexterity in handling the crisis. He needs to work with Annan (as the Russians seem to be urging him) to help him succeed.


Obama, Susan Rice, Samantha Power, Derek Challot and the rest of this crew populating the Obama Administration are no different than the Cheney neocons.

Sadly, you are right. R2P has become an excuse for launching aggressive moves all over the world. If this goes on, what seems to be likely to happen is the start of another Cold War with Russia and, to a lesser extent, China. Added to the simmering conflict with the Muslim world, this is going to lead to all sorts of crises down the road. Especially if you add in the economic recession and the effects of climate change. As they say, interesting times ahead!

Byron Raum

I don't think it's a case of failure on Netanyahu's part. You're of course correct in the end results, but I would suggest that it's intentional. Failure implies lack of intent. Netanyahu wants the complete destruction of Iranian civilization and of the Iranians as a coherent people. He himself holds the power to accomplish this - if he can only figure out a way to use his own nukes.


Albayim, and fellow anti-tyrants,

NATO and Turkey are moving towards invoking the Article 5, following Article 4, which requires a council/work group to be set up to evaluate the seriousness of the threat to a member state. So far, everyone has been denying any consideration for invoking article 5, which is correct, but no one mentions Article 4, which is the prerequisite for it, without which there can never be an Article 5 unless a direct threat is imminent and apparent.

Erdogan mentioned more than once his desire to involve NATO, one way or another, anywhere from arming the insurgents, supplying the refugee camps and all the way to creating buffer zones and humanitarian corridors and no fly zones, all implied, but one needs to read the subtexts.

So far, border incursions, flow of refugees, Syrian threats, and the numbers of dead civilians on the streets are not sufficient to make a case, chalk up one more for Assad for judging correctly all thresholds. If it is true that opposition is assisted and coordinated by external parties, and if Assad knows that involvement of NATO will be bad for him, I think the time for the opposition to plan and execute a false flag incursion over the border into Turkey ala Boston Tea Party. Rebels disguised as Syrian regulars(Indians), maybe dumping the much loved tea into the Bay of Iskenderun. No one will care to investigate how authentic their uniforms were. Annan Plan is a farce, it will never work, will only buy time for Assad, so far he has succeeded in keeping the rebels from being armed, military intervention by the West, losing Russia, his loyalist have gained new confidence in his leadership, unlike the shaky early days, and in short I give him high marks in crisis management.

UN observers no matter how many will be led by the nose around Syria and see or change nothing. Just today, I have read a long account of a journalist from Radikal newspaper here in Turkey who has somehow gotten into Syria. He could not go to Hums and Dara and Idlib, or the hot outskirts of Damascus. Nobody in this multinational junket could, so article had nothing. From what I could glean, the Syrian authorities played them like fish on a line. Real finesse in manipulation, deception, slipperiness, false commitments, etc. etc. Same will happen to the UN observers and promised free press access to all Syria subsequently.

Assad loves Annan, hates and fears NATO and Turkey. I think the West needs to skip the crap, and resort to the only motivation that counts in the ME to get things done when things are at this stage.


"Millions of his own people"

If millions of his own people were opposed to the Assad regime, it would already be history and we would not be having this discussion.



Your posts and the expert responses are the reason I keep coming back to SST to get an accurate up to date situation report.

In addition to your points, the Elites have it out for Iran because they don’t properly kowtow to DC. Assad being the Mullahs’ ally is reason enough for them to push regime change in Syria. I believe excess oil money flowing into tribal disputes is also stirring up the pot.

Finally, Climate Change and Neo-liberal “Greed is Good” exploitation is causing skyrocketing energy, food, and government borrowing costs which are shaking apart societies that are already on the edge like Egypt and Greece.

Medicine Man

I'm not trying to contradict you, Col, just trying to wheedle for more information.

Medicine Man

Do you think Julian Assange could be a cultivated mouthpiece for some agency?


Exactly Mr. Harper, the madness needs to end, and the toothpaste is out of the tube. People in ME have long memories, no amount of diplomacy or mediation will help in Syria anymore. Either, all sides, left to their own devices will slug it out until completely spent, or something drastic needs to happen now, without delay. What is so difficult about taking a stand based primarilary on humanistic grounds and worry about sorting it out later, as things progress.

There is a proverb here, and I try my best in translation, "The caravan gets sorted out on route." This Syrian caravan has already left the citywalls.


It's rather ironic that Ban Ki Moon is asking for Hezbollah to disarm, which has largely sat on the sidelines of the Syrian morass, alongside the Kurds, while the Sunni-led GCC, EU/US/Nato is ramping up their efforts...!

Lord Curzon

Well, let me ponder for a moment - since options 2 & 3 will probably result in one's family being butchered before one's very eyes followed by a swift hanging from the nearest lamppost, option 1 looks like being the best bet!

All facetiousness aside, this appears to have the makings of an interminable struggle with all the viciousness of the Thirty Years War, pitting Sunni against Alawi/Shi'a.

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