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20 May 2013


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William R. Cumming

An apt summary PL IMO! Also salsa annual sales in USA now exceed catchup [katchup]!

Alba Etie

IMO - we could be witnessing a climb down from removing Assad the Younger . The harsh realities of the Syrian civil wars may very well be causing the R2P's , neocons , and Tyler's favorite neoliberals not to have their way with BHO . The US Military leadership - including Defense Secretary Hagel are opposed to any boots on the ground in Syria , or for that matter a no fly zone. The main harsh reality regarding Syria - is that the overwhelming majority of We the People of These United States are steadfastly opposed to any more MENA military adventures . IMO if we went to War in Syria we would have wide spread domestic protest - Chicago 1968 comes to mind ..


Being a slow-poke in this Foreign Policy manure it sure is looking like we bet on the wrong horse. These anti Assad folks look a lot like them fellas that flew into buildings, gave us trouble in Iraq and Afghanistan. Somehow their religious bent is being propagated in that Kingdom of No Good filled with oil. Not that I understand all these inter faith ramifications but to this dumb gringo we have been wasting time over there in the ME and its time to pick some new friends as the ones we got are not our friends and pretty close to enemies. But then what do I know.


Most of what is said here on Syria is spot on - the cracked nature of US policy, the poor prospects for intervention, the incessant propaganda in favor of such an intervention.

But the idea that "the Syrian Civil War pits 20 million Syrians who do not wish to be ruled by a Sunni theocracy against tens of thousands of Sunni jihadis intent on creating that theocracy" is ludicrous. If it were the conflict would have been over in months. So, these tens of thousands of jihadis materialized from nowhere and the proliferating apparatuses of the heavily armed, super-paranoid Syrian national security state backed with the undying support of the entire populace for their beloved leader were unable to fend them off?

It is strange in light of this blog's frequent concern with liberty and tyranny, that no one can think of a reason Syrians might rebel other than the desire to establish a theocracy. Yes, the most militarily effective opposition are jihadists. No, we shouldn't support them. That doesn't mean swallowing the regime line that the root causes of the conflict are jihadists and foreign plots. The underlying causes are diverse, but a chief cause is a regime that could conceive of no response to discontent other than the use of greater and greater levels of violence. A readiness for political change and a policy of de-escalation could have blunted or entirely thwarted any foreign conspiracy or jihadist adventure. But they would not countenance anything less than absolute power. So, they escalated, and continued to escalate, and escalated some more until they set off a social explosion.

Syrian society is deeply divided. A large proportion are willing to put up with the theocrats to get rid of the tyrant. A large proportion are willing to put up with the tyrant to get rid of the theocrats. The regime has consolidated its position in Damascus and some of the central cities, at the expense of the peripheries, but there is no end in sight.

20 million Syrians versus a few tens of thousands of jihadists? Is this just the "noble lie" we need to tell to stop Obama from doing anything stupid?

Clifford Kiracofe

The Guardian (London) says:

"....Did the Israeli strikes provoke Hezbollah's move? As Vladimir Putin told Binyamin Netanyahu in no uncertain terms, they certainly prompted Russia into sending Assad S300 surface-to-air missiles. The involvement of the best armed and trained Shia militia in the region was perhaps only a matter of time. The foreign secretary, William Hague, said there was a compelling case for lifting the EU arms embargo, dispatching weapons in "carefully controlled circumstances". This is provocative. We have lost leverage over rebel groups. Having rejected the diplomatic option of talking to Assad for so long, neither US nor Britain — nor Russia on its side — can "lead from behind" in Syria. A military conflict is no place for back-seat drivers."

Seems as though Brit policy is in as much disarray as US policy. I did not notice the above most interesting insight on Putin, Netanyahu, and the s-300s in the "pro-Israel" owned and operated US press reporting.

So what happens when the Syrian forces gain some further control over the situation and exterminate more of the Wahhabi terrorists so beloved by Washington and London (Paris is a bit quiet on this these days)?

Unleash Israel? Broaden the war to South Lebanon and Iran?

Just what?

r whitman

The Obama administrations confusion, hesitation and indecision has actually been very good for the US. We have not committed any military assets and very little money. When the insurgents we back are defeated all we lose is a bit of prestige, not that we had tat much to begin with in the ME.

Maybe we will smarten up and abandon the whole area. Let the Europeans and Russians screw with them.


Regrettably, the US has had a long history, (post WWII) of betting “on the wrong horse” in our foreign policy and military support. On wonders, when we will ever learn?


Our MENA diplomacy-foreign policy is a dumpster fire. It's destructive for US interests and destructive for the nations that the US targets.

And on May 16, Michael Sheehan, the assistant secretary of defense for special operations announced that the war on terror would go on for another 10 to 20 years. What a waste.

Perhaps a refresher course in diplomacy 101 for the state department would be useful: seek respectful relations with other nations and cultivate areas of mutual self-interest.

robt willmann

So, which side is the government of Israel supporting, aside from itself?

My guess is Israel supports the "opposition" to the Syrian government. Israel does not like military competition; it was a big promoter of the U.S. invasion of Iraq in 2003. If the "salafists", or whatever the label should be, end up knocking over Assad jr., the result will be a mess and a possible split-up of the country. This will suit Israel just fine, as the opposition militias will not be well organized with no productive economic base, and will be easier to push around, like the Palestinians.


Somewhere, and i apologize for not having the link, there was an article on Syrian Oil Production which was in the FSA territory. Al Nusrah kept all the profits, and handed some of it out to the rest of the FSA to buy loyalty. I think this clearly demonstrates who would run things in a FSA govt, assuming there is one rather than endless instability. It is encouraging to see reality kick in.

I dislike Asia Times (too many annoying ads) but I do like Pepe's reporting and snarkiness.


No matter how much Israel hates Assad, they would hate a jihadist Syria even more.

They might like the idea of having this conflict last forever with no clear winner. The problem is that this would imply the presence of a long-term jihadi h(e)aven in the rebel-held zones. At some point, some of the rebels might decide that Tel-Aviv is a more appealing target than Damascus (cf Afghani Taliban "inspiring" Pakistani Taliban).

Since helping Assad in any way is politically infeasible, I guess they'll just stay put, except for thwarting attempts at arming Hezbollah.

Clifford Kiracofe

"JERUSALEM (CNS) — Growing extremism in Syria could jeopardize the safety of all Christians, said Syriac Catholic Bishop Gregoire Melki of Jerusalem.

“It is a very sad situation and we are really anxious,” he told Catholic News Service May 18, following a special prayer service in Jerusalem. “We are very anxious when we remember what happened to the Christians in Iraq. We fear the same thing will happen to the Christians in Syria.

“Those who can, escape,” said Bishop Melki, who said he remains in contact with church leaders in Syria. “For more than two years there has not been a solution (to the violence.) We have to pray.”

"AFP - The advance of regime troops on the rebel stronghold of Qusayr in central Syria has come as a relief for at least one village, mostly-Christian, nestled on the shores of Lake Quttina...."


If these talks take place in June, is it possible that Assad could split off a part of the Syrian Opposition, and make some kind of 'viable' compromise, some window dressing 'Constitutional Reform and new elections', and then try and go after what would be left of the Opposition?


All: This is a good test. See http://walt.foreignpolicy.com/posts/2013/05/20/top_ten_warning_signs_of_liberal_imperialism

Alba Etie

Maybe there would be enough window dressing that Assad stays in some kind of power sharing 'democratic ' coalition and we can then start droning the AQ & other wahbbis and maybe even be smart enough not to take credit for it ..or not

Edward Amame

Maybe fear of large scale ethnic cleansing, mass exodus and ensuing further regional destabilization will eventually trump regime change.

Medicine Man

An article on Russia's strategy regarding Syria: http://www.truthdig.com/report/item/revenge_of_the_bear_russia_strikes_back_in_syria_20130521/

I'm not sure if our host will agree with Juan Cole's take on things but it is an interesting article nonetheless. In particular, Cole's suggestion that it is Russia that is pushing for talks. It puts an entirely different spin on the situation if Russia is pushing for talks with one hand and funneling weapons to Damascus with the other (helping change the situation on the ground).


Why do you think the USA appears to bet on the "wrong horse" so consistently? The USA is not a dumb nation, Idiocracy is not yet the ruling paradigm.
When an "error" is made that puts wealth/power into the error maker's pocket/fist; expect to see the error made over and over and over again.



I find you interesting. You live in Bucks County, have no intelligence experience and I guess no government experience, but you assert a crude form of economic determinism seemingly related to inculcated notions of government by conspiracy. I conclude that you must be 1- a student, 2- a professor or 3- not very informed. In my 34 years of government service it became clear to me that the US IS a "dumb nation." Taken as a whole Americans have no comprehension whatever of foreigners or foreign cultures. They cannot even grasp the reality of the existence of foreigners except as a species of retarded and backward Americans. Incredibly, people like Kerry also have no understanding of foreigners and their ways. In the ME he is appealing to the Palestinians and Israelis to negotiate "without pre-conditions." Evidently he and his advisers do not grasp the fact that the Palestinians will never go into a negotiation without there having been a previous understanding as to where the negotiation will end. It is not their way to surrender their fate to a kind of Hegelian dialectic. They will not do that and he does not know that. pl



I share your concern about the need for a balanced view of the situation. The Christians in Syria are not one bloc and they are not all against the rebellion. Immigration of Christians out of Syria was very significant from the mid 60s on despite the 2 Assad regimes claims that they were protecting the rights of the minorities. The first mass immigrations happened in the aftermath of nationalization of properties that drove many industrials Christian families into Lebanon overnight.

In the early months of Bashar al Assad an international relief agency I was involved with at the time- received a request of help from a Syrian Christian organization re: the detention of a Christian woman artist from a prominent family. I had the occasion to speak with her brother and sister in- law myself. She had been collected from her home in Damascus after security personel intercepted "insulting correspondance about the new president's sexual orientation ( including the exchange of caricatures) that she had had with a person outside the country" The bishops and the few Christian political appointees could do absolutely nothing to help her, nor could the relief organization- she remained in jail for 6 months without trial and with minimal contact with her family. The final help came from Belgium, as part of her family was Belgian and applied for her release as a Belgian subject.

I think the following article is pretty accurate:


"Syria’s Christians enjoyed a reasonable level of freedom under the Al-Assad regimes, and they have often remained quiet since the beginning of the uprising two years ago, possibly out of fears of the rise of radical Islamists to power in Syria should the regime fall._However, despite this reluctance to take part in the uprising, the injustices that have been inflicted on Christians in Syria have been no different to those inflicted on other Syrians. They have seen their fair share of arrests, imprisonments and deaths, and Christian protesters have been killed in the ongoing conflict._Because of the diversity of Syria’s Christian community and its diverse political and intellectual composition, it is difficult to talk about a single Christian position on the crisis. In general, however, Christians are largely sympathetic to the uprising, some of them even participating in it to some extent._The Christian community has been divided since the beginning of the uprising into three camps: supporters of the regime; opponents of the regime; and neutral elements. Many Christian clergy support the regime, and they have traditionally been chosen based on their links with the security agencies"

Alba Etie

Col Lang.
I can only imagine what life would be like if a foreign power took & kept my families ancestral homeland . Then took and kept my family members in squalid camps with no recourse for jobs or even basic human needs. I can only imagine further what feelings of resentment & anger I would harbor toward a super power that kept that state in power that took and held my ancestral homeland - and took and held my family in such squalid conditions .


maryam et al

Well Done! This was a skillful infiltration. This is nonsense. Nearly all Syrian Christians favor the government. pl


Col Lang,

what et. al and what infiltration?

You have to fit me into some category and it is not working and that is not because I am several people. I am not paid by Qatar, I am not a convert, and I disagree with you-en connaissance de cause- that all Syrian Christians are in favor of the government, I am glad to see that you just modified your statement to "nearly" all Christian Syrians favor the government.

I have offered to send you my CV from the beginning. Nothing I have written was in bad faith, but I do not need to tiptoe to express an opinion. Leila abu-Saba was a an internet friend and she was the one who got me to read some things in this forum a couple of years before she died.

Please go on, it is your forum.

Babak Makkinejad

The Al Ahram piece is patently non-sense:

Please see:






Things will get ugly when and if video of gang-rape of Christian women by Muslim fighters hit the Internet.

Babak Makkinejad



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