Politics, religion, and culture where East meets West

Posts Tagged ‘Damascus

A slow, violent transition

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In a moment of journalistic unity, the Hürriyet and Today’s Zaman—two newspapers that tend not to agree—agree on one thing: The Annan plan between the government and the opposition in Syria is a failure. But what’s interesting is not the mutual conclusion that the two papers arrive at (the plan was a failure before it began), but the means by which they get there.

The Hürriyet tells us: Blasts ravage Annan plan, over 55 killed (here).

Today’s Zaman tells us: Damascus suicide bombers kill 55, cease-fire in tatters (here).

To both sources, it seems completely natural to say that the ceasefire between al-Assad and the opposition has failed because someone (we don’t know who) has detonated a bomb in Damascus.

From the Hürriyet:

There was no claim of responsibility for the blasts, but an al-Qaeda-inspired group has claimed responsibility for several past explosions.

From Today’s Zaman:

Shooting could be heard in the background of the Syrian television footage, filmed soon after the blasts. It showed a man pointing to the wreckage. “Is this freedom? This is the work of the Saudis,” he said, referring to the Gulf state that has advocated arming the opposition seeking to oust Assad.

Am I missing something? Was the Annan plan brokered between al-Assad and the Saudis? Or was it al-Assad and al-Qaeda? Why are Turkish journalists so eager to dismiss the Annan plan for bogus reasons?

I have not posted about the IED-nightmare that Syria has become in the past two weeks simply because it has not been a notable event. As the Zaman suggests, Saudi funds are the likely source of these new developments, perhaps with the aid of Iraqi expertise (here). But whatever the cause of these bombings, rest assured that—as we have seen—Turkish jingoism on Syria is not dead. A brokered peace is no more a possibility than a fair fight. The only question is how long it will be until Syria has changed hands. For the sake of the Syrian people, we can only hope that it happens soon.

But at this rate, things aren’t looking too good.

Written by M. James

May 12, 2012 at 12:55 am

Converging in Damascus

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I have posted, by now, about how the interests of many global parties—NATO, Russia, Turkey, Iran, and Saudi Arabia—all converge in Damascus for one reason or another. Understanding the reasons for each group’s interest in what transpires in Syria is complex—much more complex than I can fully convey or understand—but I have attempted nonetheless. That attempt has made up, since my first post, the majority of this blog.

So for a moment, I’d like to briefly and loosely collate—in sound-bite fashion—my analysis on how Syria has been a focal point in the last year or so.

If the Syrian regime falls, it’s a probable BOGO for NATO and anyone who wants unilateral security (in the form of U.S. Nimitz-class supercarriers) in and around the Med. [12/14/11].

But what Russia does have is a Mediterranean naval port. It’s in Tartus, Syria—just south of Latakia. Considerably better developed and defended (complete with Russian surface-to-air missile system), Russia’s port in Tartus will not be given up easily… [12/14/11].

Latakia is the new Persian Empire’s (Iran’s) attempt at a naval base on the Mediterranean… [12/14/11].

Meaning: The Russian and Iranian naval bases at Tartus and Latakia, two Mediterranean access points for NATO antagonists, would be forfeit in the case of regime change.

Will al-Assad leave his post in the near future? It’s anyone’s guess, but it has no bearing on Turkey’s policy toward Syria. If Turkey is to “trust the masses” and maintain its role as a supporter of the Arab Awakening, it cannot support a Syrian regime that appears to oppress its citizens, and it must sell al-Assad’s government short—in spite of recent amicability—to retain its legitimacy [5/17/11].

Meaning: Turkey does not want to be the dog that barks, but doesn’t bite.

The problem is that, with the recent U.S. withdrawal from Iraq, Iran will be filling in the political and military void. And if Iran retains al-Assad’s Syria as a close ally—well—look at the map.

The only thing stopping the new Persian Empire from expanding its Shia-powered influence—continuously—from Iran to the Mediterranean (and to Israel’s doorstep), is a new, unfriendly Sunni government in Syria [12/14/11].

Meaning: Syria is an integral part of Iran’s empire-building process.

Saudi Arabia is … caught between a geopolitical imperative to contain Iran and a domestic strategic imperative to contain Islamism as a political force [3/5/12].

Saudi King Abdullah was reported to have said last summer, “nothing would weaken Iran more than losing Syria.” [1] [1/7/12].

Meaning: Although the danger of expanding Muslim Brotherhood influence is very tangible to the Saudis, the danger of an Iranian oil empire is greater.

The apparent result is team Russia, Iran, and Syria versus team NATO—with Turkey in particular—and Saudi Arabia. But despite what you may call a stacked team against Syria (NATO topples regimes in its sleep), regime change has not transpired, and shows no immediate signs of doing so. Direct intervention by NATO has only been hinted at, and not with much popular support. Even Turkey, despite pressure on many fronts to do so, has still not bitten. The result? A stalemate—no conclusion in sight.

But the reality is that no conclusion is a real conclusion—there are simply too many unilateral interests converging in Syria.

Bashar al-Assad was right when he said that regime change in Syria would mean an “earthquake” in the Middle East, its effects felt across the world. What he failed to mention, though, is that stability in Syria would just mean the same thing in a different way.

Written by M. James

March 10, 2012 at 2:09 am

Posted in Politics, Turkey

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Syria: Set up for failure

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“Syria” has “accepted” the Arab League request to send observers into the country. Whether this means the regime has accepted the whole Arab League package (ceasefire, allowing media into the country, dialogue with opposition, etc.) remains to be seen.

Here’s the type of thing that seems likely to happen:

Arab leaders had given Syria a new deadline of Sunday to respond to the League’s plan, which calls for the admission of observers to ensure compliance with a government cease-fire. They also held out the threat of pushing for U.N. involvement if Damascus balks.

Call me a skeptic, but it seems to me that if Syria doesn’t do exactly what the Arab League wants, it’s another “balk” (like this one), and it’s one more reason to condemn the Alawite regime.

Written by M. James

December 5, 2011 at 1:07 pm

Posted in News, Politics

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Syria: Everything is normal

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A thought-provoking (in a strange sort of way) article from the New York Times: Life in Syria’s Capital Remains Barely Touched by Rebellion

Just ignore the part about Aleppo being the second-largest city (news sources have been getting this one wrong for months). Damascus is the second-largest. Aleppo is the largest. Which is not to say that Damascus isn’t important.

But Damascus, be it at the beauty salon, in its somnolent neighborhoods or in its fear-stricken mosques, remains the linchpin, a reality that even activists acknowledge. Until protests reach this capital, their thinking goes, Syria’s leadership will avoid the fate of its ossified equivalents in places like Egypt and Tunisia. And so far, Damascus — along with Aleppo, the nation’s second-largest city — has stayed firmly on the margins, as anger builds toward both cities from Syrians bearing the brunt of the uprising. “Trust me, everything is normal,” insisted a manicurist at the salon.

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Written by M. James

September 6, 2011 at 10:41 pm