Moon of Alabama Brecht quote
April 25, 2011

Some Thoughts On Syria

Since the ruler of Qatar made up with the ruler of Saudi Arabia, this happened shortly after Mubarak stepped down, Aljazeera, owned by Qatar, has morphed into a propaganda channel. Several of its reporters, including the bureau chief in Lebanon, have stepped down.

As Aljazeera now acts very much like the partisan 'western' media, there is no reliable media information coming out of the country. The online activists, led via the Facebook page of a salafi Muslim Brotherhood guy in Sweden, are mostly not in the country and have an interest in exaggerating the size of the demonstrations and force the regime is using.

The reports coming from the government are, of course, unreliable too. It says that many of the bloody incidence came through provocation, that is shooting, from unknown forces suspected to be sponsored by foreign entities. This is certainly a possibility but it is hard to judge how true these reports are.

After the first bigger protests calling for reform started, the regime arranged for a big pro-regime demonstration in Damascus. Independent sources said it was really quite big and that most demonstrators attended without orders or pressure to do so. But smaller non-violent anti-regime protests continued and led to concessions by the government on the most demanded points, especially the abolishment of the emergency law. This will have satisfied at least some of the protesters.

But then more violent protests in several cities continued, now demanding the fall of the regime. I seriously doubt that the majority of Syrians do support this demand. The plausible alternatives to the regime, which isn't nice, are worse. The most likely scenario is massive sectarian strife with salafi-Sunni attacks on minority Christians and Alawites.

Unlike in Egypt there is no sign that the army will abandon the ruling government. The intervention by fukUS in Libya has already created enough bad experience that such measures will not be considered with regards to Syria or anywhere else. There is no sign that a majority or even significant minority of Syrians has any interest in violent regime change.

My current assessment is therefor that the regime will now put up a bit of a fight and, if it can stomach to do that harshly enough, it will win this fight.

The same is likely in Saudi Arabia, Morocco and Iraq, where demonstration now also get gunned down by government forces. The difference to Syria is of course that no 'western' country will demand sanctions or intervention against any of those 'allies'.

Posted by b on April 25, 2011 at 18:52 UTC | Permalink


Good ol' b. I was wondering when you were gonna roll out the "Syrian revolution is fake" blog post.

I'm going to proceed to read this blog under the presumption that it is written by a perversely adventuresome contrarian who occasionally hits the jackpot, rather than a well-fed German dickhead who prefers totalitarian dictatorships mostly based on arcane fanatically religious mystical hatred of modernity.

Posted by: slothrop | Apr 25 2011 22:11 utc | 1

Slothrop - our host's preference for the Chinese regime over the Dalai Lama suggests that your first hypothesis ("adventuresome") is likelier to be correct.

Posted by: mistah charley, ph.d. | Apr 26 2011 0:35 utc | 2

Bernhard may not be right about the Assad regime winning, provided it can stomach the grim duty of killing the number of civilians necessary. I'd be more worried about the really dangerous idea of any outside power monkeying around in Syria's affairs. Well, too late for that, given the reports that Washington is funding factions in Syria that are doing some of the provacateur shooting and rabble rousing. I wonder what the string-pullers will do if Syria really does blow into revolution? Bernard is probably right though, about the shift in al-Jazeera to the partisan side.

Democracy Now! is reporting that there have been 400 civilian deaths. A telephone report from Damascus is saying that the reaction of the public there, so far, is complicated; and many people have not made up their minds, and are confused about how to react.

The dumbfucks in the Western governments and their security agencies are, of course, not betting on the kind of catastrophic chain reaction that leads to general annihilation. Those who sabotage from afar are surely not worried about the wrong head fakes or miscalculation now. The planners are bound to be confident that they know what they are doing. Just like always.

Posted by: Copeland | Apr 26 2011 1:47 utc | 3

Dominoes is not just crappy pizza.

Posted by: Morocco Bama | Apr 26 2011 2:07 utc | 4

Good analysis, can't say the same for some of the comments. Most M.E. countries have had dysfunctional governments for quite some time. The source of the pressure for change is the explosive population growth in all these countries over the past 20 years. Even if the 'revolutions' have for now run out of steam, the pressure will continue to grow and we may expect a second round in a few years. I would be interested in your doing a similar analysis of what is going on in Saudi Arabia.

Posted by: Khalid | Apr 26 2011 3:40 utc | 5

There is no way Assad can win this except repression. And that is a defeat in itself, as to survive long term, he urgently has to reform. He had his chance, when he was safe (maybe not, because it would have been against the interests of the ruling elite), he cannot do it now, because people will ask for more and more.

He is walking a tightrope, using the protests to sell reform to the backers he needs for repression. He might make it, none of the usual suspects wants to see him fail.

Revolution and democratic elections in the Middle East and North Africa mean some sort of - more or less enlightened - Islamic government. Think Iran, Turkey, Algeria, Gaza ... How that will turn out for the promoters of democracy? Who knows.

Posted by: somebody | Apr 26 2011 6:36 utc | 6

oh, and this is the cold-hearted Russian view

Posted by: somebody | Apr 26 2011 6:49 utc | 7

There is no way Assad can win this except repression. And that is a defeat in itself, as to survive long term, he urgently has to reform.

What you are going to reform? the Islamist want more Islamic Shari a laws, Syria is a secular state. I have worked in the region many years ago. It is very Islamist and CIA/Jordanian have many agents working to destabilise Syria. All this is funded by Saudi.

Posted by: hnas | Apr 26 2011 10:33 utc | 8

Straight out of the starting gate, the little jerk is off and running, spitting bile with his usual ad hominem attacks. Nothing added to the debate. Of course not. Debate is not the plan.

Posted by: DM | Apr 26 2011 11:57 utc | 9

I was listening to BBC radio 4 this morning about 8.30 and a Syrian dissident based in Lebanon was being interviewed. Sorry I don't remember his name (duh) but what did catch my attention was that the interviewer introduced the piece by saying that a lot of video is coming out of Syria now, much of it captured on special "gadgets" made to look like pens (etc) so that those taking the video aren't singled out for special attention. I wondered who is supplying this high-tech spyware. Apparently this question that didn't occur to the interviewer.

PS b - slothrop has always been intellectually crude but now he has decided to be rhetorically crude I'd quite understand if you wanted to ban his IP, especially if he is getting you down. I don't want to loose MoA a second time (unlike others?)

Posted by: maff | Apr 26 2011 14:45 utc | 10

maff @ 10: Although I believe Slothrop is paid to do what he/she does, I for one, would miss the contributions to this blog. The articulate writing style is an aid to my continuing education, as are so many folks who post here.

Posted by: ben | Apr 26 2011 16:11 utc | 11

no 8 hnas

He has to reform his police state. At present he has got everybody liberal secular against him plus the Islamists.

Syria is unable to differentiate between armed and peaceful protests, between dissent in word and thought, opposed to killing opponents or policemen.

He also has to be inclusive of Islamists. They come in all shades. He is friends with them in Iran and Turkey.

Posted by: somebody | Apr 26 2011 19:32 utc | 12

@somebody - At present he has got everybody liberal secular against him plus the Islamists.

I seriously doubt that. What is your source for that opinion?

@all - slothrop is a deranged person. I simply ignore him.

@mistah charlie - our host's preference for the Chinese regime over the Dalai Lama suggests

Whatever you think it may suggest ... There are many cases where preference of stability leads to a less bloody but more positive outcome than revolution. Before I judge and write I try to learn about the issues and societies at hand and I go from there. I am certainly not someone who is against all strife. But I only favor it when the learned odds are for a better world due to it. In Syria and Libya they are not.

As for the Dalai Lama, I enjoyed his lectures in person. He knows a lot but has no idea of how to be a statesman. His frame of reference is quite limited. The Tibet revolt was not his but a U.S. financed neoconned project of very reactionary forces, the "Tibetian Youth Movement", and the Chinese were right to put it down. Any other action would likely have been more bloody with worse results.

Posted by: b | Apr 26 2011 20:10 utc | 13

You just oppose anything that looks like it's pro-American. You're not really an ideologue. What you do is just a reflexively callow repetition of your master trope.

How do I know? Your whole narrative is going to shit: the Arab Spring is dwindling; your favorite dictatorships would not fall because the people have too much "dignity." And then there is your discussing admonishment that the revolutions in your favorite dictatorships are fake. Your attempts at molar geopolitical analysis suck.

You should stick to your commentaries about the nuclear crisis. I was pretty good.

Posted by: slothrop | Apr 26 2011 23:33 utc | 14


it really is pretty disgusting.

Posted by: slothrop | Apr 26 2011 23:34 utc | 15

A very good analysis. You're much closer to the truth of the situation than the news and commentary one reads in the MSM. I believe your projections are pretty sound.

Posted by: FB Ali | Apr 27 2011 2:00 utc | 16

Someone posted this link here a few weeks ago. A fascinating documentary posted on YouTube about the "popular" overthrow of Ceaucescu in Rumania. CIA agents go on record.

The possibilities the video suggests seem appropriate to this discussion of Syria.

Posted by: smoke | Apr 27 2011 2:27 utc | 17

What "looks like its pro-American", Slothrop. Also looks like it is imperial. To oppose US Foreign Policy is not to express an emnity towards Americans but to be opposed to the latest revival of the nighmare project of World Domination.

You only have to look at American society and measure the rapid deterioration of living standards, prospects and personal freedom, during the past half century or so, in which period the US has vaulted into unchallenged military superiority, to see that to be opposed to the Empire is far from being anti-American.

Indeed the average American, heir to enormous natural riches and entitled to anticipate a life of relative ease and good fortune, is being bled of his inheritance to finance wars and cold wars, guaranteed to cost America much more than treasure for generations to come.

Posted by: bevin | Apr 27 2011 2:31 utc | 18

Hard to get a better endorsement on this subject than from FB Ali.

Posted by: anna missed | Apr 27 2011 3:13 utc | 19

I am currently too busy in the real world to properly work through all of the diversions which have been planted here.

But as a human who has lived in a diverse range of societies & always striven to relate to the ordinary bloke (accepting that no bloke is really ordinary we all have our unique attributes), the one thing I know without a doubt is that the majority of humans prefer life in a society governed from within to that governed without.

That is to say as blood thirsty as the Iraqi Ba'athist regime was, if you ask the average Iraqi (Sunni or Shia the difference on this is slight) whether they preferred life under the Ba'athists to life under a regime of amerikan puppets, they will take the Ba'athists every time. The same goes for Libya, remember when the so called revolution began and the 'revolutionaries' were telling us they had divisions of Libyan soldiers ready to desert or switch sides & fight for the revolution against the current Libyan government.

They never showed up because the officers in charge of those soldiers found out that they weren't being asked to fight for eastern Libyan idealists, but fukUS puppets. They quickly switched back to the side that wanted to defend their nation against foreign incursion. The 'revolutionaries' can't find enough Libyans prepared to betray their nations so have now become reliant on foreign assistance.
Even 'sub-Saharan' Libyans (I.E. blackfella) involvement in Libyan politics is preferable to whitefella control of Libya, for the average Libyan Arab redneck.

The Dalai Lama is a nice enough bloke as someone else has pointed out he hasn't been involved in Tibetan politics -remember the Brits smuggled him out before he was to assume control from the 'Regent' the administrator who runs Tibet during the time it takes each incarnation of the Dalai Lama to get up to speed. Previously each incarnation was taken from his birth family while still a baby and then indoctrinated educated into the bossfella gig by the administrative elite.
Now the Tibetan system of putting second third and fourth born children into the monasteries and nunneries was created for similar reasons to why Ireland had so many monasteries and nunneries. Ireland had the military alternative but afail that wasn't an option in Tibet, attempts by a previous DL incarnation to bolster the army had been opposed by the monks, so everyone who wan't going to inherit the farm or marry whoever was going to inherit the farm was institutionalised as the most economic way of supporting unproductive mouths.
The alternative was to divide agricultural land into smaller parcels with each successive generation until everyone starves because every farm is uneconomically small.

There has been a massive influx of Han Chinese into Tibet, a situation which is impossible to reverse given that Tibet is surrounded by Han Chinese on 3 sides. That population shift was necessitated by england's imperialist plan to keep control of the Dalai Lama until he reached maturity and could claim the throne, whereupon the brits hoped to stoke a popular uprising. Why? Because Tibet sits bang smack in the middle between the two largest nations of the Indian sub-continent on one side, and China on the other.

Tibet should be considered the Switzerland of Asia, containing elements of both the dominant cultures aside of it, combined to form a unique culture. As soon as the brits grabbed the Dalai Lama any chance of a negotiated resolution ended because england only has an economic iron in the fire, there is no cultural or familial commonality, so there is no driving force for negotiation. The brits wanted to sit the thing out which is what they have done until stymied by Chinese population solution. The invasion by China occurred after considerable provocation. China had been in control of Tibet's borders pretty much consistently since the 12th century AD, this was until the end of the Qing dynasty at the start of the 20th century, whereupon the brits and other 'western' intriguers stirred up trouble. All the previous 700 years China had left Tibetan society alone, and they tried the same in 1950, initially just occupying frontier posts and leaving the DL and his mob to deal with domestic issues as they saw fit. That didn't work because the capitalists tried to use their position in Tibet to undermine the People's Republic.
Shit! This is turning into too much of a history lesson I have just sussed out a wiki entry which takes the opposite point of view but basic outline of what happened when is there. Check out the wiki entry on this but do remember there is a lot of 'citation needed' entries where opinions (generally those claiming USuk good China bad) rather than facts supported by evidence.

Tibet is no longer a 12th century agrarian society and those demonstrators who resisted the Chinese occupation a couple years back were fighting to preserve the rights of indigenous Tibetans, but when the DL got involved they made it pretty clear they didn't see much future in 'turning back the clock'. The DL seems to have come to terms with this which has pissed off the poms who wanted to have someone they believed under their control to put up against China. For young Tibetans being run form Beijing seems to be a less worse option than being run from London through an irrelvant medieval religious dictatorship, at least there is a shared history with China and some commonality

The feudalist past, built on a system designed primarily to ensure that an agrarian society doesn't fail is no longer a practical option for Tibet. This is a common issue faced by indigenous societies whose political system was out of commission during massive societal changes, with no evolution of it to permit effective solutions to contemporaneous issues.

I see the same thing here in NZ. A treaty was signed between the english and much of the Tangata Whenua (Maori) leadership, in 1840. The english were getting asses kicked and weren't prepared to put more military resources to secure a tiny piece of land with limited resources. Of course the treaty was consistently broken by whitefellas but as the rule of objective constitutional law took hold in the second half the 20th century Tangata Whenua managed to exercise more political power. The only mechanism available, traditional leaders of the original iwi (tribes) leaves a swathe of Tangata Whenua without a voice either because 200 years of whitefella incursion have separated them from their iwi or because they didn't belong to one in the first place - complicated but there were many 'free agents' who had chosen to live apart from tribes or who had been captured by other iwi and kept as slaves for generations. None of them had a tribal affiliation when whitefellas turned up, an essential prerequisite of courts whose basic premise is all about whitefella property laws esp 'ownership'. Now a group which maintained awesome solidarity during it's comeback to political power has become fragmented and exploited by whitefellas and wanna-be whitefellas alike.

Western 'civilisation' has become adept at exploiting the latency of indigenous political expression. Hence fukUS eagerness to install the Dalai Lama in Tibet or Mohammed al-Senussi in Libya. This will be in a 'spoiler' role in Libya, a fallback position in case the eager technocrats who have skipped into Benghazi from Tripoli (where they were the architects of the neo-liberal fuck ups that had caused labour market problems and the rise of a greedy, corrupt elite & into conflict with the 'old school' elements of the Libyan regime) don't stop the flow of Libyan funds out of europe into Africa.

True, a previous Senussi had backed the introduction of the petroleum law which made it impossible for Libya to fall prey to the power of transnational energy monopolies, essentially self protection to prevent a monopoly from becoming powerful enough to create a fall back to the Libyan king at a time when monarchs were falling right left and center, but before that the Senussis had been dedicated and loyal puppets to whichever whitefella was in charge - the Ottomans, the Italians or fukUS.

Being made a subject of a foreign nation sucks, the more foreign the nation the more it sucks. Syria is desperate to prevent further incursions by Jordanian agent provocateurs, but has to walk a fine line knowing that if they come down too hard on the false flag Jordanians causing so much trouble in the border towns, the lying lapdog media will crank up the lies in the west so far that China & Russia may have to back off and allow a fukUS attack on Syria.

Syria should get smart and grease the wheels of opposition to Abdullah, Jordan's USuk puppet monarch - that would really give Cameron & the chinless wonders something to whine about. Moving away from the reactive positions that speed up the vicious cycle turning the 'Arab Spring' into a cynical exercise in neo-colonialism, and into a proactive position of stirring up trouble among Syria's enemies could lift the pressure elsewhere, not merely Jordan.

One thing is clear - the rate of demand for change in the ME can be made to exceed whitefella's gluttonous appetite for other people's stuff. fukUS are creaming their jeans at the thought of direct control of ME resources, but the cock-up in Libya has demonstrated the considerable divergence between desire and execution. There's no wonder drug like viagra for fukUS, who appear to alternate between either not getting it up at all or doing the old one stroke roll that pisses off the fuckee.

This is why that notorious sucker of whitefella cocks, Ban ki-Moon has been calling for the imposition of a sanctions regime on Syria. The greedy assholes don't have big enough paws to grab ahold of everything at once, so they want to 'do an Iraq' to Syria by escalating sanctions over a few years into a total siege. Thus far China & Russia have refused to go along with it, but eventually fukUS will slice off a big enough chunk of their ordinary citizens or shit-kickers' future, to satisfy the pressure Russia & China are copping from their own shit-kickers. All the time ensuring that it at worst 'cost neutral' for fukUS elites and at best & most likely a 'nice little earner' for them. Then the two security council holdouts will pocket the the wedge and vote yes.
Let's hope that Assad junior or one his off-siders has the smarts to exploit the time lag on offer effectively.

Jordan going off like sex tourist in a Thai whorehouse, will have the zionists across the river shitting two ton bricks, especially now there is no Mubarak or his enforcer Omar Suleiman to kick Abdullah back into line.

Trouble is the zionist lunatics in Israel would likely Beirut or Gaza Amman if things began to look very different in Jordan, and that would certainly exacerbate the entire issue. It could spin into a crazy zionist nuke fest. Would amerika intervene against the Likudniks if all amerika's freshly stolen oil fields were about to disappear in a mushroom cloud? The fact we can even consider that amerika might not put a stop to that shows how crazily out of kilter things have become. Riding for a fall barely describes it.

Posted by: Debs is dead | Apr 27 2011 5:31 utc | 20

thanks b, as usual on the mark.

copeland, if this is the same democracy now interview i saw amy was interviewing an AJ correspodent Rula Amin. i heard about AJ flipping and there very popular bureau chief resigning from a lebanese poster on another site over a week ago. this news is all over lebanon and i would imagine throughout the ME.

smoke, thanks for re posting that link.

i look forward to 'somebody' providing sources for his allegations.

Posted by: annie | Apr 27 2011 16:16 utc | 21

@anna missed - Hard to get a better endorsement on this subject than from FB Ali.

I agree. My thanks and a bow to the brigadier.

Posted by: b | Apr 27 2011 18:49 utc | 22

b, you are kind (as is anna missed). Actually, you should thank her, too. I was browsing through her website and, while looking at the blogroll, came upon M o A, and realized I hadn't checked it out for a while. That's how I came upon the piece on Syria.

Posted by: FB Ali | Apr 28 2011 2:06 utc | 23

fbi ali, anna missed is animist and male.

Posted by: annie | Apr 28 2011 5:48 utc | 24

oh, and thank you btw. i am a huge fan of b's analysis myself. special to have your confirmation on site.

Posted by: annie | Apr 28 2011 5:51 utc | 25

not the first time that's happened (even have gotten a few fishing e-mails haha).
maybe change it to AM or i AM a man.

Posted by: anna missed | Apr 28 2011 6:25 utc | 26

Never was much good at anagrams and such. One lives and learns.

Posted by: FB Ali | Apr 28 2011 17:17 utc | 27

what good news, anna missed@26!!

I had envisioned you as a deeply grieving widower!

Posted by: lambent1 | Apr 28 2011 22:51 utc | 28

It is sad to see b post such "thoughts" on Syria.

The pattern of revolts that we are seeing in Syria is no different than the ones in Egypt, Tunis, Libya, Yemen. The pattern is simple. The people started demonstrating. The regime reacted by either using official organs of coercion (police, security forces) OR/AND using regime thugs (baltajiyya, Shabiha, murtazaqa...etc). The violence that you see in Syria is REGIME INSTIGATED violence. It is the regime thugs (Shabiha) that are doing it. Aside from defeating the protestors, the regime thugs are directing their violence to Syrian minorities (Christians, Alawites) to put the fear of god in them and make them NOT go out in the street with their Sunni Muslim citizens. It is a calculated risk on the part of the regime.

The second reason for violence by the regime, is to make the protestors respond with violence. Protestor induced violence will feed right into the regime's narrative of the events. So far the protestors have NOT gone violent. The regime wants violence from the protestors because not only does it show the world that there are "foreigners" and Salafis causing the violence, it will also make repressing them more justified.

The Syrian regime is highly sectarian. At its core are the Alawite minority that controls the security services. Around them are the other minorities (Christian, Druzes). And the final circle around the minorities are the Sunni economic elites, the Damascus merchant class. The Asad regime knows very well that if the Sunni economic elites and the minorities abandon the regime, then it CANNOT survive. So it has a vested interest in bringing up the Muslim Brotherhood boogey man. This is the same practice that Mubarak did in Egypt and Qaththfi did in Libya. I read the Thawra and Tishreen govt. owned newspapers and it is sad to say that YOUR post is similar to what these propaganda pieces are feeding the Syrian people. I have Christian cousins in Syria who are FREAKING out with IRRATIONAL fear about the Muslim Brotherhood. These same cousins used to be the most progressive anti-regime people. Now, because of the govt induced fear, they are rallying around the regime. It is pathetic.

Those pro-govt demonstrations were staged. This is an old trick that Bashar's father used to do to get the people into the street. Classes are canceled, govt workers are told to go to the street. I remember that my cousins and even my uncle who was a bank manager in the govt owned bank was FORCED to go to these demonstrations. I spent most of my 21 years out of 45 years so far between Syria and Lebanon. What you are saying makes no sense. The Syrian regime does NOT have much support beyond 30% of the Syrian population. And I am being generous. This is a SECTARIAN regime. It is not even secular. Hold free and fair elections in Syria and I GUARANTEE you that the Baath Party and the Asads will be out of power.

I do agree with your assessment that the regime will respond with all its means to these demonstrations. This is the only way for Bashar to stay in power. Back in 1982 his father surrounded and destroyed the city of Hama and killed between 10,000-20,000 people simply to defeat 500 Salafi fighters. Now the regime is gearing up for another blood fest in Dar`a. This is the only wat that this regime know how to respond. It is a very narrow based regime and its resort to violence is nothing but a sign of weakness. That violence is most likely designed to demonstrate to the minorities to stick with the regime rather than defect to the majority that wants the regime gone.

Posted by: ndahi | Apr 29 2011 9:32 utc | 29


Those pro-govt demonstrations were staged

I don't believe in big staged demonstrations, either colored or pro-regime or other; they are always expression of peoples' will and must be respected (not necessarily supported - analysis and political judgement must be exercised on case-by-case basis);

of course you'll have local and often foreign interests pushing their agendas, but this in itself doesn't make the demonstration fake (although foreign aid often justly delegitimizes a political movement)

Mubarak and Ben Ali couldn't stage significant demonstrations, Gaddafi, Assad, Ahmadinejad (and both factions in Lebanon) yes; another criteria is where, in which cities or part of the country the opposition manages to stage demonstrations; in Tunisia and Egypt protest was more geographically and socially spread than in Libya, Syria and Iran and this also makes a difference

I also think that it's reasonable to ask protest movement to legitimize itself demonstrating its political maturity, inclusive agenda, etc; by default the existing regime has every right to defend itself, stability and soveregnity

Posted by: claudio | Apr 29 2011 19:03 utc | 30

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