Moon of Alabama Brecht quote
August 28, 2012

They Make Plans ...

The Orwellian named United States Institute For Peace released the The Day After Project with plans for the time after the Syrian government falls.

Does anyone remember that other quite similar project? How did that turn out?

If the Syrian government falls the new plan, like that other one, will be overwhelmed by the carnage that is sure to follow and which would be bigger with even worse consequences in the region.

Posted by b on August 28, 2012 at 16:30 UTC | Permalink

Comments

[Sorry for light posting and not policing the comments. I am still on the road and busy.]

Posted by: b | Aug 28 2012 16:31 utc | 1

From The Hindu: Inside Syria's failed rebellion

Ever since the spring uprising in Syria, the most serious challenge to the regime since it took power in 1970, commentators had been predicting that President al-Assad's regime was on the edge of collapse. In spite of an energetic western media campaign, largely based on overblown accounts provided by exiled opposition groups, it is in fact becoming clear that the rebellion has all but collapsed: Damascus, for example, is more alive with everyday civic life than New Delhi.

But there is no disputing that Syria's government is far from slaying the three-headed dragon which threatens its future: a threat from the West; an economic crisis engendered by neoliberal economic reform; and a mounting Islamist threat.
...

Posted by: b | Aug 28 2012 17:15 utc | 2

The United States Institute For Peace should make plans for how they are going to cope with the catastrophic weather and economic Armageddon soon to hit them. All is not rosy as the MSM is making out. Watch September.

Posted by: hans | Aug 28 2012 17:58 utc | 3

Yeah I heard RT earlier talking about this report apparently it's being referred to as a Post-Assad "Roadmap for Syria". Let's also not pin the blame for this solely on the US Institute for Peace, the German Stiftung Wissenschaft und Politik thinktank also collaborated on this generic wishlist. So what do these brilliant minds think should happen after Assad goes?

Syria should be a civil state in which the role of the security forces should be to protect the security and human rights of all citizens.

I wonder if it will be the Free Syrian Army or the Syrian military that will be given this role of defending human rights?

Citizenship and equality of all citizens, rather than sectarian, ethnic, or gender considerations, should be decisive in relations between individuals and the state.

There are alot of things I think will happen if Assad goes. Equality, Non-Sectarianism, and Womens Rights are not amoung what I see as a likely outcome. I wonder will it be the Jihadists or the Muslim Brotherhood who will introduce these "gender considerations" into Syrian society (already the most progressive for womens rights).

Of course then it goes into how the FSA should work with the people to "establish trust" and "ensure there compliance with human rights standards". Of course they left out the part where everyone sits in a big circle and sings kumbaya while holding hands.

Posted by: Colm O' Toole | Aug 28 2012 18:08 utc | 4

The commenter at #2 spouted rubbish when he said that Syria has "an economic crisis engendered by neoliberal economic reform".

Neoliberal economic reforms are part of the solution to Syria's economic problems. They are not part of the problems.

Syria's neoliberal economic reforms are politically popular. They do not in any way explain -- not even in the slightest bit -- why there's a working-class rebellion going on.

Syria's neoliberal economic reforms have been proceeding at a pace deliberately managed by the Syrian government to be gradual, to not create major adverse fallouts in the economy.

Fifty years ago the Syrian government had a very Statist attitude towards economic development. In view of the backwardness of Syria 50 years ago (I'm generalizing), the government's Statist modernizing program was perhaps the right choice at the time. But Statist programs can only bring an economy part of the way to modernization, after which the economy has to do a difficult transition to private-sector-driven development.

Russia has successfully transitioned to a private-sector-driven economy -- that is clear in year 2012. Syria has been doing a similar economic transition since the economic policy reforms under Hafez Assad in year 1992. But in the two decades since 1992 the Syrian government has been deliberately managing the pace of the transition to be evolutionary (unlike what happened in Russia in the 1990s). In Russia today, the United Russia political party is the champion of the private-sector economy and it is the overwhelmingly popular favourite political party among the Russian electorate. Analogously in the Syrian electorate, there is a general desire for more economic liberalism and there is no desire for more Statism, in general (some exceptions include Statist agricultural land irrigation projects).

Most of the Syrian dissident political factions, as well as the government's supporters, do not advocate more Statism. The Assad government's balance of economic policies today has mostly been decided by going with what's popular. Hence it's no surprise that it is in fact popular. The dissidents don't have an alternative economic policy program on offer.

A minority of Syria's economic policies are economically irrational, but politically popular. (Bashar Assad said on 10 Jan 2012, "If logic contradicts reality, we go with reality.")

The Syrian government for the last one and two decades has believed that it would be economically wrong, as well as politically unpopular, to continue with a Statist emphasis in the economy. This being so, let's ask how successful has Syria been in transitioning during the last decade. The answer is not too bad. There was a lot of private-sector job creation during the last decade. There was plenty of expansion by private initiative in the tourism, banking, and property-development industries. Plus some valuable expansion in private-sector manufacturing in a variety of manufacturing industries for local markets, even though this manufacturing output is not highly competitive on global markets. Job creation is the most important thing because of the high rate of new young entrants to the job market, due to the high birth rate. It is a big positive fact about the Syrian economy that big numbers of new jobs were created in the private sector in Syria over the past decade. The number of new jobs created did not fully absorb the flow of new entrants to the job market. The dissidents and cranks point to the Syria's economic jar and whine that it is not full, but a more balanced attitude is (a) the jar is more than half full and (b) you can't blame the State for the fact that the jar is not full.

Posted by: Parviziyi | Aug 28 2012 18:29 utc | 5

The U.S. Institute of Peace (USIP) was created by an act of Congress in 1984. USIP was created by an act of Congress in 1984, and is funded by the US. Its purpose, according to the implementing act, is:

to conduct research and make studies, particularly of an interdisciplinary or of a multi-disciplinary nature, into the causes of war and other international conflicts and the elements of peace among the nations and peoples of the world, including peace theories, methods, techniques, programs, and systems, and into the experiences of the United States and other nations in resolving conflicts with justice and dignity and without violence as they pertain to the advancement of international peace and conflict resolution, placing particular emphasis on realistic approaches to past successes and failures in the quest for peace and arms control.

In other words, the USIP was constituted to change US policy of initiating and conducting war to a policy of seeking peace.
USIP is the independent, nonpartisan conflict management center created by Congress to prevent and mitigate international conflict without resorting to violence. USIP works to save lives, increase the government's ability to deal with conflicts before they escalate. http://www.usip.org/about-us

So the USIP has no authority to use taxpayer funds to participate in the US government effort illegally to support violent anti-government forces in a sovereign country, overthrow its government and replace it with insurgents -- "to develop a shared vision of Syria’s democratic future, define goals and principles of a transition, and to prepare a detailed yet flexible transition planning document."

Posted by: Don Bacon | Aug 28 2012 18:39 utc | 6

@ Don Bacon

Agree. Also in the report it mentions this in the backgrounder.

The project has been led by a Syrian Executive Committee which has agreed to constitute itself as a non-profit organization, The Day After Project, to be registered in Belgium. Project activities have been funded by the U.S. Department of State, the Swiss Foreign Ministry, a Dutch NGO Hivos, and a Norwegian NGO Noref. In addition, the German Foreign Ministry’s support has been crucial for the project’s success.

A temporary office to be set up in Istanbul, the Syrian Transition Support Network, will oversee the implementation of recommendations made by project working groups in three key areas: security sector reform, transitional justice, and the rule of law.

Posted by: Colm O' Toole | Aug 28 2012 18:53 utc | 7

Blimey, Parviziyi! That's The Hindu, b is quoting. It is an Indian daily on the planet earth where neo-liberalism has caused a major economic crisis, in which the first victims are the working class and the peasantry.
No doubt matters are different where you live.
By the way we too have a country called Syria, coincidentally, where neo-liberalism, a form of crony capitalism unrestrained by state intervention or free competition, combined with climate change, (itself not unrelated to neo-liberal economic policies, albeit on a wider scale) is a big problem.
Our Syria is quite a small country in the Levant, as we call it. But that's off topic.

Posted by: bevin | Aug 28 2012 19:29 utc | 8

This fantastic "government in a box" idea reminds one of early 2010 in Marjah, Afghanistan. “We’ve got a government in a box, ready to roll in,” said Gen. Stanley McChrystal, the top American commander at the time. It didn't work out, of course. The man chosen by the U.S. to administer the “government in a box,” Abdul Zahir, turned out to be a convicted felon in Germany who stabbed his own son.

Telegraph, Aug 26:

Dozens of dissidents have been ferried out of Syria to be vetted for foreign backing. Recipients of the aid are given satellite communications and computers so that they can act as a local "hub" linking local activists and the outside world.

The training takes place in an Istanbul district where handsome apartment blocks line the steep slopes and rooftop terraces boast views over the Golden Horn waterway.

Behind closed doors the distractions of outdoor coffee shops and clothing boutiques gives way to power point displays charting the mayhem sweeping Syria.

"We are not 'king-making' in Syria. The UK and the US are moving cautiously to help what has been developing within Syria to improve the capabilities of the opposition," said a British consultant overseeing the programme. "What's going to come next? Who is going to control territory across Syria. We want to give civilians the skills to assert leadership." http://tinyurl.com/8hw6lmv

Posted by: Don Bacon | Aug 28 2012 19:41 utc | 9

T/U, Don Bacon @ 9, for posting about the "government in a box" which worked so terribly well (/snark) in parts of Afghanistan. Saved me some googling.

Posted by: jawbone | Aug 28 2012 20:07 utc | 10

Vetting is a good idea. It will weed out most of the Assad implants.

Posted by: dh | Aug 28 2012 20:15 utc | 11

Of course a few skilled political opportunists may get through the vetting process.

Posted by: dh | Aug 28 2012 20:47 utc | 12

Why does Robert Fisk think Syrias army has only 50,000 soldiers?
http://www.independent.co.uk/opinion/commentators/fisk/robert-fisk-the-bloody-truth-about-syrias-uncivil-war-8081386.html

"With up to 50,000 men under arms and perhaps 4,000 battle tanks, the Syrian army, per se, cannot lose. But can they win?"

Posted by: KerKaraje | Aug 28 2012 20:54 utc | 13

@ #2

Dear "b",

are you aware that the Hindu article is from August 2011?
It´s one year old...

Posted by: KerKaraje | Aug 28 2012 20:57 utc | 14

Fragmentation....

The head of the main Syrian opposition group is criticizing U.S. officials for saying it was premature to speak about a provisional Syrian government.

Abdelbaset Sieda of the Syrian National Council says the opposition is making "serious" preparations and consultations to announce a transitional government but admits it is not imminent.

French President Francoise Hollande called on the Syrian opposition Monday to quickly form a provisional government, saying France would recognize it.

U.S. officials called it premature because the opposition is too fragmented.

http://news.yahoo.com/syrian-opposition-chief-slams-us-remarks-syria-103341197.html

Posted by: dh | Aug 28 2012 21:22 utc | 15

I agree with Parviziyi @5 that Syria has made great efforts in the last ten years to liberalise the economy.

As they say about revolutions, they only occur, not when the repression is severe, but when the repression is lightened. re the Russian Revolution.

I have no particular wish that the Salafis win in Syria. It sounds like endless years of trouble.

Posted by: alexno | Aug 28 2012 21:59 utc | 16

The Syrian National Council is out of the loop now.

Posted by: Don Bacon | Aug 28 2012 22:11 utc | 17

The Syrian National Council is out of the loop now.

Excuse me for the ignorance, but do you mean Washington is no longer paying attention to the SNC? Where is the attention going then? Military intervention?

Posted by: alexno | Aug 28 2012 22:33 utc | 18

Parviziyi @5 is sputtering nonsense. The heart of the uprising is the countryside, where neoliberal policies have opened the markets to foreign agricultural goods, destroying markets for local peasants. Also, foreign competition has wiped out traditional Syrian manufacturing, increasing unemployment among the urban masses.

When I was in Aleppo 20 months ago, there was nothing but boxes marked "Made in China" flooding into the bazaar at dusk, when the old city restocked it stalls. In the Christian Quarter, there was a brand new Monoprix waiting to open its doors and undercut the prices of hundreds of merchants in the surrounding commercial area.

At the time, I asked myself, "I wonder how this is going to turn out." Now I know.

Globalization was also instrumental in fomenting high unemployment and discontent in Tunisia and Egypt before their uprisings.

Of course, there are other factors at play as well, such as a high birth rate, a thuggish regime, foreign instigation, and drought and climate change, which Parviziyi probably denies as well.

Posted by: JohnH | Aug 28 2012 23:16 utc | 19

The Berlin Group

VOA: The 45 Syrians – mostly exiled politicians and some activists fresh off the streets of their nation’s 18-month uprising - have been meeting quietly in Berlin to recommend how a transitional government could rebuild government institutions and establish democratic practices unseen in the country for more than four decades.

The results of their work are contained in The Day After: Supporting a Democratic Transition in Syria, a 120-page document that was released to the public today in Berlin.

Rafif Jouejati, a spokesperson for the Berlin group, is emphatic that its recommendations are not the product of the United States or of any other foreign power. “I would like to state very clearly that this is a Syrian document,” Jouejati said. “It was written by Syrians, and it is owned by Syrians.”

The “Day After” group’s document addresses what members believe are six areas of needed political and governmental reform: the constitution, the judicial system, popular elections, internal security, rule of law and economic and social policy.

Posted by: Don Bacon | Aug 28 2012 23:51 utc | 20

So it seems that the terrorist-runners are operating in Istanbul and the Deep Thinkers in Berlin.

Posted by: Don Bacon | Aug 29 2012 0:06 utc | 21

Where does Ms. Nuland fit in?

Posted by: dh | Aug 29 2012 0:11 utc | 22

And of course, the MSN talks about the "popular" uprising in Syria....

Posted by: georgeg | Aug 29 2012 0:40 utc | 23

"The Day After" sounds like "After the Rapture," when all the true believers go directly to heaven. And Jews will see the error of their ways!

A joke sums all this up aptly: "you better behave, or America will introduce democracy!" And what a heavenly democracy it will be--like Iraq, or Haiti, or Honduras...

Posted by: JohnH | Aug 29 2012 1:12 utc | 24

At least they didn't call it The Morning After, which would imply they'd been .....
Now comes the hand-off from The Berlin Group to the Istanbul Syrian Transition Support Network?
This is new-style Imperialism.

Posted by: Don Bacon | Aug 29 2012 1:56 utc | 25

21, Don Bacon, I guess it is Germany's usual compromise with the vile practises of their allies - to participate by offering cleaning up services. That is the maximum that can be sold to the German public which still - after three generations - knows what war means.

In other knews part of Munich citizens living in the center of the city had to evacuate their flats (everybody in a distance of a mile) for a day because a World War II bomb found in a building site.

Posted by: somebody | Aug 29 2012 6:33 utc | 26

I was extremely surprised by Parvizyi’s post.

Neo-lib policies in Syria (Assad fils) have opened up as far as I can judge some towny jobs in banks and the like, maybe some media stars / stooges, more Gvmt. personnel in the ministries, more intermediaries in trade, and completely whacked the countryside, which needed HUGE support because of drought.

Cutting up the country into warring regions stems partly from neo-lib policies.

Just one article, from May 2009 (just the top of goog, probably not the best.)

http://www.syria-today.com/index.php/may-2009/303-focus/1432-tough-times

--------

One view on how the take over the oil in Iraq by Cheney-Bush turned out.

from TomDispatch.

http://tinyurl.com/8bjgdt9

Posted by: Noirette | Aug 29 2012 16:26 utc | 27

I was extremely surprised by Parvizyi’s post.

Neo-lib policies in Syria (Assad fils) have opened up as far as I can judge some towny jobs in banks and the like, maybe some media stars / stooges, more Gvmt. personnel in the ministries, more intermediaries in trade, and completely whacked the countryside, which needed HUGE support because of drought.

Cutting up the country into warring regions stems partly from neo-lib policies.

Just one article, from May 2009 (just the top of goog, probably not the best.)

http://www.syria-today.com/index.php/may-2009/303-focus/1432-tough-times

--------

One view on how the take over the oil in Iraq by Cheney-Bush turned out.

from TomDispatch.

http://tinyurl.com/8bjgdt9

Posted by: Noirette | Aug 29 2012 16:26 utc | 28

And of course, the MSN talks about the "popular" uprising in Syria....

Indeed, just a shame it is more popular in Berlin and Washington than it is in Syria.

Posted by: Colm O' Toole | Aug 29 2012 20:38 utc | 29

what US and UK and France need are popular uprisings..but we wont see that happen.

Posted by: brian | Aug 29 2012 21:44 utc | 30

brian @ 30

what US and UK and France need are popular uprisings..but we wont see that happen.

Did you see how the occupy movement was ruthlessly snuffed out before it even started? Or how UK police ruthlessly dealt with the London rioters?

The funny thing is, what they West is promoting in Syria will never be tolerated in the most self proclaimed democratic states in the West - the hypocrisy is just outstanding.

Every four/five years they hold a charade called elections were people tick boxes(vote) and think they're actually making a difference..They always end up with the same sh*t - be it democrats, republicans, labour, torries,french socialists,communists, christian democrats etc..They're all from the same tree.

I'm come to believe elections have become necessary to calm the masses down..A clear case in point is the recent French elections..I'd venture to say another term for king Sarko would've seen France in total chaos by now so they had to do the shuffle by bringing in another Sarko-lite in the person of Hollande. Same sh*t, different flavor. :)

Posted by: Zico | Aug 29 2012 22:17 utc | 31

Democracy in Turkey

Zaman: A letter written by main opposition Republican People's Party (CHP) leader Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu and sent to Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan concerning the CHP's position on the mounting crisis and violence in Syria has turned into a polemic between the two leaders.

While the CHP leader has repeatedly accused the government of acting as a subcontractor for Western powers on the Syrian issue, the AK Party has criticized the main opposition for ignoring the humanitarian crisis in Syria and for siding with the Syrian regime, thereby taking a position on the wrong side of history.


Other NATO countries would never carry on this way. United We Stand. Hopefully this sniff of democracy can be confined to Turkey. /s

Posted by: Don Bacon | Aug 29 2012 22:33 utc | 32

Some of the main points mentioned in #Assad's exclusive interview today in English. https://www.facebook.com/photo.php?fbid=403424083046051&set=a.227531713968623.77189.224264027628725&type=1&theater

Posted by: brian | Aug 30 2012 8:49 utc | 33

'The funny thing is, what they West is promoting in Syria will never be tolerated in the most self proclaimed democratic states in the West - the hypocrisy is just outstanding.'

not surprising as what the western regime are promoting in syria is chaos and islamic jihad..not necessarily in that order...

Posted by: brian | Aug 30 2012 8:51 utc | 34

this here I find is the best summing up of what is happening in Syria: The remapping of the Middle East ...

"JS: What we are witnessing behind the immediate scenes of horror in Syria is the most comprehensive attempt to reshape the Middle East since World War I. The Sykes-Picot treaty of 1916 set out the geostrategic parameters of the modern Middle East but the model no longer works for the imperial/post-imperial powers and their regional allies.

We have been through several phases but until now the nation-state has withstood the stress to which it has been subjected. These include the Suez War of 1956, the Western-backed Israeli attack on Egypt and Syria in 1967 and Israel's attempt to set up a puppet government in Lebanon. The center of attention is what used to be called the "fertile crescent", what is now Iraq and what is now Syria, Lebanon and Israel/Palestine.

This entire region lends itself to ethno-religious breakdown if the "West" can get its foot through the door.

The invasion of Iraq was followed by the destruction of Iraq as a unitary state. The constitution written in Washington - much as the constitutions of Iraq and Egypt in the 1920s and 1930s were written in London - turned a secular state into a state with a sectarian religious basis. It created a weak central government and fostered the growth of an increasingly powerful Kurdish governorate in the north. By submitting the future of Kirkuk to a referendum (yet to be held) it encouraged the demographic war that has been taking place as the Kurds seek to build up their numbers in and around this city.

Syria lends itself to the same process of ethno-religious separation if the country can be collapsed and there is opposition to a Western-installed government. In 1918, the imperial powers divided the Middle East in a certain way that suited their interests at the time. They are now remapping it again - and again to suit their interests. It is not coincidental that this program dovetails with Israel's own long-term strategic planning.

Russia and China are fully aware of what is going on, which is why the present situation can be seen as a 21st century extension of the "Eastern question" or of the "Great Game" between Russia and Britain. Certainly the outcome of the struggle for Syria will shape the future of the Middle East for a long time to come. However they see themselves, the local actors are pawns in this game."

Posted by: somebody | Aug 30 2012 9:31 utc | 35

how ironic that the USrael use islamic jihadis to reshape the middle east....the jihadis are stupid and brutal and ready to kill and die ..this makes them perfect patsies...the US War on Terror kills 2 birds with one bombshell

Posted by: brian | Aug 30 2012 10:22 utc | 36

Turkish people do not like their governments actions on Syria ...

"In the meantime, in light of the recent challenges facing Turkey with regards to foreign affairs, the survey reveals that the majority of people, 67.1 percent of interviewees, disapprove of Turkey's policies regarding the 18-month-old Syrian conflict, the longest in a country affected by the Arab Spring."

Posted by: somebody | Aug 30 2012 11:20 utc | 37

So, there will be no security council vote on Syria taking place
Russia and China were not willing to cave,
France is going to organize a three ring circus for the NATO news media
The no fly zone/buffer humanitarian zone looks to be moving forward

It sure appears France is willing to forgo the facade of UN approval

MB's Morsi/Mursi shows his true NATO colours, not that some of us had any doubts

I have a ton of news storieshere
for those interested.


Posted by: Penny | Aug 30 2012 14:45 utc | 38

somebody @ 36

I did a large post at my place entertaining the possibility of the formation of a kurdish state

If it comes into existence, part of Turkey will fall under it's domain.
It depends on what kind of backroom dealings are going on?

The reshaping of the ME has been obvious for some time now
A weak fractured ME, serves Israeli interests very well
Look for the lackey Morsi/Mursi to serve up the Sinai on a platter, IMO.

Posted by: Penny | Aug 30 2012 14:53 utc | 39

Bashar Assad's interview with a Syrian TV station yesterday: video with English subtitles

Posted by: b | Aug 30 2012 17:20 utc | 40

@Don Bacon (25),

If the ....was legitimate, no "morning after" will be needed.

It's not just the Republicans in US who believe this sort of reasoning....

Posted by: A different Anon | Aug 30 2012 19:42 utc | 41

It's interesting that Assad (@#40) spoke at length about buffer zones and how they can't be allowed anywhere, and how in fact the Syria army moves at will into areas wherever the terrorists become active.

This is similar to the assessment and response of Yezid Sayigh (Carnegie Endowment) to the query: How much control does the Assad regime still have?

The regime is still largely uncontested in several parts of the country, including the northern coastal region and Sweida province in the south. It also retains the upper hand in Damascus and in much of the east and northeast. In these regions, government forces have for the moment reasserted control (as in Deir ez-Zor) or else deliberately ceded control of Kurdish-populated cities and towns (including Qamishli to the Democratic Union Party (PYD) without a shot being fired). Although the PYD is the largest Kurdish opposition force, it is not taking the fight to the Assad regime and has allowed loyalist forces in its region to remain in their barracks.

Conversely, the disparate rebel groups operating under the banner of the Free Syrian Army remain unable to exercise continuous effective control over the areas they hold. There are a few exceptions, such as al-Rastan, which for months has resisted all government attacks. But elsewhere the regime has proven itself able to wrest back cities and towns it is determined to control, as the recent battle for Damascus demonstrated. The rebels who briefly held neighborhoods such as al-Midan had in fact taken refuge there after an army offensive pushed them out of their urban strongholds in the surrounding countryside.


This assessment varies greatly from the US view, but that isn't unusual, the US has been predicting the imminent fall of the Syria government for a long time. This is the current State Department position on buffer zones, from yesterday's press conference.
MS. NULAND: Well, I think it’s a mixed picture, Jill, and it depends very much on where they are in Syria. You have, as I said, great swaths of the country that have now been liberated from the regime, in the north and the east and increasingly between some of the major towns, where you have local coordinating councils beginning to reestablish civilian authority and getting their cities and towns back up and running, villages. And in those places, they are looking at local – they’re establishing local leadership; they are thinking about the future.

There's planning for "the day after" for the US, but Assad has a more measured approach and he is wisely willing to take the time it requires to do it right, so that there won't be any day after. He stressed this repeatedly in his interview.

Posted by: Don Bacon | Aug 30 2012 22:06 utc | 42

Turkey, the only openly active US ally at this point, has also suffered from Syria myopia. They thought this thing would be over and now they've got a debacle. Erdogan believed Clinton, the US chief diplomat. Hah. But of course the truth has been otherwise and now the chickens are roosting in Turkey. Kind of a mixed flock.

from Hurriyet today:
SEMİH İDİZ - Turkey’s Syrian debacle (excerpts)

As this piece was being written, the U.N. Security Council had not yet heard Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu’s appeal in New York yesterday for a U.N. sanctioned safe zone to be established in Syria to protect refugees. Those close to the matter, however, felt his appeal would get nowhere, since Russia and China oppose the idea, which they consider a violation of Syrian sovereignty. . .

In the meantime, unease is increasing in Turkey, and particularly in Hatay province, where people are unhappy not just about the number of refugees, but also over the question of whether PKK elements, or “Jihadist militants,” are also coming into Turkey in the guise of refugees, as many media reports suggest they are. . .

Not having done that, Turkey is forced now to issue futile appeals as the refugee problem grows and the Syrian crisis deepens along sectarian lines. In other words, the government is facing a crisis for which it has no answers, and a public at home that is growing increasingly uneasy over this. If this is not a debacle, then what is?

Posted by: Don Bacon | Aug 30 2012 22:21 utc | 43

Basically the "rebels" are denying the Syrian government the claim to be in control and vice versa.

There is no peace initiative and Russia and Iran are completely silent on Syria, plus the US has told Turkey there would be no safe zone within Syria so I guess everybody waits for the parties involved to fight it out. There seem to be all kinds of attempts to make the conflict sectarian.

Turkey is getting worried, really worried, what the real plans might be

"Officials are concerned about a possible country, called the Alawite State to some or the “new Hatay” to others, that will be established in the Latakia-Hatay corridor. Hatay’s major Alawite population, who have close links to the Alawite community in Syria and many relatives in the troubled country, adds to such concerns.

Many, however, believe that the chances of Hatay breaking away from Turkey are near zero, saying: “Bashar al-Assad has no space to breathe. How can he have the power to establish such a state and get Mukharabat [the Syrian secret service] members to set the groundwork in Hatay for such an operation?”

At the same time, some say the issue has gone beyond al-Assad and the Mukhabarat and that international intelligence operatives are testing the seas in the region to see “if such a state would be a better option.”

Posted by: somebody | Aug 30 2012 22:26 utc | 44

At the UN today France and Britain warned Syria's President Bashar al-Assad that military action to secure safe zones for civilians inside the country was being considered. So they can consider it forever. A safe zone, or zones, or buffer zone, or enclave requires military force. So it's idle chatter by ex-Empire has-beens. Russia and China won't let the UN sanction it, and the US isn't in favor either.

State Department today.

QUESTION: But up until now – we’ve been talking with Toria {Nuland], for example, yesterday – with Toria, who mentioned that the U.S. view seems to be to have everything outside; obviously, on the other side of the border, not within Syria itself. Is that still overall the preference of the United States?
MR. VENTRELL: That’s where we are right now.

Posted by: Don Bacon | Aug 30 2012 23:24 utc | 45

Cue John McCain and the 'weakness' factor.

Posted by: dh | Aug 30 2012 23:45 utc | 46

seems like Syria has climbed the moral high ground now:

Linda Juniper ‏@LindaJuniper

"We don't want a sectarian democracy, #Syria is for all of it's components... Syria is a civilization" Dr. ElJaafari. #UNSC


57m Linda Juniper Linda Juniper ‏@LindaJuniper

"The Syrian government demands that those countries allow the refugees back, not to lock them in those camps" Dr. ElJaafri. #Syria #UNSC


59m Linda Juniper Linda Juniper ‏@LindaJuniper

"Syrians are traumatized by how their brothers are treated in refugees camps, that look more like concentration camps" ElJaafri #Syria #UNSC

Posted by: somebody | Aug 30 2012 23:55 utc | 47

There will be no further international action on Syria.

France and other will say they can't go without a UNSC vote. That will not come.

Turkey will be left with the tar baby it created.

Davutoglu finally found out that he is in a mess:

"Apparently, I was wrong about my expectations," he told the council. "This meeting will not even end with a presidential or press statement, let alone a robust resolution."

The insurgents are getting a serious beating. Someone seems to have told them to attack air bases and air defense sites. They did with little success.

They claim the have shut down some fighter planes but the videos they turn out are fake!

Posted by: b | Aug 31 2012 16:51 utc | 48

re: Turkey's tar baby

Even more noteworthy than the PKK attacks on Turkey in the southeast is the problem with Syrian refugees in Hatay Province.

One look at a map is enough. Hatay Province, Turkey is a geographic anomaly. It looks like it should be part of Syria. It once was. Back in the '30s Atatürk demanded that Hatay become part of Turkey claiming that the majority of its inhabitants were Turks, and it was eventually taken over by Turkey. Actually Alawi Arabs and Armenians composed an overwhelming majority of the province's population, so in 1938 the Turkish military went into the Syrian province and expelled most of its Arab and Armenian inhabitants.

So now the Alawi Arabs are playing 'terminator' -- I'll be ba-a-a-ck.

Hurriyet, Aug 31 2012 - Plans for ‘Alawite state’ caught on Turkey’s radar

Turkey has been struggling to cope with the growing number of refugees from Syria, but officials in Ankara are now having to contend with a new concern – reported efforts to make Hatay a part of a planned Alawite state.

Officials are concerned about a possible country, called the Alawite State to some or the “new Hatay” to others, that will be established in the Latakia - Hatay corridor.

This is why the hapless, pitiful Turkish FM Ahmet Davutoglu had a refugee 'redline" and why he wanted military-enforced refugee camps in Syria, which won't happen. All those Syrian refugees are taking over the province. (Payback is a bitch.) We can bet that Assad has many agents in Turkey now. (To complicate matters, the Free Syrian Army operates from there also.)

Posted by: Don Bacon | Aug 31 2012 21:29 utc | 49

Turkey is currently a funny farm.

Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, having failed miserably to involve NATO in Syria after shots were fired across the border and a plane was downed, will soon pay consecutive visits to Baku, Kiev and Sarajevo. In Baku and Kiev he will co-chair the second meetings of the high-level strategic cooperation councils established with these countries. During the visit to Kiev, Erdogan also plans to hold talks in the Autonomous Republic of Crimea on Sept. 14 and attend the ninth annual meeting of the Yalta European Strategy (YES) as a guest of honor and deliver a speech. Erdogan will proceed to Bosnia-Herzegovina for a two-day visit during which he will receive the Isa Beg Ishakovic award. While in Sarajevo, he will also hold talks with Bosnian-Herzegovian officials. It isn't like anything is happening in the Middle East right now, and President Gul is available, right? No.

Turkey's President Abdullah Gul's health is reportedly “improving” following hospitalization for an ear infection. He cut short a visit in Kyrgyzstan due to the condition, and returned to Turkey last Thursday (over a week ago) for treatment. Over a week in hospital for an ear infection! The Presidential Press Center has denied allegations that Turkish President Abdullah Gül had been poisoned. The next session of parliament will consider a constitution change to transfer governance powers from the prime minister (Currently Recep Tayyip Erdogan, re-elected last year) to the president. He ought to be out of bed by then. Gul has cancelled all his trips to foreign countries in September and October as his doctors recommended him to avoid air travel for two months.

Meanwhile Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu, who recently traipsed off to Burma just prior to SecState Clinton's visit to Istanbul, has drawn some flack for speaking about a conflict. No, not Syria. Davutoglu said Azerbaijan and Armenia should come together in Istanbul to discuss the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict! While the Syrian crisis, which escalated from being a 17-month-long anti-regime protest to a bloody civil war in the region, became a real headache for Turkey's national security, Davutoglu's call for the conflicting A-A sides to come together received -- shall we say -- a mixed response from political analysts.

Posted by: Don Bacon | Aug 31 2012 22:01 utc | 50

One look at a map is enough. Hatay Province, Turkey is a geographic anomaly. It looks like it should be part of Syria. It once was. Back in the '30s Atatürk demanded that Hatay become part of Turkey claiming that the majority of its inhabitants were Turks, and it was eventually taken over by Turkey. Actually Alawi Arabs and Armenians composed an overwhelming majority of the province's population, so in 1938 the Turkish military went into the Syrian province and expelled most of its Arab and Armenian inhabitants.

Dear Don, you haven't got it quite right. There was a referendum in 1938-9, and the largest population was Turkish in Hatay, but that was by dividing the different Syrian populations individually. The French didn't object, because they didn't want the Turks on the German side in World War II. There was no expulsion.

Today, in Hatay, the majority population in Hatay is Syrian, but they don't necessarily want to to join their compatriots in Syria. The Antakyan waiter in my local Turkish restaurant explained to me that his relatives prefer Turkey as more finacially worthwhile

Posted by: alexno | Aug 31 2012 22:06 utc | 51

Sheeet, I'll go with a waiter every time, when he recommends a dish.

Posted by: Don Bacon | Aug 31 2012 22:47 utc | 52

I thought this bit of today's news was interesting:

Austin Tice, former USMC Infantry Officer, Georgetown Law student, Freelance Journalist

American freelance journalist Austin Tice, who has been unaccounted for in Syria for more than two weeks, has been captured and is being held in Syrian government custody, according to people familiar with the matter, including a senior diplomat.

Tice, 31, contributed stories to The Washington Post, McClatchy Newspapers and other publications this summer after crossing into Syria in May. His reports offered glimpses into conditions on the ground in areas where the fighting was fast intensifying.

The Georgetown law school student and former U.S. Marine Corps infantry officer has not been heard from since mid-August, when he told friends and family members that he intended to leave Syria.


Freelance Journalist?

Posted by: Don Bacon | Sep 1 2012 4:24 utc | 53

here is a nice picture of Mr Tice reporting from Syria
http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/regions/middle-east/syria/120823/austin-tice-american-journalist-reported-missing-syri

I do believe that is him in the picture....I might be wrong but the resemblance with other images of him that I find is uncanny

Posted by: dan of steele | Sep 1 2012 6:47 utc | 54

I beg to disagree. I think that's a photo he took of someone else. Can't see the resemblance with Tice images here. (Which is no reason not to suspect that Tice was on a mission other than journalism.) Other opinions?

Posted by: Don Bacon | Sep 1 2012 15:44 utc | 55

How ironic, considering the company has used rendition to Syria in the past.

Posted by: Don Bacon | Sep 1 2012 15:47 utc | 56

Here in a Hurriyet (Turkey) article(pdf) is a map indicating the locations of "Rebels fighting against al-Assad rule fragmented, disorganized in Syria."

Posted by: Don Bacon | Sep 1 2012 15:51 utc | 57

@57
Anti-Syria "fragmented, disorganized" Fighting Groups on Hurriyet map:
(clockwise from the north)

PYD (Kurds), The Revolutionary Council, The Brigade of al-Qaka, Tawafiq (secular), Al-Fatah Brigade (FSA), Fajrul Islam, Ahrar al-Sham, Brigades of al-Sahaba, Bedouins, Al-Faruq Brigade (mostly Sunni), Free Syrian Army, Libyans, Chechens, Afghans (3 jihadist groups), Jabhat al-Nusra (al-Qaeda), Al-Tawhid Brigade (FSA) and Turkmen's Brigades (FSA).

So much for the "civil war."

Posted by: Don Bacon | Sep 1 2012 18:22 utc | 58

Turkey is the Achilles Heel of the Syria conflict and I'm sure that Assad knows that, specifically regarding the adjacent province of Hatay which I have written about in #49. Turkey is weak politically, with unstable leadership, with a strong anti-war opposition party and with PKK raids in the southeast. Hatay, that province that looks like it ought to be part of Syria, is being taken over by Syrians.

from Hurriyet:
--The Free Syrian Army has removed "Hatay, Turkey" as the location of its main base as listed on its website, replacing it with "Damascus, Syria." The previous version had caused an outcry against Turkey's involvement in the crisis in Syria, with several reports claiming the rebels were being trained and heavily supported by the Turkish authorities.
--Syrian rebels: Too fragmented, unruly -- The opposition militants battling Syrian President Bashar al-Assad are a fragmented rabble that refuses to follow orders, according to activists. There are more than 30 different rebel groups, including the most prominent rebel group, the “Free Syrian Army” (FSA), fighting in Syria.
--One army officer has been wounded in clashes in the eastern province of Van after army officers detonated a mine that was believed to have been laid by the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), Doğan news agency reported.
--Last but not least, U.S. Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) Director David Petraeus is making an unannounced visit to Istanbul. Petraeus arrived in Istanbul's Atatürk Airport with his private plane, according to an exclusive report by Turkish daily newspaper Akşam.

Posted by: Don Bacon | Sep 2 2012 18:34 utc | 59

Bashar Assad was interviewed for an hour on Addounia TV on 29 Aug 2012. A full transcript in English is at http://sana.sy/eng/21/2012/09/01/438882.htm and 'b' at #40 above linked to the video with English subtitles. I'm going to dump my thoughts here about just one particular topic that was covered in the interview. A summary of what I'm going to say is that the interviewer asked several times why the security crisis is not getting better, and Bashar repeatedly didn't answer the question and implicity said he doesn't understand the problem.

Here's a good question from the interviewer, posed somewhat implicity, with some more explicitness interposed by me in brackets. Question: "It is said on the street [by pro-government people in Syria] that the State delayed the [forceful] resolution [of the public security crisis], meaning that after [pro-government] people saw the [poor] progress of military operations they said that the State was capable of doing [more, and sooner, of] the sort of military and security operations which are now in the framework of resolution, so why did the State delay in this regard, which implied to many a weakness in the State, [which gave courage to the rebels, and gave time and space to the rebels] so they acquired more weapons, were misled more, and moved forward with this project [of rebellion] on a larger scale?"

Bashar's answer summarized: The State did not delay. The security crisis escalated in stages. Our counter-measures escalated in direct response to the escalation by the rebels. [In his answer, Bashar gives no indication that the State foresaw or tried to pre-empt the escalation.]

Question: "Mr. President, allow me to discuss during today's meeting the most important issues occupying the thoughts of [pro-government] Syrian citizens, which they inquire about daily and which dominate their concerns, whether pertaining to the [security] situation on the ground or the political situation. We start with the situation on the ground. Of course, Aleppo. They talk [worriedly] a lot about Aleppo. What is the situation in Aleppo; how do you view it?"

Bashar's answer summarized: The battle is complex. The situation is improving but resolution hasn't been achieved and it will take time. [In his answer, Bashar gives no indication of what the complexities are].

Question: "Mr. President, many ask what is the situation in Homs. Why isn't the situation over in Homs?"

Bashar's answer: This type of operations needs time. [In his answer, Bashar gives no indication of what he thinks might be an intelligent answer to this very good question. Why isn't the situation over in Homs? is a good question. His effective answer is No comment.]

My interpretation of Bashar's answers to the above three questions is that Bashar is saying: I really don't understand the dynamics of the battle at the moment, sorry. Later in the same interview, Bahsar is more explicit in acknowledging that he cannot give assurances to the Syrian public that he has a good understanding of the indigenous driving forces behind the security crisis: "When we get rid of those terrorists and return to search later for the causes behind the presence of such criminality which we did not believe existed in our country, then we will find our assurances. The society and the entire homeland has a responsibility to eliminate terrorists and search for the real causes and deal with them."

At another later point in the interview, Bashar said: "We must stop self flagellation, despite the presence of shortcomings in all fields including the media, and we wish things had been better." In light of all the ill-informed vituperative criticism and bigotry that the Assadists have been subjected to from the outside, I agree with Bashar that at the present time it's better to accentuate the things that enhance their self-confidence, and avoid "self-flagellation".

However it's still important for all the Assadists to admit that they don't have a clear understanding of why the security crisis is worse on 2 Sep 2012 than it was on 2 Jun 2012. I admit it, I believe Bashar admits it. A lot of new weapons and new financing for the rebels arrived in Syria since 2 Jun 2012. It is crystal clear the rebels are better armed today than they were in May. But that does not go a large part of the way towards understanding the problem.

Posted by: Parviziyi | Sep 2 2012 19:36 utc | 60

@Parviziyi #60 --Iran understands the problem.

Tehran Times, Sep 1 - If opponents in Europe are also armed the Syrian situation will happen in Europe: Leader

TEHRAN – Supreme Leader of the Islamic Revolution Ayatollah Seyyed Ali Khamenei says that providing Syrian opposition groups with arms and financial assistance has set the stage for the current situation in Syria.

The Leader made the remarks in a meeting with Syrian Prime Minister Wael Nader al-Halqi who came to Iran to participate in the Non-Aligned Movement summit.

Ayatollah Khamenei described as unacceptable the killing of the Syrian people and the current situation in the country and said, “The main culprit in the Syrian issue are those who have paved the way for the flood of weapons being dispatched to Syria and the provision of financial support to irresponsible groups.”

“If today the opponents of the policies of European governments, who stage demonstrations, are also provided with money and weapons, undoubtedly, the current situation in Syria will also occur in these countries,” he stated.

Posted by: Don Bacon | Sep 2 2012 20:20 utc | 61

"Bashar's answer summarized: The State did not delay. The security crisis escalated in stages. Our counter-measures escalated in direct response to the escalation by the rebels. [In his answer, Bashar gives no indication that the State foresaw or tried to pre-empt the escalation.]"

Parviziyi, that is easy to answer. You de-escalate by scaling back. The Syrian state doubled down - that is the very definition of escalation.

As a matter of fact they cannot scale down as long as there are violent acts. So the people committing those acts actually control the course of events.

The Syrian government now has a crisis that is reinforcing itself - refugees, food security you name it - it cannot begin to address that as long as there is fighting.

Even if the Syrian state came to the correct conclusion that a political solution is needed, it would be near impossible to get it because of the diversity of the fighting groups and their backers.

As is, Assad describes the revolt as "criminal" - that is standard state practice to refuse "terrorists" any political justification.

The Syrian regime basically has won the confrontation now. Terrorism never really threatens a power structure, it threatens civil liberties as frightened citizens are prepared to accept any form of crack down to improve security.

For the violence to end Syria needs an agreement with Turkey and Jordan to seal the borders. They might get that for free should the amount of refugees begin to seriously threaten the stability in those countries. That would be a calculation Assad would not own up to publicly.

What I find striking is the topography of the conflict, how some areas are protected and normal life is reported, whilst others are war zones. I suppose it is similar to the London riot map of 2011.

So yes, probably Syrian society has to become much more inclusive if they want to prevent this sort of conflict to happen again. And yes, Syrian elites presumably did not and still do not have a clue.

Posted by: somebody | Sep 2 2012 20:37 utc | 62

Iran has already started in one (partially) European country, Turkey, by (allegedly)supporting PKK.

Posted by: Don Bacon | Sep 2 2012 20:59 utc | 63

This looks like President Assad's work in Hatay Province, Turkey. (@#49)
Zaman, Sep 2
Turkish leftist groups hold pro-Assad rally in Antakya

Several political parties and unions held a rally titled “Supporting Peace and Syria” as part of the celebrations of Sept. 1, World Peace Day, on Saturday in Antakya, the capital of the southern province of Hatay, which is home to thousands of Syrian refugees, to show their solidarity with the embattled Bashar al-Assad regime.

Led by a coalition of groups under the banner of “Syria: A Platform, No to Imperialist Intervention,” unions such as the Confederation of Revolutionary Workers' Unions (DİSK), the Confederation of Public Sector Trade Unions (KESK), the Turkish Unions of Engineers and Architects' Chambers (TMMOB) and the Turkish Doctors Union (TTB), the Labor Party (EMEP) and several other organizations took part in the rally. Nearly 1,000 people attended the demonstration.


Incidentally, Antakya is the old Antioch: wiki- the city has historical significance for Christianity, as it was the place where the followers of Jesus Christ were called Christians for the first time.

Posted by: Don Bacon | Sep 2 2012 21:47 utc | 64

Looks like the new guy has his marching orders from Washington.
AP, Sep 1
New UN Syria envoy puts pressure on regime

The U.N.'s new envoy to Syria told President Bashar Assad's regime on Saturday that change is both "urgent" and "necessary" and that it must meet the "legitimate" demands of the Syrian people, words that will not win the seasoned Algerian diplomat and international trouble shooter any friends in Damascus.

On his first day on the job, Lakhdar Brahimi also called on both sides to end violence in Syria, but said Assad's government bears more responsibility than anyone else to halt the bloodshed. These remarks were seemingly intended to push the Damascus government to ease off on military operations to create a better atmosphere for his peace mission.


The rest of the world -- which doesn't receive any attention from the Associated Press US stenographers -- believes that peace, not government change, is urgent and necessary. But no, the AP has to pretend that it is the Syrian people who are fighting their government.

Posted by: Don Bacon | Sep 2 2012 22:28 utc | 65

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