Change is Coming - but How?
Change is coming to Syria - there is no way to deny it. How it will happen and how controlled it will be, no one can say. As one Syrian friend said to me, "Will it be in five years, ten years, or next year? I cannot say, but it is coming."
The signs are everywhere. One top Alawite official joked to a Sunni friend, "Will you treat us well in the future?" This kind of remark revealing the anxiety of regime figures about the future, but still couched in a joke to indicate insouciance, would not have been heard a year ago.
Everyone at the dinner table had a story like the one related above, indicating that that the elite is anxious and beginning to take evasive action to prepare for change - what kind of change? Who knows?
Some top officials are beginning serious campaigns to improve their images, carrying out high-minded social projects to beautify Damascus or support cultural life. Others are finding ways to deny their connection with and involvement in the darker chapters of regime history. They are pondering judgement day and vacuuming the house, putting out flowers, and making themselves presentable.
Sami Moubayed's excellent article "Soft de-Baathification in Syria," published in al-Ahram Weekly points out that "The Baath Party Conference, scheduled for June, is expected to pave the way for a general amnesty, releasing political prisoners and permitting the return of those banished for political reasons."
One of the reasons driving this reconciliation project, directed at healing the old wounds caused by Syria's long years of political turmoil and dictatorship, is undoubtedly the fear of revenge. Sami points out that it was begun by Basil al-Asad in 1994, but that others, such as Mustafa Tlas, have been pushing it hard by getting the portraits of Syria's past leaders added to the Parliament walls. They had been "airbrushed" from Syrian history, as Sami wrote.
If Syria is to have a soft transition to a new political order, and avoid sinking into the sort of bloodletting and vendetta driven chaos that has overtaken Iraq, a reconciliation process is crucial. Only by making amends, can the present power-brokers hope to secure their safety in the future. To truly make amends, there is still much reconciliation to come.
All the same, the rapid augmentation of the reconciliation process indicates that people at the top are getting nervous and thinking of the day when they may no longer be in power.
Washington is upping the heat on Syria about supporting Iraqi insurgents.
In an angry indictment, US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice on Friday broadened US accusations that Syria was contributing to violent insurgencies in Iraq.Last week, saw a major campaign to choke off the infiltration of foreign fighters along the border with Syria. There are plans to move much of the U.S. Army's 3rd Armored Cavalry Regiment to the border from the Baghdad area. Lt. Col. Steven Boylan, a spokesman for coalition forces in Iraq, said: "It's really now a war against the Iraqi people conducted by foreigners," said
After a meeting with Iraq's planning minister, Barham Salih, Rice again accused Syria of supporting terror. To that she added an allegation that Syria may also be providing financial support for insurgents as well as "allowing its territory to be used to organize terrorist attacks against innocent Iraqis."
Zarqawi in Syria?
"Zarqawi and his top-level administrators met at least five times outside Iraq," an American official who prefers to remain anonymous said. He added that the last meeting was held in Syria one month ago. The same source claimed Zarqawi had ordered an increase in the number of suicide attacks in Iraq after the meeting in Syria as he was concerned over the stability and decrease of resistance in Iraq following the elections. No meetings had been held in Iran according to the same source, who said they received this information through Al Qaeda members under arrest.Never trust and anonymous official. If US intelligence has good information about Zarqawi traveling to Syria, General Abizaid would have said so. He seems fairly trustworthy.
General John P. Abizaid, commander of the U.S. forces in the Middle East, said, "it is obvious that insurgents have some kind of activities in Syria and the administration should do its best to prevent these."
A number of American officials hate Syria and will say anything to promote US hostility toward it. We saw how Bolton do this over and over again, and he was Under-secretary of State for Arms Control, no little chicken. He inflated claims about WMD development in Syria; he claimed Syria was developing nuclear weapons when CIA and State clearly warned him against such allegations; he insisted that Syria was hiding Iraqi WMD for a year after US officials knew this was false, having established from debriefed Iraqi scientists and politicians that Iraq had destroyed its WMD. He said Syria was part of the Pakistani nuclear racket, which Baradei had to deny.
Sec. of Def. Rumsfeld and V.P. Cheney protected Bolton and encouraged him to spin. I don't know whom one should trust from the US government, but if a statement is made by an “anonymous American official,” and not someone willing to back it up with his name and reputation, it is wise not to believe it.
Who are the suicide bombers of Iraq? According to the web-sites of radical Muslim organizations who provide lists of martyrs, they are an internationalist brigade of Arabs, with the largest share in the online lists from Saudi Arabia and a significant minority from other countries on Iraq's borders, such as Syria and Kuwait.
Syria denied the accusations immediately. A Syrian official told Reuters news agency that the claims are a part of the political pressure campaign applied on Syria administration.
The roster of the dead on just one extremist Web site reviewed by The Washington Post runs to nearly 250 names, ranging from a 13-year-old Syrian boy said to have died fighting the Americans in Fallujah to the reigning kung fu champion of Jordan, who sneaked off to wage war by telling his family he was going to a tournament. Among the dead are students of engineering and English, the son of a Moroccan restaurateur and a smattering of Europeanized Arabs.
There are also long lists of names about whom nothing more is recorded than a country of origin and the word "martyr."... U.S. military estimates cited by security analysts put the number of active jihadists at about 1,000, or less than 10 percent of the number of fighters in a mostly Iraqi-dominated insurgency. But military officials now say the foreigners are responsible for a higher percentage of the suicide bombings.