Saturday, June 11, 2005

Middle East's real problem: The Mafia - Biedermann

Ferry Biedermann, one of the hardest working reporters covering the Lebanon-Syria beat who normally writes for the Financial Times, has this interesting story in Paul Woodward at The War in Context sent it to me. (I don't have a subscription, but here goes robbery.)

The Middle East's real problem: The mafia
June 11, 2005

BEIRUT, Lebanon, and DAMASCUS, Syria -- From Syria to Egypt, from Lebanon to Iraq, along the length and breadth of the Arab world the presumed drive toward greater democracy and openness is lurching along, often coming to sudden halts. Whether brazenly blocked by a ruling party and an elite determined to preserve their hold on power, as in Syria, or stealthily undermined by the same old political bosses, as in Lebanon, progress is patchy, to say the least. And the causes are remarkably similar across the region: a mixture of deep sectarian, regional and tribal divisions, a lack of neutral central institutions, and a clientele system that creates powerful mafias and capi di tutti capi that look after their own in a winner-take-all environment.

Unfortunately, the Bush administration, undeterred by the bloody chaos in Iraq, still seems intent on spreading its ill-fitting idea of democracy in the region, with Syria its possible next target. A well-informed analyst in Damascus told me that the United States is preparing an "Iraq scenario" for the country, including possibly imposing a no-fly zone in the Kurdish-dominated north. The United States' rumored plans are likely to backfire, slowing down reform or halting it altogether. Worse, they could plunge Syria and Lebanon into violent chaos.

The Syrian Baath Party, whose right to rule is inscribed in the constitution, gathered this week in Damascus to discuss reforms. But instead of the "great leap forward" that had been promised by the country's president, Bashar Assad, the congress merely shuffled along, as could be expected from a party that has been in power for more than 40 years. The Baath will for the foreseeable future remain a tool for the continued rule of the Assad family and its allies, even if a few more superficial freedoms are allowed. The big internal question, say some in Damascus, is whether the lack of progress will cause the current low-level grumbling in the country to explode into open rebellion. Others point out that there is no alternative to the regime. There is no effective and organized opposition, except perhaps the banned and persecuted Islamic fundamentalist Muslim Brotherhood (whose members were slaughtered by the thousands by Assad's father, Hafez, in 1982), and nobody wants Syria to descend to the level of chaos now seen in Iraq.

As the congress wound down, statements by the Bush administration and the United Nations made it clear that the United States and the international community will continue to put pressure on Syria. But Syrian government minister Buthaina Shaaban dismissed suggestions that the Baath Party's deliberations had been influenced by external considerations. "All that has been discussed and decided has been discussed because of our national needs," she said.

As for Lebanon, optimism about a Cedar Revolution has so far proved to be greatly overblown. Following the withdrawal of Syrian troops after a 29-year presence, it is still in the midst of its complicated, and arguably undemocratic, election cycle, one that is unaccountably spread out over four regional rounds. "If Ethiopia can have elections in one go, why not Lebanon?" one EU election monitor wondered. In the first two rounds, in Beirut and the south, the outcome was largely predetermined by deals between powerful political bosses, to the disgust of many voters who were left with very little to vote on. The next two rounds may be more competitive, mainly because personal rivalries have split the opposition. Nobody has a program that people can vote on, and parties barely exist. Many of the young Lebanese who turned out for the massive anti-Syrian demonstrations after the murder of former Prime Minister Rafiq Hariri said they were disgusted by the first two rounds and that this was not the change they had pushed for.

Two keen observers of the situation, one in Beirut and the other in Damascus, recently offered similar explanations for what's going on. Amal Saad-Ghorayeb, a Lebanese political analyst and author, and Joshua Landis, an American expert on Syria who lives in Damascus, where he publishes the respected blog, both remarked that the rule of the "Zaïm," the old-style political boss, is still very much alive in both countries, despite the one-party state in Syria and the chaotic Lebanese appearance of democracy. The bosses dispense money, contracts, jobs, educational opportunities, sometimes even permission to marry. They skim off the wealth of the state, award themselves the most lucrative concessions, and block competition. Their power base is often a large family or tribe, a village or region, a religious allegiance, the army, or all of these combined. They may found parties, such as the Progressive Socialist Party, controlled by the Druze Jumblatt family, or the Christian Phalange Party founded by the Gemayels in Lebanon, that serve as fronts and tools. This "rule of the bosses" also holds true in other parts of the region, including Iraq, Jordan, Egypt and the Palestinian territories.

In Syria, Landis said, the Zaïm system has simply been extended to include the Baath Party. The Baath, in the eyes of many in Syria, nowadays merely serves to legitimize this rule of the "mafias," as they call it. Endemic and deeply entrenched corruption is one of the hallmarks of the Zaïm system, and Syria has it by the bucketload.

"There is a marriage between power and money in Syria," said Marwan Kabalan of the Center for Strategic Studies at Damascus University. Kabalan noted that this is one of the main reasons that the country has not been able to reform itself, even if it seriously wanted to. "You have to keep the pillars of the leadership happy," Kabalan said. "Especially if you rule, as the government does here, without the consent of the people." According to Landis, Syria is still deeply divided along regional and sectarian lines. Although the government, dominated by the minority Allawite sect, tries hard to downplay this, the divided nature of the country is what allows the Zaïm system to continue. The only groups that pose a real challenge to the authorities are the Kurds in the northeast and the persecuted (Sunni) Muslim Brotherhood, which has members across the country. The nonsectarian liberal opposition is given much more freedom to speak out, probably because its ideas barely resonate among the population.

In Lebanon, the anti-Israeli, Shiite Islamist Hezbollah movement has been the one of the few parties widely considered to remain free of the taint of the system. It is not known to be corrupt, as many of the other political groupings are said to be, and until recently it did not engage in the political horse-trading that is the Lebanese system of government. This time around that image has been tainted, said Saad-Ghorayeb, who is an expert on Hebzollah. "The party has finally been forced to play by the rules of the Zaïm system," Saad-Ghorayeb said. She is referring to the many political deals Hezbollah was forced to make in an attempt to stave off pressure to disarm following the withdrawal of its Syrian protectors.

Hezbollah is the only Lebanese group that retained its arms after the end of the country's 15-year civil war in 1990 and the Israeli army's withdrawal from the south in 2000. It has been able to do this by marketing itself as the "resistance" to Israel, which gives it the legitimacy to retain its arms and run a state-within-a-state in the south.

But Saad-Ghorayeb said that the party has now become just one of Lebanon's many regional and sectarian political players, which base their strength on a captive bloc vote and use it to skim off income from the state and businesses. In Hezbollah's case, the corruption is not thought to be direct. Rather, it has been tainted by its newfound alliance with the more moderate Shiite Amal movement, which many regard as deeply corrupt.

Syria and Lebanon have been very much in the eye of the international community, particularly since Hariri was killed by a huge car bomb in the center of Beirut on Valentine's Day. The common assumption both in Lebanon and abroad was that Syria was responsible, a charge that Damascus denies. Even before the assassination, the Syrians had been under increasing pressure to withdraw from the country that it regards as its backyard, if not part of "Greater Syria." In August last year, they forced the Lebanese Parliament to amend the constitution to allow for the extension of the mandate of the unpopular but pro-Syrian Lebanese president Emile Lahoud. This move was a serious diplomatic blunder by Damascus: It turned the French against Syria, paving the way for the passage of the American- and French-sponsored U.N. Security Council resolution 1559, which demanded the departure of all foreign troops from the country and the disarming of militias, that is, Hezbollah.

The end to this saga is not yet in sight, despite Syrian hopes that the withdrawal would placate the international community. First of all, the United Nations is not yet satisfied that resolution 1559 has been fully implemented. Secretary-General Kofi Annan urgently dispatched his Middle East envoy, Terje Roed-Larsen, back to the region, and announced that he is going to send a verification team to check reports that Syrian intelligence agents are still active in Lebanon. The U.N. moves followed the assassination of prominent anti-Syrian Lebanese journalist Samir Kassir in Beirut, which reopened the wounds of the Hariri killing. Many automatically pointed the finger at Damascus. Syria has denied involvement, but Lebanese commentators say that even if Syria was not behind it, the Syrian government and its Lebanese allies have created an atmosphere in which such acts could take place. There are also allegations that many pro-Syrian agents are still at work in Lebanon and are being encouraged by Damascus.

The United States has asked for the Kassir killing to be investigated by the same U.N. team that is already in Beirut to look into the Hariri assassination. Reports in U.S. newspapers on Friday quote an unnamed senior administration official as saying that Syrian intelligence officers still in Lebanon have drawn up a "hit list" of anti-Syrian figures. Of course this may be propaganda, part of the Bush administration's strategy of waging a media war of attrition against Damascus. An example of this propaganda campaign came last month, when another unnamed official said that Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, the leader of the Iraqi al-Qaida network, had visited Syria to consult with other militants on the recent insurgent offensive in Iraq. Later the administration said it actually had no information on such a visit.

The Hariri investigation is hanging over the Syrian government's head like a sword of Damocles, said one Western diplomat in Damascus. The European Union, for example, is unlikely to take action on signing the important trade, social and cultural Association Agreement with Syria until the results of the Hariri investigation are known, several diplomats said. The agreement is important because it would allow the government to show that it is not isolated internationally. The United States has reportedly asked the EU not to go ahead with the deal for now, but a European diplomat in Damascus said that the EU has its own reasons not to sign the deal.

Another direct challenge to the implementation of resolution 1559 is Hezbollah's defiant stance. The "party of God" was bolstered by a solid election victory in its southern fiefdom last Sunday. Hezbollah itself, as well as Lebanese newspapers and analysts, explained the result as an emphatic rejection by voters in the south of the demand to disarm. "They gave a clear message to the foreigners, particularly to the Americans, that the people of Lebanon are unified over the resistance and the independence," said Hezbollah's second in command, Naim Qassem. Even though most political groups in Lebanon publicly deny that they will push for the disarmament of Hezbollah, the movement and its allies fear that this is about to happen following the recent departure of its Syrian allies from the country. "The Americans and the French and others will push the expanded anti-Syrian bloc in the next Parliament to disarm Hezbollah. And that will lead to disaster," said pro-Syrian member of Parliament Adnan Arakji.

The White House has already made clear that it regards the victory of Hezbollah, which it regards as a terrorist group, with unease. "These elections are ongoing and in terms of Hezbollah, I think our views are well known and they remain unchanged," said press secretary Scott McClellan. "You have a Security Council resolution that calls for the disarming of groups like Hezbollah, and that remains our view. Hezbollah, as you are well aware, is a terrorist organization." The State Department, too, said it viewed Hezbollah's continued strength with concern. "There should be no role for an armed militia" in a democratic government, said one official. (Not surprisingly, the U.S. official said nothing about the recent statement by Iraqi president Talabani defending the Kurdish peshmerga and the Shiite Badr Brigade militias.) So there seems very little chance that the United States will let up on the pressure to implement resolution 1559. Lebanese and Syrian supporters of Hezbollah hope that the Europeans, who have not put Hezbollah on the list of terrorist organizations, will be less focused on disarming the group. But Western diplomats in Damascus say there is very little that divides the U.S. and the EU at the moment on 1559 and that there is little prospect that international pressure on Syria will ease.

In fact, one analyst in Damascus said he had indications that the Bush administration, which has long wanted to topple the Syrian regime, is readying an "Iraq scenario" for the country. The United States is hoping to use the Kurds as it has done in northern Iraq. Tensions in the northeastern region of Syria have reportedly reached the boiling point after Kurds blamed the killing of Mohammed Mashouq al-Khaznawi, one of their important sheiks, on the Syrian authorities. The government emphatically denies the charge and has arrested "criminals" who it says are responsible. But clashes have already taken place in the main town, Qamishli, and people who have visited the area expect worse to come. The Kurds are certainly furious, judging by statements issued by their banned political parties. Earlier this week in Damascus, one Kurdish taxi driver even dared shout, "Come in Bush, please come in," with his windows closed.

If the situation in the Kurdish region gets out of hand, said the analyst in Damascus, the United States may impose a no-fly zone over the region, just as it did after the 1990 Gulf War in northern and southern Iraq. The U.S. is also trying to unite the fractured opposition by encouraging the Kurds, the Muslim Brotherhood and the liberals to work together. This is supposed to address the perceived lack of an alternative to the Baath government.

If this is true, it raises the obvious question of how the Bush administration could seriously contemplate another Iraq-type adventure when Iraq is in worsening chaos, with U.S. troops and Iraqis dying daily and no end in sight. Bush strategists may dream that regime change in Syria would magically solve all the region's problems at once. In fact, it might make them worse.

Toppling the Assad regime will not solve the problem of Iraq, because even if Syria is substantially involved in the fighting there, which is doubtful, the basic fuel for the insurgency remains the internal Iraqi situation. The majority of insurgents are Sunnis, mostly former Baathists, with access to the huge stockpiles of weapons that the Americans failed to safeguard after the invasion. It may be true that most of the suicide bombers are foreign, and that a new regime would be able to secure the long Syria-Iraq border across which many foreign jihadis slip into Iraq. But it is highly unlikely that a stable new regime would emerge in Syria -- or that if it did, it would be friendly to the United States. The political and social structures in Syria and Iraq are quite similar: What did not work in Iraq will almost certainly not work in Syria, either.

Nor would toppling the Syrian regime make the Palestinians cry uncle. A major reason that Bush administration neocons have long pushed for regime change in Syria, Iraq and Iran is their enmity to Israel. It's true that the backing of the "rejectionist states" gave the Palestinians some strategic depth -- support for the families of suicide bombers, for Hamas, for arms shipments. But the heart of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is within Palestine: What happens at a regional level is secondary. In any case, any new regime in Syria (or any other Arab state, for that matter) would almost certainly have a hostile stance toward Israel until the Palestinian issue is resolved. In the case of Syria, there is the added issue of the Golan Heights: No Syrian government will normalize relations with Israel until it returns the Heights, which Israel captured in the 1967 war.

As for Lebanon, it was chaotic and venal long before the Syrians started meddling. A U.S-backed regime in Syria might upset the delicate power balance in Lebanon and make things even worse. (It could also have a spillover into Iraq: The Shiites in Iraq would not take happily to a U.S. campaign to marginalize the Hezbollah-supporting Shiite majority in Lebanon.)

Above all, a U.S.-backed campaign to remove the Syrian regime would be folly because especially post-Iraq, any stamp of American approval means a death knell for opposition parties in the Middle East. The United States thus faces a paradoxical situation: In order to encourage reform, it cannot appear to back it.

An analyst who is not given to idle talk and has contacts at the highest levels of the U.S. administration agreed that the idea of U.S.-backed regime change was a bad one. "Yes, the Americans are stupid," the analyst said. "Unfortunately the Syrians are even more stupid."

Under these circumstances, the tepid call for a "constructive dialogue with the U.S. and the EU" by delegates at the Baath Party's 10th congress, which ended earlier this week in Damascus, looks laughably out of touch. One reformist-minded Baathist, Ayman Abdel Nour, said after the congress finished that more reforms were soon to follow, because the leadership realized that "we don't have time to go slow-motion because of the international and regional situation." But many observers and analysts in the Syrian capital say that the leadership is merely trying to toss the international community a few bones now and then to see if it can be placated. If one doesn't work, it will try tossing another. Many in Damascus fear the United States will run out of patience before the leadership runs out of bones.


At 6/12/2005 11:17:00 AM, Anonymous Syrian Republican Party said...

How much did this Payola Bidderassmann got paid from Assad to write this pie of crap

At 6/12/2005 12:05:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I dont agree with the comparison between Iraq-Lebanon and Syria.
Syria and the important syrian big cities are more than 80 % sunnis , it's known historicaly that the Syrians are moderate and like the foreigners ....i dont see how a civil war in Damascus,Latakia,Deir Ezor,Deraa or Aleppo is possible and between who and who?
Baghdad for example is divided in equal proportion between Shias and Sunnis,situated on the line that separates the shia majority south with the sunni majority north and it's not often said but we are infront of a repetition of an old strife between the iranian nationalism and the arab tribes ,important members of the new iraqi government are "iranians" like the new Interior Minister Baqir Solagh ,the iranians will fight any desire of independence of the shia arabs from Qom , the arab persecuted population in the rich oil Al Ahvaz are shia moslems for the iranians religion is only a good pretext to control the shia populations .
We don't have comparable situation in Syria.
The christians who saw their proportion decreasing dramatically these last years are strongly appreciated by their moslem neigbors and the people appreciated that the syrian christians never participated in the black pages of the syrian regime.
The alawite mountain is isolated inside a sunni land ,between the sunni coastal cities and Homs-Aleppo axis .
The sunni kurds represent 10 % and are not concentrated in one region but separated in 3 parts surrounded by arabs ,there are also kurdish districts in Aleppo and Damascus, the relations between kurds and arabs were traditionally friendly and mixed mariages are not rares and the important arab tribes refused to assist the syrian regime in the repressions of the kurdish intifada.Conscious of their geographical and demographic situation ,most of the syrian kurdish parties have realistic demands, limited to their cultural and political rights.

At 6/12/2005 12:19:00 PM, Anonymous Syrian Republican Party said...

I dont agree with the comparison between Iraq-Lebanon and Syria.
Syria and the important syrian big cities.......Excellent response by this Anonymous.. we need more Syrians to explain the true facts about the situation in Syria so Bidderassmann's don't cash in on dump analysis.

At 6/12/2005 01:19:00 PM, Blogger praktike said...

Am I the only one confused by why he didn't actually write much about "mafias?" Too bad, because that would make a more interesting piece. This is more like a summary of a lot of other analysis.

At 6/12/2005 03:00:00 PM, Anonymous Jeremy Palmer said...

Wow, deja vu. The strangest thing happened after I read this post. I went outside and got in a taxi. The driver was Kurdish. He expressed his desire and welcome to Bush and company to enter Syria. Before exiting the taxi he gave me a wink and a "la tinsa" - don't forget!

At 6/12/2005 03:41:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Dear syrian,there is interesting parts in the article but many western political writers tend to generalize.In Lebanon yesterday and Iraq today it is more a struggle of spheres of influence between regional powers,such scenario is called Lebanization and unlikely to happen in Syria.From the south to the north and from the west to the east Syria still relatively homogeneous religiously and ethnicaly despite some minorities,contrary to Lebanon and Iraq.

At 6/12/2005 09:32:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I wish the author had gone more into the mafia in the area. This is far more important than the political discussion. The mafia and corruption from throughout really runs the show. That is way the Lebanese reporter was killed. He dared report on it.

I have a friend who has a Purple Heart because of a terrorist act. That is the official story. The real story was he was in a bar in Athens that wasn't paying off the mafia for protection. The bar was bombed. This was too lame for the media, and politicians, so it was quickly blown into a terrorist/political situation to obfuscate the failure of the local politicians.

The same thing is going on in Lebanon.

At 6/12/2005 09:34:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I wish the author had gone more into the mafia in the area. This is far more important than the political discussion. The mafia and corruption throughout really runs the show. That is why the Lebanese reporter was killed. He dared report on it.

I have a friend who has a Purple Heart because of a terrorist act. Well, that is the official story. The real story was he was in a bar in Athens that wasn't paying off the mafia for protection. The bar was bombed. This was too lame for the media, and politicians, so it was quickly blown into a terrorist/political situation to obfuscate the failure of the local politicians.

The same thing is going on in Lebanon.

At 6/13/2005 08:28:00 AM, Anonymous Tarek said...

All these anonymoussss are driving me nuts!!! I believe this is a very thought-out article and an excellent strategic analysis of the current situation. I feel criticism from some of the posts is coming out of ideological anger rather than constructive dialogue (i.e Syrian Republican Party).

Unfortunately, I agree with the author that there is a real possibility of sectarian violence in Syria if the current government is toppled. Yes 80% of Syria is Sunni but with diverse political stances, interest and goals. Lets not forget that the Americans managed to create powerful ally of the Kurds even though they are a minority.

As for the "mafia” issue, if the current so called "mafia" is deposed another would replace it and doubt it not. I really admire your hopefulness that a democratic society would immerge from the chaos that is certainly to follow any foreign armed interference. But to be perfectly honest it I feel the calls for such actions are idiotic and/or immoral. If the world thinks that no change can occur internally we should start doing something about it to prove them wrong.

At 6/13/2005 09:21:00 AM, Anonymous Karim Elsahy said...

I've started a blog pushing for a new Pan Arabism, come check it out. Let me know what you think.

At 6/13/2005 10:33:00 AM, Anonymous kingcrane said...

I agree with you. Foreign journalists write to please their reader base. But, in this instance, there was an attempt for a strategic analysis. The issue about the Kurdish driver is as annoying as something written by Thomas Friedman, when he talks about encounters he never had with peasants, barbers, taxi drivers, and hookers.

At 6/13/2005 10:56:00 AM, Blogger Mark Buehner said...

"The Syrian Baath Party, whose right to rule is inscribed in the constitution, gathered this week in Damascus to discuss reforms"

You've got to be kidding me right? So any thug regime that writes themselves a constitution perpetually insures themselves the right to rule, so long as they dont foolishly amend themselves out of it? Thomas Jefferson is spinning in his grave.

At 6/13/2005 11:44:00 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

النظام السوري يسعى إلى تعزيز دفاعاته: باتريك سيل

تميز مؤتمر حزب البعث المنعقد خلال الأسبوع الماضي بدمشق بالمشاحنة المفتوحة التي دارت بين نائب الرئيس عبدالحليم خدام الذي يعتبر أحد بارونات الحرس القديم في سوريا ووزير الخارجية فاروق الشرع. وما حدث أن عبدالحليم خدام اتهم فاروق الشرع في خطاب عنيف بسوء تسيير العلاقات بين لبنان والولايات المتحدة الأميركية. لكن الشرع لم يبق صامتاً بل رد عليه بغضب. ويمكن القول إن الشرع ربح في هذه الملاسنة لأن عبدالحليم خدام الذي ظل أحد الوجوه البارزة للنظام ترك موقعه في القيادة القطرية لحزب البعث بعد أن تقاعد. أما فاروق الشرع فقد حافظ على وزارته وعلى مقعده في القيادة القطرية، ناهيك عن الدعم الواضح الذي كان يتلقاه من الرئيس بشار الأسد.

ويقودنا ذلك الدعم الملحوظ لوزير الخارجية السوري من الرئيس بشار الأسد إلى خلاصة لا مفر منها تتمثل في أن التحركات التي ميزت السياسة الخارجية السورية في الآونة الأخيرة لم تكن في الحقيقة إلا سياسات الرئيس بشار الأسد نفسه. وقد لاحظنا كيف أن تلك التحركات شملت معارضة سوريا للحرب الأميركية على العراق وما ترتب عن ذلك من قطع العلاقات الودية بين البلدين وإصرار سوريا السنة الماضية على التمديد لولاية الرئيس إميل لحود في لبنان، بالإضافة إلى تدهور العلاقات مع فرنسا والانسحاب من لبنان الذي فرض على سوريا.

وفي أثناء ذلك واجهت سوريا تنديدا دوليا حول مزاعم بضلوعها في اغتيال رئيس الوزراء اللبناني الأسبق رفيق الحريري وفي الاغتيال الأخير الذي طال سمير قصير أحد الصحفيين البارزين المعارضين لسوريا. ويظل السؤال الآن ما إذا كان عبدالحليم خدام ومصطفى طلاس، العسكري المتقاعد الذي شغل منصب وزير دفاع أسبق لمدة طويلة وأحد الأعضاء المرموقين في الحرس القديم، سيقفان مكتوفي الأيدي أم سينتقدان الحكومة من خارج النظام.

وأمام الضغوط الخارجية التي تمارسها الولايات المتحدة وإسرائيل على سوريا، والضغوط القادمة من المعارضة الداخلية التي تتوق إلى التغيير، لم يجد الرئيس بشار وحزب البعث الحاكم سوى التصرف بحذر بالغ إزاء هذه الضغوط. وقد شهدنا كيف انصب التركيز على مسألة بقاء النظام أكثر من اجتراح مبادرات جسورة أو السير بالبلاد في اتجاه جديد. وفي هذا الصدد لم يتم القيام بأي محاولة لمراجعة البند الثامن من الدستور السوري الذي ينص على أن "حزب البعث هو القائد للدولة والمجتمع". وهو ما يعيق أي توجه حقيقي نحو إقامة التعددية السياسية. وبالعكس من ذلك فقد تم تعزيز القيادة القطرية للحزب عن طريق تقاعد بعض الأعضاء القدامى وتسمية أعضاء من جيل الشباب مقربين من الرئيس بشار.

وبالرغم من الوعود التي قدمت بشأن إصدار قانون جديد للأحزاب السياسية، إلا أنه من الواضح أن ذلك لن يفضي إلى منح الأكراد والإخوان المسلمين أي مكان في المشهد السياسي السوري. وأكثر ما يمكن أن يحصل عليه الأكراد هو منح الجنسية لحوالي 200 ألف من الأكراد الذين يعيشون في شمال شرق سوريا دون هوية، لكن دون السماح لهم بتشكيل حزب سياسي. أما الإخوان المسلمون فما زال نشاطهم محظورا رغم الجهود التي بذلوها لتعديل سياستهم وجعلها أكثر اعتدالا وتخليهم عن العنف واستعدادهم للتواصل مع اتجاهات الرأي الأخرى. وبالرغم من أن أعضاء علمانيين من المعارضة السورية كالشيوعي المخضرم رياض الترك الذي أمضى أكثر من ثماني عشرة سنة في السجن دعوا إلى التعاون مع الإخوان المسلمين الذين يتمتعون بدعم شعبي واسع، غير أن النظام يظل مصراً على إقصائهم. وفيما يبدو على أنه تخفيف من قانون الطوارئ الذي ظل ضاربا بخناقه على الشعب السوري طيلة 42 عاما، فقد أوصى المؤتمر بأن يطبق فقط في المسائل التي تخص الأمن القومي. إلا أن صيغة التوصية الفضفاضة وغير الواضحة لن ترضي المعارضة التي تطالب بالإنهاء الكلي لحالة الطوارئ.

ومن الواضح أن المصالح الأمنية السورية ستظل حاضرة بقوة تماما كما كان عليه الحال سابقا. فالقيادة القطرية للحزب تضم قياديين في الأمن هما اللواء محمد سعيد بخيتان رئيس مكتب الأمن القومي، واللواء هشام بختيار مدير إدارة المخابرات العامة. لكن الأقوى من هؤلاء جميعا هو صهر الرئيس بشار الأسد اللواء آصف شوكت مدير المخابرات العسكرية والذي برز كأحد أعمدة النظام الأساسية والضامن لأمن الدولة واستقرارها.

وبالرغم من أن المؤتمر الحزبي أوصى بضرورة تطور الاقتصاد السوري المراقب من قبل الدولة إلى نموذج "السوق الاجتماعي"، إلا أن هذه العبارة تبقى غير واضحة عند الممارسة. وحتى إذا كان ذلك يعني خصخصة بعض شركات الدولة المفلسة الموروثة من سياسات الارتباط الاقتصادي باقتصاد الاتحاد السوفيتي، إلا أنه من غير المرجح أن يحصل تغيير في السيطرة التي تمارسها نخبة قليلة على الاقتصاد والتي تربط بعض أعضائها علاقات وثيقة مع مركز السلطة. هذا ولم يشر المؤتمر إلى الطريقة التي ستعالج بها سوريا موضوع جذب الاستثمارات الأجنبية الملحة، خصوصا من الجالية السورية الغنية المقيمة في الخارج، ولا إلى كيفية خلق الوظائف والزيادة في دخل الطبقة العاملة بما في ذلك موظفو الحكومة الذين يعيشون بمعاشات زهيدة. ويذكر أن الهوة السحيقة التي تفصل الفقراء والأغنياء في سوريا تهدد دائما بانفجار اجتماعي.

وبما أنه لا يلوح في الأفق أي تغيير في بنية السلطة السياسية، فليس من المرجح أن تتخذ خطوات فورية لترسيخ المحاسبة والشفافية في القضايا الاقتصادية. فالفساد ضارب أطنابه في الأرض، وسيادة القانون كما استقلال القضاء ما زالا بعيدي المنال. وفي الأخير يبدو أن حزب البعث أخفق في إدراك أن أفضل وسيلة للدفاع ضد الأعداء في الخارج إنما تكمن في القيام بإصلاحات جذرية في الداخل.


At 6/13/2005 12:30:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I strongly agree with Anon. at 12:05. This is how it looks from insided Syria. We have been enjoying religious tolerance and we try to keep it up. God bless this country.

At 6/13/2005 02:14:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

The Syrian youth victims of Asad's baath deprivations ignores that Syria had known a period of political life based on democracy, 50 years ago ,communists,liberals,moslem brotherhood,christians competed in a civilized way that not lead to a civil war but to liberal non-sectarian governments and a christian elected twice prime minister.
Even during the intermittently "political putschs" started by the CIA backed coup of the kurdish Husni al Zaim in 1949 ,political instability never led to a civil war or economic crisis.

At 6/13/2005 02:29:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

تركة والده جميل الأسد ستختفي في أوروبا
منذر الأسد لـ"ايلاف": أعتز بعمي رفعت
بهية مارديني: ايلاف 13/6/2005
أكد منذر جميل الاسد، ابن عم الرئيس السوري بشار الاسد في لقاء مع "ايلاف"، انه مع النهج الذي يسلكه الرئيس بشار الأسد. وحول رأيه في عودة عمه رفعت الاسد إلى سورية، أشار إلى أن "رفعت الأسد عمي وانا اعتز بقرابة الدم التي تربطني به وافتخر بها"، موضحا انه التقاه في فرنسا عندما كان والده هناك لإجراء عملية جراحية في مسشفى بباريس في 15 كانون الثاني (ديسمبر) 2004 الماضي قبل وفاته.
وبخصوص تركة والده والقضايا المتبادلة بينه وبين مطلقة والده الراحل امل عزيز نعمان، بصفتها وكيلة عن اولادها الثلاثة القاصرين التوأم، حيدرة جميل الاسد، وفاطمة جميل الاسد، وزينب جميل ، نفى منذر، المتواري عن الانظار، بصفته وكيلا عن اخوته الاشقاء فواز جميل الاسد، وفوزية جميل الاسد، وفلك جميل الاسد، وعبير جميل الاسد وجود وصية كتبها والده الراحل قبل وفاته داخل سورية او خارجها، واعتبر ان اموال والده ستختفي تباعا بعد شهرين في اوروبا، اذ يجب تسديد فوائد وضرائب للبنوك الاجنبية في حال لم يتم توزيعها حسب القانون الفرنسي، موضحا انه قدّم في شباط (فبراير) الماضي طلبا لتصفية التركة وتسليمها للورثة وجرد الاموال المنقولة وغير المنقولة الموجودة على شكل اموال وودائع في البنوك وعقارات في اوروبا، مؤكدا ان القانون الفرنسي يستوجب في حال لم يتم تصفية النزاعات القضائية تحصيل فوائد وضرائب باهظة من الاموال والتركة المودعة بعد ستة شهور من تقديم طلب فتح التركة .
وحصلت "إيلاف" على وثائق الدعاوى بين الطرفين، حيث يتهم منذر واخوته مطلقة والده امل عزيز نعمان باخفاء ثلاثة صناديق، يحتوي الاول على سبائك ذهبية متعددة الاوزان تتراوح اوزانها بين 250 غراما الى كيلو غرام لكل سبيكة ويقدر وزنها الاجمالي بحوالي 200 كيلوغرام، ومجوهرات مختلفة متعددة الاشكال يقدر وزنها بمائة كيلوغرام، وفي الصندوق الثاني عملات اجنبية من دولار ويورو بقيمة 500 مليون ليرة سورية، ويحتوي الصندوق الثالث على عملة محلية بالليرة السورية تقدر قيمتها باكثر من مائة مليون ليرة سورية". اما حول العقارات المتنازع عليها، فافاد المحامي تحسين طه لـ"ايلاف" انها حوالي 180 عقارا في انحاء سورية وخارجها.
واكد منذر ان"مطلقة ابيه حجزت على الاموال والعقارات الموجودة في سورية واوروبا بحجة طلاقها الثالث من والده الراحل طلاق المدهوش، "وهو الطلاق الذي يوقعه الزوج على الزوجة اثر سماع خبر صاعق او نبأ مفاجئ ويعتبر باطلا في قانون الاحوال الشخصية السوري، وذلك رغم مرور عام على الطلاق، واقامت مطلقة والدي الراحل القضية رغم ان الطلاق بائن بينونة كبرى ولا يجوز لها العودة الى عصمته. وتابع منذر الاسد انه اقام قضية اخرى طالب بها بقصر الحجز على نسبة الثمن ،1/8 وهي حصة مطلقة والده في حال كونها زوجة وفي حال اقرت المحكمة عودتها الى عصمة والده الراحل.
ولفت منذر إلى انه متوار عن الانظار منذ فترة وقبل حادثة اطلاق النار عليه امام مطعم الشلال بدمشق الشهر الماضي، ومن النادر ان يتواجد في الاماكن العامة الا بحذر شديد خاصة بعد العديد من المضايقات التي تعرض لها وحدثت مع اولاده وعائلته وسائقيه وبعد سرقة سياراته وتمركزْ عناصر امن بلباس مدنية امام منزله في منطقة المالكي بدمشق.واضاف انه تم فصل ابنه من مدرسته بناء على ما وصفه بضغوط اشخاص متنفذين، وجرى تهديد ابنه البالغ من العمر عشر سنوات للنزول من السيارة ثم تمت سرقتها.
واعلن منذر الاسد عن استعداده للمثول أمام القضاء اذا كان قد اقدم على أي خطا او ارتكب أية مخالفة، لكنه اعتبر ان كل مايحصل هو محاولات للتعطيل فقط لحرمانه واخوته الاشقاء من حقوقهم.
واضاف منذر الاسد انه بموجب ضبط قضائي تم منعه واخوته من الدخول الى منزل والدهم في منطقة افاميا في محافظة اللاذقية لصالح مطلقة ابيهم.
وقدّم منذر جميل الاسد شكوى الى الرئيس السوري بشار الاسد حصلت "ايلاف" على نسخة منها، حول "الضغط الذي يتعرض له منذر واخوته والمضايقات من قبل ما اسماهم ببعض المتنفذين بغية التنازل عن التركة لصالح مطلقة والده الراحل جميل الاسد".
يذكر ان الدكتور جميل الاسد هو الشقيق الاكبر للرئيس السوري الراحل حافظ الاسد وكان رئيسا للجنة الامن القومي في البرلمان السوري توفي في ايلول (ديسمبر) العام الماضي في فرنسا بعد اجراء عملية جراحية مما ادى الى نشوب خلاف عائلي، لا أبعاد سياسية له، بين منذر واخوته من جهة ومطلقة ابيه من جهة اخرى في المحاكم داخل سورية وخارجها ولم يحسم خلاف التركة حتى الان

At 6/14/2005 09:21:00 AM, Anonymous kingcrane said...

So Rifaat could be plotting to come back to Syria and pacify it if a Sunni Moslim uprising occurs? And would he not be the perfect US puppet? Thanks but no thanks. The prospect of the idea is a farce by itself.

At 6/14/2005 02:19:00 PM, Anonymous Syrian Republican Party said...

Kingcrane, It appears that this is the CIA emergency plan for Syria. Will never come to this point, because Sunni's are ahead of the dummies in D.C.and will back and support President Assad.

It is amazing to watch the length the CIA and it's driver Israel will walk through the desperados ally to prevent a Democratic change in Syria or even a moderate Bashar that can put things in order. Pathetic huh...


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