Readers Comments Nov. 21 2005
I have received a number of interesting comments on my recent post about rising nationalism in Syria and Why the US Should not Push Syria to the Wall. Many readers objected to my calling the Syrian opposition "immature." I did not mean this as a description of particular opposition members, who are courageous and fighting the good fight. It was to describe the movement as a whole, which is unprepared to run the country and is unable to win the active backing of a significant portion of the Syrian public, which might make the opposition an alternative to the regime. There seems to be a large gap in thinking and policy recommendations between Syrians living outside Syria and those living inside. Many Syrians outside Syria recommend US led regime-change. Those inside, by and large, reject this. I do not believe the anti-American position of resident Syrians is primarilly due to their fear of the government. I believe it is because they see the world through the eyes of the local media, which is distrustful of the West; they fear chaos as a real possibility; many minorities believe Bashar is a shield to Islamists; others are just naturally conservative and risk averse - they see what has happened in Iraq.
"a grassroots Republican activist" writes:
Just read your most recent post about rising nationalism in Syria. Interesting, especially as it relates to the political climate here.
The Jack Murtha resolution has caused a big stir. The public mood is turning more and more anti-war by the day. Even rank-and-file Republicans are beginning to jump ship on Iraq. I expect that some moderate GOP members of Congress, especially Senators (who tend to be more vulnerable in re-election efforts), will shortly begin to join up with Murtha's sentiments.
While I agree with Murtha on Iraq, he is my party's worst nightmare for 2006 because his conservative "street cred" blue-dog Democratic leadership, as opposed to the whinging liberal coastal Kerry-Pelosi elitism, is what can turn the tide away from Republican domination in Congress.
So the best bet for the GOP (and for America) is for Republicans to steal Murtha's thunder and champion a staged withdrawal, thereby saving their hides for 2006.
Anyway, the point of all this is that it strengthens Bashar's hand. If Americans can't even agree to stay in Iraq, they're definitely not going to want to expand to Syria.
Consider also that even one of the most anti-Syria members of Congress, Robert Wexler from Florida, who sponsored the recent resolution slamming Syria after the Mehlis report, was one of only 3 congressmen out of 400+ to vote YES on Friday for an unconditional immediate withdrawal from Iraq. So aside from that silly vote and any additional toothless anti-Syria legislation forthcoming, Congress is absolutely schizophrenic as far as the Middle East goes. Shouting matches erupted on the House floor on Friday. There is no concensus at all on what Bush is currently doing, has already done, or wants to do in the future.
"a grassroots Republican activist"
Maureen Thomas, who has worked tirelessly to bring Kamal al-Labwani's arrest to the attention of the British Parliament and European Union and who has been in constant contact with Kamal's family, advocating for them and giving them hope that authorities outside Syria will provide some protection for Kamal, has written the following note.
Dear Professor Landis,
I read your posting this morning with interest and distress. My first reaction was that the Syria you describe today reminded me strongly of the China I experienced in 1988 and, to a lesser degree, in 1993.
My main concern today, though, is my dear friend Dr Kamal al-Labwani. Everybody who met him while he was staying here in England commented on his palpable honesty, shining integrity and love for the Syrian people. His chief reason for going to the US was to persuade the government there NOT to punish the people of Syria by imposing sanctions or using force, but to give the Syrian opposition parties enough support for them to have the space and time to introduce reforms from within Syria. He is a great advocate of democracy and has stated time and time again that democracy cannot be imposed on a nation from outside - it must come from within. That is why he chose to return to Syria in spite of the personal risk he was running
He knew perfectly well that he would be arrested on his return, but I do not believe that he contemplated being incarcerated in a cell with 40 convicted criminals. During his previous imprisonment he was kept in solitary confinement, partly to stop him communicating his ideas to others. Why now, then, are they putting him in a cell with so many others? It seems clear to me that, in these circumstances, it will be so easy for an anonymous criminal "someone" to do him serious harm for which nobody will have to take the blame.
I, too, am angry at the way Bush used Kamal as a stick with which to beat Bashar, but I am also disappointed that support for Kamal from the European Parliament is so slow in coming despite the best efforts of Amnesty International and politicians here.
I am at a great disadvantage because I do not speak or read Arabic and am so far removed from the situation in Syria. I do not know how the ordinary Syrian citizen can be persuaded of Kamal's good faith or that their apparent current approval of Bashar is mistaken. I dare say that this is not achievable and that I, and others like me, must watch impotently while this tragedy for Kamal and for his country unfolds. If only enough people in the world had the honesty and courage of Dr. Labwani.
Dear mr. landis,
As an avid reader of your website i am saddened that you continue to defend
the regime with even weaker points. While i understand that your
surroundings/marriage to an allawi woman from a milatary family slants your
point of view of syrian society , to invoke ali el dik music (a convicted
alawi smuggler) as patriotic music really makes you think something is wrong
when this is the kind of people considered "patriotic".
You have no right to continue to tell the world that we syrian people are
not ready fro democracy ...how many more hamas and rami makhlkoufs do we
have to endure before u gave us ure stamp of approval?
p.s. for the record i come from the Ismaili community in Salamie and thus am
an ardent liberal and anti islamist BUT most importanly i believe in the
will of the people and democracy ,something sadly i seem to understand from
your writings you dont care much for.
And for the record i have nothing but respect for Alawis or any other sects, Aref Dellila i hope one day will be in charge of syrias economy, not this
dardari who serves to make the regime look better and little else.
Decent Alawis are suffering from the regime as much as any one else. This is more like a Mafia rule than a government with any legitimacy. They intimidate every one, and every one is suvjected to the rules of fear that exist in syria.
I welocome the Iraqi scenario if necessary. The Iraqis, and despite this atmosphere of killings and violence have returned to be human beings again, not dead and sheep as Saddam had made them to be. The Iraqis are happier than most of you know about. I have met Iraqis who have returned and retiurning right now to Iraq. They do prefer this post Saddam situation a million times than Saddam's rule. So do I when it concerns Syria. I want this regime out, and the likes Manaf Tlas to shut up for ever. Let the Syrians become human beings again, with brains, and dignity, and let them kill each other for a while for if this is what they are made of, this will happen now or in 100 years later. let it happen now, and let the Syrians leave their Sheep status as described by Josh himself few times. We need to see Syrians regain their humanity, even if this will lead to some blood shed, and I bet you all, and I know that this will not happen because Syrians are the most pacifists among all Arabs, and among all people. Take away the real thugs and criminals who are the mafia of the regime, and this nation will stand tall again, most civilised among all nations. Syria was the example to the world in keeping the specific traits of any population that migrated to it. Take the Armenians, the Cherkess in modern times, and see how Alawis, Druz, Assyrians, Kurds, etc.,... all were not forced to abandon their ways of life throught hundreds if not thousands of years, and see how Syria had Christian PMs, Druz Ministers of Defense many times, when Druz do not even count 1% of Syria. All of that before this Thug Hafez Assad took over and made it dividied as Josh sees it now.
The solution for Syria in Josh's eyes is to keep thugs like Manaf Tlas for "years" as Tlas wants.. This subhuman sold the Syrian people bad meat he imported and knew it was bad, just to make few extra millions on top of his already made billions. This is a man they interviewed above and wanted to present as a witness that Syria needs him and his ilks for "years" as he put it.
Get out of this crap, mr. Landis!
America supports Israel. Israel mistreats the palestinians. Syria is targeted".
"With this CD playing over and over since 1948, Arab regimes used this music to subject their populations to any amount of indignity and sub-standard economic well being they though justifiable. Abu Arab, for example, finds it very hard to take the sound of this CD out of his pre-programmed brain. Let us not lose sight of what all this is about. The Syrian leadership is accused of killing a prime minister of a neighbering country. As I suggested in my comment above, we ought to be spending our time answering this question:
If the evidence is fabricated as Bashar claimed to his 18 million people, why doesn't he pack his files and taped conversations, take his officers, invite CNN and Al-jazeera on the flight (ala Air force one), land anywhere the Mossad agent Mehlis wants, and go on embarrasing America and its leaders by exposing thei lies and conspiricy against his country in front of worldwide Tv and for the world to see. Dr. Landis, I, for one, would love for you to post an article to answer this question for your readers.
Dr. Landis should not be criticised for thinking that the Syrian people are not ready for democracy. He has been living in Syria and seeing the real Syrian people and not you inteliggent people reading and writing on his post. What Dr. Landis sees is 18 million people who can hardly speak a single foreign language, who are made up of 60% below the age of 18 wandering in the streets of Damascus seemingly oblivious to the world outside and perfectly content that this is the way it is supposed to be. After all, they have heard the famous CD above since they were born. They are convinvced that this is the best they can do, and if other countries improve and prosper, then this is either a lie or unimportant. After all, believing in the CD brings them honor. For them, they are born to believe in a higher cause. Democracy and improving standards of living is not for them. They are incable to practice it like others and their country is not ready for it. The CD is more important for their honor and dignity. The fact is that this regime and party has been a master at this game. They have convinced Dr. Landis and their own 18 million people that they are not ready for any better. In a way, they are right. Dr. Landis, how can you have an opposition when you have draconian emergency laws which are in place supposedly because of the CD but in truth exist to crush any chance of opposition and democratic tendencies. Sir, I can guarantee you that if you send our Baath, Mukhabarat and emergency laws to Sweden you will have that country look like Syria in 40 years. When you keep on repeating the mantra that Syrians are not ready, have you ever asked yourself the question of WHY? Do you think it is genetics? I know you cannot help it. You see 18 million improvished men and women, and you don't see in them an alternative leadership to Assad and the Baath. You ask yourself who else can lead this nation? Sir, if you could see them, touch them and feel them and if they were credible as an opposing force, then our security system and emergency laws would failed to work or do a job they perfect over 40 years. Trust me, sir, they work and work better than your own CIA/FBI.
Mr. Assad in his last speech shows that he has more aggressive stance and willing to fight back, He knows and we all know this aggressive stance will hurt the Syrian people, I truly believe now that his untested, inexperience and ill prepared policy leading the county into a dangerous environment domestically and on the regional level too.
This Forum needs to Voice the need for the county to:
1- The dominant role of the Baath party needs to be reduced to allow the real oppositions groups can participate in a program of transition to a democratic and free society to facilitate a free and fair election “even to the presidency itself”.
2- Syria now is in uncharted territory, Mr. Assad needs to show the county that he is on the helm of the job at this difficult time. He needs to act and remove any elements opposing the need for institutional reform.
3- Abolishing Decree No. 51 “state of emergency”, in which Mr Assad himself admitted that mistake and abuse were made with Decree No.51. He must reinforce the independence of the judiciary system maybe by removing the office of the president form the higher council of the judiciary.
4- Syria in needs of justice system to fight corruption and enforce transparency in the county public entities for fair and allow a fair and transparent biddings process.