How to Defend Bashar al-Assad in 10 Easy Steps

by Borzou Daragahi on January 1, 2013

Originally posted on Facebook. This is my guide for Syria analysts and journalists who want to defend Bashar Assad while continuing to retain their credibility in the West.

1. Keep mentioning Jubhat al Nasra and other Islamic jihadi groups without mentioning that the vast majority of armed groups are not nearly as extreme, are mostly locally based folks defending their towns and villages.

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2. When referring to the armed opposition keep using the magic word: AL QAEDA

3. Make cursory mention of the regime’s brutality (you won’t have any credibility if you don’t) but avoid resurrecting the roots of the conflict in peaceful opposition to Bashar’s dictatorship. Avoid mention of wanton use of air power against civilians in bread lines and in their homes.

4. Keep talking about NATO, the Gulf countries and Western support for opposition; that will boost Bashar’s anti-imperialist creds among the campus leftists.

5. Focus on faults of incompetent and disorganized Syrian opposition abroad instead of networks of activists and homegrown civil society already establishing governance inside.

6. Frame Russia as an honest broker trying to peacefully resolve conflict instead of a shrewd chess player that doesn’t give a damn about Syrian civilians and murdered tens of thousands of Chechens in an attempt to put down a rebellion in the 1990s.

7. Keep warning about consequences of Syria state’s collapse: sectarian war, refugees in Europe, rise of an Islamist state.

8. Keep raising rare instances of rebel misconduct and faked videos and frame them as emblematic of the overall opposition.

9. Make the opposition look intransigent; they’re the ones who won’t agree to a peaceful settlement, not the president who did no reforms for 10 years and dispatched shabiha to murder peaceful protesters when they spoke out.

10. Pray to God (even if you are an athiest) that the rebels don’t get to Damascus, open up the files and find out what you did for the regime, the details of conversations on how you got your visas and your access to officials.

  • http://www.planetanarchy.net Pham Binh

    Shots fired at Robert Fisk, John Pilger, Jonathan Steele, and Patrick Coburn!

  • Brian S.

    Makes telling points; but 10 is largely gratuitous: It may apply to Fisk’s odd relationship with the Syrian Army, but I haven’t seen any on-the ground reporting from Pilger (although his opinions are appalling; Jonathan Steele’s views are not conditioned by any affection for the regime , but by his longstanding attachment to the traditional Syrian (pro-Soviet) left and reflects their views: his on the ground reports have been informative, his misrepresentations have not been about the internal situation but in defense of the Russian position at the UN; Cockburn (apart from the strange aberration on his return to Damascus over the “beheading video) is, I suspect, influenced by similar factors plus a tendency to view Syria through the lense of other conflicts (especially Iraq): his reporting has had a skeptical inflection to it, but is not grossly imblanced, and I regard it a useful counterweight to an over-romanticised view that can easily settle in among people who have a strong partisan committment.

  • http://billkerr2.blogspot.com.au Bill Kerr

    I haven’t been following this issue in any detail but just wanted to draw attention to a PBS NewsHour interview with Deborah Amos http://www.pbs.org/newshour/bb/world/jan-june13/syria2_01-04.html

    RAY SUAREZ: For more on this, I’m joined by NPR’s Deborah Amos. She’s crossed into Syria many times during the two-year-long conflict, and is covering it and its casualties closely.

    Well, Deborah, we were just reporting on the rebels inching closer to the capital, Damascus. Has the momentum changed in favor of the anti-Assad forces?

    DEBORAH AMOS, NPR: It seems now that we are in a stalemate. The fighting has really not moved.

    At the moment, the regime still controls every major city in the country. And the rebels have not been able to change that balance. I think the focus of the fighting now is around two major air bases. The regime still controls the air. The rebels control most of the rural areas in the country, and two major cities are now in dispute. But the lines really haven’t moved over the last couple of months.

    RAY SUAREZ: The anti-U.S. tone of the rebels is interesting. It seems like it’s been intensifying, even as the United States talks about delivering nonlethal aid to both civilians and the fighters themselves. How do you explain that?

    DEBORAH AMOS: I think that there was some expectation when the opposition reformed itself into a new group, when the military, the rebels reformed themselves into a more coherent group, that that would somehow pay off for them, that there would be some more weapons delivered, maybe some more aid that will come directly through the opposition movement, to bolster their position inside the country.

    So far, that hasn’t happened. And that’s been particularly a bitter pill for the rebels to swallow. In fact, when I left Istanbul, many of the rebel commanders were complaining that the arms had actually slowed down to almost a full stop. And what they are fighting with is what they can amass by taking over military bases inside Syria.

    They are depending on themselves. They had expected more support after they did what the international community asked them to do, which is come together in more coherent groups.

    RAY SUAREZ: As weapons percolate into rebel hands, they seem to be held by the most radicalized, the most Islamist of all the fighters. How is that happening? And is it out of ideology, or just because these guys know how to fight?

    DEBORAH AMOS: Well, that is true, Ray. These guys do know how to fight.

    They have been the best fighters on the battlefield. And so, when a rebel group takes over a military base, it’s often Al-Nusra Front who is at the forefront of that fight. And they collect the spoils. So their success builds on success.

    And when the U.S. designated them as a terrorist group, in fact, they got more recruits. And more anger was building in Syria, because their argument is, wait a minute, these are the guys that are delivering us from the regime.

    And many Syrians say, you know, we would sleep with the devil if you can stop the air force from bombing our cities. And so the popularity of Al-Nusra Front has only grown.

    RAY SUAREZ: With all that you have just said, some of Syria’s most recent traditional allies are very much on the side of the regime. So when the smoke clears, if Assad goes, where does Syria go? Not into the arms of Russia, right, or Iran?

    DEBORAH AMOS: I think that, if the regime goes, that is precisely right, that the old alliances simply are no longer workable.

    But I think we really don’t know who will rule Syria if the regime goes. And what you are seeing now, I think, is that the international community is desperate for a negotiated settlement.

    And so, in part, the explanation for the slowdown in the weapons is that nobody on the outside wants a military victory inside Syria. They want the rebels to be able to pressure the regime to come to a negotiated settlement, because the international community is worried that, if the regime collapses, there will be chaos inside Syria.

    It’s a very difficult balance to maintain, because when the regime feels strong, Assad says, I will stay. When the rebels feel strong, they don’t want to negotiate. So how you bring all of these interested parties to a negotiating table? We are nowhere close to that moment.

    RAY SUAREZ: And nowhere close to a resolution from — very briefly — from everything that you have said, it sounds like this still has a lot of chapters to run.

    DEBORAH AMOS: Yes, I’m afraid that that is true.

    And we could be in for a very brutal, long stretch. Over the past couple of days, the regime has stepped up its air campaign. There has been some significant bombings in the rural areas in the north. And we have now reached an amazing death count; 5,000 people a month since July have died. And those are mostly civilians.

    We really don’t know the amount of death in either the rebel groups or in the regime military. Neither one of them are publishing their death counts. So when you hear 60,000 people have died since the beginning of this uprising, 90 percent of that in 2012, we are talking about civilians. And there is, as everybody says, no end in sight.

    • Brian S.

      Thanks Bill, useful report that confirms a lot of the things we have been saying here.

    • http://www.planetanarchy.net Pham Binh

      Confirms what Josh Landis is saying:
      http://www.joshualandis.com/blog/?p=17307

  • patrickm

    No surprise that the side that has the air force still controls the air and Amos tells us the focus of the fighting is currently two major air bases; one wonders why that may be?

    It’s utter bullshit to say that ‘…the international community is desperate for a negotiated settlement.’
    Yes the momentum has changed in favour of the anti-Assad forces but only slightly, so it currently has the appearance of a stalemate where ‘the fighting has really not moved.’ However, when Amos says ‘At the moment, the regime still controls every major city in the country. And the rebels have not been able to change that balance.’, she is talking crap. She says that ‘the rebels control most of the rural areas in the country, and two major cities are now in dispute.’ But when she says ‘the lines really haven’t moved over the last couple of months.’, she simply reveals a short attention span (possibly from the demands of the 24/7 media) rather than a good grasp of the developments in this now unavoidably more protracted region wide revolutionary war.

    Part of the Syrian front has already begun to swing over to the strategic offensive (not for a moment to say that it’s a one way street of course) and this has recently generated even more notable defections from Assad’s army in other parts of the country. Even chemical weapons issues have recently come up and brought on the red-line pronouncement from the dithering do-little Obama.

    A full on mass revolutionary war for liberation is in progress and clearly has no prospect of a negotiated settlement where Syria holds together. I have yet to hear of any forces that have defected to Assad. What people are really talking about is the Balkanisation of Syria, with Assad’s forces left in control of the rump state that they are now beginning their retreat to. A negotiated end is not going to happen folks. Get used to at some point cheering on the offensive. As our revolutionary side goes over from the defensive to the offensive, surround and surrender or be destroyed warfare could easily draw in more Lebanese elements. Without NATO intervention this is going to continue to be very brutal and drawn out and has the risk of Al Qaeda ‘rules’ being widely used. One only has to recall what they got up to in Iraq rather than subject themselves to a political process and free and fair elections etc. to appreciate that this is not theory. That will be the point where the line coming out of the pseudoleft will be that our revolutionary side is every bit as bad as the other (and we know that some of them are) and thus the ‘workers of the world’ or whatever have no dog at all in the fight and they will condemn our revolutionary side in the same manner as Assad. ‘No to Assad! No to the ‘revolutionaries’! No to imperialist intervention (ever)! Yes to a fairyland transformation of Syria from tyranny to a “anarcho-syndicalist commune where people take turns as acting as a sort of executive officer for the week…” Python-esq joke.

    It is entirely reasonable, even though the prospect for a region wide war breaking out is slightly receding, to now predict a VERY big war that’s going to easily eclipse the casualties incurred in the fight to overthrow Baathism in the bigger country of Iraq. But the worst part of this prospect from my POV is that it’s the revolutionary side that will suffer so much more than the counter-revolutionary side. Large scale intervention destroying Assad’s air power and mobile warfare capacity would clearly reduce revolutionary casualties and shorten the war enormously.

    The refugee crisis continues to grow so governments hostile to Assad Led by Turkey and the US are stepping up support in all manner of ways (obviously nothing like what I want to see) but with the reality of numerous no-go areas close to the border that can’t be cleared by air power and can’t be re-controlled with infantry, the issue of effective safe havens inside Syria is already on the table.

    A rebel ‘command’ is safe in ‘Istanbul…complaining that the arms had actually slowed down to almost a full stop. And what ‘they’ are fighting with is what they can amass by taking over military bases inside Syria.’
    We are seeing in this multi-sided conflict that where the Syrians ‘..are depending on themselves…often Al-Nusra Front who is at the forefront …collect the spoils. So their success builds on success.’ In appearance, that is obviously so but they take casualties from this accordingly and when the fighting is over they won’t be able to prevent the political demands that most of their new replacement recruits (as success builds their number) will still want. Syria operating at a level of bourgeois democracy up to the level (or almost as high) as Iraq can’t be prevented by the Al Qaeda types. But they can and will ‘cleanse’ areas and suburbs and thus make re-establishing Syria under the FSA style charter far more difficult. So until they are suppressed they will continue to create havoc.

    AMOS says: ‘I think we really don’t know who will rule Syria if the regime goes.’ So she has not internalized that the regime is going and does not say… when the regime goes. Her thinking falls completely apart with her belief that external governments want what can never be and that is a negotiated settlement.
    NATO etc. all want a military victory but they don’t want Al-Nusra to survive in control of anything.
    Of course the governments know ‘there will be chaos inside Syria.’ They know that even with outside forces to hold the line in Iraq mass killing and chaos got going after that horror society was liberated.

    Clearly this part of the region wide revolution ‘still has a lot of chapters to run.’

    Hands-off Neverland thinking collapsed at the first debate where it confronted an understanding that a genuine democratic revolution was underway and has produced not just refugees from the pseudoleft sects causing yet further implosions in their circles, but also a climb down from the more mainstream like NPR’s Amos. The pro-liberation left is only now tentatively uniting. We must be less timid in thinking this through despite where it is leading with people’s understanding on some ‘past’ wars.

    Amos will remain clueless, but she is in the MSM and that is exactly where a recognisably left view has to be seen in order to be worth being attacked by the pseudoleft and garden variety isolationist right. The North Star because it is open for debate is currently head and shoulders above anything in sect land that is not yet TNS is still floundering and waffling like Kasama because people are not taking the next step and dealing with the conclusions that flow logically from their own positions.

  • Brian S.

    @patrickm. I don’t know why you choose to vent your spleen on poor Deborah Amos. She’s someone who has experience on the ground, which we don’t, and should be listened to, even if her judgement is a bit off. I think her main weakness is to look at things this as if there were two regular armies facing each other; whereas we have an irregular force against any army that is reluctant to commit its infantry, and relies on artillery and air power to contain the other side. In that context, its difficult to talk of lines – but in so far as they exist, its true that they have not shifted dramatically in the last few months. On the other hand we seem to have some important opposition gains (spearheaded it seems by the jihadists) on the outskirts of Aleppo. especially the military airports.
    There are various readings of the current balance of forces – Binh has given a link to the most pessimistic, Joshua Landis., who suggests “Assad Regime May Well Survive to 2014″. More upbeat is Stratfor who talk of “al-Assad’s Last Stand” and argue “It is by no means certain that al Assad’s forces are under imminent threat of collapse because they still hold a great deal of territory and no major city has yet been completely taken by the rebels. The retreat and consolidation of al Assad’s forces also allows them to maintain shorter and less vulnerable lines of supply. However, it is clear that the regime is very much on the defensive and has been forced to gradually contract its lines toward a core” But I’m not sure that there’s much difference here – “Asad may survive to 2014 in his core territory” ?
    I think that she’s quite right that ‘…the international community is desperate for a negotiated settlement.’ If Asad had offered anything in his speech on Sunday, they would be rushing to seize on it – but he didn’t, so all we can expect is more dithering (or at most some incremental adjustment in supplying weapons).

    • http://www.planetanarchy.net Pham Binh
      • patrickm

        Binh; the US etc now recognize the opposition as the legitimate representatives of the Syrian peoples and are showing every indication of slowly preparing forces to militarily intervene. Syria can’t stay as it is anymore that it could stay as it was once elections were the new fangled way that the neighbors ran their society.

        Two years ago all these tyrannical regimes looked rock solid as well as very powerful. The Syrian tyranny is now fully engaged from one end of the country to the other with zero prospect of regaining full control of the country and everybody knows this; suddenly Assad talks about reforms and so on on the very weekend that the NATO patriot systems are dispatched for deployment on the Turkish border. The Germans that did not participate in the Libyan war have turned up on the Syrian border in Turkey with the Dutch and US troops.

        It is far to late for reforming from Assad just as the US spokesperson said, yet we have western reporters still talking about how ‘the international community is desperate for a negotiated settlement.’ This is a fight to the finish.

        The best that Assad could do the other day in a speech to a few supporters in a hall is essentially claim to be sane and yet simultaneously avoid the issues that have led to his regimes partial implosion and that has brought on the preparations for this intervention.

        The Patriot deployment is a declaration that there is no MAD war that the Syrian regime can wage against NATO. There is nothing mutually assured about the destruction heading Assads way.

        The US/Turkish/NATO military are extremely cautious conservatives and this is reflected in the preparation of the current intervention that they have no doubt discouraged but nevertheless the intervention has been contingency planned and re-planned and is now having an essential preliminary stage implemented with the first stage of the hundreds of ‘defensive’ US troops deployed to the Turkish border and now the hundreds of ‘defensive’ NATO troops being deployed with PATRIOT missile systems. Everyone ought to know that there would be no real need for these ‘defensive’ systems unless an attack was being contemplated. Assad’s Syria is not about to launch an attack on Turkey (provoked or unprovoked) because it’s not even holding it’s own against an ‘army’ that didn’t exist less than 2 years ago! Any such attack would see it swept away in weeks not months.

        The usual suspects from the pseudoleft are not jumping up and down about the clear preparations for intervention YET; indeed they are hardly even talking about Syria because they know they only have their dogma and that the masses are once again not going to buy the product. The usual suspects will only hold an ‘organizing’ meeting for a pathetic demonstration to complain against the ‘imperialist aggression’ once it has been launched.

        The sects of whatever brand that have been involved in the anti-war movements of the last decade are the same that will get involved in the coming fiasco. These are the raw ingredients that people on TNS are ridiculously talking about ecumenically gathering together now.

        Neverland is silent now because they don’t know what to say when they already know that the outcome when the intervention begins is going to show them up. The intervention that will assist -not subvert- the revolution that is underway and slowly winning. The disoriented members of the embarrassing micro party’s already have the feeling from years of observing the revolution that there is no stopping that outcome. They know what the drill is now. They know they can’t rave on about oil and imperialists installing puppets and all the rest of the fully exposed drivel that they have spent a decade trying to sell. Their stupid through to despicable actions reveal Neverland dwellers as defenders and preservers of tyranny.

        Neverland ‘anti-war’ socialists will once more discredit themselves and the concept of the left as their activities are picked up by the MSM and displayed to the public that would otherwise not have the misfortune to even notice them. With the sects ongoing collapse at such a nadir for them now lets face it not many would notice otherwise.

        But a fully liberated Syria (including a little while later the Golan Heights) is going to emerge after this intervention just as liberation did in Libya. All the western ‘socialist’ groups have been in the way of getting this revolution underway and have shattered into the current disgrace that the masses rightly loath. People in the anti-war left have tolerated apologists for Baathist aggression for years. Brian even talks as if there could be some form of leftist that have a ‘longstanding attachment to the traditional Syrian (pro-Soviet) left’. There is no such left. It is ridiculous to not identify such people as the pseudoleft.

        BTW: we should all note the news that the Palestinian ‘Authority’ is now printing passports with ‘State of Palestine’ proudly emblazoned across them and also note there was a large rally of Fatah supporters in Hamas controlled Gaza. Clearly the bourgeois democratic revolution is now arriving in Palestine. That implies that elections are not ‘far’ off and I can’t see how Barghouti will not run in them and win! http://www.jpost.com/MiddleEast/Article.aspx?id=298610

        • Brian S.

          You care to put money on any of this?

          • patrickm

            Brian; I’m by nature an optimist and my analysis over Palestine has been shown to be over optimistic especially re: timing (so far by 5years or so) yet, the trend line continues in the same direction so I won’t back down on the general predictions over Palestine and the Golan Heights. But I can’t take any bets on the timing because I am unable to ignore the contingency lessons that have brought me unstuck in these Netanyahu/Obama years. I honestly never realized Obama would be such a dreadful ditherer, and so easily wrong footed in the manner of Yes Minister timing shuffle from the Israelis. However I (in Chomsky manner, I suppose some unkind people might say, after all he blamed the Bush/Blair/Howard admins for being incompetent when he got predictions of their Iraqi actions all wrong) have been astounded how long some things take and also how stupid the ruling-elite can be. But then I’m not exactly sure what you are weaseling on about over the above 12 paragraphs.

            Here is an example of my views on intervention in Libya Permalink that led to this Permalink

            I also have had a long term interest in military issues and a good track record of understanding how ‘it’ tends to work. But this stuff is not what you are on about.

            Because of the very nature of western ruling elites there is not any real urgency displayed for launching their part of the blood and treasure effort required to remove Assad and they are divided over what is the way forward anyway. But intervention to end the regime is in western interests, rather than attempt to do the impossible and just allow Syria to Balkanize with Assad left alone and peace supposedly returning; it wouldn’t. Obama is more than capable of not doing what is in the best interests of anyone but himself. He is not a good war leader and that is what has been required and IMV will continue to be required for as far into the future as concerns us.

            The feeble strategic understanding by the more liberal ruling-elites like Obama is not much cop but is at least feeble which is more than can be said for the likes of sect ‘socialists’ that the record shows got it consistently wrong; and unlike Obama have not corrected any of their errors.

            The pest sects have shown what they are capable of achieving and that is nothing positive at all. An open, honest and above board debate, and even running a site open to developing new thinking as the times require is quite beyond sects.

            Even after the many decades of realist junk policies (that all leftists opposed) had led to the great blow-back-attack that forced the strategic issues onto the wider political table, no ‘left’ micro party; sect; or cult; got it. The revolutionary transformation of the ME is a vital western proletarian interest. It is – as it unfolds – a constant exposure of the sects as quintessentially pseudoleft.

            The fact that Obama has assisted the Iraqi government, and has had his military and diplomats work with them for every day of his Presidency has produced a very curious result, and a cognitive dissonance both with him, and his more or less distant followers on the left. Barak Obama opposed liberating the Iraqi people and yet now we have to recognize that a liberated Iraq exists. Obama did not just pull the troops out and leave as anti-war groups etc wanted him to, instead the US troops left in accordance with policies that had been organized in Bush’s term.

            Senator Obama opposed the war to liberate the Iraqi peoples. President Obama had to carry out the end stage of that liberation, and yet everyone knows that if it were up to him he would have left the Iraqi peoples’ to the tender mercies of Saddam! The Obama administration is deeply infected with ‘the liberation of Iraq was a disaster’ style thinking and that is almost universally held among the ‘socialist’ sects around the world. For anyone who has grasped that the people of the world can’t leave tyranny in a whole region and it not damage us all; one further lesson becomes clear. That lesson is that all of the ‘left’ groups got it completely wrong and don’t get it still!

            Revolutionaries want revolution across the ME and far beyond and are more than happy to see the Great Satan involved where it will do some good and on the Syrian front it will!

            The Libyan revolution succeeded when it did and with the casualty mix that it had because of actually having had western bourgeois governments directly supply the ‘artillery’ that conquers. Pseudoleft thinking had young people like Binh unable to recognize the revolution and the interests of both working class and the progressive owning class in seeing an intervention by the ‘imperialist’ forces, especially the Great Satan. Mike Ely summed up the Neverland stance very well. Never never never adopt WW2 style united front politics. There used to be a mass based political trend well known for winning the debate (and the wars) in the WW2 era and another trend well known for collapsing into idiotic sects.

            Vietnam war era relatively mass based politics has been absent for more than 35years. Binh sat out promoting the broadest possible united front for the revolution in Libya till the first phase of it was actually totally over and it had dawned on him that his ‘leaders’ had got it wrong. He was involved in the pseudoleft and was playing a negative roll and changed course. Having quite spectacularly dumped his former sect membership with a recognition that the whole style of thinking is bankrupt, nevertheless the broader milieu is yet what he has gone straight back to, presumably because he still thinks that there is a progressive domestic agenda that these left and green forces of the anti-war milieu are pursuing, and that he can separate from the relatively odd mistaken foreign affairs stances that they have so clearly got so wrong. I think he will discover that this is not the case.

            As we all know the Assad regime resisted the demands made upon it to hold free and fair elections. Assad being well armed, resisted the demands by murdering the unarmed in their peaceful demonstrations using police snipers and so forth. Assad’s regime brought on a fight and will have to be overthrown by serious democratic revolutionaries and by all and any allies of those revolutionaries with the ability to fight Assad’s very powerful army! What a surprise ‘All political power grows out of the barrel of a gun.’

            Despite all the shameful dithering from Obama and lack of urgency on the part of all the other bourgeois forces involved, there is no point in declaring a terrorist organization and knowing where the terrorist organization is and then allowing it to grab hold of Chemical weapons stocks etc., OR leaving the Assad state terrorists alone to implode and see years of chaos right at the heart of the swamp as a consequence.

            Obviously Assad’s tyranny is being slowly worn down and will be defeated. The defeat will be at very great cost to the revolutionary Syrian peoples’ that western leftists fully support -despite there not being a Marxist brigade in sight. The western pseudoleft does not support this revolution.

            Running TNS in a manner that exposes sect nonsense such as what happened in the OWS sexual assault cases and what is now happening in the British SWP is fine and will quickly take one far out of the cult/sect/micro ‘party’ world that the revolutionary left that the western world is familiar with are known to exist in. If people keep doing this – in virtually any direction – it will not just lead to some further exposure of what the sects have been up to for as long as I have observed them, but a total rejection of the milieu in the manner that working people the world over always have.

            So what exactly are you weaseling on about Brian?

  • Aaron Aarons

    It seems from events in Iraq recently that the people in Iraq, mostly Sunnis, who are most supportive of the “revolutionaries” in Syria are quite unimpressed by the ‘democratic’ credentials of the present, Shia-dominated, government of Iraq that neo-cons Mr. Muldowney (patrickm) and Mr. Langer (Arthur) support. In fact, it seems they (the Iraqi Sunnis) consider that government to be quite repressive and sectarian.

    To be fair to the Iraqi government, though, it probably doesn’t have nearly the proportion of its population in prison as does the paragon of democratic virtue that put it in power and that our neo-cons want to help bring ‘democracy’ to Syria.

  • Brian S.

    Since this seems to be the Syrian thread of the moment I thought I I’d best post this here. For those looking for more in-depth information on Syria, the London School of Economics put on a full day conference on Syria with an important set of speakers on 20 September. The video of the full proceedings are now available on line: http://blogs.lse.ac.uk/mec/2012/10/01/syria-conference-the-videos/
    They consist of four panels and a total of 14 speakers, totalling just under 7 hours of viewing.
    If you want a “short course” here are my high points from the first two panels:
    1. The “must see” contribution is undoubtedly that of Suhair Atassi (who has represented the grassroots opposition in various fora and is now on the Syrian National Coalition) – perhaps more important for its political force than providing information, but crucial nonetheless: See Panel 2: 23:40 to 27:50; there’s also a very good response (put down?) byRime Allaf and Suhair Atassi to a predictable question from Jonathan Steele at c.55:00 to 62:30. (In the spirit of frankness, I should say they are rather flaky on the Kurdish question; but that is dealt with elsewhere in the conference)
    2. There is a very interesting presentation by Brigadier General Akil Hashem (retired from the Syrian army in 1989). I gather he’s been busy in the U.S. media calling for intervention, but here he gets to make a more extended analysis, and offer a fascinating history and analysis of Asad’s repressive machine (which means, of course, of the regime: Panel 1: 40:50-65:00.
    There’s also an interesting (if slightly tangential) presentation by a social scientist, Brian McQuinn, who did extended fieldwork with the Misrata militias during the Libyan conflict, and draws out some possible implications for Syria: Panel 2 38:50 to 49:00
    The keynote address (which I haven’t watched yet ) is by the grand old man of the Syrian opposition, Burhan Ghalioun.
    I’ll report back in the next few days on the other two panels, once I’ve had the chance to look at them.

  • Jaker

    Assad should just do the decent thing & go…right nowt…oh I forgot…he hasn’t a decent bone in his body. Putin/Lavrov should disappear for they’ll have to defend their own country in a month or two & by 2014 they’ll be gone. Their people are totally sick of their thick dictatorship. I’ll give them till 2014 before they’re ousted.

    So in essence…Assad has to go, one way or another, he & brother Maher have too much blood on their hands, his days are now numbered. Putin has to go & hopefully Jinping will have more sense than his predecessors & be a human being not a totalitarian. That is the prediction I leave you with. “Have a nice day”!

  • TheRedPill

    Suqoor al-Sham brigade
    Jabhat el-Nosra
    Ahrar el-Sham Brigades
    Fath el-Islam
    Suqour el-Sham Division
    Ansar Brigade
    Umma Division
    Syria Revolutionaries’ Front (SRF)
    el-Mouminoun Yusharikoun
    Fajr el-Islam
    Abdullah Azzam Brigades
    Suleiman Fighting Company

    In Aug 2012 seven new islam groups appeared
    Ansar el-Islam Gathering
    el-Habib Mustafa Division
    Sahaba Brigades
    Al-Furqan Division
    Ahfad el-Rasoul Division
    Der’el-Sham Brigades
    Hamza bin Abdulmuttalib Brigade
    Liwa el-Islam
    Al-Faruk Brigade
    Fatih Sultan Mehmet Brigade
    Khaled bin Walid Battalion

    Jan 2013
    Martys of Yarmouk
    Harakat Ahrar al-Sham
    Huthaya bin al-Yaman
    Jabhat al-Wahdet al-Tahrir al-Islamiyya
    77 Brigade

    This is the list of Islamic brigades that have sprung up as of January 2013.

    You might be addressed with more respect if you researched a little more before putting pen to paper. Or are you one of the many western media ‘consumers’ swayed by hypocritical self righteousness so prevalently exhibited by US and UK.

    Your piece is nothing more than unwarranted shallow self-righteousness festered from tirade of youtube snuff movies and nauseating oily insidious war-mongering from American and British news networks.

    I wonder if you even have the slightest inclination of how you are being manipulated by what you see and hear?

    You see, ‘narrow media’ watchers are induced by apathy to follow like sheep the western government-endorsed media line. You yourself are actually contributing to the dissonance that biased media thrives on by producing this piece that subjectively ‘pronounces’ to all who read it that what you say is irreproachable fact.

    But it isnt.

    If you have any real world view, knowledge or understanding, you would be mindful of the ‘documented’ practices of those powers that incept, coerce and piggyback so called ‘popular uprisings’. From the contrived coup for the Shah of Iran, the genocidal war inflicted upon South America countries for the stance against corporate interests, North Africa etc etc.

    Syria is not engaged in a civil war. Syria is a nation of 22 million, upwards of 1.5 million reportedly now in refugee camps. What does this number suggest? It suggests 7% of the population is affected by the conflict, maybe at worst 10%. The Syrians are an amazing pluralist secular people. As of June 2013, a NATO report gathered from activists and aid groups working on the ground relay that the majority of Syrians (whom are Sunnis), don’t want and never wanted armed conflict. So why are we here? We are here because it is being driven. When pride picks up a gun. women and children run.

    The media as always will simplify a complexity into a picture book of good vs evil for its dumbed-down, uninformed and managed consumers. Your function is to absorb what they tell you is the truth and not to question. Thereby manufacturing the consent of the self-righteous to pursue ‘the bigger picture’ which will always err towards business interests.

    Manipulation 101. Chronology is everything. Inception of root belief that frames your justice oriented comprehension.
    At the beginning of an unfolding conflict the masses will always assume any narrative that accompanies visuals of atrocities to be irreproachable fact regardless of their veracity.
    This primeval instinct is borne out of a compulsion to seek equilibrium of nature through retribution or justice oriented comprehension.

    This weakness is gift wrapped for media exploitation. Both sides know this.

    Do not be so naive. This war was engineered. Piggy-backing a bigger contrivance called the “arab spring”.

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