Tuesday, May 22, 2012

To Joshua Landis

Dear Joshua:

I am writing to express my unhappiness with Syria Comment. Since we established our group the Syrian Democratic Forum/Platform last February, the only news that was published on SC regarding our group was under the title “Two different Syrian Opposition organizations expressed their own formulations of the Kurdish question in Syria”. Although our vision of Syria as a multi-national state, from which our group’s view for the question Kurd arises, is an original one, I believe this is not the most significant contribution of our group to the political and civil life in Syria.

First, the idea of our group is a creative one. Indeed, our group is not a political organization per se. It is “a political, civil and democratic forum. It is a platform for critical appraisal, knowledge exchange and field activities”, as it has been defined in its identity statement released on Feb 18, 2012. Our group’s mission is the advancement of the Syrian society and public life at all levels, including political, intellectual and social.
Second, the plan of actions that we have set for our group is an audacious one. One of the major goals that we have set for our group is to unify the infamously fragmented Syrian opposition, as it has been stated in The Declaration of the Proceedings of the General Assembly of the Syrian Democratic Forum, released on April 17th, 2012. In this declaration, our goal to unify the opposition has been expressed as follows: “Indeed, the SDF perceives that one of its tasks is to launch a plan to unite the Syrian opposition of all spectra, accompanied by mechanisms and timetable for its implementation, through the formation of internal and external committees for cooperation and consultation. These plan and mechanisms are to be put into effect as soon as possible; with the reaffirmation that what is meant by unity of the opposition is to have a common vision, program, and political will; and taking into account that the basis for the indispensable unity of the opposition is the unity of purpose. By this purpose, we mean bringing the regime down; building a democratic civil state based on equal citizenship; clearly specifying the path leading to the future of Syria after the fall of the regime; and providing a clear vision for the new Syria. In this regard, it is the responsibility of the committee elected by the General Assembly to put this into practice.”

For all the reason mentioned-above, I invite Syria Comment to cover more actively the activities of the group. Please find attached our group’s “Identity Statement”, “Statement of Principles” and “The Declaration of the Proceedings of the General Assembly of the Syrian Democratic Forum”, and a video that represent an interview conducted with me by the Egyptian satellite TV channel, Nile TV, in which I explain our plans to unify the opposition.

Best regards


P.S. This was an e-mail sent to Joshua Landis on May 6, 2012.

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

The Declaration of the Proceedings of the General Assembly of the Syrian Democratic Forum

In response to the call of freedom, for which our Syrian people pay the highest price; due to the sensitivity of the historical moment and the magnitude of the risks posed by the insistence of the regime on murdering, torturing and ignoring the people's right to gain their freedom and self-determination; because of the serious prospects opened up by the uncontrolled use of arms and the seriousness of the civil and sectarian polarization; and considering the complexities of the situation at internal and international levels; the General Assembly of the Syrian Democratic Forum (SDF) was held in Cairo from the 13th to the 16th of April, 2012; the conferees have discussed the mechanisms for supporting the revolution to topple the regime and establish a democratic civil state; a state that is based on equal citizenship and freedoms.

 In the conference sessions, more than 200 activists from different intellectual and political tendencies, social strata, and backgrounds, have discussed their joint and collective national concern that consists of the achievement of the revolution goals, the protection of the civil peace, and the avoidance of the disintegration of the state and society. Besides, out of appreciation for the efforts of the different Syrian opposition forces, the identity of the Forum has been confirmed as an arena for building vision and ideas regarding all issues that concern the revolution and the society, and as a bridge for building consensus among the various opposition forces. Therefore, the SDF has reiterated its willingness to undertake the effort required to coordinate among the different opposition forces’ strategies to overthrow the regime and build the aspired state; a state that is based on equal citizenship, sovereignty of law and freedoms.

Indeed, the SDF perceives that one of its tasks is to launch a plan to unite the Syrian opposition of all spectra, accompanied by mechanisms and timetable for its implementation, through the formation of internal and external committees for cooperation and consultation. These plan and mechanisms are to be put into effect as soon as possible; with the reaffirmation that what is meant by unity of the opposition is to have a common vision, program, and political will; and taking into account that the basis for the indispensable unity of the opposition is the unity of purpose. By this purpose, we mean bringing the regime down; building a democratic civil state based on equal citizenship; clearly specifying the path leading to the future of Syria after the fall of the regime; and providing a clear vision for the new Syria. In this regard, it is the responsibility of the committee elected by the General Assembly to put this into practice.

Also, the participants have diagnosed the situation on the ground and the nature of internal and external factors affecting the mobilization, particularly at the diplomatic and media levels. The conferees have felt the duty to support the revolution; the Syrian people’s right for self-defense; the necessity to guarantee the right for peaceful demonstrations, and protect and encourage them; and the promotion of the means of civil resistance to overthrow the regime. Further the conferees have insisted on the need to control the armament under one political, military and media authority that controls them; determine their appropriate use and assume the responsibility of the consequences of this use; and will be able to withdraw them after the fall of the regime or once their use become dangerous on the Syrian society and state. Since, in reality, there are armed groups that differ from one area of Syria to another in their composition, behavior, practices on the ground, and references; and because not all of them are not under the name of the Free Syrian Army (FSA); it is important to do not attribute all the wrong practices to the officers and soldiers who, by their will to preserve the blood of their people, defected from the units designated by the regime to conduct acts of torture and killing; those soldiers and officers merit all commend and help. Further, it is important to emphasize on the role of those officers and soldiers in the protection of peaceful demonstrations and the defense of innocent civilians, on the basis of the right of self-defense guaranteed in all international laws and conventions.  Hence, the Forum considers the FSA as a matter of fact phenomenon; and its attitude toward it arises from the Forum view of the peacefulness of the revolution as a strategic option. Consequently, the SDF supports the FSA as far as the latter supports the peaceful revolution, falls within its framework and does not contradict it. Nevertheless, the Forum does not consider the regular army personnel who did not get involved in the Syrian bloodshed as the regime’s army, but the Syrian state’s army that has been stolen by the regime; further, it is the revolution task to restore this army as a whole and restore its patriotic role. Thus, the struggle is not between two armies, but between the tyranny and the revolution, which we call on all the Syrian people, civilians and military personnel, to join.

Plus, the conferees have felt the need to strengthen the national cohesion among all components of Syrian society and stressed on the unity of Syrian land and people; further, what ensures this unity is a state of equal citizenship, in which all citizens are equal in all rights and duties regardless of their ethnic or religious backgrounds or any other similar characteristic. This equal citizenship requires the removal of all the consequences of all the racist and discriminatory policies exerted during the past era and the compensation of those affected by them. In this context, the participants have discussed the situation of the Kurdish problem in Syria, and stressed that a democratic and pluralistic national system is the human rights and political guarantee for equality among all citizens. Further, they have emphasized that the constitution of Syria to come should be derived from its pluralistic historical and social reality and based on the fact that Syria is a multinational state, thus recognizing that the full equality of all nations in the rights and duties; hence, the SDF finds that the solution of the national question of the Kurdish people must be in accordance with the international covenants and conventions of human and group rights.

Based on the understanding that the freedom and independence of Syria is achieved through the freedom and well-being of its citizens, the participants have confirmed that the liberation of the occupied Syrian territory is a national duty; no one, under any circumstances, is entitled to trade or waive it.
With regard to the reality of the mobilization on the ground, the conferees have discussed the mechanisms to support and enhance its steadfastness, taking into consideration the factors that hamper and impede it. Thus, it has been emphasized to reject the sectarian practices that are being carried out in some Syrian areas; of which the regime have been working actively to expand the framework since the beginning of the revolution, in order to discredit it and abort its popular support, consequently threatening the fate of the revolution, the society and the country. The participants have felt that the variations in the foundations of the revolutionary mobilization do not negate the existence of a national condition encompassing all Syrians; conversely, this regional specificity is providing support to the revolution. In this context, the conferees see the need to strengthen the means of civil resistance, and to propagate and not to limit them to the case of demonstrations. This requires the diffusion of the civil resistance concepts and means, and the provision of its tools, to re-establish trust in it as a guaranteed option to the victory of the revolution and the achievement of its objective after the fall of the regime.

Emphasizing that the revolution objectives are not systematically achieved with the fall of the regime; and building a new system requires a politically, socially, economically, culturally and developmentally inclusive actions; the participants have confirmed the importance of developing a program for the transition that takes into account the impairments caused by the long-lasting authoritarian regime and the new ones generated in the course of the revolution. In addition, the conferees believe that the exit from the security situation, which is paralyzing the country, and the withdrawal of the armed manifestations are the first step to restore normal life. Furthermore, there are other steps and measures that should be undertaken in this context as a ground for national reconciliation, of which the most important are compensating the victims; guaranteeing the necessary conditions for the return of refugees and displaced persons to normal living conditions; and conducting fair trials. Besides, that should be accompanied by political measures that require the formation of a transitional government and the development of a constitutional list that determines the powers and tasks set for the transitional phase, and other issues agreed upon by the political forces.

In order to make the transition initiation possible, it has been stressed on the importance of activating all available means for expanding the demonstrations and increasing the demonstrators’ number, thus enabling them to exercise more pressure on the regime. This pressure should be applied in harmony with diplomatic and political manoeuvres that benefit, as much as possible, from the conflicting international interests and attitudes vis-à-vis the Syrian revolution; in addition, this should be done in cooperation with NGOs and international civil society forces, on the basis of putting the external relationships in the benefits of the internal interest, not vice versa, in order to tighten the noose on the regime and force its main figures to step down. In this context, it is important for the Syrian opposition to interact positively with the Arab League and the Kofi Annan initiatives; and to manage the external relationships with putting in mind the Syrian people’s interests and their aspirations for freedom, decent living and sovereignty over their territory. In the event that the regime closes the openings in front of the Syrian revolution, pushing the country to the brink of civil war; the opposition and revolution forces should do everything they can to prevent this impasse; and manage the relationship with the outside world with the intention to maintain civil peace and reduce losses that may result from the foreign intervention; toward which, the policies of the regime are pushing.

Also, the participants have underlined the importance of media and cultural activities interacting with revolutionary mobilization on the ground; moreover, they emphasized the importance of the restoration of the civilized and human image of Syrians, distorted intentionally or unintentionally by some media outlets by forging in the public awareness a certain impression about the revolution and the Syrians. Furthermore, it is imperative to do not overlook the primary role of the regime in this regard, which has had a negative impact on the position of an important portion of Syrians as regard to the revolution.

The SDF, also, has stressed on contribution of youth and women to civil revolutionary mobilization and their leading role in all fields of the Syrian Revolution, including political, cultural and media. Moreover, the Forum sees Syria to come as a nation characterized by equal partnership between men and women in rights and duties, and a non-discriminatory place, which is based upon the convention of human rights.
As a result of the fruitful interaction within the framework of the proceedings of the SDF General Assembly and the following works, the Forum aspires to develop an action plan, based on a set of papers, documents, projects and programs, concerning the most important political and media issues, and also regarding the status of the revolutionary mobilization and the means to support it. Plus, this plan would include proposals for its application on the ground, to help achieve the Syrian people’s goals of freedom and democracy, and to support the building of the aspired Syrian state, which would be dominated by the values of freedom, justice, equality and respect for human rights.

In these circumstances, which the country is enduring, the SDF supports every initiative that calls and works for the return of exiled Syrians and refugees to participate in the revolution of their people inside the country. Furthermore, the Forum delegates its elected committee to contribute to the development of a mechanism to achieve this objective, with the guarantees from Arab and international communities, and to seek to hold the next conference of the Forum in Damascus.
Long live Syria, a homeland for all Syrians
Victory to the revolution of freedom and dignity
Glory and eternity to the martyrs of freedom
Freedom for all detainees

Cairo, April 17th, 2012

Saturday, March 3, 2012

The Syrian Democratic Forum-Press Release

A number of Syrian intellectual and political personalities and some young people from the revolutionary and civil movements held a meeting in Cairo on February 16-18, 2012. The participants discussed the developments of the Syrian Revolution and the ways to promote the mobilization inside Syria to get the Revolution to achieve its goals of freedom and dignity. They have established a forum called "The Syrian Democratic Forum". In the Forum’s Identity Statement, they have defined the Forum as “a political, civil and democratic forum. It is a platform for critical appraisal, knowledge exchange and field activities. The forum is open to all individuals, groups and forces, involved in the Syrian Revolution and to those expected to make up their minds as regard the pursuit of radical change in Syria in order to build a civil and democratic state based on citizenship and freedom”. Furthermore, the Forum’s goal is “to enable the Syrian people to overthrow the current regime with all its symbols by all means of civil resistance”.

The meeting ended by the election of a liaison committee, whose goal is to organize a general assembly within a month. Moreover, this committee has the task to invite intellectuals, politicians and people from various aspects and components of the Syrian society to attend this meeting. Of note, during this general assembly, the Forum will adopt its political statement.

The committee is formed of 13 persons: 7 of them from senior opposition figures and 6 from the youth of the Revolution. Their names are as follows:
Aref Dalila
Fayez Sara
Hazem Nahar
Nasser Alghazali
Khalaf Ali Khalaf
Samir Aita
Ahmad Almahameed
Ahmad Almasri
Rasha Qass Yousef
Maisa Saleh
Motasem Alsioufi
Mahmoud Alkin

The Syrian Democratic Forum-Identity Statement

The Syrian Democratic Forum is a political, civil and democratic forum. It is a platform for critical appraisal, knowledge exchange and field activities. The forum is open to all individuals, groups and forces, involved in the Syrian Revolution and to those expected to make up their minds as regard the pursuit of radical change in Syria in order to build a civil and democratic state based on citizenship and freedom.

The Forum is part of the Syrian Revolution committed to the principles and values of freedom, dignity and social justice, ​​set by the Syrian people as objectives for its revolution. Furthermore, it is a bridge for interaction and communication between the different forces involved in the revolution to mobilize and unite their efforts; further, to provide field and political insights and suggestions to promote the revolution and accomplish its objectives; also, to participate in drawing a picture of the transition period and the future of Syria.

The Forum seeks, first, to enable our people to overthrow the current regime with all its symbols by all means of civil resistance; second, to dismantle its established structure in a way that averts the reproduction of tyranny in another form; third, to reinforce the values, principles and practices of democracy to preserve the freedom of the nation and the citizens; fourth, to disseminate the principles of citizenship and  the commitment to the International Bill of Human Rights and the international charters relating thereto; fifth, to advance and activate civil society organizations, and stimulate community-based initiatives to ensure the participation of citizens in public affairs with respect for diversity and differences.

The Forum seeks to keep pace with the revolution and the political developments surrounding it, through direct field participation and the proposal of clear initiatives and political positions that it considers to suit the changing situations, in order to meet the aspirations of the revolting Syrian people.

The Forum is open to all Syrians and those considered as having similar status who share with it its principles and objectives. Further, the forum does not see itself as an extension to the existing gatherings, bodies and forces, rather as an original contributory to the revolution.

The Syrian Democratic Forum-Statement of Principles

The revolution of freedom and dignity that our people raged against the despotic regime enters its 12th months. It is not weakened by the regime’s systematic brutal repression and relentless efforts to deviate it from its peaceful and nationally-inclusive values by inciting sectarian sentiments.

The struggle of our people and its national and societal forces has accumulated a lot of progress on the road to change, leading to the context that created by the Arab spring and launched the revolutions that originated from it. Thus, the Syrians were not belated to declare their revolution and to initiate a number of political and field organizations to support the revolution and ensure its continuation. However, many of these organizations did not keep pace with the progress of the public mobilization, through effective political discourse and practices. Thus, the formations representing the revolution floundered; furthermore, the accumulation of negative practices is threatening to deviate the revolution from achieving its true objectives. On the other hand, the Syrian people have shown heroic courage, not deterred by thousands of deaths, besides the scores of detainees, the persons pursued and the refugees.

For all the raisons mentioned above and for other raisons similar in nature, a number of Syrian personalities from different political and intellectual inclinations have convened and launched the initiative to form a national, civil and political forum with the name “The Syrian Democratic Forum”. The idea of this Forum has arisen from the fact that building the future of Syria requires an effective political discourse that leads the accomplishment of the Revolution’s objectives. Therefore, this gathering intend to be an open structure in which different intellectual, political, field-oriented streams, contributing to  the Revolution and its noble values, meet. The Syrian Democratic Forum is founded on the following principles:

  • The Syrian Democratic Forum is an integral part of the Syrian people’s revolution, which constitutes the most important event in the contemporary and modern history of Syria. The Forum strives to enable the revolting people to overthrow the regime with all its symbols and to achieve the revolution’s goals of freedom, justice and dignity, in order to build a pluralistic and democratic state; a state that is based on the rule of law, the full and equal citizenship, regardless of gender, race and religion, and the preservation of all public and private freedoms.

  • Emphasizing that the goal of the revolution is to build a state founded on a civil constitution that provides for the alternation in power and the separation between the judicial, executive and legislative powers. Further, this constitution will limit the role of the military and security forces to protecting the country and its territorial integrity and unity. Furthermore, it will subject these forces to the people’s authority and scrutiny.

  • Emphasizing on the need to unify opposition forces and the creation of political alliances that help carry out major common missions on the road to achieve the desired change.

  • Emphasizing that the protection of civilians and peaceful demonstrators and those affected by the disastrous situation is the duty of the state; shall not be exempt from accountability or provided immunity anyone neglect or impede it. Further, they are the duty of all citizens regardless of their opinions, inclinations and fears.

  • Demanding the military and security forces to immediately stop the implementation of the orders of the current authority, which have put them in the middle of a conflict with their own people. Further, confirming that their natural place is on the side of the people supporting its revolution, not suppressing it.

  • Confirming the risk of resorting to arms outside the framework of self-defense and the protection of peaceful popular demonstrations. Send a tribute to the members of the military and security forces who refused to kill their brothers and, therefore, so often gave their lives as a price for that refusal.

  • Facing all sectarian practices and behaviors detrimental to the civil peace and the unity of the society, which, consequently, deviate the revolution from achieving its goals. Further, emphasizing on not to be drawn to what the regime is trying to push for; further, maintain the unity of the fate of all Syrians, in accordance to the slogan of  the revolting people stating "the Syrian people is one”.

  • Emphasizing the Syrians’ need for Arab and international support in the face of the killing and brutal repression raged by the regime against them and the destruction of their property and livelihoods in areas that are invaded; as it is granted by the charters of human rights and the resolutions issued by the legitimate international organization regarding the responsibility to protect civilians. That to be done in a way that does not harm the higher interests of the Syrian people, integrity of its territory and its sovereignty on this territory. Further, emphasizing the importance of the Arab League initiative as one of the options to resolve the crisis and get rid of the regime.

  • Emphasize that the liberation of the occupied Syrian territory and the stand with the Palestinian people's right to self-determination is not a bargaining chip within the realm of the Syrian Revolution, leaving to the Syrian people and their representatives to determine the appropriate means to do so.

  • Seeking to bring about a change in the unjustified attitude of the countries that are still turning a blind eye on options for the security / military policies of the regime. Plus, working to gain more support of the international community, including states, diplomatic bodies, civil society organizations and human rights groups, for struggle of Syrians for freedom, dignity, democracy and a better future for their children and their country.

Victory to our revolution, and glory and eternity to the martyrs of freedom

Friday, October 28, 2011

Immaturity as an origin of evil: Bashar al-Assad as a case study

In my answer to the National Initiative for Change in Syria, which was based on the premise that Bashar would resign shortly after the start of the demonstrations, I explained to the signatories that Bashar would not resign easily and the war with the regime would take many months. I based my judgement on my personal assessment of the real situation in Syria and also on my personal knowledge of Bashar’s personality, which is mainly characterized by his immaturity.  The question that many may ask is “how psychological immaturity can lead a person to lose his or her own conscience, committing crimes and consequently destroying himself and many people around him?”.

One important characteristic of mature people is that they can understand and deal with complex social realities. These complexities arise mainly from the deepness of human psyche and the complexity of human relationships. Thus, mature people can understand and fulfill their own real needs, which are necessary for them to grow and flourish, and other people’s real needs, which are important for these people to fulfill their own potentials.

Also, mature people have good understanding for the laws that govern human relationships and interactions, thus they lead life events to the best outcome for the people around them and for themselves. Consequently, they learn how to be decisive and acquire the sense of empowerment. Indeed, as human beings we develop these faculties in the laboratory of life starting from early days of our lives. If for any reason we do not live an active life characterized by rich experiences that we can learn from, we can’t acquire these potentials. Further, all these capacities define, indeed, our conscience. Thus, they make us able to recognize benevolent from malevolent acts or, in other words, distinguish good from evil. Therefore, mature people are characterized by developed conscience, while immature people lack this precious faculty.

I knew Bashar when I was at medical school. At that time, Bashar appeared nice and modest. Further, he looked happy or rather he had the habit of joking all the time. This character provided people around him a sense of comfort. That was because they did not have to be formal, although they were in the presence of the president’s son. On the other hand, when I now look back at his behavior with an inquiring mind, I can see the early signs of his immaturity. Indeed, his relationships with people were superficial; he had a lot of people around him, but none of them was close friend. However, he needed real relationships in order to learn about his own self and about human beings around him or, in other word, to mature and grow psychologically. Further, his jokes were some kind of superficial fun rather than interesting jokes that arise from actual situations or reflect wit and intelligence. In fact, Bashar was disconnected from the reality of his own self and the world around him; further, his nice and fun personality was a mere escapade from the real world.

I formulated my interpretation of Bashar’s personality from the ideas that I acquired about him through studying the course of his presidency and linking them to the old memories that I have of him. Since I recounted above these old memories, let me concentrate now on the course of his presidency. Bashar started his presidency with his famous first inaugural speech.  Indeed, in this speech, he promised a lot of reforms. However, ten years later he came to say that he was unable to carry out any of these reforms, because of hard circumstances. However, when we look deeply at these excuses, we find none of them is credible. Furthermore, we find that all the roots for his ailed governance started in the first five years of his presidency, during which he enjoyed full encouragement from the international community and support from the Syrian people. In fact, Bashar was not able to do these reforms, because he has an inherent handicap in his personality that arises from his indecisiveness and his pervasive sense of powerlessness.

Another early event in Bashar’s presidency was the Damascus Spring. When Bashar permitted the discussion forums to start, he did not understand the people’s need for freedom of expression and intellectual exchanges. He did not understand the effect of many decades of suppression of free speech. He did not understand that he and the people around him lacked the intellectual acumen that permits to them to keep up with the ideas that may originate from these forums. He thought that he was like an adult providing candies to small children; therefore, they should be happy and grateful. Thus, when these forums propagated like mushrooms and the regime’s “attack dogs” were not able to keep up with the ideas arising from these forums, Bashar closed the forums abruptly and even put some participants in prison. Thereupon, he did not only create disappointment among the Syrian intellectuals, but also pain and bitterness.

Another big mistake that Bashar did early in his presidency was mixing up the state business with the family business. The archetype of this conduct was offering the monopoly of the mobile phone business to his cousin (Rami Makhlouf), thus provoking the traditional Damascene business community by breaking the implicit agreement that Hafez al-Assad made with them. This agreement that implied that the traditional Damascene bourgeoisie would relinquish any power claim in exchange for security and freedom of doing business. All that resulted in putting Riad Saif and Maamoun al-Homsi in prison on false charges, consequently inciting pain and bitterness among the traditional Damascene business class.

Indeed, all the above-mentioned examples reflect Bashar’s inability to understand and deal with complex realities. However, I found that the most shocking example of his negative emotions and disconnection with the reality was his first speech after the uprising started. During this discourse, Bashar was smiling all the time, while people were dying in the street. This smile was an indication that Bashar has lost all form of conscience. Further, it reminded me his naïve immature smile when he was young and how it has transformed into a silly wicked smile when he got older, showing how immaturity lead into evil.

In fact, the above-mentioned conduct demonstrates how complex situations, such as the presidency, could shatter the psychological underpinning of immature naïve people, apparently modest and nice, transforming them into ruthless rulers, committing atrocious crimes. Further, it makes us question the wisdom of the father, Hafez al-Assad, who, may be by wishing being eternal and despite the advices that were offered to him to do not do so, bequeathed his throne to his inapt son, Bashar, casting a curse upon him.

Monday, August 15, 2011

Bashar and the Mounting Pressure

The pressure that the Arabic countries and the international community have exerted on the Syrian regime last week is the precursor of a continuously mounting pressure that will culminate shortly by UN Security Council decision declaring that the regime has committed crimes against humanity and submitting an indictment of its leaders to the International Criminal Court, and thus leading to the regime’s downfall. These developments indicate that Bashar lacks completely the sense of the reality, resilience and shrewdness.

Although I did not agree with the way with which Hafez Assad governed Syria, I found that his survival instinct is better than that his son has. This survival instinct was not possible without having some kind of sense of the reality, resilience and shrewdness. When Salah Jedid was irritating Israel by firing artilleries from the Golan Heights onto the Galilee Valley, which was one of the reasons for 1976 war, Hafez Assad understood that was a dangerous strategy. Hafez Assad stopped these immature acts. When Turkey put >30000 soldiers on the Syrian border in 1998, Hafez Assad did not move any. He did not panic. However, he understood that he should hand over Ojlan. As can be seen from both examples, Hafez Assad had certain sense of the reality, resilience and shrewdness.

On the other hand, Hafez al-Assad showed a deficient vision for Syria. He viewed Syria as a means for his vain glory. He viewed Syria as a regional power not for the sake of Syria and its people, but for the sake of his own self-image. Indeed, he destroyed the Syrian economy and social cohesiveness in order to consolidate his power internally and achieve the image that he conceived for himself externally. What Hafez Assad did not understand was that no regional or international power can be real or persists for long time with getting its strategic depth from the creativity of its individuals, the cohesiveness of its society and the strength of its economy.

Needless to say that Bashar does not only lack all kind of vision, but also all qualities required for survival. Indeed, he has no sense of the reality; he does not know his strengths and weaknesses; he does not know what provokes other people's anger; he does not understand what could be done what could not. He did not understand that his strength was the educated-man image that he tried to bestow upon himself early on in his presidency. Instead, he transformed himself into ruthless ruler persecuting his political opponents and killing his own people, which revolted claiming dignity and freedom. He did not know that killing unarmed demonstrators would bring upon him the indignation of the international community. He did not know that killing people in the month of Ramadan will take all the cover that the Arabic governments has provided to him till now. Further, Bashar has no resilience: once he takes a line of action he is too stiff; he is not able to change or retreat in the right moment; his discourse is always the same; if people do not respond favorably to his words, it means for him that they are the ones who do not understand (not his words are not the right words). When the regime decided to give the Syrian people a lesson by blockading and ransacking Dara’a, the Syrian people did not kneel. Instead of changing this failing policy, Bashar continued to bombard and seize more cities. When he described the demonstrators as infiltrators in his first speech, the Syrian people mocked of that description. Instead of changing that repulsive language, Bashar ended in his third speech by describing the Syrians as microbes.

Indeed, for all the reasons mentioned above, Bashar lacks social intelligence and shrewdness; in other words, he does not understand the signs of the times. Therefore, he interprets wrongly the meaning of the explicit and implicit messages that he receive and the significance of historical events that he experiences, making him, unlike his father, completely deficient of the survival instinct and leading him to utter political and personal failures, thus putting in danger not only his presidency but also his life as a free man and the future of his kids, who do not merit to be named the children of a criminal.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Scenario of the Syrian Revolution

Some try to find reference for the Syrian uprising in the Iranian Green (2009-2010), the Tunisian (2011), the Egyptian (2011) or the Libyan (2011) revolutions. However, I see what is happening in Syria is similar to what happened in Iran 1977-1979 rather than to the above-mentioned revolutions.

First, the situation in Syria is different from the Iranian Green Revolution. Indeed, the current Syrian uprising is a popular movement that aims to completely change the regime, whereas the Green Revolution in Iran (2009-2010) was an elite protest within the same regime that aimed to contest the election results in support for a less conservative candidate. Therefore, the Iranian regime was able to curb it easily. Furthermore, the Syrian situation is different from the Tunisian and the Egyptian ones. In fact, the Tunisian regime did not have the military support from the beginning and, in Egypt, Hosni Mubarak lost the military support early on due to the American pressure on the military. In this respect, there is one important similarity between Syria and Libya where the army special units are in the hands of the “royal families” in both countries (Maher and Khamis, respectively), thereby guaranteeing significant support for both regimes. Unfortunately, the revolution in Libya transformed rapidly from a popular uprising into some kind of a civil war with a major tribal component. In contrast, the situation in Syria remained till now by excellence a popular uprising with clear peaceful claims of freedom and democracy without any degradation into a civil war (which might occur along the sectarian division). This happened, because of the political maturity of the Syrian people and the insistence of the Facebook organizers on the peaceful nature of this revolution. Importantly, there is another aspect in which the situation in Syria differs from the situations in the above-mentioned country is the lack of the enthusiasm among the International Community for removing the Syrian regime, due to the uncertainty as regard to the political consequences of its fall.

In my opinion the Syrian revolution is similar in many aspects to the Iranian one of 1977-1979. The Iranian revolution started by small size protests that had grown up progressively over 15 months (October 1977-Deceber 1987) to involve 10% of the population. Indeed, only few hundreds of people participated in the early demonstrations in October 1977. However, in summer 1987, after the idea of overthrowing the regime had become viable in the mind of many Iranians, the demonstrators’ number grew to several hundreds of thousands and the protests became ubiquitous in almost every Iranian city, including Tehran (however in a lesser scale). Further, the demonstrations reached their climax with 6-9 million demonstrator (10% of the population), including 2 million in Teheran alone, in December 1987. Of course, all these developments were not without significant brutal crackdown by the SAVAC (the Shah’s secret police), resulting in thousands of casualties among the demonstrators. During this time, the Shah’s support was gradually declining among the institutions that were profiting from his regime, particularly the army and the security forces. The Shah himself was progressively getting exhausted and emotionally drained; thus, when then the American Secretary of the Treasury W. Michael Blumenthal visited him in the autumn of 1978, he reported to his administration:"You've got a zombie out there”. The American administration was slowly admitting that the revolution is unstoppable (as expressed by a telegram, with the title “Thinking the Unthinkable”, sent by then the U.S. ambassador to Iran, William H. Sullivan to the State Department). However, the events on the ground were fast developing and the US administration was not able to prepare an alternative for the Shah regime. All that ended by the Shah abdicating his throne and negotiating his departure in humiliating conditions without an alternative being prepared.

I see the Syrian situation is similar to the Iranian one in many respects. First, the demonstrations started in a peripheral city (Dara’a) and have gradually increased in number and spread all over the country, somewhat sparing for now the two major cities (Aleppo and Damascus). This is because of the major security grip on these two cities. However, many indications point out that the idea of overthrowing the regime started to become viable in the mind of the Damascenes and the Aleppines, leading me to believe that they will prevail shortly over the security grip and the demonstrations will pervade every quarter of these two cities. Further, the support for the regime among its pillars, including the army, the Ba'ath Party members and the Civil Servants, is clearly eroding, too. The regime’s administration is confused and erratic. However, it is pretending (or has the illusion) to be in control, but the situation on the ground is, indeed, far being a close image to that. The president appears to be exhausted, withdrawn and pathetic. Certainly, the he is feeling deep disappointment and frustration, mainly because his self-delusion of being a competent, beloved and admired president has been severely broken. Further, the president is surely under extreme pressures, not the least the pressure from his wife, who likely started to feel betrayed and being used by the president and his regime (the President’s family). We should not forget the pressure from his other family members who are likely accusing him of being weak and indecisive. Lastly and most importantly, it is the economy and progressive increase in the intensity of demonstrations that are making the heavier weight on the president.

For all these reasons, I see that current Syrian condition is more similar to the Iranian situation (1977-1979) rather than to the circumstances surrounding the Iranian (2009-2010), Tunisian, Egyptian and Libyan revolutions. Indeed, it is a standoff between the people and the regime that will take few more months. However, all the events on the ground indicate that the people is likely the winner. Nonetheless, the length of time till the people achieves its final victory, and the extent of damage on the country’s infra-structure and the death toll, will depend on the regime’s success in inciting sectarian clashes, the capacity of the opposition to select a viable political leadership and the efficacy of the American ambassador in his latest efforts.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

The Final Declaration of National Salvage Congress

Under the slogan "For civil, democratic and pluralistic Syria ", the National Salvage Congress was held  in Istanbul on July 16, 2011 AD in the presence of national personalities and activists, representatives of the youth and the coordination committees of Syrian revolution and  representative of the national action factions. However, due to the fact that a number of Martyrs have been killed in the neighborhood of Qaboun (Damascus) at the site reserved for the conference that was to be held in Damascus to coincide with the Istanbul one, the Damascus Conference was cancelled. 

The participants started the meeting with a minute of silence and the recitation of Al-Fatiha, in tribute to the martyrs’ souls.  Moreover, the attendees condemned the massacre committed by the regime in the neighborhood of Qaboun, calling for the establishment of International Investigation Committee on this massacre and the previous massacres committed by the regime, and expressed their appreciation for the sacrifices carried out by the youth of the revolution. Further, the participants commended the officers and members of the military who have aligned themselves with the choice of the people for freedom and dignity.

In addition, all the attendees concurred that the killing, the displacement of people and the seize of cities and villages carried out by the regime, made it lose its popular and political legitimacy. Plus, they stressed the right of the people in the revolution to achieve their legitimate demands for freedom and dignity and to ensure a bright future for civil and democratic Syria that is for all its children; and they considered that the National Salvage as a step in this direction and consistent with the sacrifices offered by the Syrian people. 

 The Conference called upon the Syrian people and their national forces to achieve the following objectives: 
1 – The escalation of the peaceful democratic struggle to which all the factions and spectra of the Syrian opposition forces have contributed through long years of struggle and work with all opposition parties to topple the Syrian regime and develop a national political alternative, rejecting any foreign military intervention. 
2 - The peaceful transfer of power to a transitional national government that will disintegrate the security state, establish constitutional life and organize parliamentary and presidential elections. 
3 – The establishment of a pluralistic democratic civil state based on citizenship that originates from a modern constitution that embodies the Syrians’ ambition for shaping a free and safe future and the emphasis on the importance of the role of youth and women in it. 
4 – The emphasis on the full equality of all the sons and daughters of the Syrian people, the respect for their religious and ethnic particularities, the peaceful coexistence and national cooperation between all the Muslim and Christian sects of the Syrian people and the participation of all ethnic groups, including Kurds, Assyrians and Turkish, and all other minorities, in the building of a civil, democratic and pluralistic state that is based on the ideas of social contract and alternation of power and guarantees the rights of freedom and dignity for all.
5 - The emphasis on the full equality of all the sons and daughters of the Syrian people, the respect for their religious and ethnic particularities and the peaceful coexistence and national cooperation between all the Muslim and Christian sects of the Syrian people.

Finally, the conferees in Istanbul have established a national commission made up of 25 members, from across the spectrum of the opposition, and authorized to elect an Executive Office that will consist of 11 members; further, the participants in Damascus will elect 50 members for the National Commission and 13 members for the Executive Office.

The members of the National Commission elected in Istanbul are:
1. Najib Ghadhbian
2. Christina Abraham
3. Adib al-Shishakli
4. Iyas al-Maleh
5. Muhamed Sirmini
6. Eid Abassi
7. Fateh al-Rawi
8. Ahmad al-Jaborri
9. Hamdi Othman
10. Farhad Ahmad
11. Marah al-Buka’i
12. Hassan Hashimi
13. Khalid Khoja
14. Moteea Al-Botein
15. Ali Auzturkman
16. Faraj Hammod al-Faraj
17. Mahmmod al-Faisal
18. Ommar al-Shwaf
19. Jamal Al-Wadi
20. Ahmad al-Asa’ad
21. Mahmmod al-Dughim
22. Marwan Da’as
23. Mariam al-Jalabi
24. Jamal al-Ward
25. Ibrahim al-Hariri

What did the opposition achieve by the “National Salvage Congress”?

To a large extent the “National Salvage Congress” was a success. Through this conference the opposition, and consequently the Syrian revolution, has been able to achieve many objectives.

First, the opposition exposed the hypocrisy of the regime. The regime promised reforms. The “president” announced that he was “cancelling” the state of emergency. However, when the opposition decided to hold a meeting concomitantly in Damascus and Istanbul, the regime response was so violent, killing more than 24 persons in front of the hall in which the Damascus section of meeting was supposed to be held. This response revealed the real face of the regime and exposed its hypocrisy to the Syrian people and the International community. Till recently the American Administration had a small glimmer of hope that the regime could be faithful with its promised reforms, but after this massacre this glimmer of hope has surely completely faded.

Second, the meeting was an excellent political exercise for the opposition in which they proposed conflicting ideas, discussed with respect and open mind and reached compromises and consensus. This was a rare scene in Syrian politics. The Syrian opposition has infamously known for its division due to personal and ideological differences. In this meeting, the opposition showed us that it can transcend its trifling personal conflicts and it can overcome its destructive ideological rigidity, when the interest of the country requires that. For long time, the Syrian regime played on these differences to paralyze the opposition; today, the opposition pulled that card out from the hands of the vicious regime. For long time, the Syrian opposition brought to itself the ridicule and distrust of the international community (as clearly shown in the Wikileaks documents); today the opposition redeemed itself. For long time, the opposition made us worry about its narrow mind and fragmented condition; today, the opposition calmed and exalted our concerned mind.

Lastly and most importantly, the opposition has put, in this meeting, a plan of action to carry out the political fight against the regime. Although this plan still primitive, it is an important step in the right direction. Since the Syrian revolution started four month ago the development on the ground has been rapidly progressing, with additional cities and larger number of people involved every week. However, the various political solutions proposed came unviable or timid at best. In this meeting, the opposition with a united voice elected a “council of national salvation”, which will actively conduct the political fight at the national and international scenes, to bring the regime down. By far, this is the most mature and workable solution for the current Syrian crisis.

In my opinion the “National Salvage Congress” has succeeded to a great measure. However, it is important to see the extent to which the opposition can be effective in its fight with the Assad regime. Further, it is important to see whether the international community and the Syrian people would perceive the unified, active and pragmatic opposition as a viable alternative to the dying regime.