Wednesday, October 7, 2015

A Measure of Sobriety

DDGD – October 8, 2015

Editorial Comment

Some wants to see Syria become a quagmire for Russia. I don’t. Syria was a quagmire of corruption before the revolution, and has become a quagmire for everything now. More of the same, and more cooks vying for the title of Top Chef, is not a solution. Those who care for Syrians, and Syria, should realize that the last thing we want is more mayhem. What we need is an end to this foolishness, to the proxy wars within proxy wars, to the scandalous show of indifference and moral apathy, the pretense of toothlessness and helplessness in the face of unwanted challenges, and to the endless show of machoism, bravado, and insanity. We need a measure of sobriety. Not idealism, sobriety, in order to deal with reality using the tools that are needed, not the ones we prefer, to end the suffering of the Syrian people.

Articles & Commentary

In my article “Russia’s Holy War in Syria,” I made a comment about the role of Bashar Al-Assad at this stage which some find useful. I am copying it below for quick access:

While Iran is a junior partner, Bashar Al-Assad, the erstwhile strongman of the country, has become a mere pawn, though he seems to be quite unaware of this turnaround. Assad belongs to that miserable category of so-called leaders who can see victory in the mere act of holding on to power at any and all cost. Worse, Assad can see victory simply in maintaining the illusion of authority. He has always been such a delusional figure. His late father, Hafiz, had given himself the interesting epithet of “the Leader, the Necessity.” Now the prodigal son has managed to embody this epithet. He is indeed “the leader, the necessity,” though not for his people, for whom he has never been and could never be such a person, but for Putin, his “ally,” and he shall remain so until Putin deems otherwise. Does Bashar see this? Does he understand the implications? Does he even care?

The most likely answer to all these questions is: No. We are dealing with a delusional man, after all, a narcissist who continues to lecture, pontificate, and warn of dire consequences as though he has a hand in steering the various occurrences around him and is not a mere pawn in an ongoing global intrigue. He is a petty man who is incapable of knowing how petty he is, a common thug who takes himself for a hero, a tiny frog who thinks himself a bull, a total moron who fancies himself a genius. Who but such a delusional maniacal tragicomical character could preside over the destruction of his own country and the total decimation of his own people yet still have the gall to speak of victory? In this respect, and this respect only, Bashar Al-Assad is incomparable.

This article by David Hurst, while carrying the same title, reaches the different conclusion that Russia is heading towards a quagmire in Syria.

For his part, my friend, Christoph Reuter, of Der Spiegel, thinks that, with Russia intervening his behalf, and Iran busy building its “state within a state” in Syria, Assad is now in

a slightly more comfortable position. He can now, to a limited degree, play off his two protective powers against each other and continue his campaign against his own country. It is one that he won't win, but he also won't lose it in the immediate future.

I think that Christoph gives Assad too much credit, albeit hesitantly, and Putin too little. I think that Assad was manipulated into believing that he is the one who invited Russia to come. In reality, however, this was Putin’s decision all along. The moment was ripe, the ambition was there, and Putin acted. An arrangement with Iran on how to govern Syria will be finalized in time, and Assad will have his part, for a while, provided he knows his place. Any attempt at manipulation on his part will end up sealing his fate. Putin doesn’t strike me as the kind of person who would have too much tolerance for bullshitters, or that he will be willing to move into a situation if he did not know that he is the one in charge.  


According to the Local Coordination Committees in Syria, Russia just suffered its first confirmed casualties:

#Hama Severe clashes between the rebels and Assad's forces at Hama northern and eastern suburbs fronts, led to killing a number of Assad's members, and news about killing a Russian officer and four soldiers and they were moved by a helicopter from #Mork front, in addition to destroying 8 tanks, 4 BMB vehicles, 2 troop carriers and 57 gun. Assad's forces still trying to advance towards #Al-Atshan village

With an oil discovery in the Golan Heights, this is one part of Syria that is definitely not coming back. To think how close we got to getting back in the late 1990s, and how many opportunities for jump-starting the peace-talks, Bashar Al-Assad wasted…! But those who live by conflicts will perish in conflicts.


While so many European officials seem to be concerned about terrorists posing as refugees, a security worry of much immediate import could involve an influx by shabbiha elements, that is pro-Assad thugs, masquerading as legitimate refugees. These shabbiha, many of whom might indeed be guilty of war crimes, could either be running away from their past, or on a mission to spy on refugees or even create terrorist networks, just like they did in Syria, Iraq and Lebanon. Syrian and Iranian are pretty adroit in this regard. Let’s not forget here that they have been doing this for decades.

Some activists are already using social media to spread lists of names* that people claim to be shabbiha. This is a dangerous phenomenon, however, intentions and justifications notwithstanding, and could easily lead to vigilantism and violence. People should be discouraged from doing this, and one way to achieve this is for local authorities in cities, towns and neighborhoods where refugees are being settled should distribute leaflets to refugees, including translations in Arabic and Kurdish, encouraging them to share any names or suspicions they might have with the police, and warning them against the dangers of taking action on their own.

* I have no idea about the truthfulness of the claims made on this link. I only copy it to make my point. In no way do I encourage or condone vigilantism.

Quote of the Day: Happy Haunting Mr. President

“…remembrance without resolve is a hollow gesture.  Awareness without action changes nothing…” Remarks by President Obama at the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum (April 23, 2012)

The No-Fly Zone: comments and policies that just make no sense (i.e. they don’t fly)

Kuwait Airways guilty of discrimination for not flying Israelis. Despite decades of haphazard enforcement, the boycott Israel and Israeli products movement has yet to benefit the Palestinians, or any Arab country for that matter, or truly hurt Israel. On the contrary, Israel today boasts the most advanced economy in the Middle East and the strongest military establishment. And she’s a nuclear power to boost, an exporter of natural gas (to Egypt), and about to become oil-independent thanks to its recent find in the Occupied Golan. So, some Israelis were left stranded as a result of this boycott movement, it’s Kuwait Airlines that was hurt at the end. If we truly care about Palestinian rights, and about peace in the Holy Land, we need to find different approaches to help address the lingering challenges, and stop shooting ourselves in the foot.

Video(s) of the Day

There is something quote charming about Noujain Mustaffa, and quite heartwarming. She could indeed be a Syrian Kurdish Malala. Her story in three chapters below:

Artistic Delirium

"The Burning" by Ammar Abdulhamid from "Reflections on Liberty and Revolution Series - a digital deconstruction of Delacroix's famous Oeuvre "Liberty leading the people."

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