Sunday, October 25, 2015

Add more lies, and stir

From left, Turkey's Minister of Foreign Affairs, Feridun Sinirlioglu, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, Saudi Arabia's Minister of Foreign Affairs Arabia Adel al-Jubeir and Russia's Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov during a meeting in Vienna, Oct. 23, 2015.

DDGD – October 24, 2015

Dear colleagues and subscribers, I can definitely use your help at this stage in order to keep managing my new blog and newsletter and to expand the scope of my coverage to include some field work as well. Please use the contact form to reach out to me with suggestions and/or pledges.

Today’s Post is brought to you by: Testosteronics Anonymous, with a Freudian Twist: we would have been the baddest motherfuckers to walk this earth, if only the mothers we fucked were always yours.

Editorial Comment

What credibility do they have those who negotiate with us while subjecting us to their bombs and death machines? Those who want us to fight an alleged common enemy with whom they do regular business, and while they themselves are busy fighting only us?

Like so many Arabs, I have spent my entire life hearing arguments about how this side is worse than the other, why there could be no compromise, why this time is different, and this particular moment is a turning point, only to see reality get ever uglier, and the goals for which we are supposedly fighting disappear further and further beyond the horizon.

I have long grown sick and tired of the lies we tell ourselves, I have grown disgusted with emotional reactions no matter how momentary and justified they might be, and I am appalled by the cynicism that underlies it all.

If we really believe that hate is destructive then we should avoid hating. If we seriously believe that racism is wrong, then, we should stop being racist ourselves. If we are truly struggling for justice than our methods should also be just. And if your enemies are pushing you into a corner hoping to turn you into monsters, then, your focus should be on protecting your humanity. What humanity have we left when we continue to celebrate death, even under the romanticized name of martyrdom and the “they-started-it” justification?

No, an eye-for-an eye does not turn the entire world blind. The world has to be blind first, not to mention mute and dumb, to believe in such a foolish notion. 

 Briefly Noted

The campaign to secure the release of jailed Syrian activist Bassel Al-Khartabil, whose early contributions to the nonviolent protest movement on the electronic front played a critical role in connecting like-minded activists around the country and the region, garnering international attention to their activities is picking up steam again after years of quiet behind the door outreach to the Syrian authorities. At the heart of the renewed interest is Khartabil’s recent focus on generating 3D models of Palmyra, currently being laid to waste by the Islamic State, which could guide future restoration efforts. To aid in this matter, MIT Media Lab just offered Mr. Khartabil a research position in its Center for Civic Media, in the hope that this offer will convince the Assad government to release him. Here’s to hoping.

How Syrians are dying. A poignant reminder from New York Times.

Russia/Syria: Possibly Unlawful Russian Air Strikes: Entire Extended Family Killed in Homs. With Russia’s high tolerance for “collateral damage,” war crimes were bound to occur, and have been since the beginning of the strikes. But in what jurisdiction will the Russians ever be brought to trial?

Report: Ahmadinejad's bodyguard killed in Syria. Let’s bear in mind here that Ahmadinjed lives in anticipation of the arrival of the Awaited Mahdi, and that any of Iran’s troops, military advisers, and Shia militias seem motivated by such millenarian beliefs. Indeed, we have two kinds of millennialism in the Syrian battlefield.

Al-Qaeda leader in Syria is killed after being shot in the head during Aleppo gun battle with Assad forces in a 'devastating blow' to terror group. This might indeed be significant because it took place in the midst of a tumultuous period. Al-Qaeda in Syria is not as well organized as the Islamic States in this regard, and such losses at this time can hurt.

Palestinian Anger in Jerusalem and West Bank Gets a Violent Soundtrack. Songs, videos and social media will continue to be used by extremists as a way to hijack causes and recruit the most vulnerable as well as the most psychopathic elements. We should not let these tactics blind us to the fact that there are many Palestinians out there who would listen to reason, and who nothing more than respect for their basic rights.

Buoyed by election, Canadians roll out welcome mat to Syrian refugees. This is great news. Hopefully, more and more nations will open up their hearts and hearths.


Others, like me, not so much – see below for my answers.

Q: Do you think Kerry's meetings hold any prospect for being successful? Haven't we been here before? Is a political solution still possible?

A: It is very difficult to expect much from this particular round. Mr. Kerry had earlier noted that the administration might be willing to live with having Assad be part of an interim arrangement, thus abandoning another red line earlier adopted by the administration regarding the conflict in Syria. But even this concession may not be enough at this stage. Putin seems to be interested in a larger deal, one that legitimates his involvement in Syria, which seems to be a longer-term project than previously thought. Putin might also be interested in linking developments in Syria with those in eastern Ukraine.

Q: How would you describe the Obama administration's Syria strategy so far? What would you change to make it more effective?

A: If there was any strategy, it seems focused on limiting any potential involvement in Syria, and everywhere else, because the Obama administration deemed interventionism itself as the problem, even if to preempt violence, as would have been the case in the early months of the Syrian Revolution, and even if for humanitarian reasons, as is the case now.

There are a variety of steps that can be described in order to build a strategy that is actually focused on ending the suffering of the Syrian people. The first is: get a new president [i.e., in the White House], one not blinded by his own ideological imperatives. Once we have that, we can discuss the other steps. For now, the trick is to keep enough Syrians in Syria and enough habitable Syria until a new president assumes office.

Q: How does Russia's campaign of airstrikes and increased political backing of Assad change the calculus for a political resolution?

A: Even before its campaign, there was enough Russian support for Assad, and enough dithering by the Obama administration to make Russia a necessary partner in any serious political process in Syria. With this campaign - and what seems to be a desire to build an even larger military and economic presence along the coastal areas, and perhaps Damascus and Aleppo - a kind of Russo-Iranian mandate seems to be emerging over the Western parts of Syria, one that the Russians and Iranians want the U.S., Turkey and Saudi Arabia to accept.

The opposition might have to live with something along these lines, but so long as the Russians and Iranians insist on having Assad stay as president, no matter how much you limit his authority, it might be impossible to get such a deal, and the proxy war in Syria will continue. One way or another, Assad has to be eased out, or unceremoniously disposed of. His departure may not usher in democracy, but it would at least the mark the end of an era and the beginning of a new one. Syrians need that in order to make sense of all what had transpired earlier.

Q: What are the chances that the Syria conflict escalates as a proxy war between the US and Russia?

A: There is a good chance of that, as an administration pressured to be tough but without having to intervene practically has no other option.

Syrian human rights activist: ​​"Bashar could be part of the transitional arrangements”
Moskosky Komsomolets

(One of my answers at least made it, albeit partially. The full Q&A is rendered below, with the part that made it into MK highlighted in red):

1) Russia's inclusion in the fight against the IS moved on the back burner the problem of the civil war in Syria lasting for more than four years. In your opinion, is peaceful settlement in country achievable, taking into account the ethnic and confessional situation?

I don’t agree with your initial assessment. I think the civil war is intensifying, and it’s the fight against IS that is put on the backburner. According to an analysis by Reuters, Russia has so far focused the majority of its strikes, four fifth to be specific, against non-IS targets. Be that at it may, yes, peace is always possible provided the key effective figures in the civil war behave more pragmatically than ideologically.

2) Is Somali-related script or Libya-related script possible in Syria? Or we can talk about the Lebanese scenario?

All these scenarios are possible depending on how the conflict is managed by the different parties involved. The best scenario for Syrians involves the implementation of the Geneva I Agreement, which is still possible, provided cool heads prevail on all sides.

3) The division of the country - can it be the solution for the crisis?

A complete official division might actually back fire, but a federal or even confederal solution might be the better move in this regard, and could indeed be part of the solution. 

4) Russia supports Bashar al-Assad, but it's not a secret that he expresses the aspirations of the one part of Syrian society - in particular, the Alawites. What can be done in this situation?

There is no denying that Bashar Al-Assad enjoys some support on the ground, not only from the Alawites, but from many Christians and Druze, and some Sunnis and Kurds as well. Politically speaking, he is still the head of the Baath Party and its political allies, and this is how, constitutionally speaking, he continues to exercise power at this stage.

The great majority of Assad’s supporters, irrespective of their communal and national background, tends to be members and supporters of the Baath and allied parties. This is how Assad should be approached at this stage, that is, as the representative of this particular political alliance, rather than a [particular community.

The same also applies to the opposition, which has formed a variety of political movements, alliances and coalitions, and while these political fronts are predominantly Sunni and Arab, they are not exclusively Sunni and Arab.

As a step towards a political solution, it is now advisable to being framing things in political rather than communal terms.

5) The Western world has in recent months stepped away from the tough rhetoric - immediate failure Assad from power, - but can there be in the future "peaceful departure" of the Syrian president?

This is where pragmatism is needed. Few months ago, during an opposition conference at Astana, I proposed that Assad can indeed be part of a transitional arrangement, his crimes against humanity notwithstanding, not president, but as the representative of the political alliance to which I referred earlier. In this way, he and the opposition can nominate their representatives to a national unity government charged with supervising the transitional process, including putting together a new constitution through which the country can be run on a federal or confederal basis. Parliamentary and presidential elections can then follow signaling the end of the transitional period and allowing for new faces to emerge as leaders.

This arrangement will allow Syrians to start a new chapter, and the losses that have been incurred over the last five years can somehow be justified and accepted. When the same old faces insist on continuing to run the show, even after all these losses and all this devastation, this is usually a recipe for prolonging not ending conflicts. Even the conflict in Chechnya did not end without making some drastic changes in the political hierarchy from top to bottom.

Without making this concession, the opposition in Syria is practically being asked to negotiate the terms of its surrender not its participation in a future national unity government. I believe this is impractical and a nonstarter.

Mr. Putin needs to understand that he can support the regime as represented by state institutions, not a particular figure or set of figures. Making this concession will create common grounds with the Obama administration which has consistently voiced its concern over the potential collapse of state institutions. For Mr. Putin to reduce his support to the regime to the issue of maintaining Assad in power is unwise and self-defeating, and will surely prolong the Syrian civil war.

Indeed, the current advantage enjoyed by Mr. Putin and his Iranian allies in Syria should be used to press for such a reasonable compromise; overplaying this advantage shows how little one understands the nature of the Syrian battlefield where any advantage enjoyed by any side of the conflict since its beginning has proven to be short-lived, as conditions on the grounds remain in constant flux. There are still a lot of players out there willing to pour arms into this conflict nullifying any advantage held by the other side.  Reaching an end to this war requires far more pragmatism and far less hubris and machoism.

6) Assad - the embodiment of the present Syrian government, but not the main part of it: it is a fact, an experienced public and managerial personnel’s among the Alawites, who, in case of the president's departure, obviously, also abandoned their posts. Is it dangerous for the Syrian state?

Despite the overrepresentation of the Alawites in the civilian public sector, in reality, the “experienced public and managerial personnel” have always hailed from a Sunni and Christian background. As such, the departure of the Alawites will hurt them not the state. As for the security and military apparatuses, I believe that with the help of Iranian advisers and under their supervision, these institutions have been restructured in such a way as to prevent their collapse, and to ensure their continued loyalty at least to the regime, if not to Assad personally.

But, this whole scenario could be avoided anyway, if one adopts the kind of concession to which I referred above, and if one adhered to the principles outlined in Geneva I.

 The Surreal Adventures of Pu Bear

Russian President Mr. Vladimir Vladimirovich Putin went into the Vienna meeting on October 23 with an abundance of confidence and a certain je se sais shit on the brain:

“Syria, despite the dramatic situation there now, might become a model for partnership for the sake of our joint interests, for the resolution of our problems, which concern everyone, for working out an effective system of risk management,” Mr. Putin said, seemingly laying out a broader plan for global cooperation with the United States and the West in general.

“We had this chance once after the end of the Cold War; unfortunately, we didn’t use it,” Mr. Putin told the annual gathering of academics and other Russia experts known as the Valdai Discussion Club. Another chance was missed during the terrorist upsurge in the early 2000s, he said.

Considering what was on some people’s brain, however, nothing surprising or highfalutin came out of the meeting. A promise to work with the Free Syrian Army, accepted by Assad himself, according to Mr. Putin, would have been something to be sure, had Russian airstrikes not been concentrating on the very positions of this very entity and its affiliates. Early presidential elections, in which Assad may or may not run, depending on whom you ask, were nothing new. In short, the whole thing was another testosterone orgy for the addict. On a more hopeful note, any testosterone spent outside the region of the Middle East these days does constitute a positive thing. 

As for Putin’s motives, as I argued earlier he simply needs to keep Assad as president for a while longer in order to legitimize Russian presence and hegemony in parts of Syria. In the meantime, he will push for a UNSC resolution that lends further legitimacy to Russian presence as part of a package deal for peace in the country. In a sense, this will constitute a reinvention of the mandate system. It seems it's time for Russia and its Iranian ally to try their hand at that Sykes-Picot thing. It may not have worked wonders the first time around, at least not for the peoples of the region, but who knows what a new management can achieve, albeit the results for the peoples of the region will likely be much worse. The profits in such deadly games, if any, are not for the people, but for the managerial class. It’s quite strange how the international left remains blind to this, and so focused on America.  

True, objectively, Russia may not be in a better position today than it was five years ago, and Putin may not be the strategic genius some make him out to be, or as he himself might imagine. But, no matter how rational the actors involved happen to be political decisions are not always made on the basis of objective facts, there are always hidden assumptions, personal calculations, and inborn desires and prejudices, not to mention ideological predilections at play whose role might be far more important in determining the nature of the decisions taken. So long as Russia’s moves are deemed as a legitimate expression of power by so many people around the world, and America’s are deemed as expressions of weakness and the facing of an empire, people will base their decisions vis-à-vis these two countries on the basis of these perceptions. That’s where the danger lies.

And when Russia implodes, perhaps in the next few years by of way a reenactment of 1917 Revolution to commemorate its 100th anniversary, what will happen to its already imploding “colonies?” Implosions within implosions are even harder to manage, or to profit from, especially for nations.

Meanwhile, the Kerry is so very... insignificant, and the U.S. is still fighting the Islamic State with the tip of its spear, or so we are told. 

 Quote of the Day

I became insane, with long intervals of horrible sanity.  Edgar Allan Poe

 Tweets of the Day
 Video(s) of the Day

 Artistic Delirium
By Syrian Painter Majd Kurdieh


  1. Testing 1,2,3.

    Hello old friend. Sorry but I find the comment format a bit awkward...

    Your world is a far bigger mess than when we last discussed it. The pattern in the Muslim world remains..the bad gets booted out or challenged...but only by the much worse.

    It's me Howie...I can't figure out the comment as...not much of a techno dude...certainly not a social media guy.

  2. Hi there Howie, as you can see the comment section is indeed working, and you're doing fine. Can't say the same for our part of the world, or our current world leaders.


Please stick to the topic(s) being discussed in this particular entry. Hate speech will not be tolerated.