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Is Syria approaching meltdown.
June 7, 2011 12:55 AM   Subscribe

Syria vows to retaliate after attack on police and security forces in the North West kills 120
However there is a big gap between the media in Syria and what is happening in the street.
It is reported that blogger Amina Abdallah (Previously) has been kidnapped.
The Portrait of a tortured, murdered and mutilated 13 year old boy has become a rallying point for the uprising.
The Syrian regime has raised ghosts that will not go away indicating Alawite hit squads protected by the army.
There are cracks in the House of Assad and as is becoming normal in these situations communication with the outside world is fractured.
There is also the danger of the unrest spreading into Lebanon where the black-market price of an AK-47 rifle is now said to be $1,500.
posted by adamvasco (77 comments total) 11 users marked this as a favorite

 
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posted by Sebmojo at 1:38 AM on June 7, 2011


$1,500 for an assault weapon! What is this world coming too?

From a country where assault rifles are banned, how much does an AR-15 sting citizens in the free west?
posted by Samuel Farrow at 1:41 AM on June 7, 2011


Despite Assad's brutal attempts to quash the revolt - and a sad lack of practical or even moral support from the outside world - large numbers of people are still willing to risk their lives for liberty in Syria. Even Assad's recent attempt to divert world and domestic opinion by paying 'protesters' $1,000 a time to provoke the Israelis is having no effect. He's an evil thug - almost as bad as his unspeakable father - and I can only hope that his war against the Syrian people fails and they win their freedom at last. Too many dictators die snug in their palaces, this is one I'd like to see suspended from a tree.
posted by joannemullen at 2:10 AM on June 7, 2011 [1 favorite]


I hope he gets suspended from a tree as well. And I hope we don't send a single soldier over there to do it. Despite the bold and confident assurances of the gung ho brigade here on Metafilter and elsewhere, Libya has turned into a giant expensive ethically dubious fiasco that in no way resembles the original supposed mission. Intervening in Syria would be even worse.
posted by Justinian at 2:29 AM on June 7, 2011 [2 favorites]


joannemullen: Even Assad's recent attempt to divert world and domestic opinion by paying 'protesters' $1,000 a time to provoke the Israelis is having no effect.

Any evidence to back that up?
posted by nfg at 2:29 AM on June 7, 2011


Yeah, this is what Assad is doing with those pesky protesters.
posted by cj_ at 2:32 AM on June 7, 2011 [1 favorite]


(Uh, warning, don't view that if you are adverse to graphic violence. Sorry.)
posted by cj_ at 2:34 AM on June 7, 2011


It is reported that blogger Amina Abdallah (Previously) has been kidnapped.

In spite of all the bloodshed, this upsets me the most.
posted by yifes at 2:36 AM on June 7, 2011 [1 favorite]


Samuel Farrow: "how much does an AR-15 sting citizens in the free west?"

$629, according to this website. I have no idea if that's Recommended Retail Price, though, being from a country where such things don't really exist outside, ya know, the armed forces.
posted by Philby at 2:50 AM on June 7, 2011 [1 favorite]


If you want to separate the legal and political issues from the basic manufacturing cost, look to sporting rifles rather than military arms. US$1500 will get you a very handsome sporting rifle indeed; something you can pass on to your children. Above that price, you'll find you're paying for things like gold inlays and historic brand names (or perhaps fancy optics).

On the military side, I expect $1500 will buy you the very best, top-of-the-line modern assault rifle with all the usual accessories, including optics (probably not night vision, though). HK's newest hot shit, whatever that may be. $1500 seems a little high, in fact.

$1500 for an AK-47 is crazy. You don't pay that unless you're desperate.
posted by ryanrs at 3:11 AM on June 7, 2011 [2 favorites]


The price of Kalashnikovs is high because anyone who has a gun is keeping it and not selling except if they can make a massive profit (they used to be $100)

That means they're worried about instability and conflict. They want to be ready for it.
posted by knapah at 3:59 AM on June 7, 2011




The tragedy of Bashar Assad is that he is an ophthalmologist who was forced to become a dictator in order to continue his father's legacy. I don't think he is the one truly in charge of his country. It is his Alawite clansmen who run the military and state police who are the real culprits. I bet Assad wishes daily that he remained in London.
posted by Renoroc at 4:53 AM on June 7, 2011 [1 favorite]


The tragedy of Bashar Assad is that he is an ophthalmologist who was forced to become a dictator in order to continue his father's legacy. I don't think he is the one truly in charge of his country. It is his Alawite clansmen who run the military and state police who are the real culprits. I bet Assad wishes daily that he remained in London.

What do you base that on? From my perspective, people who are given the reins to power tend to get used to the situation pretty quickly and often crave more. And, honestly, "forced to become a dictator" is interesting as a playful oxymoron but I don't think it says much about what has actually happened with Assad.
posted by (Arsenio) Hall and (Warren) Oates at 5:09 AM on June 7, 2011 [2 favorites]


To draw out your premise further: if Assad were not actually the one in charge, then it should be an easy fix, right? Those shadowy, anonymous "Alawite clansmen" would simply remove him in a coup for the good of the country and replace him with another figurehead, no? I'm no scholar of Syrian history or anything but nothing I've read recently suggests that Assad is not fully in charge.
posted by (Arsenio) Hall and (Warren) Oates at 5:15 AM on June 7, 2011


I bet Assad wishes daily that he remained in London.

Assad's wife may be in London already. If she is, she is being sheltered. If she is being sheltered, it is likely not just by family and friends.

There is a school of thought that Assad may actually be someone or other's intelligence asset. And that his attempts to modernise Syria have come to nowt because any attempt to do so would result in the military simply taking over. Like any dictatorship, it is more than just the figurehead, behind whom there are large numbers of vested interests.

Bear in mind, of course, that one of the byproducts of the uprising in [secular, non-aligned with Al Qaeda] Syria is a surge of interest in getting Israel out of the Golan Heights and the possible gearing up of Hizbollah over in Lebanon. For all that Syria's dictatorship is a travesty of democracy and human rights, in the eyes of certain Western intelligence agencies it is not necessarily the worst case scenario.
posted by MuffinMan at 5:21 AM on June 7, 2011 [3 favorites]


Syria vows to retaliate after attack on police and security forces in the North West kills 120.

What actually happened in Jisr al-Shughour is disputed. BBC News has this helpful story on conflicting accounts from the city.

And for an overall assessment of the deteriorating situation in Syria, I'd also recommend this editorial from the Wall Street Journal.
posted by BobbyVan at 5:27 AM on June 7, 2011


I bet Assad wishes daily that he remained in London.

I don't know. It looks like, until recently, the Assad family was basking in the limelight of power and fame.

And the fact that Assad is a trained ophthalmologist is relevant how? You mean he didn't go to dictator school?
posted by BobbyVan at 6:02 AM on June 7, 2011 [1 favorite]


It's interesting, BobbyVan, that the Vogue article fawning all over the Assads seems to have fallen down the memory hole.
posted by orrnyereg at 6:27 AM on June 7, 2011


An AR-15 in Norway will set you back around 2,000 USD (a Bushmaster branded AR-15 clone). It's not legal for hunting, and you need to complete a safety course and enroll in a rifle club with a "practical rifle" program to buy one. BTW, we have a very low murder rate, about 1/8th of the US.
posted by Harald74 at 6:28 AM on June 7, 2011


Even Assad's recent attempt to divert world and domestic opinion by paying 'protesters' $1,000 a time to provoke the Israelis is having no effect.

Oh, I'd say Israel was successfully provoked.
posted by Trurl at 6:29 AM on June 7, 2011


And the fact that Assad is a trained ophthalmologist is relevant how? You mean he didn't go to dictator school?

It means he did not spend his early years being groomed for power, and has no love for power-for-power's-sake.
posted by ocschwar at 6:35 AM on June 7, 2011 [1 favorite]


It's interesting, BobbyVan, that the Vogue article fawning all over the Assads seems to have fallen down the memory hole.

It sure did.
posted by BobbyVan at 6:36 AM on June 7, 2011


Even in the US, people don't use AR-15s for murder. They're expensive and too big to easily conceal. They're rarely used for hunting, either (the small bullet is marginal for deer). AR-15s are mostly used for target shooting (the most common shooting sport).
posted by ryanrs at 6:39 AM on June 7, 2011


Or, they could come to Louisiana and get one with a shotgun barrel attached to it from my brother-in-law for $2,685.00 plus tax.
posted by domo at 7:14 AM on June 7, 2011 [1 favorite]


It means he did not spend his early years being groomed for power, and has no love for power-for-power's-sake.

The first part I get, and it's what I was sarcastically criticizing with my "dictator school" comment. The second part doesn't follow logically. You could argue that he wasn't a power-hungry tyrant during his young adulthood, but I don't see how that is relevant to the conversation.

To put a finer point on it, it's morally repulsive to imply that Assad is some sort of tragic figure while the Syrian people are being murdered by the hundreds, indiscriminately.
posted by BobbyVan at 7:30 AM on June 7, 2011


To put a finer point on it, it's morally repulsive to imply that Assad is some sort of tragic figure while the Syrian people are being murdered by the hundreds, indiscriminately.

Would it be less repulsive if Assad ended up murdered by the same people killing the civilians?
posted by MuffinMan at 7:47 AM on June 7, 2011 [1 favorite]


None of the reporters I spoke to today believe Syrian reports of a massacre. Opposition leaders argue that the claim is being manufactured by the government in order to justify escalating security measures. Some claim that security forces are killing military deserters.
posted by adamvasco at 7:48 AM on June 7, 2011


Would it be less repulsive if Assad ended up murdered by the same people killing the civilians?

No. He's made one too many deals with devils to earn any sympathy from me.

He might have started out as Fredo Corleone, but he's become Michael. If that's tragic in your book, I'll concede the point. But to lament Bashar's personal fall from grace seems a curious expenditure of pathos during this time of bloodshed and murder in Syria.
posted by BobbyVan at 8:04 AM on June 7, 2011


To my surprise, BobbyVan is saying things I agree with. Assad, Jr. looked a little scared and more than a little unprepared in those early days after his dad died, but if he hadn't consolidated power and learned how to wield it, he would have been replaced. Nor has there ever been enough in the way of democratic reforms to claim that he's somehow a tragic figure pulled down by the weight of political necessity.

(Remember, George was considered the lesser member of the family, no politician compared with Jeb, who was seen as the wearer of the mantle. Guess who ended up President.)

Anyway, it's turning into another bloody battle royale in Syria. Thus far it does not seem to have a regional or (other than Alawite) tribal characteristic, which I suspect is probably a good thing in terms of the long-term reform trendline. But we may have to go through a real revolution to get there.
posted by dhartung at 8:25 AM on June 7, 2011


It should be noted that the $650-$3000 AR-15s posted (and $400-$3000 AK-47s) are semi-auto only: you have to pull and release the trigger to fire each bullet. An AK-47 purchased in Libya would be fully automatic: hold down the trigger and the gun will keep firing until you release the trigger or run out of ammunition. Most legal, fully automatic versions of ARs and AKs that can be purchased by individuals in the U.S. cost between $10,000-20,000, because it has been impossible to register new automatic weapons since 1986. They also require background checks and licensing. You can convert semi-automatic rifles to unregistered full automatic fire to varying degrees of difficulty and effectiveness, but it is a major felony.
posted by theclaw at 8:51 AM on June 7, 2011


"Despite Assad's brutal attempts to quash the revolt - and a sad lack of practical or even moral support from the outside world..."

What are you talking about? The Russians have expressed unequivocal support for Assad!
posted by Xoebe at 8:53 AM on June 7, 2011


I keep forgetting that people are willing to fight and suffer and die for the same freedom and stability that I take as a given in my life every day. Flippant as it sounds, I sincerely hope that the people of Syria will one day also be able to live in a country where the a la minute political topic is a grainy photo of a barely visible wang pressing through some grey jersey, instead of government-sanctioned murder, torture and kidnapping.
posted by superquail at 8:55 AM on June 7, 2011 [7 favorites]


Ah, the fruits of democracy!
posted by ryanrs at 8:58 AM on June 7, 2011


All of these regimes are brutal, but Syria seems exceptionally so -- at least in terms of the descriptions I've heard of their torture dungeons. E.g. this description, particularly the part about the "German Chair", continues to haunt me.

Does anyone have any insight on why Syria seems to be the worst of the worst in terms of such atrocities?
posted by treepour at 9:37 AM on June 7, 2011


Meanwhile, in another country rocked by the Arab Spring: Bahraini doctors and nurses who treated injured protesters face trial in Gulf kingdom
posted by homunculus at 9:42 AM on June 7, 2011


Or, they could come to Louisiana and get one with a shotgun barrel attached to it from my brother-in-law for $2,685.00 plus tax.

What is this I don't even



I never realized the strong parallels between politics, guns, and the human centipede.
posted by pickinganameismuchharderthanihadanticipated at 10:42 AM on June 7, 2011


One of my father's close co-workers in the L.A. Special Risks Insurance business in the '70s was named Assad, and little kid me actually asked him if he was related to Syria's President-for-Life (back then the current ruler's dad). Yes, he said, he was a second cousin, safely away from the family politics but he held out hope (as many did) that the son and heir would be different. If he's still alive (he'd be in his 80s), Mr. Assad would be disappointed.

The Arab Spring has certainly become tornado season.
posted by oneswellfoop at 11:27 AM on June 7, 2011


And the fact that Assad is a trained ophthalmologist is relevant how? You mean he didn't go to dictator school?
Bashar al-Assad was born in Damascus, on 11 September 1965, the son of Aniseh (née Makhluf) and Hafez al-Assad. Initially Bashar had few political aspirations. His father had been grooming Bashar's older brother, Basil al-Assad, to be the future president. Bashar studied ophthalmology at Damascus University 1988 and arrived in London in 1992 to continue his studies. He was recalled in 1994 to join the Syrian army after Basil's death in an automobile accident. Bashar entered the military academy at Homs, north of Damascus, following the death of Basil, and was propelled through the ranks to become a colonel in January 1999. The accident made Bashar his father's new heir apparent. When the elder Assad died in 2000, Bashar was appointed leader of the Baath-Party and the Army
So, what would you do if you unexpectedly became King of Syria, where the likely consequence of loss of power is your death? Now, the easy answer is that you refuse the position. But, what if you felt like you could make a difference for your country? I have no idea whether the story of Bashar al-Assad stands as tragedy, but the inability to accept the possibility is a weakness on your part. How many times has anyone in their life thought: if only I were King?
posted by ennui.bz at 1:01 PM on June 7, 2011


So, what would you do if you unexpectedly became King of Syria, where the likely consequence of loss of power is your death?

I'd probably take my bazillion dollars and live a life of leisure in London, New York, or Los Angeles. Is there some reason he had to stay in Syria and, you know, start murdering people?
posted by Justinian at 1:05 PM on June 7, 2011 [3 favorites]


"Pity the poor Assad" - something nobody said, until now
posted by (Arsenio) Hall and (Warren) Oates at 1:14 PM on June 7, 2011


So, what would you do if you unexpectedly became King of Syria, where the likely consequence of loss of power is your death? Now, the easy answer is that you refuse the position. But, what if you felt like you could make a difference for your country? I have no idea whether the story of Bashar al-Assad stands as tragedy, but the inability to accept the possibility is a weakness on your part. How many times has anyone in their life thought: if only I were King?

Wow, I really wasn't prepared for the Cersei Lannister/Game of Thrones argument. ("When you play the game of thrones, you win or you die. There is no middle ground.").

Kidding aside, I really find it curious why, in a thread about a country melting down with 1000+ dead, many more wounded, and untold numbers hustled into dark prisons and brutally tortured as I write this sentence... why we're being asked to feel sympathy for that country's dictator. If you think my lack of appreciation for Assad's "tragedy" is weakness, I shudder to think what strength looks like to you.
posted by BobbyVan at 1:53 PM on June 7, 2011 [1 favorite]


More on the detention of Amina Arraf from the NYTimes "The Lede" blog.

I really hope she survives this, and I hope the same for the other protesters. I am so moved by their bravery, I wish there was something I could do.
posted by longdaysjourney at 1:59 PM on June 7, 2011 [1 favorite]



I really hope she survives this, and I hope the same for the other protesters. I am so moved by their bravery, I wish there was something I could do.


I emailed every email at the Syrian embassy I could find, on the theory that if she's being held by someone who is directly responsible to the regime they may be less likely to kill her the bigger the public outcry is. If they're freelance paramilitaries or "will no one rid me of this troublesome priest" types, though--.

This makes me feel foolish, because what about all the people who aren't internet-famous who are being tortured and murdered? What about the people who are not in a media hotspot who are being tortured and murdered? None of them get any help, it's difficult to help them even if you try, and people try to help and then they give up or move on to something else. But still.

I hope that when all this shakes out I can remember my awareness that at this very moment, real time, someone is being held and tortured - and that this is always true every moment of every day, and that this will keep me from being so politically lazy.
posted by Frowner at 2:05 PM on June 7, 2011 [3 favorites]


Is there some reason he had to stay in Syria and, you know, start murdering people?

Power is the strongest drug of all.
posted by Trurl at 2:08 PM on June 7, 2011


I hope he gets suspended from a tree as well. And I hope we don't send a single soldier over there to do it.

Your second wish is granted. Western nations will not intervene in Syria, and the revolution will be crushed, like in Iran and Bahrain. Tens of thousands will suffer horrific torture and death. (I'm not saying there is an easy solution here, but without military force on their side, the protesters will surely be cut to ribbons.)

Despite the bold and confident assurances of the gung ho brigade here on Metafilter and elsewhere, Libya has turned into a giant expensive ethically dubious fiasco that in no way resembles the original supposed mission.

On the contrary, Libya has been a notable success. Many thousands of lives and a revolution were saved, as promised, with almost no boots on the ground. Gaddafi is all but defeated -- even Russia has given up on him, while China starts to hedge its bad bet.
posted by metaplectic at 2:14 PM on June 7, 2011


This is the Free Amina Abdullah facebook page.

Since she is an American citizen, born in Virginia, then pressuring the US Government might be more effective than pressuring the Syrian one, though both should be done.
posted by Rumple at 2:18 PM on June 7, 2011 [3 favorites]


What really happened in Jisr al-Shughour?; the BBC compares the different versions of events.
Fares Braizat, a Middle East analyst, told al-Jazeera I think the regime has for the past weeks been trying to turn this into a sectarian war.
posted by adamvasco at 2:42 PM on June 7, 2011




I may have been influenced by the fact that he was trained as a doctor and thought that would make him resistant to carry out atrocities since doctors are taught the finer points of ethics. I can't see him throwing that all away in a casual manner in order to become Cobra Commander all of a sudden. Part of me thinks he is as much a prisoner as his people.
posted by Renoroc at 4:56 PM on June 7, 2011


I'm not saying there is an easy solution here, but without military force on their side, the protesters will surely be cut to ribbons.

Exactly as happened in Egypt, Tunisia and Yemen. Oh wait, it didn't. I think barring a major intervention by Iran or some kind of incident with Israel, Syria's government falls within 30 days.
posted by empath at 5:00 PM on June 7, 2011


A touring DJ I know told me that Damascus has one of the best party scenes in the world. They're apparently super westernized there, and don't at all want to live in an Islamic state. At least the middle and upper classes.

I mean this and this looks like any club in Miami.
posted by empath at 5:07 PM on June 7, 2011


I may have been influenced by the fact that he was trained as a doctor and thought that would make him resistant to carry out atrocities since doctors are taught the finer points of ethics. I can't see him throwing that all away in a casual manner in order to become Cobra Commander all of a sudden. Part of me thinks he is as much a prisoner as his people.

See Ayman al-Zawahiri...
posted by BobbyVan at 5:36 PM on June 7, 2011


He might have started out as Fredo Corleone, but he's become Michael.

National Geographic was thinking the same exact thing.
posted by steamynachos at 5:37 PM on June 7, 2011


Exactly as happened in Egypt, Tunisia and Yemen. Oh wait, it didn't. I think barring a major intervention by Iran or some kind of incident with Israel, Syria's government falls within 30 days.

You don't think the Egyptian and Tunisian armies count as military force? If they had not eventually supported the protesters, those revolutions would absolutely have failed, like in Iran and Bahrain. Remember, it was Field Marshall Tantawi who gave Mubarak and Suleiman the boot. Yemen is not finished yet, but the people there have benefited greatly from the protection of General Ali Mohsen al-Ahmar, and things are only really looking up after the bomb attack on Saleh and his top lieutenants. Syria's best hope is widespread revolt of the army, plus non-intervention of Iran/Russia/China as you mentioned.

I think barring a major intervention by Iran or some kind of incident with Israel, Syria's government falls within 30 days.

Way too optimistic. Even Gaddafi has lasted 4 months in an ostensibly weaker position with no popular support, essentially no foreign support, while under heavy NATO bombardment.
posted by metaplectic at 5:38 PM on June 7, 2011


You don't think the Egyptian and Tunisian armies count as military force?

Only if it's used. I don't think the Syrian military will actually massacre people to keep Assad in power (at least to the extent that they would need to), but we'll see.
posted by empath at 6:16 PM on June 7, 2011


Last time there was a post about this blogger, some people on metafilter were skeptical, now NPR producer acarvin is as well: http://thelede.blogs.nytimes.com/2011/06/07/syrian-american-blogger-detained/
posted by mulligan at 6:32 PM on June 7, 2011


"...And I always say chaos is contagious..."

"...and when they have the support of the people you cannot label them as terrorists because this way you label the people as terrorists you cannot say this country is terrorist country these people are terrorist people...they die when they have cause."

-Dr. Bashar Al-Asad.
posted by clavdivs at 7:08 PM on June 7, 2011


I don't think the Syrian military will actually massacre people to keep Assad in power.

I hope not
but I wont underestimate them.
posted by clavdivs at 7:18 PM on June 7, 2011 [1 favorite]


looked a little scared and more than a little unprepared in those early days after his dad died, but if he hadn't consolidated power and learned how to wield it, he would have been replaced.

Very true though he had some time to prepare after his brother died. I actually like the syrian people a great deal. I was hoping the Bashir could come out on top (alive) in a transitional government. That day has passed and I doubt it ever came.
posted by clavdivs at 7:28 PM on June 7, 2011


Oh god, don't tell me it's another Kaycee Nicole...

Okay, so if the blog is a fake it's still better than a real girl getting kidnapped, imprisoned, raped and/or killed, but...

Geez, no good outcome either way, is there.
posted by jenfullmoon at 7:28 PM on June 7, 2011


http://bit.ly/iZGzRP



Not saying the blog is fake, just many questions that need to be answered
posted by mulligan at 8:26 PM on June 7, 2011


I think barring a major intervention by Iran or some kind of incident with Israel, Syria's government falls within 30 days.

I highly doubt this. I think Syria is a unique situation - one that is far more complex with a far more polarized population (and far too much going on behind the scenes).

I am wondering what my former students are thinking. Young men (of privilege) who were very westernized and educated ... and freedom-loving, they cheered the Egypt Revolution with me (I was in Turkey at the time). I asked them then about the possibility of changes in Syria ... they were adamant, "No way! The people would not risk protesting. Besides, our government is making reforms."

When the protests began in Syria, the students became quiet. One tried to tell me how Basher was so unlike his ruthless father. He did things unimaginable (walked into the city and talked to ordinary people). Maybe the young man was hopeful. Recently he wrote me to tell me he could not return home or he would be drafted into the army.

I have a difficult time seeing Assad in black and white. Like the young students, he could well be against the massacres, but lacking any power to stop them. I imagine there are many, many people in Syria who are just trying to lay low and not have to take a side. The power is with the most violent now, and any small voice against them will surely pay in blood.

I see the Syrian protesters as so much more vulnerable than any of the others who went before. I haven't seen anything about their organizing system (hard to do in the fractured society of Syria); haven't seen any glimmer of sympathy in any military group there; haven't seen much hope at all. It could be we just aren't getting news ... or it could be really, really bad ... with worse to come.
posted by Surfurrus at 8:58 PM on June 7, 2011




120 is a fairly serious number. It's either very much on, or very much off.
posted by effugas at 10:54 PM on June 7, 2011


I have a difficult time seeing Assad in black and white.

Based on what I've read, he's always come across as a kind of Scott Evil character. On the one hand, he's the second son who was sent abroad to do mundane things and ended up as the heir after his older brother was killed in a car accident. On the other hand, he's in charge of his daddy's security apparatus, so perhaps he's more Michael Corleone.

While it's perhaps naive to see the vacillation between concessions and crackdowns in psychological terms, and I've always taken Bashar's comments on with sackloads of salt, things like his interview with the WSJ in January suggest that he's at least given thought to the problems inherent in both the old Big Man system across the Arab world, and making the transition away from it.

Lines like "[w]hen you do not talk, and suddenly you talk, you happen not to talk in the proper way or productive way" can sound like pablum, but they chime with what I heard from a human rights lawyer from Jordan who said that the first step necessary in her country was to establish a moderate political discourse that limits the easy recourse to sectarian allegiance. If that's hard to do in Jordan -- and the past decade suggests it's really hard -- then it's even harder to do in Syria. It's such a rich, complex and fractious country, and its people deserve better.
posted by holgate at 11:41 PM on June 7, 2011 [1 favorite]


Only if it's used. I don't think the Syrian military will actually massacre people to keep Assad in power (at least to the extent that they would need to), but we'll see.

If army units don't want to carry out civilian massacres, they will have to actively fight the loyal regime forces, or be slaughtered themselves.

Assad Brother Plays Big Role in Syria
On Monday, the government claimed that 120 soldiers and police officers had been killed in a town called Jisr al-Shoughour by armed gangs — a common euphemism for protesters. Some residents and opposition activists claimed some of the soldiers had been killed by their colleagues for defecting, though it was impossible to verify either account.

If the residents’ accounts are true, it would mark an extraordinary fissure in a government that has so far maintained the relative unity of the armed forces and the state in the face of the uprising. Though lower-level defections have been reported for weeks, nothing has approached the level of Monday’s bloodshed in Jisr al-Shoughour.

“Now there are clashes between the soldiers on one side and security men and young people on the other,” said Omar, 28, a resident there reached by phone on Monday night. “Tens of soldiers began to stand with civilian protesters and families. The civilians are presenting first aid to some soldiers who get shot by the secret police.”
...
The loss of control of Jisr al-Shoughour would mark a surrender of territory and control for the government, and residents remaining in the town were bracing for a counterattack. One resident, who gave his name only as Ahmed, said men there were organizing checkpoints and trying to set up barricades and even dig trenches.

But, he asked, “what can these barricades do in front of the tanks?” Other mutinies were reported in Idlib Province this week, though details were scant, and activists have documented lower-level defections in places like Dara’a, the southern town where the uprising began, and Baniyas, a coastal city that sits on a sectarian fault line, since April.
...
“The only military divisions that are definitely loyal are the Fourth Division and the Republican Guard, and of course the security forces are loyal,” said Radwan Ziadeh, a human rights activist and visiting scholar at George Washington University in Washington. “These are all forces under the personal control of Maher al-Assad.”

Mr. Tarif called the Republican Guard and the intelligence services the state’s pillars.

“The rest are tools,” he said. “They look at the army as a tool. I think the regime is capable of managing the army. It’s not under the illusion that the army is totally loyal.”
posted by metaplectic at 11:48 PM on June 7, 2011


Jisr al-Shughur was a stronghold of the now banned Muslim Brotherhood. Seventy people were reported killed in the town in 1980 when it came under government shelling as Hafez al-Assad, the former president, cracked down on the group's armed rebellion.
The present violence seems to be related to security forces executing army defectors.
I find it extraordinary the lack of news or analysis about Syria, especially given its history and proximity with Israel and Lebanon. Hassan Nasrallah has called for support of the the Syrian Regime.
During the recent uprisings there were TV cameras in Cairo and also in Libya.
Syria seems completely blanked out. It almost seems that western powers are hoping the problem will go away so they don't have to deal with it; or could it also have something to do with the recent Palestinian unity agreement.
posted by adamvasco at 1:19 AM on June 8, 2011


Rumors that the photo of Amina Abdallah Arraf used by news sources (but not on her blog that I can see) is not her.
posted by 8dot3 at 5:57 AM on June 8, 2011


Wow, that Lede follow-up really makes me doubt that Amina Arraf exists. Part of me is glad, since it means that she's not being detained. The other part is rolling my eyes at my own gullibility.
posted by longdaysjourney at 7:13 AM on June 8, 2011


The NPR blogger's twitter.
posted by 8dot3 at 7:18 AM on June 8, 2011


Amina discussion jumping here.
posted by 8dot3 at 9:46 AM on June 8, 2011


More than 2,400 Syrians flee into Turkey in 24 hours to evade crackdown. About 40 tanks and troop carriers had deployed about 7 km (4 miles) from Jisr Al Shughour,
posted by adamvasco at 1:05 PM on June 9, 2011


Refugees from the Syrian town of Jisr al-Shughour are all talking unprompted about a possible Iranian involvement in the crackdown in the town.
posted by adamvasco at 9:33 AM on June 10, 2011






Syrian Forces Advance on Restive Town Near Turkey
KARBEYAZ, Turkey —Backed by tanks and helicopters, Syrian forces swept into the restive northern village of Jisr al-Shoughour late Friday, pressing an offensive against a town that has offered the stiffest challenge yet to four decades of Assad family rule.
...
The Local Coordinating Committees in Syria, an activist coalition, said that at least 22 people died in clashes across the country on Friday, more than half killed in the northwestern towns around Jisr al-Shoughour.

The group reported that the army had begun shelling the towns of Maaret Al-Noman and Jarjanaz, about 25 miles from Jisr al-Shoughour. It also said there was heavy gunfire in Al Sarmaneyah, a village five miles from the town, as residents burned tires in the street to slow the advance of Syrian troops.

“The army is invading the villages and burning the surrounding farms and killing people randomly,” said the group’s spokesman, Hozan, who declined to give his full name for fear of government retribution.

A 60-year-old Syrian man at the refugee camp in Yayladagi on the Turkish side of the border said other refugees in the camp had spoken by telephone with relatives in the villages who gave similar reports. “They are talking about the army moving with all kinds of armed vehicles and shooting randomly” with tanks and heavy weapons, he said. “The army passed through Al Sarmaneyah and troops are shooting everyone who comes along their way. It is terrible there.”
posted by metaplectic at 12:38 PM on June 10, 2011


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