Syrian Notes, March 28

“Syria is free”

I’m currently busy finishing up an article for the journal Islamic Law and Society, so the frequency of posts has gotten a bit lax. And apparently nobody cares about Afghanistan: collectively, my two previous posts on Syria got over 120 views. The last post on Afghanistan got 14. (Duly noted. But I’m still going to talk about Afghanistan occasionally.) But here are a few disparate things on Syria that are worth reading/pondering:

For keeping up with events in Syria, the Syrian Revolution Digest is absolutely required reading. Updated daily, it has links, videos, pictures and tons of information from Syria. It’s certainly (and transparently) pro-revolution, but so is this blog, I guess. Anyway, this site is still quality stuff. I recommend it to everyone.

The cache of the Assads’ personal emails that were hacked never ceases to amaze. A few observations: The emails prove several important facts about the government’s handling of the conflict, including that the insinuations of al-Qaeda involvement are fabricated and that Iran is helping Assad (though the extent to which they are doing so remains unknown). These aren’t earth-shattering revelations by any means, but confirming as true what appeared to be true is certainly a good thing. The emails also have a wealth of information on how Assad is addressing the conflict, particularly in terms of shaping the message to the public. For this alone, the emails are worth reading. (It’s cool, they’re in English. Knock yourself out.) One has to wonder when the cynical allusions to Israel and serving the Palestinian cause will stop carrying any weight with most Syrians, if they haven’t already. Lastly, no matter who you are, some regular dude on a laptop or a murderous dictator’s murdering, dictating son, your internet activity is boring. It’s just a fact.

I should give the Syrian government credit, though. They have somehow uncovered the single most ingenious, devious plan to undermine the regime that could possibly be invented. Quite simply, I am in awe of whoever figured out this was going on.

The UN-backed peace plan brokered by Kofi Annan does not engender optimism. Its two most productive points are calling for the removal of the government’s heavy artillery from conflict zones and requiring a daily, two-hour cessation of fighting so that humanitarian and medical aid can be administered. If followed by the government, these two measures could lead to a decrease in civilian suffering. On the other hand, the call for political reform to be carried out by the government, lacking any sort of timetable, does little to address the root cause of the conflict, namely Assad’s persistence in power. Other aspects of the plan, such as guaranteeing the right to peaceful assembly and demonstration, are virtually unenforceable. The government has incited violence from peaceful protests before, so there’s nothing to stop them from doing it again. It’s great if it does work to halt the conflict, but if it does so while leaving the regime intact, then it’s a lateral move at best.

More to the point, most of the Syrian opposition groups (at least those operating outside the country) have made a move to unite behind a common front, while Syrian troops entered Lebanon in an effort to stop the supply of arms to rebels across the border. All signs point to a prolonged struggle, with neither side apparently ready to lessen hostilities. Assad’s march through the devastated neighborhoods of Homs yesterday showed a leader more emboldened by ostensible success than anything else. There is nothing in the UN plan to pressure Assad into even negotiating, much less making any changes, while the one true point of contention (his presidency) is unaddressed. If he feels in any way vindicated or encouraged by recent events, there’s a good chance he might even escalate the situation in an attempt to further crush the anti-government side.

So it goes on.

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Filed under Middle East, politics

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