Inside Syria’s Fracturing Rebellion
August 30, 2012
JEBEL ZAWIYA, SYRIA—The unglamorous municipal building, on which black daubs evince graffiti wars between the regime (“Bashar Assad or the country burns!”) and the opposition (“Leave, oh Bashar!”) did not look fit for a king. But it was immediately obvious when the man in the pressed green khakis strode in that we were in the presence of a leader. Men who had been sitting around in the room chatting fell silent. The leather chair behind the desk was seamlessly vacated.
The Meager and Gruesome Options For Syria’s War Wounded
August 20, 2012
REYHNALI, Turkey—“We had 600 wounded men in Homs, and no doctors,” says Ahmet, a young Free Syrian Army fighter, his speech slightly muddled, the legacy of a bullet that had grazed his neck and shattered his chin. “Sometimes, because we didn’t know any other way to treat our men, we had to amputate arms and legs ourselves. Sometimes we asked a carpenter or a butcher to do so.” We are standing outside a hospital in Reyhanli, Turkey, less than four miles from the Syrian border. Ahmet arrived here two weeks ago, he says, but insists he will return.
AMMAN—Syria's former Prime Minister Riyad Hijab, who announced his defection from the Assad government Monday, is one of several high-ranking Syrian government officials to defect in recent months. But if it's increasingly clear that Assad officials are eager to separate themselves from the regime, it's not yet clear what role they will be able to play in the Syrian opposition. For regime defectors, joining the FSA at all is an involved process.
The latest Newsweek features an insider-y read by Joan Juliet Buck, the magazine writer who wrote the infamous 2011 Vogue puff piece on Asma al-Assad, wife of Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad. I’m tempted to call it a cautionary tale for journalists—and that’s clearly how it is presented, with the headline “Mrs. Assad Duped Me.” But to read Buck’s account that way, to assume that anyone could have found themselves in her shoes, would be an insult to most journalists. Unless Buck omitted a boatload of admirable details about Mrs.
The Fate of Syria is in the Hands of … Palestinians?
July 29, 2012
For decades, the Assad regime in Syria was the most ardent regional champion of the Palestinian cause. When the country went to war with Israel in 1948, 1967, and 1973, it claimed to do so on behalf of Palestine. Hafez al-Assad stood steadfastly against the Oslo Accords, refusing to support the compromise that the Palestinians were themselves prepared to make. And since coming to power in 2000, Bashar al-Assad has been a crucial patron of numerous Palestinian terrorist groups, just like his father before him.
On Monday afternoon, Italian premier Mario Monti and Russian president Vladimir Putin convened a small press conference in the slanting, gold light coming off the Black Sea. They had just met to discuss the European economic crisis as well as energy (Italy is Russia’s second biggest gas client), but they also touched on the deepening conflict in Syria. “We do not want the situation to develop along the lines of a bloody civil war and for it to continue for who knows how many years, like in Afghanistan,” Putin said, standing with his perfect posture in a slate-gray summer suit.
The Civil War in the Syrian Opposition: How Long Can the Free Syrian Army Hold Off Its Islamist Rivals?
June 25, 2012
If you want to know where the fourteen month-old Syrian revolution against President Bashar al-Assad is headed, the case of Walid al-Boustani provides a useful rubric. Al-Boustani led an ill-fated “Islamic Emirate of Homs” that lasted only a few weeks. Apparently the locals did not appreciate having an “Emir” who kidnapped and murdered their people while claiming to wage jihad against the regime of Bashar al-Assad.
Yes, Obama's Election Campaign is Affecting His Syria Policy. No, That's Not a Bad Thing.
June 15, 2012
It’s clear that the conflict in Syria is now an issue in the American presidential campaign, largely at the insistence of Mitt Romney’s Republican supporters. Most notable among the interjections was an emotional speech recently delivered on the Senate floor by Senator John McCain, in which he demanded to know why the White House was abetting Bashar al Assad’s murdering of innocents. There is, of course, much to quibble with in this characterization: Far from doing nothing to oppose Bashar, the Obama administration has supported the U.N.
The Syrian ‘Civil War’: Discuss
June 14, 2012
A front page story in yesterday’s New York Times quoted Hervé Ladsous, the head of United Nations peacekeeping operations, opining that the violence in Syria had descended into “civil war.” The same story, however, points out that “opposition leaders are wary of the term civil war because it suggests that the conflict is somehow an even match”; meanwhile, the Assad regime is still holding fast to its story that the violence is nothing more than the product of terrorists. So, which is it? Is Syria in a civil war or not? The answer, it turns out, is maybe.
Speaking Thursday before the U.N. General Assembly, just one day after the latest massacre of civilians by government-affiliated forces, Kofi Annan warned that the crisis in Syria was on a disastrous course. “If things do not change, the future is likely to be one of brutal repression, massacres, sectarian violence and even all-out civil war,” he said. “All Syrians will lose.” Annan, of course, is not the first to evoke the term “civil war” in reference to the crisis in Syria, which has already resulted in more than 10,000 dead and 50,000 missing.