Reform, Syrian Style

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This, from a Michael Slackman piece in the New York Times on the continued stifling of dissent in Syria:

"I may not be keen on early morning arrests, but this regime was being threatened," Deputy Prime Minister Abdullah Dardari, a London educated technocrat charged with steering Syria's economic overhaul, said in an interview. "The survival of this regime and the stability of this country was threatened out loud and openly. There were invitations for foreign armies to come and invade Syria. So you could expect sometimes an overreaction, or a reaction, to something that is really happening."

Threatened? Mostly the Bush administration made rumblings about "behavior change" in Syria, but it never came close to threatening the regime. The U.S. does back a United Nations investigation into the murder of former Lebanese prime minister, Rafiq Hariri, but if Syria has something to fear there (and it does), that's because it was almost certainly behind the assassination. As for describing the jailing and beating of Syrian regime critics as an "overreaction", Dardari certainly did pick up one noted British trait: understatement.

Why is this important, after all describing the Syrian regime as thuggish is as original as saying that Arctic nights are cold? Very simply, because Dardari has been held up by many a naif on Syria, by those who are convinced that Bashar Assad is deep down a secret reformer, as the great hope of newfound Syrian openness. You see, if an Arab official speaks English, he must be a reformer. I recall similar optimism greeting the former information minister, Mehdi Dakhlallah, who was supposed to be a Baathist version of Peter Jennings. That is until a former guest in a Syrian prison reported that Dakhlallah had participated in his interrogation.

Well, maybe there is change in Syria after all. Dardari did admit to "early morning arrests." In the past, they tended to occur in the dead of night.

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  1. When does the RPG come back wearing a bunny suit?

  2. But things have moved in the opposite direction. Syrian officials are aggressively silencing domestic political opposition while accommodating religious conservatives to shore up support across the country.

    Brilliant strategy! After all, it worked wonders for me.

  3. “Mostly the Bush administration made rumblings about ‘behavior change’ in Syria, but it never came close to threatening the regime.”

    No threats? Give me a break:

    On Oct. 6, in his saber-rattling declaration of war against ?Islamofascism,? President Bush not-so-subtly warned Syria that it might be next. ?State sponsors [of terrorism] like Syria and Iran have a long history of collaboration with terrorists, and they deserve no patience from the victims of terror,? said Bush, speaking to the National Endowment for Democracy. ?The United States makes no distinction between those who commit acts of terror and those who support and harbor them, because they?re equally as guilty of murder. Any government that chooses to be an ally of terror has also chosen to be an enemy of civilization. And the civilized world must hold those regimes to account.?

    * * *

    Just before the president spoke, according to Knight Ridder, senior Bush administration officials met in a high-level powwow to discuss U.S. options for dealing with Syria. Among the alternatives reportedly discussed at the meeting was ?limited military action,? and despite the fact that intelligence on Syria?s actual role in supporting the resistance in Iraq is hazy at best, the story, by reporter Warren Strobel, revealed that ?one option under consideration was bombing several villages 30 to 40 miles inside Syria that some officials believe have been harboring Iraqi insurgents.? On Oct. 15, the New York Times reported that the Bush administration was threatening ?hot pursuit? and other attacks into Syrian territory. It added, ?A series of clashes in the last year between American and Syrian troops, including a prolonged firefight this summer that killed several Syrians, has raised the prospect that cross-border military operations may become a dangerous new front in the Iraq war, according to current and former military and government officials.?

    http://www.amconmag.com/2006/2006_01_16/cover.html

  4. Threatened? Mostly the Bush administration made rumblings about “behavior change” in Syria,

    Hmmm…Mr Young? Perhaps you might have heard of Mr. Bush’s pre-emptive strategy? He threatened any nation that opposes us in any way with a pre-emptive strike. True, we all know what a load that threat was. But, I’m hard pressed to understand what you mean as threat.

    I assume that if the local neighborhood thug walked up to you and said, I might stick you if you aren’t my freind, and showed you his knife, you would not believe you had been threatened.

  5. “Mostly the Bush administration made rumblings about ‘behavior change’ in Syria, but it never came close to threatening the regime.”

    No threats? Give me a break:

    On Oct. 6, in his saber-rattling declaration of war against “Islamofascism,” President Bush not-so-subtly warned Syria that it might be next. “State sponsors [of terrorism] like Syria and Iran have a long history of collaboration with terrorists, and they deserve no patience from the victims of terror,” said Bush, speaking to the National Endowment for Democracy. “The United States makes no distinction between those who commit acts of terror and those who support and harbor them, because they’re equally as guilty of murder. Any government that chooses to be an ally of terror has also chosen to be an enemy of civilization. And the civilized world must hold those regimes to account.”

    * * *

    Just before the president spoke, according to Knight Ridder, senior Bush administration officials met in a high-level powwow to discuss U.S. options for dealing with Syria. Among the alternatives reportedly discussed at the meeting was “limited military action,” and despite the fact that intelligence on Syria’s actual role in supporting the resistance in Iraq is hazy at best, the story, by reporter Warren Strobel, revealed that “one option under consideration was bombing several villages 30 to 40 miles inside Syria that some officials believe have been harboring Iraqi insurgents.” On Oct. 15, the New York Times reported that the Bush administration was threatening “hot pursuit” and other attacks into Syrian territory. It added, “A series of clashes in the last year between American and Syrian troops, including a prolonged firefight this summer that killed several Syrians, has raised the prospect that cross-border military operations may become a dangerous new front in the Iraq war, according to current and former military and government officials.”

    http://www.amconmag.com/2006/2006_01_16/cover.html

  6. Are the server squirrels already falling asleep?

  7. State sponsors [of terrorism] like Syria and Iran have a long history of collaboration with terrorists, and they deserve no patience from the victims of terror

    Sounds about right to me. Anybody want to argue that state sponsors of terror should be treated with kid gloves, given a pass, maybe even rewarded in some way?

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