Oh God, Not Syria Again

On Thursday I went to a conference at the LSE called Inside Syria: 18 Months On.  There were four panels on different subjects (the regime, the opposition, Syrian identity, and the economic situation) and a closing speaker (none other than Burhan Ghalioun).  Something that particularly struck me was that practically every opposition activist who spoke – as opposed to the academics – mentioned the prospect of international intervention in a positive light.  They also stressed that although the uprising’s development into a civil war was not desirable, now that it has happened we have to deal with it on those … Continue reading Oh God, Not Syria Again

The New Struggle For Power

I’ve almost finished Nikolaos van Dam’s stunning book The Struggle for Power in Syria, which was first published in 1979 as a doctoral dissertation but proved so popular and informative that it has since been updated and re-published a further three times, most recently in 2010.  The first six chapters explore the political and sectarian machinations behind the coming to power of the Ba’th party and of Hafiz al-Assad, along with an exhaustive analysis of the fluctuating representation of each of Syria’s national minorities in government from 1948 to 1976.  The last four chapters discuss the ramifications of the information … Continue reading The New Struggle For Power

A Personal Absolution from Dictatorship

(Nota bene – some or all of this might have been written with the assistance of pain-killers) I am done with talking about Syria.  With the release of the Assad e-mails, the world is finally went mad.  After a year of the Syrian uprising gradually deviating from the narratives obligingly set out from it, from the unswift nature of the conflict to the protestors’ stubborn decision not to be CIA agents, the release of the e-mails is an attempt by the forces of liberal Orientalism (here represented by the Guardian) to cow Assad’s image towards proper tyranny and make him … Continue reading A Personal Absolution from Dictatorship

Say It Ain’t So: The “Islamic Winter”

Two days ago I was in my local branch of Ottakars (which is actually Waterstones but which I insist on calling Ottakars out of a loyal and anachronistic stubbornness akin to the United States’ obsession with flying the South Vietnamese flag) when I saw a book which made me unspeakably furious – so furious, in fact, that I had to buy a book by Frantz Fanon in order to calm down.  This book was by a man called John R. Bradley, and it expounded the idea that the Arab Spring has gone terribly wrong because it has been hijacked by … Continue reading Say It Ain’t So: The “Islamic Winter”

The Graveyard of Empires

A few days ago I read a very surprising article by Robert Fisk, usually a journalist I admire and respect (as much for his political analysis as for his references to Tony Blair as ‘Lord Blair of Esfahan’), which essentially called for intervention in Syria. Thankfully, the Western appetite for yet another Middle Eastern military excursion seems to have been whetted for quite a considerable time – Hague et al. are, with a shocking self-awareness, saying that there is a limited amount they can do – with no thanks to our steadfast refusal to look at the lessons of history.  … Continue reading The Graveyard of Empires

The NTC is officially screwed

The death of Abd al-Fattah Yunus, one of the most senior military commanders of the Libyan rebel forces and the most prominent member of Gaddafi’s government to defect from the Jamahiriya, reflects many aspects of the situation in Libya. Mostly, though, it means that the National Transitional Council – and the rebellion at large – is fucked. That’s a technical term. Internationally, this could not have come at a worse time for the West. Two days ago, William Hague declared that the UK recognised the NTC as the official representative of Libya, praising their “competence”, a step that the British … Continue reading The NTC is officially screwed

Over by Christmas (of the year 2027)

Ever since the beginning of the uprising in Syria, I have been in two minds about the whole situation.  Obviously, it would be entirely hypocritical of me to claim (as Khomenei has done) that while unrest in Egypt, Tunisia, Yemen, Jordan, and Bahrain was the natural result of decades of misrule, the only way protests would begin in Syria could be through foreign intervention and bribery.  There is no denying that a large segment of the Syrian population want something different, and no reason to suspect that events in Syria are separate from the revolts in the rest of the … Continue reading Over by Christmas (of the year 2027)