October 6, 2008


The View From Damascus (Ayman Abdel Nour, 10.05.08, Forbes)

This notable absence in the coverage suggests a regime that does not want it known that anyone would dare challenge the security apparatus. In the minds of Syrians, the Mukhabarat has a legendarily fearsome reputation, instilled through its crackdowns on intellectuals and journalists on the one hand, and on Islamic movements on the other. The government has kept other recent conflicts quiet too--in recent months there have been government raids, resulting in arrests, on farms outside of Syrian cities that were being used to store arms and ammunition.

The regime doesn't want the international attention that the appearance of internal strife would bring. And inside the country, it doesn't want to look as though it is following U.S. orders to attack militants. That would just aggravate its tenuous relationship with Syria's various Islamic movements. A leader of one of those groups, Sheikh Abou Al Kakaa of Aleppo, was assassinated last year by an Iraqi who accused him of selling out the mujahideen to the Syrian government.

In a statement Sept. 29, the government's official news agency said that "the terrorist who blew himself up in a car is a member of an organization, many of whose members have been arrested before." There is speculation in Damascus that this is an oblique reference to Shaker Al Absi, leader of the group Fateh Al Islam.

Members of Al Absi's organization have tried to avenge his capture on several occasions. So the government may have intended to suggest that Fateh Al Islam orchestrated the car bomb.

All of these hushed-up incidents are just the tip of the iceberg in terms of what could happen in Syria. The number of extremists in the region is growing, both due to the political situation in the greater region--in Iraq and Palestine especially--and the economic situation inside Syria, where citizens grapple with poverty, unemployment, corruption and growing income disparities.

Even as cracks appear, the government wants desperately for things to look under control. Prominent players in the Syrian economy want more peace and prosperity in the region, which would help them expand into cross-border partnerships. It's hard to do business internationally when you come from a pariah nation and your U.S. assets are in danger of being frozen.

...to publicly announce that the regime is cracking down on salafists in order to curry favor with Israel and America.

Posted by Orrin Judd at October 6, 2008 6:37 AM
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