Saheli*: Musings and Observations
Tuesday, February 15, 2005
 
Syria: Oh Boy

Is this a case of here-we-go-again? The news today, of course, is about the bombing in Syria that killed the former Prime Minister of Lebanon--who was potentially going to make a comeback, after resigning in October to protest Syrian meddling, and joining the opposition to protest the 14,000 odd Syrian troops in Lebanon. From Slate's Today's Papers:
"It's almost too easy to accuse Syria," one Lebanon-watcher told the Journal.
"Don't forget—this comes at a time when Syria desperately tries to engage the U.S. on issues like Iraq, to divert attention from its presence in Lebanon."
A "senior State Department official" told the NY Times it doesn't matter: "We're going to turn up the heat on Syria, that's for sure. Even though there's no evidence to link it to Syria, Syria has, by negligence or design, allowed Lebanon to become destabilized."
Could it be Al Qaeda, trying to raise America's easily raised hackles? It just doesn't seem like it should be the fairly wily Syria. Why tickle Bush's tail when he's already so eager to pounce? The Administration has withdrawn the American ambassador to Syria. Matthew Yglesias neatly summed up why not everyone will be pleased with America trumpetting for aggressive punishment. Only last week The Daily Show inaugurated the Mess O' Persia segment--do they have to make a Mess O'Syria segment now too?

I remember when the older Assad died and his son came to power, while I was in college. It was around the same time that the Kings of Jordan and Morocco died, and their sons were crowned---people were calling it a potential renaissance of reform. At best, it seems the Kings of Jordan and Morocco have held back the tide of fundamentalism. I read a lot less about Syria, but on Saturday Laura Rozen at War and Piece presciently pointed to a New York Times profile of a liberal Syrian activist:
Even so, the liberals seem to be gathering a little momentum. Recently, intellectuals from Iraq, Jordan and Tunisia petitioned the United Nations for a tribunal to prosecute both terrorists and the religious figures who incite violence. In Egypt, two new publications, Nahdet Misr and Al Masry Al Youm, fault the region's leaders and clerics alike for keeping Arabs from joining the modern world. The Iraqi election posed a stark challenge to regional autocrats. While Abdulhamid harbors mixed feelings about the United States' decision to invade Iraq, he says he believes that the American presence in the region is vital to the prospects for reform. ''We are an important part of the world,'' he says, ''and our inability to produce change on our own terms invites people in. The world is not going to wait for us.''

Well, let's see if the world can give Abdulhamid a little more time to do his work. Some resources for Syria watching: Joshua Landis of the University of Oklahoma's blog Syria Comment, Abdulhamid's Tharwa Project, and the official news service.
 


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Saheli Datta started this when she was a journalism student at Columbia in New York. Now she lives in the Bay Area. *Old people call me R. New people, call me Saheli. Thanks! My homepage. Specifically, my links. Email me: Saheli [AT] Gmail [dot] Com

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Scott Rosenberg(Salon.com)
Rox Populi
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samVaad
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Sepia Mutiny
Amardeep Singh
Snarkmarket (Robin Sloan & Matt Thompson)
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Steprous (Bear)
Robert Stribley
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Venk@
Manish Vij
Vinod's Blog
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Matthew Yglesias:Old
Yglesias:Tpmcafe
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Ethan Zuckerman
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