Syria, Myanmar, South Africa, Libya…

Just a quick note from an airport here… How come that western publics who applauded the negotiated transition to democracy in South Africa and who applaud the current openings in the same direction in Myanmar/Burma, generally seem so unwilling to pursue a similarly negotiated transition in Syria?
Why do so many western rights activists continue instead to give strong support to the forces of the increasingly militarized opposition in Syria? Do they really want a violence-driven outcome there similar to what we have seen in Iraq and now Libya? Or, do they not understand the basic facts of violence: that violence begets more violence and in the modern, heavily armed world the use of violence is highly inconducive to the building of an accountable, rights-respecting social/political order.
The situation in Syria remains complex. There are many elements inside the country’s opposition movement who are sincere democrats. There are others who are vicious sectarians and men of violence. The goal for political leaders inside and outside the country is surely to find a way to engage the former while marginalizing the influence of the latter. Sadly, Pres. Asad seems unable or unwilling to find a way to do this– and most of the numerous outside forces now supporting the Syria opposition seem very unwilling to do it, as well.
By the way, here is the record of the panel I was recently on, on Syria, at the (Turkish-American) SETA Foundation in DC.

9 thoughts on “Syria, Myanmar, South Africa, Libya…

  1. Yousef

    Helena,
    The opposition in Syria is not militarized. Army defectors, not terrorists and armed gangs, as the regime pretends, are the only opposition using light weapons to defend peaceful demonstrators.
    The largest umbrella opposition group, the Syrian National Council (SNC), which includes the Muslim Brotherhood, pointed out as the main party that called for military intervention, in a statement, two days ago, called on the defecting troops not to attack the Syrian army. SNC has envisaged a central role for the Syrian army as the state institution that would safeguard the democratic transition. All other opposition groups and independents, particularly inside the country, have always called against any resort to violence. The dominant chant by demonstrators has been: “silmiyah, silmiyah!” – peaceful, peaceful!
    On the other hand, the regime has refused any solution other than the military/security one, and relied heavily on select army units designed to suppress any opposition, as well as the ruling party militia, or “people committees” (called Shabiha by demonstrators), created, as provided in the Baath party-authored constitution, to protect the exclusive rule of the party.
    Taking into account all internal, regional and international circumstances, the negotiated transition to democracy is the only solution that can work. For that to happen, two requirements must be met:
    1- The Syrian regime must agree to this solution. The first step it must take is recognizing the political opposition, which it has thus far rejected. The uprising started in Daraa in March, when school children wrote anti-regime slogans on walls. When those kids were arrested and tortured by the regime, the people took to the streets. From day one, the regime called them “infiltrators”, “armed gangs” and acting on behalf of an “international conspiracy”. It sent the elite army Division- 4, under the command of the president’s brother, Maher, to crush the Deraa uprising. This narrative continues today.
    2- The international community, publics and governments, must press the regime to accept this solution. This will prove difficult as long as the US policy in the Middle East is controlled by what is best for Israel, rather than by American national interests. To make matters worse, this misguided, inconsistent and contradictory policy is dictated to the rest of the west and to key Arab Gulf states.
    It was the US government, not western publics, that called on the Syrian people not to give up arms, following the announcement of the Arab League plan, centered on political dialogue.
    What else is left for western publics to do other than supporting the Syrian opposition, until the regime is convinced that the solution you offer is the only viable solution? As you recall, it took the South African regime years, not months, to be convinced.

  2. Rac

    Why do so many western rights activists continue instead to give strong support to the forces of the increasingly militarized opposition in Syria?
    Why were these organizations willing to go along with lurid accusations of “genocide” against Miskito Indians in Nicaragua in the ’80s (Elie Wiesel himself weighed in on the matter which is his bailiwick)?
    Why were these organizations ready to buy hook, line, and sinker PR agency crafted stories on babies being thrown out of incubators in Kuwait by bayonet wielding Iraqi soldiers?
    Why were these same organizations ready to label what was happening in Western Sudan “genocide” in a matter of weeks, when they remained silent for decades on what was being done to Palestinians?

    Until the mid-1980s, before which Israel’s human rights violations — from deportation to area bombing and all in-between — were generally several orders of magnitude worse than during the subsequent quarter century, the human rights community simply ignored the question of Israel. If challenged, organizations would respond that in view of limited resources they had to go after serious violators, like Ba’thist Iraq and Iran under the Shah, or hide behind an Israeli judiciary that although essential to the machinery of occupation at least went through the motions of oversight, or express fears of being tarred with the brush of anti-Semitism (or all of the above). In private, such justifications would be augmented by references to political pressures and funding issues, often with a barb at one or more director or board members’ Zionist sympathies thrown in. That the first widespread exposure of the systematic application of torture in Israel’s prison system was reported by the Sunday Times rather than Amnesty International was no mere coincidence.
    The eruption of the Palestinian uprising in December 1987 made it impossible for human rights organizations to continue relegating the question of Israel to the backburner. With Israeli leaders like Yitzhak Rabin publicly exhorting Israel’s soldiers to “break the bones” of unarmed Palestinian protestors, and television images that made it impossible to explain away such barbarism as a mistranslated rhetorical flourish, human rights organizations faced a real quandary: ignore the question of Israel and lose credibility, or confront it and lose support.
    By and large they chose a third way, producing reports that were often strong on documentation but exceptionally weak when it came to conclusions and consequences. No less importantly, they adopted the criteria of ‘balance’.

  3. paul

    Human rights activists calling for war are not human rights activists. It’s that simple. Keep it simple. it’s not more complicated than that. They are warmongers.

  4. salah

    Helena
    Comparing Alassad regime with others it’s far of your credibility and far from real truth of talking in politics.
    You know well Assad regime blooded hands of his history in the country and region; this regime should GO today not yesterday.
    You are defending a pig Helena.
    Very sad and fell sorry for you, by lowering yourself to this degree with Iranian Mullah backing regime Helena.
    Good luck in your new direction.

  5. salah

    Why were these organizations ready to buy hook, line, and sinker PR agency crafted stories on babies being thrown out of incubators in Kuwait by bayonet wielding Iraqi soldiers?
    By Steve James
    3 December 2011
    An article in Ireland’s Sunday World has drawn attention to relations between Mahdi al-Harati, former leader of the Tripoli Brigade of the National Transition Council which played a central role in the NATO assault on Libya, and an unnamed US intelligence agency.
    According to an unattributed article November 6, €200,000 in cash was stolen from al-Harati’s Dublin house a month previously.
    The Sunday World reported that a criminal gang working the area found two envelopes stuffed with €500 notes during a raid on the al-Harati’s family home, October 6. Jewellery was also stolen.
    The article, apparently relying on police sources, stated that al-Harati, who has been a Dublin resident employed as an Arabic teacher for 20 years, claimed, when contacted by police, that the stolen cash was “given to him by an American intelligence agency.”

  6. bb

    I am wondering how many HRW, Amnesty and UN commission reports on the brutality being inflicted by the Assad regime on its citizens and children will have to be issued before they crack a mention here?

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