Bombing Syria, a short-sighted proposition bound to go off-course

by Rob Brune

The White House is touting a so-called humanitarian bombing campaign while pushing the line that Syria will not be the next Iraq. “Iraq and Syria are in no way analogous,” State Department spokeswoman Marie Harf told reporters.

Al Qa'Qaa bunker in Iraq
Al Qa’Qaa bunker in Iraq

How can we forget that within the first couple months of bombing and “boots on the ground” in Iraq, Baathist insurgents moved in to grab 380 tons of high explosives from the Al Qa’Qaa bunker? It wasn’t like we didn’t know the risk. The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) warned that terrorists might “help themselves to the greatest explosives bonanza in history.”

If the U.S. bombs the holy hell out of Syria’s chemical weapons supply, who will be there to secure the remains of those chemical weapons? It’s a realistic expectation that they will fall into the hands of radical factions of the Free Syrian Army affiliated with Al Qaeda.

Bashar al-Assad is a bona fide madman. Rather than deter him, a bombing campaign will likely provoke him to use more chemical weapons. The whole discussion of a military intervention is short-sighted. Bombing Syria is a proposition that will go sideways faster than Obama and his supporters in Congress think.


The good news is that someone has thought through this scenario. The bad news is that to secure Syrian chemical weapons stockpiles–estimated at 1,000 tons–the U.S. would have to deploy 75,000 troops:

The potential of strategic US strikes in Syria has sparked fears Damascus’ chemical weapons could fall into the wrong hands if the government is toppled. A recent congressional report says 75,000 troops would be needed to safeguard the WMD caches.

The Congressional Research Center (CRS) report, issued just one day before the alleged August 21 chemical weapons attack in a Damascus suburb, was compiled with the aim of “responding to possible scenarios involving the use, change of hands, or loss of control of Syrian chemical weapons.”

That’s 150,000 “boots on the ground.”

Syrians rally for democratic future, end of atrocities

Waving Syrian flags, Syrian Americans gathered in front of the Saudi Embassy to draw attention to the opposition movement defying the regime of Bashar al-Assad.

The rally came just after Assad assented to a UN-negotiated cease-fire, but the UN said he hadn’t yet fully complied with its peace plan. US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton warned against half-measures, saying in a press conference, “The Annan plan is not a menu of options. It is a set of obligations.” Apparently committing the US to political transition, Clinton said, “Assad will have to go and the Syrian people must be given the chance to chart their own future.”

Called the Syrian Women and Children Rally, supporters chanted “Free, free Syria!” and “We want democracy, not hypocrisy!” A speaker said, “We are here to tell the whole world that there is a massacre happening in Syria right now. We are here to support our brothers and sisters in Syria.”

The rally was held in front of the Saudi Embassy out of gratitude to its government–one sign read “Thank you Saudis for supporting the Syrian Revolution”–and to ask for more measures like a no-fly zone and a safe haven on the Turkish border.

“The Saudi Embassy representative welcomed us and thanked us for being here, and said they supported us 100%,” organizer Nagia Kurabi said.

The crowd of about 50 was largely made up of women of all ages, who highlighted the current plight of women and girls in Syria: “When a girl gets raped in Syria, we are all raped.”

17-year-old Hania Hamwi of Arlington, VA said it was important to get the message out to people in America that Syrians need help. “Children are so innocent,” she said. “Why should Assad’s soldiers go into a house a rape a woman in front of her child? The least I can do is be out here.”

At the Islamic Center on Massachusetts Ave., the demonstrators raised the Syrian revolutionary flag without permission before moving on to protest at the Syrian embassy.

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The urgency to topple al-Assad: “He’s killing the best of us!”

Nagia Kurabi

AJ and Nagia Kurabi want to set you straight on the Syrian revolution: “Everything you hear in the media is wrong.”

In an interview on Washington, DC’s We Act Radio on April 10, the Kurabis advocated for Syrian revolutionaries, those who have defied the regime of President Bashar al-Assad since March 2011.

They denounced attempts to discredit the opposition and undermine their support. “They are not terrorists, insurgents, Hezbollah or Al-Qaeda,” they insisted. Instead, they described them as either civilians and organized activists or soldiers defected from the Syrian Armed Forces–and who now make up the Free Syrian Army (FSA).

“We are united. We are a mosaic. We are not only Sunnis, Shiites, Jews and Christians,” Nagia said.

Syrian Americans and immigrants to the US more than 25 years ago, the Kurabis form a complementary team of advocates for the Syrian opposition. Nagia is verbose and passionate as she describes the atrocities committed by the al-Assad regime. AJ in contrast offers nuanced analysis delivered in precise language with a mastery of detail.

They have been organizers of a rally scheduled for April 13 in front of the Saudi Embassy on behalf of Syrian women and children. They intend to deliver messages to the Prince of Saudi Arabia from the FSA asking for support–food, medicine and support for a buffer zone so that civilians can find safe haven.

The Saudis have said “it was ‘a good idea’ to arm the Syrian rebels and create a safe haven on the Turkish border,” while the US has encouraged them to pursue other diplomatic solutions. The Saudis have also unsuccessfully pressed Jordan to allow arms to pass through their borders to reach the FSA.

The Kurabis believe Syria will become a democratic country if al-Assad is deposed. “Syria is different” from other Mideast countries, they said, citing its “rich history” with cultural contributions by the Persians, Romans and Greeks. There will be long-term benefits if Syria becomes a democratic country, they say, and another advantage is that Iran will be isolated. “If the Syrian revolution wins, Iran is next,” Nagia said.

In addition to a safe haven, the opposition wants a no-fly zone and more support for the FSA and the Syrian National Council. They define support for the FSA not only in terms of food and medicine but arms as well: “If we arm the Syrian [opposition], it won’t take much to topple the regime.” And in any case, they assert that al-Assad’s grip on power will not last forever, but the question is, for how long he will maintain it.

Eleven to twelve thousand Syrians have been killed in the conflict so far, but the Kurabis believe this is a low estimate. Al-Assad escalated the killing in the last six months because, they say, he has felt more secure that Western nations will not act to stop him. “Our women are getting raped, our children are getting slaughtered, our men are getting imprisoned,” AJ said.

Nagia summed up the urgency she feels, saying, “He’s killing the best of us!”

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Social media revolutionaries in the Mideast

Social media is the sine qua non of Occupy in Western countries. And it’s also being used throughout the world in oppressed societies, most notably during the Arab Spring of 2011. Then and today, just what is the impact of the new Internet technologies in Mideast revolts?

Social Capital Blog gives us some background:

The “Arab Spring” in Tunisia, Egypt and elsewhere in the Mid-East heavily relied on the Internet, social media and technologies like Twitter, TwitPic, Facebook and YouTube in the early stages to accelerate social protest. There are even allegations that the CIA was blindsided about the Egypt uprising by failing to follow developments on Twitter.

There is less evidence that social media played a strong a role in places like Yemen (where Internet penetration is low) or Libya (where the government controlled Internet means of distribution and cracked down more effectively).

In Syria, where the “Arab Fall” is still underway and the fighting has intensified and spread to Damascus’ suburbs, the role of social media has also been more limited, out of fear that the government is monitoring online behavior and because the government learned from Egypt and Tunisia and cracked down heavily on social media.

This hasn’t prevented the Syrian opposition’s facility with new media:

The protest movement has also been adept at using social media – Facebook hosts pages like Syria Monitor, Syrian Letters, and Twitter Users for Syria help spread information and firsthand testimony. The twitter hashtags #Syria and #Assad also serve as clearinghouses, linking to Facebook pages and blogs like the Revolting Syrian.

In an interview with We Act Radio in Washington, DC, AJ Kurabi said that so many educated kids are using Twitter and Facebook, but he noted its limitations. With technologies like livestream the atrocities of Bashar al-Assad are exposed,”but he keeps on getting away with it,” he said.

Blogging has been another outlet for individuals in repressive countries, often providing textured viewpoints unavailable by other means. Chapati Mystery is a blog by Dr. Manan Ahmed in Pakistan:

I believe that there is an ethical way in which we have to engage with the world we live in, and as ethics includes a commitment to seeking truth and explanation of various fundamental issues, we have to fulfill that responsibility whether I was a grad student, whether I had a tenure or not, that would not stop me from being an ethical citizen.

Syrian women to raise their voices at Saudi Embassy rally

Nagia Kurabi

Nagia Kurabi passionately denounces the horrors women are now undergoing in Syria, where President Bashar al-Assad has retaliated against the civil uprising occurring in that country for the last 13 months.

“Women are humiliated in front of their husbands’ eyes,” she said, describing the mass rape of women. “In our culture, when a woman is raped, she is ruined.”

A Syrian American who has lived in the US for 26 years, Kurabi becomes even more animated when she defends Syrian women against passivity. Europeans, she says, have accused opposition supporters of being conservative Islamists and not allowing Syrian women to speak up. She denies this and adds that this is a core reason for the Syrian Women and Children Rally–which she has helped organized–on April 13, “to show them that we have a voice.”

Kurabi praised the strength and courage of mothers who send their children and husbands out into the streets to demand their freedom, knowing the odds are that they could be killed or imprisoned. She also proudly noted that the first opposition demonstrations in Syria last year were organized by women in Dara and Damascus.

The Syrian Women and Children Rally will be held on Friday, April 13 at 11am in front of the Saudi Embassy, near the Watergate Hotel. Live Stream of this event will be here.

Nagia Kurabi announces the rally:

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