” … the civil war suddenly seems far away.” LA Times


"In years past, the booms of artillery, mortars and rockets exchanged between the forces of Syrian President Bashar Assad and the rebels arrayed against his rule provided an ominous backbeat to city life. (“That one is outgoing,” residents would confidently say to flinching visitors.) 

In their stead, all that could be heard in the Christian quarter of Bab Touma on Saturday night was the chatter of an early Halloween celebration. It was another sign of a resurgent Damascus that appears to have shuffled off the war weariness prevalent before the country’s Russian-backed military began making gains against rebel groups over the last year.

Women in high heels teetered on the narrow, decrepit sidewalks. 

They joined gaggles of young people congregating in front of a popular shawarma joint, strategically nestled among a newly opened strip of bars on Mustaqim Street.

Inside the smallest of them, a bar called Abu George, the decor features kitschy lamps, “antique” baubles and posters of bikini-clad women. The walls are covered with thousands of scribbles, lurching from the joyful (“I’m so happy to be here. Wish I could stay forever in Damascus!”) to the defiant (“Only the God [sic] can judge me.”)

The mustachioed bartender, Abu Issam, held court near a tiny counter."  LA Times 


 IMO West Aleppo would be a lot like this if the jihadis and FSA unicorns would stop shelling residential neighborhoods there.  Even the UN has now complained of the indifference to civilian suffering involved.  At the same time the RuAF has abstained from bombing in East Aleppo for the last two weeks in the probably futile belief on the part of "the evil Putin" that something can still be made of efforts to separate the jihadis from the unicorns.   This reduction in operational tempo occurs just as the rebels (almost all jihadis) are making a desperate attempt to break the government siege of East Aleppo. 

Down south in the Damascus region, there are still a few pockets of rebel controlled territory but they are shrinking steadily.  The resurgence of ordinary life as described in this piece is reflective of the distance now existing between central Damascus and the places where the shells still fall in the suburbs.

Nevertheless, the aura of the place comes through strongly in this article.  Damascus before the civil war was always a fun place.  The hotels and restaurants were good.  There was no pressure to conform to Islamic standards of dress or behavior, The Grand Bazaar and the "Street Called Straight" were endlessly entertaining.  The secret police were discreetly unobtrusive most of the time.  The women were Western in style.  I remember hanging out in places very like the little bars and cafes described in this piece.

This was all before Robert Ford's War.  BTW, Ford now lives somewhere in northern new England where people still have some common sense.  He is reported to me to be somewhat reflective and perhaps repentant of the role he played in triggering this evil war when he was US ambassador in Syria.  He said recently at a Washington conference that he has discovered in retirement that the mass of the American people whom he lives among reject neoconism and the very thought of another war waged as a result of a policy of overseas aggression.

So, maybe there is hope, pilgrims, maybe.  pl 



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20 Responses to ” … the civil war suddenly seems far away.” LA Times

  1. TV says:

    Ford lives in St. Johnsbury, VT. and recently came out…wait for it…Clinton.

  2. Lemur says:

    As I understand it, Idlib is the locus of religious conservatism in Syria. I believe SyrianGirl said that there’s quite a contrast between different parts of the country on that score.
    In other news, reports are going round Russia may slash their defence budget by 30% in ’17.

  3. kooshy says:

    Colonel, this is the good news, maybe this is why there is reason for russians to bomb them. tIMO, this is the sign that the Jihadis of east Aleppo are running out of ammunition and supplies. Nice ending.
    “Rebel groups clash with each other in Syria’s Aleppo”
    “Fighters of Jabhat Fateh al-Sham, Nour “al-Din al-Zinki and Abu Amara attempted to seize positions and weapons from Fastaqim, one of its officials said. Fateh al-Sham is a jihadist group. Zinki and Fastaqim fight under the Free Syrian Army (FSA) banner”

  4. If so, he has (historically) lots of company. The most poignant example of which I’ve heard is that of two older gentlemen encountering each other at a lake resort in northern Italy in ca. 1920. I believe it was von Berthold and Samsonov. The discussion probably concerned who was most at fault for the events of July, 1914, but one can imagine the regret of men who had set in motion the destruction of their two great empires.

  5. Joe100 says:

    This 30% cut figure is apparently misreporting by RT, according to a commenter at Saker who reviewed the RT report source information.

  6. Tigermoth says:

    The Jihadis have launched a second phase attack on Western Aleppo. Both Russian and Syrian air forces are not flying.!!!!
    Maybe they just don’t understand Russian. What they do seem to understand is that the skies are clear for 10 km around Aleppo. Their videos show artillery and rockets on open terrain.
    Will tomorrow’s “humanitarian pause” still go ahead under these circumstances?
    Will Putin give the RAF the all clear to hit them or is he still trying to prove something to the West?

  7. kooshy says:

    Colonel, sounds like no-longer nobody wants the Sultan in the game.
    “Syria’s U.S.-backed SDF says no to Turkish role in Raqqa operation”

  8. The Beaver says:

    There is a whole group of western journos who are reporting in situ and in visu from Damascus because they have been issued visa by the Govt to attend a conference. Thus we may read some actual facts from Anne Bernard et al.

  9. Croesus says:

    Isn’t that pretty much how Peter’s story is told in Luke 22 — Peter realized how dastardly was the deed he had done so he bought a quiet place in the outskirts of Damascus and lived a life of comfortable regret.

  10. Mishkilji says:

    Having lived in Damascus for three years and visited it frequently over the past 30, allow me to echo Pat’s endorsement. It is the great Arab city for all the reasons he cited.
    I disagree that this was Robert Ford’s war. This was King Abdullah and Bandar’s war and I’m increasingly convinced its roots go back to the mid-90’s when the jockeying for the post-Hafez Syria began.
    Like many events in the Mideast, the war took off due to US inattention or deference to regional allies.

  11. turcopolier says:

    Yes the origins of the war are complex but Ford’s meddling was a trigger. I remember when Hafith al-asad fired Rafik Hariri the first time because he had come to believe that Hariri and the Saudis were plotting against an Asad succession. Someone had planted this idea in his head ad it was quite effective in removing Hariri. within a few days of the dismissal a Saudi delegation showed up in Damascus to demand Hariri be restored to the Lebanese prime ministership. Asad agreed and of course was determined after that not to allow it. that “held” for several years. IMO of such threads are the skein of factors woven. pl

  12. johnf says:

    I agree with a poster on a previous thread that Putin’s holding back his (and Syria’s) airforce is purely down to the fact of not wishing to give the Clintonistas or Neo-cons the slightest opportunity to create an election-swinging “Black Swan” event – whether its the real or unreal massacring of civilians by Russian bombing or an actual clash of Russian/American airforces in the skies over Syria.
    In a few days the entire Western media is going to be 24 hours a day obsessed with what is happening in Washington – whoever wins. Washington politicians are going to be obsessed with – Washington politicians. That’s when Russia and Assad will deal with the jihadis.

  13. Thomas says:

    “The discussion probably concerned who was most at fault for the events of July, 1914, but one can imagine the regret of men who had set in motion the destruction of their two great empires.”
    The regret should not be so much in the start of the Great War but in the Civilians failing to conclude it once it stalemated. Then they could have constructed an understanding for their times with a renewed Congress of Vienna.
    Maybe the lessons learned then will reflect well for the future.

  14. Thomas says:

    “Will tomorrow’s “humanitarian pause” still go ahead under these circumstances?”
    The Russian fleet will be in place once the pause is over, so after that anything goes.
    From an outside observation, The Pause appears to be the last chance for people wishing to flee East Aleppo to make their move or to stock up and hunker down for the weekend.

  15. Kooshy says:

    Yea lots of neocons and think tankers will be busy jockeying for a position in new administration, so Syria may get little brake for a few months. The Clintons will be busy shielding themselves on coming legal cases and finding out who’s willing to pay to CGI for a chance to play.

  16. Mark Logan says:

    It’s my own forlorn hope for the R2Pers. People don’t change much but opinions on what is achievable is another matter. Mice and men? Whatever, t’will serve.

  17. charly says:

    SDF are the Kurds aka the PKK according to Turkey. Not surprising that they don’t want Turkey

  18. Earthrise says:

    To those of you who know better, is this Syria that different from Lebanon? Could they come back together now Sykes-Picot is dead?

  19. turcopolier says:

    IMO the ethnographic building blocks in the Levant are farther apart than they have ever been. The Christians and Shia want to maintain their distance from Syria. Hizbullah is fighting in Syria to try to keep the craziness on the other side of the border. pl

  20. kooshy says:

    Yes, but SDF are also US allies as is Turkey, make it a tight position for US to operate in.

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