“Syria and Egypt can’t be fixed” by Spengler in Asia Times



"It took nearly two years for the chattering classes to take stock of Egypt's economic disaster. The New York Times' Thomas Friedman, the benchmark for liberal opinion on foreign policy, gushed like an adolescent about the tech-savvy activists of Tahrir Square in early 2011. Last week he visited a Cairo bakery and watched the Egyptian poor jostling for subsidized bread. Some left hungry. [2] As malnutrition afflicts roughly a quarter of Egyptians in the World Health Organization's estimate, and the Muslim Brotherhood government waits for a bumper wheat crop that never will come, Egypt is slowly dying. Emergency loans from Qatar and Libya slowed the national necrosis but did not stop it.
This background lends an air of absurdity to the present debate over whether the West should arm Syria's Sunni rebels. American hawks like Senators John McCain and Lindsey Graham, to be sure, argue for sending arms to the Sunnis because they think it politically unwise to propose an attack on the Assad regime's master, namely Iran. The Obama administration has agreed to arm the Sunnis because it costs nothing to pre-empt Republican criticism.  "  Spengler


Yup. Partition of Syria is a real possibility.  pl





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49 Responses to “Syria and Egypt can’t be fixed” by Spengler in Asia Times

  1. maryam says:

    Nice map, except for the fact that the Sanjak has been part of Turkey since 1939- ( Hatay province)

  2. turcopolier says:

    Yes. It is the Province of Hatay. This is a map of the French mandate, but something like a map of the future of what we now call Syria if the “rebels” win. pl

  3. mbrenner says:

    Friedman is not a liberal in any meaningful sense. He is just an ignorant, self-important fool who has backed every escapade in the Islamic world since 2001 with an arrogance that has matched that of the Bush people (hardly liberals) and the same plus the expedient Obama crowd now making the same mistakes.

  4. JohnH says:

    Yes, the “serious people” gushed about freedom and democracy motivating the Arab Spring. Rarely did they notice that it was an impoverished vegetable seller in Tunisia who set it all off. Instead, “serious people” like Tom Friedman chose to see it as a fulfillment of American public diplomacy BS about freedom and democracy coming to the Middle East.
    At a PR level “serious people” can never bring themselves to admit that people’s economic situations can have political consequences. Impoverishment as a consequence globalization, population growth, environmental degradation and resource depletion were always more important than some claptrap about freedom and democracy.
    Having been proven wrong once again, you can expect Friedman and his ilk to prattle on about freedom and democracy the next time they can’t explain or comprehend events. Like Marie Antoinette, they don’t understand why people can’t just eat cake…

  5. VietnamVet says:

    Thomas Friedman is a “neo-liberal” not a progressive liberal. You know one of those “get it while you can – greed is good” type that have seized control of the USA and the EU. He is a married in member of the multi-national elite.
    The riots in Brazil and Egypt root cause is over population and decreasing resources. Also, neo-liberal governments have an ingrained contempt for the people. “The poor and unemployed deserve their fate.” For the Olympics, Brazil walled in and commenced a COIN pacification in their Favelas (Shanty Towns); one cop/soldier for every 40 indigents. This scorn will start riots every time; including Greece, UK, Sweden, Spain and Ireland.
    Egypt is now exporting it excess sons to Syria on a jihad against the Shiite joining other Sunni Jihadists from Libya, Tunisia, Iraq, Saudi Arabia, Somalia and Chechnya.
    The neo-liberal’s final fatal flaw is that they flat out refuse to recognize that war and pollution have enormous costs in lives and treasure that are not accounted for in the portfolios of their increasing wealth. A Sunni-Shiite Jihad and Global Warming will blowback against all of us but that also includes the multi-national elite and their offspring despite their denials. We all live on one earth.

  6. maryam says:

    Col Lang,
    The “rebels” know themselves and know what they fought for, that is enough honor for them, the results can never be guaranteed.
    I find your sarcasm on the topic myself fairly amusing in view of your repeated declarations that you cannot tolerate tyranny. The Assads must just be the one exception?

  7. turcopolier says:

    I notice that you speak of the rebels in the past tense. You should have the courage to come out from behind this ridiculous puppet identity to address me. Your culture is trapped in a morass of tyranny from which you do not really want to escape. Under the guise of revolution you merely substitute one set of tyrants for another. Egypt, Tunisia, Iraq, what is coming in Afghanistan, the emerging sultanate in Turkey, your culture carries this disease. I prefer the secular tyrants. pl

  8. Babak Makkinejad says:

    If the results, as you say, “cannot be guaranteed”, then why begin?
    This is not an exercise in empirical sciences where a failed experiment is still a useful form of knowledge.
    I think the rebels know what they are fighting for, destruction of the Ba’ath state in Syria.
    And the other side is trying to preserve that state.
    Neither the rebels, nor the government, nor the Ikhwan in Syria, nor the Ikhwan in Egypt, nor the Ikhwan in Turkey (AKP) have articulated any vision for the future of Syria beside the destruction the Ba’ath state.
    There is no positive program.
    Excepting the revolutionary doctrines of Ayatollah Khomeini in regards to Islamic Government, no Muslim thinker has articulated any other doctrine of government except Tyranny.
    Where is the governance theory of the Sufis (pick any order you wish)?
    Where is the governance theory of Ikhwan – one can see in Syria various “Emirates” – as though the Arabs (and Afghans and others) are still living in tents.
    Wayne Wright, a former CIA operative, who was organizing the rebels in Afghanistan against the Communist government there has publicly stated that the Communist government there was the best government of Afghanistan (Dr. Najib’s).
    I read recently from a former officer who had been to Afghanistan and to Turkmenistan that he came to view the tyranny in Turkmenistan preferable to what obtains in Afghanistan today.
    May be the rebels in Syria will succeed and will destroy the state – do not expect Liberty & Justice & Representative government with respect for Human Rights to prevail in that event.

  9. maryam says:

    Col Lang,
    There is no puppet identity, you continue to try to stereotype me, you do not know me. Seriously, what do you think I am running some sort of Salafi outfit to infiltrate this blog? For what outlandish purpose? What is going on that is so special here? This is incredible!
    The rest of the speech… I have become familiar with.
    You are welcome to like secular tyrants- I appreciate the clarification.

  10. turcopolier says:

    An old trick. first you mis-state someone’s words and then comment on it. I did not say I liked secular tyrants. I said I preferred them to the religious fanatics who will result from the “revolutions’ that you favor. you are done here. pl

  11. Alba Etie says:

    Thomas Friedman was also a huge cheer leader for deposing Saddam . In that regard he is just another Judith Miller – but with a mustache. I am thankful Mr Friedman does appear to be very muted about intervening in Syria.

  12. Grimgrin says:

    I wonder if Egypt will attempt to intervene militarily against the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam, or if they’re too enervated after the revolution to manage. Not pleasant to contemplate; the figures being thrown around in some reports are that filling the GERD will cause between 10% and 20% reduction in the volume of water flowing downstream.
    Worst case scenario I suspect is if Egypt tries and fails to pre-empt the dam using force. If the loss of water causes famine in Egypt there will be international pressure on Ethiopia to release more water and slow the filling of the dam. Pressure which will likely not be effective if Ethiopia is or was recently at war with Egypt.
    I’m hardly an expert in the region, I’d be very interested in what people here think of the likelihood of a war over the Nile.

  13. Tyler says:

    How many sky executions via drone has Assad ordered compared to Nobel Peace Prize winner Barack Obama?

  14. Assuming partition of Syria would that bring some new stability or just create more instability in the region? Or is it impossible to foreshadow?
    Should Saudi foreign policy and investing be considered an international force promoting instability in MENA?

  15. Kieran says:

    These secular tyrannies are products of a different age. They are no longer viable in these countries. They offered no antidote to the “morass of tyranny”. Judge them by the results. If they had been successful in addressing the problems of their societies there would be no rising tide of Islamism. They monopolized the state but they lost their societies. Simply increasing the brutal police state measures solves nothing. The more you try to repress the Islamists the more the man in the street is convinced they are the ‘solution’ that everyone is conspiring against. Political Islam needs to burn itself out in power. That is the only way a genuine non-tyrannical secular society might one day emerge. The seeds of this are already present in Egypt and Turkey.
    The alternative is the Assad ‘strategy’ of increasing police state measures to the point of flattening much of your country. Is Syria secular yet?

  16. Paul Escobar says:

    Mr. Lang & all,
    I would like to take a shot at explaining people like Maryam. They have appeared here in many forms, secular & religious. They always seem to make the same argument (inevitably clashing with Mr. Lang).
    They believe in the majority “mandate”. Such a mandate can be determined within a democracy through electoral votes…or within a tyranny through demographics & private polling. Hence, Mr. Lang, your observation that such people are fine with “one election, only one time”.
    They view the “mandate” as an evolutionary framework for society. They believe that as the majority experiments (through their tyrant or elected chief), they come to comprehend both successes & mistakes…and adapt accordingly.
    So when you, Mr. Lang, complain about the barbaric aspects of their society…they are not overly concerned. They believe that such “mistakes” are momentary. Furthermore, they believe that such “mistakes” generate enough internal societal discomfort…that society will soon correct itself in pursuit of comfort.
    Of course, their analysis is broad…and I’d say broadly accepted within the popular culture. What’s great about this forum…is that it is challenged with rival precedents & merits.
    I suppose after many years, and many posts, this argument bores you Mr. Lang. But I appreciate that you allow them to provoke you…up to the point of cleverness or personal nastiness.
    Paul Escobar

  17. turcopolier says:

    Paul Escobar et al.
    Snide cleverness will get you banned from this space every time. This is supposed to be a place for respectful, rational discourse, not the venting of one’s emotional “cleverness” in pursuit of some deeply felt purpose. In re Maryam, the decision on “her” part to misstate my position resulted in banning. As for Paul’s major point, there is a general belief in the evolving nature of human society that I do not share. Societies change because economic and other circumstances change and because human actors change the societies. We are now witnessing in Syria an attempt to change the nature of a society based on the long held and deeply funded wishes of the gulf Arabs. pl

  18. Tyler says:

    The MOL Comfort, thought to be shipping weapons to Syria, broke up off the coast of Yemen due to ‘unexplained circumstances’.
    I didn’t know the Russians had a sub with that name.

  19. Babak Makkinejad says:

    In general, I could agree with you. Certainly that was my attitude towards the Islamic Salvation Front’s election win in Alegria – who am I to argue with people who wish to be ruled by Islamic parties?
    Likewise, in Egypt, I thought Mubarak regime to have passed its shelf life and when Ikhwan came to power I believed that one has to se how they governed (they do not seem to be able to).
    And I think people could, in some ways, learn from their mistakes and one cannot live an alien people’s history for them.
    On the other hand, where states have been destroyed or removed from a territory, only chaos has resulted: Somalia, Afghansiatn, Congo are good examples.
    [Where chaos has not followed – Bosnia, Kosovo – Western powers had to go in to contain the damage.]
    I think if Syrian government is destoryed, the situation will resemble more Afghanistan or Somalia than Egypt or Iran (after the Islamic Revolution).

  20. Babak Makkinejad says:

    I think one always has hope for things to improve and when looking historically, one can see that situation in Europe and North America has improved compared to say 1875 – that is mistakes were corrected etc.

  21. Al Arabist says:

    What ‘rising tide of Islamism?’ The Asads, like the Generals before them and the Ottomans, have always dealt with political Islam. Bashar just messed up and mishandled his client status with the west. He’s not MORE hated by the political Islam crowd than anyone else, you know.

  22. Al Arabist says:

    The Nabhani way of thinking coexisted with the Ottoman empire just as local Islamists tolerated Bashar.

  23. Paul Escobar says:

    I, for one, am not comfortable rendering any judgement on whose conception is correct. Observing the exchanges between the likes of Maryam & Mr. Lang is fruitful enough, at this point in my life.
    Really, the point of my post is that people like Maryam are not very self-aware or honest about what they are actually advocating. That is why they get frustrated when confronted & challenged…and they inevitably lash out.
    My contribution to ending an apparently vicious cycle,
    Paul Escobar

  24. 505thPIR says:

    Funny you say that Tyler. When I read about this sinking last week, I instantly thought of the S. Korean warship that got itself split in half a few years back. Putin is playing for keeps.

  25. Medicine Man says:

    Quite so — he was a proud member of the “stay the course”-chorus long beyond the point where there was even a fig-leaf of sense behind it. My favorite Friedman-ism: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Friedman_Unit
    In Friedman’s case, I wouldn’t call this attacking the messenger; some people should wear the fruits of their past cheer leadering around their neck.

  26. taras says:

    yugoslavia seems to be doing OK.
    as more and more mass-produced weapons make their way to the man on the street, i think we can expect similar “de-federalizations” occuring throughout the world.

  27. Kerim says:

    Interesting perspective from Zbig re. US foreign policy in the ME and situation in Syria.
    I think he hits the nail on its head

  28. turcopolier says:

    Paul Escobar
    So what is it that I am “the likes” of? pl

  29. The beaver says:

    The latest:
    Saw the rumours on “Angry Arab blog” yesterday and today this is what I read:
    “{So it is official. I still stick to my post from yesterday: the Emir of Qatar directs all his policies on the basis of his hostility to Saudi Arabia and the Saudi hostility to his rule. As you know, the Saudis always in indirect negotiations with the Emir insisted that he surrenders power, even to any of his very young sons at the time. They first insisted that his father returned to power, and when that was not possible, they said that they would accept any alternative but the Emir. There is such bad blood between the two even during the alliance during the Arab spring. The anti-Qatari tendencies have been growing in the Saudi media. The Emir of Qatar was subjected–by his own admission–to internal pressures from the family in the Bush years: they asked him to be more compromising and forthcoming in response to pressures from the Bush-Cheney administration. The fact that the Emir decided that to ignore his feud with the House of Saud and mount jointly with House of Saud the Arab counter-revolution indicates that there was a plot of some sorts, and that the US was not far behind. This will make the GCC more agreeable for the US especially that the other members are far less troublesome for the Saudi family and for the US, notwithstanding the Saudi-Omani tensions and even the conflict between UAE and Saudi Arabia, both of which compete in the game of pleasing the US/Israeli alliance.}”

  30. Paul Escobar says:

    Mr. Lang,
    “the likes of” was in reference to Maryam. “She” has appeared here in many aspects or incarnations, as I pointed out in my initial post.
    You are simply “Mr. Lang” to me.

  31. elkern says:

    I expect him to apologize & donate his entire earnings since 2002 to the Red Crescent, within the next six months.

  32. Deray says:

    I thought I’d pipe in strictly as an “interested” bystander if you will as I am an Ethiopian :-). The real issue with this particular dam is not the reduction of flow during its filling period etc.. those can be managed through negotiations. I’m told that expert opinion (including Egyptian although you’d find them hard pressed to publicly say so at this point in time) is that this dam has great benefits to Egypt and Sudan in regulating the waterflow, and reducing significant evaporation loss.
    The significance of this dam is that it represents something that (to my surprise at least) Egypt does not seem prepared for. Namely the end of the Egyptian monopoly on the Nile waters. This point in time was inevitable, and it does seem to have arrived precisely at the period when Egypt appears to be somewhat unstable. This particular dam is a hydroelectric dam, which will keep the water flowing. There will be more dams – some of them water consumptive (irrigation etc…)on the Nile and its major tributaries.
    I can’t imagine a more perfect cause for demagogy. In that sense there is a very good possibility for politically motivated military action of some kind.
    Irrespective of how effective that action may be, what scenario would make that the final act? All it would mean is that there will no longer be any moral or legal grounds for the upstream countries to take Egypt’s genuine needs and opinions into account. That to me is a disaster for Egypt.
    So I personally do not see a war, but this can become a political hot potato. It calls for a mature Egyptian leader who has broad legitimacy to be able to successfully negotiate the terms of the end of Egyptian Nile water monopoly. I don’t see that happening anytime soon. Especially with these clowns…http://thelede.blogs.nytimes.com/2013/06/06/with-cameras-rolling-egyptian-politicians-threaten-ethiopia-over-dam/?_r=0

  33. kao_hsien_chih says:

    These are the same people who ask “what’s wrong with Kansas.” They believe in “inevitable histories” in which their way of thinking will undoubtedly triumph and are puzzled when other people don’t agree automatically with their worldview, even if shown good reasons.
    They are fundamentalists, who believe in their all conquering dreamy utopia no matter what they see and destroy in their delusion. It may be of a different form than that of the religious fundamentalists, but still a crazy, fanatical, and anti-human vision. They should be resisted as much as any crazy absolutists.

  34. kao_hsien_chih says:

    Note with regards to the previous post:
    I just wanted to clarify that my remarks were not aimed specifically at Maryam or any other specific person, but those who blindly persist on imposing their vision of “the future of humanity” with the force of bombs and guided missiles and the do-gooders who support and enable them, no matter what their politico-religious affiliations might be.

  35. jonst says:

    whatever this has turned out to be in Syria it is at least worth noting, plenty of people turned out,and took substantial risk, to PEACEFULLY protest against the regime. Call it naive, idealistic, hell call it a bit silly, but they did demonstrate for change. Peacefully. And they were suppressed, and many, slaughtered, like goats. So, whatever evils have arisen, and whatever evils might come, there was a moment, when peaceful change was possible. I am not saying it would have been easy, or even viable. But it was possible. And it was the govt that threw the first punch. I think at some mention should be made of that.

  36. turcopolier says:

    “… but they did demonstrate for change. Peacefully. And they were suppressed, and many, slaughtered, like goats.”
    A great exaggeration. This is a bit like saying at the height of The Terror in the French Revolution or the murderous self-destructive wars that followed that “well, the monarchy brought this on themselves and all of Europe.” In fact, Baathi Syria was nothing like Nazi Germany (that’s the implication). Yes, it was an autocratic police-state. Pray tell me what Islamist Egypt, Shia run Iraq and Erdogan’s Turkey might be either now or in the future? Tell me what our great “friend” Saudi Arabia might be? SA is a country where people are jailed and flogged for Christian worship much less Jewish identity, a country in which a Christian clergyman cannot visit the US Embassy to hold Christmas services. The Syrian government repeatedly attempted throughout the Bush and Obama
    Administrations to negotiate a detente with the US and Israel and were blocked in every attempt by the neocon and Likud influence in both countries. This rebellion had Saudi, Wahhabi fingerprints all over it from the start. Many millions have been paid to British and American PR companies to create the image that you are parroting. If you know these companies you know that they can make anything you like out of the dreams of the naive. The Saudi Wahhabis have maintained for decades a long term plan for the re-assertion of Sunni Wahhabi triumphalism in the Levant. This rebellion is largely a product of that plan. pl

  37. Babak Makkinejad says:

    I agree, I think potentially we are talking about dams in Kenya, Sudan, South Sudan, Tanzania, and Uganda as well as the one in Ethiopia.
    The “unpreparedness” that you are referring to demonstrates, in my opinion, the extent of decay in Egypt during the presidency of Mubarak – the man was asleep at the wheels.

  38. Tyler says:

    I think one side realizes the stakes being played for here.
    You’ve gotta wonder how hard Putin laughed when Obama declared ‘global warming’ as the greatest threat of our time.

  39. jonst says:

    I had (and still have one, an 91 year old woman) family–in-laws–but very close to me, in Dar’a at the time of initial uprisings, started it might be acknowledged, in Dar’a.. All secularist old time Socialist/Nassar type supporters. And they still side–fearfully and begrudgingly–with the Regime. At least the ones that avoided torture. 3 did not. They were the ones to tell me about a slaughter. I believe them. I believe nothing, or little out in the MSM. I think you know that.
    I agree with much–but not all–what you wrote above. Nothing was or is like the Nazis. Certainly not Syria. You know what I feel about the neocons/ the Zionists and the R2P’s. I would not raise a hand to save the Saudis. In terms of strategic interest my position is The entire ME ‘….is not worth the bones of a single Pomeranian grenadier.’ I wish them well. If I can be of help with taking sides…I would be glad to see my nation give humanitarian aid. I would not otherwise intervene. Anywhere. There.
    I will stand by my statement–granted, it was long shot then, that if YOU saw what was coming with the beginning of the peaceful demonstrations, and I saw what was coming..i.e. the cooping of it by Saudi intel and US intel, and Saudi Wahhabis then it seems to me reasonable that Assad should have seen it. And quickly taken different, albeit desperate, and surprising ways to respond. He played right into their hands….true, he has fought better and harder, and more ruthless than they thought he would. But he might have considered a ‘Sadat’ move…and tried to co-opt what was coming. And survive…in truncated fashion. My comment was, and is, this should be noted. He made a decision. It may seem to him, and others, that it was the only choice he had. I don’t buy that.

  40. turcopolier says:

    What would a Sadat move have been? The Syrian government tried repeatedly to make a deal with us and the Israelis? pl

  41. Tyler says:

    Let me tell you how shocked I am that another Jew is advocating for the goyim to die on the behalf of Greater Israel.

  42. D says:

    Yes, there were peaceful protests at first, similar to the ones in many other countries. Economic reform, high food prices and drought were some of the factors behind it. People were detained, some were roughed up, and a few died. All in all not too different from the Occupy demonstrations in the US. Then police and demonstrators started getting shot, and the whole thing escalated. Quickly thereafter fake news stories started appearing, such as the lesbian Amina Abdullah Arraf who was an American in Scotland, or the “Danny” who appeared with Anderson Cooper (unedited videos show them turning on the sound of gunfire for a dramatic background).
    In very few countries is the state privilege of force and violence allowed to be challenged.
    Today we have a situation where people such as Edward Black who were part of the first dissenters completely has turned his back on what today is a Salafist dominated foreign sponsored civil war.

  43. D says:

    Informative interview with Dr Ziad Fadel of Syrianperspective.blogspot.com:

  44. jonst says:

    Col, I think the dynamics of these foolish campaigns in the ME…going back to Iraq, (and the Balkans, for that matter) always start with, essentially, marketing campaigns. Designed to demonize the leaders of nations, or political groups, in the same manner ‘bad guys’ were demonized in those bad Hollywood Westerns of 40s. And to introduce, in an ‘up close and personal manner’ ‘the victims’ of the bad guys. And there often are many to go around. At the same time…we’ll the usual massacre story pushed out too. Gas…or some mass slaughter.
    It is not with the govt’s of the US or Israelis Assad should have first appealed to. For obivous reasons you point out. It is with Morning Joe. Scoff…go ahead. But he should have had a social media strategy. He should have come to the UN. He should have grabbed some family and sent them off on a tour of all local TV news stations, being interviewed on the horrors of civil unrest…and the likely violence–lead by AQ, and keep repeat that, the killers of 9/11 should have been his slogan–that was bound to arise. He should have done the same thing with the oh so elite talking heads in Paris, and London.
    My point is, perhaps, with new thinking, radical new thinking, that adapts the enemies tactics, there is a brief window of opportunity where you can win the marketing campaign with your brand. Yes, I know…most of the traditional outlets in the MSM are assets–or at least allies, of AIPIC. But there is a new world of outlets out there. That is the point. Controlling the story.
    Anyway…what would the attempt cost? ok, granted, it might be like asking Laurence Welk to go with a slick new formula of rap music. I grant you….but maybe someone down the road will wake up and see the new battle fields. And how to fight on them. At least initial…when impressions are being concocted to play to the naive.

  45. bth says:

    Col. I thought this article was telling of the emerging situation in Syria at many levels.

  46. It seems to me that the Balkanization of Syria (and Iraq) has been a longstanding objective of the Neocons and their colleagues in Israel and Diaspora (to include UK, Canada, France, etc).
    If Syria does get Balkanized along the lines of the map our host has provided, then what are the regional consequences? Is the Balkanization of Syria a prelude to war against Iran or more general instability and terrorism?

  47. confusedponderer says:

    Intesting report by Patrick Cockburn in the Independent:
    “Once a rebel stronghold, the town of Tal Kalakh on the Syrian side of the border with Lebanon changed sides at the week-end and is now controlled by the Syrian army. The switch in allegiance is the latest advance by government forces into areas where they have had little or no authority since the start of the revolt in Syria two years ago.
    The government is triumphant at the surrender of 39 local leaders of the rebel Free Syrian Army with their weapons, which were ceremoniously stacked against the outside wall of the town’s military headquarters. The exact terms of the deal are mysterious, but there is no doubt that the regular Syrian army now holds all parts of Tal Kalakh, which had a pre-war population of 55,000 and is an important smuggling route for arms and ammunition from Lebanon a couple of miles to the south. Syrian army commanders claimed the reason the rebels had given up in the town so easily was because of their defeat in the battle for the similarly strategically important town of Qusayr, 20 miles away, earlier in June.

    Everybody seemed to accept that the Syrian army is back for good. The soldiers in checkpoints were not wearing helmets and often not carrying their weapons, as if they did not expect anybody to attack them. Khalid al-Eid said there had been 300-400 FSA in Tal Kalakh before the army’s return but they must have melted back into the local population under an unofficial amnesty or have gone to Lebanon. Soldiers or guerrillas who have switched sides are often an unreliable source of information about their former colleagues because they denigrate them in a bid to impress their new masters. But Khalid al-Eid did say that his men were “paid between $100 and 300 a month and we got an extra $1,000 if we carried out an operation”. He described how he would make Youtube films – “sometimes they show us firing when there was nothing to shoot at” – which would later be shown on al-Arabiya and al-Jazeera satellite television.
    What were the exact terms of the deal that replaced the FSA with the Syrian army? Peace did not break out all of a sudden and it had been preceded by a series of local ceasefires and negotiations arranged by leading local townspeople. Monsignor Michel Naaman, a Syriac Catholic priest in Homs, who has often taken part in mediating such agreements said that “older people in the town had seen much of it damaged and did not want it destroyed”.
    He adds that there are many other such deals and agreements in the making. For instance in Homs many people have moved to the al-Waar district for safety, its population rising from 150,00 to 700,000. The Old City, which once had 400,000 people in it is almost empty aside from rebel fighters. He says that ceasefires or agreements for rebels to put down their weapons in return for an amnesty are much easier to arrange when all the rebels are Syrians. “When there are foreign Salafi or Jihadi fighters present, as there are in the Old City, an agreement is almost impossible.””

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