Tag Archives: President Bashar al-Assad


            While it hasn’t been a major headline story, the push is definitely on for peace talks with the combatants in Syria’s civil war. However, the rebels don’t appear to be in a mood to come to the peace table. The obstacle to any talks is that President Bashar al-Assad says that he will not step down regardless. His departure is the one condition that the rebels demand be met before they will participate. Thus, we have an impasse.

            The British are pushing a conference that includes as many as 11 nations and are pressing for total participation. They recognize that a meeting with only Assad and the rebels will never work. The larger presence of many nations can create a pressure that might arrive at compromises to end the civil war.

At this point, the rebels are loathe to discuss anything except Assad’s departure. Within their camp, there is a wide separation of opinion ranging from the creation of an Islamic state to a far more secular society. With the addition of the Al-Qaeda linked forces as well as the Hezbollah troops, coercion has increased to press for a state functioning like Iran. Of course, the more liberal elements dread such an idea. The extreme Islamic rebels  also refuse to recognize the rebels favored by the West.

Secretary of State John Kerry has been working behind the scenes and recently met with Ahmad Jarba, the head of the Syrian National Coalition but the contents of their communication were not released. However, Kerry is keenly aware of the rebel’s position and knows the rebels will not stop fighting until Assad is gone. His meetings with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov has produced the outline of what could be a transitional government. Will this idea fly? It remains questionable.

In the Middle East, citizens hold their grudges for centuries. The first time I came to Israel in 1968, they were still talking about hating the crusaders that came through a thousand years before. The mayhem that the Syrian army has created will be a source of animosity even centuries from now. In their view, the only good Assad is a dead Assad.

Complicating the possibility of talks is that Assad is now in a stronger position than he was just a few months ago. He now has more confidence not to yield at the bargaining table and is talking about running for re-election next year.

Where is all of this going? Maybe nowhere. We must hope some angle will be discovered that produces movement or the killing will continue.

Halloween never seems to quit in Syria.

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“T’was the week before Christmas and all through the Middle East

              Every creature was hiding, even the beast.

When what should appear up in the sky, but 12 scud rockets and

a helicopter filled with bombs…”

Sorry. It ain’t funny Santa. It seems almost every other year that at Bethlehem’s Church of the Nativity where the Prince of Peace was born, people are keeping one eye on where the nearest bomb shelter might be. This year is no different.

Syria appears on the brink of collapse. President Bashar al-Assad seems to have figured out that releasing chemical weapons will send him before the International Court of Justice in the Hague – if he doesn’t get killed first. At least, at the moment he hasn’t gone forward. While Syria’s Foreign Minister Walid al-Moallen blames international sanctions for their problems, in Jordan the defecting former Prime Minister is now forming a new government in exile. The truth is that even the Russians have finally figured out that Assad’s days are numbered and they don’t want to give him exile. Russia is now backing away. In Syria, bread is scarce and lack of flour is shutting down bakeries. An online cartoon shows Santa Claus receiving letters from Syria with a request for bread. The price has shot up from 25 Syrian pounds to more than 200 pounds for bread and fluctuates like the stock market. Because the West has done virtually nothing, there is a growing suspicion in the country that they are being deliberately starved. There is certainly nothing under the Christmas tree this year.

Egypt continues in turmoil as droves of Egyptians flood to the polls to vote on the new constitution. Early reports seem to indicate that the Moslem Brotherhood got out the vote in their favor. However, even if the constitution is forced through, dissention will remain high. Approximately 10% of the population are Coptic Christians who remain deeply offended by new rules pressing Egyptian further into becoming a Moslem state. They believe they were steam rolled by their Moslem opponents. At Friday Prayer services, the imams urged members to vote yes “in the name of religion.” Some Moslems voted no because they disapproved of this pressure.

Those who have studied the new constitution note many flaws in the document rushed through the assembly to prevent the judiciary from ruling them out of order.  One clause tied wages to productivity instead of prices. Other provisions would grant President Morsi and his Moslem functionaries the right to denigrate the role of women.

During this past week 35 Muslim Brotherhood’s offices were attacked, including its Cairo headquarters. In the streets, the conservative Muslim group and its opponents battled openly. Riots continued in Alexandria. No matter how the election is concluded by this Saturday, dissension will continue. Regardless which sides wins, the opponents will still consider the opposition to be virtually criminal. Many Egyptians are seriously discontented with both sides.           Dissension in the Middle East can be deadly.

So. our Christmas poem might end…

He sprang to his helicopter with a whistle.

Then flew away like a guided missile.

But I heard him exclaim as a bomb bust into flame

“Sure hope you have a merry whatever

And try to get some sleep whenever!”

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Filed under Egypt, middle east, Muslims, Syria