Syria: Slow and Steady

Posted in | 20-05-2011 | 34498 viewed | Category: (Syria  Arab Spring  ) | comments:(9442 )

 Waiel Awwad

The US administration\\\'s sanctions against President Bashar Assad of Syria has served as the  last nail in the coffin of the dead peace process in the Middle East. It is, however, a symbolic measure, since President Assad neither holds an account in the US, nor is he likely to. The only account he tried to open with the (Barack) Obama administration is a better understanding of Damascus\\\' positions on a number of issue : the Syrian –Israel peace process in particular, the Arab Israel conflict in general, the Palestine question, the Lebanese national  resistance to Israeli occupation, the Iraq situation after pulling of US combat forces and Syria`s relations with Iran. Unlike his predecessor, George W. Bush ,who used the language of “Either you are with us or you are against us”.
Even when Obama appointed a new US ambassador to Syria, despite the hawks and his critics’ objections, many felt that the relations between the two states was back on track, keeping in mind that the US still keeps Syria on its (terror) list. 
In fact, late President Hafez Al Assad confronted former American President Jimmy Carter in one of his meetings and questioned him why Syria was on the American list (of countries which sponsor terrorism) and asked him to give an example or any evidence of Syria`s involvement in any terrorist act against the US. President Carter was speechless since the administration\\\'s decision to list Syria is a political decision .

The Plot: Advantage Israel 
The move by the Obama administration against the Syrian president is a part of a package gift to Prime Minister of Israel Benjamin Netanyahu ahead of his visit to the White House. It also includes “NO to the unilateral declaration of a Palestinian State”, support for Israel\\\'s “natural expansion policy”, as Netanyahu likes to call it,  reassuring the visiting dignitary of US\\\' commitment to protect Israel, the only democracy in the region (democracy for Jewish population only).
Netanyahu was quick to react to Obama `s speech (of May 19 on the Middle East) and reject a withdrawal to the 1967 border. During his meeting with Obama he will insist on an American guarantee on \\\'No Return\\\' of Palestinian refugees, an interim Palestinian state project and never to talk on the internationally recognized border of Israel, especially after the sudden pouring of thousands of Palestinian refugees over the borders with Syria and Lebanon, under a unified national liberation  movement, and the indiscriminate firing on the civilians by Israeli soldiers which left 14 dead and hundreds injured.
This alarming development will increase the demand for  more American arms and guarantee for any future settlements with Syria and Lebanon on the pretext  of “Israel\\\'s vulnerability”. Hence there will be no peace deal with Syria and a palliative treatment for the Palestinian Authority until they recognize Israel as a “Jewish state".

President Obama in his speech spoke the language of the Arab streets after the success in Egypt and Tunisia, calling on the Arabs to topple their regimes and get rewarded. So the “Humanitarian interventionist “ will unleash his powers, along with NATO allies, to change the map of the Middle East and North Africa (MENA)to give birth to a new MENA  order .
The provocative steps by the Obama administration toward Syria will strengthen Netanyahu and the hawkish right wing extremists in his government to refuse any kind of  peace deal with Syria, in particular with President Assad, who has been able to defeat the US and western designs to topple his government, much to the fury of NATO warships stationed  near the Syrian shores, ready to repeat Libya model .

In fact, a German ship was driven away from the Syrian waters when it was known that it was providing logistic support and a communications center to the “Emir of Baniyas “who was fighting the Syrian government, and providing them with the funds he received from the opponents and weapons to militants groups trying to destabilize peaceful Syria. According to Syrian sources, two Israeli Mossad agents were caught in Baniyas city and two Arab generals helping the rebellions.

The internal socioeconomic factors
Syria is a modest economy heavily dependent on  agricultural sectors, which constitute 25% of the GDP, and small scale industries. It has a 79.6% literacy rate in a population of around 23 million  with 2.12 % population growth rate, a highly educated young generation with fewer opportunities at home, and hence spread all over the world, looking for opportunities to improve their life style.
The lack of focus on the employment of the educated youth who constitute about 25% of the unemployment level in Syria led to this exodus and this lack of focus of vital employment avenues are to be blamed on the policy makers who were appointed to tackle the issue. Instead they were enhancing economic reforms by selling public sector undertakings and trying to tow the norms and regulations to get into a partnership with the European Union. The trade liberalization policy, specially with Turkey, and allowing cheap products from Turkey to flood the Syrian market backfired on national production and the private sector, which suffered, and led to more unemployment and public resentment .
This miscalculation led to more pressures and economic growth became difficult because of the rift between the pro western reformers and the socialists who preferred slow but steady measures. The civil society and private sectors were not encouraged to play a proactive, complementary role to the government. The other argument is that this slow process worked as a safety valve in preventing chaos. Syria not being in debt to the IMF or World Bank and self reliance in food security are factors which have played in favor of the government allowing them to face the dangers. But these challenges should not deter the President from dealing with challenge to meet the demand of the masses. On the contrary, he will be more popular with the masses if in his decisions he addresses the problems firmly,  because it is the popular support to his leadership that has kept him at the helm of power, a fact he has recognized when his envious enemies prayed for his downfall. 
It is time now for a slogan like “Syria first”, for the time being at least, to clean up the mess and transform Syrian society towards prosperity, stability and development.
As my horoscope for the day says : If you are living a moment of success, re-dimension your enthusiasm.

Waiel Awwad is a senior Syrian journalist and close observer of Arab issues. He writes this column exclusively for
May 20, 2011. 

Added By : Dr. Waiel Awwad

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