If you read only one book on #Syria , make sure it is this one 👇An outstanding compilation of 12 chapters written by different contributors and later edited by the two brilliant researchers and economists Linda Matar and Ali Kadri
Above book highlights wide income & wealth disparities following the neoliberal reform process. Here is an article I wrote in 2007 on the subject following trip I made to #Syria . See the part on the Prada shoes I observed in one of the stores in Damascus joshualandis.com/blog/five-unde…
Having read the book, I am ready to issue my own Mea Culpa. While pointing out the income disparities over nearly a decade, I thought culprit was the "slow pace" of the reforms. On further thought & reflection, it now seems that the "type of reforms" were the culprit instead
Thread: Olive Oil as victim of #Syria’s War Economy
In spite of very favorable crop for olives that is usually grown in Kurdish areas around Afrin & North, #Aleppo residents are having to pay exorbitant retail prices for Syrian Olive oil as it gets shipped to #Turkey instead =>
2-Healthy harvest usually drives retail prices of Olive oil down. On the street of Afrin, a container of 16.5 Kg of olive oil currently sells for as little as SYP 13,000. #Aleppo (40 km away) residents however, are having to pay SYP 30,000 for the very same Container. Why? ==>
3-Armed groups in control of #Afrin are sending the finished Ollive oil to Turkey first. If any of the olive oil were to make to the residents of #Aleppo , the countless checkpoints along the 40km road collect enough fees to send prices of each container up by nearly
2-On #Saudi : No question that Riyadh/Damascus rapprochement is difficult to foresee. Note that this shift is being led #UAE and not Saudi. Riyadh is expected to follow and yes, reluctantly. Damascus is just as easy about this given Saudi’s early support of the Opp. BUT ==>
3-When discussing Riyadh/Damascus, it’s critical to think about Qatari/Saudi schism. If forced to choose, who should Damascus side with? Answer: #Saudi . Why? #Qatar is ardent supporter of the Moslem Brotherhood (enemy of both Damascus & Riyadh). Doha is also still supporting Opp
#SYRIA#UAE#SAUDI ARE ON CUSP OF FORMING A NEW REGIONAL ALLIANCE TO DEFEAT THE IDEOLOGY AND EXPANSION OF THE MOSLEM BROTHERHOOD LONG CHAMPIONED AND SUPPORTED BY #QATAR#TURKEY
EXPECT REOPENING OF UAE EMBASSY IN DAMASCUS TO KICK START THE NEW REGIONAL SHIFT
2-This important shift comes on the back of intense and comprehensive meetings that took place recently in Abu Dhabi. The common objective of the parties is to stabilize #Syria and ensure the return of the secular state that existed prior to 2011.
3-There is no doubt that this new shift will create a challenge for Damascus when it comes to its relations with its long ally #Iran. At the same time, this shift will also be a perfect opportunity for Damascus to prove its independence when it comes to Foreign Policy
In follow up to the discussion between @joshua_landis and Charles Lister on whether the FSA had anything to do with Yasuda’s abduction, @TheoPadnos who was held by Nusra for nearly two years wrote to me the following about his own experience ==>
Pandos: “My view is that the victims of the militant's crimes cold not care less what the militants are calling themselves today. Daesh? Jebhat? Faylaq al Fulan? Who cares? The most important difference I noticed is the following ===>
Pandos “when the people who think of themselves as FSA have you on your knees, in cuffs and are kicking your head, you're meant to reply "Yes, ya Sidi!" When the more Islamic types are doing this, you're meant to reply, "Yes, ya sheikh."
1- Let's discuss the "facts" as told by Yasuda first: He was kidnapped as he crossed into #Syria from Turkey along a smuggling route by a group of men who pretended they were there to help him enter the country. He was transferred multiple times during his ordeal. ==>
2-Yasuda described how early on he was being beaten, prevented from moving or making any sound for days on end and being kept in complete isolation. He later converted to Islam so his captors would let him pray, giving him a rare chance to move around.
3-At other stages of his captivity, Yasuda's conditions improved and he was allowed to watch television, keep a journal and was assured he would not be killed.
A former California college student has pleaded guilty to charges of aiding a terrorist organization after earlier arguing he was entitled to immunity because he hooked up with the kind of #Syrian rebels the U.S. has backed ==>
2-Aws Mohammed Younis Al-Jayab admitted in a plea agreement to flying from Chicago to #Turkey in 2013, then traveling to #Syria. The agreement says he joined Ansar Al-Islam, a precursor to the Islamic State group.
3-Al-Jayab told the judge he wanted to fight the Bashar Assad regime, but acknowledged group he was joining engaged in terrorist actions.
He returned to the U.S. in 2014 & settled in California & enrolled at a community college. Agreement calls for prison sentence of up to 15y.
“very proud of White Helmet resettlement effort. It was a tough mission, it was a tough ask, but we delivered because we felt that White Helmets had done an exceptional service for humanity and we needed to be there to help them” =>
“Details of exactly how many people are being brought to Canada and where they are being settled are not being shared for security reasons. Those who have arrived so far are quietly making new lives in Canada”
1-There is no consensus over fate of Idlib, 2-how exactly refugees will return, 3- whether regime should make political concessions, 4- what role Iran should play, 5- under what conditions should reconstruction funding be made. Here are my Answers => atlanticcouncil.org/blogs/syriasou…
On 1- Yea, there is consensus over the fate of #Idlib. It is Syrian territory and participants spoke of need to ensure the country’s sovereignty. The current status quo is “temporary” therefore before the Syrian State reclaims the province hopefully through reconciliation ==>
On 2- Refugees can return to Syria at their choosing and anytime they are ready to reconcile with the State.
Important to recall the following when discussing #Syria
Over 75% of Syria's farms failed because of the drought and at least 85% of country's livestock died between 2006 and 2011
The collapse in crop yields forced as many as 1.5 million Syrians to migrate to urban centers ==>
2-While #Syria has long suffered from irregular housing, the collapse in farming and resulting migration to urban centers made the problem infinitely worse. By 2011, it was estimated that almost half of total housing stock was counted as unregulated housing
3-In Damascus alone, it was estimated that nearly 2.5 million people lived in places like Qaboun, Barzeh, Esh Wurwar, Jobar and the whole E. Ghouta plains. The Govt couldn't keep up with the increasing demands for proper infrastructure and state-provided services
#Kashoggi was a dissident using his position as a journalist to criticize official Saudi policy. But, #SaudiArabia is an absolute monarchy. Dissent is not part of the deal between the ruler and his subjects. Of the 22 members of Arab League, 14 are Republics & 8 are Monarchies =>
2-It has been much easier to govern the 8 Monarchies of the Arab world than the region's 14 Republics. Citizens of the Monarchies could only watch as the throne was passed from father to son or from one brother to another.
3-This is not to say that the unlucky14 Republics who were bequeathed or transformed themselves into republics after the departure of their colonial rulers have behaved like true parliamentarian or Presidental Republics. True election cycles have hardly ever been credible
In order to understand the #Idlib “de-escalation agreement”, one must understand the nature of relationship between #Putin & #Erdogan. Best to think of both leaders as being engaged right now. Not yet in a full marriage but neither is ready to walk away from each other just yet=>
2-Engagements don’t last forever. They either end in marriage or in walking away for good. This engagement phase will be tested over the coming months as Erdogan is expected to deliver on promises he made to his partner.
3-Naturally, Syrian Leadership is watching this engagement phase very closely. The base case scenario in Damascus appears to expect Erdogan to experience significant challenges in delivering on the promises he made to his partner. The coming few months will prove to be decisive
Thread on status of Syrian Opposition post the "demilitarized zone" agreement in #Idlib . Thus far, most commentary has regarded the deal as a win for the Opp since risk of imminent strike on the province has been avoided. But is this deal really a positive for opp? Answer: No=>
2-Let's step back first. This is an Opp that was formed with goal of toppling the State (diplomatic language of Geneva process called it political transition). Nothing short of above was acceptable to this opp. As of yesterday, mere avoidance of strikes is now seen as a win
3-Let's not also forget that from early days of Geneva's political transition talks, the only political activity left now is an attempt to establish constitutional committee. All else has been shelved. Now that we established the general status of the opp, let's discuss this deal
Thread listing Preliminary observations on the announcement of the “Demilitarized Zone” in #Idlib today: What does it mean for Turkey, Russia, Damascus and the armed groups? What is the likely risk/reward calculus for each party? What should we expect going forward? ===>
2– Let’s recap what we seem to know first: A zone 9-12 miles long would be established by Oct. 15. It would contain no heavy weapons or extreme elements of the insurgency (al-Qaeda-linked militants). It would be be patrolled by Turkish and Russian forces
3-First critical point to note is whether this deal will end up securing the highway that passes through Idlib and links the north and south of the country under Govt control together. This was of course one of the strategic aims of Damascus from any #Idlib operation
For the record, while everyone seems to believe that the number of civilians in #Idlib is close to 3 million, a Damascus source who has been very prescient in the past believes that the actual number may not exceed 1 million.
2-To suggest that 3 Million civilians live in #Idlib is to suggest:
A-That pre-war housing stock & other infrastructure was able to accommodate double the pre-war population
B-Moreover, safe to assume both housing & infrastructure now nowhere near pre-war conditions/capacity
3-In effect, for #Idlib to host 3 Million now compared to 1.2-1.5 pre-war is to assume either a building boom (not war) or construction of massive camps that would host such massive numbers. Yet to see credible images of such camps or investments in the housing stock
“Moderate rebels played a key role in Turkey’s fight against terrorists in Northern #Syria; their assistance and guidance will be crucial in Idlib as well”
2-Erdogan: “Preventing the assault on #Idlib need not set back counter-terrorism efforts. Turkey has succeeded in fighting terrorist groups, including ISIS and the PKK, without harming or displacing civilians”
Notice how he doesn’t include Nusra /al-Qaeda in above group
3- Erdogan: “Turkey’s ability to maintain order in Northern #Syria is proof that a responsible approach to counter-terrorism can win hearts and minds”
In order to truly understand the dynamic inside the #Syrian Armed Opposition, one must start to look into the ever closer marriage between the the Moslem Brotherhood and Nusra / al-Qaeda. Both have been joined at the hip through the sponsorship & support of #Qatar#Turkey ==>
2-Moslem Brotherhood (MB) lost its original military wing during the battle with the Syrian State in the 80’s. Best to think of Nusra/HTS/al-Qaeda in #Syria today as the new military wing of the M Brotherhood. One is the brain, the other represents arms & legs of the same body
3-The coordination between MB & Nusra/HTS/al-Qaeda has afforded the latter the chance to transform itself from non-state actor that had been hiding in the mountains of Afghanistan to an outfit with clear lines of communications to regional capitals that are supporting the MB
Q: All the factions in Syria are oppressors?
A: God knows best. They love money.
Q: So you thought there were jihad and defending Islam, but it's not like that on the ground?
A: Yes. Most of them declare takfir on whoever they like.
PERFECT WINDOW INTO THE FUTURE, THANK YOU
Q: Currently you are not with any faction?
A: No. They are all liars. They say what they do not do.
Q: There are people who say that jihad must continue in Syria. What do you say to these people?
A: If there are no honest factions. With whom [do you wage] jihad?
Nearly every #Idlib insurgent was allowed in, supported, financed & armed to help topple Assad which was thought to be a sure bet. Idea was that these men would then hand the keys to those with the brains & suits who would fly in from abroad & run the country happily thereafter
2-With the above sure bet now largely a pipe dream, what we are witnessing is revisionist rewriting of how we got here & what this is really about. Those who supported, financed, facilitated and armed these men are suddenly out of the conversation.
3-The Syrian State that was the direct target of domestic / regional / international attempt to topple it is now being asked to refrain from reclaiming full sovereignty over its territory while al-Qaeda & hard core foreign fighters run the territory. The rest you hear is fiction
Thread on the Syrian State’s Financial Liabilities as the country’s population doubled every 22 years over the past 5 decades. Just this week, 4 Million students were reportedly enrolled at Syrian public schools. The state charges practically zero to educate them
2-The 4 Million students enrolled at Syrian schools roughly compare to the nearly 3 Million students enrolled in the State of New York where the school district spends $22,366 per pupil for a total yearly budget of $61.4 Billion.
3-Should Syrian education spending be at par with that of NY State, the 4 Million Syrian students would require a state budget of $89.4 Billion. Note that Syria’s peak GDP before the war was reportedly close to $40 billion. The extreme example above is made to highlight a point
During latest trip to #Aleppo , I had written about the dangerous road trip to the city using Khanaser. With Idlib under control of armed groups, Damascus-Aleppo Highway is cut out leaving Khanaser as the only way to get to the city. Nearly 200 people died on it so far this year
2-The image caption refers to Khanaser as the “Road of Death”. This morning it was the turn of this young woman who was a medical student at the University of #Aleppo
3-While I was fortunate to make the return road trip safely, I promised myself not to visit the city again till either the airport is open, or the main Damascus-Aleppo Highway is operating again. The latter would entail having the entire province of #Idlib under Govt control
de Mistura Floats Idea of Evacuating #Idlib Civilians to Government areas: "Short of going to Turkey, the civilians have no other option in order not to be where fighting may take place". This is a "temporary" measure so that "people can then return to their own places untouched"
2-Ahmad Ramadan, a spokesman for the Syrian opposition's delegation to U.N. called de Mistura's proposal "unrealistic". It's very regrettable," he said. "The special envoy's role is not to call for a humanitarian corridor, but to call on Russia to stop the aggression."
3-Al-Moallem said the government tried to negotiate with a so-called reconciliation committee in Idlib, but al-Qaida-linked militants arrested most of the committee members. Reports indicate that over 500 people accused of trying to negotiate with the regime in recent weeks
@Rob_Malley : “We were part of what fueled the Syrian conflict rather than stopped it”. The ex-Obama advisor proceeds to tell how he preferred to put more pressure on the regime (that he blames mostly for the conflict) not to use CW or Barrel Bombs
2-@Rob_Malley Talks about rationale of putting more pressure on the regime but offers no specifics. Sanctions were already slapped. All diplomatic channels were cut. Surely, all that could have been done to “change the behavior” of the regime has already been tried and used =>
3-@Rob_Malley Also ought to include the fact that Damascus would have cooperated on some of those demands that he made in the interview (cease barrel bombs) had the US and others pressured allies like #Turkey to control borders and stop infiltration of jihadists. Alas
#Assad has repeatedly vowed to retake “Every Inch of #Syria”. While the pledge seemed unrealistic early on, it suddenly doesn’t seem too far fetched. But is Assad’s vow only about land, or is there something more fundamental that has been cornerstone of the leadership’s strategy
2-Vowing to “Take Every Inch of #Syria back” started as early as 2013 when Damascus would make the pledge in private to Western officials who came looking for solutions. Such officials were known to have warned Damascus that, even if possible, such would take years to achieve =>
3-Since the pledge was first used in private in 2013, the #Syrian leadership has stuck to its vow and made it clear that there can’t be a political solution until every inch of the country is taken back under State control first. This fundamental premise continues today