Robert M. Danin

Middle East Matters

Danin analyzes critical developments and U.S. foreign policy in the Middle East.

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Voices From the Region: Syria, Egypt, Palestine, Iraq, Algeria, and Lebanon

by Robert M. Danin
April 11, 2014

People wave banners in a demonstration in Cairo April 10, 2014 (El Ghany/Courtesy Reuters).


“They call it aid, but I don’t consider it aid…I consider it buying time and giving people the illusion that there is aid when really there is not.” –Brigadier General Asaad al-Zoabi, a Syrian fighter pilot who defected and joined the opposition

“Businessmen in this country have sucked the blood of the people–and the one who is responsible is Abdel Fattah al-Sissi.” –Ahmed Mahmoud, head of the Cairo branch of the Independent Union for Public Transport Workers

“I think that if [Palestinian political prisoner] Marwan Barghouti is released from prison and runs against Abu Fadi [Mohammed Dahlan], then Barghouti will win. This is because people are emotional, and they sympathize with pure people. They will say that he has not been stained with problems, and they will think that he is better than Abu Fadi. But when they try him, they will regret their choice.” –Jalila Dahlan, wife of former Fatah security chief Mohammed Dahlan

“We want to transfer Kurdistan’s experience to the rest of Iraq, not have the Kurdistan Region separate from Iraq.” –Khamis Khanjar, a Sunni businessman who is heading a new Sunni alliance dedicated to preventing Iraqi president Nouri al-Maliki from gaining a third term

“She knows the president is surrounded by wolves, and she is trying to get closer to him in order to unmask them.” –Abdelkader, an Algerian taxi driver speaking about Louisa Hanoun, the only female candidate in Algeria’s presidential election

“Our cause is just. They are mercenaries from Chechnya, Yemen and Libya who want to overthrow Bashar al-Assad, who supported us enormously during the 2006 war against Israel…It’s our duty to help him.” –Mahmud, a vegetable vendor and a Hezbollah fighter recently returned from Syria

“We are a movement that refuses to let Israel go unpunished when it attacks our people, and we believe that becoming part of the ruling authority would be catastrophic. That’s the secret behind why more people are supporting us.” –Khader Habib, a Palestinian Islamic Jihad official

Post a Comment 3 Comments

  • Posted by Peter Duveen

    Americans do not want to get involved in or assist the insurgency in the Syrian conflict. Nor do they want to be part of the elaborate and destructive geopolitical games hatched in Washington and northern Virginia, which are impoverishing America and the world, and causing great and unnecessary suffering and destruction.

    The United States has an obligation under UN treaties to support Assad against the insurgency trying to topple him, but America is violating these treaties by doing the opposite–criminally supporting the destruction of the Syrian government represented at the UN. This misguided effort will bankrupt Americans and perhaps invite terrible destruction upon them.

    The CFR should follow President Haass’s policy of Restoration, and work to cut the Pentagon’s budget, devoting the savings to tax cuts, war reparations to Libya, Iraq, Syria and Afghanistan, and incentives to increase trade with Russia, Iran and Syria. Co-prosperity should be the guiding principle.

    The inordinate spending and production represented by the military budget is a grotesque tumor that will ultimately sap the strength of America and its allies for the sake of a narrow segment of the corporate world and its investors. The CFR should champion Iraq Study Group’s recommendations that Iran and Syria be involved in the stabilization of the Middle East.

  • Posted by Neda Kadri

    Sadly, Americans do not want to get involved because they have lost their sense of global responsibility. One can only imagine what would have happened to the remaining Jewish population had Americans adopted this ideology during Hitler’s reign.

    Unfortunately, Americans have come to believe that the events in Syria were concocted by the West, utterly oblivious to the numbers of Syrian citizens that peacefully protested, and demanded the oust of the regime. To assume that the Pentagon is able to manipulate the will hundreds of thousands of people, geographically located hundreds of kilometers from each other is, to put it lightly, a stretch.

    Further, this attitude, in-and-of-itself, indicates a serious lack of knowledge on the social, political, and economic climate in Syria that led to the uprising. The Assad family has ruled Syria with an iron grip for over FOUR decades, a country they stole via military coup. In Syria, if you are not Alawite, your chances of finding gainful employment are close to non-existent, even for college graduates. Key government and military positions are reserved exclusively for extended members of the Assad family, with very few exceptions, of course.

    The Makhlouf’s, Assad maternal first-cousins, own the telecommunications company, the electric company, the exclusive rights to import & export, and utilize natural resources meant for ALL Syrians for their own financial benefit.

    Political opinions are non-existent. Any potential opponents of the Assad regime are disappeared. Sometimes, their entire families along with them.

    Everything in Syria wasn’t all peachy prior to 2011, and to assume that the Syrians only revolted because of a plan thought up in Virginia, completely discounts both the history of the nation, as well as the evolution of the revolution, itself… A movement which started peaceful, and only became an armed revolt after intense government crackdowns, mass arbitrary detentions and enforced appearances, and several indescribable massacres.

    America ISN’T who is causing mass destruction (unless you consider it’s decision to not intervene as a contributing factor) in Syria. Assad is.

    UN treaties? Assad has violated numerous international laws since the revolt began. The recently released pictures of the 11,000 detainees tortured to death, alone, are admissible in an international court of law, and enough to convict him of war crimes. The use of rape and starvation as weapons of war. And who can forget his multiple uses of chemical weapons, in direct violation of the 1925 Geneva Protocol, which Syria ratified.

    IF the United States is under any obligation, it is to honor international law, and uphold a standardized global code of conduct… And NOT to facilitate further war crimes.

    The idea that helping the Syrian people depose a dictator will invite destruction upon America, is logically backwards. If anything, the longer we allow Syrians to suffer, the more blood shed, the more animosity they will have towards us.

    Islamic extremism is on the rise in Syria. I expected that to happen when Syrians were sending their pleas to the global community through Youtube videos, and ONLY jihadis answered the call. Extreme situations create extreme individuals, and Syria is no exception. If anything, it has become a breeding ground for extremism.

    What Americans FAIL to understand is HOW Syrians think. At this point, the family members of the HUNDREDS of THOUSANDS dead, will NOT stop the insurgency until Assad is gone. A political solution that includes him in it is not viable. “Victory or Death.” THAT is their slogan. And no amount of well-funded studies in prestigious institutes is going to change that.

    For their to be any kind of stabilization in Syria, thus the Middle East, Assad must go. It’s as simple as that.

  • Posted by Neda Kadri


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