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Rantings of a Sandmonkey

Be forewarned: The writer of this blog is an extremely cynical, snarky, pro-US, secular, libertarian, disgruntled sandmonkey. If this is your cup of tea, please enjoy your stay here. If not, please sod off

Tuesday, March 01, 2005

The Harriri effect

As i wrote here before, it seemed like Syria bit more then it could chew when it assassinated Rafiq Harriri, in an attempt to call the US on its bluff regarding Bush's support for democracy. I also said that the one thing they didn't count on is the effect Harriti's death had on the lebanese people and that it might be their own undoing. Some people got skeptical about what i said and didn't think anything would really change in lebanon. A lot of people cynically seemd to agree with that point of view, and i almost joined them, until i saw this article in the Middle East Times: Taboos were broken and fears abandoned in Lebanon on February 28. Two weeks after the assassination of Lebanon's former prime minister Rafiq Al Hariri in a powerful bomb explosion in Beirut, the Lebanese opposition scored a major victory when Prime Minister Omar Karami, in a surprise move, announced the resignation of his pro-Syrian 30-member cabinet. "Out of eagerness that the government will not be an obstacle in front of those who want the good for this country, I declare the resignation of the government that I had the honor to head. May God preserve Lebanon," Karami said during an extraordinary session of parliament, which convened under pressures from the opposition to discuss Hariri's assassination. You wanna know what effect this resignation had on the lebanese people? Opposition parliamentarians and thousands of demonstrators gathering near the parliament building in Beirut's downtown area greeted the news with cheers and applause. The grim mood that had permeated the country since Hariri's brutal killing on February 14 turned into joy. More than 20,000 protestors who defied a government ban against demonstrations and flocked to Martyr Square in downtown Beirut since Monday night, waved red and white Lebanese flags as they hugged and kissed. "Your turn will come Lahoud," shouted some protestors, referring to Lebanese President Emile Lahoud, whose mandate was extended an additional three years last September under pressure from Syria. Others turned against Syria and screamed: "Syria, get out." A pretty typical and expected response from an occupied group of people, don't you think? Feeling the pressure and fearing an uprising from the lebanese people, Syria started to kiss some International community ass. First it arrested Sadam's half brother and now they are talking about a timetable to move out of lebanon. Syria expects to withdraw its troops from Lebanon in a few months, President Bashar al-Assad said in an interview published on Tuesday. "It (withdrawal) should be very soon and maybe in the next few months. Not after that. I can't give you a technical answer. The point is the next few months," he told Time magazine. Why is that again Bashar? In the interview posted on Time's Web site, Assad would not give a definite timetable for pulling out his army, saying it depended on technical, rather than political, considerations. Hmm, like what? "You need to prepare when you bring your army back to your country. You need to prepare where you will put the troops," Assad said. He said security in Lebanon and the protection of Syria's own borders needed to be taken into consideration. "There are two factors. The first is security in Lebanon ... The second thing, which is related to Syria, is that after withdrawing we have to protect our border." So, this has nothing to do with the 2 million syrians working in lebanon for cheap, mooching of the lebanese economy and causing the massive unemployment among the lebanese people now does it? Hmm, riiight! Anyway, this is good news, and the lebanese people working in the US whom i have met all seem to agree that it is. It seems that i was right. who knew?


At 3/01/2005 04:10:00 PM, Blogger Kat said...

Babe, I'm just thinking that Bashir is not only shakey in the international community, but his hold internally is probably cracking too.

The only thing you have to know is that their security forces are probably talking amongst themselves trying to decide who will rule if the country goes bonkers.

But, maybe you have your finger on Syria's pulse better than I do. What are the people like? Do they dig this regime? Just happy all is quiet in their country?

Are there a bunch of extremists running around or is it fairly cosmopolitan like a number of the pictures I've seen?

What's it like it than country?

I feel a lot more comfortable understanding the mix of Egypt than I do for Syria. Can you give a little feed back?

At 3/01/2005 06:42:00 PM, Blogger Tina said...

Kat: I've been reading a couple of Syrian blogs and the attitude is pretty much "What about us? When will we be free?"

Humanbeings are pretty much the same all over the world, they long for freedom, they love their families, and they just want to live their lives in peace.

At 3/02/2005 12:11:00 PM, Blogger The Sandmonkey said...

Hey Kat,

I am not an expert on the people of Syria by no means, but i did visit it recently and i do have more then a handful of syrian friends and i do know what they think.
Syria is pretty much an arab country frozen in the Assad era. Things havn't improved there hardly since the 1970's, but they are not bad either. They are kinda stuck in a timewarp, with the people in power more concerned about staying in power then actually improving the country. They have almost no infrastructure to speak of. A ghood way to describe it is " a communist lebanon". The country is very very cheap to live in, but you can feel the poverty in it. You wanna do anything there, you have to be a member of the Baath party. Kinda like Egypt in the Nasser era.
The people there naturally do not dig the regime, but they really have no choice in the matter. arabs in general seem to prefer stability over choice and that's the way with Syria. They do not like being the target of america because in reality they are not the extreemists everyone makes them to be.
I think their deal is simply that they view Israel as a threat that they can not confornt directly, so they use lebanon and hezballah to attack it from there. they also love lebanon cause it provides them with a source of cashflow for their people. 2 million syrians working there- paid in USD dollars mind you cause it's lebanon's defacto currency- sending their salaries home to their families in syria. They can work for 1 quarter the wage of the averge lebvanese , therefore causing lebanon massive unemployment crisis. Personally i do not think they are bad people, but people that are in a bad position and just playing whatever options they have. They would be another lebanon if the baathists are gone.
But the baathists are staying cause it is a military government and they will not give their power easily. Bashar is likely not the one completely in charge but rather a figurehead installed by his daddy's old buddies and old guard who convinced him to take the job "for the sake, stability and safety of syria, who the zionists dogs and american imperialists just wanna devour".

But yeah, wanna go somewhere where you can have a really cheap cheap vacation and ski and buy lots of copy right violated cds ,dvds and games, you just go down there. the scenary is really pretty and the people do not hate the american people. They are just hostages put in a bad situation of which there is no easy exit.

That's what i think anyway!

At 3/02/2005 04:42:00 PM, Blogger Kat said...

Babe...great info. That's what I was looking for. It's so closed you can't really see anything besides the occasional blip on the radar when people are cheering in the streets after somebody gets blown up.

I was wondering about the extremism simply because of the number of Syrians who seem to be captured in Iraq. I know on a percentage basis it's not a lot but you have to consider if any society can generate that number there's an issue.

I have read a number of Syrian bloggers AND Athena from terrorismunveiled was in Jordan and took a little side trip there. She indicated an interesting nightlife with some clubs, but largely like you'd assume in most Arab countries, women and men not really mixing in the cafes. She did shoot some photos that were also interesting, like a mix of modern life with glimpses of your standard murals of Israeli flags burning and martyr posters. She also indicated, while everyone was polite, she was constantly trailed by the mukhabarat. The guy wasn't very good or he simply didn't care if she saw him. Made her kind of nervous.

If I recall the history correctly, did Israel occupy the Golan Heights during the last Arab/Israeli war? Are the Syrians still worried that Israel is really going to just invade their country?

although, I suppose I don't blame Israel completely or the Syrians from worrying about it considering Hezbollah and Islamic Jihad still operate from there.

So, you are pretty certain Syria will not go "free and democratic" internally, huh?

At 3/03/2005 01:11:00 AM, Blogger Highlander said...

Well I'm surprised sandmonkey for once you are a little bit on the correct side with your evaluation of the syrian society. So this time I'll give you 7 out of 10 for this comment :). I would like to correct you on a tiny detail as well because like you I do have my Syrian and Lebanese friends and perhaps the fact that I lived in these 2 countries for a while can vouch for my knowledge. The 2 million Syrian workers in Lebanon are not creating unemployment among the Lebanese because they are doing the menial jobs that the Lebanese have grown too big headed to do. It's not like if these 2 million workers go then all Lebanese will have jobs! come on sandmonkey we know they won't , most Lebanese like to show off and street cleaning, maids, labourers etc.. are made up of what ? well Srilankan maids and nannys, Egyptian illegal labourers who sweep the streets,Syrian cleaners, and some Sudanese and Philipinos thrown in for good measure. So when Lebanon's sons and daughters emigrate and leave their farms who will work in them ? their old parents do you think? It's a fashion status to have your Srilankan maid even if you have to pay her half your salary.. Please sandmonkey don't totally denigrate people's worth it's not like these were vampires. The economy works both ways have you seen the number of Lebanese who come to Damascus every weekend for shopping because food and clothes and goods are 'made in syria' and incredibly cheap and good tasting, they even stock up on Syrian bread. The Lebanese cannot afford these items in their own country so they profit from the currency exchange difference in Syria. Don't make it sound like Syrians are leeches on poor sweet Lebanon, just go stand at the border and see the traffic both ways. Then the non-Arab readers will get a fuller picture.

At 3/03/2005 01:26:00 AM, Blogger Highlander said...

Kat I hope you got an answer to your questions now, Syria is not just a shabby country as sandmonkey has implied, so what if the infrastructure is not that modern at least they've worked hard on it for decades on their own with no need to import stuff.I just revisited Egypt in December 2004 and the infrastructure there is not much better and Egypt gets all this US aid ? where does all that money go ? I love all my Arab countries but I hate stereotyping and bashing just because it is now the plat du jour. Yes Syria should leave Lebanon pronto but that is all, no speculation about it's democratic readiness or not pls let the Syrians have their own awakening.

At 6/08/2005 06:17:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

im a hot Israeli and i love Israel!we all are so hot!


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