Hussein Ibish

Bashar’s Western water carriers

The situation in Syria continues to deteriorate, while the brutality of the regime, which has killed over 3,500 people and tortured even children, has escalated. Meanwhile, a motley crew of Western commentators continues to carry water for President Bashar al-Assad.
These commentators cannot be immune from responsibility for their words. Their defense of a brutal dictatorship cannot go unchallenged or unexamined. While they have every right to their opinions, the rest of us have not only a right but a responsibility to draw the conclusion that these individuals, in fact, oppose freedom for the Syrian people by supporting a regime denying Syrians their freedom.
The essentially pro-regime stance of Professor Joshua Landis of the University of Oklahoma is well-established. To mention one small example, last April he praised what he called “the stability that the Assad family has enforced in Syria and... the vision of tolerance and secularism they have promoted.”
But there are a number of other commentators whose support for the Syrian dictatorship deserves more careful scrutiny. Probably the most relentless is Alistair Crooke, a former British intelligence officer who is a strong supporter of official Iranian ideology and foreign policy, as Michael Weiss and I have demonstrated. It is surely Assad’s alliance with Tehran that has prompted Crooke’s enthusiasm for the Syrian leader.
Crooke initially claimed that Assad was immune from any popular uprising because of his opposition to the West and Israel, and his support for “resistance.” In April, he actually predicted, “Assad will emerge with his stature enhanced, and Syria will be... resuming its traditional place at the center of Arab politics.”
In July, Crooke claimed the protests were led by followers of the late al Qaeda in Iraq leader Abu Moussab al-Zarqawi, applying the most terrifying image possible to the opposition. According to Crooke, the uprising he predicted was impossible was in fact a plot by the West and Qatar to install the most extreme Sunni Islamists in power in order to “weaken Iran.”
Columbia University professor Joseph Massad has also condemned the Syrian and other Arab uprisings as having been engineered or co-opted by an imperialistic “US-British-Saudi-Qatari axis.” He even argued that the United States had engineered the downfall of Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak in order to install “a more pliant dictator,” as if post-Mubarak Egypt is friendlier toward Washington’s foreign policy.
Massad has also condemned NATO’s role in Libya in the harshest possible terms, saying it was all based on lies. Again, he pointed out, the intervention was designed to impose a more “pliant” government in Tripoli. This is the mirror image of the hysterical arguments that al Qaeda now rules in Libya. In truth, Moammar Qaddafi was not posing any problems to the West when the uprising began, happily selling his oil at market rates. There’s no reason to believe that the new government in Tripoli will be “more pliant” then Qaddafi was. In truth, the West has little leverage to ensure how Libyans will behave in the future.
As for Syria, Massad has concluded that the Syrians should abandon their struggle for freedom because it can only lead to a “US-imposed pliant and repressive regime à la Iraq and Libya,” given that the West “has destroyed the possibility of a democratic outcome.” Naturally, he does not explain how this is the case. The bottom line is that Massad is urging Syrians to keep Assad in power, then to go home and shut up.
But perhaps the most surprising Western backer of the Assad regime is Ed Husain of the Council on Foreign Relations. In August he described the prospects of overthrowing Assad as “so small” as to be irrelevant. He also argued that more people would be killed in a civil war than by the crushing of the uprising (a line used by Qaddafi backers as well), before concluding, “At present Mr. Assad remains the least worst option.”
Husain also wrote that “Assad has been good news for Israel’s security and borders,” and he predicted that Islamists would be the inevitable rulers of a post-Assad Syria and more unfriendly to the West. Husain has also come out strongly against the policy of sanctions, arguing, “The West would be mistaken to continue developing policy measures that harm Syria and Syrians.” He suggested that support for the uprising could provoke a “campaign of suicide bomb attacks against the West in our cities.” Husain’s prescription was for the West to do absolutely nothing in response to the brutality of the Assad regime, and “leave Syrians alone to put their complicated, sectarian house in order.”
With varying arguments, Crooke, Massad and Husain have joined the notorious Landis in arguing that the Syrian people should be left to the tender mercies of their regime. The alternatives are worse, they say, and Assad’s leadership isn’t really as bad as people think.
Diversity of opinion is a fine thing, but organizations can and should take responsibility for what they choose to sponsor or permit. The Council on Foreign Relations needs to ask itself some serious questions about its role in promoting Husain, one of the most zealous Western opponents of the quest for freedom in Syria.
All of these individuals claim to respect freedom and human rights, but how can that be squared with their eager defense of the Syrian regime? Crooke’s obvious allegiance to Iran, Massad’s knee-jerk anti-Western attitudes and Husain’s fears of an Islamist takeover have all led them to adopt indefensible, and in some cases dishonest, stances that effectively mean they are backing the most brutal repression taking place in the Arab world today. Nothing can justify the outrageous conduct of the Assad dictatorship and no agenda is sufficient to excuse it.

Hussein Ibish is a columnist for NOW Lebanon and blogs at www.ibishblog.com 

  • Elia

    Some more western water carriers: 1) Anders Strinberg 2) Rania Masri, Though she is now in Lebanon she has been a Baathist propagandist for many decades. (...)

    November 28, 2011

  • tamer

    You forgot Tariq Ramadan, perhaps the most sinister thug of all who supports the dictators of the regions.

    November 25, 2011

  • Al Sheeber

    This is the first time I can agree with (...)Ibish. Landis who has family in Syria is a collaborator of the Assads. he also fails to mention that one of George Soros puppies, (...) Bob Malley used to operate an NGO out of Damascus, the kind of Clinton goffer who had every terrorist on speed dial. he went silent, no errands for the failed mme. Clinton, who seems to be absent when ever there is a major crisis. All these characters were feeding off limited access they had to the Assad gang. This trip is over, no one can tell how Assad will be gone, but I admit Ibish is on the money!

    November 24, 2011

  • Jack Kalpakian

    The support that some in the West have given the bloodyt regime in Damascus is indeed regrettable. Unfortunately, this dynamic is directly caused by the anti-Christian vitriol that has poured out on Al Jazeera, Al Sharq al Awsat, and other outlets by Sunni commentators like Iyad Abu Shqra, Radwan Essayed and Al Shabaksy. These politicians and commentators are angry at the neutrality of the Churches towards the revolution in Syria. They refuse to accept the political consequences of the attacks by Salafi forces on Christians in Iraq and Egypt. They also appear incapable of understanding that Christians cannot afford to take sides either for or against the government. In the case of Abu Shaqra, not to subtle threats were made to liquidate Syria's Christians. In this light, what does the author expect from Western commentators concerned about minorities in the Middle East? If the Syrian revolutionaries want minority support, they will have to offer GCC backed guarnatees.

    November 24, 2011

  • Joshua Landis

    Dear Hussein Ibish. You are wrong to describe me as a supporter of Assad. In the same article that I write that "the stability that the Assad family has enforced in Syria and... the vision of tolerance and secularism they have promoted," I write: "Even if the government in Damascus remains powerful for the time being and Syrians cling to the stability it promises, there can be little doubt that we are witnessing a profound break from the past. The Arab street has finally come into its own. Rulers will have to think twice before treating their people like sheep. Leaders will be accountable for economic failure. (...) From the first month of the Syrian uprising, I have argued that there is no "soft landing" for Assad and that his regime was deeply sectarian and had failed. Best, Joshua

    November 24, 2011

  • tony

    To assad allah Your name says a lot: assad and allah. For you, assad is maybe a holy figure that you worship... Well, if this is your niveau, then good luck for your future in Syria! With respect to your claim that assad is the legitimate government of Syria, I encourage you to become a little bit more educated and civilized... There is something called democracy, which is a government system that respects the dignity of the human being. It has proven throughout history that it is actually the best government system in contracst to dictatorship that you like so much. Assad's election were a pure joke. This guy is only representing a fraction of the Alewites (some Alewites are already against him because they do not want to be connected to a child molester and killer like assad)... So I strongly encourage you to study the history of Syria and to study the history of the assads and their crimes against Syrian and Lebanon... The rule of assad is the most significant threat to the S

    November 24, 2011

  • Samer

    @Assad allah: You are actually behaving like one of assad's terrorist: intimidation and humilation. I wished that these assad's terrorist would also intimidate and humilate Israelis... But guess what: These assad terrorists are the ugliest cowards that you have ever seen... They are coward, backwarded and completely retarded. They have actually served the Israeli interests more than they served the interests of the Syrian nation. Call Joshua Landis and he will confirm that his wife is alewite and that her relatives are in the military (implying it is very likely that they are terrorists). But it is great that you have just proved again how primitive, stupid, backwarded, retarded, criminal and liing the supporters of bashar are. They are naughty, cowards and hate the Syrian nation. You have just proved it.

    November 24, 2011

  • assad allah


    November 23, 2011

  • ali daoud

    hi all, Bashar el Assad is the best, yet the only true Arab Leader, once al Assad fall down, the entire arab world will dive into hundreds of years of struggles and wars among various arabs, and the arabs will be so weak that israel and USA with their gulf arab puppets will rule the entire arab states including the lqrge ones such as Egypt who need the gulf money. however, Bashar will not be toppled and all those dreaming will never see their dreams come true. VIVE the only REsisting ARAB LEADER, even the famous Egyptian actor Nour el Shereef has praised Bashar and stated he reminds him of Kamal Abdel Nasser(review Al Akhbar Paper on 22/11), and VIVE the Great Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah who is the Leader of the Resistance in the Arab world.

    November 23, 2011

  • Mark

    Continue to name and shame those appeasers of brutal dictatorships who may well be on the payroll of Iran and Syria. And another thing. I very much hope that once the Syrian revolution succeeds, the Syrians will not forgive nor forget Russia & China's ugly cynicism in supporting the brutal murder of peaceful Syrian protesters.

    November 23, 2011

  • Beiruti

    Here in the States, the news is filled with the "Sandusky" affair at Penn State University and how everyone who knew or was associated with an accused child molester has been tainted by mere association with this pedophile. Yet, in international affairs, despite evidence, not of pedophilia, but of murder of small children, rather than disassociate from the person responsible, that person is nevertheless defended. Why? Are the lives of the Syrian people to be discounted and sacrificed at the altar of geopolitical strategies of these "professors'"? What kind of strategy succeeds on the corpses of child protesters? When Bull Connor shot water cannons at small children in Birmingham in an attempt to stop the Civil Rights Movement, the result was the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and a disgraced Bull Connor. The Middle East is less forgiving of those on the wrong side of history, and with those allied with them.

    November 23, 2011

  • Not-concerned Syrian (Samer) Part 1

    The assad's rule was only possible by dividing the Syrian people. Furthermore, Joshua Landis seems to forget that assads killed more than 40.000 innocent civilians in Hama. So I ask Joshua Landis who seems to be heavily influenced by the dictatorship's propaganda, whether he considers the slaughter of the Syrian population as stability and tolerance... The assads are the worst enemies of the Syrian and Lebanese people. The assads and their followers are a threat to the national security of these countries. They are more criminal than any other invader (US, Israel). Their crimes were uglier. The assads and their followers hate the Syrian population. They truly hate the Syrian people.

    November 23, 2011

  • Not-concerned Syrian (Samer) Part 1

    The case of Joshua Landis. Joshua Landis is married to a Syrian woman of alewite faith. Now, it is no secret that a huge part of the alewites strongly support bashar. Hence, it is very likely that Joshua Landis' wife supports bashar and she will certainly influence her husband. Let me refer to his quote: “the stability that the Assad family has enforced in Syria and... the vision of tolerance and secularism they have promoted.” The assads have never enforced tolerance. Indeed, their terrorist militias are forcing peaceful demonstrators to say things like "There is no God but bashar." This proves a profound violation of the freedom of religion and is also a barbaric humilation of the Muslim population in Syria. This is also a sign for the deep hate of many alewites against Sunnis. Infact, the assads have created a tremendous instability within the Syrian people by a very racist and sectarian policy (most of assad's militias are alewites: shabeeha, 4th division and the republica

    November 23, 2011