Across the Bay

Sunday, February 12, 2006

Mideast Monitor

I am very pleased to announce to you the launching of a new online publication, Mideast Monitor, edited by the formidable Gary Gambill.

The inaugural issue contains an article by me on Saudi-Syrian relations after Hariri. Be sure to also read Gary's excellent article on Bashar. Addendum: The issue also contains an English translation of the joint memo between Aoun's FPM and Hizballah.

Update: Gary points out in his article that the "old guard" myth that Bashar milked (and that people still indulge) has been quite resilient:

In spite of these failings, Assad's benevolent underdog image proved to be remarkably resilient, as most Western observers assumed that a cabal of aging hardliners within the regime was obstructing his authority. The so-called "old guard" theory was flatly contradicted by the readily observable monopolization of political and economic power within Assad's inner circle during the past five years, but it dovetailed neatly with his habitual claims to be unaware of or powerless to prevent wrongdoing that draws Western criticism. For a time, misperceptions permitted all manners of sin for Syria's young ruler.

How true. I picked up this link from Josh's latest post. It contains two quotes by an analyst called Imad Sara (but Josh did not use these quotes) that show just how pathetic this myth really is, and how willing some people still are to indulge it (hell, Flynt Leverett wrote a book about it and made a career out of it):

"Shara's appointment, the biggest change in the reshuffle, indicates an obvious change in Syria's foreign policy," political analyst Imad Sara told Xinhua.
"The [ministerial] reshuffle shows Assad's resolve to isolate the old guards who impede his reform efforts both in the political and economic process," analyst Sara said.

Yes, of course. Quite obvious! Tsk tsk tsk. I mean if Bashar so much as burps, these guys will run and explain how that was proof that his inner reformist was trying to squeeze himself out from that iron grip of the "old guards!" Aren't people embarrassed to use that term anymore? Or do they, like the regime, take us all for fools?