Across the Bay

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Selling Snake Oil (But No One's Buying)

My friend Caveman recently pointed out how the Syrian regime's propaganda self-implodes all on its own, and gave us an example:

[Even Syrian experts say] Syria does not have full control of Hizbullah and its Shiite counterparts in Lebanon. In other words, Syria wants to play a role in Lebanon, but even its most die-hard supporters admit that it cannot really accomplish the objectives in Lebanon that it claims make it absolutely indispensable. So, what is it that Syria brings to the table again?

The answer is absolutely nothing. It's what I called trying to pull a fast one.

But these are the regime's propagandists, and they're not really interested in actual arguments and policy options. They're interested in maximizing gains for the thugs of the Syrian regime, period.

And they're all the same. The names change, the location changes, the venue changes, but the message (as with all propaganda) is pre-recorded. I mean you can substitute a Moustapha, or a cheerleading blogger, or Shaaban, or Moubayed, or a Khaimi, or a Salem, or a Shu'eibi, but the message is exactly the same pre-packaged garbage.

Not only is it self-contradictory, but it's also pathetically obvious in how it is trying to balance two practically mutually exclusive positions: on the one hand, the regime has to claim distance so as not to be considered a direct culprit. So that's why you hear the propagandists selling you the line that really Syria only supports Hezbollah "morally" and "diplomatically" but does not supply it with arms or funds, etc. But then, despite just making themselves totally irrelevant, they tell you that "Syria is indispensable for any solution." Never mind that history and the track record 100% (that's 100%, no exception whatsoever, feel free to check!) suggests otherwise, but it's clear that really Syria is in fact a secondary player here (in the Iran axis) despite the misplaced conception by the thugs in Damascus that they're really a "player." They're a client-proxy. The two are different things, but it's difficult to realize that when you're a thug and thuggery is what you think of as and call your policy (hence, as I said before, the so-called "cards" that the regime loves to talk about, are its policy). The comment by Anthony Cordesman in that SF Chronicle piece actually nails it: "Syria usually gives way for a while under pressure, but then goes to covert operations, more support of proxies, and resumes activity the moment there is a new window of opportunity."

Therefore, the administration's, and Olmert's, dismissal of the Syrians is not only logical, and based on experience, it's also the right policy. That won't stop the Syrian propaganda from trying to sell itself, by offering snake oil coated with explicit threats (after all, what else do they have to offer?)

As for the "splitting Syria from Iran" comical fairy tale, or the even funnier one, "returning Syria to the Sunni Arab fold," I'll refer you first to this comment:

"Obviously Iran and Syria have strengthened their relations over the last nine months," says Andrew Tabler, Damascus-based researcher and a fellow with the Institute of Current World Affairs. "And their ideological correspondence has come along with suitable iconography. So, before the Syria-Iran defense pact was about to be signed in mid-June, we started seeing these posters with Bashar, Nasrallah, and Ahmadinejad. You used to have to go to the Bekaa Valley or the south suburbs of Beirut to see posters of Iranian leaders. Now we get them in the middle of an Arab capital."

Thus the Iranians have started to invest heavily in what some are calling the Shiitization of Syria, a country with a roughly 70 percent Sunni majority. "There are reports of entire villages becoming Shia," says Tabler. "And we know for sure that they're fixing up Shia shrines and building Shia mosques, even in majority Sunni towns."

Also, I'll soon be translating what a dissident Syrian analyst said about this fiction (and questioning the entire NYT line -- which was thin to begin with -- that this whole media much ado about nothing has been based on), but let me simply ask these two questions: 1- what is the "Sunni Arab fold"? And 2- when was Syria ever part of it?

Finally, I'll end with this hilarious translation of regime tool Shu'eibi's comment, courtesy of my friend Caveman:

"To dismiss Damascus is absurd. Syria is on the frontline of direct confrontation with Israel, and Hezbollah is the nub of the problem. Israel will not support a long hard war and the international community will eventually have to ask for help from Damascus," he said.

TRANSLATION: To dismiss Damascus would be disastrous for our regime. Syria has tried so hard to put itself on direct confrontation with Israel, using Hizbullah as bait, because this was the only way to get anyone's attention. We hope that Israel will not support a long war, because otherwise, eventually, nobody will ask for help from Damascus.

I'm sure Moratinos sympathizes. Too bad nobody else does. Somehow the Syrians just keep hearing: UNR 1559.