Wednesday, August 08, 2012

Barry Rubin Interviews Syrian Pro-Democratic Oppositionist Ammar Abdulhamid,

In his post The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly About the Syrian Civil War, Middle East expert Barry Rubin interviews Ammar Abdulhamid:
Ammar Abdulhamid may know more about Syria’s civil war than anyone else in the world. That’s no exaggeration. An pro-democratic oppositionist living abroad, Abdulhamid has functioned on a virtual 24/7 basis as the source of news and analysis about events within Syria, always trying to be honest and accurate in his assessments regardless of his own preferences.
Here are two questions from the interview:

Question:
It now seems that the tide in Syria’s civil war is turning toward the opposition. Why is that happening?


I wouldn’t say the tide is turning, I’d say that the armed opposition is getting more organized and bold, and its tenacity, growing popularity, coupled with President Bashar al-Assad’s cruelty, are inspiring more defections and despair inside the ranks of the regime.

Also, by continuing to play on sectarian sentiments, Assad continues to find success in ensuring the loyalty of the Alawites, the majority of whom keep seeing an existential threat in having regime change take place. However, by going down the route of ethnic cleansing in the coastal and central parts, Assad and his militias managed to create an existential threat for the Sunnis as well.

Of the two million Syrians who have been forcibly displaced inside Syria by Assad’s crackdown, the overwhelming majority is Sunni. These people are angry, bitter, and radicalized, and their very lot in life at this stage is inspiring anger and hate in the minds and souls of Sunnis with whom they come in contact.

Both sides now view the situation in sectarian and existential terms. So no one can back down.

Question: What do you see emerging in a post-Assad Syria?

The activist in me wants to see a democratic decentralized entity emerge that is capable of responding to the developmental needs and aspirations of the people, irrespective of their religious, national, or political background, in each province, region, and district. The analyst in me has to grapple with the possibility of inheriting a failed state composed of warring fiefdoms, and of the need to find ways to put the pieces back together again, a process that would take years. It was from the beginning clear to me that the transformation of Syria will prove a much longer process than most of us have expected or wanted. But our dream for a democratic state will guide us through the thin and thick of it all.

Read the whole thing.

It is not an optimistic interview in terms of the possibility of ending the Assad regime's massacre of the Syrian people, but Abdulhamid is pragmatic, and perhaps at this point that is all we can expect.

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