HERE'S AN INTERESTING FIRSTHAND REPORT FROM SYRIA and surrounding regions via a musician friend of Eric Olsen's who's touring there. Excerpt:
Another thing that she said is that ALL the Iraqis are done with the idea of Arab Unity. They hate all the other states except for Syria. They believe Saddam gave so much money to these other states, and none of them offered any support. They are particularly hateful now to the Palestinians; ordinary Iraqis were sometimes moved out of their own homes to house them, and they got jobs and pensions-- and she said that the new Arabic graffiti on the walls of Baghdad University is "Palestinians go home. The free ride is over."
In any case, this tour was a lovefest compared to the last one, so god only knows what the reporters are all going on about. Another thing I heard is that 90% of all the attacks have happened in the Sunni Triangle, which if you look on a map represents all of about 1/8 of Iraq maybe (Ramadi, Fallujah, Baghdad-- I don't have a good map to do the math with), so you have a country 7/8 calm. This guy's Iraqi mom (from Mosul) also said that the power is now on regularly in Baghdad but no one is reporting that.
If CNN hasn't gotten it, it appears that Assad in Syria has. The cabinet change was a big thing even though many hoped/expected that Assad would choose a non-Baathist over Otri. Still, they think a few of the new guys will be non-Baathists which would have been unthinkable before.
They sure need it-- the country is a beautiful basket case full of intelligent, kind people who could do something good if given a chance. On a more superficial, but probably important level as well, the kids military uniforms we saw last year are all gone, and a lot of the militarization you used to see in posters and monuments, etc. seems to have been toned down. The Lebanese paper, The Star, attributes this directly albeit grudgingly to the US being right next door.
Read the whole thing. And wonder, once again, why the firsthand reports we're getting are so much more positive than those from the likes of Christiane Amanpour. But it's been that way for a while.