The Insurrection Is On, But the Masochists are Running the Government
You can barely see it in the popular press, but the global insurrection is going great guns, despite the fecklessness of the so-called Western world. And it's going great guns in our enemies' countries, not just in those of our (at least erstwhile) friends.
In Syria, for example, the anti-Assad demonstrations are getting bigger and are explicitly calling for regime change. In Iran, there are ongoing strikes, violent anti-regime demonstrations in the oil regions in the west, adjoining Iraq (think Basra), and continued sabotage of the country's gas pipelines.
The destinies of the Damascus and Tehran tyrannies are closely linked, which is why the Iranians have been sending some of their top experts to Syria, to aid the Baathists in putting down the insurrection. The mullahs have delivered between 350 and 400 cameras that are hidden in traffic signals, in order to identify the activists, and more than 42 censors to shut down foreign radio and tv broadcasts. And there are many Revolutionary Guards and Hezbollahis in Damascus, along with Iranian-trained Arabs, nearly two thousand strong as of the 11th, to show the Syrian security forces how it's done.
In other words, it's an attempt to replay the Iranian repression on Syrian soil.
It's not working very well, as you can see by reading the latest updates from the Reform Party of Syria, including this stunning video of Army defectors leading a crowd in Dara'a and shooting their guns in the air. Crowds in Damascus and Latakia on Friday were very large, certainly tens of thousands of people, and maybe more. And the revolt is spreading to new towns and cities every day.
There's a paucity of reportage -- another parallel with Iran -- and the last reliable figures I have are from the 11th. As of that date, there had been uprisings in 9 cities, 229 persons had been murdered and more than 1,000 were injured, and roughly 2,700 had been arrested.
For the moment, Assad is combining the mailed fist with acts of appeasement (sporadic prisoner releases, including the hated Kurds, promises to cancel the "Emergency Law" that has enabled any and all violence by the regime ever since 1963), which is the worst of all possible strategies (the crackdown further enrages people, while the appeasement is taken as a sign of weakness). The Iranians are telling him to buy time, organize a truly effective repression, and then act forcefully. But the Iranian model is probably not a winning play, to judge by recent events there:
--Iranian Arabs in the Ahwaz oil region have risen up, first on Friday's "Day of Rage" in which at least nine protesters were killed by the regime's security forces, and then again on Saturday, about which there are only very early reports as I write on Saturday afternoon. The regime doesn't want the world to know about these protests, both because it suggests the vulnerability of the country's major source of income, and because it shows once again that Khamenei and Ahmadinejad have failed to impose their will on a population that wants an end to the regime itself. Thus foreign "observers" have been forbidden to travel to Ahwaz, and the disinformation mavens in Tehran staged their own "demonstrations," claiming that the population was protesting the treatment of Shi'ites in Bahrain. Nobody was fooled, least of all the (mostly Sunni) Ahwaz Arabs.
--The systematic sabotage of the petrochemical industry and the nation's vital pipelines -- to which I have so often referred -- continues apace. On March 15th, the Azerbaijan Movement for Democracy and Integrity in Iran claimed credit for the fiery conflagration of the big Tabriz refinery. The facility was totally shut down for three days, and more than 100 fire-fighting vehicles took 11 hours to get the blaze under control. The government declared a state of emergency and the security forces sealed off the area in a massive manhunt. But no arrests were made.
--Strikes, of varying duration, in the oil sector, ranging from the big petrochemical plant at Bandar Imam to the Abadan refinery and oil fields.
--The relentless destruction of the country's gas pipelines, which run from the southern refineries to the Turkish border. Three major pipelines come together south of Tehran, just outside the holy city of Qom, and they were all blown up on February 11th. After they were patched up, there was another blast on April 8th, which was branded a "terrorist attack" (nobody was prepared to believe the fairy tale about yet another accidental explosion, even though the regime's capacity for failure and self-destruction is incomparable in the modern world).
A few humorists in the Parliament suggested that the regime might devote some attention to security.
--In case you were wondering, not everyone in the opposition subscribes to Ghandian non-violence, even though the two main figures in the Greeen Movement -- Mehdi Karroubi and Mir Hossein Mousavi -- have always insisted on it. Some Kurdish groups seem unconvinced, and in recent weeks more than a dozen Revolutionary Guards have been killed by gunfire in Kurdistan. Kurdish casualties are less than half; the Ahwazis have been shooting back as well, but it's hard to get casualty figures. Just today, a big bomb went off in a central square in Sanandaz, apparently aimed at the Guards.
In short, our two main enemies in the Middle East, the two regimes that, more than any other, are engaged in killing Americans and friends of America, are in a jam. This has not compelled them to moderate their behavior either toward us or toward our friends and allies. Quite the contrary, in fact. Secretary Clinton permitted herself the mild complaint that Iran is "meddling" in the Arab insurrections, and from time to time one of our military leaders in the field annoys the policy makers by reminding the world that Iran is still busy in the "Death to America" business. The State Department noted Iranian support for Assad. We recently saw a couple of Iranian planes forced to land in Turkey in the space of a week. As expected, they were running guns, bombs, and ammunition in the direction of Syria.
So what does our government do, when faced with a splendid opportunity to advance the cause of freedom, strike a blow at the world's leading supporter of terrorism, and perhaps even convince waverers around the world that American support is worth something after all?
We tell the Syrian opposition to take a hike, that's what. As Eli Lake tells us,
The Obama administration has turned down a plea from Syria’s democratic opposition to step up diplomatic pressure on President Bashar Assad, who has violently repressed peaceful anti-government protests
Please read that again and notice that the Obama administration turned down a plea for DIPLOMATIC pressure on poor Assad. Faggetit.
Can anyone detect a pattern here? Mubarak must go. Qadaffi must go. But no diplomatic pressure on Assad, nor, aside from the occasional Obama video, any tough talk to the Iranians.
It's an operational definition of appeasing your worst enemies and dissing friends and (what's the best way to define Qadaffi?) a would-be or sometimes friend. Which is a very masochistic foreign policy. It's what you get from a president who sees America as the root cause of mischief, and perhaps even evil, in the world, and is more concerned about punishing his own people than fighting our enemies.
UPDATE: The explosion in Sanandaz was one of two. The official report claims they were just noise-makers...