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Wednesday, February 23, 2005


the assad rulership

across the bay has kept in print an affirmation (with quotation) of a removed post from josh landis' insightful syria comment. perhaps unsurprisingly, landis links the personal interests of syrian leadership to decisions regarding syria's state policy towards lebanon -- particularly the term extension of emile lahoud.

The diplomat I spoke with believes the reason the Asad family overruled the older generation of experienced Lebanon hands was that family members such as Bashar’s brother Maher and his cousin Rami Makhlouf had important business dealings in Lebanon which depended on Lahoud. “They needed Lahoud to stay for their own interests,” he said. “The family members were pushing for his retention. Perhaps they were trying to create their own Lebanon policy and side-line the ‘old guard,’” he added. “Maybe Bashar went along because he is trying to create his own base of power?”
this is an important insight, and the disturbance it creates in damascus which encouraged landis to remove it (for the safety of his friends and family) connotes proximity to truth. it means that the assad family -- multiple individuals -- is in rulership of syria, and that they have the initiative to trump the bureaucracy that the assad patriarch placed over decades to assist him.

if this is true, then some of what i said earlier must be reassessed:

it would surely take a massive miscalculation on the syrian government's part -- a government that, even with a change of leadership, still retains much of the infrastructure that was responsible for what pipes calls "tactical genius" -- to put them behind this act.
indeed, landis is saying that the syrian government's infrastructure has been sidelined. this would put the assad family in a much more likely position of guilt. despots are very capable of myopic miscalculation where tangible self-interest lies even when the state's abstract interests lie elsewhere.

it's important to note that everyone is grasping at straws to a great degree. no one knows what is in the mind of bashar assad or ariel sharon or douglas feith. and despite everything just said, it still would take a monumental and counterintuitive miscalculation on the part of the syrian ruling family to make it so. but the assad family may indeed be the mover behind this act, even as it gives their ideological enemies the cassus bellum to destroy them.

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