A New Diplomatic Rift Between Jordan and Syria

by Curtis Ryan | published May 29, 2014 - 10:27am

On May 26, Syria’s ambassador to Jordan, Bahjat Sulayman, received a terse letter from the Jordanian government informing him that he had been declared persona non grata and had 24 hours to leave the country. The expulsion of the Syrian ambassador may have seemed sudden or startling, but it had been brewing for quite some time. What is more surprising, in fact, is that it didn’t happen sooner.

Prospects for China's Expanding Role in the Middle East

by Kyle Haddad-Fonda
published in MER270

In the autumn of 2011, as the international outcry against Bashar al-Asad intensified, it was impossible for the government of China to avoid being drawn into the conflict in Syria. After China joined Russia in October of that year in vetoing a UN Security Council resolution condemning the brutality of the Asad regime, a series of demonstrations erupted throughout the Middle East. Many protesters reserved their strongest feelings for Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin, who had become the most visible opponent of international intervention in Syria. Yet China, which up to that point had rarely inflamed such passions in the Arab world, was also a target of the demonstrators.

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Patrick Seale: A Remembrance

by Adam Shatz | published May 1, 2014

“It is as a mirror of rival interests on an international scale that Syria deserves special attention,” a young Anglo-Irish journalist wrote in 1965. “Indeed, her internal affairs are almost meaningless unless related to the wider context, first of her Arab neighbors and then of other interested powers. It is no accident that Syria should reflect in her internal political structure the rivalries of her neighbors since, as I hope to show, whoever would lead the Middle East must control her.”

Syria's Drought and the Rise of a War Economy

by Omar S. Dahi | published April 14, 2014 - 10:19am

The grinding war in Syria brings new horrors with every passing week. The death toll and the number of displaced people continue to soar, as more areas of the country are reduced to rubble. This month, two additional issues with dire long-term consequences have been gaining attention: the possible drought affecting the northwest and the entrenchment of a war economy.

Refugee 101

Palestinians in Lebanon Show Refugees from Syria the Ropes

by Sarah E. Parkinson | published April 3, 2014

Crossing the border at Masna‘, al-‘Abboudiyya or Mashari‘ al-Qa‘a, Syrian refugees entering Lebanon face an immediate choice: Stay in the tented settlements in the north and the Bekaa Valley or make their way to coastal cities such as Beirut and Sidon. Their experiences will vary greatly depending on the choice they make. The tented settlements are exposed to the elements, lack privacy and have virtually no job opportunities, but are accessible to aid providers. By contrast, refugees from Syria often have family connections in the coastal cities. Though Beirut and Sidon are expensive and crowded, there are more varied accommodations, schooling options and limited chances for employment.

The Struggle for Syria's Regions

by Kheder Khaddour , Kevin Mazur
published in MER269

In August 2013, as the United States was preparing to attack Syria over the use of chemical weapons, a chant echoed through ‘Alawi areas of Homs: “Strike, strike, buddy, we want to loot Tel Aviv” (idrab idrab ya habib, bidna n’affish Tall Abib). The couplet draws on a familiar position in Baathist discourse -- resistance to the American-Zionist project for the region -- but the means of resistance it espouses departs from the standard of national sacrifice in favor of something far more local. The term for looting, ‘afsh, is slang that comes from a word for furniture.

Books on Syria

by Fred H. Lawson
published in MER125

John F. Devlin, Syria: Modern State in an Ancient Land (Boulder, CO: Westview Press, 1983).

Robert Olson, The Baath and Syria, 1947-1982 (Princeton, NJ: The Kingston Press, 1982).

Umar F. Abd-Allah, The Islamic Struggle in Syria (Berkeley, CA: Mizan Press, 1983).

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Syrian Drama and the Politics of Dignity

by Rebecca Joubin
published in MER268

Undeterred by pleas for mercy, the high-ranking intelligence officer Ra’uf pushes the junior ‘Azzam to his knees. Ra’uf forcibly shaves the young man’s head as other officers look on. He commands ‘Azzam to remove his shirt and pants, do pushups, jump up and down, and slide across the ground on his elbows. When another officer pounds him with a bat, ‘Azzam breaks down. Crying that he has had enough, he grabs a gun, shooting into the air and then at Ra’uf’s feet. He orders Ra’uf and the others onto the ground, gathers his clothes and runs away. When Ra’uf presses charges, an exceptionally kind mukhabarat officer says, “I saw how you humiliated him and induced him to carry a gun.”

From the Editors

by The Editors
published in MER268

A major victory for the hawks in the post-Vietnam era was to define “intervention” as military action and its opposite as inaction.

Thus, in the recurrent debate over what to do about the civil war in Syria, the options are reduced to some sort of US strike, on the one hand, and nothing, on the other. Or so the media presents the matter. When reports surfaced in August of a chemical attack on civilians in the Damascene hinterland of Ghouta, most outlets took President Barack Obama at his word that he had to enforce his “red line” by cruise missile or abandon the Syrian people to the regime’s bloody whim.

Breaking Point

The Crisis of Syrian Refugees in Lebanon

by Omar S. Dahi | published September 25, 2013

One of the many plot lines lost in the summertime discussions of a US strike on Syria is the pace of refugee movement out of the country. As it stands, the refugee crisis is overwhelming and likely to stay that way. Another external military intervention would further accelerate the mass flight and exacerbate what is already a humanitarian emergency.