October 31, 2003 Special Dispatch No. 599

Member of Syrian Reform Movement Criticizes Syrian Regime and Warns Hamas

October 31, 2003
Syria | Special Dispatch No. 599

In an article published in the Lebanese daily Al-Nahar, [1] Syrian-Christian journalist Michel Kilo, who is a member of the Syrian reform movement "The Civil Society," strongly criticized the actions of the Syrian regime. The following are excerpts from the article:

Syrian Leadership Doesn't Realize Its Grave Situation

"To a great extent, some of the [Syrian] officials, in their official statements and discussions, overlook the [looming] dangers. In their view, the world is still in bliss and the Syrian administration is in control of the domestic and international spheres, and is capable of deflecting the negative affects of the international situation on the domestic arena.

"It seems that [in their view] only outside matters could be a source for concern, while the domestic situation is calm, because the reins are still in their hands. 'Nothing is new,' maintain those who want to delude themselves or want to keep their eyes shut from seeing reality. However, anyone who opens them and sees what is going on will see the following plain truths:"

An Anti-Syrian Offensive that Emanates from the Moderate State Dept. Could Turn into Fire

"In the [U.S.] Congress there is a furious offensive [against Syria]. Some of the proponents of delusion in the [Syrian] administration dismiss its importance, because it took place in a sub-committee. They were silenced when [the sub-committee] heard from an aide to the moderate Secretary of State, Powell, a testimony that included unprecedented blunt ideas and threats, in a language uncommon in international relations. This testimony is a message that teaches us that [Powell] is not the only decision maker in the State Department. An offensive that emanates from the moderate State Department could turn into fire by the time it reaches the hawks at the Department of Defense…"

The Possibility of a Syrian Reformist Following in the Footsteps of Al-Chalabi and Karzai

"On September 29, 2003, a conference was held in Washington to discuss the future of Syria. In it we heard the names of new Syrian parties, established and active in the U.S. Those who cater [to the Syrian regime] may say that those new parties do not represent anything in Syria, as if Karzai represented anything in Afghanistan, or Al-Chalabi [represented anything] in Iraq… As if the U.S., which allowed the conference [to be organized and sanctioned it], extends its hands only to those who represent something or someone in their countries…

"Numerous media outfits discussed the Syrian regime and its true weaknesses in an unprecedented way. They focused on the fact that the Syrians were jailed, tortured, exiled and persecuted [at the hands of their own regime] for over twenty years; [they focused on] millions of destitute and unemployed people; on denying them their rights as civilians and human beings, on the deteriorating conditions in health and education, on [the] economic crises and on widespread corruption in their legal [system]."

Reforms Shouldn't be Postponed Despite the Israeli Threat

"These attacks were well aimed strikes that hit their targets because they included many truisms. However, every day we hear shrieking corrupt voices that claim that the situation should not be reformed as long as the [Israeli] threat exists, as if corruption is the tool that will deflect [the Israeli threat from Syria or], as if they are not responsible for our powerlessness and as if they do not encourage it, or as if corruption is our last and only hope to defend ourselves and our country [from the Israeli threat].

"Our situation is deteriorating as a result of certain policies and certain types of behavior that many senior [officials in the Syrian regime as well as] the people know. When the citizen demands reform, they rebuke him and accuse him of treason, as has been the case repeatedly since 1967: 'How dare you demand reform when we are facing a threat? Shut your mouth and wait until the danger is over, then we shall rectify the situation.' Meanwhile the powerlessness and weakness get stronger, and - as a result - the danger increases and the imbalance of power between us and the enemy becomes absolute and our ability to deal with challenges decreases, to the point where we start longing for the days of Noah…"

Because of U.S. Difficulties in Iraq, She Will Allow Israel to Fight Her Battle Against Syria

"The enemy's planes raided targets less than 20 kilometers from Damascus, which one of the hypocrites turned into 40-50 kilometers, as if nothing happened as long as the enemy did not attack Damascus itself. What is the meaning of this in light of the [Israeli] declarations that the Israeli army adopted a policy to attack Syria in retribution for suicide attacks by organizations supposedly housed [in Syria]. The meaning is very simple: the era of separation of forces [that began in] 1974 is over. The enemy will hold Syria responsible for every attack against it, and will use its victorious forces to react to them, with all their unexpected consequences which will draw us closer to an all out war that [the enemy] can wage [against Syria], if America does not want to do that herself because of her difficulties in Iraq…

"Who [in Syria] is misreading the situation? Had they not misread the situation, they would have responded three years ago to the call for dialogue and [domestic] reconciliation and would have rushed to meet [the reformists] way farther than mid-way. Reform would have been going on today at full speed, the prisoners would have been in their homes and not in jail, and anyone who listens to a lecture here or participates in a conference there would have been treated as honorable citizens and not as criminals facing a military tribunal.

"A Hamas spokesman said that his organization will react forcefully in occupied Palestine to the [Israeli] incursion into Syrian territory. Don't let Hamas bring about the demise of Syria just like it brought about the demise of Palestine!"

[1] Al-Nahar (Lebanon), October 11, 2003.

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