Alexandria- Nothing too, too much to report here from Alex. Just quietly working away on the next issue of Militant Leadership Monitor which is looking to be my best issue yet. Got a serious trick up my sleeve on this one, partly thanks to my own creative ingenuity and partly thanks to a Jamestown colleague who had someone very diligently dig through al-Hayat archives in Beirut-the London-based, pan-Arab newspaper sold around the world- for a sizzler of a story. I’ve hired a lovely, older man here in Alex to do the translation of the 20 year-old masterpieces which I intend to use as unique, pre-internet sources. As the DJs say, digging deep in the crates on this one, should pay off. There is so bloody much going on in these parts, I dare anyone to keep up on it all.
The most beefy development has been the shaking of Bashar al-Assad’s Alawite/military/Ba’athist regime in Syria which has really kept my attention despite everything else I’m working on. I’ve visited Syria twice over the years, once on a flopped attempt to meet up with Iraqi Kurdish leaders in 2002 before the Iraq war was to inevitably commence and then again in 2006 going to and fro the Lebanon war. Both times, I found the Syrian people incredibly friendly and warm (and makers of the best street food in the region I reckon) while their retrograde government seemed stuck in a time warp, unwilling or unable to evolve. As with Egypt, American commentators, which I don’t really have time to read much of while here, are undoubtedly myopically worried about how all of this will affect their precious (perceived) Israeli interests in the region rather than focus on the actual aspirations of the Syrian people. What these types do not understand is that “stability” as they have known it ie severe repression by militaristic regimes tagged with decades of fruitless carrot-and-stick diplomacy is simply over. There will be no more Rose Garden handshake photo ops as we have known them. The world has changed and for the better. People are dying in the streets of the Middle East and North Africa for a reason. It is time for change. Today. And this kind of change cannot wait any longer.
Syria’s economy has been in free fall for some time and the country acts as a byzantine bulwark against progress of any kind in the Levant. Here is a remarkable video of protestors bashing a giant Hafez al-Assad statue:
I’m still toying with the idea of heading back to Libya for the battle of Sirte, which now actually seems imminent (unlike before) following days of Allied air strikes against Qaddafist units on the ground and the early trashing of Q’s air force and anti-aircraft installations.