Sunday, August 14, 2011

The Problem with the Good Doctor

I don't think As'ad Abu Khalil knows what he is talking about when it comes to Syria. His attitude towards events there over the past few months has been confused and inconsistent. He is extremely hostile to the Syrian 'opposition' and then intersperses his commentary with scathing criticisms of the Syrian regime and how necessary it is for them to go, but then switches back to how suspicious he finds the whole uprising, and how the Saudis and Americans are 'hijacking' the uprising. He regularly detracts from al Jazeera's coverage of events there, saying they are being 'unprofessional' though he knows that the Syrian regime has banned foreign correspondents from reporting freely in the country. All this leads to him dismissing entirely any perspective which hints that the internal Syrian opposition - and the Syrian people - are not somebody who would accept an American or Saudi dominated regime. A strange position to hold.

When he does comment about things on his blog, he tends to be dogmatic and unflexible. He rightly dismisses the so-called Syrian 'opposition' but his discourse borders dangerously on equating the entire uprising with a Muslim Brotherhood led revolt. Then there are his positions regarding the Syrian regime. Here, he criticizes the New York Times for 'sneakily correcting their errors and mistakes'. He is under the impression that the Syrian regime supported Iyad Allawi as Prime Minister of Iraq, rather than al Maliki. Yet even at the time of the Maliki-Allawi spat, it was quite certain that Allawi was Iran AND Syria's choice. Allawi visited Damascus and Tehran in the days of the crisis and it was clear from then that he was getting their blessings. So I don't see where As'ad gets the idea that Maliki was Syria's choice.

Another curious response was when I e-mailed him about the Bahraini government 'allowing' anti-Syrian regime protests. I related an incident where I was verbally abused and threatened by a pro-Syrian regime group of demonstrators who were at the anti-government Bahraini protests. He dismissed the story entirely because "the Syrian regime supported Bahraini royal repression". Well yes, that is true on one level. Officially the Syrian regime did make its position known, but this was a bit like Shimon Peres stating support for the Syrian protesters, who wouldn't give a damn what he said, because it was politically expedient. And that does not explain why pro-regime demonstrators in London, who I believe to be entirely directed by the regime through the embassy, would be at an anti-government protest. These people were not there of their own initiative or driven by a concern for human rights. They were there because the Syrian regime is an ally of Iran and Iran is directly supporting the Bahraini protesters for sectarian reasons (at the same time it dismisses the Syrian uprising as a plot).

On another note, it is interesting to see that Hezbullah and Iran are largely silent over what is happening in Libya and are critical of NATO's intervention there - which is clearly motivated by a desire to secure oil - but one would have thought they would hate Gaddafi for killing Imam Musa al Sadr. Gaddafi is a strong friend of the Syrian regime, and there were strong rumours of Syrian material support to the regime from the start of the  Libyan uprising. This just shows that you cannot be dogmatic in applying axioms to these players and the events taking place around them. An official position of a country might be one thing but in reality the country might be taking entirely different positions. That's not something I need to tell a professor of political science.

I'm not alone in finding Abu Khalil's positions problematic and at times downright insensitive to the plight of the Syrian people. Many other Syrians who have followed his blog over the years have noticed the difference in the language he uses regarding Syria. Today, he posts a link to a page dedicated to the late Egyptian actress Hind Rustum. If Gaza was being bombed by the Israelis today he wouldn't have posted this, but news that the Syrian navy bombing Lattakia doesn't register on his radar. If the only news coming out of Gaza was from Youtube clips, I doubt he would have had a problem with al Jazeera reporting in that circumstance. So the question on mine and many Syrian's minds is, what is this man's problem?


Abu Kareem said...

Abu Khalil's diatribes can be amusing but can get very irritating at times easily especially when he seems to skewer everyone from every side impulsively. Taking sides but being self critical is laudable. Not taking sides and yet being critical of both is childish.

Rime said...

Thank you, thank you, thank you, THANK YOU!

I was also stunned today by his complete silence on the gunboats shelling a civilian population, while taking the time to mention Hind Rustom; too bad he didn't follow the example of the Palestinian people, who were out in Ramallah today in support of the people of Syria.

As'ad AbuKhalil said...

I was sent a link and read what you wrote. You misunderstood me about Maliki: the New York Times initially said that Maliki was Syria's choice. They missed that Allawi was Syria's choice. You see my point. I don't understand why my support for the violent--not only peaceful--overthrow of the lousy Syrian regime should in any way stop me from fiercely opposing the Ikhwan and their liberal allies who I deeply distrust. There is a bit of intolerance of political dissent in the camp of Syrian opposition and I am feeling it, but make an effort to not let it affect me. When I opposed Khumayni as a kid, most people were along the lines (like Adonis) that we should support Khumayni bec he is the leading figure. As for the gunboat: I posted on the savagery of the regime. Read what I wrote today. As for Hind Rustum: well she passed away and I don't have to teach Syrians about love of arts and literature. But the bloody repression in Syria has been going on for months now and I still feel I have to post on a variety of topics. But I dont view that as in any way insensitive. Never intended at least.

William Scott Scherk said...

One telling indicator of how the good prof keeps the pulse of news, events, opinion from Syria is the number of twitter accounts he follows: One, his own personal account . . . but I am happy to see him respond here.

qunfuz said...

very well said, Wassim.