What’s really happening in Syria?

Truth and Falsehood in Syria
By Jeremy Salt – Ankara

As insurrection in Syria lurches towards civil war, the brakes need to be put on the propaganda pouring through the western mainstream media and accepted uncritically by many who should know better. So here is a matrix of positions from which to argue about what is going on in this critical Middle Eastern country:

1. Syria has been a mukhabarat (intelligence) state since the redoubtable Abd al Hamid al Serraj ran the intelligence services as the deuxieme bureau in the 1950s. The authoritarian state which developed from the time Hafez al Assad took power in 1970 has crushed all dissent ruthlessly. On occasion it has either been him or them. The ubiquitous presence of the mukhabarat is an unpleasant fact of Syrian life but as Syria is a central target for assassination and subversion by Israel and western intelligence agencies, as it has repeatedly come under military attack, as it has had a large chunk of its territories occupied and as its enemies are forever looking for opportunities to bring it down, it can hardly be said that the mukhabarat is not needed.

2. There is no doubt that the bulk of people demonstrating in Syria want peaceful transition to a democratic form of government. Neither is there any doubt that armed groups operating from behind the screen of the demonstrations have no interest in reform. They want to destroy the government.

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