Within the Syrian opposition, there is gaiety in the air. It has nothing to do with the usual ingredients one witnesses in the normal course of our business such as international support or strong unity between the different groups but rather it have to do with Assad himself and the Ba’athist propaganda in general.
Confidence is like a shot in the arm of a sick patient but over confidence is like an overdose of narcotics. That’s exactly what the Syrian dissident community discerns today: An aplomb Assad stepping on landmines oblivious to the danger because of an overdose of self-induced confidence.
From observable and consistent signals that we, in the opposition, perceive either through planted regime operatives or through hired pens writing in Blogs, we can detect nuances with a long tale to tell. Not too dissimilar from a detective expert in reading body language to discern the truth from the lies.
In the Ba’athist ideology in general, much goes wrong and very little is successful when it comes to governance. Ba’athism is 90% propaganda and 10% truth. Up until the 80’s, to many Syrians the ’67 war with Israel was won by Syria. The regime is continuously forced to respond with lies, half-truths, and total fabrications (i.e. Amb. Imad Mustapha) just so it enamors itself into believing of its right cause and more so to confuse the public-at-large into believing that the Ba’athist ideology is a successful socioeconomic experiment.
In almost scientific fashion, as one compares the Syrian propaganda with the reality or the misinformation planted by western journalists — whose task is to shore-up the useful idiots in the Middle East — one can quickly read between the lines of every issued press release, interview, and newspaper articles. Sometimes, we get it wrong when the government actually tells a truth, which is very rare considering how easy it is for the problems to pile upon a society with little resources and whose aim is to control the population very much the epicenter of what renders a country successful.
Take for example the many stories that have surfaced lately discussing the new economic renaissance of Damascus. The articles posted by western journalists observe Damascene cafés and lots of cars on the street and assume that Syria is doing OK economically. They do not see, below the surface, as an example, what drives these cafés to operate, who really owns them, and where all this traffic comes from and for what purpose. They also talk of the Syrian Stock Exchange, an admirable step considering the Soviet-style economy Hafez al-Assad nurtured; but again, with only 11 companies listed the journalist misses an important detail: Almost all are either owned by Rami Makhluf (quite known to the US Treasury Dept. and cousin to Baschar al-Assad) or has an interest in their success.
Then, in two independent stories published apart, one can, when connecting the dots, answer these questions. One story talks of drug trade in Lebanon operating mostly by the Syrian intelligence and Hezbollah (Who owns these cafés) and the other of the new sex tourism in Syria that Assad turns a blind eye to by inflicting on desperate Iraqi women a life of misery (Where all the traffic comes from). I do not believe the IMF would keep track of economic success stories based on sex tourism and drug trade but if they did, Syria, under Assad, would lead the list.
If only doctors can detect cancer by observing a patient the way some journalists can detect a healthy economy by observing a café, the world would be full of healthy economies and people.
Drug trade in Lebanon is on its way back now that the Syrian intelligence, with Hezbollah, commands the fields and the farmers in the Beka’a valley in Lebanon. No one at the Elysée or the White House had configured this liability in their calculations as they engaged with Syria. In societies where thoughts are controlled, drugs are much easier to detect and control. Mostly they are destined for two purposes: Democratic rich nations and filling the coffers of terror. Drug trade for Assad and Hezbollah is like 3-point foul shot in Basketball. They win no matter.