Reading Through the Syrian “Outcry”

My take on the big uproar over the US raid into Syria is that it  will blow over in a few days.    While Syria probably didn’t sit down with US troops and say “gee how can we plan a joint operation against the targets,” I suspect Syria probably turned a blind eye, knowing that the raid carried out one of their stated security objectives.   Scroll down a few posts to read my theory in greater depth.  Borzou of the LA TIMES looks at the possibility that Syria green-lighted the attack: 

Everyone’s still scratching their heads about Sunday’s dramatic U.S. attack on a Syrian village five miles from the Iraqi border.

Plenty of unanswered questions remain, like why didn’t the Syrians do anything to thwart the Americans, such as launching anti-aircraft batteries deployed along their border?  Ronen Bergman, an Israeli intelligence expert and author of the recent “The Secret War with Iran,” speculates that Syria green-lighted the U.S. operation.   In an interview with an Israeli newspaper and in a chat with Britain’s Sky News, Bergman cites two senior American officials who he says told him the Americans went after an alleged Al Qaeda leader in Syria only after getting Damascus’ OK.

He says the Syrians were at first reluctant to appear to be submitting to U.S. pressure by going after the guy themselves. In the end, they discretely gave the Americans permission to cross their border and hunt him down …   According to Bergman, Syrians told Washington they wouldn’t block their way if  commandos entered their country in broad daylight:

“If you want to do this, do it. We are going to give you a corridor and carte blanche. We will not harm your troops. … The Syrians have invested so much in aerial defences, especially against choppers and the Americans go in in daylight and nothing is being done.”

According to U.S. officials, the target of the raid was a man named Abu Ghadiya, an Al Qaeda figure responsible for funneling guns and fighters through Syria and into Iraq. But journalists who reached the site quoted villagers as saying the only people killed were innocent civilians.  Does it make sense that Syria would OK such a dramatic U.S. attack?  There’s been a slight thaw in relations between Syria and the U.S. over the last few months. Syria’s secular leadership has been fighting radical Islamists for decades.  From a Syrian point of view, why not let the U.S. take care of the region’s Abu Ghadiyas?   And as for the timing, it’s better for Damascus to let the U.S. finish the job now and blame the Bush administration, whose reputation in the Middle East could hardly get worse, and make a fresh start with the Obama or McCain teams.

My Commentary
The comments accuse the post’s writer of merely following a right-wing agenda, trying to disguise or legitimize American agression.  Ok, but how do we explain that this mission just happens to fit in with Syria’s stated security goals? 

 Governments, almost by definition, say one thing and do another.  There wouldn’t be anything especially unusual about the Syrian government making a public show about “US agression” while having had full knowledge of it all along.  No government’s statements can be taken at face value.  Could Italy’s protests following the 2003 CIA kidnappings in Milan be taken at face-value?  I don’t think so. 

Also,  if in fact the raid was green-lighted, there is the possibily (even likelihood) that only the Security apparatus and highest level political people would know about it and  therefore the people bitching up the biggest storm could genuinely think that Syria got shafted when in fact it didn’t. 




Is Pope Shenuda Violating the Concept of Citizenship?

  A few days ago Ibrahim Eissa, editor of Egypt’s  Al-Dostor newspaper, had an interesting op-ed  questioning whether Pope Shenuda, leader of the Egyptian Christians, was violating the concept of citizenship with his (alleged)  interference in political affairs.  Is he a Pope or a Zaim ( political leader)?  asked Eissa.

The Copts consist of at least 7 million of Egypt’s 78 million and generally adhere to the principle of secularism and citizenship, in the sense that they try to play down religious differences under the law.  They know that numerically they can never compete with the Muslims, so for the most part they espouse secular citizenship.   This is understandable as some Islamist parties, such as the Muslim Brotherhood, argue as part of their official platform that neither Copts or women should be eligible to run for President.  

Pope Shenuda (mid-80s) , the leader of the Coptic Church since the early 1970s has been in Ohio for the last couple months receiving medical treatment.  Upon his return to Cairo he was greeted at the airport by an official government delegation.  Eissa article addresses this.

The Article
Its great that Pope Shenuda is greeted like this… but its evidence that the Egyptian state is distancing itself from the principle of citizenship.  This was clearly a political delegation.  The Pope is being treated as political leader of the Copts and not as their religious symbol (which Eissa views is a mistake)

Before anyone misunderstands, let me reiterate my deep respect for the Pope.  I only wish Egyptian Muslims had a leader they could love and respect so much, instead of the state appointed clerics who lack any legitimacy or credibility.

However, this doesn’t prevent me from saying that Pope Shenuda has turned the Coptic Church into his personal monopoly.  Coptics have transformed from people of his Church to citizens of his church.  Notice how delegations were sent to his Hospital bed in Ohio, not to discuss trivial religious affairs, but things much more important.  ..Notice how everyone was saying “wait till the Pope returns” before we can settle these affairs.   It goes to the extent that we don’t know if he is the Coptic religious guide or political guide.

This is a dangerous game and a violation of the principle of Citizenship that Copts and Muslims both call for.  And the NDP plays right along in their treatment of Pope Shenuda.    Note the recent announcement of a major Bishop that he and most of the Church leadership would be supporting Gamal Mubarak in future presidential elections is a  clear intervention in politics. 

Closing the article:  “Thanks be to God that the Pope has gotten better, but now we call on him to open the doors of the Church to let the Copts act as citizens of the state and not as citizens of the Coptic Church.”

As a non-Egyptian its not my place to comment on what “should” or “should not” be happening in Egypt. 

But Eissa brings up a lot of good points, and it does seem that the Pope’s behavior and especially the recent endorsement of Gamal Mubarak by a major Bishop is not consistent with the principle of citizenship or secular separation of religion and state that the Copts often call for.