Syria's "Infiltration" Myth

In an August 14 article published in Al Hayat, Hazem al-Amin, one of Lebanon’s most intelligent observers of Arab and Lebanese politics, criticizes the official claim that the revolution has “infiltrated” Syrian cities (“From Where the Revolution ‘Infiltrates’ into Syrian Cities”).  According to both the Syrian regime and those parroting its propaganda, these “infiltrators” are crossing the border from neighboring Lebanon, Jordan, Iraq, and Turkey to commit violence against Syrian civilians and armed forces. However, as Amin points out, the regime and its cronies rarely provide credible evidence for such claims. The fifth state bordering Syria is Israel, against which Mr. Amin recalls Rami Makhlouf (President Assad’s cousin) having threatened war in the absence of international efforts to protect the Baathist regime from the revolutionaries. Syria threatening war against Israel? Since neither statement made sense, the regime began advancing the notion that “armed terrorist gangs” were lawlessly making their way through the country.  Amin views this as the regime’s most cryptic invention. What are the identities of these “gangs,” which are suddenly marauding, as we are told, through all major Syrian cities?

 Dedicating himself primarily to the border-infiltration theory, Amin explains that the regime has used it to both justify its violence against demonstrators, and also to bully its neighbors into keeping quiet about its penchant for violence. Because the regime is never specific about which “external” force it holds responsible for which events, each neighboring country is left thinking that it could be the one that the regime blames most. In this way, the Syrian government wages a low-level psychological war against its neighbors. Amin concludes his column with the insightful observation that “The Syrian regime possesses the most repressive machinery of all the regimes that have faced revolutions this year,” but that, at the same time, it also “offers the most idiotic explanations of its own behavior and of the revolution that now confronts it.”

                                                                                              -Elie Chalala


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