Visiting in Syria – Monica Lewinsky and Billy Flynn



Billy Flynn taps around the questions…

There is more important news in the world than the emails of Assad, little of it is as titillating and  intriguing as the email.  But it is still very important and ultimately more important that Assad’s personal life and communications.   In Libya a new “revolution” is brewing in the form of a separatist movement – today there was a battle of sorts between two forces.  No winner has been declared, but the separatists do have a leader and clear agenda.  The movement should get more coverage, if for no other reason than it is likely to be a foretaste of the future.  It is probably that we will see something akin to it in Afghanistan when the western forces pull out and the local/tribal forces really start to compete for regional control.  In a decade both Libya and Afghanistan will probably still exist, but is not likely that their names will apply to the same territories and provinces it does now.

In Syria, there have been two separate bombing incidents, one yesterday and one today.  Unlike the run-of-the-mill suicide and non-suicide bombing attacks around the region, no one wants to clam responsibility.  That leaves everyone free to choose their own culprit.  Here, from the Guardian is the entire debate captured in just a few sentences;

The state TV channel showed pictures of bloody bodies and charred buildings from earlier blasts. “Their gift to us,” said a caption, followed by a bloody hand print. “Their fingerprints are obvious.” But an activist in Aleppo from the opposition’s local Revolutionary Council said the government was behind the attack.  These explosions are always done by the regime to discourage people from joining the revolution … they want to make our uprising seem like a terrorist operation to the rest of the world, but it is not,” said the activist, who called himself Marwan and spoke to Reuters by phone. The opposition reported heavy raids by security forces and fighting with rebels in northern and southern Syrian provinces and suburbs of Damascus. Guardian, 3-18-12

The Guardian has lost interest in the Assad emails, in its place the Daily Mail has logged on; in the Arab press,  Al Arabiya is continuing its series and today Asharq Al-Awsa joined in, it is apparently trying to ride the fence rail between the sexy stories the Daily Mail  is broadcasting and the more politically correct, but still critical Al Arabiya.  The Daily Mail has a really sexy picture, love notes and much romantic intrigue, it seems Assad has his own Monica, the intern; and it may just be her picture in thongs that is in the Daily Mail.

Today, the commentary in Al Arabiya tells of Assad attempts to manage his and his regime’s image in the media as an important tactic in the battle for control of the streets, hearts and minds of the Syrians.  If one has the patience, the Assad email series by Al Arabiya is going to paint an interesting picture of Syria’s number on fiddler and the music he likes.  The other media outlets seem more interesting in looking for a one-shot, instant analysis, a sound bit of summation.  Al Arabiya is trying to tell a more complete story.  Here is a quote from today’s chapter:

As shown in his recently leaked emails, Syrian President Bashar al-Assad focused on his image in the media as well as his regime’s image, along with the best ways to deal with arising security issues. In both, it became obvious that the president sought the advice of specific people he trusted, some of whom held official positions within the regime while others were most likely close confidants.  Former TV presenter and current media advisor at the presidential office Luna al-Chabel was apparently the most important official as far as media coverage was concerned. In the leaked emails, she either gives the president advice about how he should deal with specific issues in the media or reports to him important news and suggests how he should respond to them. As shown in his recently leaked emails, Syrian President Bashar al-Assad focused on his image in the media as well as his regime’s image, along with the best ways to deal with arising security issues. In both, it became obvious that the president sought the advice of specific people he trusted, some of whom held official positions within the regime while others were most likely close confidants.  Former TV presenter and current media advisor at the presidential office Luna al-Chabel was apparently the most important official as far as media coverage was concerned. In the leaked emails, she either gives the president advice about how he should deal with specific issues in the media or reports to him important news and suggests how he should respond to them. Al Arabiya, 3-18-12

In looking for the middle ground, Asharq Al-Awsa is doing something none of the other media outlets has done – talk to a living person; a novel approach indeed.  Asharq Al-Awsa interviewed the head of Iranian TV in Syria, Hussein Mortada.  In the emails he is seen as acting as a middle man between Iran and Syria, and maybe even between Hezbollah and Syria.  He is a great tap dancer, dancing cleverly around the truth and avoiding answering any question directly; his performance is worthy of a role in Chicago should a production in Syria be searching for a Billy Flynn.  He doesn’t really say the emails are false, but he doesn’t say they are real either.  He takes the high ground at one point and says he cannot speak for Assad or Asma, only to his own behavior and then says nothing about his role in Syria.  He didn’t really deny corresponding with Assad, but rather said the president was distant and difficult to reach and had never been willing to grant him, Hussein Mortada, or his Press TV a personal interview.

This is all rather trivial when so many people are dying, but I suspect we are going to learn something important from the emails and so are the people on both sides of the issue in Syria.  Like Clinton and his lovely Monica, Assad’s political undoing may be found in these emails.  Not much help for Syrians today, or the people who will die tomorrow or the day after that; however, it does offer some glimmer of hope for an end to this phase of the rebellion.  Sadly, like Libya and Afghanistan (and Egypt) there are more problems that will surface when Assad has gone away and they will not be easy to solve either.

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