After a day of trying to upload the rest of the videos and thinking about what I can do to present what limited information I have in some journalistically responsible way, I've reached my limit.
Let me put this to you simply. Assad is a monster. He is evil beyond comprehension. No one is going to stop him until he and everyone around him is dead. But you're out of your minds if you convince yourself the FSA is comprised of potentially friendly, liberal democrats. There's not a liberal democrat between here and the Horn of Africa, just trust me on this; they don't even know what those words mean, they just know that you have to say them if you want to have any hope of being saved by those weird but freakishly powerful Americans for whom the words "liberal democrats" are the magic elixer. There will be no friendly, moderate, secular regime in Syria, ever, and the first thing the FSA will do if anyone helps them is slaughter Alawites and Christians. Everyone knows it, and at this point, who could possibly be surprised and who could blame them. They hate the world in this descending order, with allowances for overlap: Shia, Jews, Christians, Iran, America, Israel, Russia, Turkey. They'll probably hate each other, too, soon enough.
The only options here are unbearably awful and unspeakably awful. There's no happy outcome. The United States remains the only country in the world with anything like the military power to change this situation in a meaningful way, and nothing but military power will affect it, and the US isn't going to use it. Our economy is in the tank, we're tied down around the world, we're hamstrung by Russia and Iran. We're done with this region; we're not even interested.
We will be blamed for not intervening, just as we were blamed for intervening in Iran and Iraq, and everyone will forget that both intervening and not intervening are moral choices; and the US was never presented--ever--with a choice between supporting good and supporting evil in this part of the world, just between supporting evil and supporting slightly-less-evil. In a choice between supporting evil and supporting slightly less-evil, slightly-less-evil equals good. That's the real world.
America is a democracy, and you can't get innocent, naive democrats like Americans, people who have never seen evil in their entire lives outside of the movies, to get behind the use of military force to create "slightly less evil," so you tell them they're fighting for liberal democracy like the kind they enjoy and for which they--rightly--feel grateful. When they find out the truth, that they were sent to defend slightly-less-evil, they become disillusioned and withdraw from the world, sometimes for decades. The world doesn't improve because of that, no matter what anyone thinks.
So, yeah, they're Islamists, not the shy flower of the Scottish Enlightenment, but they seem to have some interest in democracy, and they talk about the Turkish model, which I'm sure they don't understand, but which, if it means to them, "Islamic and democratic," is probably a good thing. Maybe if you could get enough UN peacekeepers in there fast enough after Assad falls, you could prevent some of the slaughter of the minorities that would otherwise ensue. Maybe you could get a functional state up-and-running fast enough that Syria doesn't become the Somalia of the Levent, maybe not.
The risk right now to Syria's neighbors, if it tries to help, is extreme: Assad holds the PKK card, it has huge stockpiles of chemical and biological weapons. The regime is going bankrupt, at the very least there will be floods of refuges if this continues, Turkey certainly can't absorb them. The Russians would be perfectly happy for every man, woman and child in Syria to be tortured and killed so long as nothing gets between itand its warm water base at Tartus. The French and the British will make very stern noises, but what are they going to do. UN? Useless. Arab League? Useless. GCC? Useless.
Meanwhile, those kids are dying. I've met some of them, Ilhan has met many more, and they're kids who have been pushed into radicalism because they're going to be killed tomorrow, so you better well hope there's a better life on the other side. It's that simple, really.
The only plan I can think of that might have a hope of working is to ask Turkey to accept as many refugees as necessary--with our financial help if needed--and for Turkey publicly to flood arms over the border in the hope that this breaks the Assad forces' will and prompts massive defections. Ilhan thought that was plausible. Assad and his closest intimates should be offered a nice place to retire, quickly. Istanbul or Paris would be fine; London might make Asma, Rose of the Desert feel more at home. Resettle the Druze to Israel and the Alawites to Iran. Pour in aid to reconstruct the place. It won't happen, the US economy's a mess. On the plus side, losing Syria will be a terrible blow to Iran. That's the only plus side.
9. "They're not happy with you guys ... I do believe that the US has to show that it is with the people. OK, a lot of statements are coming out, but no body cares about statements about now, You hear. over and over, the US doesn't care about us. Now is a good time to change this perspective."
10. Ilhan tries to answer your specific questions:
Ilhan will have a log-on tomorrow and may be able to answer any further questions you have.
Glad I was able to brighten your day.