MJT: You lived and worked in Damascus for a while as a military intelligence officer. What did you learn about the Syrian regime that doesn’t come across in media reports?Go read the rest for Francona's comments on Egypt, Saudi Arabia, and the Balkans. He's also got a new book out on Kindle. It is Chasing Demons: My Hunt for War Criminals in Bosnia. Francona's perspective is immensely valuable, and his book looks great. Hopefully we can look forward to more books on the Middle East and the Balkans soon.
Rick Francona: I’m pleasantly surprised at the reporting out of Damascus, especially given the fact that is very difficult to get journalists into Syria now. There are quite a few reporters with excellent backgrounds in Lebanon and Syria –people like you who have been on the ground in good times and bad—who understand the deep division in the multicultural makeup of the country.
A Syrian friend keeps me apprised of the situation from his point of view—he’s an Assad supporter, but is quick to explain why. It's pragmatic for him. He, like many in the country, fears a takeover by the Muslim Brotherhood or some other Islamist group. The regime is adept at playing on the fears of the Shia, the Alawites, secular Sunnis, Christians, and Druze. None of these groups want to see an Islamist Syria.
The media has done a credible job in exposing the Baath Party regime in Syria for exactly what it is—a ruthless, authoritarian, corrupt machine that will do absolutely anything to keep itself in power. Look at the atrocities committed by the regime protection units of the military, the intelligence and security services, and Assad’s ghastly out-of-control militia, the Shabiha, the ghosts. It almost exceeds the bounds of the imagination. I spend a lot of time watching Syrian social media. It’s heartbreaking and sickening. It's also a testament to the courage of the Syrian people. They know what this regime is capable of, yet still they resist.
I’m sure you’re going to ask what we should do about it. I’m torn. ...
Totten Interviews Francona
I gave it a mention in today's Morning Report, but I thought this was worth its own write-up here on DIL 1. My friend Michael Totten has an new interview with Rick Francona and it's well worth reading.