EHSANI2 Profile picture
Jul 31, 2018 18 tweets 4 min read Twitter logo Read on Twitter
Thread on Syria Coverage: Reporters & experts were eager to establish access with insiders to help analyze the conflict. For reasons to be explained, Govt side was not going to provide that access. Those in Opp, however, were eager to tell outsiders their side of the story
2-Above dynamic helped shape #Syria coverage & analysis over past 7y. With help of social media, every reporter/analyst boasted long list of mostly Opp contacts who were feeding them timely updates. Expertise became correlated with length of your WhatsApp / Skype contact list
3-To be able to publish research papers or speak at Syria conferences out of Think Tanks, you needed to appear informed & to do so, you had to to be good at networking with your list of revolutionary contacts. The more you called and interacted w them, the more you were in demand
4-For every reporter/experts eager to establish access, revolutionaries on the inside were more than happy to satisfy the demand. Who wouldn’t want to establish helpful outside contacts & talk to major newspapers and analysts who were helping shape Western public opinion for you?
5-By it’s very nature, Syrian State was never cosy with Western reporters or analysts. From even before the crisis, they viewed media efforts as a hopeless case and a battle they couldn’t win, so why even try. Attempts to address the issue were always weak & disjointed
6-Based on numerous conversations w Opp activists, #Tunisia uprising gave hopes to many of them that the unfolding waves in region may one day reach Syrian shores. Those opposed to Damascus believed more than Govt side that Tunisia could be the spark they’ve been waiting for
7-The narrative of an Arab Spring sweeping the region toppling autocratic Govts like dominos was hard to resist. Those on side facing those dictators were seen as young, dignity & freedom loving brave indivuals who were demanding what every human with conscious ought to support
8-Whether it was the White House, EU Capitals, reporters or analysts, there was only one noble side to support from day one: Freedom seekers versus evil dictators. The reporting on Syria was to be built on this foundation from day one and has continued this way since
9-Naturally, a conflict involves two sides (or more) fighting for what they want to preserve/change. Each side feels justified in continuing the fight to secure its goal. Opp side was the straightforward good. The State side was evil, period. No point explaining more
10-To be sure, it’s not hard to dislike (hate?) autocratic one party rule states dominated by fearsome Intel agencies that have been in power for 5 decades while advocating anti-Western resistance policies. Yes, Syrian State was hardly the soft cuddly regional kid on the block
11-But, just because one may have list of reasons to dislike/hate Damascus leadership, reporting on the conflict objectively or accurately required seeing the crisis from the prism of the “regime” too and not just the WhatsApp/Skype list of opposition activists
12-Few reporters or analysts researched into why why Assad never quit and run as many predicted. Why there were so few defections from the top? How the system functioned and why many on the inside viewed the conflict as an existential risk with horrifying consequences to losing
13-#Syria reporting was reduced to operating inside an echo chamber. Talk to a list of people you support & have become an advocate for. Attack & demonize everyone else w different perspective. Given poor Govt media efforts, passionate private individual efforts filled the void
14-When Syrian Govt did try to open up to foreign reporters, the effort was hesitant. The reporting was also perhaps unsatisfactory to Damascus. This is a long standing issue that predates the crisis & when the war started, survival and not public image was leadership’s priority
15-Syria reporting ultimately proved that rather than investigating both sides to a conflict and letting readers decide, editors, journalists as well as self-appointed experts were acting merely as advocates for one side that they decided was on “right side of history”
16-Regime insiders are aware of the shortfalls of the system from nepotism, corruption, excessive use force by Intel agencies to size of govt, regulatory burden and unsatisfactory eco growth. But, burning the house down with help of jihadists in order to fix it is not the answer
17-Reporters & observers pushed for bringing the house down without any regard or plan for what happens during or after the process plays out. Shockingly, Iraq/Libya experience seems to have been already forgotten as people called for regime change & then hoped for the best
18- It didn’t help when Jerusalem-based journalist Jonathan Spyer was able to enter Syria with visa. This took place while Damascus was opening up to idea of allowing more access to foreign journalists. The incident was s setback for any such initiatives…

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More from @EHSANI22

Sep 18, 2018
Thread on status of Syrian Opposition post the "demilitarized zone" agreement in #Idlib . Thus far, most commentary has regarded the deal as a win for the Opp since risk of imminent strike on the province has been avoided. But is this deal really a positive for opp? Answer: No=>
2-Let's step back first. This is an Opp that was formed with goal of toppling the State (diplomatic language of Geneva process called it political transition). Nothing short of above was acceptable to this opp. As of yesterday, mere avoidance of strikes is now seen as a win
3-Let's not also forget that from early days of Geneva's political transition talks, the only political activity left now is an attempt to establish constitutional committee. All else has been shelved. Now that we established the general status of the opp, let's discuss this deal
Read 7 tweets
Sep 17, 2018
Thread listing Preliminary observations on the announcement of the “Demilitarized Zone” in #Idlib today: What does it mean for Turkey, Russia, Damascus and the armed groups? What is the likely risk/reward calculus for each party? What should we expect going forward? ===>
2– Let’s recap what we seem to know first: A zone 9-12 miles long would be established by Oct. 15. It would contain no heavy weapons or extreme elements of the insurgency (al-Qaeda-linked militants). It would be be patrolled by Turkish and Russian forces
3-First critical point to note is whether this deal will end up securing the highway that passes through Idlib and links the north and south of the country under Govt control together. This was of course one of the strategic aims of Damascus from any #Idlib operation
Read 12 tweets
Sep 17, 2018
For the record, while everyone seems to believe that the number of civilians in #Idlib is close to 3 million, a Damascus source who has been very prescient in the past believes that the actual number may not exceed 1 million.
2-To suggest that 3 Million civilians live in #Idlib is to suggest:

A-That pre-war housing stock & other infrastructure was able to accommodate double the pre-war population

B-Moreover, safe to assume both housing & infrastructure now nowhere near pre-war conditions/capacity
3-In effect, for #Idlib to host 3 Million now compared to 1.2-1.5 pre-war is to assume either a building boom (not war) or construction of massive camps that would host such massive numbers. Yet to see credible images of such camps or investments in the housing stock
Read 6 tweets
Sep 11, 2018
Erdogan in an op-ed in @WSJ :

“Moderate rebels played a key role in Turkey’s fight against terrorists in Northern #Syria; their assistance and guidance will be crucial in Idlib as well”
2-Erdogan: “Preventing the assault on #Idlib need not set back counter-terrorism efforts. Turkey has succeeded in fighting terrorist groups, including ISIS and the PKK, without harming or displacing civilians”

Notice how he doesn’t include Nusra /al-Qaeda in above group
3- Erdogan: “Turkey’s ability to maintain order in Northern #Syria is proof that a responsible approach to counter-terrorism can win hearts and minds”
Read 7 tweets
Sep 9, 2018
In order to truly understand the dynamic inside the #Syrian Armed Opposition, one must start to look into the ever closer marriage between the the Moslem Brotherhood and Nusra / al-Qaeda. Both have been joined at the hip through the sponsorship & support of #Qatar #Turkey ==>
2-Moslem Brotherhood (MB) lost its original military wing during the battle with the Syrian State in the 80’s. Best to think of Nusra/HTS/al-Qaeda in #Syria today as the new military wing of the M Brotherhood. One is the brain, the other represents arms & legs of the same body
3-The coordination between MB & Nusra/HTS/al-Qaeda has afforded the latter the chance to transform itself from non-state actor that had been hiding in the mountains of Afghanistan to an outfit with clear lines of communications to regional capitals that are supporting the MB
Read 16 tweets
Sep 7, 2018
1-Set below is a short thread summarizing some of exchange w this Tajik Muhajir (Foreign Fighter)

Q: How did you come to Bilad al-Sham [Syria]?
A: I heard the Muslims in al-Sham were oppressed. I made hijra [migration] to help them.

Q: All the factions in Syria are oppressors?
A: God knows best. They love money.
Q: So you thought there were jihad and defending Islam, but it's not like that on the ground?
A: Yes. Most of them declare takfir on whoever they like.

Q: Currently you are not with any faction?
A: No. They are all liars. They say what they do not do.
Q: There are people who say that jihad must continue in Syria. What do you say to these people?
A: If there are no honest factions. With whom [do you wage] jihad?

Read 4 tweets

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