Where now for Syria as revolution for democracy becomes sectarian civil war?
30 December 2012 Patrick Cockburn Syria
The furies of civil war grow ever fiercer and the war has long ago reached the stage of what in Northern Ireland we used to call "the politics of the last atrocity".
By Patrick Cockburn
29 December 2012
"Shame on you! Shame on The Independent!" boomed the voice of a Syrian intellectual in my phone half an hour after I had returned from Damascus to Beirut.
He was so incoherent in his rage that it was difficult to know his precise objections, but my sin seemed to be that I had been in Damascus, talked to members of the Syrian government and concluded that it was not going to collapse any time soon.
Our conversation was not of a high intellectual calibre. After an acerbic exchange, I asked why, if he felt so strongly, did he "not stop being rude to people like me, go to Aleppo and fight beside the rebels instead of spending all your time in the cafés of Beirut".
Shortly afterwards, there was a mutual clicking-off of mobiles.
Driving the short distance between Damascus and Beirut is like shifting from one planet to another. What seems obvious and commonsensical in the Syrian capital becomes controversial and a minority viewpoint over the border in Lebanon. Outside Syria there have been repeated media and diplomatic forecasts of imminent victory for the rebels and defeat for Bashar al-Assad. Ignored in this speculation is the important point that Assad's forces still hold, wholly or in large part, all the main cities and towns of Syria.