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To be decoded:

Forty-six years: 1971.
Forty-one years: 1976
Nineteen Separated Security Services.

BackChannels enjoyed a brief chat by phone with Dr. Zaki Lababidi, Vice President of the Syrian American Council.  Mission: ” . . . to empower the Syrian-American community to organize and advocate for a free, democratic, secular and pluralistic Syria through American support.”

In the morning 🙂 , the notebook says “41” or “46” and “1971” and “Emergency Rule” and “19 Security Services”.

It also quotes Lababidi as saying, “You could be picked up for anything!”

So into the brutal mysteries of Cold War Era political machinery let us go, albeit in the way of (I hope) good blogging, briefly.


What Nazi Germany could not hold, including loose political energy, the Soviet Union picked up handily, so that in 1956, a young Hafiz al-Assad joined the Baath Party as an activist set on a familiar authoritarian course into maturity: military career; coup sending civilian Party leaders into exile; Minister of Defense; a soul-changing military defeat (by Israel, 1967); and ascent to power, first as prime minister of Syria and then as president: 1971.

In that same year, Hafiz al-Assad agreed with the Soviet Union to host a naval “Material-Technical Support Point” in Tartus, perhaps the result of Assad’s recruitment into the Ba’ath Party extending back only 15 years from that agreement.


In the wake of the 1963 Ba’athist coup, the Muslim Brothers did more than beg to disagree with secular governance and met by dictatorship were summarily outlawed.  Wikipedia suggests radicalization ensued and twelve years later — 1976 — a series of assassinations of Ba’athist officers, civil servants, and educated professionals would be credited to the Muslim Brotherhood.

Syria’s “Emergency Laws” or “Emergency Rule” had been set in motion and place since the 1963 coup and the Muslim Brothers response to it and would have been similarly enforced in the wake of assassinations by Islamic extremists.  In 1976 the Syrian Lawyer’s Union formed a human rights committee to challenge the law and its abuses.  Although Bashar al-Assad lifted the Emergency Rule in April 2011, the regime’s opposition continued to face a police state delivered by way of those “19 security Services”.

19 Security Services

There need be no essay here — and here the interview may resume as Lababidi notes, “nineteen security services, each reporting directly to Bashar al-Assad and each spying on the other.”

The Assad regime had believed itself coup proof.

However, the absurdities in the injustices of fascist police state would motivate with its sadism literally an army of defectors and while sustaining the miseries of rebellion.

When in 2011 when youngsters who had joined the intended peaceful “Arab Spring” demonstrations were arrested and thrown into prison, Lababidi reports that parents who went to see them were told, “Forget about your children.  Go make more babies.”

Mixed in with the atmosphere of that day were government demands familiar to Russian imperial history: “You needed a permit from the government for everything — to travel, to get married, to buy a house,” says Lababidi.

Lababidi claims that Islamic extremists in Germany were infiltrated into Syria while the same type among Syrian prisoners were also released into the field, which fits with the BackChannels’ argument that Assad acted to produce the enemy that would be most useful to him in realpolitik as well as as an image builder for “Assad v The Terrorists”.

All Syrians challenging Assad became “terrorists”, noted Lababidi.

We talked about other things . . . the bombing of 15 Syrian hospitals by Russian air force; the diminished numbers of Syrian troops fighting for Assad — “eighty-five percent other military,” says Lababidi referring to Hezbollah, Iranian Revolutionary Guards, and others scraped up with “one-hundred dollars a month and an AK47”.

Given the suffering imposed on millions by Assad and the cultural emphasis on the want of revenge, Lababidi says, “There will be no peace if Assad stays in power.”

However, the opposition hasn’t the military power to topple Assad, according to Lababidi, and has no appetite to go to war with Russia.

We also briefly touched on Syria and the state’s sustained anti-Semitic attitudes, beliefs, policies, and postures, and to that Lababidi states, “We get the most help from the Jewish Community!”

Noting Hitler’s pairing of himself with Germany through massive propaganda and the enforcement of change in the social grammar from saying “Germany” to always saying “Hitler and Germany”, Lababidi notes the same behavior in Assad’s reinforcement of his power: “One must always say, “Syria Assad!”

At age 16 and having experienced fascist Ba’athist socialism, so called, Lababidi told himself, “If this is life here, I’m not interested.”

When he left Syria, he was among those who wanted to meet a Jew to see “if they looked like us”, so pervasive had been the propaganda cartoons and other anti-Semitic imagery.  Given the related necessary empirical observation: “We became best friends”.  

Too Much War

“We have not been able to experience PTSD” (Post Traumatic Syndrome Disease), notes Lababidi in relation to the experience of being trapped within or in proximity to the continuous and unrelenting violence of war.

When PTSD — traumatized biological memory in its interaction with the mind — that tells about the depth in evil and horror left poorly addressed by so many parties connected to the apparently continuing destruction of Syria.


Britannica.  “Hafiz al-Assad”.

CNN.  “Syria’s al-Assad leaves state of emergency in place.”  Staff, March 30, 2011.

France24.  “Syrian President Ends Five Decades of Emergency Rule.”  April, 22, 2011.

George, Alan.  Syria: Neither Bread Nor Freedom. P. 109.  UK: Zed Books, 2003 :

In reality, Syria’s State of Emergency has little to do with the Israeli threat; rather, it is, in the words of Middle East Watch, ‘the central legal mechanism and justification for the Syrian repressive system’.  Middle East Watch further commented: ‘After twenty-either uninterrupted years [now 40 years] of a state of emergency . . . there is now an overwhelming presumption that the ’emergency’ is simply an excuse for the regime to suppress legitimate domestic opposition.”

Alan George’s Syria: Neither Bread Nor Freedom on Amazon USA

Global Security. “Syria Intelligence & Security Agencies”.

Human Rights Watch.  “II. Recommendations To the Syrian Government”.  Section of report, 2007.

MacFarquhar, Neil.  “Hafex al-Assad, who Turned Syria Into a Power in the Middle East, Dies at 69.”  The New York Times, June 11, 2000: Hafez al-Assad passed away on June 10, 2000.  The New York Times said of his tenure, “The bloodless power grab he staged in November 1970 brought stability and the first modern construction of roads, schools and hospitals. Mr. Assad followed the Soviet model of a single-party police state, constructing a network of 15 competing intelligence agencies that spied on his own people.”

Wikipedia. “1963 Syrian coup d’etat”.

Wikipedia.  “Islamist Uprising in Syria”.

Wikipedia. “Russian Naval Facility in Tartus”.

Research / Reference Addendum

Asher-Schapiro, Avi.  “The Young Men Who Started Syria’s Revolution Speak About Daraa, Where It All Began.”  Vice News, March 15, 2016.

BBC News.  “Bashar al-Assad’s inner circle.”  July 30, 2012:

At one protest in Deraa, many shouted slogans denouncing Maher, including: “Maher you coward. Send your troops to liberate the Golan.”

By late April, witnesses said the fourth division’s tanks had cut off Deraa and were shelling residential areas, while troops were storming homes and rounding up people believed to have been taking part in the protests.

The US subsequently announced sanctions against Maher, saying the fourth division had “played a leading role in the Syrian regime’s actions in Deraa”. The EU also imposed sanctions on Maher, describing him as the “principal overseer of violence against demonstrators”.

CBS News / Global Post.  “How Schoolboys Began the Syrian Revolution.”  April 26, 2011:

DARAA, Syria — It was the small act of defiance that catapulted Syria to the frontline of the Arab revolution.

And it came not from the organized opposition in Damascus or Aleppo or any other major Syrian city, but from the graffiti cans of school boys in a run-down border town half way to the desert.

“As-Shaab / Yoreed / Eskaat el nizam!”: “The people / want / to topple the regime!”

Hassan, Ahmad.  “The Incompetence of Syria’s Security Services.”  Al-Akhbar, March 4, 2014:

“Meanwhile, a car passes by the checkpoint and explodes a few miles away” 34-year-old Fadi M. told Al-Akhbar. “How can we be confident these services can preserve security and stability?”

“Sadly, we had security services that could hear a man’s conversations with his wife but couldn’t discover arms shipments at the beginning of the crisis,” he sighed.

Omran Center for Strategic Studies.  “The Syrian Security Services and the Need for Structural and Functional Change.”  November 18, 2016:

This study finds that the Syrian state does not possess a “security sector” from a technical definition perspective sufficient enough to deserve reform. As it stands, security work in Syria falls into two categories: The first concerns forces of control and repression. Among these are the Air Force and Military Intelligence Directorates, which are divisions of the Syrian Army and the Armed Forces; the General Intelligence Directorate, which is a division of both the National Security Bureau and the ruling party (the Arab Socialist Ba’ath Party), while political security forms a division of the Ministry of Interior. The second category is military-security networks (such as the Republican Guard, the 4th Armored Division, and the Tiger Forces) that bear the responsibility of engineering the security process, determining its relationships and foundations, ensuring the regime’s security, and carrying out all measures and operations within society whenever there is sign of a security threat. Accordingly, two flaws and aberrations can be identified: The first relates to the security structure’s fragmentation, which in the past has helped curtail community activity, while also limiting its progress and development. The second issue relates to the function of these services, which is characterized by fluidity and boundlessness, with the exception of its permanent role consolidating and bolstering the regime’s stability. Indeed, any reform process of these services must target their function and structure at the same time.


Wikipedia entries generally offer outbound and reflexive reference related to any given page, so these three may suffice to suggest how well wrapped in intelligence and security operations the state has been — and how understandable the rebellion against it.

Wikipedia: “Category: Syrian Intelligence Agencies”.

Wikipedia.  “General Intelligence Directorate (Syria)”.

Wikipedia.  “Law Enforcement in Syria”.

Wikipedia. “National Security Bureau of the Arab Socialist Ba’ath Party — Syria Region”.

Wikipedia. “Political Security Directorate” (Syria).

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