Wednesday, December 18, 2013

The Syrian Conundrum

“I guess you killed 7,000 people there,” a Lebanese businessman once said to Rifaat al-Assad, the younger brother of former Syrian President Hafez al-Assad, referring to the Hama massacre of 1982. Rifaat was the commanding general of the Hama operation in which Syrian troops, under order from President Hafez, massacred scores of people to quell a Sunni rebellion against the Baathist regime. Normally a politician will play down such a ghastly incident. But Rifaat’s response was rather surprising. “What are you talking about, 7000?” He said to the businessman. “No, no. We killed 38,000.” This conversation, cited in Thomas Friedman’s award-winning book, From Beirut to Jerusalem, offers a complete picture of how President Hafez put down the rebellion in Hama.

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