Wikileaks, Assad And Syria Comment – OpEd

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Repercussions from the Tlass defection are still echoing. Sharmine Narwani claims his departure was not that important. Michel Kilo has recommended him as the transition leader of Syria. Others say it signifies the beginning of the end. Many opposition activists detest everything he stands for. I have tried to collect a cross-section of views on him.

The Wikileak articles are beginning to come out in greater numbers. At least one of the president’s emails discussed articles published on Syria Comment. – this is one, for example, is a comment by Elie Elhadj, who wrote about Syria’s very serious water crisis on the pages of SC – here and here.This is a small bit of the original article:

“Investment in irrigation agriculture, which uses huge volumes of Syria’s finite water resources should be shifted to investing in low water using manufacturing industries based on rate of return criterion instead of political convenience or personal interest. Foreign currencies generated from exporting manufactured products, or from reducing the importation of manufactured goods, would be used to import foodstuffs. Agriculture in arid/semi arid Syria should be left to rain fed lands, with investment in modern technology to improve the yield and quality of rain fed produce. It should be remembered that irrigation schemes have left the water balance in five of Syria’s seven basins negative. In addition to the billions of dollars wasted on white elephant irrigation schemes, what a terrible loss of water that is!

This is his comment that Bashar picked up on – It came from an email that Elie sent to me and a few friends, one of whom forwarded it to a friend who sent it to President Assad. The email was sent Feb 11, 2011 at 9:05 AM

Water resources and cotton plantation SCARY NUMBERS (from a discussion)

Email-ID 2105484
Date 2011-02-12 04:19:25
From [email protected]
To [email protected]

Check زراعة و ري

All of Syria’s cotton production is done on irrigated lands, not rain fed. Of Syria’s estimated 13 billion m3 of irrigation water more than 4 billion m3 is used to grow cotton. A cotton t-shirt requires about 2.7 tons of water to produce. Cotton requires four times as much water to grow as wheat.

Syria’s emphasis on irrigation has been wrong. Syria should invest in improving the yield of rain fed lands. There was a threefold increase in the productivity of water in rain fed wheat production in north-west Europe between 1800 and 1950. And a further trebling by 1990.

The Tabqa Dam is an economic disaster. The yes-men around Hafiz Asad lacked the balls to stop an ignorant military officer from wasting billions of dollars on a white elephant, made by his propagandist to be one genius of a project.

The World Bank concluded that Syria’s government will need to recognize that achieving food security with respect to wheat and other cereals in the short-term as well as the encouragement of water-intensive cotton appear to be undermining Syria’s security over the long-term by depleting available groundwater resources.

Another discusses OneMiddleEast.org, which was a major effort led by Camille Otrakji to get Israelis and Syrians discussing the Golan and avenues to peace. I participated in the project and pushed it on SC. Unfortunately it was seen in Damascus as a breach of security and law. He asked Syria’s head of the National Security Council to look into it. According to an article in al-Akhbar English:

A story published by The Guardian in 2010 about Syrian and Israeli bloggers interacting with each other on the OneMideast.org website, perked his interest, and he requested that it be translated and sent to an individual named “bekhtiar.” (doc-id 2095860)

Syria Comment - Joshua Landis

Joshua Landis maintains Syria Comment and teaches modern Middle Eastern history and politics and writes on Syria and its surrounding countries. He writes “Syria Comment,” a daily newsletter on Syrian politics that attracts some 3,000 readers a day. It is widely read by officials in Washington, Europe and Syria. Dr. Landis regularly travels to Washington DC to consult with the State Department and other government agencies. He is a frequent analyst on TV and radio.

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