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“We Will Have To Eat Brown Bread,” Adib Mayaleh, Head Of Syria’s Central Bank – OpEd

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Adib Mayaleh promised Syrians “brown bread” rather than cake yesterday. Coming from Syria’s head banker, this is not reassuring. “It will be more and more difficult because of sanctions and the events. We will have to tighten our belts”, he said. “I say the opposite of Marie Antoinette who said that if the French have no bread they should eat cake. I think we will have to give up the cake to eat brown bread”.

Dr. Adib Mayaleh & Dr. Rateb Shallah, the son of Badr al-Din Shallah, who assured Hafiz al-Assad that the Damascene Sunni elite would not join the Muslim Brotherhood in their uprising against the regime in 1982. Photo taken in 23/4/2005 during the The first Tourism Investment Market in Syria.

Iran, Syria’s only backer and ally, is hedging its bets. It’s leaders no longer have confidence that Assad will survive. Ahmedinejad “warned” Bashar yesterday in an interview on Hizballa’s Almanar TV that “the people should have the right to elect and get their freedoms”. He also said that a timeline and deadlines should be put in place so the west can’t have an excuse to interfere. Iran is worried about throwing good money after bad.

The EU stopped just short of ordering a full oil embargo, but it cannot be far off. Syria only exports 110,521 barrels of oil a day. At $85 a barrel, this is just short of $10 million a day or $3.6 billion a year.This is the amount of Syria’s export revenues from oil. It is chump change for the international market. Italy has been buying half of all Syrian oil exports in an effort to make up for the Libyan exports that are no longer available to it. Replacing Syrian oil with another source will cause modest inconvenience and a small financial hit. Italy, it would seem, is being given more time by the EU to negotiate a favorable deal for a replacement source.

President Assad will not be able to survive this. It is not clear how he will be pushed out. Today, he appears strong militarily. The Syrian army has retaken Hama and destroyed large demonstrations in Homs, Deir and many other places, but the people are boiling. Anger is traveling up the Syrian social hierarchy. People cannot support this killing if there is no end in sight. Sunni merchants, the professional classes, and Christians stood by Bashar yesterday. They considered him Syria’s only option. They are rethinking. They can see that there is no light at the end of the Assad tunnel. They are beginning to pray that the change comes quickly. How that change will come remains unknown.

Will the Syrian opposition be able to rise to the challenge. That is the question that hovers over every discussion today. Can it resolve its internal squabbles in order to provide sober and disciplined leadership? Can it assume power without prolonging Syria’s agony? The Syrian youth have shown tremendous courage, but the time for wisdom and compromise has arrived.

Syria Comment - Joshua Landis

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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