World View: Syria Bombing Strikes Stunning Blow at Bashar al-Assad

This morning's key headlines from
  • Bombing in Damascus Syria kills much of Assad's inner circle
  • Another Syrian general, more army officers defect to Turkey
  • Damascus bombing strikes stunning blow at al-Assad's Sunni Arab extermination program
  • David Bloom at HSBC - Hoping for a catastrophe

Bombing in Damascus Syria kills much of Assad's inner circle

General Fahad Jassim al-Freij, Syria's new Defense Minister, on state TV on Wednesday (SANA)
General Fahad Jassim al-Freij, Syria's new Defense Minister, on state TV on Wednesday (SANA)

Even Bashar al-Assad's own sister, Bushra, lost her husband on Wednesday in a massive explosion that killed much of al-Assad's inner circle, including al-Assad's Defense Minister and several other high-level government officials. The rebel Free Syrian Army claimed responsibility for the bombing, but it's thought that the perpetrator must have been a close insider, possibly a bodyguard who was supposed to be protecting the inner circle. According to one analyst:
"The fact that [the attack] happened near where the president lives is significant. It seems it is a very serious explosion and we are not sure if it’s a suicide bomber in a car, or if it’s one of the bodyguards, or one of the insiders who blew himself up as a high-level meeting was taking place with a number of ministers and high level security official attending it."

As of Thursday morning, Syria's president Bashar al-Assad has not been since the attack, though it's not believed that he was a casualty. Al Jazeera and Reuters

Another Syrian general, more army officers defect to Turkey

246 Syrians, including a general, five colonels, four majors, two captains, one lieutenant, soldiers and their families defected and fled to Turkey on Wednesday. Most of the civilians were women and children, and were sent to refugee camps. Zaman (Istanbul)

Damascus bombing strikes stunning blow at al-Assad's Sunni Arab extermination program

It's been quite a spectacle. For the past 16 months, more and more Syrians have turned against the government. President Bashar al-Assad has responded with more and more violence with bigger and more deadly weapons, but it's always backfired. There have been many defections from al-Assad's regime, but they've mostly been Sunnis who were sick of seeing innocent citizens slaughtered. But now we might expect to see more defections who simply want to desert a sinking ship. Al-Assad's regime has become more isolated within Syria, as shown dramatically by Wednesday's bombings.

But he's also become more isolated internationally. Russia is increasingly embarrassed by being joined at the hip with a man who seems to grow stupider every day. Iran and Hizbollah embarrassed to be supporting al-Assad, of course, since they rather enjoy seeing him exterminate Sunnis. But they're embarrassed by the fact that no matter how much help they give him, he's still losing control, which makes them lose credibility.

It's pretty clear now to everyone (except perhaps al-Assad himself) that he will not be able to crush the opposition, which is what his father Hafez did in 1982. But 1982 was a generational Crisis era, and today is a generational Awakening era for Syria, and the rules are different, although al-Assad himself seems oblivious to that fact.

It's widely thought that al-Assad is a wounded animal who will attempt to strike back at the opposition with a new level of violence in order to "prove" that he's still in control. But what will he do after that fails? Wednesday's bombing was so devastating that al-Assad has lost almost all credibility, and is now looks weak and pathetic.

U.S. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta said on Wednesday that Syria's war is "spinning out of control," but that's not true. Syria is in a generational Awakening era, so "spinning out of control" is not an option. If he's careful, al-Assad might be able to hang on to power for a while longer, but it's more likely that he's going to be careless because he's desperate. And when he makes another careless mistake or two, even he may decide that the time has come to flee to Tehran or Moscow with his super-hot wife Asma, and enjoy the good life, and let the civil war fizzle. Globe and Mail

David Bloom at HSBC - Hoping for a catastrophe

David Bloom
David Bloom

It's only been a couple of days since HSBC Holdings admitted to criminal activity (see "18-Jul-12 World View -- HSBC Holdings admits to criminal money-laundering").

So it was surprising to see David Bloom, global head of currency strategy at HSBC Holdings, on television on Wednesday morning explaining why investors were hoping for a catastrophe. I've been writing about this "bad news is good new" phenomenon since 2007, but Bloom said it better than I have. He spoke in a tongue-in-cheek manner, but his remarks were an entirely accurate reflection of Wall Street attitudes, and another illustration of how disconnected Wall Street is from reality:
"What we want is not bad news but terrible news, because terrible news means that the Federal Reserve does more QE (Quantitative Easing), and the more QE we have, the more of the drug we have in financial markets to prop us up.

So the markets aren't happy because things are, as you describe, slowing down. They want them to be a little more disastrous, so they can get better. That sounds ironic and strange, but that's just how the markets are working at the moment.

And the reason that people are so hopeful is that there's a U.S. election coming up, and they're worried that the Fed doesn't want to be political, so they'll act sooner rather than later.

[Q: You're right about the markets - everybody wants more QE. But there are questions out there about the previous rounds of QE or fiscal packages, whether they worked or not. In fact, another expert once said that if it was a drug, then the FDA would actually make it illegal.] Yeah, but the thing about a drug is that you never want one less, you always want more, and more just gives you the same, it doesn't give you a higher high. And so the markets are just fixated on this. We got from the bank of England what we wanted 37:28 -- we saw today there was a 7-2 vote for billions more. And we want the same from the Fed. So we've had the ECB cutting rates to zero, China cutting rates, the Bank of England stepping in, we want the Fed, we want the big boy in town to start printing as well. That's what the markets are desperate for."

 And so, Dear Reader, I know how patriotic you are, so I want you to do your part. Go lose your home and your job and your savings, and go live under a bridge, so that the economy can get well again. It's your patriotic duty!

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