Sunday 4 March 2012

A look at the Tabriz carpet weaved for Syria

A Tabriz carpet (photo from

I introduced Samir Atallah in a post last January saying his career as a journalist, writer and author spans almost half a century. A native of Lebanon, he has published several novels, historical books and travelogues. He now contributes a weekly think piece for Beirut’s an-Nahar and has been writing a daily column of about 300-400 words for Saudi Asharq Alawsat since 1987.

Made in Tabriz” is the headline he chose for his column in today’s edition of Asharq Alawsat.

Here is how he encapsulates the Syria crisis:

Take a look from the perspective of the people of Tabriz: Russia (China too) sees America backpedaling and grudging the word “intervention.” Iran wants to inherit America’s weaknesses altogether. Syria is aware that the Russians know what they want to do and that the Americans know what they don’t want to do.

Russia and Iran are in luck – the Syrian field is first and last theirs, which explains the robotic birth of a Russian (Chinese)-Syrian-Iranian alliance. The partners are fighting back because they don’t have much to gain but a lot to lose: Russia without Syria is out of the Near East; and Iran without Syria blights its strategic and political expanse in Iraq and Lebanon, returning it to its pre-Islamic Revolution range.

This Tabriz carpet has numerous knots. Don’t forget that we are in Tabriz, where the higher the density of knots the more precious and expensive the rug becomes. And therein lies another contrast: whereas one group can see the knots and tell the number of strings used for the foundation of the rug, the other group sees the carpet but knows nothing about its strings. The Russian side is elated since it can rely on the insight of its Tabrizi partner.

The partner from Tabriz does not hide being the carpet owner. He decides the rhythm of negotiations and he will wink signal the final price when negotiators wear out in secret or in public.

Syria will thus have to await the result of the international tug-of-war, not the outcome of the debate over the intervention it rejected. Let’s not forget the words of the Prince of Diplomacy Walid al-Muallem wiping Europe off the world map.

We’re now in another phase. The carpet’s shady corners are being reworked with brighter colors. If the issue is struggle over Syria, Tabriz is the loom owner. America, on the other hand, finds no escape route other than the “Friends of Syria.” Russia (China too) is inside the circle of Syria & Co. And irrespective of happenings in Homs, the Russians are back talking about their role in the Palestinian issue and the Iranians about their power to wipe out Israel.

So the issue is not static. If you looked closely, you would see a Turkish carpet being woven. A pause follows the weaving of every section to consider what was achieved and what remains to be done. The Iranian doesn’t miss the chance to offer his expertise. The Russian invokes his neighborliness. Syrian oppositionists and loyalists listen to news and horror bulletins. And they reject intervention when they are in the heart of it already.