July 26, 2006 – LETTER FROM DAMASCUS by Paul Chamberlin

(Click here to read previous Letters From Damascus.)

Wednesday 26 July
I ended up hanging out last night with a group of Syrian teenagers on a roof in
the Old City last night smoking sheesha. One of them was sporting a
big t-shirt that had the word “THUG” scrawled across it. In between
your typical adolescent “Ahmed is gay” and “Your mom is my girlfriend”
jokes I talked with them a bit about the situation in Lebanon. Most of
them were Christian but they all had great things to say about
Nasrallah and Hezbollah. They weren’t worried, they said, because they
knew that Russia and Iran were on their side. This business about the
Shi’ite crescent doesn’t seem to make much sense in Damascus, where
Christians and Sunnis join with Shi’ites in professing support and
admiration for Hezbollah. Hezbollah flags and pictures of Nasrallah
are everywhere now. We’re seeing a lot of glossy posters with the
three faces of Hafez al-Assad, Bashar al-Assad, and Hassan Nasrallah
against a Syrian flag. My friend in Cairo suggests that Nasrallah is
becoming the new Nasser, the face of pan-Arab resistance, with
Israel’s help. So far, I haven’t spoken with anyone who has much of
anything bad to say about him.

We had a taxi driver last night who asked if we were Russians; he got
angry when he found out we were Americans and started venting about
President Bush. Apparently Clinton is cool, Powell is okay, but Bush
and this Condoleeza Rice character are no good.

We finally figured out what was going on with our tickets to Cairo.
Apparently, the paper tickets were intercepted by the Department of
Homeland Security, which is stopping most packages coming to Syria.
Thus, while we sit in Damascus amid anti-American demonstrations and
rising support for Hezbollah, the U.S. Government his holding our
tickets out of the country. Luckily, we were able to purchase
replacement tickets from EgyptAir. Now all we have to worry about is
getting a refund from the airline, but the money we paid to have the
tickets shipped to Damascus is gone.

(Click here to read previous Letters From Damascus.)

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