Marc Lynch on strategic communications in Syria

Middle East expert Marc Lynch has a policy brief out over at the Center for New American Security (CNAS) arguing for more diplomatic pressure on Syria rather than armed intervention.

Two recommendations that caught Londonstani's eye were what Marc calls "counter regime propaganda" and "support and encourage unity amongst opposition groups".

On the communications approach, Marc suggests that an effort that would publicise the regime's atrocities to effectively disabuse supporters of the convenient falicy that the government is not massacring civilians to cling to power, but rather fighting a militant insurection.

Londonstani hasn't been in Syria since the uprising, but keeping in mind what he remembers of the media environment there, he suspects that Syrians who want to know what's happening are likely to be able to find out. What the regime is relying upon is the desire not to know. This may be because people have a personal link to the establishment, or a personal stake in the status quo (which could, but not necessarily, have an ethnic/sectarian element).

An effective communications campaign against the Syrian regime would start where all effective communications begin; figuring out what the regime is saying and trying to understanding what emotions/fears/hopes it's trying to tap into.

The most obvious regime line of argument - as seen time and again in other Arab states - is the claim of "Western conspiracy"and the appeal to Arab/national pride. Addressing, disproving and defusing this narrative is key. Marc's point about reassuring minorities that the fall of the regime might actually be a good thing for them, makes sense within this approach.

The point about the Syrian opposition could also be linked to diplomacy and communications. Yes, the opposition needs unity. One way to encourage that would be to leverage Syrian civil society groups, diaspora communities and individuals inside the country to press their would-be representatives to shoulder their responsibility more effectively.