“A Review Of Mr. Assad’s First Term in office” by Ehsani

By EHSANI2

On Sunday May 27th, Syria’s young leader will win a new 7-year term as President of his country. The words “will win” are seldom used ahead of Presidential elections. But Syria, like most countries of the Arab World, does not resemble western nations. Presidential elections in the Middle East do not contain even a slight element of surprise. The results are known in advance. The procedures leading to the actual elections have become part of each country’s folklore.

One cannot discuss modern Syrian politics without fully appreciating the events that took place between 1976 and the early 1980’s, when the Muslim Brotherhood uprising against the Assad rule was in full swing.  While this is not the main topic of this post, one cannot escape the fact that the scars of those unfortunate events have left their marks to the present day. The Assad family will never forget how close they came to losing power to that militant insurgency. Only through brutal force was this insurgency crushed. While on face value, the Brotherhood is long gone; the leadership in Damascus has continued to believe that there remains a strong undercurrent of religious fundamentalism inside Syria waiting to be exploited again. Having succeeded at staying in power for so long, the current leadership has convinced itself that in order to maintain the status quo, only force and a clinically efficient security system can guarantee continuity. This leadership has come to view any signs of dissent with paranoia. Allowing any type of dissent has been seen as a slippery slope that must not be traveled on. 

How has Mr. Assad done in his first term, and are the Syrian people better off today than they were in 2000?

Usually, newly elected Presidents can blame their predecessors on what is mostly wrong in their country. In the case of Syria, it is a little tricky to criticize your predecessor when he also happens to be your father who ruled the country for the 30 years prior to your coming to power. However, this challenge was addressed using a clever strategy:

The late Hafez Assad was to be positioned in the minds of the country’s citizens as a leader who was preoccupied with strategic international matters. He did not have the time to concern himself with domestic and economic issues. A group of never fully identified so-called “old guard” was to be assigned the responsibility and the blame for the country’s economic and domestic shortfalls over the past 30 years. For the record, those who knew the late leader are quick to note that he exercised full control over all matters. Delegating responsibilities was not his forte. It was repeatedly rumored that even the order to assign new university professors had to be signed by him personally. This meant that some of those documents sat on his desk for months waiting for his signature. Nonetheless, the above carefully crafted strategy has worked very well for the new President. The ever-tricky job of criticizing the past and pointing to improvements since 2000 was certainly made easier this way.

Supporters of the young President are rightfully quick to point to a list of “improvements” since he came to power. If one were to use the period of 1980-2000 as a measuring stick, then it is hard to argue with the country’ “relative” success over the past seven years. But is this the correct metric? Is it enough to claim that the country is doing better today than in the past?

Syria’s economic challenges:

As readers of this forum know, I have been consistently critical of the country’s economic policies. While it is hard to argue that the pace of reforms has picked up recently, it is important to stress that these reforms have been woefully inadequate. It is not enough to introduce new private banks and promise a wave of new investments in tourism followed with the promise to launch a new securities exchange. Many hard decisions have to be made before this country’s economic challenges can be addressed. Thus far, what has been done has not been adequate. 

One of Syria’s main challenges is its chronic unemployment.  Its vast public sector employs close to two million workers. Outside of telecommunication, almost all these industries experience red ink consistently. While having large state-owned enterprises may help subsidize the income of these employees, it results in the misalocation of resources and low productivity rates. In addition, it is a huge drain on the government’s books as the country’s finance minister reminded us recently.

Syria has a disproportionately young population. As a result, it has a rapidly growing labor force. According to the IMF, this labor force is currently growing at close to 4.0%.  Why is this important? Each country has what economists call a “potential economic growth rate”. The way to calculate potential growth rate is to add the growth of the labor force to the change of the country’s productivity.  In the case of the U.S., potential GDP growth is 3% as a 1% labor force is added to 2% productivity growth. The only way a country can create enough jobs for its labor force is to grow at or higher than potential.

In the case of Syria, a 4% labor force growth and an assumed 1% productivity rate means that its potential growth is at least 5%.  However, growing at potential will not succeed at lowering the current pool of the unemployed. It will merely stop it from rising further. For the economy to absorb an increasing number of the unemployed, a growth rate in the order of 7-8% is needed.

How important is it for the economy to grow by 8% versus the current 3%?

The past 43 years of Baath party rule has been associated with economic stagnation, red tape, socialism and endemic corruption. The cumulative impact of this has stifled economic growth and led to stagnant standard of living. When you grow below potential for as long as 43 years, the cumulative effects can be devastating on income and wealth.

Were a country like Syria to continue to grow at 3% instead of 8% for the next 43 years, the implications would be as follows:

From a base real GDP of $ 23 billion, 3% growth means that GDP will grow to $82 billion by 2050. An 8% economic growth rate, by contrast, would result in a 2050 GDP of $629 billion (thanks to the magic power of compounding). Assuming that Syria’s population grows at 3% over the same period, it is estimated that by 2050 there will be 71 million Syrians to share the GDP number above. The scenario of a 3% economic growth will leave the country with a per capita (per person) GDP of $ 1,150 per year.  8% growth would leave each person with $ 8,829. Assuming a family size of 5, the average Syrian family would either have an average monthly income of $479 or $3,679.

Using the above hypothetical example, one can start to appreciate the impact that economic mismanagement of a country can have if sustained for long periods.

A word on corruption:

One of Bashar’s biggest failures on the domestic front is his inability or unwillingness to reduce corruption and nepotism. Members of the President’s inner circle continue to dominate and monopolize every facet of the Syrian economy with impunity. This President has done nothing to stop this trend. Surely, the family’s financial security is not at risk any longer. Mr. Assad must demonstrate that he will stem this cancer from growing any further. 

Bashar’s political record:

It is extremely hard to review Mr. Assad’s political decisions over the past seven years without eliciting passionate responses. Any discussion of this subject matter is seldom free of controversy. With that in mind, here are my own controversial thoughts:

Only months after Bashar’s rise to power, George W. Bush was elected to office in January 20, 2001. The timing for Bashar could not have been any worse. The Neoconservatives were soon throwing their weight around an extremely sympathetic White House. Eight months into the new US presidency, September 11th struck. The U.S. was shocked like never before. All previous protocols, arrangements, agreements, alliances, conventions were swept off the table. The U.S. changed. The neoconservatives in the administration had their chance to translate their long held dreams into action. The U.S. President was more than happy to follow them. Afghanistan was the first easy target. Iraq needed more time but not much. During 2002, it became clear that the White House was intent on the invasion of Iraq.

During this same period, Mr. Assad had to contemplate his move. The decision was made to resist the American invasion to his East fearing that Syria would itself become the next American target. Simultaneously, Syria's relations with Iraq kicked into high gear. The Americans were not amused. The Syrian leader was paid a number of visits to convince him to change course. Colin Powell led this effort in his infamous trip to Damascus. The Syrian President did not fall into line. It has been suggested that the list of demands by Powell and others was too long and hard for Mr. Assad to meet. The young President may have given the American official some assurances that he would consider meeting at least some of Powell's demands. In the end, he did not come through. Instead, his strategy seemed to revolve around waiting out the initial euphoria following the American invasion and then capitalizing the inevitable failure of US strategy.

While events in Iraq unfolded according to Bashar’s calculations, those in Lebanon did not. The White House was intent on punishing the young Syrian leader for his Iraq strategy.  It decided that he should pay the price in Lebanon. Rafik Hariri pounced on the opportunities created by the change in America's power in the region. Using his personal relationship with Chirac and the Americans, he became the leading architect of resolution 1559, which was adopted at the Security Council in 2004. By then Damascus had seen enough. The order to eliminate Hariri was put into action. It was risky and audacious, but it was also necessary. If the Americans were already unhappy with Damascus, they were shocked once Bashar set out to scuttle their Lebanon strategy. The US Ambassador to Syria was called back to Washington in less than 24 hours. The U.N. resolution to try the killers of Hariri was put into full swing.

In the opinion of this writer, Mr. Assad could have followed a different strategy when he learnt of the American plan to invade Iraq. Did he need to be so vocally and publicly opposed to it? Today, we hear him offer his help to calm the chaos in Iraq. Could he have done this earlier? I am constantly reminded that there was no guarantee that America was going to accept Bashar’s help in the wake of the its invasion of Iraq should he have offered it then. One still wonders what would have happened had he tried harder. Something tells me that were Hafez to be alive during the past 7 years, he would have turned the American invasion of Iraq to his advantage and ended up establishing himself as the undisputed leader of the region stretching from Lebanon and the Mediterranean to the Euphrates river.

Comments (43)


1. Alex said:

Ehsani,

As usual I like the economics part of your posts more than the politics.

But very interesting. Enjoyed reading it.

I believe that your conclusions regarding Bashar’s options after the Neocons already assumed total control over the White house, are not accurate. I ask you to imagine the neocon figures we all know … their obvious total bias towards Israel’s interests (or their ideas of how to best protect those interests), and tell me if there was anything short of a severely weakened Syria that was offered to Bashar at the time when the neocons were feeling like infinitely powerful gods. Do you think they were in the mood to negotiate with Assad?

The economy has one hope … continued major foreign investments. That’s how Egypt was kept alive after it signed a peace treaty with Israel. And that’s one reason Bashar is very interested in getting over teh conflict with Israel. It is not an immediate emergency, but in about 5 years I estimate things can start getting worse if Syria does not reach a settlement with Israel and start a more energetic phase of economic reforms.

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May 18th, 2007, 9:27 pm

 

2. Alex said:

lol!

Doctor, we need a third email please… why only two?

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May 18th, 2007, 11:01 pm

 

3. majedkhaldoun said:

It was risky and audacious, but it was also necessary.
can you explain why it was necessary?
Hariri had nothing to do with 1559,he was not the architect of 1559,ehsani that is an accusation.

his opposition to the invasion was correct and consistant with Baath principles, all what he had to do was to be patient, at that time, however,He was extremely scared, now he is not,that was why he made mistake then,by eliminating Hariri,compounding his mistake,now he is going from a mistake to much larger one,(ARROGANCE),and he obviously did not tell the truth, and tried to hide his mistakes,
now giving more concessions,that syrians may not approve,and change become necessary,to satisfy the syrians.
Ehsani: you criticised Josh as he implied, that he killed Hariri, but now you are saying the same,why is it that people know the truth, but do not admit it till later,those who do not admit the truth when they knew it,are comitting wrong.

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May 19th, 2007, 12:14 am

 

4. EHSANI2 said:

Majedkhaldoun,

I am not only implying that Damascus ordered the Hariri elimination. I am explicitly stating my strong belief that this is indeed what happened. I said this from day one and have never believed anything otherwise since then. Many of my comments and posts here on SC attest to that.

As to why I thought it was “necessary”, let me clarify:

I think that Damascus knew that Hariri was too dangerous to keep around. Without the powerful prime minister around, the decision was to sit out the storm and hope to emerge out of it relatively unscathed. They may turn out to be a miscalculation.

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May 19th, 2007, 12:19 am

 

5. Atassi said:

Ehsani,
An Excellent and brave post.

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May 19th, 2007, 12:25 am

 

6. majedkhaldoun said:

Ehsani
you said that syrian population in 2050 will be 70 million, did you forget the result of increase population,it is fighting,war to reduce the population.
human behave according to his passion,altruism is not natural,human being is rapacious,the passion of Asad was to murder Hariri,because he was sunni and rich and powerful,Asad passion did not conform to the dictate of reason and constraint,as you know,reason usually is impotent against passion, his passion to kill Hariri,as a powerful sunni,overwhelm his reason,and made him behave irrational.

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May 19th, 2007, 12:46 am

 

7. ugarit said:

Why would the Syrian regime have thought that Hariri was a threat?

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May 19th, 2007, 1:13 am

 

8. ugarit said:

Syria needs to drastically cut the birth rate by at least 50%.

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May 19th, 2007, 1:21 am

 

9. Enlightened said:

Ehsani:

A good post with lots of insight and above all, written with sincerity, I would not want Assads job, with all the power wealth and privileges it entails. The man is on a hiding to nothing as they say.

Majed , the killing of Harriri, although tragic was necessary because of the long held belief in Syrian circles to keep the Sunni sect in lebanon politically dormant and neutered, so as they cannot be used as a base for the MB, and the Large Sunni sect within Syria. Furthermore the MB insurrection within Syria, was fostered with arms and money through Lebanon ( most here should be aware of this).

I am of the belief that Harriri in Lebanon was a long term project of the Saudi’s, and that ultimately the Saudi’s had a very big involvement in Harriris actions in breaking from the Syrians. Ultimately Harriri saw his chance to break Syrian control over Lebanon and become its new master, it was one risky gamble that proved dire.

Unfortunately the new UN resolution will provide the legal cover for future action against Syria, and this is the unfortunate scenario for the populations of both Lebanon and Syria.

The genie is out of the bottle, it will be difficult from this point on.

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May 19th, 2007, 1:29 am

 

10. norman said:

Assad opposition to the war and invasion of Iraq was a reflection of the opinion of the Syrian and the Arab people , Assad explained that to Colin Powell , that is when Powell told him ( you are a dictator , what do you care?.)
Syria’s support for the Iraqi insurgency was for self defence after the US declared intention to go left and attack Syria , Syria did not have a chance for helping the US ,The US wanted help cheaply and without a return , Syria is not a charitable organisation.
The Syrian economy will improve but needs evolution to protect the Syrian poor and prevent a revolution ,Driving at 35miles/h on a 65m/h road may be annoying but has better chance in reaching the destination in one piece and that is what Syria and Assad are trying to do.

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May 19th, 2007, 2:09 am

 

11. Akbar Palace said:

Norman said:

Assad opposition to the war and invasion of Iraq…

Norman,

Can you then explain why Syria voted FOR UNSC 1441 and the “serious consequences” promised within this resolution?

Alex –

Here’s an article you may not find in Ha-aretz…

http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2007/05/17/AR2007051701976.html

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May 19th, 2007, 3:15 am

 

12. Alex said:

Akbar,

Interesting and useful article.

As you know, I don’t like to get into detailed discussions about who said what and who did what 40 years ago .. because those discussions are usually either a waste of time or a guaranteed way to get on each other’s nerves.

But Here is my feedback:

1) Mr. Krauthammer is quite an expert in promoting wars and in discounting the benefits of peace. So I will again consider his opinion to be just one more example of his consistently negative mentality.

2) The story of Mr. Rabin’s nervous breakdown as he worried about his country, then his successful leadership of the Israeli Army, should remind you that this man wanted to make peace with Syria and he almost did. Mr. Olmert today, who did not suffer much as Hizbollah’s small forces crippled his mighty army, is the one who does not want peace with Syria.

And Charles Krauthammer did not worry about Israel more than Prime minister Rabin did. His articles in the Washington Post are driven by his arrogance and other personality issues he has, not by genuine care for Israel.

I’ll explain those personality issues if you want later : )

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May 19th, 2007, 8:13 am

 

13. ausamaa said:

I personally have a preference for reading about the “other” explanations and conspiracy theories especially those dealing with how close Yasser Arafat and the Syrian Baathists regiem were all along secretly working with the Zionists who helped them stay in power because they were Israel’s best undercover agents..

Now that we “know” the answer to the Hariri riddle including who assasinated who and why it was necessary, can we have a post about those other theories while we are at it ? Please!!

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May 19th, 2007, 11:28 am

 

14. EHSANI2 said:

Those who do not like this post should feel free to share with the rest of us their own version of the who and why it was necessary. They are also welcome of course to critique all the other parts of the post which does not seem to their liking.

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May 19th, 2007, 12:17 pm

 

15. souri said:

اليكس
بعض الاحيان عندما تجاوب على التعليقات التي على هذا الموقع تذكرني بقهوة دمر عندما كنا نجلس مع الشباب ونتحاور ونتمئلس على الاخرين وكان ذلك من حوالي العشرين عام
بالفعل يراويدوني الاستغراب عن محاولتك الجواب للتعليقات التي تغضبك بالمئلسة كما يسميها السوريون

AIIB.

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May 19th, 2007, 1:52 pm

 

16. Observer said:

Can Ehsani2 tell us what he thinks of the economic situation in both Syria and Lebanon and what are the prospects of the financial situation in both countries?
My understanding is that Lebanon may very well collapse a la Argentina and that the Syrian central bank moved ints holdings into Euros.

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May 19th, 2007, 3:03 pm

 

17. detest said:

…”as know, i’ve been a constant crtitic of, etc.,”… Wow, what a surprise. Brethern, if you’re in a hurry, just read the
Wolfowitz-Perle-Wurmser-Abramsm, etc. little bobble. A CLEAN BREAK, A PLAN TO SECURE THE REALM (i.e. Israel). Everything becomes clear.
This post is not a real post…it’s the us version of the Jerusalem Post.
Today we lost more soldiers in Iran.

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May 19th, 2007, 3:09 pm

 

18. Alex said:

Souri,

: )

Sorry for the sarcasm. But my point of resorting to sarcasm is that we should not take what we are doing here too seriously. This is just a discussion forum… so we can enjoy simulating the experience of sitting in a Dummar Cafe and answering each other sarcastically while we learn from each other’s opinions.

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May 19th, 2007, 4:07 pm

 

19. bilal said:

To EHSANI2

Great Post but I do not agree that Hariri made 1559. It was actually Bashar that made it happen. Remember what the Spanish Foreign minister was able to secure for Syria that there will be no UN resolution if Syria does not push for the extension of Lahoud. After that it was agreed by all then Bashar refused.

You did not clearly mention how inexperienced he is even that you suggested it many times.

I do not know as a Syrian why I have to be stuck with such an inexperienced, unskilled, incompetent, & corrupt president where Syria definitely has much better people even young to do a much better job?

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May 19th, 2007, 5:28 pm

 

20. idaf said:

Ehsani,

The article’s title is misleading. I was expecting a review of the last seven years from an economic perspective. What we got was your projections and analysis for the future. Although very interesting, I think that a more “neutral” review of the last seven years from an economic perspective is still needed.

I actually was disappointed that you used the Hariri card in your article. You should have known better that people will most likely only discuss this part ignoring the more interesting analysis in your article on the economy! Regarding your “Syria was pushed against the wall” thesis that you repeatedly insist on, that’s just ONE possibility of many. I trust that you have open-mindedness to accept this. At least one other possibility is as credible and believable as this if not more so. Here’s a links on our previous discussions on the subject 14 months ago on SC. I’m copying a part of my “conspiracy theory” in response to your “pushed against the wall” one on who killed Hariri. I suggest that people read the comments section on this “theory” which was all fun and good food for thought on the Hariri subject. I think that this discussion is more needed today than ever..

“..
If it’s not the Syrians then who was it and why? ( 08 – January 2006)
The main suspects are: First.. Israel.
I know that many people don’t want to hear its name in the Hariri issue (mainly because it was used as a scapegoat for too long by Arab dictatorships that even when it is a credible suspect, many people tend not to believe it no more!). Nonetheless, Israel had a strong motive, the capabilities and the political cover (just in case). Allow me to elaborate:

You have to admit that Israel was the main beneficiary of the whole thing.. Syria is in deep trouble, Lebanon is in deep chaos and ultimately -and most importantly- Hizballah is very cornered and on the road do be dismantled (which would constitute the main motive).

Let’s look at the facts.. we have fanatics in Washington stating publicly that they support “constructive chaos” in the middle east that would change things to “the better”. We have a regional party (Israel) with strong will and motives (cornering Syria, destabilizing Lebanon and ultimately getting rid of Hizballah). It has a long experience in political assassinations (countless such surgically accurate car bombs over the last 25 years in Palestine and Lebanon at least!). Finally, it also possesses the capabilities from the technology to the required agents (hundreds of Israel’s agents infiltrated within the Lebanese society.. the Lahdists and SLA members -with Lebanese blood on their hands- that were granted amnesty after 2000, among others).

The Other Crimes: Excuse me for putting the following analysis of the series of crimes so bluntly: The series of murders fits very well in the scenario of framing Syria. Think about the following: Hariri was killed in an extraordinary point of time when his relation with Syria is in one of its very few low points. A point of time when such a crime would easily be pinned on Syria (which was successfully achieved).
Basel Fuleihan was a collateral damage. Hawi was killed to push the Lebanese left to an extreme anti-Syria position (to manipulate the parties that support Syria out of their hate for Israel) and to become more outspoken against Syria (which was successfully achieved too). Given the emotional nature of Arabs in general, Samir Kassir and May Chidiac were chosen very smartly to supply the Lebanese, Arabic and international media with a further negative emotional charge against Syria (which also was successfully achieved). Allow me to be more detailed here: Killing Kassir made Annahar and Al-Arabyia channel (that his wife work for as an anchor) explode emotionally against Syria which lead to further manipulation of Arab public opinion towards blaming Syria (which also was successfully achieved). May Chidiac was targeted to do the same with Al-Hayat and LBC. Jubran was killed on the eve of the security council meeting to guarantee that the harshest resolution possible would be passed and to give an extremely hard time to countries trying to make it softer (which also was relatively successfully achieved). Pushing Junblat to his seizure of hysteria against both Syria and Hizballah came as a bonus (or was it planned?!). If it really was Syria trying to take revenge and/or terrorize its Lebanese critics then wouldn’t you say that any one of those idiots in the Syrian mukhabarat would have waited for two days so the Security Council would pass a softer resolution and then take revenge or terrorize by killing Jubran?!

IT’S A SIMPLE CALCULATION REALLY.. YOU KILL ONE OUTSPOKEN SYRIA CRITIC AND A THOUSAND IS INSTANTLY CREATED INSIDE AND OUTSIDE LEBANON (you also get the media to emotionally lash out against Syria as a bonus!). If it was the Syrians doing it then they would have taken a lesson from the Marwan Hamade attempt that this is what is happening, wouldn’t they? My mind refuses to accept the idea that the Syrians would intentionally alienate the Saudis and the French, give the neo-cons and Israelis a dream-come-true moment, extremely weaken Hizballah, shoot themselves in the foot and not learn the lesson then choose to shoot themselves in the leg and then in the stomach and so on and, moreover, keep doing the exact same mistake at the extremely precise timings that would do them the MOST harm possible! The people in the Syrian regime are absolutely no angels, but I would give them a little more credit than this on the “common sense” front!

For Marwan Hamade, I think he was a “test balloon” (to probe the public and political reaction) by whoever did the whole series of crimes. I think that the criminal system (I’m convinced that it is an experienced and very capable system) had a theory on who the media and public fingers would be pointing at after attempting to kill Hamade (and it helped pointing them that way). They tested that theory and it worked out, therefore they continued to the REAL target. The hastily fabricated abu-Addas tape proves this theory as the Syrians and Lebanese security system were totally confused and not ready to deal with the aftermath of Hariri crime (otherwise if they managed to successfully plan to kill Hariri for a year avoiding the French, American and Saudi intelligence plus his own security detecting anything, then I’m sure they would have been better prepared with a stronger story than Abu Addas, wouldn’t they?). If they were able to carry the politically and technically complex planning and execution of the crime then they might as well have been capable of providing a more credible alternative suspect. Furthermore, if they were really planning to do it for a year, then it’s common sense to make friends with Hariri publicly after he was forced to leave office, just to have a good defense when they kill him.. “hey, don’t accuse us we were his friends up to the last moment”!. These guys might (and might not) have threatened Hariri, but that does not necessarily mean that they killed him in my opinion. If they did threaten him, then it would be one of those ugly and stupid methods used by security-oriented regimes to achieve their political goals. It won’t be the first time nor the last where a dominating political power threaten a personality -one way or another- in our world to achieve it’s goals (I’m not condoning but listing facts). BUT I’m more interested in knowing who exactly knew that Hariri was threatened by the Syrians (if he really was threatened) and took advantage of this information in carrying out the whole thing and framing Syria (according to Khaddam, the criminals had enough time as the crime took place 8 months after the threat actually took place according to Khaddam.. if it really did)!
..”

PS. By the way, the comments and discussion on this “theory” were fun to read today in retrospect. For example, back then, Ehsani was more extreme in his thoughts and style. Here’s his reaction on what I wrote (this really cracked me up reading it after all that time): “It is disappointing to see someone of Dr. Landis’s intellect elevate a confused man like Idaf above. He is anything but concise. His thought process is convoluted. His conclusions are absurd. Clearly, Dr. Landis believes otherwise” (Ehsani, 2006).

🙂
Aaah.. those good ol’ days.

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May 19th, 2007, 6:27 pm

 

21. ausamaa said:

Ehsani,

The CENTRAL LINK is missing in your ANALYSIS.

I still fail to see how and why Rafiq al Harriri constituted such a THREAT to Syria?

Did the late Harriri NOT GO ALONG with Syria’s wish that the Lebanese Parliment approves the extension for President Lahoud? Didnt this act by Hariri happen at a time when both Chirac and Bush were pulling ALL THE STRINGS in order for it not to happen??

When in Gods name did Rafiq al Harriri STAND UP and UPSET, let alone CONSTITUTE a THREAT, to Syria?

Even so, and supposing that Hariri was in his heart “really” against Syria but AFRAID of Syria, why did he not leave to Riyadh or Paris to escape Syria’s anger rather than stay and take unnecessary risks. And couldn’t an upset Syria have “asked” Harriri to get the hell out of the way instead of assasinating him? He would have listened to Syria’s wishes and understood its sensetivities as he did during the extension to Lahoud.

No Sir! Harriri was not a threat to Syria. Not a threat that warrented committing such a horrible act at such a dangerous junction to say the least. Give me one single speach where Harriri really and publicaly went against Syria’s wishes and interests in Lebanon? Can you?

Why killing the man twice by ascribing to him something he did not do?

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May 19th, 2007, 8:11 pm

 

22. ausamaa said:

Ehsani,

And for the millionth time:

Who is the true benificiary of al Harriri crime?

Can you look around and tell me that Syria is?

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May 19th, 2007, 8:26 pm

 

23. majedkhaldoun said:

Who is the true benificiary of al Harriri crime?

the answer is Asad family,Hariri was a rising star,rich, had excellent relations with Chirac,Bush Putin,etc.,he could win easily in Lebanon,he could win the heart of Syrians too,he represent a threat to the Alawite Asad clan,if they could get away with it the Asad family would have been the beneficiary,they did not anticipate the world reaction, as I said before,their passion overwhelmed the reason and constraint,they believed that any action is immoral if it is punishable,and moral if they can get away with it,their miscalculations were they did not see,the world reaction,.
Vanity and overconfidence blind men.

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May 19th, 2007, 9:40 pm

 

24. bilal said:

To Ausamaa:

No Syria did not benefit from Hariri crime because the international community made sure that the killer will not benefit from his crime and for that reason only that Bashar regime did not benefit. Also this is another reason that Bashar is bad for Syria because he has comitted such a crime and it had hurted Syria a great deal at the same time. He is not up to it. Like Khaddam has said we should all remember that Syria is not accused of Hariri assasination. Bashar is.

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May 19th, 2007, 10:27 pm

 

25. EHSANI2 said:

My friend IDAF,

As usual, I enjoy debating you. I have clearly mellowed down and became less extreme judging by the quote that you cited. My friend Alex had a lot to do with this. It was his constant advice of seeing things as more gray than always black and white.

You are absolutely right that I should have stuck to Economics. I did warn the readers that my political commentary was going to elicit disagreements and arguments. I guess my warnings were justified.

As I started writing my post, it was hard to resist going down the slippery slope of the Hariri issue. However, it was also impossible to review the past seven years without touching on the subject.

Do I own the truth? NO.

My scenario is MY best guess as to what transpired. Nothing more.

In a future date, I will try to follow up one more time with a “more neutral” review of the economy.

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May 19th, 2007, 10:29 pm

 

26. EHSANI2 said:

IDAF,

I just read those old comments again. Was that really me?

I must say that I miss reading:

ALTERION, ACTIVELISTNER AND NAFDIK.

They must have found something better to do with their time than the rest of us.

Ausammaa,

Is it your conviction that it was Israel who was behind the act?

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May 19th, 2007, 11:12 pm

 

27. youngsyria said:

Syrians should use more contraceptives to lower that birth rate. why isn’t the government planing anything to lower birth rate. why don’t they impalement a china-like low of limiting access to public facilities (schools , hospitals,..etc.) for -lets say- the third child?( al rezik 3ala allah moo 3ala el 7koome)

high birth rate doesn’t only increase labour force => unemployment but it also means that the quality of those people is low. clearly taking care of 2 children (health care,education..etc) is easier and will produce much better kids (usually) than taking care of 5.

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May 20th, 2007, 12:20 am

 

28. EHSANI2 said:

For the record, the economic example of future growth rates that I cited used a population growth rate of 3% for Syria. I used that number for illustrative purpose. The official number cited by the latest UN study of world population pegs Syria’s rate at 2.57%. Even such a minor difference can add up to a difference of 10 million over a period of 43 years. If you think that Syria is bad, please watch what is going on in Yemen:

Yemen today = 25.7 million ; Yemen in 2050 = 354 million (no mistake I swear)
Saudi today = 25.5 million ; Saudi in 2050 = 101 million
Iraq today = 27.6 million ; Iraq in 2050 = 118 million
Syria today = 19 million ; Syria in 2050 = 60 million
Lebanon today = 4 million ; Lebanon in 2050 = 7 million

In the case of Yemen , the UN mentions that the current rate is so high that “something must happen” to slow it. Let us hope that they are right!

Any interest in Pakistan and Afghanistan?

Afghanistan today = 26 million ; Afghanistan in 2050 = 181 million
Pakistan today = 163 million ; Pakistan in 2050 = 688 million (believe me it is true)

Isn’t the power of compounding so great (assuming of course that the present rates of breeding are sustained)?

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May 20th, 2007, 2:01 am

 

29. norman said:

Ehsani2, How about Israel and the Palestinian/Israelies and Palestinians in the west bank and Gazza,AP might have an awakening to the realties of the future of Israel without a peace treaty with the Arab countries.

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May 20th, 2007, 3:27 am

 

30. ausamaa said:

Ehsani,

I just do not know.. amd I dont think we will ever find out.

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May 20th, 2007, 3:28 am

 

31. EHSANI2 said:

NORMAN,

Again assuming constant fertility:

Occupied Palestinian Territories will go from 3.7 million to 19 million.

Israel will go from 7 million to 13 million by 2050

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May 20th, 2007, 4:14 am

 

32. Alex said:

Ehsani,

These population growth projections are scary! … 688 million Pakistanis! … I hope by 2050 they will all be happy, well fed and not upset at any of their neighbors.

And those 354 Million Yemenis will surely knock at the doors of their Saudi neighbors… so you are right, there at least the United Nations and the United States probably WILL do something about it.

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May 20th, 2007, 5:23 am

 

33. zenobia said:

There is no way that the population growth rates could stay the same. the pressure would build up so fast that the situation would be so unbearable – people would die first, or there would be disease, or war, or migration, but there does need to be a plan.

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May 20th, 2007, 11:47 am

 

34. ausamaa said:

Well, look at the bright side; there will be more people to socialize with!

But let us hope that President Bush does not come across this post and start pondering wether the “regime” can somehow be held responsible for this world-wide fertility problem as well.

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May 20th, 2007, 3:33 pm

 

35. Akbar Palace said:

Responses from Alex:

Interesting and useful article.

I thought you might want a different perspective instead of Ha’aretz.

As you know, I don’t like to get into detailed discussions about who said what and who did what 40 years ago .. because those discussions are usually either a waste of time or a guaranteed way to get on each other’s nerves.

I agree. Better to look forward.

But Here is my feedback:

1) Mr. Krauthammer is quite an expert in promoting wars and in discounting the benefits of peace. So I will again consider his opinion to be just one more example of his consistently negative mentality.

I think Mr. Krauthammer’s “negative mentality” came from the farce/facade of Oslo and what happens when you deal with terrorists who speak out of both sides of their mouth. I think Mr. Krauthammer sees the exact same issue with the Iran/Syria/Hezbollah connection and the Fatah/Hamas connection. They all feed and use each other under the guise of “we can’t or have any ‘incentive’ to control the situation”, which we all know is an outright lie.

Further, Mr. Krauthammer has never denied Syria, Iran, Saudi Arabia, Lebanon, and the Palestinians right to exist. Conversely, NONE of these countries above have yet to recognize Israel. Any you think Krauthammer “promotes wars”?

Dig a little deeper Alex. Read the incitement the Arab media provides the Arab street on a daily basis. For example:

Acting Palestinian Legislative Council Speaker Sheikh Ahmad Bahr, From Hamas, In Friday Sermon in Sudan: U.S., Israel Will Be Annihilated; Oh Allah, Kill the Jews and Americans ‘To The Very Last One’

http://memri.org/bin/articles.cgi?Page=countries&Area=palestinian&ID=SP155307

2) The story of Mr. Rabin’s nervous breakdown as he worried about his country, then his successful leadership of the Israeli Army, should remind you that this man wanted to make peace with Syria and he almost did. Mr. Olmert today, who did not suffer much as Hizbollah’s small forces crippled his mighty army, is the one who does not want peace with Syria.

Yes. It is not a secret that Israelis including Rabin wanted and still want peace. You read Ha’aretz. The whole editorial board is “dying” (literally;) to make peace. And wWho did Yassir Arafat shake hands with on the White House lawn?

Yitzhak Rabin. Is there peace with Palestine? Nope.

But wanting peace means that each side will not be able to attain their maximum position. Further, land for peace means exactly that: Israel gives up land, and receives a TANGIBLE peace in return.

And Charles Krauthammer did not worry about Israel more than Prime minister Rabin did. His articles in the Washington Post are driven by his arrogance and other personality issues he has, not by genuine care for Israel.

Charles Krauthammer worries (like I do) quite a lot about Israel. Krauthammer’s “arrogance” could be explained due to his prediction that Oslo wouldn’t work because allowing terrorists to play their killing games during negotiations is a HUGE mistake, and certainly cold not be considered a “peace process”. Otherwise, he’s a very astute follower of the ME.

I’ll explain those personality issues if you want later : )

Thanks, no need.

BTW –

WHat’s going on with the Lebanese army in Tripoli?

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May 20th, 2007, 5:24 pm

 

36. Akbar Palace said:

Norman said:

…AP might have an awakening to the realties of the future of Israel without a peace treaty with the Arab countries.

What exactly are the “realities of the future of Israel” without a peace treaty?

While your at it, tell us what peace treaty Hamas, Hezbollah, and “almost nuclear” Iran are ready to sign.

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May 20th, 2007, 5:44 pm

 

37. Alex said:

Akbar,

If predicting the failure of Oslo is to your liking, then you should love Hafez Assad … he assured his friend Bill Clinton that he will not take any step to cause Oslo to fail, but he assured his also that it will fail.

But there is a difference between predicting the failure of Oslo, and giving up on making peace with the neighbors.

I know Syria’s rulers are authoritarian, but they have been always right about their predictions … nothing short of a comprehensive solution will work in the long run.

As for the friendly Sheikh Ahmad Bahr … as I said before, you can always find extremists and lunatics on all sides … do you want to give them the power to practically decide the direction the nations of the middle East will take in the future?

And Charles Krauthammer is one of those intelligent people who can give a brilliant backup to their positions … but their positions are wrong nonetheless.

Anyone who does not put most of his energy in finding solutions is wrong, no matter how convincing he sounds.

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May 20th, 2007, 5:46 pm

 

38. Alex said:

What is going on with the Lebanese army in Tripoly?

If you can define and understand the mission of the the Lebanese army on the one hand, and “fateh al-Islam” on the other .. then you will know what went wrong today.

I don’t.

Saad Hariri was on TV this hour to tell us “I know who is behind Fateh al_Islam” … surprise, surprise.

Syria declared its support for what the army did and closed its border with Lebanon int he north.

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May 20th, 2007, 5:54 pm

 

39. SimoHurtta said:

What exactly are the “realities of the future of Israel” without a peace treaty?

While your at it, tell us what peace treaty Hamas, Hezbollah, and “almost nuclear” Iran are ready to sign.

Could you Akbar explain for what do the Arab countries and Iran need peace with Israel? Can Israel provide them something they can’t get elsewhere?

The only thing Israel can provide is a just peace solution with the Palestinians + return Golan. Besides that Arab countries do not need Israel for anything. They have the population, oil, capital and markets to create the next economical miracle. As Ehsani2’s population predictions show the markets are huge and growing. 🙂

Do not overestimate Akbar the importance of Israel. Israel is a tiny nation on a tiny area. The only big thing Israelis possess besides a huge nuclear weapons storage and army is arrogant self-confidence.

Look Akhbar at Bahrain and how this time the oil wealth is invested. No more petrodollar recycling to western assets and buying obsolete American weapons. This time they did choose an other strategy…

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May 20th, 2007, 7:56 pm

 

40. Akbar Palace said:

If predicting the failure of Oslo is to your liking, then you should love Hafez Assad … he assured his friend Bill Clinton that he will not take any step to cause Oslo to fail, but he assured his also that it will fail.

Alex –

Predicting anything is usually a good indicator. The liberals who were jumping for joy when Oslo turned public were screaming about the upcoming peace. Actaully, I don’t know what Assad “predicted”, but I wonder if he predicted the same thing went he sent his delegation to Shepardstown, Virgina to negotiate with the big bad Zionists.

BTW, I wonder if any Syrians living in Syria even knew if the esteeemed Syrian government sent a delegation to the US to discuss such a dirty concept: a peace treaty with the Zionist Entity;).

I know Syria’s rulers are authoritarian, but they have been always right about their predictions … nothing short of a comprehensive solution will work in the long run.

Good to know they predicted the failure of their own “peace initiative” then. This will be useful the next time they decide to play the same game.

Anyone who does not put most of his energy in finding solutions is wrong, no matter how convincing he sounds.

Which is why so many Arab regimes are wrong.

SimoHurtta said:

Could you Akbar explain for what do the Arab countries and Iran need peace with Israel? Can Israel provide them something they can’t get elsewhere?

Thank you for your candid question. OF COURSE, Arab countries and Iran DON’T need peace with Israel! Just tell this to Alex because he thinks the Arabs are falling over their feet trying to make peace with Israel. But they aren’t, and Alex doesn’t believe me!

“Peace” is and Arab dictator’s worst enemy! If there’s peace, an Arab dictator has nothing to do to further instill fear in the people and provide excuses for military rule, extra-judicial kidnappings, lack of “rule-of-law”, lack of freedom, no economy, and further violence. This is what the neo-cons have been saying for years.

Nooooooo, SimoHurtta, Arab countries “need” peace with Israel like a hole in the head. I mean if Jordan and Eygpt didn’t have peace with Israel, they could blame the Zionists. And now they can’t. What a pity.

The only thing Israel can provide is a just peace solution with the Palestinians.

SimoHurtta, I love this term “just peace”. “Just” with repect to whom:

1.) The West?

2.) The Democrats?

3.) Abu Abbas?

4.) Haniyeh?

5.) Bashar Assad?

6.) Mahmood Ahmadinejad?

My guess is, whatever “just” solution is found, some murderous cry-baby still won’t like it.

Besides that Arab countries do not need Israel for anything. They have the population, oil, capital and markets to create the next economical miracle.

I know, the Arab countries do not need Israel for anything. They have it all. That’s why I still don’t understand why the per capita GDP in the Arab world is about $4000 per year. They have so much, it’s certainly understandable why they wouldn’t want any help from a kuffar Jew. Oh well, if we can’t make friends with the neighbors that’s one thing. But if the sour anti-Jew neighbor is still intent on crossing the border and firing missiles into Israel, then that’s another story.

Do not overestimate Akbar the importance of Israel. Israel is a tiny nation on a tiny area. The only big thing Israelis possess besides a huge nuclear weapons storage and army is arrogant self-confidence.

SimoHurtta,

I never said Israel was important. I’m just saying they have a right to self-defense but would prefer peace. Besides the “huge nuclear weapons storage and army”, Israel has a robust economy about the same size as Finland (which is why Arab-Israelis aren’t too keen to move to the Utopia called the Palestinian Authority).

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May 20th, 2007, 8:34 pm

 

41. Alex said:

Akbar,

Syria’s attitude is not self-contradictory: Syria will negotiate for the Golan, but it will explain to Israel and the United States Syria’s strong belief that in order to have a real solution, settling the Palestinian questions is a must.

It is up to Israel to ignore that simple old boring advice. But if few years later Israelis are still not living in total peace, Syria will say “I told you so”.

And if Syria is eventually satisfied with the agreement that it (and Lebanon) sign along with Israel, then there will be no more support to any paramilitary resistance against Israel. Only moral support.

Again .. don’t worry. Rabin asked all the relevant questions and he got satisfactory answers.

2) I did not say that ALL the Arabs are dying to have peace with Israel. I said that it is surely in their best interest to settle the conflict. Many are wise enough to understand their own best interest … and most of the Syrians fall in that category.

If you have any doubt how Syrians feel about Israelis .. don’t go too far, look at how American tourists in Damascus are treated exceptionally well. The typical comment they hear “we don’t like your government, but we like you”

If Israel signs peace with Syria and Lebanon, and stops attacking Lebanese and Palestinian civilians, two years later most negative feelings towards Israelis will largely diminish.

Don’t think about the worst case examples from the past, or even th present … imagine how people change when they don’t feel they are talking to an enemy.

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May 21st, 2007, 4:31 am

 

42. Khouri said:

Ehsani:

Assuming there would be room for change or desire for change, what constitutional changes should Syria undertake to revise the balance of powers within its own government?

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November 22nd, 2007, 6:31 pm

 

43. Syria Comment » Archives » Ehsani on Syria Comment over the Years said:

[…] On the cusp of President Assad’s second term in office, I reviewed his first 7 years in office. “On Sunday May 27th, Syria’s young leader will win a new 7-year term as President of his country. The words “will win” are seldom used ahead of Presidential elections. But Syria, like most countries of the Arab World, does not resemble western nations. Presidential elections in the Middle East do not contain even a slight element of surprise. The results are known in advance. The procedures leading to the actual elections have become part of each country’s folklore.” […]

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September 4th, 2011, 4:04 pm

 

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