Alex on Saudi Arabia; Hamidi on Turkey

Alex Gives a History of the Saudi-Syrian Rapprochement and Argues, “We are not there yet.”


The visit of King Abdullah to Damascus this past week is just a bit more than a photo opportunity. The real story started to take place after Syria’s ally, Hizbollah, managed to force the United States, Israel, Saudi Arabia, Egypt and France to rethink their strategies for the new Middle East in summer 2006.

First France, the US and their “moderate” Arab allies realized they might have to lower their expectations… the unsuccessful use of American and Israeli power (“shock and awe” style) in Iraq and Lebanon led to nothing more than an almost total disrespect for such arrogant use of force by the people in the region… Ask anyone today what he thinks of an Israel or American military conflict with Iran and he will answer you: “They would be crazy to attack Iran”

After 2006, some, such as Prince Turki Alfaisal, started to advocate an arrangement in which Syria’s prominence in the Levant would be respected by Saudi Arabia.

“Syria would be at the forefront (of the new alignment), Jordan would have a share in it and the Palestinians would have a niche,”

But others, like Prince Bandar, continued to try finding other ways to weaken Syria. He visited Iran and offered them to work together in Lebanon (excluding Syria) .. that did not work out too well for him, King Abdullah visited Turkey twice (he never did before) trying to offer them incentives to abandon the Syrians. That also failed.

In addition, Qatar, Bahrain, Kuwait and the UAE continued to support Syria through billions of dollars invested each year.

Then Hizbollah settled a quick armed conflict with Saudi Allies in Lebanon to its advantage.

Meanwhile … the UN investigation into the murder of Rafiq Hariri continued to show that there is nothing solid against Syria … Syria’s four Lebanese allies were released without a single charge against any of them … one of them is suing Mehlis and claiming he has proof that Mehlis tried to fabricate evidence against Syria.

King Abdullah decided at the Kuwait summit that it is time for him to make a decision … So he opted to make peace with the young Syrian president, while a visibly surprised Hosni Mubarak was instead prepared to escalate his confrontation with Assad.

Since then Saudi Arabia has been trying, on and off, to make the painful move towards recognizing Syria’s role as almost being equal to that of Saudi Arabia in the region… the same arrangement they had during the time of late President Hafez Assad.

Their ego resisted that move … some of their American allies resisted … the Egyptians are still resisting … and God knows what Prince Bandar says, or is allowed to say, these days.

If you want a demonstration of how difficult it is for the Saudis to think of Syria as an equal, listen to this one hour show on Al-Hurra Television station (in Arabic). (clip will be accessible through that link for about a week)

The Saudi guest (debating Jihad Makdissi, spokesman for Syria’s embassy in London) stated repeatedly that at the time of the late, “wise” President Hafez Assad, Syria used to know how to handle its relations with Iran. This implies of course that the current young President is still not up to the task and that the Saudis (as the guest says in other parts) helped him realize his mistakes …

So we are not there yet … but there is improvement.

[end]

Ibrahim Hamidi on Turkey on the eve of the first meeting of Syrian-Turkish Strategic Council which will meet at the border between the two countries on Tuesday.  (AL-HAYAT & LBC Bureau Chief Damascus)

Syria and Turkey: History in the making

By Ibrahim HAMIDI

Syria and Turkey have just signed a high-level cooperation agreement in different fields, during a groundbreaking visit by President Bashar al-Assad to Istanbul, which took place on September 16, 2009. Among other things, the two countries decided to coordinate foreign policy regarding all international conventions. In order to appreciate the importance of such an agreement, all one has to do is go back to the 1990s, when bilateral relations between Damascus and Ankara were at their worst. Only then will people realize how far the two countries have come.

The two nations decided to do away with visa regulations, facilitating the flow of goods and people on both sides of their 800 km border. Back in the 1990s, there was an ongoing war of words between the Syrian and Turkish media, and anybody wanting to cross the border had to watch out for the hundreds of land-mines, scattered on both sides, aimed at preventing the infiltration of terrorists. Daring to consider—let alone implement—normalization between Turkey and Syria was nothing but a dream that crossed too many red lines in both countries.

Syria accused Turkey, among other things, of depriving it of its rightful share of the Euphrates, contaminating water, and constructing dams to prevent the flow of water into Syria. The Syrians were equally angry with the Turks for a military pact they had signed with Israel. For their part, the Turks accused Syria of supporting the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), which they branded a terrorist organization, and of drumming up anti-Ottoman sentiment in the Arab world. More than once, the Turkish Embassy in Damascus filed official complaints against Syrian television dramas that depicted torture practiced in Ottoman Syria prior to World War I. Turkey was also uneasy with Greco-Syrian cooperation, which had an immediate effect on the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus (TRNC).

Following such turbulent history the changes taking place today are monumental, and indeed, are re-writing an entire chapter of Syrian-Turkish relations. The two countries signed a security agreement in 1998, and in June 2000, Turkish President Ahmet Necdet Sezer came to Syria to take part in the funeral of the late President Hafez al-Assad; an act that further pushed bilateral relations forward. The real breakthrough was when President Bashar al-Assad went to Ankara in 2004, becoming the first Syrian president to visit Turkey since independence was achieved in 1946.

The main theme behind the Syrian leader’s visit was: instead of disagreement, let us make of our borders a source of agreement. Let us remove the mines from both sides of the border and replace them with mutual projects.

Today, five years down the road, much has been achieved. Bilateral trade, which once stood at a mediocre “millions of dollars” has now reached an impressive $2 billion annually. The country that once sided with Israel is now, under leadership of the Justice and Development Party (AKP), mediating indirect talks between the Syrians and Israel, aimed at restoring the occupied Golan Heights to Syria. In fact, Syria now insists that the Turks be present at any future talks with the Israelis, be they direct or indirect, because the Turkish mediator, it believes, has proven to be “honest, reasonable, and trustworthy.”

Turkey is now Syria’s gateway to Europe and the rest of the world while Syria is the Turkish gateway to the Gulf and the rest of the Arab world.

Impressive indeed. It is history in the making.

Armenia, Turkey Reach Accord Washinton Post

ZURICH, Switzerland, Oct. 10 — Armenia and Turkey signed a landmark agreement Saturday to establish diplomatic ties, after a dramatic last-minute intervention by Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton to keep the event from falling apart….


Turkey bars Israel from military drill

By ARON HELLER (AP)

JERUSALEM — Turkey has called off an international military drill because it opposed Israel’s participation, Israeli defense officials said Sunday, a move that sent strained relations between the two nations to a new low.

Turkey has long been the Jewish state’s best friend in the Muslim world. But ties have deteriorated dramatically since Israel’s war last winter against Islamic militants in the Gaza Strip, which killed hundreds of civilians…..

Turkey’s surprise cancellation of the air force drill, which was also to include the U.S. and NATO, was the first time its criticism of Israel has been translated into concrete action.

“The Israeli Embassy informed J Street of its concern that the new lobbying group advocates policies that could “impair Israel’s interests,” an embassy spokesman has told The Jerusalem Post……

J Street has taken several positions at odds with the Israeli government in recent months, including arguing against the immediate imposition of additional sanctions on Iran even as Israel pushes for greater action, and backing US President Barack Obama’s call for a complete settlement freeze in the face of Israeli opposition. The organization has also been criticized in certain Israeli and American Jewish circles for attacking other Jewish groups in ways that some feel breed division…”

Obama has betrayed mission to forge Mideast peace
By Gideon Levy, Haaretz, October 11, 2009

What has the new Nobel laureate done so far in our region? Mitchell Shmitchell, a bitter and lost struggle over settlement expansion, a bizarre struggle against the Goldstone report, a disgraceful silence about the Gaza siege, and the ultimate proof that there’s […]

Comments (77)


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51. SimoHurtta said:

Akbar you obviously have not briefed yourself (like normal) what happened in Cyprus before the Turkish invasion. If you would have had you would not use Cyprus as an example. So much it resembles the situation in Israel/Palestine.

In Cyprus there is a Turkish minority and Greek majority. Much happened during the British colonial time and between constitutional breakdown in 1963 and the Turkish invasion. After 1963 the majority begun to treat the minority like you do in Israel. The Turk Cypriots were forced in scattered enclaves and the population which did have over 30 percent of the land “suddenly” had 4 percent left. That land was taken by Greek settlers and local Greeks. The ideology was called Enosis. Does it sound familiar? The majority terrorized the minority with very cruel ways.

Voice of Blood 2: Searching for Selden
http://video.google.com.au/videoplay?docid=-7695688617775364591#

Because the local people could not find a peaceful solution the major power created a two state solution. Since then there has been peace, well relatively peaceful.

Should we Akbar hope that Turkey will come and help Israel to solve the problem with Palestinians in the 1974 style? By the way USA supported the Turkish “solution”. Ironically it also supported the Greek Junta, which caused much of the troubles. That is why USA is not very popular in Greece.

Turkey killed more civilians in Cyprus than Israel did in both the recent Gaza and Lebanon war combined.

That is pure Little Green Balls propaganda Akbar.

The amount of killed by Wikipedia were on the Turkish side 568 and on Greek side 397 + 992 missing (most likely killed). Hundreds of Cypriot Turks went also missing.

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October 14th, 2009, 8:26 am

 

52. Joshua said:

Antoun,

You ask:

“Would it be conceivable that Syria comes to terms with the Israeli occupation of the Golan as it has come to terms with Turkey’s occupation of Hatay?”

I think this is the right question. It is certainly Israel’s and America’s plan as things now stand.

Daniel Kurtzer, twice ambassador to Israel and close Obama adviser, was just visiting OU and gave a series of talks. I asked the same question. Kurtzer did not answer directly – but raised his eyebrows and smiled. This was after he suggested that Israel could wait 4 or 5 years before opening negotiations with Syria in order to take advantage of what her argued was a deteriorating economic and environmental situation in Syria due to the end of oil and decrease in water supplies combined with increased population. His argument was that Syria would be weaker in the future and would thus have to clime down from its demand for all the Golan.

But your argument is more to the point. Israel is not interested in negotiations with Syria because Syria is too weak and Jerusalem has no compelling interest to make extremely difficult political concessions.

If Syria’s economic situation deteriorates rather than improves in the future, as most Israelis and, obviously, as Kurtzer and others in the US diplomatic community project, Israel will have even less interest in the future to make concessions. In short, I think it is safe to say that the current Western position is to wait Syria out and pursue a “Hatay” policy.

Syria has no immediate answer to this Israeli-American strategy. Syria’s attempts to change the military balance of power have not been successful – i.e. Israel’s bombing of Syria’s “nuclear” facility, Western pressure on Russia, Iran, China, N. Korea, etc. not to supplied advanced weapons to Syria while tricking out Israel with most advanced weapons. West’s protection of Israel’s nuclear advantage, proscription of anti-Israeli resistance as terror, support for Lebanon and Gaza operations as response to pressure from Arabs, Israel’s success in getting Egypt and Saudi to turn against Arab resistance, pressure on Iran to abandon anti-Israel stand, etc.

The terrible drought now devastating swaths of Syria’s Eastern provinces only underscores Syria’s weakness.

Can president Assad reverse this equation so that Syria is getting stronger and Israel weaker? I will not pretend to know the answer to this question. Syrian’s are now rejoicing in Turkey’s new regional stand. They are hoping that economic liberalization will liberate the capitalistic talents of its people, which have long been bottled up by socialism and bad management. They look to Saudi Arabia’s recent step toward Syria as a sign that Arabians will not completely abandon the notion of pressuring Israel and helping Syria is its struggle with Israel. Syria hopes that as Iraq sorts itself out from the body blows it has suffered and takes a concerted “Arab” stand. The recent contretemps with Iraq over Sunni militants is not auspicious.

I cannot say that I am optimistic about the immediate prospects of the Arabs sorting out their many difficulties in time to retrieve the Golan. All the same, the objective of getting back the Golan is much more deeply embedded in Syria’s nationalist psyche than was Alexandretta. Much can go wrong for Israel in the next 30 years to reverse the balance of power should Israel decide to tough it out and keep its foot on Syria for the next several decades, as it seems to be doing. It took Syria’s 70 years to overcome the loss of the Alexandretta – it was a separate administrative unit under the French Mandate. The Golan has been occupied for only 4 decades.

There are risks to Israel’s strategy, but so far, it is hard to see big trouble for Israel on the horizon.

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October 14th, 2009, 8:37 am

 

53. why-discuss said:

I or IDIT or I DIDIT or I DIDNOTDOIT …

Eluded?

If I have to believe all the zionist relentless, apparently well documented articles trying desperately to justify their crimes by hiding behind photos of the christian pope or a moslem mollah meeting Hitler or any german Nazi, I would ask for a refugee status in Israel (would they take me?), convert (can i?) and join the IDF to kill all the arabs to the last baby and ask for the blood of the evil christians. This is why I should refrain from reading these clever and convincing articles, that are usually corroborated only by other zionist medias.

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October 14th, 2009, 8:51 am

 

54. Akbar Palace said:

Israel’s success in getting Egypt and Saudi to turn against Arab resistance

Professor Josh,

We can only hope your website can do whatever is possible to reverse this ugly trend.

Do you have any al-Queda post office boxes where we can send contributions?

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October 14th, 2009, 9:31 am

 

55. idit said:

I’m not surprised by your rude reaction, maybe a little disappointed.

God forbid we will shutter your orderly little world.

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October 14th, 2009, 9:57 am

 

56. Akbar Palace said:

That is pure Little Green Balls propaganda Akbar.

Sim,

Apparently the ECHR didn’t agree with you. Nevertheless Sim, I have noted (once again) your leniency toward non-Israeli initiated violence. All very “loosey-goosey” for those who aren’t Zionist.

The Turkish Army conducted a policy of ethnic cleansing consisting of wholesale attacks and massacres of the Greek population of the territories that came under Turkish military population in an attempt to terrorise the Greek population into evacuating these areas.[2][3] The wholesale massacres carried by the Turkish army and Turkish Cypriot paramilitary groups against the Greeks of Cyprus spawned a limited number of similar attacks against Turkish civilians in the south by small groups of Greek Cypriot paramilitaries. In the small village of Tochni, all men between the ages of 13 and 74 were found shot.[4]. Likewise other mass graves were exhumed in the villages of Aloa, Sandalaris and Maratha containing women and children.[4].

The total number of Greek Cypriot casualties of the 1974 invasion was near 5000, of whom 1619 were reported as missing and the rest as killed. 160,000-200,000 Greek Cypriots became refugees. At the same time, 50,000-60,000 defying a policy of the Cypriot government prohibiting their movement into the Turkish controlled areas also left their homes and headed north.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Civilian_casualties_and_displacements_during_the_Cyprus_conflict

ECHR says that Turkey guilty of human rights violation in case of missing in Cyprus

http://news.pseka.net/index.php?module=article&id=7913

Two Chamber judgments concerning Turkey

http://www.lobbyforcyprus.org/echr/2008/240608-isaac-solomou.htm

DISAPPEARANCES DURING THE 1974 CONFLICT IN NORTHERN CYPRUS

http://cmiskp.echr.coe.int/tkp197/viewhbkm.asp?sessionId=30116453&skin=hudoc-en&action=html&table=F69A27FD8FB86142BF01C1166DEA398649&key=75630&highlight=

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October 14th, 2009, 11:27 am

 

57. majedkhaldoun said:

The constant attack by A.P. against Turkey. can be explained by fear and frustrations.fear that turkey is getting closer to Syria,this is churning his stomach,and may be causing him an ulcer, he is making noises, but it will not effect syrians attitude toward Turkey,his attempts are useless, he will fail

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October 14th, 2009, 12:08 pm

 

58. jad said:

Majed,
It is not him personally, AP just got some order to do so and he has no choice but to write what he is writing, not out of his love to the Armenians or out of humanitarian issues it is all business for him, even his repeated attacks on Dr. Landis is also business.
The sad thing is the other IDIOT attempt to link the faith of Islam to the Nazi, how pathetic, as if the Nazi were listening to any mufti or if they were separating Semites according to their religion not their skin color….
The Nazi start with the Jews while Arabs were next on their list so even if the Mufti met with Hitler and even if he was asking him to gas all the 6millions Jews, that doesn’t change the fact that GERMANS and EUROPEANS are the ones who turn on the gas not ARABS and that where WD analyses is coming from: we as ARABS have no hands in what the WEST did to its Jewish population and therefore it is unfair for us to pay the price for that massacres from our future, our history, our land and our children’s lives, we had no power then and we still have no power now, so spare us from your ‘polite’ and ‘stupid’ propaganda IDIOT.

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October 14th, 2009, 12:41 pm

 

59. Akbar Palace said:

The constant attack by A.P. against Turkey. can be explained by fear and frustrations.

Majedkhaldoun,

I started this “controversial” thread as Post #2. I am not “attacking” Turkey. I am merely pointing out the hypocrisy of Turkey’s recent criticism of Israel’s defensive policies.

Turkey’s foreign policy has varied throughout the years, and it seems to me, and I think we can see that Turkey’s policy has shifted. If that is what Turkey wants to do, that’s fine with me.

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October 14th, 2009, 12:43 pm

 

60. Off the Wall said:

Majed
I believe that the fear is beyond Syria and Turkey getting close. The geopolitical situation in the region seems to be heading towards Turkey playing even a bigger role, as SIMO said

Turkey as a big power has asthonishing long let Israel play the first violin in their neighbourhood.

Turkey’s actions challenge a western centric view of the region. A view which sees Israel’s hegemony as a guarantor of western interest (please note that i am saying hegemony not existence) and on Turkey being treated in one way or another as inferior to much smaller and weaker eastern European states that were invited to join EU with a great fanfare while hurdles were being placed in Turkey’s path every step along the way. Granted, there were issues that Turkey had to deal with such as the abolition of the death penalty and a redress of the Armenian Genocide question, but despite of all of her effort, more demands were being placed constantly, despite of Turkey’s central role in aiding the west’s win of the cold war.

I believe that the new leadership in Ankara has had enough and have arrived at a conclusion that Turkey is by far the biggest regional power at this point in time and that, as a country, it can no longer tolerate being subservient to western interests.

The emerging outlines of the new Turkish paradigm, which includes mutual understanding, fair international order and justice, and dialog, threatens this view and is beginning to chip at this current unsustainable geopolitical reality. If we look beyond the immediate region and start thinking Central Asia, the enormous potential of a larger regional pact begins to emerge.

Notwithstanding Turkey’s own power, a regional alliance, which includes, in addition to central Asian republics, Syria as a gateway to the Gulf and Iran as a gateway to Pakistan and India, makes new regional order not beyond rational contemplation.

What is disconcerting to many, particularly those who want Israel to maintain an illogical hegemony is the fact that the US seems to be mostly ambivalent, and even coldly supportive of this vision. It appears that the cost of the on-going two wars combined with the current economical situation, have finally convinced policy makers in Washington, at least in the current administration, that regional alliances and powers are bound to emerge, and that US interests can be guarded through engagement with these alliances as opposed to military power. In this view, Israel, in its current arrangement, risk becoming more of a liability than an asset. This is where the scary part comes in.

To borrow and extend SIMO’s image, Turkey is now claiming the first violin, in due time, it will probably become the conductor, with Israel, unless it manages to change direction, becoming an off-note trumpet. Syria on the other hand, must enact political, economic, and cultural reforms in order to exchange the monotonic, occasionally annoying, and primitive Rababa, with a rich, beautiful, and versatile Quanoon (pun intended).

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October 14th, 2009, 1:18 pm

 

61. Akbar Palace said:

JAD said:

we as ARABS have no hands in what the WEST did to its Jewish population and therefore it is unfair for us to pay the price

I agree, the “Arabs have no hands in what the west did to its Jewish population”. However, Arabs do have a “hand” in what it does to the State of Israel and international terrorism. Arab and Muslim states have a “hand” in Islamic fundamentalism and support of terrorism (aka “resistance” as described by Professor Josh).

Lastly, good luck to you and your heroes who make up the Islamic Republic of Iran and the quest you have to move Israel back to Germany and/or set the clock back to 1947. I wish you all the best.

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October 14th, 2009, 1:40 pm

 

62. majedkhaldoun said:

O.T.W.
Thank you, I agree fully with what you said.

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October 14th, 2009, 2:11 pm

 

63. jad said:

AP,
First, you are mixing too many issues together that makes no proper base for me to even try to reply.
Second, I refuse your baseless accusation that I supported in anyway or even by word to move any Jewish man/woman back to Germany, because it doesn’t make any sense whatsoever to what I always write and I already know that you wont find that anywhere out of your imagination, So please unless you prove to all that I Jad actually wrote something like that or even closer to what you are accusing me of an apology will be appreciated.
Thank you

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October 14th, 2009, 2:46 pm

 

64. Shai said:

oshua,

You said: “There are risks to Israel’s strategy, but so far, it is hard to see big trouble for Israel on the horizon.”

I disagree. While it is true that Syria did not react to the attack on its “nuclear” facility, I believe it is fair to say it could have. Instead of its aging Soviet tanks, Syria has been developing strong defensive-strategic capabilities which, if tested enough, could “suddenly” turn offensive-strategic. I’m not one to judge whether Syria does or does not pursue nuclear capabilities, but I always pose the following to myself, and to my friends and colleagues: “Give me one reason why Syria should NOT be pursuing such capabilities.” It is apparently known that many nations in our region, including Syria and Israel, have chemical and biological capabilities. So WMD programs aren’t foreign to either nation.

From hearing Sadat’s numerous interviews after October 73, the one message that clearly came across to me was: “Egypt had had enough. And we HAD to prove to Israel that it could not continue behaving like a neighborhood bully.” I believe Israel today is similarly pushing a number of Arab states into the corner of despair. And the more desperate Syria becomes, the more it will seek offensive-capabilities. And, who’s to say that it won’t achieve them one day soon?

If I was Israel’s leader, and suppose I genuinely believed Syria WAS close to nuclear capabilities, or on it way, the lesson I would learn is that it is only a matter of time before Syria succeeds. That this time, I stopped it, but that next time, I won’t. And, therefore, that the longer I wait with the Golan (hoping to get Syria “used to it”), the closer I bring myself to a horrific future confrontation. Like Norman always suggests, Syria may one day elect to suffer a terrible blow, but in so doing to force the International Community to force Israel to return the Golan. One certainly cannot argue against the notion that, without the October 1973 war, Israel would have never returned the Sinai. In that war, despite Egypt’s strong army, it suffered close to 4 times as many dead as did Israel. I’ve heard the number 10,000 dead soldiers in the past (I’m not sure it is true), but Israel lost 1/4 of that.

In almost every sense possible, I cannot see how time is running in Israel’s favor.

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October 14th, 2009, 3:26 pm

 

65. MONTAGNARD said:

SHAI,

Your analysis is right on and it is only a matter of time.
Syria is progressing in many ways, in some with little steps and in some ways in bigger steps. The clock can not be stopped or turned back.
The right climate with the right preparations might just be there one day for the perfect storm.

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October 14th, 2009, 4:00 pm

 

66. SimoHurtta said:

The total number of Greek Cypriot casualties of the 1974 invasion was near 5000, of whom 1619 were reported as missing and the rest as killed.

Akbar the first of two sources which are said to mention this near 5000 in Wikipedia is locked by an ID and a password, the other’s link is broken. Could you use your Little Green Balls account userid and password and check casualties in the first source?

By the way Akbar casualties means dead and wounded.

I do not want to undermine the human suffering in Cyprus, but it is a bit hypocritical to make Turkey the villain of this Cyprus story. Stupid Greek and Greek Cypriot policy and behaviour lead to the evident catastrophe. The Armenian and Kurd “problem solving methods” are completely different stories. In those cases the majority treated badly the minority.

I find it extremely amusing when Israelis and their international chorus now hyperventilate that Turkey has no right to criticize Israel has done the “same” and achieved bigger numbers. What would Israelis and Jews say when Germans would use the same logical approach?

Most humorous this approach was when pro-Israeli chorus some weeks ago denied all critics towards Israel by Sweden and Norway because these countries allegedly have in the past treated badly the Sami people. Well the Sami people are Finno Ugric nomadic tribe and their number is around 100.000 and they have nowadays exemplary rights. If Bedouins in Israel would have equal rights Israel could be proud of itself. But they do not have.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sami_people

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October 14th, 2009, 7:45 pm

 

67. why-discuss said:

IDIt

God forbid we will shutter your orderly little world.

A civilized reply, indeed.

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October 14th, 2009, 8:45 pm

 

68. why-discuss said:

AP

The root of the problem IS 1947. Of course we cannot go back there as Israel’s children are now in a home they have inherited from their parents who acquired it by force and it is natural they defend their rights to stay. An injustice was done and the spirit of justice must prevail now, if it did not in 1947. The question is to decide about what is just, what was done wrong and how to correct it while respecting the inherent right of human beings to have a country, safety and opportunities.
Ideally, there should a international tribunal to study the case, hear the plaignants and agree on a solution.
Instead, like primitives, the case has been treated with blood and violence. It has escalated to higher and higher levels of retaliations and hatred, each party finding its own justification for more violence.
A country claiming it is a democracy is lying if it accepts that conflicts are dealt with violence. Big powers, some of them responsible for the source of the conflict, others its perpetuation, should have the moral courage to organize a large conference of peace on this 60 years war.
Israel and Arabs should have the courage to accept an arbitration on the conflict. Until then there was no one with high morals and enough guts to start such a process. I hope Obama will carry the rest of the big powers with him in that direction. Maybe idealistic but many of the events that stopped wars like Northern Irland, were unrealistic.

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October 14th, 2009, 9:20 pm

 

69. norman said:

Shai,

I agree with you too, as long as Israel can not defeat Syria and the Arab decisively which is not possible because of Israel’s lack of population support and manpower , sooner or later Syria will be able to fight back when it has the will to do so and it loses it’s faith in the US ability to apply international law , what pushes people to take the law in to their own hands is the lack of faith in the legal system and in getting their rights legally.

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October 14th, 2009, 10:20 pm

 

70. Yossi said:

I think Shai is wrong. Syria doesn’t have a sponsor and the world climate is totally different now. In the 70’s all the societies in the middle east and actually around the globe were pretty much mobilized for war. Syrian society is not mobilized for war, it is not prepared to deal with the tax of war and the people are not prepared. In the 70’s, Egyptians knew that sooner or later, they will be in an all-out war with Israel. I don’t think this is the case with Syria. In addition to that, the capabilities that the Egyptians developed in the 70’s allowed them to capture a piece of territory and hold on to it. This made it plenty clear to the world what their intentions were. Syria is not developing such capabilities (as far as I know), and a biological missile attack on Tel Aviv will not mobilize public opinion to Syria’s side.

So I think Syria doesn’t have a military option and I think this is for the better. Nobody needs another war. There is no humanitarian crisis in the Golan that forces Syria to lose its patience. Syria will get the Golan eventually. No war is necessary.

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October 14th, 2009, 11:04 pm

 

71. Antoun said:

Josh

Have the people and leadership of Syria come to terms with Turkey’s occupation of Hatay? I don’t mean politically or strategically but accepting the lose of Hatay as part of historical Syria?
Has realpolitik trumped national aspirations?

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October 14th, 2009, 11:47 pm

 

72. Shai said:

Yossi,

The Sinai also had no humanitarian crisis, and yet Egypt was ready to sacrifice 10,000 of its soldiers for it. Anwar Sadat, her leader, decided that without paying this price he may not get to see Egypt regain its territory back, not during his lifetime. He saw how Egypt tried to offer Israel peace, and failed. How Israel replied with arrogance, and more arrogance. He, not “the Egyptian people”, was ready for war. And he mobilized his army to regain Egypt’s pride.

Wars, as we know, don’t always start with something rational having happened. Very often they start because of misperceptions or misinterpretations. This is how the 1967 War began. The Soviets did a good job of deceiving everyone. They had an interest (at least they thought they did) in causing another Middle Eastern war. Who’s to say this won’t happen again? And how do you know that in the “3rd Lebanon War” (god-forbid), Israel won’t attack Syrian targets as well, punishing it for ongoing support of Hezbollah? And if Syria is attacked, how do you know that won’t lead to all-out war? Do the Syrian people have to first agree?

We must be careful not to “rationalize” the other side’s motivations for war, or for non-war, and deduce based on our own perception of what is rational or irrational. It may be an emotional decision at an instant, taken at the highest level, with very few rounds of “consultation”. The greatest damage the Arabs have caused Israel came after a surprise attack, when Israel wasn’t ready. In this day and age, it will not happen with tanks rolling forward, but with showers of SCUD missiles (I imagine). Israel will respond harshly, and we’ll be at war.

Does Syria have more to lose than gain? Perhaps. Certainly in manpower and material. But how do you gauge the value of those, compared with regaining national pride and, quite possibly, the Golan back?

In every strategic surprise in History the attacker had a reason to attack (when and how he did), and the attacked estimated wrongly the likelihood of such an event. Dayan also thought it was irrational of Egypt, with its defeated army (from 1967), to attack as early as 1973. He “reassured” his nation just weeks before, that such a possibility was highly unlikely. Like you, he thought Egypt was too weak and not ready for war.

Estimates like that scare me… 🙂

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October 15th, 2009, 10:03 am

 

73. why-discuss said:

Yossi

I agree with you: there is no way Syria will engage in a traditional war to get back the Golan. People in Syria are not radicalized, they are tired of hearing and seeing wars. Iraq war, Lebanon war and recently Gaza war largely reported visually on satellite TV and Internet have been traumatic and have totally convinced most arabs that this cannot happen again. I think the time for large scale wars is over.
So either we are going for a on statu quo for another decade, or if the USA is able to gather and stimulate a large international consensus, we may see the signs of a solution sooner.

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October 15th, 2009, 10:49 am

 

74. Shai said:

WD,

I’m not suggesting Syria will necessarily initiate war with Israel, though I personally see no reason why it won’t react next time Israel attacks a Syrian target (as it did in Deir Ezzur). But if Israel continues along the Lebanon II, Gaza XV, type-“operations”, and Hezbollah this time hits Tel-Aviv, and two buildings collapse, killing 35 people, who’s to guarantee Israel won’t attack in such way, that Syria will have no choice but to respond? And then Israel responds to that response and… we’re at war (conventional, unconventional, whatever).

The more time passes, the more “the trigger” is pulled back. At some point, something has to give.

I’m not nearly as confident as some are, that war is unlikely.

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October 15th, 2009, 11:24 am

 

75. Akbar Palace said:

The Real Root Causes & ME “Courage”

The root of the problem IS 1947.

WD,

Yes I know. Please tell that to Shai and the “occupation” crowd.

Israel and Arabs should have the courage to accept an arbitration on the conflict.

You mean like the 1947 Partition Plan? The Arabs had their chance from 1947 thru 1966.

Give me a break WD!

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October 15th, 2009, 11:44 am

 

76. why-discuss said:

AP

1947 to 1990 were years where colonialist powers were still trying to keep their colonies by violence : Suez canal, Iraq oil, etc.. it was a time of arab exarcebated nationalism, idealism on ideologies like communism, foreign engineered fall of monarchies, the cold war etc…
No one in the Arab world would have trusted the western powers at that time. No plan could be accepted as it was tainted with suspicions and greed.
This is maybe why Israel was allowed to defend itself by aggressing and occupying more lands, blasting all UN resolution.

Time has changed. The EU is raining ex-colonialist powers by preventing any unilateralism and imposing strict conventions on human rights, the US fiascos in Iraq and Afhanistan, the stubborn stand of Iran has taught these big powers (including Russia) that trying to dominate and take advantage of countries people technologically inferior is not a piece of cake and may backlash. Is it a coincidence that the collapse of the US economy came at the same time as the huge war spendings in Iraq?

This is why I think it is time to revisit 1947 in the light of the present situation on the ground.
I believe that Arabs in majority have lots of curiosity for the others and prefer fun and pleasure to wars.They would accept he change of mood easily. Yet, I wonder sometimes if Israel with its established military and war-oriented industry, culture and mentality can switch to a more understanding and cooperative mood.

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October 15th, 2009, 12:45 pm

 

77. kingcrane jr said:

Easy (kindergarden level) trivia question of the day:
Who was the founder of the Baas/Baath party?

In the interim, there was an objection to my post about the SPLC and hate groups; I agree that anti-Palestinian hate groups are not under the scrutiny of the SPLC if they are not located on US territory.

Answer to the question:
Zaki Arsouzi, and not late-joiners Michel 3Aflaq or Salaheddine Bittar, created the party. Arsouzi was a 3Alawi from the city of Antioch, currently Antakya in Liwa’ Iskandarona, Turkey.

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October 16th, 2009, 2:20 am

 

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