“America’s Gulf Arab allies and Syria,” by Alex

Written and Posted by Alex

Yesterday David Schenker wrote an article in the Jerusalem Post in which he called on Israel to reverse Prime minister Ehud Olmert's decision to engage in serious peace talks with Syria:

"Although it is a bitter pill for peacemakers in the Jewish state to swallow, by trucking with Syria now, Israel risks inadvertently contributing to the eventual establishment of Hizbullahstan on its northern border."

Calling on Israel to be alert to his warnings and to stop talking peace with Syria follows another demonstration of Schenker's relentless Syria strategy. On September 21, 2007, he wrote "policy Watch #1290" for the Washington Institute for Near East Policy. Its title was "losing Traction Against Syria".

Here is one of the main recommendations in that policy watch: 

"To stem Syria's reacceptance into the international community, Washington needs to convince its European and Arab — particularly Gulf — allies to freeze their engagement with Damascus.

And here is what those gulf Arab allies of the Untied States were doing this week … Eight months after David's Sep 2007 "policy Watch"

1) President of the U.A.E. awarded the Syrian President his country's highest medal.  

 assad_uae_medal_s.jpg

 

2) The popular Emir of Dubai was an enthusiastic host 

assad_uae-emir_s.jpg

 

3) The Emir of Kuwait proudly welcomed the Syrian president

 assad-kuwait_2_s.jpg

4)  Emir of Qatar visited Bashar in Damascus to thank him for his decisive help in reaching the Doha agreement

assad_qatar_s.jpg

5) Kuwait's business leaders promised President Assad dramatically increased Kuwaiti investments in Syria

assad_kuwait_business_s.jpg

6) Dubai's business leaders told him how eager they are to invest much more in Syria

assad-uae_all_s.jpg

Few years ago, Thomas Friedman warned Egypt and Syria that their days are over. According to him, Egypt and Syria were on their way out … to be replaced by the new Arab world leaders, the progressive, ambitious and extravagantly rich Gulf Arabs such as Qatar and Dubai.

Egypt's leadership role seems to have indeed taken a serious hit in recent years. In comparison, Syria, which chose to bet on the smaller Gulf states instead of going Egypt's direction of alliance with (and obedience to) Saudi Arabia, appears to be much more secure about its leading Arab nation role.

Comments (76)


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51. Zenobia said:

AIG,
actually your questions are stupid.

it is very obvious. High quality education costs a lot of money – and its prioritization. Many syrians have a fairly good education, but the jobs are not there for them to achieve more.
(eg. a friend of mine has a good education as an engineer but the best job he can get is doing exhaust inspections of automobiles for the gov’t transportation authority, which basically bores him to tears but is the most reliable employment he can get.)

Israel has been on a fast track since its beginning because of the enormous amount of funding and support it receives from outside, namely american jews who have benefited from american education and economic success. As well, the expectation of high quality education is a part of the culture of Jews certainly in the United States but probably- worldwide and this is a noble quality.The founder of Israel are Europeans, as their american counterparts are, and Europe and the US had already established the notion of the value of and promotion of public education after the industrial revolution.
Syria had no industrial revolution, you might recall. And has never been a wealthy country. Eduction is a biproduct of wealth- and then once it is established it promotes even more growth and prosperity. It is only very recently that Syria has been able to establish a system of public education, and this came with the advent of the Assad regime. It is socialistic in form- egalitarian (as the others have said) – this puts a lot of limitations on it. But only the future will tell how the opening up of education will effect the possibility for higher standards and opportunities.

Comparing the GDP of the United States and the GDP of Syria and the relative differences in public education on the primary and secondary levels, it is by far the United States that should be utterly ashamed of its standards. And we certainly have the data on that!

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June 9th, 2008, 1:16 am

 

52. EHSANI2 said:

Zenobia is correct. High quality educations costs a lot of money.

How much money?

I serve as a volunteer on the Board of private school in the U.S. The tuition of the school is $20,000 per child. The local public school operates with a tax base budget of $22,000 per child. A competing private school in the region has just raised its tuition to $29,900 per child. This is for students for grades 1-12.

How can Syria’s education system compete? Indeed it is a miracle that it still exists when education is provided for free while the local school districts have no tax base of their own to rely on.

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June 9th, 2008, 2:57 am

 

53. AnotherIsraeliGuy said:

I wish I knew which talking points you are talking about. Do you also see ghosts?

I did not make up the fact that Syria’s workers are not skilled enough. Ehsani has been saying this. It also explains why salaries are low in Syria.

Contrary to what you think, Israel is not doing anything special that many other countries are doing. Israel’s success is not related to the Holocaust at all. It is related to the fact that Israel is a democracy.

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June 9th, 2008, 3:19 am

 

54. AnotherIsraeliGuy said:

Zenobia,
My questions are not stupid. If you had a child in the Syrian education system, you would want to know the answers to those questions. If you wanted to imporve the Syrian education system you would want answers to those questions. The whole point of the discussion is that the regime does not even allow this data to be collected or be published.

As for education and wealth, there is a connection but it is far from perfect. Otherwise poor countries could never become rich countries because they could never afford to educate their young well enough to become rich. But we know that this is not the case.

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June 9th, 2008, 3:28 am

 

55. norman said:

AIG ,

I agree with you , your questions are very valid ,

AIG,

Look at my notes , Syrian workers are not very skilled for lack of experience , their academic knowledge is good , they just lack practical experience ,

Most Syrians who make it to the US after public education in Syria do well ,

I can tell you for example that Syrians are not very good in writing reports or creative writing , they are better than the students in the US in math , Physics and science ,i know that because my daughter went to high school in the US , University is different story as no country is better than the US .

One more thing i see is that we are good in knowing the subject as much as the teachers do but lack the know how to improve on that knowledge , we catch that fast in the US schools of higher education , I think the US schools of higher education are known for bringing the best of the students from all over the world.

Some of the reason for illiteracy in Syria comes because of lack of understanding of Islam in poor areas of Syria and of need for the children to help their parents in farming , Education is compulsory in Syria to grade 12 , but it is hard for the government to put people in jail if they do not comply .

I hope this info will help understand , Just remember that in Syria public schools and private schools have the same curriculum , so there is education for the poor and other for the rich.

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June 9th, 2008, 3:40 am

 

56. Zenobia said:

well, i will revise what i said a little bit. Your interest in wanting to know more stats is not stupid, and the idea that questions should be asked in order to improve the system and understand what the impediments to improvement are is not stupid.

but i mean the question about why Syria has inferior education in general to a country like the US or Israel or France is stupid. It is obvious.

and the correlation between quality of education and socio economic status IS in fact perfect.

Actually, the way countries become richer is not because they necessarily have the best public education. It has far more to do with resources, and whether the population can go out of that country to receive higher education, as has been the case in huge numbers for Indians and Chinese, and whether those people return to their homeland to bring their education to service and influence growth in their home country.
India and China’s economies are booming, but this is not because they have the most democratic education or the most superior for the common people. It is an elite, as usual, who are able to access private expensive education and compete to come to the States or Europe to further it and excel, and gain professional experiences, and then bring that know how and potential back to their homeland.

I think growth for poor countries is incremental, and usually starts with some outside education or an elite that has education at its disposal who then filters the benefit of that down to the working classes and the poor who have not been able to get that education but can benefit from economic opportunities anyway.

Syria, yes, does not have a system that has led many foreign educated citizens to return or to build industry and businesses that can employ the rest. So, that is all true, but I think there is some changes happening lately.

When there is more growth then in turn the general education standard will improve- if there is also a system in place by which public resources are used to fund it through taxation or some other form.

Meanwhile, in the United States it is perfectly clear that the wealthy have superior education compared to the poor. Just go to any public school in the poor areas of the deep south, and you will see that it may look far worse than Syria’s average schools.

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June 9th, 2008, 3:48 am

 

57. SimoHurtta said:

Education costs much money? Is that true? Education can cost much money, but do real results in education cost much money. The western world is full of doctors and nurses educated in India, Pakistan, Philippines etc. Many of USA’s top scientists have got their primary education in underdeveloped countries or in countries which use less money for education as USA.

In Finland, which has very successful history in the education level and results in the ranking studies (PISA), are no elite schools (only a couple of religious schools), everybody gets a free 9 year primary education and after that those who want a free university and occupational education. Finnish children start their school at the age of 7, when normally in other countries they start at the age of 6. Our children have 2.5 months summer holidays. Finland hardly uses more money for education as other industrialized countries. So the education results (which are the reasons that matter) are not necessarily depending on the money used.

The US public’s general education level is not very “elevating”, when it comes to the knowledge about the world and even their own country.
http://www.cnn.com/2006/EDUCATION/05/02/geog.test/index.html
* nearly two-thirds of Americans aged 18 to 24 still cannot find Iraq on a map
* half or fewer of young men and women 18-24 can identify the states of New York or Ohio on a map.

Hmmm

What comes to Israel’s rapid “rising”. Israel got over million educated Soviet Jews, who were educated in Soviet Union, not in Israeli “Taleban schools” (Haredi schools).

Rapid Rise of Israel’s Orthodox Schools Sparks Fear of Army, Work Force Shortage
Study: One-Third of Jewish Students Will Receive Haredi Education in 2012
By Daphna Berman
Fri. Aug 03, 2007

PISA results tell us for example

Percentage of students at each proficiency level on the science scale
“Below Level 1
(below 334.94 score points)”
* Israel 14.9 %
* USA 7.9 %
* Finland 0.5 %
* OECD average 5.2 %.

Hmmmm indeed.

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June 9th, 2008, 6:11 am

 

58. SimoHurtta said:

Education costs much money? Is that true? Education can cost much money, but do real results in education cost much money. The western world is full of doctors and nurses educated in India, Pakistan, Philippines etc. Many of USA’s top scientists have got their primary education in underdeveloped countries or in countries which use less money for education as USA.

In Finland, which has very successful history in the education level and results in the ranking studies (PISA), are no elite schools (only a couple of religious schools), everybody gets a free 9 year primary education and after that those who want a free university and occupational education. Finnish children start their school at the age of 7, when normally in other countries they start at the age of 6. Our children have 2.5 months summer holidays. Finland hardly uses more money for education as other industrialized countries. So the education results (which are the reasons that matter) are not necessarily depending on the money used.

The US public’s general education level is not very “elevating”, when it comes to the knowledge about the world and even their own country.
http://www.cnn.com/2006/EDUCATION/05/02/geog.test/index.html
* nearly two-thirds of Americans aged 18 to 24 still cannot find Iraq on a map
* half or fewer of young men and women 18-24 can identify the states of New York or Ohio on a map.

Hmmm.

What comes to Israel’s rapid “rising”. Israel got over million educated Soviet Jews, who were educated in Soviet Union, not in Israeli “Taleban schools” (Haredi schools).

Rapid Rise of Israel’s Orthodox Schools Sparks Fear of Army, Work Force Shortage
Study: One-Third of Jewish Students Will Receive Haredi Education in 2012
By Daphna Berman
Fri. Aug 03, 2007

PISA results tell us for example

Percentage of students at each proficiency level on the science scale
“Below Level 1
(below 334.94 score points)”
* Israel 14.9 %
* USA 7.9 %
* Finland 0.5 %
* OECD average 5.2 %.

Hmmmm indeed.

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June 9th, 2008, 6:12 am

 

59. Zenobia said:

hmm. yeah, those are indeed interesting points. but no matter where you are- it takes educated people to educate young people, and to get those educators and to retain them has some cost to it. Efficiency is another matter. And, yes, the USA is famous for wasting incredible amounts of money on not very good systems.

Meanwhile, the USA also benefits from the entry of the cream of the crop of foreign students who are certainly the brightest and most motivated of their own countries. These people are some of the most driven student and then professionals we have. I witness this first hand- living near Silicon Valley. But as a percentage of their homeland population, they are a small number who make it.

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June 9th, 2008, 6:39 am

 

60. AnotherIsraeliGuy said:

Sim,
Thank you as always for making my point. Where did I ever claim that the Israeli education system does not need to improve? But as you yourself have proven, the DATA about how it is doing is there. We know what we have to improve. We know where we are weak. We criticize our system constantly.

My question is simple. Where is this data about Syria? Even this kind of data the regime does not allow to be collected and published. Even this very very basic freedom of speech is not available.

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June 9th, 2008, 12:11 pm

 

61. Alex said:

AIG said,

“We criticize our system constantly.”

Acrually … THEY criticize their system constantly.

You praise it constantly.

Like the difference between asking a Haaretz writer a tough question, or asking AIPAC members the same tough question

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YPJsx5dG0tc

So … Shai criticizes Israel constantly, but AIG … criticizes those who criticize Israel.

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June 9th, 2008, 12:21 pm

 

62. Alex said:

Officials at the Kuwait Investment Authority (KIA) are holding talks in Syria to discuss “prospects for joint investment cooperation”, the state-run Kuwait News Agency said, citing Khaled al-Hassoun, a member of KIA’s delegation.

The report comes after a state visit to the Arab Gulf by Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, and demonstrates how sovereign funds, brimming with cash as oil prices soar, are diversifying their holdings.

Ties between Syria, where the state-dominated economy is opening more to foreign investment, and the U.S.-backed Kuwaiti government are good, although Syria has been under U.S. sanctions since its backing of what Washington sees as “terrorist groups” in the Middle East.

KIA had at least $213 billion of assets under management as of March 31 last year.

Kuwait has been leading a Gulf drive to explore investment opportunities in Syria.

Noor Investment has been discussing with the Damascus government building a 140,000 barrels per day refinery in eastern Syria, and the Kharafi conglomerate was recently awarded a 45-year build, operate and transfer contract for a 361 room Intercontinental hotel and shopping complex project in Damascus.

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June 9th, 2008, 1:02 pm

 

63. AnotherIsraeliGuy said:

Alex,
WE criticize our system constantly. Where have you seen me say that the Israeli education system does not need improvement?

ALL Israeli papers and media examine the Israeli education system very critically. After all, it is in the interest of all Israelis to improve it.

You said that the Syrian press can discuss many subjects. If it cannot even discuss the education system in Syria, what can it discuss? The fireworks in the Arab culture festival?

What can be more important than having a public discussion about the education system? But even that benign discussion is not possible under the Asad regime.

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June 9th, 2008, 1:18 pm

 

64. Alex said:

AIG,

Please read slowly
I did not claim that you said “that the Israeli education system does not need improvement”

I said that you do not criticize it. If you want to know what criticism is, refer back to the many Haaretz articles that SH posts here.

Instead, you keep telling us about how democracy makes things (including Israel’s education system) beautiful in Israel.

Forget what I am saying .. go back up in this post and look at your comments on Israel’s education systems before SH challenged you.

As for Syrian newspapers not discussing, and criticizing, Syria’s education system .. I am almost sure they do, often.

There is a lot of criticism in Syrian newspapers. They don’t criticize the president and his family, and they don’t criticize Arab leaders in general, and they probably do not criticize the role of the Baath party, and they don’t criticize Syria’s general foreign policy … but I think almost all other areas are subject to criticsm.

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June 9th, 2008, 1:56 pm

 

65. Qifa Nabki said:

See below for more evidence that Hizbullah has more or less turned the ship around. The rest of Lebanon’s political parties have to get a clue or get out of the way. The Hizb is positioning itself to claim a victory from a diplomatic solution to Shebaa, and when it happens, they will reap a significant measure of political capital. This is just another example of HA being one step ahead of everyone else. What Hariri & co. did for half a year between Feb 14 ’05 (i.e. create a new political language that made the old habits and red lines seem irrelevant and outdated), Hizbullah has done consistently since August 2006.

And they’ll keep doing it all the way to the bank (i.e. elections 2009).

PS: (In case no one noticed, I’m trying a new ‘style’ on for size… heavily influenced by the George Will of Syria Comment, my friend Observer.)

😉

Hizbullah Wants ‘Diplomatic Settlement’ of Shabaa Farms Dispute

Hizbullah has reportedly informed French President Nicolas Sarkozy during his brief visit to Lebanon over the weekend that the Shiite group “does not mind a diplomatic settlement” of the Israeli-occupied Shabaa Farms dispute.

The pan-Arab daily Al Hayat on Monday, citing sources close to the French-Hizbullah meeting during a ceremony in honor of Sarkozy at the Baabda Presidential Palace, said Hizbullah had informed the French President that the group “does not mind” a diplomatic settlement of the Shabaa Farms issue.

The sources said Sarkozy had asked Mohammed Raad, head of Hizbullah’s Loyal to the Resistance Bloc: “Do you believe Shabaa Farms could be liberated through diplomatic efforts?”

Lebanese sources told Al Hayat that the Shabaa Farms issue was discussed during talks between Sarkozy and President Michel Suleiman who saw an Israeli withdrawal from the area “would pave the way for a defense strategy agreement among the Lebanese and a settlement of the arms issue.”

The sources stressed that Sarkozy would tackle the Shabaa Farms issue during a June 21-24 visit to Israel and the Palestinian territories.

Beirut, 09 Jun 08, 10:44

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June 9th, 2008, 2:08 pm

 

66. norman said:

QN,

One time when HA took over Beirut , you were very depressed , I told , Do not hate something it might be good for you ,

Do you think that now with Lebanon going the right way I was right.?

QN ,

If i were a lebanese i would very proud of HA , because they can lead Lebanon to a more essential role in the Mideast and organize Lebanon to make it more prosperous.

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June 9th, 2008, 2:35 pm

 

67. AnotherIsraeliGuy said:

QN,
Let’s see Hizballah first agree that the only territorial dispute between Israel and Lebanon is the Sheba farms. That would be progress.

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June 9th, 2008, 3:00 pm

 

68. Qifa Nabki said:

Ammo Norman

You’re right, I was depressed. Because it could have easily gotten completely out of hand. Luckily, it didn’t thanks to a number of factors: the Hizb is supremely disciplined; Walid Jumblatt wisely saw that he had lost completely and he surrendered almost immediately; Hariri’s “militia” was not much of a militia after all, and they were quickly neutralized; the Christians stayed out of it; and the Qataris stepped in quickly and solved the problem, at least temporarily.

So, in hindsight, you (and others like Naji, Alex, etc.) were right, because you were optimistic but cautious at the same time.

As I’ve said before, there are several things about the Hizb that I like and respect. There are also things that I find problematic about them, and frankly, distrust. (If I’m going to be disgusted at images from the Civil War of Christian militamen with icons of the Virgin Mary on their rifle stocks, I’m also going to be turned off every time Na`im Qassim calls the Jews “killers of the prophets”). But, I also feel that even the problematic things are solvable, if the regional conditions permit.

I think that Hizbullah could play a hugely positive role on Lebanese governance, because they have the moral authority and tactical intelligence to criticize corruption, and steer the country toward a more stable and just system. This assumes, of course, that their biggest sponsor (Iran) wants them to play such a role. I have to admit that I’ve become more willing to give Bashar the benefit of the doubt in this regard, whereas a few years ago it really didn’t look to me like Syria was interested in letting Hizbullah put down its weapons. Nowadays, it has become clear that the Hizb is too powerful to be anyone’s pawn, and Bashar has started moving in a direction (peace-wise) that will enable the Hizb to transition to full-time politics, so apparently Bashar is not threatened by this at all.

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June 9th, 2008, 3:00 pm

 

69. Qifa Nabki said:

AIG

I think their official position is the following:

a) Withdrawl from Shebaa
b) Withdrawl from the Kfar Shuba hills
c) Withdrawl from Ghajar
d) Return of prisoners
e) Maps of landmines

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June 9th, 2008, 3:08 pm

 

70. norman said:

There is nothing wrong with all these , Don’t you thing AIG.?

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June 9th, 2008, 3:20 pm

 

71. AnotherIsraeliGuy said:

QN,
It is not clear what their official position is. If they make it clear, it will help move things along.

Norman,
Syria could help a lot by sending a letter to the UN agreeing that Sheba etc. are not Syrian.

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June 9th, 2008, 3:25 pm

 

72. Qifa Nabki said:

I’ve never quite understood the rationale for not demarcating the border.

Is it simply that Syria wants to avoid creating a situation whereby Israel could deny HA its pretext for resistance by withdrawing from the areas marked definitively Lebanese?

Or is there a different reason?

On this issue, by the way, M14 and the FPM speak as one. (Both sides want the border to be clearly demarcated).

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June 9th, 2008, 3:32 pm

 

73. AnotherIsraeliGuy said:

“Is it simply that Syria wants to avoid creating a situation whereby Israel could deny HA its pretext for resistance by withdrawing from the areas marked definitively Lebanese?”

Yes. Isn’t it obvious? Israel would withdraw if the UN affirms the demarcated border because it committed to 425. And then Hizballah will be left with no excuses and no rational for attacking Israel. What use is it for Syria then?

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June 9th, 2008, 3:36 pm

 

74. norman said:

aig,

i do not want to into whether the egg is first or the chicken,

I saw yesterday the movie: Do not miss with Zohan , it was hilarious and promising with a happy ending , you should see it AIG.

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June 9th, 2008, 3:41 pm

 

75. Naji said:

Norman,

I can’t believe it…?! We MUST know each other…!!! 67-73 is exactly the period I lived in Syria, and I lived in both T3 and Banias…!! Well, maybe from 1966 until the IPC was nationalized in 73, I believe… Before and after that period, I lived in England and then the US, until I came back to Syria in 93. I even went to that same cute little school in T3 for a couple of years…!! In Banias, I don’t think they had their own school… we went to the Catholic nun school, Rahbat al Wardieh…! Those were the best of days…!! We must get in touch… I’ll ask Alex for your email…

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June 9th, 2008, 10:28 pm

 

76. norman said:

Naji,

I am waiting for your Email.

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June 10th, 2008, 1:53 am

 

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