Andrew Tabler: “The U.S. Can Help Tackle Syrian Corruption”

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

By Andrew J. Tabler (Published by The Daily Star)

Today Syria is held out as Iran's "Airstrip One" in the Arab world – an Orwellian island Tehran uses to project its power to Israel's borders and the shores of the Mediterranean. Indeed, Iranian-Syrian relations seem closer than ever – including a newly signed military cooperation agreement. Ties between Damascus and Tehran have deepened over the last two years in the face of US and Western isolation, turning their support for Hizbullah, Hamas and Islamic Jihad into an "axis of resistance" against Israel and the United States.

But the recent announcement of indirect talks between Israel and Syria was but the latest sign that Damascus' ties with Tehran – like its ties with all countries – remain ambiguous. A critical way to roll back Iranian influence in Damascus and make a possible Syria-Israel deal worth the paper it's printed on is to recalibrate American policy to address the heart of the Assad regime's economic problems: corruption.

Signs emanating from the Iranian-Syrian alliance this year have been increasingly bizarre – especially when Western and Arab isolation of Syria intensified over Damascus' reticence to help end the presidential gridlock in Lebanon. On February 12, the senior Hizbullah operative Imad Mughniyeh was assassinated in Damascus – a mere stone's throw away from the headquarters of Syria's security services in a country that often claims to be the Arab world's safest. Surprisingly, Damascus branded as "baseless" Tehran's announcement a few days later of a joint Iranian-Syrian investigation, despite Iranian Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki's visit to Damascus the day after the murder. Then a high-profile Iranian project to replace Damascus' aging public bus fleet with Iranian vehicles was mysteriously cancelled and awarded to a Chinese company.

Today, two high-profile Iranian-Syrian joint ventures to assemble automobiles in Syria – the first in the country's history – are barely scraping by due to Syrian government foot dragging on promises to cut tariffs on the plants' imported components. This is particularly odd as the Syrian state owns a 35 percent stake in one of the projects. Even more ambiguous are statistics recently released by Syria's State Investment office which put direct Iranian investment in Syria at $544 million, a mere 8 percent of Arab investment in Syria – a far cry from Iranian reports last year (also citing Syrian government statistics) that estimated Iranian investment at 66 percent of Arab investment in the country.

What can the US do to entice Damascus to keep Tehran at arm's length? Smarten-up its Syria policy. For 40 years, US policy in Syria has focused almost exclusively on Syria's behavior in the region and ignored the regime's looming economic problems. The Assad regime's historic lifeline – oil production – is rapidly running dry. Damascus announced last year it had become a net importer of oil – four years earlier than analysts predicted. In May, the state was forced to slash oil product subsidies, which will make up the lion's share of Syria's estimated 2008 record budget deficit of $3.77 billion.

The only way out of Damascus' looming fiscal crisis is to deepen market reforms and attract international investment. However, rampant corruption continues to hamstring the legal reforms that international businesses need to see before investing on a large scale. A sign that the regime is deeply worried about corruption as well came last February when the state-owned Al-Thawra newspaper published an unprecedented poll in which 99.6 percent of Syrians surveyed accused the state's courts, municipalities and police of corruption.

Iran, which suffers from many of the same problems as Syria, recently announced that it was increasing the value of its hitherto unknown "technical services" to Syria from $1 billion to $3.5 billion. Unfortunately for Syria's leadership, such assistance is a poisoned chalice that is only likely to satisfy the corruption that undermines the market reforms necessary to stave off the regime's eventual economic collapse.

Washington's recent seizure of the assets of senior Syrian officials in the US, as well as the decades-old European Union and United Nations assistance programs in Syria, have yet to entice the regime to clean up its stables. The US, which has no economic assistance programs in Syria, should prepare to step in in the event of a Syria-Israel deal as an outside and experienced player to help promote the rule of law in Syria. This would help Syria attract much-needed foreign investment, integrate it into the global economy, reduce unemployment and earn the US points with the Syrian people. To lay the groundwork and compete with Iran in Syria ahead of a possible Syria-Israel deal, the US should also recalibrate trade sanctions on Syria to help its companies that shun corruption and business with Iran to more easily do business with America.

Understanding an Arab country's economic woes and their impact on policy should be old hat for Washington. A key reason why Egyptian President Anwar Sadat attacked Israel in 1973 and then sued for peace five years later was that decades of war and domestic authoritarian rule had put Egypt on its back economically. The US understood this and manipulated the situation to its advantage when it brought about a breakthrough in Middle East peacemaking at Camp David in 1979. The US and its allies should plan to do the same with Syria in the years to come.

Andrew Tabler is consultant editor of Syria Today magazine and a former fellow of the Washington-based Institute of Current World Affairs. He is author of the recent Stanley Foundation report: "The High Road to Damascus: Engage Syria's Private Sector." He wrote this commentary for THE DAILY STAR.

Comments (100)


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1. Majhool said:

Not only do we want to change superpowers, neighbors and enemies, now we are asking them to rid us from corruption.

Too much energy is spent on what THEY can do for us, as apposed to what we can do for ourselves. It’s maybe a sign of creativity given our collective inability to address our problems.

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July 29th, 2008, 8:24 pm

 

2. ausamaa said:

I am wondering wether Andrew Tabler was under the influence of something when he wrote this piece!

He starts with the Iran-Syria theme then somehow moves on to the matter of the article: “The U.S. Can Help Tackle Syrian Corruption”. Even then, he omits to mention wether the US ability – or interest- to help Syria “tackle corruption” is based on the fact that the US has become so aquinted with corruptive practices after the first hand experience its military and politicians have gained through the common corruptive practices of its organs during the “liberation” of Iraq as excersised by Halliberton, Blackwater Inc. and KPR and etc,…
I am sure the Syrian Council of Ministers is going into an emergency session right now to study Andrew Tabler’s and the Daily Star proposal.

The Chenny led corrupted regime in DC can help Syria “tackle” corruption.. a good punch line!

If we are running out of articles to post, how about an article visiting the issue of Lebanon’s latest POW exchange with Israel and its ramifications? A More intersing subject indeed.

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July 29th, 2008, 9:35 pm

 

3. Qifa Nabki said:

Ausamaa,

What are the ramifications of the POW exchange, do you think?

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July 29th, 2008, 11:32 pm

 

4. trustquest said:

This is the first article I read on this blog predicting economic collapse, which I sadly believe is coming sooner than anyone expected. This sensing can be easy drawn from reading Syrians officials outlets, their GDP unprecedented increase while they are under embargo, and their oil production is fading.

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July 30th, 2008, 12:33 am

 

5. Alex said:

Trustquest

I bet you there will be no economic collapse : )

And they will find a lot of oil within a year.

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July 30th, 2008, 12:45 am

 

6. Alex said:

Look at the incriminating photo they select to go with the article

http://www.asharqalawsat.com/details.asp?section=4&article=480763&issueno=10837

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July 30th, 2008, 12:51 am

 

7. trustquest said:

I hope so too Alex, and here where your role might be of great important :)) And thanks for posting Hind’s article in the previous post. I hope it will be a main one soon.
BTW, I owe Hid an apology for a comment I made regarding a post about the Mofti. And since you are a great guy and can take it :)) I fault you for not presenting her adequately :).
This wonderful expat puts to shame all other expats in her defend of the civil society and democracy even when meeting with Syrian officials. She is an avid supporter of civil society in Syria, she has a wonderful piece for Michel Kilo. http://www.hindkabawat.com/free_michel_kilo.htm
She also have Dr. Alrif Dalileh picture on her first page. http://www.hindkabawat.com
I would also like to nominate her to the position of Queen of Syrians who we are really proud of.

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July 30th, 2008, 2:18 am

 

8. Karim said:

I add my voice to yours.Bravo Mrs Kabawat.She is a wonderful daughter of Damascus.

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July 30th, 2008, 3:10 am

 

9. jo6pac said:

Majhool said:

I agree we are with out a doubt the most corrupted regime ever and until we can solve the problems in the US helping some one else is a joke.

ausamaa said:

They’re mostly under the crazed thought that they can control all, I wish I could make them go away but voting doesn’t seem to work any more in the home of the brave and free. Amerika.

Thanks Josh for other news and to you commentors.
jo6pac
Everything is on schedule, please move along.
jo6pac

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July 30th, 2008, 3:15 am

 

10. Alex said:

Trustquest and Karim,

I will call Hind to read to her your comments. She will be very happy.

I spoke to her for an hour today. She is enjoying a nice summer in Damascus. And yes, she is an incredible supporter of Syria’s political prisoners and an even more effective voice for reason and religious coexistence. She studied conflict resolution in Grad school … I like her way of dealing with our conflict-rich Middle East.

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July 30th, 2008, 3:47 am

 

11. Zenobia said:

Several qualms with Andrew’s argument:

One is that it is based on advocating that the US (or any other power) needs to “manipulate” Syria into having the foreign policy that said powers want her to have.
This idea of manipulation seems to be a huge part of the reason that Syrians and many other populations don’t trust the United States or its motivations and why they are so rejectionists about foreign help from the USA (and even keep a tight reign on assistance and programs of the EU).

Second, the whole piece seems to ignore a lot of other matters connected to the strained relations between Syria and America. The biggest one being relations with Israel. Andrew is I guess saying that his proposal could become reality as soon as we come to an Syrian Israeli Peace agreement. However, I am not so certain that bygone will be bygones as soon as the papers are signed and Syria will just welcome in all the American assistance and influence it is offered. It is going to take a lot longer than that for trust to be established.

Third, there seems to be a contradiction or a significant problem with Andrew’s explanation about why corruption could be addressed by outside influence. Namely, he says that the regime has had a problem with wide spread corruption, and that they want to address it but have been unable to. Why have they been unable to? would be a good question to ask, i think. The story presented, that the regime wants to fix this, implies that they are not part of the problem and the corruption. If this is so, then why shouldn’t they be able to fix it? And if the government of Syria can’t address this problem, then how successful would be some outside entity like the US?
If efforts by the regime are already meeting resistance, I think this attempt would be met by all the resistance in the world.
In addition, if the regime is actually part of the problem or involved in the problem of corruption in some ways, then there is even more reason why it is reluctant to really change the system. And therefore, they are certainly not going to invite others from outside to ‘tell us how to do it’ so to speak.

This is all to say that the recommendations written in the piece sound rather naive, as if this would not have been tried before had it been so easy to implement.

The whole notion that educated Syrians or the regime doesn’t know what would have to be done to obliterate corruption, is ridiculous. They don’t need guidance from America to do this. The problem is the will to do it, not the know how.

Lastly, if the whole reason for Sadat to reach for peace was to stave off economic collapse in Egypt, and America was motivated to assist with this crisis (which is sort the picture Andrew paints) then why is the economy of Egypt still the shits today, and so much of the population destitute.
I really don’t think this was the main motivation (Egyptians land seems more significant), but if it was – (as I see Andrew was saying that the economy was being sapped by the continuous military struggle to get the land back), being ‘manipulated’ by the United States didn’t help Egypt so much in the long run.

I think the USA and its policies should not get credit for the “breakthrough in Middle East peacemaking”… Jimmy Carter should get the credit for being an exceptional person with an honest character. And Sadat as well, was exceptional.
They were strategizing, but neither man was out to manipulate the other to give up their own interests. They wanted peace for its own sake and a just resolution.
Syria wants a just action on the Golan to take place. And she needs economic opportunity. But Syrians are much better at manipulating than the Americans ever have been, and it is a activity not to be used to try to force her to relinquish her own self interest by playing one need off another, even if that interest may include keeping alliances with all the nations in her sphere whether they are enemies of America or not.

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July 30th, 2008, 5:26 am

 

12. offended said:

Although she was a bit toward 14M, I felt greatly sad for her:
http://archive.gulfnews.com/articles/08/07/29/10232727.html

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July 30th, 2008, 10:42 am

 

13. Gullgamish said:

I just came back from a 2 weeks visit to Al-Sham. I am still baffled, although never surprised, when people in the US ask me if it was safe or if I felt safe being there? ☻

Andrew’s article, and most main stream media’s articles and opinions, which are the source and reason for the type of question I just recited, are written with such acrobatic background and knowledge, they in fact are suspended in the air and are out of touch with the earthly Syria we know!

The resilient and innovative Syrians, regardless of the macro politics around them, can survive without the US and with or without the Iranians. The richness in Syria allows her people to exploit the regional demands and provide just the right dose of supply.

Syrians lived during the past 3 decades in an incredible isolations at times, and have survived without daily electricity, and with the scarcity of EVERY commodity!

There are tremendous challenges for the hard working class and the poor. A statement that applies to all countries with the exception of the oil-rich ones.

I hope to place more substance between the lines, at least one day!

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July 30th, 2008, 11:25 am

 

14. Akbar Palace said:

Gullgamish said:

I just came back from a 2 weeks visit to Al-Sham. I am still baffled, although never surprised, when people in the US ask me if it was safe or if I felt safe being there?

Gullgamish,

I never hear about any violence in Syria except for maybe an assassination once every five years.

My impression is that Syria is one of the safest countries in the world, so I’m baffled why there is a need for “military rule” in Syria for the past 40-some years.

Maybe you have a clue?

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July 30th, 2008, 11:52 am

 

15. Nour said:

Israeli planes have been violating Lebanese airspace and conducting regular mock raids for the last 10 days. Where is the Lebanese government? Where are those March 14 advocates of the Lebanese state who always rip the Resistance for its “violation of the sovereignty of the state?” Let’s see this Lebanese state act and do something. What a joke it truly is.

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July 30th, 2008, 1:29 pm

 

16. Qifa Nabki said:

Nour

That’s a rather disingenuous question, don’t you think?

After all, “Israel has been violating [Syrian LANDspace] and [building wineries and ski resorts] for the last [41 years]. Where is the [Syrian] government? Let’s see this [Syrian] state act and do something. What a joke it truly is.”

You get the idea…

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July 30th, 2008, 2:01 pm

 

17. Nour said:

QN,

I’m not defending the Syrian government’s actions, or lack thereof, regarding the Golan. But the Lebanese government pretends like nothing is happening when “Israel” violates its sovereignty on a daily basis and only cries out “sovereignty!” when the Resistance is involved. And to be fair the Syrian state has gone to war to retrieve the Golan and has adopted, as a state, the responsibility of liberating the Golan, whereas the Lebanese state has never shown any interest in protecting itself from “Israeli” threats. Not even a minor complaint. Where are the March 14 advocates of sovereignty? Why are they not calling for the defense of Lebanese sovereignty when it is attacked by Israel, but throw a tantrum over sovereignty matters only when it comes to the arms of the resistance?

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July 30th, 2008, 2:07 pm

 

18. Qifa Nabki said:

Nour,

The Lebanese state can do little more than register the violations of its sovereignty, which is what it does. This is what Sayyed Hasan mocks when he says that we do not wish to merely sit on the border and register violations.

The reason that the state can do no more than this is because it is not allowed to proceed with negotiations to liberate the rest of its land. I know that Why-Discuss will disagree with me, but I believe that it is perfectly clear why Syria will not permit its Lebanese brothers to weaken Hizbullah’s status as a legitimate resistance by eliminating its final pretext.

All that being said, however, I wouldn’t mind seeing Hizbullah’s Chinese air-to-surface missiles being “donated” to the Lebanese Army. It might make the IAF think twice about conducting its daily joyride and shattering windows all over Lebanon.

What is the purpose of such flights anyway? The jets move too quickly (breaking the sound barrier) to conduct any reconnaissance. Is it just chest-thumping?

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July 30th, 2008, 2:32 pm

 

19. Nur al-Cubicle said:

Let’s tackle corruption in Alaska first.

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July 30th, 2008, 2:35 pm

 

20. Alex said:

Zenobia,

I agree with everything you said, but I think Andrew was trying to speak to some in the American administration in a language they can understand.

He wanted to suggest a very simple thing: Work with Syria, not against Syria.

But they heard it before and they did not go for that advice. They feel that working with Syria is a shameful thing.

So he is trying to make it easier for them … you know, they are only working for good on earth .. they only want to promote democracy and fight corruption. So he is telling them “look! .. if you work with Syria, then you can help fight corruption!…. and fighting corruption is a good thing, the kind of thing you guys wanted to do in the Middle East”

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July 30th, 2008, 2:55 pm

 

21. Alex said:

Obama to House Dems: If Sanctions Fail, Israel Will Likely Strike Iran

July 30, 2008 9:30 AM

Sen. Barack Obama, D-Illinois, met with House Democrats yesterday, talking about his trip abroad and his observations.

Obama told the caucus, according to an attendee, “Nobody said this to me directly but I get the feeling from my talks that if the sanctions don’t work Israel is going to strike Iran.” Others in the room recall this as well.

The notion that Israel is preparing for such an action against Iran’s myriad nuclear facilities is not new, with conjecture heating up in May after an Israeli military exercise featuring 150 aircraft flying almost a thousand miles over the Mediterranean Sea in what was seen as a dress rehearsal for an air strike. Now that the Bush administration is engaged in diplomatic efforts with Iran, many Israeli officials are worried the US is getting soft on Iran, prompting Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak to travel to the US this week to meet with Defense Secretary Robert Gates, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, and National Security Adviser Stephen Hadley. Barak’s office released a statement saying “a policy that consists of keeping all options on the table must be maintained.”

Another attendee at the meeting of House Democrats recalls Obama saying that the good news is that Obama got the sense that the Arab states understand just how destabilizing a nuclear Iran would be — a “game changer,” Obama said — because they know Israel would probably strike and that would be bad for everyone.

A senior adviser to Obama told ABC News that Obama was heartened to hear Jordan’s King Abdullah share that view with him in their private meeting.

The Obama campaign had no comment.

- jpt

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July 30th, 2008, 3:03 pm

 

22. ghat Albird said:

What a catchy title, Andrew Tabler ponderously pontificates under, “The US Can Help Tackle Syrian Corruption”?.

The implication obviously is that the US, who the Congress and/or the Senate whom most of them are bought and paid for by lobbies chief among them being AIPAC are expert in fixing other people’s corruption?

Or is that the US only has extensive experience in non-israeli corruption with an emphasize on Syria?

While no society is immune to a modicum of corruption [how would politics be practiced sans it] its a hard sell to accept that the US is the prime tackler of corruption, cause if it were the Ted Steven’s would not be indicted [Sen. from Alaska and recipient of some $60,000 from AIPAC as compared to Sen. Joe Lieberman's, odd $300.000s ].

Is it possible that in our lifetime for every opinion, commentary, article that in some form or fashion denigrates Arab individuals and societies that an equivalent point by point and parallel opinion, commentary, etc be made by an Arab about those making such statements?

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July 30th, 2008, 3:03 pm

 

23. Alex said:

Dr. Buthaina Shabaan is now adviser for political and Media affairs to President Assad.

Joseph Sweid is replacing her as minister of expat affairs.

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July 30th, 2008, 3:08 pm

 

24. norman said:

Hi Alex,

I will be interested in a topic about corruption in Syria , reasons and treatments.

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July 30th, 2008, 3:34 pm

 

25. norman said:

Syria and Israel end 4th round of indirect talks, more set for Aug.

By Reuters

Tags: Syria, Israel, Turkey

A fresh round of indirect peace talks between Israel and Syria, mediated by Turkey, ended on Wednesday and a fifth round is due next month, a
senior source close to the talks told Reuters. Israel and Syria launched the talks in May but have not yet agreed to hold face-to-face negotiations.

“The fourth round has ended. It was positive. The fifth round will be in mid-August, and again indirect,” the senior source close to the talks told Reuters. The talks took place at an undisclosed location in Istanbul.
Advertisement

The source said he expected a sixth round in September, but did not specify whether that round would be face-to-face.

“When the process moves to direct talks it means we are very close to a solution,” the source said.

Negotiations centre on the fate of the Golan Heights, a strategic plateau which Israel captured from Syria in the 1967 Middle East war. Damascus demands the return of all the Golan.

Israel, in turn, wants Syria to scale back ties with the Jewish state’s main foes – Iran, the Palestinian group Hamas and the Lebanese Hezbollah movement. Syria has so far refused to do so.

Prime Minister Ehud Olmert called on Damascus on Tuesday to break with Iran in favor of a broader peace.

He also described the fresh round of Israeli-Syrian talks as “serious and
practical.”

Related articles:

Olmert: Syria must choose between peace and isolation

Jerusalem officials: Syria taking talks with Israel seriously

Public figures attempting Syria talks outside official track, says Olmert

Bookmark to del.icio.us

Digg It!‎

Internal fighting
Human rights

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July 30th, 2008, 3:38 pm

 

26. Atassi said:

Dr. Buthaina Shabaan always wanted to be close by the Assad’s clan, I am sure she hated the fact of being pushed away from them in the past years. I think she is one of the most loyal to Dr. Bashar “now within spitting distance form him” :-)

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July 30th, 2008, 3:41 pm

 

27. Alex said:

Norman,

I am interested too … but both you and I are considered “pro regime” .. the idea is to get the others to write, not only us.

Try to convince a few of them and I will go for it.

Atassi,

Remember what I suggested last year when we discussed Dr. Shabaan’s role on Creative Syria?

Conclusion?

Either drop most of the “Syria spokesperson” duties and concentrate on the ministry, or drop the ministry and the official link to the government, but become a full time, more independent, spokesperson for Syria.

Keeping both jobs leads to many conflicts. I understand much of the criticism here and elsewhere.

http://creativesyria.com/syrianbloggers/?p=45#comment-711

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July 30th, 2008, 3:45 pm

 

28. JAD said:

I agree with you Alex about the article, Andrew is doing it in a smart way; he is speaking with the same language the American administration does.
Mr. Attassi, I’m not defending Dr. Buthaina since she can defend herself, but I do think that it is unfair not to see that she went her way up through her hard work and her writing about what she believes in and the women rights in our region, she never talked about “Syrian women” she always talk about “Arab women” we have to give her credit for that, beside who cares if she likes “Assad” or not, is that a fault that we should despite or ridicule her? Aren’t we free to like whoever we want?

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July 30th, 2008, 4:02 pm

 

29. EHSANI2 said:

A Falafel sandwich costs 0.43 cents (SYP 20).

Let us assume a household of 5 only (3 children):

5 * 0.43 * 3 * 30 = $ 195.65

The average salary of a Syrian Civil Servant is $300.

This means that if the person feeds his family only falafel for breakfast, lunch and dinner, he would have to fork out 65% of his salary on this line item alone.

This may help to understand why there is corruption in Syria.

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July 30th, 2008, 4:05 pm

 

30. Nidal said:

Ehsani,

Just for fun, you forgot to multiply by 30 in your equation to balance both sides. ;-)

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July 30th, 2008, 4:14 pm

 

31. Majhool said:

Ehsani,

Does your calculation also explain why Makhlouf (cousin of the president) is worth billions of dollars at age 35?

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July 30th, 2008, 4:20 pm

 

32. Off the Wall said:

EHSANI

Paul salem argues that there is a feedback loop between corruption and development in his study.

he Impact of Corruption on Human Development in the Arab World

The study is available @

http://www.transparency-lebanon.org/2006/Archives/Human%20Development-%20Corruption.PDF

The highlight (Verbatim)

High levels of corruption have a number of effects on slow human development:
a. corruption raises transaction costs and uncertainty in the economy.

b. it skews the policy-making process and results in inefcient and irrational outcomes.

c. it is regressive in that it lays a larger burden on small and medium enterprises who need to set aside
a larger share of their time and income to deal with it.

d. it undermines state legitimacy and the rule of law.

e. it leads to wider income disparities because those with inuence gain more advantages; and those
without, lose out.

But low levels of human development also have a causal effect on levels of corruption:
a. in poor and developing countries, institutions of oversight, control, and punishment of individuals
in power are likely to be weak.

b. High levels of government control, economic monopolies, and arcane regulations render the opportunities and incentives for corruption high.

c. Among middle and low level public servants, very low pay structures provides its own motivation for corruption.

d. Weak insurance and social security environments, and inefcient labor markets, provide additional motivation for civil servants to make the most of their current posts.

e. General inefciency of the public sector creates incentive for citizens to use corruption as a means to speed up their transactions with the public sector.

f. Populations with primary food, housing, health and educational concerns have pressing immediate concerns and are more likely to develop clientelistic relations with politicians rather than hold them broadly accountable to principles of integrity and transparency.

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July 30th, 2008, 4:23 pm

 

33. norman said:

Alex,

Why don’t you write your opinion , That will stimulate the discussion.

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July 30th, 2008, 4:27 pm

 

34. EHSANI2 said:

You don’t need an applied mathematics degree to crunch the numbers into my falafel formula.

Back in the early 1980′s, the “Mn Ayna Laka Haza” slogan was born. Scores of merchants and industrialists were questioned about their wealth and the way in which they enriched themselves given the tax rates, the import restrictions and the general business environment at the time.

I am always fascinated by that “Mn Ayna Laka Haza” drive by the die hard Baathists of that era. Indeed, I wonder what they would say if they showed up today?

Given my falafel formula, they may end up throwing 50% of the country’s population in prison.

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July 30th, 2008, 4:51 pm

 

35. Majhool said:

You said it your self, (Merchants and industrialists). The measure was intended to undermine them and not curb corruption at the administration level where is needed the most. The 80s era was retaliatory, Baathist wanted to further undermine their opponents. Why would you ask a merchant “Mn Ayna Laka Haza”,?? it does not make sense! If they were well intentioned they would have reformed the Tax system. The system in Syria fosters corruption. You will not be able to address it unless you change the political structure in the county.

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July 30th, 2008, 5:01 pm

 

36. norman said:

Ehsani,

How do they prevent corruption in the US ?.

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July 30th, 2008, 5:01 pm

 

37. Majhool said:

It’s called checks and balances.

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July 30th, 2008, 5:04 pm

 

38. Nidal said:

OTW,

Salem’s paper is very interesting. Indeed, it is too general and doesn’t go into the details, but it is a solid framework for such a project. Thanks for the link.

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July 30th, 2008, 5:06 pm

 

39. EHSANI2 said:

You cannot “prevent” corruption. Every country has it. Humans are prone to temptation.

When a country pays its civil servants a salary that it knows fully well to be totally inadequate, corruption will follow.

When a person is convicted of corruption in a place like the U.S. (or others), the legal and financial implications are dire.

This does not mean that the state can eliminate the disease.

We should not be surprised by the level of corruption in the country. WE must instead be surprised if it did not exist.

Again, all you need is to to plug the numbers into the formula.

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July 30th, 2008, 5:20 pm

 

40. Alex said:

OTF,

I’m sure there are other interesting feedback loops if we specifically look at Syria’s idiosyncrasies.

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July 30th, 2008, 5:22 pm

 

41. Alex said:

Offended, please read the sad comments on Al-Arabyia.

http://www.alarabiya.net/articles/2008/07/30/53949.html

Many of these people are satisfied the Lebanese actress was killed and cut into pieces.

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July 30th, 2008, 5:25 pm

 

42. Zenobia said:

Alex, Jad,

yes, I agree that Andrew is tailoring his words to some American administration type audience.

However, I still dislike the tone, and think that it isn’t playing it the “smart way” in the long run. Or rather there should be a better way to speak. Because I think that it engages in a way that we should change. It panders to American narcissism and at the same time- perpetuates stereotypes that the arab states like Syria are just too incompetent or impotent to solve their own problems.

Of course there is in fact a lot of incompetence in Syria, but this is not an inherent quality nor impossible to change. But I think the syrians themselves have to recognize the benefits of a merit system and or greater rule of law and to start demanding it. It was already noted in the article that the average syrian complains about corruption and sees that as the biggest problem. That’s a good sign to my mind that there is momentum for change if in fact the regime does want to address it. They have popular demand behind them.

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July 30th, 2008, 5:31 pm

 

43. Alex said:

Olmert: I’ll quit once new Kadima leader chosen
By Barak Ravid, Haaretz Correspondent and Haaretz Service
Tags: Kadima, Ehud Olmert, Israel

Prime Minister Ehud Olmert said Wednesday that he has decided not to contend in the Kadima primary election and would resign as soon as the new party leader was chosen, due to the criminal investigations that have embroiled him in recent months.

“I have decided I won’t run in the Kadima movement primaries, nor do I intend to intervene in the elections,” Olmert said in an official statement to the public from his official residence in Jerusalem on Wednesday evening.

“When a new [Kadima party] chairman is chosen, I will resign as prime minister to permit them to put together a new government swiftly and effectively,” he added.

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July 30th, 2008, 5:46 pm

 

44. Alex said:

Poll: 36 percent of public backs Netanyahu as PM; Livni garners 24.6 percent.

also …

Syria and Israel end 4th round of indirect talks, more set for Aug.
By Reuters

A fresh round of indirect peace talks between Israel and Syria, mediated by Turkey, ended on Wednesday and a fifth round is due next month, a
senior source close to the talks told Reuters. Israel and Syria launched the talks in May but have not yet agreed to hold face-to-face negotiations.

“The fourth round has ended. It was positive. The fifth round will be in mid-August, and again indirect,” the senior source close to the talks told Reuters. The talks took place at an undisclosed location in Istanbul.
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The source said he expected a sixth round in September, but did not specify whether that round would be face-to-face.

“When the process moves to direct talks it means we are very close to a solution,” the source said.

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July 30th, 2008, 5:48 pm

 

45. Shai said:

It’s now official – Olmert will step down as PM in mid September, following the primaries in his party Kadima. That means we will have a new Prime Minister in about 6 weeks from now, most likely either Tzipi Livni or Shaul Mofaz.

If for some reason, the new elected head of Kadima is unable to keep the coalition together, only then will new general elections take place. But for now, and assuming Ehud Barak isn’t suffering from overconfidence (thinking he may be able to defeat Netanyahu should elections take place), we can pretty safely expect a continuation of talks with Syria. If Mofaz defeats Livni in the primaries, talks may be stopped by the Syrians, who will likely request “clarifications” of Mofaz’s latest no-withdrawal-from-Golan comments. But unless Mofaz is ready to leave Kadima, and head back to the Likud from which he came, chances are he’ll stay the course.

In polls taken recently, Livni is slightly ahead of Mofaz, but he seems to be catching up. Sounds familiar? :-)

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July 30th, 2008, 5:55 pm

 

46. Shai said:

Alex,

Those figures your mentioned (36% Netanyahu, 24% Livni) may be misleading. It very much depends on what was asked. Since the two figure don’t add up to 95% or 100%, chances are the poll mentioned another one or two candidates (total of 3 or 4). If a poll was taken, giving only Netanyahu and Livni as options, there is no doubt Netanyahu would have far more than 50%, and quite likely more than 60%.

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July 30th, 2008, 6:02 pm

 

47. Seeking the Truth said:

AP said:
My impression is that Syria is one of the safest countries in the world, so I’m baffled why there is a need for “military rule” in Syria for the past 40-some years.

And I ask: does authoritarian rule tend to keep the level of interpersonal violent crime low?

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July 30th, 2008, 6:04 pm

 

48. Alex said:

Shai

Thanks.

Yes, I am assuming Barak’s name was there too among others.

So … there is a good chance that Ausamaa will be happy. Livni (for few months)

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July 30th, 2008, 7:05 pm

 

49. Majhool said:

Interesting comments on Al-Jazeera’s report on the trial of Damascus Declaration activists.

http://aljazeera.net/NR/exeres/51145A1E-6503-4A45-8DF2-8970E210D67E.htm

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July 30th, 2008, 7:05 pm

 

50. Shai said:

Alex,

Yes, I just saw the original poll (on Ha’aretz). It was also Barak, and he got only 11% support! He has no chance against Bibi…

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July 30th, 2008, 7:08 pm

 

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