Annapolis Round Up: Was Syria a Winner at Annapolis?

If Lebanese Chief of Staff Michel Suleiman becomes president of Lebanon, Syria will be a winner as a result of Annapolis. Lebanon as well.

Hariri's people announced today that they have reversed their decision to reject Lebanon's Army chief of Staff as president. The Future Movement is now backing Michel Suleiman for president. Here is the story: Lebanese majority backs army commander as president, in the Jerusalem Post.

This decision must be connected to Syria's decision to go to Annapolis. How? We don't yet know. Did Saudi Arabia broker it? Did France? Both? It is hard to tell. It is the right choice for Lebanon, given the circumstances.

Here is Amal Saad-Ghorayeb's analysis in the Daily Star:

Electing Suleiman "would signal a victory of sorts for the opposition, but a blow to Aoun," said Amal Saad-Ghorayeb, visiting scholar at the Carnegie Middle East Center. "Part of the rationale behind this was to get him to withdraw his candidacy and put him in a corner. One motive behind this is to prevent Aoun from becoming president, and the other is to find a solution."

US-Syrian relations will be the key geopolitical dynamic affecting Suleiman's chances, and the two sides seem to be smiling on his candidacy, Saad-Ghorayeb said.

"It appears very much to be a Syrian-American agreement," she said. "It's not because of Annapolis. We were witnessing some Syrian-American rapprochement before Annapolis. I think that the [rapprochement] process will continue for some time, as long as the Americans and Syrians are engaged in talks."

March 14 touting Suleiman represents a victory for the opposition, which had raised Suleiman's name as a compromise solution before declaring Aoun the opposition's presidential nominee, Saad-Ghorayeb said.

"It's basically everything the opposition wanted," she said. "This is the exact same initiative the opposition was proposing.

"It appears the US has backpedaled, as has March 14. It's a reversal of policy. Anyone who goes back a few weeks will see that."

Here is Alex's summary of an article by Randa Tekkidine in Al-hayat.  She strikes a very different tone than her usual Syria bashing heckle.

She is saying that although the original plan was that Syria would pay in advance (help Lebanon elect a pro west president) before France rewards Syria with improved relations, the Syrians managed to get what they wanted without paying in advance and without paying anything at all.

مستقبل العلاقة الفرنسية – السورية
رندة تقي الدين الحياة – 28/11/07//

خلال مناسبات عدة، علنية أو خاصة، قال الرئيس الفرنسي نيكولا ساركوزي إن شرط تطبيع العلاقة بين فرنسا وسورية هو عدم عرقلة الأخيرة انتخابات الرئاسة اللبنانية. وأكد باستمرار التزامه بالمحكمة الدولية والكشف عن المسؤولين عن اغتيال رئيس الحكومة اللبنانية السابق رفيق الحريري ومحاكمتهم، كما أكد باستمرار أن الحوار والتطبيع مع سورية لن يتما قبل أن يكون للبنان رئيس. حتى أن بعض أوساط قصر الاليزيه كان يؤكد دائماً أن «على سورية أن تدفع مسبقاً، وبعدها نكون مستعدين للتطبيع وإعادة العلاقات معها». أما الآن فقد اصبح الحوار الفرنسي – السوري طبيعياً، وبدأت المحادثات الأميركية – السورية في أنابوليس، ولا يزال لبنان من دون رئيس، وجميع الأوروبيين يتحدثون مع النظام السوري، ولا يبقى إلا أن يزور الرئيس السوري بشار الأسد باريس أو أن يزور ساركوزي دمشق. فقد وجهت فرنسا رسائل عدة إلى القيادة السورية، وحملها أهم معاوني ساركوزي، الأمين العام للرئاسة الفرنسية كلود غيان.

وينبغي الاعتراف بأن الرئيس السوري نجح في رمي الكرة في ملعب فرنسا عندما طلب من المبعوث الفرنسي أن يقوم البطريرك الماروني نصرالله صفير بإعداد لائحة بأسماء مرشحين للرئاسة، لأن لفرنسا علاقة تاريخية مع مسيحيي لبنان. وكان هذا المسعى ذكياً وبعيد النظر، لأن لسورية علاقات واسعة في لبنان، وتأثيرها على الأرض، بعد 30 عاماً من سيطرتها على القرار السياسي فيه، ما زال عميقاً وقوياً عبر حليفيها «حزب الله» و «حركة أمل». وكانت سورية تدرك أنها نتيجة التحالف بين «حزب الله» وطرف مسيحي أساسي هو العماد ميشال عون، يمكنها أن تظهر لفرنسا أن الفشل سببه اللبنانيون أنفسهم وليس سورية.

وهذا ما حصل بالفعل. فعندما ذهب غيان مجدداً إلى دمشق ليسأل الرئيس السوري عن وعده والتزامه خلال الاتصال الهاتفي الذي أجراه معه ساركوزي، قيل له إن سورية التزمت بما تعهدت به على صعيد الضغط على «حزب الله»، وان على فرنسا أن تضغط على أصدقائها المسيحيين، وفي طليعتهم عون، لأنه العائق أمام الانتخابات الرئاسية. وكانت هذه خطة سورية ذكية، أدت إلى رمي الكرة مجدداً في الملعب الفرنسي عبر التذرع بالعائق ميشال عون.

صحيح أن العائق هو عون، لأنه بقي حتى اللحظة الأخيرة يقول إنه أفضل المرشحين للرئاسة.وفيما كان كوشنير يعمل على التفاهم معه، تبلغ في دار السفارة الفرنسية، بالمبادرة التي أعلنها عون خلال مؤتمره الصحافي، ما حمل الوزير الفرنسي على ادراك أن المسعى الفرنسي وصل إلى فشل نهائي.

فما الذي حصل، ولماذا جاءت مبادرة عون على نمط ما أعلنه الأمين العام لـ «حزب الله» حسن نصرالله في خطابه العنيف الذي ألقاه غداة اللقاء بين الأسد وغيان في دمشق؟

السبب أن التحالف العوني مع «حزب الله» استراتيجي على جميع الأصعدة السياسية والمالية والتنسيق بينهما دائم ومستمر. ومع أن اتصالات ساركوزي بعون والحريري كانت تنبع من نية طيبة لأنه يريد فعلاً أن يتوصل لبنان إلى تسوية، لكن المسعى الفرنسي اصطدم بخبرة سورية الواسعة في الساحة اللبنانية. فالرئيس السوري تمكن من تحسين العلاقة مع فرنسا من دون أن يدفع أي ثمن مسبق. وكما كان يقول والده الراحل حافظ الأسد لكل زائر غربي كان يطالب بخروج القوات السورية من لبنان: إن سورية دخلت إليه بطلب من اللبنانيين. وهذا كان صحيحاً لأن الرئيس الراحل سليمان فرنجية هو الذي كان طلب ذلك، والآن يعتمد الرئيس الابن الاسلوب نفسه.

وصحيح أيضاً أن اللبنانيين مختلفون في ما بينهم داخلياً، ولكن دور سورية مهم وأساسي، والسؤال الآن: ما هو مستقبل العلاقة الفرنسية – السورية في غياب رئيس للبنان  

The Lebanese Al-Akhbar newspaper trumpets that Syria has gained other concessions. Idaf gives a summary in the comment section as follows:

France gave an official invitation to Syrian foreign minister Walid Al-Muallem to visit Paris and finalize the Lebanese president issue.

In addition, Paris said that a follow-up conference to Annapolis in Paris will take place on Dec 17 and another one in Moscow to discuss the Golan in early 2008.

As for the Palestinians and Israelis, how did they do?

Here are the two controdictory versions. I think Uri Avnery is more pursuasive, although I would like to believe Ignatius. Avneri actually makes a convincing argument; whereas, Ignatius gives us a "keep-hope-alive" pep-talk. Here are the two articles:

The Joke in Annapolis: How to Get Out? by Uri Avnery

How Annapolis Helps By David Ignatius, November 28, 2007; Page A23

Hugh Macleod interviews Palestinians in Lebanese camps to remind us that refugees in the camps continue to live a life of missery. They are keeping hope alive – but it is a different sort of hope.

Right of return – an unbending faith 
Palestinian refugees hold a key piece to Middle East puzzle
Hugh Macleod, Chronicle Foreign Service

Even though Palestinian and Israeli leaders agreed Tuesday to work toward a peace settlement by the end of next year, they will still have to confront an intractable issue – the right of Palestinian refugees to return…

Syria says it will normalize ties to Israel only after full withdrawal
Wed Nov 28, 2007 8:23am IST
WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Syria told a U.S. peace conference on Tuesday that Israel should pull out of occupied land before Arab countries would normalize ties with the Jewish state.

"The establishment of normal ties with Israel … must be the fruit of comprehensive peace and not precede it," Syrian Deputy Foreign Minister Fayssal al-Mekdad told a closed session of the conference in Annapolis, Maryland, attended by U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice.

"To phrase it clearly and decisively that this (normalization) comes after the total Israeli withdrawal from the 1967 Arab land," he said in a speech obtained by Reuters.

"We are sincere in seeking a comprehensive and just peace and posses the political will to achieve it."

Talks between Israel and Syria collapsed in 2000 after Damascus declined an Israeli offer to withdraw from most of the Golan Heights but not what Syria described as the full occupied territory.

Syria had made it clear that it would only attend the talks in Annapolis if the Golan was on the agenda. The demand was met by Washington which accuses Damascus of supporting militant Palestinian and Lebanese groups.

Mekdad reiterated the Syrian position that Israeli occupation of Arab land was the root of instability in the Middle East.

Turkey's Alevi question

As the current Turkish government slowly seeks ways of better accommodating the country's Kurdish minority, the relationship of the Alevi religious minority to the state has also come into question. Alevis, followers of a humanistic branch of Shia Islam, have in large part been suppressed by Ankara. The ruling moderate AK Party hopes to diffuse tensions by carving a clearer space for Alevi practice and belief in the country. Some Alevi groups, however, are suspicious of attempts at reconciliation with the state, seeing "assimilation" as a worse alternative to ostracism.

Comments (91)


Pages: « 1 [2] Show All

51. Alex said:

AIG,

But why are you asking for an argument from me? … actually… why are you here on Syria Comment?

You would like to see the difference between your opinions and those of “Alex” as the difference between the lovely, democratic Israel, and the ugly, murderous, despicable, weak and utterly “bad” Syrian regime.

I see it in an entirely different way.

It is rarely worth it to argue with you.

GG,

There are many perceptions about the Syrian regime. Most of them negative, and most of them either wrong or exaggerated. I have seen the same thing in the 80′s … Hafez was portrayed as weak and worthless too when the United States, Israel, Saudi Arabia combined forces (like the past few years) to weaken him.

My impressions are not based on what the regime’s adversaries want me to believe… and they are not based on what Teshreen and al-Baath newspapers want me to believe.

Do you know why AIG is here for hours everyday? .. because Syria is not weak.

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November 29th, 2007, 9:30 pm

 

52. AnotherIsraeliGuy said:

Alex,
Because I truly don’t understand why people who live in democratic regimes and fully understand their benefits for the citizens of the country, support police states. It is something I really would like to understand.

And Hafez Asad left a very weak Syria when he died, both economically and militarily. Do you deny this? Why was Syria strong when he died?

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November 29th, 2007, 9:58 pm

 

53. AnotherIsraeliGuy said:

Alex,
Did you know that in every Israeli university there is a large department for Arabic and middle eastern studies? Israelis are just curious about their environment. I have some time and am really intruiged by the question why there is no democracy in the Arab world and why there is not even any advancement towards democracy.

I thought that you, a Canadian liberal, who understands what democracy is can explain this irregularity. Yet, you are an even bigger puzzle, since you support democracy for yourself (insist on it I might say) yet are willing to postpone it for decades for the Syrians.

Is there rational thinking behind what is going on that you could articualte?

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November 29th, 2007, 10:17 pm

 

54. Nur al-Cubicle said:

Do you know why AIG is here for hours everyday? .. because Syria is not weak.

You’ve nailed it, Alex. The nohow and contrariwise obese twins TweedleIG and TweedleAIG,

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November 29th, 2007, 10:23 pm

 

55. AnotherIsraeliGuy said:

Perhaps you Nur, an American, that according to your blog cherishes democracy, can explain why you support the Syrian regime? Why aren’t you an active supporter of changing the regime?

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November 29th, 2007, 10:32 pm

 

56. Alex said:

AIG,

Thank you for letting me know about Arabic studies departments in Israeli Universities. Did you know that many of those Israeli experts write to me to thank me for my contribution to knowledge? … did you bother reading the names (and the universities) of some of those who signed my guest book?

I explained before, but I will again: CHANGE… CHANGE …CHANGE … if you found a system better than democracy and wanted me to support “flipping” Canada overnight towards that system, then I will not do that. Changing a system … a country with 20 million inhabitants … takes years and years.

I want Syria to become a democracy within the 7-14 years. You challenged me in the past to support a 10-year process towards democracy. I did.

Then you said: “What is your plan? … if you don’t have a plan then you are nothing more than a regime mouthpiece” … I gave a link where my plan was discussed over a 100 pages of comments by Israelis, Americans, Syrian and Lebanese critics of the Syrian regime … and tey ended up mostly accepting it. But you came back saying “There was no plan …. that was your typical nonsense”

My friend, you seem to believe you are the ultimate expert on the Middle East and you seem to believe that your negative predictions are taken from some holy book… and you expect everyone to agree with you, or you will reject anything he/she says.

So .. again … why do you need me to give you my opinion about anything?

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November 29th, 2007, 10:33 pm

 

57. AnotherIsraeliGuy said:

Alex,
Yes, because your plan never addresses the core problem, which is how to make the Asads let go of power. Why would they? Will it be done by their own good will or do they need to be pressured? And your plans always start with the world changing but not the Asads. Why?

And if you see democracy moving backward in Syria, instead of forward, why do you still support the regime? Why are you not creating an opposition party to back a plan to make Syria a democracy in 10 years?

And why is it that in no Arab country, such a 10 year plan has ever been implemented?

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November 29th, 2007, 10:45 pm

 

58. GG said:

Alex,

Again I didn’t raise the issue of weakness; on the contrary I wrote that Syria has the potential of becoming an economic power. But as you raise the issue of weakness, what do you mean? Are you saying that Syria is an economic powerhouse? If so then how do you explain the terrible state of its economy? Or are you referring to military weakness? Well, perhaps Syria is able to bully its Western neighbour (which isn’t much to shout about since the Lebanese virtually have no army, navy, or airforce), but it doesn’t seem to have fared too well in military conflicts against its “arch enemy” Israel, nor has it been convincing as the great bastion of the Arabs, as it is always at pains to inform us. So, whatever perception you have of Syria, the single undeniable one is that it is weak. Hafez Assad was a master at convincing the world that his country is a power in the region that cannot be ignored, but the sad truth of the matter is lay aside its ability and propensity to cause trouble and Syria has nothing. Is this the strength that you mean?

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November 29th, 2007, 10:51 pm

 

59. Alex said:

AIG … I am not a politician, and I am not a leader. I don’t even like to use my real name and do not show my picture on any of my sites… and you want me to form an opposition party?!

Bashmann knows that I do not like opposition parties … they are counterproductive .. because they only criticize .. they criticize the good and the bad. Syria does not need more politicians. Syria needs reasonable and intelligent and non-selfish and independent people .. and Syria needs variety of opinions. This is what I try to do in Creative Forum. Whenever I read an opinion from someone who does a good job representing his point of view, I invite her/him to contribute to a debate.

And who told you that “my plan” asks the world to change but not the Assads?

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November 29th, 2007, 11:29 pm

 

60. majedkhaldoun said:

I am not convinced that Syria is as weak as some mentioned here,if Syria is that weak ,then why is the regime is still there?why Israel avoid fighting Syria?why the USA army did not invade Syria?I do not think Syria is weak.

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November 29th, 2007, 11:30 pm

 

61. Alex said:

GG,

Whatever strength Syria has … it was enough for Baker and Hamilton to tell their president that he must take Syria’s interests into account.

Why don’t we have this same conversation a month form now? I think the picture will be clearer at that time.

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November 29th, 2007, 11:31 pm

 

62. Bashmann said:

Alex,

Not quite the answer I expected from an esteemed and well rounded Syrian political analyst such as yourself. I’m disappointed my friend.

All I can say to you my friend is I’m a believer in leadership, while you seem to believe in pursuance.

In politics, leadership takes courage and perseverance and in the end always wins.

Cheers

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November 29th, 2007, 11:53 pm

 

63. why-discuss said:

Syria is not the only arab country with economical problems.
Most arab countries who are not oil producers and have a sizeable population have economical increased problems whether they are friendly to the US or not, despite donations.( see Egypt, Jordan, Yemen etc..). Aside from corruption, most arab countries lag terribly in technological advances. Even Lebanon with its famous Universities, is suffering from technological underdevelopment. I would also say the same about Institutions and Arts. Arab goverments seem to care only about trade and consumption, not about developping scientific centers, encourage research , arts etc…
Israel, whose population came from developped countries value highly technological development and institutions. In that Israel has an upper hand on all arab countries.
If arab countries don’t modify their educational prorities, they will become just clients and consumers, and will stay in the niche of trading and banking, not an encouraging future for all the brilliant scientific arabs who are leaving to western countries or Dubai to satisfy their thrive for exercising practically their knowledge. A sad reality.

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November 30th, 2007, 12:04 am

 

64. AnotherIsraeliGuy said:

Alex,
Can you elaborate more about the opposition issue? Why is criticism bad? It is very common in Canada and the US? So what if they criticize the good? People can see and decide for themselves.

How will you get the regime to transfer power to the people without opposition parties? The Asads have not put forward a ten year plan to reach democracy. Somebody has to advocate for it. Opposition parties are essential.

And you say that “Syria needs reasonable and intelligent and non-selfish and independent people”. But these people like to live in democracies. For example, you are living in Canda and most people in Syria given a choice would leave. It is a paradox you need to address.

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November 30th, 2007, 12:27 am

 

65. Disaffection said:

“they are counterproductive .. because they only criticize .. they criticize the good and the bad. Syria does not need more politicians. Syria needs reasonable and intelligent and non-selfish and independent people .. and Syria needs variety of opinions.”

this is a contradiction isnt it? opposition is counter productive but there is a need for a variety of opinions. hey?
my friend, syria needs people that care about syria not people that sing from the same hymn sheet and fit into the desired mould. one thing one learns is that self critique is a vital ingredient to progress. forums and pretty websites expressing views of readers (living around the globe except in Syira) are all very good but they are not being exposed in Syria to syrians. whats the use? of course opposition is good and criticising is even better as it keeps the people in charge on their toes. Are you saying you’re only interested in people that agree with you? a 10 year plan? when is that 10 year plan expected to kick start? you might have that but whats the regimes plan? do they even have a 5 year plan? if they had started a 10 year plan since they took power we would have been typing these comments from our homes in Syria. or perhaps we wouldn’t have needed this forum at all. come on now, who are you trying to convince apart from yourself?

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November 30th, 2007, 1:27 am

 

66. Qifa Nabki said:

Alex,

I think that in the spirit of true Lebanese-Syrian brotherhood, since you once nominated me for president of Lebanon , the least I can do is nominate you as head of an opposition party. ;-)

I’d also like to take this opportunity to not so subtly state to all of my fellow armchair generals: I told you so!! A few months ago, NO ONE imagined that the Syrians would come to Annapolis, and NO ONE imagined that if they did, it would be because there were back-door negotiations between them and the Americans that involved giving them their consensus candidate in Lebanon in exchange for showing up in November.

In fact, when I suggested as much , I recall that IDAF brusquely insisted to me that:

“NOT EVERYTHING SYRIA DOES IS RELATED LEBANON.
Some Lebanese need to grow up, get over their conspiracy theories and understand that the world does not rotate around Lebanon.”

Now it seems that everybody is not surprised that Syria showed up, and not surprised that back-door negotiations were probably held, and not surprised that Syria has “won” in Lebanon by scoring a friendly president.

As infrequently as it happens, I hate being right.

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November 30th, 2007, 1:30 am

 

67. Honest Patriot said:

QIFA NABKI:

Perhaps your handle should be KAFA NABKI since QIFA NABKI comes – as you may know – from an arabic poem from the “Jahiliya” in which QIFA means “let us stand.” Of course, as you also probably know, KAFA means “enough.”

Anyway, I like your posts and concur with your views.

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November 30th, 2007, 1:37 am

 

68. Qifa Nabki said:

HONEST PATRIOT:

Actually, “qifa” (more correctly, qifaa) is the dual imperative form, meaning “Halt!” The poet (Imru’ al-Qays) is addressing his two companions, at the beginning of his great ode, the first line of which begins “Halt (you two)! And let us weep…”

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November 30th, 2007, 1:57 am

 

69. why-discuss said:

The lebanese constitution needs serious overhaul: Every election of a new president needs a mofification to the Constitution!

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November 30th, 2007, 2:35 am

 

70. Qifa Nabki said:

In fact, the entire system needs to be overhauled.

My personal vote is for a bicameral system.

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November 30th, 2007, 2:41 am

 

71. Alex said:

Qifa Nabki,

You are still my candidate for 2014, I did not forget!

: )

Especially now that you mentioned a “bicameral system”

Disaffection and my friend Bashmann,

What part of what I worte you did not like?

1) I am not interested in politics

Can’t I have a personal opinion? .. can’t I not like politics just like most people hate politics?

2) I am not interested in leading people

This one is a bit more complex. But basically … I only believe in basic moral leadership, and only through living and practicing what I would like others to “follow”, not through pushing and pulling … The only things I belive in very strongly are the basic moral values … I would not shy from trying to “lead” at that level … but anything else where I have no strong conviction, I will not lead … because … what if I was wrong?

Today, information is available to everyone to make up their minds… they don’t need the Baath party to lead them and they don’t need Mr. Khaddam to lead them and they don’t need the Neocons to lead them.

So whenver there is a lot of uncertainty, like in politics, I am all for helping promote forums where every opinion is welcome so that readers can be exposed to all kinds of views … without “leadership” … they are smart enough to deicde. For example, I am now working on an Egyptian “human rights” type of blog. It will be ready in days.

3) I am not impressed with opposition parties.

Opposition parties in general are always criticizing the party in power … If I ever lead an opposition party, i would make sure my deputies will only criticize the mistakes, and not criticize everything.

AIG asked “what is wrong with criticizing the good”?

The same way a fair judge will give anyone his rights for a fair trial, I believe that anyone in power deserves to be judged honestly and fairly … if they are corrupt we should call them corrupt. If they are conducting a wise regional policy, we should give them credit for their wisdom.

If a human being who is part of “the regime” is always criticized .. even when he/she is doing a good job … How do you think that affects his/her attitude towards those who always criticize him/her? … From my experience … I know how this constant complaining leads to more lack of tolerance to any form of “opposition”.

Of course we need opposition parties to make sure that whatever regime is accountable and that their mistakes are communicated to the people. That function of opposition parties is obviously desirable.

In Syria’s case … most “opposition” politicians gave the regime a good excuse (as if they needed any) to delay political reforms … they were mostly terrible… for different reasons,

Sorry Bashmann. You (personally) are considerably more sophisticated than most others and I know you care about Syria’s future. But your party or Khaddam’s party or Farid Ghadry’s party or the Ikhwan (brotherhood) party are all disasters in their own ways … none of them is worth taking a risk for. Michel Kilo and Aref dalilah are exceptions by the way and I am sad the regime keeps them in jail until today.

After we have a regional settlement … one that follows the wise direction that Hafez set decades ago, then the priority will be shifted to economic, then political reforms.

And that is the 7-14 year plan.

AIG .. i can not force the regime to give up power, and no one can … but the situation on the ground can graudally and naturally move the country in the desired direction … without force, and without anyone’s leadership … only after there is peace and stability. People will demand the reforms you want to see … only when enough people demand it will it start taking place. Not when “Alex” or Bashmann or president Bush make “pro-democracy” statements from north America.

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November 30th, 2007, 2:55 am

 

72. AnotherIsraeliGuy said:

Why do you need a regional settlement and only then move to economic and then to democracy? They need to go hand in hand.

In essence, you are letting Israel determine whether Syria is a democracy or economically developed. Because if we don’t make peace with Syira you are in favor of the current situation staying the same. Right?

Why will the position the ground move naturally without force and without leadership? I cannot think of any historical example like this that a tyrant “naturally” moved to democracy. What model do you have in mind? Today people want reforms but the Asads put them in jail and censor facebook. Why will things change?

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November 30th, 2007, 4:18 am

 

73. Alex said:

AIG

I answered your first question already … Israel does not have a veto on reforms in Syria … Israel can accelerate or slow down the process .. but eventually even Israel will realize that there will be no way to reach a peaceful settlement with Syria and Lebanon… I hope we are not too far from that point in time… but we’ll see.

Your second question is a good question, but I will only give you a general answer at this time… the devil is in the details, I know.

There will always be resistance to change … and there will always be ways to minimize resistance to change.

“The Syrian regime” is made from a number of groups and individuals … these are different people with different needs… If we design the change process in a way that meets enough of the needs of a majority of these individuals, then we might succeed.

It takes a number of positive forces to be able to deal with resistance to change.

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November 30th, 2007, 6:45 am

 

74. Disaffection said:

unfortunately Alex, to make an omelette you got to crack few eggs. You expect the regime to evolve. Well thats very idealistic as it hasn’t done so since it took over. why should it do so now? because there is demand for it? they’ll just suppress it. And they prove this at every opportunity.
I appreciate you don’t put me in the same category as Bashman as i’m not a member of a political party nor do i criticise the band and the good hence I dont have an angenda. I am however a member of a forgotten yet significant number of Syrians betrayed by their own system driven to leave Syria in search of a half decent life. And when there is so much deconstruction, corruption and bad decisions making (primarily domestically), then one finds things to criticize way to easily. I can see that irritates you.

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November 30th, 2007, 10:21 am

 

75. GG said:

Life’s failures always seem to rise to the top. I wouldn’t take too much notice of Baker and Hamilton; after all wasn’t the former the one who advised Bush senior that offering Lebanon on a plate to Syria in return for its co-operation in Gulf War One would also secure Israel’s northern border. Where did he get that from “Rough Guide to Lebanon”? Admittedly Hafez outsmarted that twit.

Nevertheless, it’s a date; meet me at 8. I’ll be the one wearing a rose and carrying copy of Tishreen under my right arm.

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November 30th, 2007, 11:42 am

 

76. AnotherIsraeliGuy said:

Alex,
As I see it, there will be no war in Lebanon or Syria, for the next 5 years. Hizballah cannot afford a war and neither can the Syrian regime. Given that, Israel is not going to rush to make any deal with Asad. As Simpson writes, the deal Israel is looking for is a lease on the Golan and a flip. This is very far from the Syrian position. Barak has just said that he will not leave the government and induce elections because then Netanyahu will be elected. The chances of a deal with Syria in the next 5 years are slim to none.

As usual you remian vague. You know what, let me ask simpler questions. What is the first step in your plan assuming there is no peace deal in the offing?

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November 30th, 2007, 4:38 pm

 

77. Bashmann said:

Alex,

Thanks for the vote of confidence in me personally. But what don’t you like about Alenfetah Party? It’s calling for realism in politics? Or was it its call for transparency and accountability in government? Or was it the checks and balances that we are trying to institutionalize in Syria? I guess all those years living in the West made you a skeptical about freedom and democracy. Maybe it’s the lack of trust in the people of Syria that is making you apprehensive? I’m just trying to understand the reluctance on your part in being an active member of a political party striving to make a change in Syria for the well being of our fellow countrymen.

What is puzzling to me the fact that when I talk to my fellow Syrians abroad they seem to possess a natural thirst for a change in Syria yet they fail to take the first step in getting involved in the political affairs of their country. We can thank the legacy of your favorite late President Hafez Asad for that. I’m not naïve to dismiss the fear factor involved when it comes to being active in an opposition party inside or outside Syria, yet I do not believe you would be so naïve either to simply believe that political reforms in Syria would be initiated by the government in Damascus without the people of Syria whether they are outside or inside demanding it or getting involved.

You speak of priorities when it comes to change and democratic reforms to the government in Syria and this falls to the bottom of your list. Then let me ask you this, don’t you think that after 37 years of the Asad family monopoly on power in Syria it is time for us to take charge of our own affairs in a country that has been raped by institutionalized cronyism and corruption and protected by a ruthless mafia headed by
security agencies that have no boundaries in carrying out their despicable crimes?
What is more urgent that such an endeavor?

You favor stability today over human sufferings in Syria, a topic that I’ll address in details in an article I’m working currently. You seem to equate change with chaos, yet most all opposition groups are calling for “peaceful” political change.

You speak of Michel Kilo and Aref Dalilah as “exceptions” to the rule!! Who do think you are fooling Alex? Exceptions!!!! Let me give you a few more names aside from the thousands of people being arrested, harassed, jailed, killed and chased out of the country;
Dr. Kamal Labwani, Mahmoud Issa, Faek Al Mir, and the respected human rights lawyer Anwar Al Bunni and the list goes on, do you think these guys can wait another 10-14 years in prison? You mentioned that you are sad the government keeps them in jail, then may I humbly ask, what are you doing for them based on your emotions toward them?

Alex, I do not doubt your love for Syria, it is evident in your wonderful site, what saddens me is that people like you have chosen appeasement of the regime over direct and honest criticism of it. The regime will be there Alex, ‘till you and many others like yourself come clean and speak out the truth about the government in Syria.

Cheers

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November 30th, 2007, 6:04 pm

 

78. Alex said:

Disaffection,

Criticizing corruption and mismanagement does not irritate me because there is so much to criticize. I have not met any Syrian who is satisfied with the regime’s anti-corruption efforts…

But even when it comes to their poor performance on many internal issues, there are many difficult challenges and risks and I am more understanding of SOME of the failures.

And there were many improvements. So I do not like those who criticize …everything.
I’ll give you a clear example of where politicians’ criticism becomes silly: Mr. Khaddam’s interview following Israel’s “mission” inside Syria. In that interview he made two points:

1) Bashar is so arrogant and stubborn … he does not listen to anyone’s advice. He monopolizes decision making and that’s why we have terrible decision making (supposedly).

2) Bashar is so weak and unstable … he flips 180 degrees depending on who is the last person to talk to him and flip him!

I used to be impressed with Mr. Khaddam’s skills in foreign policy in the past. But since he decided to be a “political opposition” leader, he started to make one silly statement after another.

GG,

If not Baker, then the foreign ministers of Germany, Spain, Ireland, Italy, Greece, Turkey … and many other western journalists and politicians who made the same statement: Syria is still playing a central role in all conflicts and its interests must be taken into account.

AIG,

I think the Poll that IG linked to this week is a good way to quantify the chances instead of calling them “slim to none”

30% of Israelis would return the Golan before the process even started and before the Americans started to clean the image of Syria … like they did to Sadat’s image when they liked his new approach or like Baker or Clinton did in the 90′s to Hafez treating him like a king.

You can see a sample of what it will look like here.

As for remaining vague, I know … I can’t type 50 pages here. If I start getting into the details it is endless … if I don’t go in depth into each point then it sounds superficial and naive.

If there is no peace .. there will need to be a completely “flipped” American attitude towards Syria … if that is not there either .. there will be a bloody and inconclusive war in the middle east… then there will be peace.

The situation we had the past few years is not sustainable.

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November 30th, 2007, 6:25 pm

 

79. Alex said:

GG,

Here is how The New York Times sees it:

Syria, the most important outside influence over Lebanese politics, had hesitated until the last minute over whether to attend the conference.

Immediately after the talks, Syrian allies in Lebanon endorsed the first major political breakthrough. Analysts say the talks could thaw strained relations between Syria and the United States.

“The Syrians did not want to go to Annapolis, and without them the conference would have been a failure and would have weakened the Arabs,” said Talal Atrissi, a political analyst and sociologist at Lebanese University. “The Syrians traded their participation, which did not cost them anything, with a deal on the Lebanese presidency.”

And if you remember what Randa Takkeidine (always an anti Syria analyst) wrote in Alhayat newspaper this week: The Syrians got what they wanted from France without paying in advance and without paying anything at all.

It sounds like Syria is still outsmarting others even after Hafez is gone.

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November 30th, 2007, 6:41 pm

 

80. AnotherIsraeliGuy said:

Alex,
Its not how the NY times sees it, its how a Lebanese sees it. Check out how Azmi Bisahra sees it on the other thread.

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November 30th, 2007, 6:59 pm

 

81. Alex said:

Bashmann,

You want an example of what I do not like in taking sides?

take your attempt to speak as if you are a democrat in congress attacking, politely, your republican counterparts:

“But what don’t you like about Alenfetah Party? It’s calling for realism in politics? Or was it its call for transparency and accountability in government? Or was it the checks and balances that we are trying to institutionalize in Syria? I guess all those years living in the West made you a skeptical about freedom and democracy. Maybe it’s the lack of trust in the people of Syria that is making you apprehensive?”

So you insinuated that:

1) I am against realism in politics but “alinfitah party” will bring realism back to Syrian politics.

2) I am against transparency and accountability in government. But “alinfitah party”‘s call for transparency will make a real difference over there in Syria …

3) I am against checks and balances .. and your party is going to make it happen by calling for it from Florida.

4) I am skeptical about freedom and I lack trust in the Syrian people.

Bashmann … you want realism? No Florida based or Washington based party will make any difference back there in Syria .. and the regime will not allow any serious Syria based opposition party to function!

So that’s why I am saying: please forgive me if i do not join or even believe in any opposition party … because anyone who does not realize how futile or counterproductive it is to form a Florida Syrian opposition party is not … a realist.

The best you can do is to participate a an individual, smart, and good Syrian in debates and discussions .. just like I do … nothing more and nothing less.

That’s my personal opinion, since I was asked.

As for the other names in opposition who are in jail .. I chose my Kilo and Dalileh carefully … I do not approve of the positions taken by many other opposition figures. I am totally against putting anyone of them in jail and I wrote to some Syrian officials few times expressing my opinion … but it is useless … I will not waste time doing that.

Do you like Mamoun Homsy?

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November 30th, 2007, 7:12 pm

 

82. AnotherIsraeliGuy said:

Alex,
It is bewildering. You say: “the regime will not allow any serious Syria based opposition party to function!” yet you support the regime. The moment I think I may start finding some sense in your position you throw me for a ride.

You agree that the regime will not allow any serious opposition but also agree that opposition is needed for change and then you support the regime. I am getting a headache. How can change ever happen?

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November 30th, 2007, 7:34 pm

 

83. Alex said:

AIG,

Again, I answered this point. You need to understand that I do not take sides in an absolute way … I do not “support” the regime. I support most of the regime’s foreign policy and some of its internal policies… so maybe overall I give them a 6 or 7 out of ten.

Let me give you an example that you might understand: I received many emails the past two years asking me: “are you a Syrian Jew”? … they felt that I am too friendly to Israel … which I am by their standards.

You feel I am too friendly to the regime because I am more friendly to the regime than you are.

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November 30th, 2007, 7:47 pm

 
 

85. Alex said:

Change can happen when natural opposition, and not opposition created, organized and backed by Washington and Saudi Arabia, adds up to too much pressure on the regime to change things faster … twenty million Syrians who are much more effective than the farid Gahdry “opposition party”.

It will … it will.

I know you think the regime responds to unconditional pressure… it does not. It goes more hard line. the regime responds better to selective and constructive criticism.. the type that is done quietly and in private.

It does not mean they always respond (Kilo’s case) … but they do sometimes .. which is much better than the other approach.

I know you would hate the analogy .. but think of how Israelis would react to Arabs blaming Israel for EVERYTHING that goes wrong in the Arab world…. you simply learn to ignore them… and you say to them: “too bad…I am here to stay, whether you like me of not”

Arabs who hate Israel have no choice .. they have to talk to Israel.

“opposition politicians” who hat ethe Syrian regime have no choice … they have to talk to an work with the regime

Israel who hates Iran has no choice … need to talk to Iran (Ahmadinejad will leave next year)

Alex who is opposed to all kinds of religion-based countries .. needs to tolerate and understand and accept Israel and Iran and Saudi Arabia …

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November 30th, 2007, 8:13 pm

 

86. GG said:

Alex,

As you said, we’ll discuss this next month, but I would just like to respond to your last point. Tweedledee and Tweedledum (aka Thanassis Cambanis and Nada Bakri) also wrote, “General Suleiman won the support of the opposition Christian leader Michel Aoun, a retired general and a former army chief who was seeking the presidency himself and is backed by Syria.” Aoun backed by Syria! How seriously can you take this article?

Western journalists are on the whole stupid creatures. In 2005 when Aoun returned to Lebanon they were calling him anti-Syrian. When he signed an MOU with Hizballah he became Syria’s prodigal son and a Pro-Syrian. It’s a good job he’s not middle of the road, or they’d really get confused. He may even become known as Aoun, the “pro-western-march 14-anti-Syria-Hizballah” presidential candidate.

As for Randa Takkeidine, well, what can I say! Arabs like a good conspiracy. The ones’ I like best are those that see a Syrian behind every rock, pretty much the way the Arabs see an Israeli behind every rock.

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November 30th, 2007, 8:25 pm

 

87. Alex said:

GG,

I agree on both examples

1) When Aoun won the majority of Christian votes there were two headlines: CNN and ABC I think .. one said “Anti Syria politician wins elections” and the other said “Pro-Syria politician wins elections”

I sent it to Joshua at the time.

2) David Lesch testified in Congress this month saying the same thing: in the middle east they used to blame everything on the CIA … now we blame everything on the Syrian intelligence.

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November 30th, 2007, 8:53 pm

 

88. AnotherIsraeliGuy said:

Alex,
I would not accept to live in a non-democratic country. If a totalitarian regime came into existence in Israel, I would fight it tooth and nail.

You on the other hand are comfortable with police states and are willing to find excuses for them and understand their position even after decades of deterioration in Syria (of course this is done from the comfort and freedom of Montreal).

This is probably a difference that can’t be bridged. Even during the American Revolution there were Loyalist who supported the British Crown. I guess you are a latter day Loyalist to Asad.

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November 30th, 2007, 8:56 pm

 

89. Alex said:

AIG

How many times will you repeat this same thing?

You tolerate a state that kills Palestinian children and steals Palestinian and Arab lands … and I tolerate an authoritarian regime for now.

I see you have a burning desire to feel morally superior.

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November 30th, 2007, 9:21 pm

 

90. Across the Aisle » In-Roads to Damascus said:

[...] The recent news from Beirut is also promising. The Syrians and Americans have apparently agreed on a presidential candidate for Lebanon, army commander Michael Suleiman. Apparently there has been serious cooperation on this front for some time and hopefully it can continue into other areas. The overlap between American policy and Syrian influence is considerable. Syria shares a large border with Iraq and has accepted a large number of Iraqi refugees. Unfortunately, refugees are not the only things crossing the Syrian border. Weapons and insurgents have been coming into Iraq from Syria since 2003, sometimes with tacit support with Syrian regime. [...]

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December 3rd, 2007, 3:34 am

 

91. SyriaComment - Syrian politics, history, and religion » Archives » Electoral math: The history of a failing formula said:

[...] On the face of it, this arrangement would appear to be a dream deal for Syria’s allies. When March 14 announced its support of Suleiman for president, many commentators close to the opposition trumpeted it as a major victory for Syria. After all, Suleiman has a spotless record on Syrian-Lebanese ‘partnership’ and cooperation, and is a strong supporter of the Lebanese resistance. With the help of Suleiman, Syria would be able to secure the future of Hizbulah’s arms (at least in the short-term), deal a blow to the Tribunal, and potentially bring down the government in the event of another deadlock (according to the Constitution, the government must fall if over 1/3 of the Cabinet resigns). [...]

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January 15th, 2008, 2:33 am

 

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