Announcing Creative Syria Forum’s November 2007 topic: Syria’s RegionalPolicies

Posted by Zenobia

The fourth and latest discussion topic for Creative Syria’s Forum deals with these questions:

Which international and regional powers (Turkey, Iran, Israel, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, the Untied States, Russia, France) should Syria have good relations with, economically or politically? How flexible do you hope Syria will be on Lebanon, Iraq, the Golan, and Palestinian right? Should Syria be more involved or more hands off in the surrounding region's many conflicts?

I invite all the Syria Comment readers and posters to log on to the Creative Syria Forum site and check out the latest articles written by your fellow talented bloggers. Come see what we have to say, partake in the discussion, and give us your feedback.

The following are some selected excerpts from the different articles.

 

Wassim | graduate student | United Kingdom
 
The twentieth century can be considered the Middle East's lost century or, to paraphrase from Gabriel Marquez, its "100 years of solitude". The overwhelming tide of secular politics and nationalism, which engulfed the region following the end of the "Western mandates" marginalized and drowned out the region’s own rich political, socio-economic and religious realities with those that had a context in Western Europe. Almost two generations of Arabs have thus been educated to look West instead of East – they are lost. The tragedy is that most of these "lost Arabs" now either rule us (the moderate countries) or dominate what is taken as a political opposition in most countries, including Syria. As Shariati once said, there are three strands of political thought: Humanist, Nationalist and Religious. These three factors, when applied in the correct context and reality, can in fact be productive and useful. It is when they are applied in the wrong context and reality that they can cause much damage. For example, they can make people who should be enemies friends and vice versa. Rather than be partial to one or the other flavor, Syria has proven adept at manipulating each of those three images where it saw fit. This should be commended and notcondemned at a time when nationalism is used to divide the Arab countries, religion is used to divide Sunni against Shia and the secular against the religious whilst in one breath humanism is being used to justify the continued occupation of Palestine and Iraq.

syria_regional.jpg

Syria's non Arab allies (Turkey and Iran) are helping Assad counterbalance Syria's traditional Arab allies who joined the US administration in boycotting him. Uniformly improving relations with Sunni Turkey made it difficult for Syria's Arab critics to continue suggesting that Assad turned Syria into an Iranian client state.

 

Qunfuz | Educator/Author | Oman
 
Despite its Arabism, Syria has always been prepared to go against the grain of Arab alliances in what it perceives as the true interests of Arab causes. Syria had the honor of being the only Arab state to support revolutionary Iran against Saddam Hussain's barbarous Western-backed attack. Despite some conflicts of interest in Iraq, and despite the very different nature of the two regimes, Syria and Iran have preserved and developed their alliance. This is certainly a good thing. Whatever the future of the current clerical regime, Iran will continue to be a regional heavyweight, with a large population of well-educated people, with a crucial geo-strategic position and a wealth of resources. I know from my visit to the country that the alliance with Syria is popular even with opponents of the mullahs.

Syria's regional allies are well-organized forces, which will remain key players in the region indefinitely. Iran is one example of this, and Turkey, with its huge and growing economic power and connections to Europe and central Asia, is another. Hizbullah is by far the best organized, deeply rooted, and efficient political force in Lebanon, and perhaps the second most effective military force in the area after Israel. Indeed, despite Israel's continuing technological superiority (which translates into a superior
ability to kill civilians and destroy infrastructure), and despite the political-sectarian traps limiting its capacities domestically, the fact that Hizbullah frustrated all of Israel's war aims in the summer of 2006 remains a matter of pivotal importance in the region and the world. 

 

 

Mazen Salhi | Engineer | Canada

Syrian society can in fact make credible claims to being a tolerant and successfully diverse culture. Modern Syria has acted strongly against radical fundamentalist movements. It protected the Christians of Lebanon
from potential uprooting by extremist forces in Lebanon (some of whom are preaching about peace, freedom and independence today), and it opposed the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait. Nevertheless, the gravity of religion, political history and oil companies is always looming overhead when making decisions about the country's regional and international political relations.

From all of the above, we can pretty much be certain that no matter how hostile the Saudis grow towards Syria, the Syrian government cannot break it with Saudi Arabia, which houses Mecca and Medina and influences the lives of a great many Syrians through religion and sheer economics. Also, no matter how costly the influx of Iraqi refugees may be on the Syrian infrastructure, Syria cannot afford to turn its back on them, with so much in common with the Iraqi people. And no matter what lows the likes of Jumblatt – who suggested in Washington recently to send car bombs to Damascus – sink to in Lebanon, Syria cannot and should not break it with Lebanon either. Decision trees are as complex as the realities in the land that gave the world agriculture.

So much for not reaching the point of no return with these countries, but what about active diplomacy and the right allocation of priorities? Well, to start with, there is no doubt that the times are dangerous and literally anything can happen. The first priority should be to avoid a large-scale war that could be devastating to the country. I think the regime is right about emphasizing relations with countries that make their own decisions. In that sense, it is vital for Syria to maintain and promote excellent relations
with Russia, Iran, Turkey, China, India, the European Union and Canada.

 

Bashar Elsbihi | Alenfetah Party of Syria | United States

In a world that has become a global village no one country can pursue its sole national interests without working through the web of international diplomacy to seek those mutual benefits and enhance cooperation among the regional parties to bring about peace and prosperity to all.

Based on these premises, there is an urgent need for an overall political change to those policies which have endangered our beloved country and placed it in the uncompromising position against the international community which have led to the isolation of Syria from the West where the political, economic, social, and security interests of the country are now in great jeopardy.

On the regional level, if there is one thing the regime can do immediately to save it from further escalation with the West is to act on the Lebanese and the Iraqi fronts.
 
Leadership begins with a vision. When the entire world surrounding you seems to be ablaze you simply cannot ignore the signs of the imminent danger to yourself and your country. Today, Syria is surrounded by chaos and danger and without a vision in the leadership the danger and chaos will soon be
knocking at its doors.

 

Fadi | Academic | the Gulf

Syria's challenge in the near future is to try to shift the countries from the "Hostile" and "Neutral" categories into the "Friendly" one. Israel and the current US administration on the other hand will persistently try to do the opposite by forcing these countries -through using carrots, sticks or both- to follow the most extreme anti-Syria policies possible (even if it is against those countries' own interests). The extent of their success in persuading such countries to follow anti-Syria policies would depend on complex sets of factors. For example, despite their best diplomatic, military and economic attempts, Israel and the current US administration were only able to win Saudi to the "Hostile" group from the "Neutral" one. Shifting Egypt to the "Neutral" category from the "Friendly" one was a limited success. On the other hand, Syria's major win was shifting Turkey from the "Hostile" to "Neutral" and then quickly to the "Friendly" category in a relatively short period of time. For the objective reader trying to understand how the power struggle in the region functions, this somewhat simplified framework makes it easier to understand the dynamics that govern the complex relationships between these countries.

 

Zenobia | Doctoral Candidate | United States (visiting Syria)

The notion that Syria can disengage itself from the conflicts involving the Palestinians, Israel, Iraqis, Iran, the Lebanese, and even Turkey is simply an impossibility, a denial of reality. The only conflict arena in which Syria can reasonably stay at a distance is in Afghanistan and Pakistan. And this last sentence should suggest the number one reason for my assertion that the region's conflicts inherently involve Syria. Geography. Just look at a map. Syria is geographically in the center of the middle-east stage. Not only this, but like Turkey and Lebanon, it sits on the Mediterranean Sea at the bridge between Asia and Europe. Dare I say that Syria is in the center of the world.

Anybody who takes the view that things like the political borders and 'sovereignty' of each of the middle east nations determine the boundaries of their rightful concerns and interests is engaging in some kind of fantasy. Where the boundary of Syria ends and Lebanon, Iraq, and Turkey begin on the map reveals nothing about what Syria actually is. The same confusions would apply to many colonially carved 'states' of the world. The reality is that the Palestinians are in Syria. The Iraqis are in Syria. Kurds are in Syria. And Lebanese are in what was Syria. So is some of Turkey. And some Syrians up in the northeast might as well be Turkish. And the Syrians are in Lebanon, and they are sometimes also Lebanese. The Israelis are in Syria! The Iranians are now everywhere in real and in spirit, and might as well be in Syria.

In the mean time, Syria goes on her way… progressing slowly through the deep swamp, the same swamp that Cheney and company would like to drain to their liking. It is tragic that the 'think-tank' zealots in D.C. (who don't actually think) continue not to see how Americans will drown in the swamp first before it can ever be cleared.

Thankfully Syria is experienced with swamps, having cities that although they have turned to desert, nonetheless, have survived with their people through the rise and fall of empires.

 

Tarek Barakat | Fashion Industry | Dubai

Iran and to even a lesser extent Turkey can offer Syria so much before the latter will need to move back to a multi-polar realm. Syria needs Saudi Arabia and the Americans way more than they need her because both can provide Damascus influence Iran cannot. And if the Syrians can't win the American support due to conflicting strategic interest then at least they should avoid antagonizing them. The Saudis are also here to stay for the foreseeable future and therefore must be accommodated (especially in Lebanon). Compromise might sound like an overly simplistic solution to a very complicated situation. But time, especially in the Middle East, crops up new opportunities and tribulations. The trick is to sit out the current tribulations and exploit any upcoming opportunities. And while I am merely stating the obvious, this is a better solution than "surrendering" or committing fatal errors due to blind stubbornness.

 

Simo Hurtta | Information technology | Finland

For Syria, good and functioning relations with the Arab and Muslim countries are in the end much more important than the level of relations with USA and EU. Naturally, good relations with EU and USA can open possibilities in trade, technology and investments. But especially with the United States, the past decades' history has shown that good relations can exist only if Syria obeys and follows the will of America. And that has been proven difficult because the countries’ interests do not match with so many issues.

Peace with Israel is important for Syria but only if the two main challenges can be solved in a way that might not be in Israel's interests, meaning creating Palestine and giving back Golan. The decades long dispute has enabled Israel to play a much bigger role in world politics (and hugely benefited it economically) than it could keep up with peace with neighbors. Is Israel ready to become the Denmark of the Middle East – a prosperous small country, but politically rather insignificant?

Syria's chances, with all those geopolitical tensions and problems in the Middle East, to create and keep up good relations with all involved parties is challenging if not impossible. Syria should concentrate on finding the elements that unite the areas/nations and actively work for a tighter Middle East's political and economical union. Only co-operation can save the area from decades long civil wars and the faith of Afghanistan and Iraq. In the end it is not the question about Shias against Sunnis, as little as it had been in Europe Protestants against Catholics. As Iraq and Afghanistan have clearly showed, the outsiders cannot provide solutions, better living standards or stability. They only create more problems if they are allowed to lead the future Middle East.

 

Ehsani | Finance | United States

Syria's geopolitical importance in the region stems from the following
facts:

  • It shares a border with Israel.
  • It lies on the Eastern Mediterranean
  • It is to the south of Turkey, an aspiring EU applicant and a Muslim present member of NATO.
  • Following the US invasion of Iraq in early 2003, Syria's eastern borderhas suddenly capitulated the country into what is arguably the eye of the storm engulfing the Middle East region.

The departing Chairman of the US Federal reserve Board Alan Greenspan has recently argued that the Iraq invasion was "largely about oil". The vast majority of Arabs seem to believe that it is more about Israel and the Neo-conservatives of the Bush White House. The US administration in turn tried to argue that the invasion was all about fighting "global terrorism" and that it was a matter of "national security" in a post September 11th world.

No matter what the real motivation behind the invasion was, the indisputable fact is that the U.S. has invested too many resources in this endeavor to call it quits anytime soon. As early as 2004, the decision was made to build in Baghdad the largest American embassy ever. Some continue to believe that once this American Administration leaves office, the American soldiers will soon leave Iraq as well. My suspicion is that the Damascus leadership shares this mistaken view.

Comments (84)


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51. IsraeliGuy said:

IG said:

For example, some other required elements are:
– freedom of speech
– freedom of the press
– An independent judiciary
– Civilian control of the military
– Political pluralism

Is there a single Arab country that has all of the above components?

Abraham replied: “You just described Lebanon.”

Yes, but Abraham, didn’t you forget a small armed independent militia called Hezbollah?

In a democracy, you have one authorized army, who is accountable to the country’s government.

For example: the Israeli army is under the command of the Israeli government, the US army is under the command of the American government, the British army is under the command of the British government, etc.

In Lebanon you have a Lebanese army plus a 2nd armed group who is not accountable to the government and runs its own independent policy.

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November 19th, 2007, 10:08 pm

 

52. abraham said:

AIG mused:

Syria should start by giving its OWN citizens basic rights like freedom of speech, freedom of congregation, freedom to start political parties, freedom to elect their own government, freedom to travel etc.
How about start with that? Or are you against giving SYRIANS freedom?

Fine, but how does that address Israel’s occupation of the Golan, which is the barrier to peace between the two nations? Syrian speech is not so restricted that they can’t express their demand to have the Golan returned, which we’ve stated over and over and over again. Giving every Syrian all the candy they want to eat and all the coke they want to drink will still not change the equation: Peace for the Golan.

You’re just stalling again. You are not buying yourself anytime. You’re just prolonging the inevitable.

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November 19th, 2007, 10:41 pm

 

53. AnotherIsraeliGuy said:

I have stated over and over, that once Syria is a liberal democracy, that I will DEMAND that the Golan be returned to it for peace, if indeed the Syrians want peace. I am not stalling at all. I am just not willing to legitimize a tyrant and help support a dictatorial regime.

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November 19th, 2007, 10:56 pm

 

54. abraham said:

Yes, but Abraham, didn’t you forget a small armed independent militia called Hezbollah?

Who cares? You’re only concerned about them because they kicked your ass the summer before last. If Hizballah was as pathetic as the Lebanese army you wouldn’t care a whit about them.

As to why Hizballah exists? Well, as I’m sure you know, Hizballah is a response to Israeli aggression. When the Lebanese government was in tatters thanks to the Israeli invasion and occupation, Hizballah formed to resist and drive out the zionists, which they finally achieved in 2000. Hizballah continues to exist to protect the interests of the southern Lebanese Shia, since the Western-backed crony government of Siniora and Hariri don’t represent them and did nothing to defend them during the Israeli assault.

But anyway, all you’ve done is mention Hizballah and then expect me to discount Lebanon as a democracy because of it. You haven’t made any case whatsoever. I can more validly argue that Israel is not a true democracy because it affords rights based on religious affiliation.

In a democracy, you have one authorized army, who is accountable to the country’s government.

Are you going to tell me with a straight face that the IDF is accountable to the Israeli government? Even many Israelis will tell you it’s the other way around.

Anyway, that is hardly the definition of a democracy. In the US we have the CIA, which is a bureaucratic army that is only accountable to the President, but we’re still considered a democracy.

So what’s your point?

The democracies of Lebanon, Palestine and Iraq are flawed, no doubt, just as the “democracy” of Israel is flawed. But if you go by the basis of basic representation by way of a vote of the people, they are all democracies (even yours in Israel).

So stop trying to claim to be the only democracy in the Middle East. Even when Iraq and Palestine didn’t have democratic voting, Israel was still not the only democracy in the Middle East because Lebanon was a democracy before Israel even existed.

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November 19th, 2007, 11:06 pm

 

55. abraham said:

AnotherIsraeliGuy said:

I have stated over and over, that once Syria is a liberal democracy, that I will DEMAND that the Golan be returned to it for peace, if indeed the Syrians want peace. I am not stalling at all. I am just not willing to legitimize a tyrant and help support a dictatorial regime.

Again, this is just stalling tactics. If Syria became the very model for democracy overnight, you’d find another reason to defy international law and hold onto the Golan–perhaps you’d claim they were too democratic?

A nation’s governmental structure does not negate the fact that Israel illegally occupies Arab land. If that was the case then the UK could’ve used that as an excuse to hold off giving Honk Kong back to China, as but one example.

Once again, your arguments are annoying and useless. You constantly waltz around the real issues and then complain when other people don’t want to dance with you.

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November 19th, 2007, 11:11 pm

 

56. AnotherIsraeliGuy said:

Abraham,
You miss the whole point as usual. It is not stalling tactics. There is no real peace without democracy. It is just legitimizing a tyrant and helping him stay in power. And who knows if the Syrians want peace with Israel? Only if Syria is democratic we will know.
If you think I am bluffing, then call my bluff. Democratize Syria and see what happens. You are not doing me a favor. You are doing the SYRIANS a favor. Don’t you get it?

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November 19th, 2007, 11:25 pm

 

57. IsraeliGuy said:

Abraham,

In democracies, questions of peace and war or other threats to national security are decided by the people, acting through their elected representatives.

Military leaders can advise the elected leaders, but they carry out their decisions.

Only those who are elected by the people have the authority and the responsibility to decide the fate of a nation.

This idea of civilian control and authority over the military is fundamental to democracy.

Now, you can explain as much as you want why Hezbollah is vital for Lebanon’s security and future, but it’s existence as an independent armed militia, sovereign to take its own decision over national security issues, leaves Lebanon as a non democratic country.

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November 19th, 2007, 11:39 pm

 

58. SimoHurtta said:

I have stated over and over, that once Syria is a liberal democracy, that I will DEMAND that the Golan be returned to it for peace, if indeed the Syrians want peace. I am not stalling at all. I am just not willing to legitimize a tyrant and help support a dictatorial regime.

Come-on AIG. That democracy “explanation” is so stupid that even you do not believe that. Do you seriously believe that an future Israeli government led by Bibi and Lieberman would ever give Golan to a democratic Syria? The only “democratic” way Syria gets Golan back, is when USA and EU command it Israel to make a peace. And that has nothing to do with the democracy level in Israel or Syria.

Syria should start by giving its OWN citizens basic rights like freedom of speech, freedom of congregation, freedom to start political parties, freedom to elect their own government, freedom to travel etc.

Shouldn’t Israel start the same process. In Israel a party is not allowed to participate the Knesset elections if it doesn’t approve the “Jewish nature of Israel”. How can Christians, Muslims, Communists and secular in general approve such racist undemocratic demand?

Are the Israeli Palestinians (citizens) free to travel?

Israel indeed has the freedom of speech. The Foreign Minister can even say more or less directly that Israeli Arab citizens could be moved to Palestine. Naturally without giving the 20 percent share of Israel which belongs to them. Actually it would be a perfect solution to add north Israel (the Arabs share of post 67 Israel) to Palestine. So Israel would not any more have to a border with Lebanon and Syria. Only borders with Palestine, Jordan and Egypt. The Lebanese and Syrians would love that. Do you AIG support this my “radical” separation solution suggestion? 🙂

Has any democratic country a religious based organization like JNF to allocate the land to a single religious group? The best Israeli democracy test are the religious land and property rights issues. In my Christian country, even if in my country the proportional share of Christians is bigger than the Jews share in Israel, Jews (and Muslims) can buy land and estates like everybody. Not depending what G-D they worship or what kind of hat they use. The same in USA and European states, but not in Israel.

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November 19th, 2007, 11:55 pm

 

59. abraham said:

AIG:

You miss the whole point as usual. It is not stalling tactics. There is no real peace without democracy. It is just legitimizing a tyrant and helping him stay in power. And who knows if the Syrians want peace with Israel? Only if Syria is democratic we will know.
If you think I am bluffing, then call my bluff. Democratize Syria and see what happens. You are not doing me a favor. You are doing the SYRIANS a favor. Don’t you get it?

This is complete and utter nonsense. If this was true then there would never be peace between any two nations. You don’t understand the first thing of history nor diplomacy. The reason I call it stalling tactics is because no reasonably educated person could make this claim and expect to be taken seriously. I’ve actually been giving you the benefit of the doubt by assuming you have a sophisticated level of understanding of international relations, but apparently you don’t, so as I suspected my time is simply being wasted.

IG:

In democracies, questions of peace and war or other threats to national security are decided by the people, acting through their elected representatives.

In an ideal democracy, certainly. This hasn’t been the case in the US since our war against Korea, and this certainly hasn’t been the case for Israel ever. When is the last time you voted to go or not to go to war? Please stop talking about pie-in-the-sky ideals that have no relation to reality.

And anyway, what you describe is one minor aspect of an ideal democracy. The fundamental characteristic of a democracy is whether people have a voice in their government by way of a vote. That’s it. All Lebanese do. Not all Palestinians do. So therefore, Lebanon is a democracy, older than Israel’s pseudo-democracy, and in fact more representative (your cartoonish definitions notwithstanding).

Now, if you two gentlemen are done presenting specious arguments, I have work to do.

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November 19th, 2007, 11:58 pm

 

60. AnotherIsraeliGuy said:

When there is democracy in Syria, the Israelis will elect a government that will agree to make peace with Syria. It is as simple as that. The EU and the US cannot “command” Israel to make peace. It is something that has to come from the Israeli people. And when Syria is a democracy, Israelis will DEMAND peace with it because Israelis want a real peace.

Sim, as ususal you got your facts all wrong. You don’t have to approve the Jewish nature of Israel to run for the Knesset. You think Azmi Bishara’s party Balad approves of it? They and other similar parties have been in the knesset for decades.

Of course the Israeli Arabs are free to travel, just as any other Israeli citizen.

And if the Palestinians don’t see themselves as Israelis, why shouldn’t they be citizens of the Palestinian state and not citizens of the Jewish state? It makes perfect sense. It is part of the long term solution between the Palestinian and Jewish people.

The Israeli Arabs have much more rights than the average Syrian and are 6 to 7 times richer than him. They are not afraid to speak their mind and criticize Israel. They are elected to the knesset on a regular basis. Why don’t you give Syrians the same basic rights? Because you support a tyrant. All you can do is criticize Israel for giving its citizens 100 times more rights than Syria does.

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November 20th, 2007, 12:15 am

 

61. IsraeliGuy said:

Abraham,

In democracies, questions of peace and war are decided by the people, acting through their elected representatives – meaning, the government.

That’s what ‘elected representatives’ mean.
The elected government takes decisions on behalf of its people, who elected them.

That’s how any democracy works – not just an ideal one.
In Lebanon, the situation is totally different, so it’s not a democracy.

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November 20th, 2007, 12:18 am

 

62. Akbar Palace said:

Dr. Josh,

Enjoyed the pictures of all the presidents- and kings-for-life.

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November 20th, 2007, 12:27 am

 

63. Observer said:

I do think that the Zionists are equally at fault for the hostilities that led to the birth of the state of Israel. In the 1920’s less than 10% of the population was Jewish and through British sponsored immigration and the Balfour declaration they started coming through and by force displaced my cousins. Now, if the logic is one of pure gain or loss of territory, then what is the purpose of any state signing the UN charter which prohibits the acquisition of land by force and the displacement of people by force. In 48 ethnic cleansing occured as demonstrated by Avi Shliem Ilen Pape and Benni Morris now that archives have become available. So, I would say my cousins should be allowed to adopt the Israeli citizenship. What none of my illustrious “chosen people” on this blog would say is that you have to be Jewish to be a citizen. Once, you put a condition of religious belonging on citizenship you stope being a democracy for all of your citizens. Israel may be a democracy for some citizens but not for all and being a democracy does not take away any of the abhorent criminal and illegal acts the state of Israel is doing in the occupied territories. I can assure my illustrious “chosen people” that today, if democracy were to break out in the ME, the vast majority of the people of Egypt and Jordan would abrogate the peace treaty with Israel, and would opt for a confrontational stand. Yet, you love kinglet Hussain and La Vache qui Rit Mubarak.

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November 20th, 2007, 1:18 am

 

64. norman said:

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The Middle East has had a secretive nuclear power in its midst for years

When will the US and the UK tell the truth about Israeli weapons? Iran isn’t starting an atomic arms race, it’s joining one

George Monbiot
Tuesday November 20, 2007
The Guardian

George Bush and Gordon Brown are right: there should be no nuclear weapons in the Middle East. The risk of a nuclear conflagration could be greater there than anywhere else. Any nation developing them should expect a firm diplomatic response. So when will they impose sanctions on Israel?
Like them, I believe that Iran is trying to acquire the bomb. I also believe it should be discouraged, by a combination of economic pressure and bribery, from doing so (a military response would, of course, be disastrous). I believe that Bush and Brown – who maintain their nuclear arsenals in defiance of the non-proliferation treaty – are in no position to lecture anyone else. But if, as Bush claims, the proliferation of such weapons “would be a dangerous threat to world peace”, why does neither man mention the fact that Israel, according to a secret briefing by the US Defence Intelligence Agency, possesses between 60 and 80 of them?

Article continues

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——————————————————————————–

Officially, the Israeli government maintains a position of “nuclear ambiguity”: neither confirming nor denying its possession of nuclear weapons. But everyone who has studied the issue knows that this is a formula with a simple purpose: to give the United States an excuse to keep breaking its own laws, which forbid it to grant aid to a country with unauthorised weapons of mass destruction. The fiction of ambiguity is fiercely guarded. In 1986, when the nuclear technician Mordechai Vanunu handed photographs of Israel’s bomb factory to the Sunday Times, he was lured from Britain to Rome, drugged and kidnapped by Mossad agents, tried in secret, and sentenced to 18 years in prison. He served 12 of them in solitary confinement and was banged up again – for six months – soon after he was released.
However, in December last year, the Israeli prime minister, Ehud Olmert, accidentally let slip that Israel, like “America, France and Russia”, had nuclear weapons. Opposition politicians were furious. They attacked Olmert for “a lack of caution bordering on irresponsibility”. But US aid continues to flow without impediment.

As the fascinating papers released last year by the National Security Archive show, the US government was aware in 1968 that Israel was developing a nuclear device (what it didn’t know is that the first one had already been built by then). The contrast to the efforts now being made to prevent Iran from acquiring the bomb could scarcely be starker.

At first, US diplomats urged Washington to make its sale of 50 F4 Phantom jets conditional on Israel’s abandonment of its nuclear programme. As a note sent from the Bureau of Near Eastern Affairs to the secretary of state in October 1968 reveals, the order would make the US “the principal supplier of Israel’s military needs” for the first time. In return, it should require “commitments that would make it more difficult for Israel to take the critical decision to go nuclear”. Such pressure, the memo suggested, was urgently required: France had just delivered the first of a consignment of medium range missiles, and Israel intended to equip them with nuclear warheads.

Twenty days later, on November 4 1968, when the assistant defence secretary met Yitzhak Rabin (then the Israeli ambassador to Washington), Rabin “did not dispute in any way our information on Israel’s nuclear or missile capability”. He simply refused to discuss it. Four days after that, Rabin announced that the proposal was “completely unacceptable to us”. On November 27, Lyndon Johnson’s administration accepted Israel’s assurance that “it will not be the first power in the Middle East to introduce nuclear weapons”.

As the memos show, US officials knew that this assurance had been broken even before it was made. A record of a phone conversation between Henry Kissinger and another official in July 1969 reveals that Richard Nixon was “very leery of cutting off the Phantoms”, despite Israel’s blatant disregard of the agreement. The deal went ahead, and from then on the US administration sought to bamboozle its own officials in order to defend Israel’s lie. In August 1969, US officials were sent to “inspect” Israel’s Dimona nuclear plant. But a memo from the state department reveals that “the US government is not prepared to support a ‘real’ inspection effort in which the team members can feel authorised to ask directly pertinent questions and/or insist on being allowed to look at records, logs, materials and the like. The team has in many subtle ways been cautioned to avoid controversy, ‘be gentlemen’ and not take issue with the obvious will of the hosts”.

Nixon refused to pass the minutes of the conversation he’d had with the Israeli prime minister, Golda Meir, to the US ambassador to Israel, Wally Barbour. Meir and Nixon appear to have agreed that the Israeli programme could go ahead, as long as it was kept secret.

The US government has continued to protect it. Every six months, the intelligence agencies provide Congress with a report on technology acquired by foreign states that’s “useful for the development or production of weapons of mass destruction”. These reports discuss the programmes in India, Pakistan, North Korea, Iran and other nations, but not in Israel. Whenever other states have tried to press Israel to join the nuclear non-proliferation treaty, the US and European governments have blocked them. Israel has also exempted itself from the biological and chemical weapons conventions.

By refusing to sign these treaties, Israel ensures it needs never be inspected. While the International Atomic Energy Agency’s inspectors crawl round Iran’s factories, put seals on its uranium tanks and blow the whistle when it fails to cooperate, they have no legal authority to inspect facilities in Israel. So when the Israeli government complains, as it did last week, that the head of the IAEA is “sticking his head in the sand over Iran’s nuclear programme”, you can only gape at its chutzpah. Israel is constantly racking up the pressure for action against Iran, aware that no powerful state will press for action against Israel.

Yes, Iran under Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is a dangerous and unpredictable state involved in acts of terror abroad. The president is a Holocaust denier opposed to the existence of Israel. During the Iran-Iraq war, Iran responded to Saddam Hussein’s toxic bombardments with chemical weapons of its own. But Israel under Olmert is also a dangerous and unpredictable state involved in acts of terror abroad. Two months ago it bombed a site in Syria (whose function is fiercely disputed). Last year, it launched a war of aggression against Lebanon. It remains in occupation of Palestinian lands. In February 2001, according to the BBC, it used chemical weapons in Gaza: 180 people were admitted to hospital with severe convulsions. Nuclear weapons in Israel’s hands are surely just as dangerous as nuclear weapons in Iran’s.

So when will our governments speak up? When will they acknowledge that there is already a nuclear power in the Middle East, and that it presents an existential threat to its neighbours? When will they admit that Iran is not starting a nuclear arms race, but joining one? When will they demand that the rules they impose on Iran should also apply to Israel?

monbiot.com

Comments

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November 20th, 2007, 1:21 am

 

65. Akbar Palace said:

Observer opines:

I do think that the Zionists are equally at fault for the hostilities that led to the birth of the state of Israel.

Surprise, surprise.

In the 1920’s less than 10% of the population was Jewish and through British sponsored immigration and the Balfour declaration they started coming through and by force displaced my cousins.

No one displaced anyone “by force” until the war that was initiated by the Arabs began in the late 1940s.

In 48 ethnic cleansing occured as demonstrated by Avi Shliem Ilen Pape and Benni Morris now that archives have become available.

Ethnic cleansing occurred because of the war the Arabs brought upon the people of the region instead of compromise (Partition).

So, I would say my cousins should be allowed to adopt the Israeli citizenship.

Thanks, but really, no one care what you say.

What none of my illustrious “chosen people” on this blog would say is that you have to be Jewish to be a citizen.

Because that would be a lie. 20% of Israeli citizens are not Jewish. Perhaps you confuse citizenship with immigration policy, in which case, is dependent on the will of the people.

Once, you put a condition of religious belonging on citizenship you stope being a democracy for all of your citizens.

Correct, which is why Israel is a democracy: because there is “NO CONDITION OF RELIGIOUS BELONGING” on the citizens of Israel.

Israel may be a democracy for some citizens but not for all…

Give examples before pontificating and making false claims.

… and being a democracy does not take away any of the abhorent criminal and illegal acts the state of Israel is doing in the occupied territories.

This may be difficult for you to understand, but democracies have the same capacity to kick the butt of a sworn enemy as a non-democracy, except that the will of the people to change course is always a factor for an “evil democracy”.

I can assure my illustrious “chosen people” that today, if democracy were to break out in the ME, the vast majority of the people of Egypt and Jordan would abrogate the peace treaty with Israel, and would opt for a confrontational stand.

So? Who cares? If Eygpt and Jordan want war (again), GO FOR IT!

(Of course, Observer, you’re free to emulate the “illustrious” Edward Said: throw a few rocks over the “Good Fence” and do your best to free the poor Palestinians)

Yet, you love kinglet Hussain and La Vache qui Rit Mubarak.

I love anyone interested in peace.

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November 20th, 2007, 1:41 am

 

66. AnotherIsraeliGuy said:

Observer says:
“I can assure my illustrious “chosen people” that today, if democracy were to break out in the ME, the vast majority of the people of Egypt and Jordan would abrogate the peace treaty with Israel, and would opt for a confrontational stand. Yet, you love kinglet Hussain and La Vache qui Rit Mubarak. ”

Exactly, and that is why peace with dictators is a sham and Israel will not make peace with Asad, only with a democratic Syria if it wants peace.

Judaism is also a nation, a fact that you fail to grasp. I am for example an atheist Jew and there are many like me. I belong to the Jewish nation nevertheless. Israel is the country for this one nation, the Jewish one. Let me give you another example to drive this point home. The late Cardinal of Paris, Lustiger, was a Jew who was put in a monastery as a child during WWII. He rose to be a Cardinal. He was a Catholic Jew and would have become citizen of Israel if chose to. I hope you understand that Judaism is not just a religion but is also a nation. Just as there is a country for the Hungarians and Czechs and Slovaks and Fins and Germans, there is one small country for Jews. Get used to it.

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November 20th, 2007, 1:51 am

 

67. abraham said:

IG:

In democracies, questions of peace and war are decided by the people, acting through their elected representatives – meaning, the government.

That’s what ‘elected representatives’ mean.
The elected government takes decisions on behalf of its people, who elected them.

That’s how any democracy works – not just an ideal one.
In Lebanon, the situation is totally different, so it’s not a democracy.

Quite frankly, you have no idea what you’re talking about, and now you’re just deliberately being a clown.

Did you vote to bomb Syria in September?
Did you vote to attack Lebanon in 2006?
Did you vote to invade Lebanon in 1982?
Did you vote to go to war in 1973? In 1967?

No? Then by your definition, Israel is not a democracy either.

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November 20th, 2007, 3:18 am

 

68. abraham said:

Al Qaeda Palace took his hand off his schlong long enough to type:

Thanks, but really, no one care what you say.

I care what Observer says. On the other hand, any time you say anything a flower dies.

Give examples before pontificating and making false claims.

That’s like the hyena calling the jackal a dog.

How many Mossad agents frequent this blog anyway?

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November 20th, 2007, 3:24 am

 

69. AnotherIsraeliGuy said:

Abraham,
You are quite slow. IG and AP and I vote for the government that chooses whether to go to war or not. That is democracy. No one in Lebanon voted Nasrallah into power and he led Lebanon into a war. See the difference? In Israel it is the elected government that decides on a war. In Lebanon it is a militia that nobody elected that decides on going to war. Still do not see the difference? Maybe IG will be able to explain.

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November 20th, 2007, 4:47 am

 

70. Enlightened said:

Logged in late this afternoon , a sweltering day in Sydney, read the current thread on SC and noted that;

1. Democracy despite all its flaws is the way to go! (albeit minus militias that starts wars ,and a rougue army that targets civilians)

2. It is not permissable to freely emigrate to Israel unless you are a jew ( reminded me of Danny glover in one of his roles applying to be a citizen in Aprathied South Africa – Lethal Weapon). Like wise if you are a poor Palestinian living in another Arab land you live in refugee camps and are denied sometimes the fruits of citizenship.

3. It is not permissable to make peace with Dictators! Because it rewards them ( This argument is severely flawed because once the Arabs have peace their demands on their rulers will be far greater than they are now)

4. Everyone believes their side has the high moral ground ( Little do they realize it takes two to argue and both sides are to blame )

5. We Have Democracy hence we are better ( see points 1,2,3 and 4 )

6. It is like the Hyena calling the Jackal a dog ( hat tip Abraham) Unfortunately there are too many Hyenas in the Mid East, One Lion, and he is keeping the Hyenas at Bay ( Waiting for a Simba to come to his rescue )

7. All of you provide some light hearted entertainment on a sweltering day, back to my ice tea.

Wait for the earthquake from Lebanon by Friday! It will give us something new to talk about.

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November 20th, 2007, 5:59 am

 

71. abraham said:

AIG:

You are quite slow. IG and AP and I vote for the government that chooses whether to go to war or not.

Oh? So you know in advance that there’s going to be a war, so you vote for the guy who will take you to war when the time is right? Sounds pretty dumb to me. In other words, perfectly Israeli.

But I was thinking of here in America, where we would have a real democracy if our stupid politicians obeyed the Constitution. When the prospect of a war is upon us, our elected representatives are supposed to literally vote
to either give or deny the president the authority to use the armed forces. Silly me, I assumed every democracy worked with such checks and balances.

In Lebanon it is a militia that nobody elected that decides on going to war.

Know your enemy: Hizballah has 14 seats in Lebanon’s 128 member parliament.

Please come to the debate better prepared next time.

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November 20th, 2007, 7:29 am

 

72. SimoHurtta said:

When there is democracy in Syria, the Israelis will elect a government that will agree to make peace with Syria. It is as simple as that. The EU and the US cannot “command” Israel to make peace. It is something that has to come from the Israeli people. And when Syria is a democracy, Israelis will DEMAND peace with it because Israelis want a real peace.

Do you seriously claim that Olmert is now making the unpopular admissions because Israelis want it? Olmert does what he does because US government wants it, not because Israeli voters want it. USA and EU can easily command Israel, when it is in their strategic interests. A couple of months with no trade and the last leaving double passport guy can shut the lamps of the Jewish homeland.

Sim, as ususal you got your facts all wrong. You don’t have to approve the Jewish nature of Israel to run for the Knesset. You think Azmi Bishara’s party Balad approves of it? They and other similar parties have been in the knesset for decades.

Seems AIG that I read more carefully the Israeli “free speech” as you. Haaretz says clearly

Committee members’ opinions varied considerably during the discussion. The Hadash party that raised the issue are focusing on expressing its disapproval of the state’s definition as Jewish in the context of negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians. Other parties, such as Balad, believe the committee must express a principled disapproval of such a definition.

Such may be a breach of Israeli law, which stipulates that no party can participate in the elections if it rejects the democratic and Jewish nature of the State of Israel.

Well, either Haaretz has its facts wrong or you AIG do not know anything about Israeli (racist) legislation. I favour the view that Haaretz is right and you AIG are wrong (as usual).

It would also be extremely astonishing if Palestinians (non Israelis) are in pre-Annapolis negotiations demanded to acknowledge “the Jewish nature of Israel”, but not the Israeli parties participating in the parliament elections.

PS.
Seems AIG that you did not like the idea of giving 20 percent of Israel to Israeli Arabs and no more borders with Lebanon and Syria.
AIG why do you not ever answer the questions about JNF and the land rights in Israel? If you can prove “the democratic essence” of such a racist religious system, I promise to begin to “believe” your democracy comments.

PS 2
To this “the late Cardinal of Paris, Lustiger, was a Jew” comment. Is a Jew who converted to Islam (or Christianity) still a Jew and are his/her Muslim (or Christian) children and grandchildren Jews? I suppose not at least with the children. On the other hand anybody can in theory became a Jew (a member of the chosen people “nation”) if he/she converts to Judaism.

A Finn’s, who converted to for example Buddhism, Buddhist grandchildren are still Finns. Also a Buddhist who moves to Finland can became citizen of the country after living a certain time here. That is the difference between countries, nations and religions in “civilized countries”.

I hope you understand that Judaism is not just a religion but is also a nation.

Well are Mormons or Hindus a nation?

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November 20th, 2007, 8:14 am

 

73. IsraeliGuy said:

Abraham,

In a democracy, the people elects its leaders and parliament members (that’s what ‘elected representatives’ mean).
The government is the only body which can decide on questions of war and peace.

The government represents the people when it comes to decision making.
That’s how democratic systems works: you elect your representatives and they accept decisions on your behalf.

In Lebanon, there were indeed elections and a government was formed.
However, Hezbollah initiated attacks on a neighboring country, without getting the approval of the Lebanese government.

Hezbollah ran its own, independent ‘war and peace’ policies for years, without being accountable to the official elected body: the Lebanese government.

The Lebanese government, actually agreed to live with this undemocratic situation for years and didn’t do anything substantial to fix it and to become a real democracy.

In the US, the army is under civilian control with the freely elected president serving as commander-in-chief.

If the Democrats or the Republicans (or both) had their own armed militias or armies, with independent ‘war and peace’ policies – the US wouldn’t have been a democracy.
But this is not the case.

And one more point:

When your comments include name twisting and personal attacks of the lowest kind (“Al Qaeda Palace took his hand off his schlong long enough to type:…”) – it just weakens your arguments, even further.

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November 20th, 2007, 1:57 pm

 

74. abraham said:

IG:

In a democracy…

Look, enough already. I’m not going to be lectured about democracy by a guy who niether understands what one is nor who lives inside one. You don’t even know the correct definition of “democracy”. You keep spouting off your opinion of what a democracy should be, not what a democracy is as developed by Greek philosophers and upon what the entire Western form of government is based.

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November 20th, 2007, 2:56 pm

 

75. IsraeliGuy said:

The Lebanese system has an elected government and a national army, but it also enables a party to form its own independent army that can practice any war & peace policies that it chooses, whenever it wants, without the approval of the elected government.

It’s practically democracy 101.
I’m convinced now.

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November 20th, 2007, 3:41 pm

 

76. AnotherIsraeliGuy said:

Sim,
You get things wrong as usual.
A Jew is someone born to a Jewish mother or who has converted. Now that you know the simple formula, you can answer your own silly questions. The Jews are a nation, deal with it.

Israeli law does not allow a party that REJECTS democracy or the right of the Jews to Israel to run. Any party may keep silent on these issues and run just as Balad and Hadash have done for decades. Would the Hungarians let a party run that said that Hungary should not be a Hungarian state? Of course not. There is nothing racist about this. Democracy should not allow anyone that wants to undermine it to manipulate it for undemocratic purposes.

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November 20th, 2007, 4:06 pm

 

77. abraham said:

AnotherIsraeliGuy said:

A Jew is someone born to a Jewish mother or who has converted. Now that you know the simple formula, you can answer your own silly questions. The Jews are a nation, deal with it.

By that definition, Stupidity is also a nation.

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November 20th, 2007, 4:44 pm

 

78. abraham said:

MossadGuy,

You wouldn’t know Democracy if it strapped a bomb on itself and detonated it while standing next to you.

I’m not sure what you hope to achieve by continuing to hammer away at this. Your arguments are hollow. If you want to embrace idiocy then that’s your perogative, but leave Democracy out of it.

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November 20th, 2007, 4:49 pm

 

79. IsraeliGuy said:

Name calling and derogatory language are poor substitute for real persuasive arguments.

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November 20th, 2007, 5:10 pm

 

80. abraham said:

MossadGuy,

When persuasive arguments are called for, I will employ them. Until a suitable debating partner arrives, I will respond as I see appropriate.

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November 20th, 2007, 5:32 pm

 

81. Akbar Palace said:

You wouldn’t know Democracy if it strapped a bomb on itself and detonated it while standing next to you.

Abraham,

The Holy Palestinian Shaheeda call for your sacrifice. They need more than just assinine statements on a pro-terror website at this time of need. Please call the “Syria Comment Martyr Line” for additional information and your free video.

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November 20th, 2007, 5:34 pm

 

82. abraham said:

How funny, coming from a guy that spends all his time on the internet promoting war against the Arabs, yet even with a severe shortage of new recruits to fight in the Global War of Terror he wouldn’t dare to go down to the recruiting office and volunteer his lazy ass to the effort.

All talk.

At least martyrs are willing to die for their cause. What are you willing to do? Get Carpal-Tunnel Syndrome?

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November 20th, 2007, 6:15 pm

 

83. Alex said:

Israeliguy,

Every action has an equal and opposite reaction.

AIG is a magician … he can transform a pleasant argument into a name-calling debate.

I resist his magic better than Abraham can (or wants to).

If you are in the mood for some meaningful stats … go back and count the name calling parts of AIG (And Akbar before him) before many commentators joined him in name calling.

Your approach is much more positive. you disagree with me most of the time and Ausamaa does not like you 😉 but in general we can have much more interesting and civilized conversations with you.

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November 20th, 2007, 6:16 pm

 

84. SimoHurtta said:

Sim,
You get things wrong as usual.
A Jew is someone born to a Jewish mother or who has converted. Now that you know the simple formula, you can answer your own silly questions. The Jews are a nation, deal with it.

So if a female Jew who converts to Islam and has lets say ten daughters (Muslims naturally), is a Jew like her daughters. And when the daughters have children, whose religion is Islam, they are also Jews.

Do these female third generation Jews, with Islam as their faith, do they have the right to come to live to Israel? 🙂

Come-on AIG Judaism is a religion. The nation thing is mostly pure fiction and propaganda. The Palestinians have probably more “old Jewish genes” (from those ancestors who stayed in area) than most of “Russian Jews”.

Israeli law does not allow a party that REJECTS democracy or the right of the Jews to Israel to run. Any party may keep silent on these issues and run just as Balad and Hadash have done for decades. Would the Hungarians let a party run that said that Hungary should not be a Hungarian state? Of course not. There is nothing racist about this. Democracy should not allow anyone that wants to undermine it to manipulate it for undemocratic purposes.

Actually AIG you show again your level of education. Millions of Hungarians live as a minority outside Hungary (the country). In Romania etc. Hungarians have different religions. As far as I know they do not have a law in Hungary (the country) that Catholic Hungarians are “superior” over Jewish Hungarians.

I understand that Israeli parties must obey the democracy “command” but not “the Jews right to run the country” (as you say it) “command”. That is not democratic. If in one hundred years there is one Jew left in Israel and ten million non-Jews, should the Jew run the country?

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November 20th, 2007, 7:12 pm

 

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