Assessing Hariri’s visit to Lebanon and Syria’s Rise

“It was nonsense to try to isolate Syria,” says the new French ambassador to Damascus, Eric Chevallier. “It was not feasible, and ended up being counterproductive.”


Q&A: Eric Chevallier, French Ambassador to Syria
By John Dagge in Syria Today

We believe that Syria is a key country in the region, not only for political reasons. Economically and geographically, Syria is very important as well. So my task is clear: to build upon this political dynamic in order to strengthen our political, economic, cultural and social relations. This will not necessarily be easy, but it is a clear goal.

Can you update our readers on Franco-Syrian business ties?

There are a number of key and very visible projects underway in Syria. One is the presence of Total [energy company], a very important French firm. A very interesting project is also being carried out by Lafarge [building materials group] which is constructing a cement factory in the north of the country. This project uses the most up-to-date technology and will boast the largest cement compressor in the world. There is also a very successful project with Bel [food group], which is also being carried out in cooperation with Syrian business partners. Most recently, a deal was finalised between the Port of Lattakia and a major French shipping company to modernise the port facility. We also have the new Franco-Syrian Entrepreneurs Club and AFD, the French development agency, which is rapidly establishing a presence here. The AFD office in Damascus was officially opened on October 24. These are all emblematic projects. But it is clear that we need to do more. France can do more with big projects, particularly in the fields of infrastructure, transport, energy and water. We are also keen to develop smaller initiatives. Put simply, although we have a number of emblematic projects underway, we think that the economic relationship does not match the excellent political dynamics and we need to work on this.

Kouchner: France has Often Been Disappointed in Syria

French Foreign Minister Brernard Kouchne hailed a visit to Syria by Prime Minister Saad Hariri, uncovering a similar trip by the Lebanese premier to Paris in the coming few days. Kouchner believed Lebanon has achieved “progress,” citing parliamentary elections, establishment of a national unity government and Hariri’s visit to Damascus.

Asked about Hariri’s outcome of his visit to Syria, Kouchner commented: “Parties better talk to each other rather than fight each other.”

He lauded Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s initiative toward Hariri, saying: “I hope I am not mistaken for we have often been disappointed in this country (Syria) in particular.”

Robert Worth in the NYTimes

the United States and the West have chosen to engage with Syria, not isolate it. And Saudi Arabia, which has long backed Mr. Hariri and competed with Syria for influence here, reconciled with the Syrians earlier this year, leaving them a freer hand to guide politics in Lebanon as they once did.

All this has been known for months, but it was still tremendously important for Mr. Hariri to actually cross the mountains — in his first visit since before his father’s killing — and pay his respects in Damascus.

“The image of Syrian soldiers retreating was a huge blow to them,” said Elias Muhanna, a political analyst and the author of the Lebanese blog Qifa Nabki. “So the image of Hariri coming over the mountains means they’ve come full circle. It demonstrates to all the power centers in Damascus that Bashar has restored Syria’s position of strength vis-à-vis Lebanon.”

The visit also has vivid historical echoes for many Lebanese. In 1977, the Druze leader Walid Jumblatt visited Damascus just weeks after his own father was killed in an attack that is believed to have been arranged by Syria. Like Mr. Hariri, he had little choice: he had to reconcile with Syria if he wanted to continue playing a political role.

“The stability of Lebanon always depends on its environment, and basically this environment is Syria,” Mr. Jumblatt said in an interview on Sunday. “For the sake of Lebanese stability, we have got to put aside personal animosity.”

It is difficult to say exactly what Mr. Hariri’s visit portends in terms of Lebanese-Syrian relations. By one measure, he has already achieved his most important goals: the Syrian Army is gone, and no one expects it to return. The two countries restored diplomatic relations this year. The international tribunal that was formed in 2005 under United Nations auspices to try the elder Hariri’s killers continues its work here and in the Netherlands, where it is based. It could still indict high-ranking Syrians, although most analysts say that seems less likely than it did four years ago.

But most agree that Syria will once again have a powerful, undisputed voice here on issues ranging from cabinet positions to the militant Shiite movement Hezbollah, which Syria supports. The influence is not likely to be as crude as it was during the 1990s, when Syrian officers strutted through Beirut and were accused of raking profits from Lebanese industries. To some here, that is improvement enough. To others, Mr. Hariri’s trip across the mountains was a tragic concession.

Dr. al-Taqi says Baghdad should look closer to home for the culprits. “There are forces in Iraq that want to see it turned into a weak federal state,” he said. “Syria has no interest in that. We don’t want another Lebanon on our border.” …

Commenting on the international red carpet that has been rolled out for Damascus, one Western diplomat said it was hoped that Syria also had learned a lesson. “We want Syria to stop playing with the bad guys and start playing with the good guys,” he said.

This isn’t the attitude of a lot of Syrians, however. Hearing of this remark, an influential Syrian businessman leaned over and said softly: “Playing with the good guys never got us anywhere.” Globe and Mail

Michael Totten at Commentary Mag Blog

I was invited to dinner at Hariri’s house earlier this year and had a long and frank discussion about politics with him and some colleagues. I can’t quote him because the meeting was off the record, but trust me: the man is no friend of the Syrian government or Hezbollah, and it’s not just because someone in that crowd killed his father……

No one has Hariri’s or Lebanon’s back, not anymore. He and his allies in the “March 14″ coalition have sensed this for some time, which is why Druze leader Walid Jumblatt has grudgingly softened his opposition to Assad and Hezbollah lately. When Hariri went to Damascus, everyone in the country, aside from useless newswire reporters, understood it meant Syria has re-emerged as the strong horse in Lebanon.

Walid Jumblatt is another member of what David Schenker calls the Murdered Fathers Club….

It’s bad news for the Lebanese, the Americans, the French, the Saudis, and the Israelis. None of this was inevitable, but — in Lebanon, at least — it was predictable.

Sami Moubayed,”Hariri’s Syria visit sets Lebanon on track

During the press conference, Hariri said that the “skies were blue” between Syria and Lebanon, promising a new phase of cooperation between the two countries that were once one an entity before being divided by European colonizers only 90 years ago, after World War I.

Hariri tried to put an end to the debate about his visit, saying that it should not be seen as one party scoring a point over the other, “otherwise, we will never move forward”. Many in the Lebanese press said he has made a grand concession by coming to Syria, given accusations in Beirut that the Syrians were responsible for the murder of his father, Rafik, in February 2005.

The Syrians, however, see things very differently. They are convinced that they had nothing to do with the Hariri murder, meaning it is only natural for Hariri to come to Syria since they had done nothing to make him upset in the first place. Every Lebanese prime minister since the 1940s, after all, has made the trip to Syria, even Hariri’s predecessor and protege, Fouad al-Siniora, who came during the lowest points in Syrian Lebanese relations, in 2005.

If Hariri wants to rule Lebanon – and succeed – he needs to have good relations with Syria. Syria after all, according to what he said shortly before heading to Damascus, was Lebanon’s “only neighbor”.

If this relationship was not mended, Hariri realized, his standing would always remain strained with Hezbollah and the Free Patriotic Movement of General Michel Aoun. And in order to rule, he cannot have the Shi’ites or the Maronites at odds with his cabinet. Simply put, a cabinet with no Hezbollah or its sister party, Amal, means one with no Shi’ites – meaning an unconstitutional one.

Hariri tried, with the help of particular strongmen in his March 14 Alliance, to confront the warriors of Hezbollah on the streets of Beirut in May 2008. His men were rounded up in a matter of hours, proving how poorly prepared they were for battle and how powerful Syria and its allies were on the streets of Beirut. This was in response to an attempt by the Hariri-dominated Siniora cabinet to dismantle Hezbollah’s telecommunications network at Beirut International Airport.

Before that, according to Hezbollah, members of his team urged Israel to carry on with its 2006 war on Lebanon, hoping that it would succeed at breaking, or at least weakening, Hezbollah. Hariri after all is an extension of Saudi influence in Lebanon, while Hezbollah is an extension of Iranian weight in Lebanese affairs.

During the heyday of Hariri’s father, an understanding had been reached between the two countries, whereby Rafik Hariri ruled Lebanon and was supported by Hezbollah, who in turn obtained greater decision-making powers along with their allies in the Lebanese state, and were allowed to keep their arms to fight the Israelis.

Now, after trying and failing to get rid of Hezbollah, Hariri has decided to court them – and their Syrian patrons – which partially explains why he landed in Damascus….

Not only did the Saudis encourage Hariri to go to Syria, but they are now preparing to welcome Nasrallah to Saudi Arabia for a groundbreaking visit for the Iran-backed Hezbollah leader.

On another front, Iran, too, is supportive of Hariri, now that he has promised to “protect and embrace” the arms of Hezbollah, meaning that the regional neighborhood is well placed at this stage, like no time since 2005, to help Saad Hariri succeed in his job as premier. He has Iran and Saudi Arabia behind him, and now the Syrians, and is already backed by big-hitters in the international community such as France and the US. Times could not be better for the 69th prime minister of Lebanon.

See Forward Magazine’s new on-line format – Beautiful – congrats to Sami and Haykal

S&P Raises Lebanon LT FC Sovereign Rtg To ‘B';
2009-12-22

The following is a press release from Standard & Poor’s:

— We are raising the long- and short-term sovereign credit ratings on the Republic of Lebanon to ‘B/B’, from ‘B-/C’.

– The upgrade and positive outlook reflect our view that Lebanon’s public finances, and in particular the banking system, have proven resilient in the face of the political turmoil over the past three years, and that recent developments in Lebanon may provide a greater measure of political stability in the medium term.

Syria Politics Overview 2009: The Road to Damascus
By Fay Ferguson, December 2009, Syria Today

…… More show than go

Despite the initial flurry of activity, however, the second half of 2009 saw the string of US delegates dwindle. Moreover, the country is still waiting on the arrival of a US ambassador and no progress seems to have been made on lifting economic sanctions. In an interview with the French daily Le Figaro published last month, Assad chided Obama for not matching words with actions.

“What has happened so far is a new approach; dialogue has replaced commands which is good,” he said. “But things stopped there.”

Political analysts put the lack of concrete progress down to an unwillingness of both sides to be the first to make meaningful concessions before some of their policy demands are met.

“Syria doesn’t expect change to be fast, but it did expect to receive an ambassador by now,” Ayman Abdelnour, a media consultant to the EU for the Middle East-North Africa region, said. “In terms of substance, US policy hasn’t changed.”

While Syrian officials have reiterated that the country’s alliances with Iran, Hezbollah and Hamas are unbreakable, analysts claim ties could well be softened if Syria had something tangible to gain. Until the US lifts economic sanctions and exerts pressure on Israel to agree to the full return of the Golan Heights, they note that Damascus has little incentive to accommodate US interests in the region.

“Syria has discovered that the president of the United States does not control all aspects of the country’s foreign policy,” Joshua Landis, a prominent Syria expert, said. “Congress is a roadblock in the path to lifting economic sanctions on Syria. Without either the return of the Golan or the lifting of sanctions, Syria has little interest in making important concessions to the US.”

During Israel’s two-month war on Gaza launched in December 2008, Syria openly and forcefully rallied behind Hamas and condemned the attacks as clear war crimes. Assad’s popularity in the region soared as a frustrated Arab public became increasingly disillusioned with the silence of leaders in Riyadh and Cairo.

“Despite Obama’s outreach, the mood in the region is for resistance and Syria’s position is now very strong,” Abdelnour said. “Each month resistance groups are holding their meetings in Damascus. US policy isn’t popular in the region, so why would Syria change tactics and join Washington? Syria is now in a position to enforce its views, one that has been strengthening since Israel’s war against Hezbollah in 2006.”

Prospects for peace

In terms of the Syrian-Israeli peace process, 2009 again resulted in deadlock. Local observers have all but given up hope that the Israeli government headed by Benjamin Netanyahu is seriously interested in peace, or that the Obama administration is willing to apply the kind of pressure needed to bring it about.

“Syria is serious about a just and comprehensive peace – Israel is definitely not,” Jihad Makdissi, spokesman for the Syrian embassy in London, said. “Arab countries made a historical collective offer to Israel in the form of the Arab Peace Initiative in 2002 and Israel reciprocated by killing 1,300 Palestinians in Gaza. Peace does not seem to be imminent.”

The approach to negotiations remains in a familiar deadlock. Syria insists on certain ground rules which will form the basis for negotiations: that they must be based on UN Security Council Resolutions 242 and 338 and take up where they stopped at the Madrid Peace Conference, adopting the ‘land for peace’ formula. For Syria, these are not preconditions, but internationally recognised commitments undertaken by both sides. Netanyahu and the US reject this approach and demand that negotiations start from square one, without any commitment that Israel withdraw from occupied Syrian territory.

“The positions of the two sides are diametrically opposed which probably precludes the possibility of a peace agreement between Syria and Israel while Netanyahu is in power,” Elias Samo, a professor of international relations at the University of Aleppo, said.

Syria-Saudi rapprochement

While simultaneously engaging in dialogue with the US and upholding the right to resistance, Syria also entered a period of rapprochement with Saudi Arabia. The reconciliation comes after years of strained relations between the two countries over Syria’s alliance with Iran and support for Lebanon’s Hezbollah faction, two of Saudi Arabia’s biggest ideological threats in the region. Laying these tensions to rest necessitated a flurry of diplomatic activity and led to the appointment of ambassadors in both countries. In March, Assad met with King Abdullah in Riyadh and in October the Saudi King visited Damascus for the first time as head of state.

Saudi Arabia’s switch from a policy of isolation to one of engagement with Syria is a sign, say analysts, that Riyadh recogises Damascus can influence numerous regional arenas.

“Syria has many cards to play; Iran, Hezbollah, Hamas and other resistance groups,” Samo said. “US-backed countries in the region have discovered that Syria cannot be overlooked, marginalised or discounted. It is an important player in all Middle Eastern issues.”

The potential for Syria to exert its influence was underlined, says Abdelnour, when Damascus officially supported Saudi Arabia’s right to defend itself against security threats posed by the Shi’ite rebellion in northern Yemen, an uprising many have claimed is backed by Tehran.

“At the moment Saudi Arabia needs Syria’s support in dealing with the crisis in Yemen,” Abdelnour said. “The Shi’ite uprising is a security threat on Saudi Arabia’s border, so Riyadh hopes Syria will use its influence on Iran to calm the situation down.”

Highlighting a new climate of understanding between the two countries, Makdissi emphasised Damascus’s commitment to preserving Saudi Arabia’s security.

“We always shared the same political objectives, but we sometimes differed on how to achieve them because we read events differently,” he said. “Syria has played an important role in preserving the security of the Gulf countries at the time of crisis and it will continue to do the same. Saudi-Syrian relations remain the cornerstone of Arab solidarity.”

Syria’s rapprochement with Saudi Arabia has given rise to much speculation that a warmer political climate will take hold in the region. Yet significant differences of opinion remain in Iraq, Lebanon and Palestine. Syria’s ongoing spat with Baghdad regarding Iraqi Ba’athist groups based in the country, which resulted in both capitals recalling their ambassadors in August, is an example of how quickly thaws can freeze back over.

“We should not hold our breath for Arab unity to break out any time soon,” Landis said. “Arabs will remain deeply divided, especially over countries with weak governments such as Iraq, Lebanon and Yemen where much is at stake. Saudi Arabia will have to give Syria’s interests greater concern before relations will make much further progress.”

The rise and rise of Turkey

While mending bridges in the Gulf, Syria also shored up support to the north of its borders. Damascus’s alliance with Turkey went from strength to strength in 2009…..

Majalla has just published a special edition on Bashar Assad with 3 or 4 interesting articles in English (Thanks Steve)

Alex Explains why Syrian occupation of Lebanon was not the same as Israel’s occupation of Palestinian lands. In response to Shai who had written: “There are plenty on my side, who are exact copies. They too would say: “…and stop giving us moral-lessons about Occupation after its own “little history” in some neighboring country…” Alex writes:

Shai, I will use the example you wrote here to let Ausamaa and Norman (and practically every Syrian I can think of) know that I agree with your call for Syrians to have meaningful discussions with Israelis.

Why?

Because, we need to do a good job in presenting Syria’s point of view. Only Syrians will be motivated enough to do it right. We can’t hire a PR firm to represent us, we can’t expect the Israeli peace activists to be able to respond on our behalf (it will discredit them in Israel if they over did it)

Back to the “little history” of Syrian “occupation” of Lebanon … Here is how it is very different from Israel’s occupation

1) Syria was invited by the President of Lebanon, got Arab and international backing before entering the long term challenge of stopping Lebanon’s bloody civil war. The Syrian army was part of the Arab league’s Lebanon rescue army.

Israel … invaded its neighbors.

2) Syria did not annex Lebanon even though it was doable.

Israel annexed the Golan and planted crazy Israeli settlers all over the occupied territories.

3) Syria did not “occupy” any other neighbor … Israel at different points occupied territories from every single neighbor (Egypt, Lebanon, Jordan, Syria and .. Palestine).

For Israel, occupation of others’ lands is a pattern of behavior. (although these days it is not as easy as before)

4) Syria was never ever mentioned specifically in any UNSC resolution for its occupation of another country .. even 1559 does not name Syria by name.

Israel is the target of tens of UN resolutions (SC and GA) … no other country on earth comes a close second to Israel in this regard.

5) Syria respected 1559 and withdrew immediately from Lebanon. Israel does not give a damn about international law (excpet when it can use it against Hizbollah or Iran)

Engaging Syria
James Denselow
guardian, Sunday 20 December 2009
Change in Syria is unlikely to come quickly. But in the meantime, we shouldn’t keep it out in the cold

Critics of Syria have in the past compared the tale of the Assad dynasty to that of the Corleone family in The Godfather. In a National Geographic article this month that infuriated the Syrians to the extent that their Washington ambassador issued a point-by-point rebuttal, Bashar is cast as Michael Corleone. Like Al Pachino’s character, Bashar was called back from abroad to take over the family business following the sudden death of his brother Basil in a car crash (aka Santino Corleone, killed in a car ambush).

Michael Corleone promised to change things and make the family legit, much like Bashar who was “neither stained with blood nor corrupted by radicalism or incompetence” and promised change to Syria as the “Damascus Spring” arrived with his inheriting the presidency in 2000.

Like Corleone, however, Bashar has failed so far to fundamentally change the authoritarian character of the Syrian state. The Damascus Spring was followed by a Damascus Winter, as the bitter winds of regime change swept the region during the Bush years. Yet Syria survived and ever since the Baker-Hamilton report recommended engaging with Syria, the west has been desperately trying to make Damascus an offer it cannot refuse – abandon Hezbollah, Hamas and Iran and come in from the cold.

However, much like attempting to restart a marriage after years of acrimonious divorce, engagement is proving stilted. One of the conclusions in the series of briefing papers produced by the International Crisis Group (ICG) this month suggested that if Syria can endure the isolation brought upon it by the Bush-years, the regime will ask why it should change at all.

Ian Black asked in October whether Syria sees itself as “in the cold” and in need of “the west” considering that its relations with Iran, Turkey and powerful proxy groups are so strong, and that relations with Saudi Arabia have just been patched up.

Recent events were a display of this emboldened Syria. Back in 2005 the country that former CIA-man Flynt Leverett described as “a comparatively small, internally conflicted, economically underperforming, and resource-poor Arab state” was forced to make a humiliated withdrawal of its military from Lebanon.

Four years and a multitude of assassinated prominent Lebanese figures later, over the weekend a line of Lebanese politicians from all the various sect “families” made their way to Damascus to pay their respects to President Bashar al-Assad over the death of his brother Majd Assad. Traditional allies such as Hezbollah and house speaker Nabbil Berri will be followed by the Druze leader Walid Jumblatt and Sunni prime minister Saad Hariri. Figures who may have thought of themselves as once on Syria’s hit list are now paying their dues to the Damascene court.

Some argue that this more secure regime may be more likely to enact significant change. This theory suggests that with a solid base the Ba’ath party could give more priority to political and ideological ideas than to pure power politics. However Alan George has written dismissing such an idea, describing the Ba’athist system of governance as “so demoralised and corrupt that power is wielded for no purpose but power itself”.

So what hope is there for change in Syria? Lebanese president Michel Suleiman had to delay his visit to Damascus due to meetings with President Obama in advance of Lebanon taking up its place as a temporary member of the UN Security Council. Obama, frustrated with his outreach to Iran and unable to effectively pursue an Israeli-Palestinian peace process, may be tempted to see what Suleiman thinks of the prospect of improved US-Syrian relations.

According to the ICG report Obama “turned an old page without settling on a new one”. There is still no US ambassador in Damascus, an insult that will mean Syria will be unlikely to make any real concessions. In addition the Americans have stayed quiet whilst in Iraq Maliki has launched into a series of tirades against Damascus, accusing the Syrian government of being linked to recent large scale bombings, this despite the American military recognising improved security along the Iraqi-Syrian border.

As the ICG reports remind us the instability rife across the Middle East makes any abrupt change in Syria unlikely. Obama should send an ambassador to fully engage US diplomatic channels in order to better assess whether there is any hope of Syria opening up, rather than press for significant change at this time. A “slowly slowly” approach is by no means a visionary one but it may be the best option on the table at this time.

Haaretz exclusive: Olmert’s plan for peace with the Palestinians
By Aluf Benn, Haaretz

Click here to view the map detailing Olmert’s peace plan

Former prime minister Ehud Olmert proposed giving the Palestinians land from communities bordering the Gaza Strip and from the Judean Desert nature reserve in exchange for settlement blocs in the West Bank…..

Olmert also proposed giving land to a future Palestinian state in the Beit She’an Valley near Kibbutz Tirat Tzvi; in the Judean Hills near Nataf and Mevo Betar; and in the area of Lachish and of the Yatir Forest. Together, the areas would have involved the transfer of 327 square kilometers of territory from within the Green Line.

Olmert presented his map to Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas in September of last year. Abbas did not respond, and negotiations ended. In an interview with Haaretz on Tuesday, Abbas said Olmert had presented several drafts of his map…..

Olmert wanted to annex 6.3 percent of the West Bank to Israel, areas that are home to 75 percent of the Jewish population of the territories. ….Olmert proposed the transfer of territory to the Palestinians equivalent to 5.8 percent of the area of the West Bank as well as a safe-passage route from Hebron to the Gaza Strip via a highway that would remain part of the sovereign territory of Israel but where there would be no Israeli presence…..

World Finance Syria Economic Reform Awards 2009
2009-12-22

LONDON, December 22 /PRNewswire/ — It has been a productive and exciting year for Syria. The country has in the past faced difficulties due to its weak
administrative structure, together with US sanctions, which have had an affect on investment and development opportunities. This is changing. The challenges the country faces include shifting from an oil-exporting economy towards a net oil importer; managing the transition from a socialist planned economy towards a liberalised social market economy; and enhancing human development through targeted interventions which ensure a more equitable distribution of wealth and equal economic opportunities for wealth creation across all segments of Syrian society. Several companies are meeting these challenges head on and it is World Finance’s pleasure to recognise those forwarding the agenda. This year World Finance held the Syria Economic Reform Awards. Congratulations to those who made the grade.

Best Telecoms Company
Syriatel Mobile Telecom

Best Financial Brokerage Firm
Bemo Saudi Fransi Finance

Best Tourism Development Company
The Wahoud Group

Best Construction & Property Development Company
Fouad Takla Co.

Best Gas Industry Contracting Company
Lead Contracting & Trading

Best SME Business Promotion Group
Syrian Enterprise & Business Centre

Best Pharmaceuticals Company
National Company for Pharmaceutical Industry (NCPI)

Best Conventional Private Bank
Bank Syria & Overseas

Best Money Exchange Company
Al Fuad Exchange

Best Oilfield Services Company
The Nasco Group

Best Economic Development Company
Khwanda Group

Best Engineering & Utilities Equipment Supplier
Hamscho International Group

Best Plastic Industrial Products Manufacturer
Al-Matin Group

Best Shipping Company
Al-Sham Shipping

Major Foreign Investor
Shell Syria Petroleum Development BV

Best Private Airline
Cham Wings Airline

Best Food Processing Company
National Sugar Company

Best Freight Services Provider
Shamout Group of Companies

Best Importer of Construction & Building Materials
Zein Brothers

Best Container Terminal Manager
Tartous International Container Terminal

Best Luxury Hotel Property
The Four Seasons, Damascus

Best Conventional Private Insurance Company
Syrian-Kuwaiti Insurance Company

Award for Pioneering Key Economic Projects in Support of Syria
MAS Economic Group

Visionary leadership and contribution to the Syrian economy
Mr Haytham Joud, Souria Holding

Lifetime Achievement Award for Promoting Syrian Commerce
Ratab Shallah

Andrew White, Sa’d Business School, Oxford University speaks to Forward about plans to prepare Syria’s promising business leaders through an untraditional academic program. Forward: Why are you here in Damascus?

White: As a representative of the Sa’d Business School at the University of Oxford we are here to set up an executive development program targeted to whom we refer to as `high potential leaders’ here in Syria. We are looking at people between the ages of 25 – 35 who are already demonstrating the characteristics and delivery profile of leaders that come from the public, private and NGO sectors. The program is about helping them prepare for a leadership role in Syria and to understand the country’s future economic development. The program is open to Syrians only and we will be taking on 40 participants in the first program.

Forward: Why is Oxford University interested in Syria?

White: Our school has a very strong level of association with Syria; our program is named after Syrian businessman, Wafic Sa’d. Also if you look at us as a university, we have interests in multiple regions around the world and in the case of Syria, there is much potential.

Forward: Where does Syria’s business potential lie?

White: Syria is coming out of a long period of closed economic practices and is moving towards an open market economy so there are clearly major growth areas in banking and finance, industries which are really opening up to external capital and competition and which will play a major role in bringing in some market discipline and holding companies accountable to shareholders.

Syria is enjoying something of a renaissance.
Patrick Martin, Globe and Mail

The country’s art scene is flourishing, Damascus café life is blooming, shopping malls have cropped up and the moribund economy has awakened from a deep, state-imposed sleep.

“Syria is open for business,” says Mohammad Daaboul, chairman and CEO of the Daaboul Industrial Group and president of the Association of Syrian-Canadian Businessmen…..

Comments (30)


1. why-discuss said:

Renewed Lebanese drug trade hikes Mideast tensions
BAALBEK, Lebanon – Lebanon’s drug-producing heartland is back in business with a resurgence of marijuana and poppy fields, challenging the country’s underpowered security forces and adding another dimension to Israel’s war with Hezbollah militants….

Truly this is a much more efficient and less lethal weapon than rockets.
It is amazing how the western press gets excited about hashish traffic to Israel and much less about the daily house destructions and land occupation. Wouldn’t it be better that these hysterical settlers become drug abusers than palestinian abusers?

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December 23rd, 2009, 12:57 pm

 

2. idaf said:

More assessment of the Hariri visit in the Lebanese press:

Interesting details of the Hariri-Asad meeting:
Hariri spent 22 hours in Damascus and met privately with Asad for more than 8 hours during. The two guys should be friends by now!
http://www.al-akhbar.com/ar/node/170120

Al-Diyar Newspaper: Asad to visit Beirut next month after Mo’allem
http://dp-news.com/Pages/detail.aspx?l=1&articleId=25823

Syria’s unprecedented welcome for Hariri is explained here as Syria’s need to fortify Hariri’s Sunni “Za’im” credentials in Lebanon (to counter growing Sunni radicalism in Lebanon):
http://al-akhbar.com/ar/node/170254
رهانا دمشق في المرحلة المقبلة: الحريري وعون

يكاد الرئيسان سعد الحريري وميشال عون يصبحان الرهانين الجدّيين الوحيدين الموثوق بهما لدى دمشق في المرحلة المقبلة. ومن خلالهما تريد مقاربة العلاقات السورية ـــــ اللبنانية. تريد استعادة الأول زعيماً لتيار سنّي كان في صلب حلفائها اللبنانيين حتى عام 2005.
وهي وإن تعرّفت إلى الحريري للمرة الأولى، فقد تمرّست طويلاً في نبض شارعه. على مرّ عقود العلاقات اللبنانية ـــــ السورية لزم الشارع السنّي الخيارات الإقليمية لدمشق. تريد أيضاً المحافظة على عون بعدما كان أعتى أعدائها، بنت معه تحالفاً سياسياً لا يخجل به الجنرال ولا يتفاداه. بذلك يكون الرئيس بشّار الأسد قد اختار توازناً جديداً للقوى بين الحريري وعون، يمثّل حزب الله والنائب سليمان فرنجيه جزءاً لا يتجزأ منه، لإدارة استقرار لبنان. استقبل الرجلين استقبالاً استثنائياً وعوّل على حرارة العلاقة الشخصية بكل منهما. ولكل منهما، في الموقف من سوريا، مشكلة مع جمهوره: الشارع السنّي يرفض دمشق بعد جريمة 2005، والشارع المسيحي لا يثق بنظامها.

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December 23rd, 2009, 3:22 pm

 

3. idaf said:

Syria 2009 – excellent review
DPA
http://www.alarabiya.net/articles/2009/12/22/94932.html

2009.. عام “انحسار” العزلة وعودة كبار الزائرين إلى دمشق

دمشق – د ب أ

يعتبر الخطاب السوري الرسمي أن العام المنصرم 2009 هو عام “الصواب” والنجاح للسياسة السورية الخارجية، واجتياز جيد لامتحان اقتصادي واجتماعي داخلي، لا يعني بالضرورة حل كل المعضلات إنما جزء مهم منها، وترحيل بعضها الى خطط خمسية قادمة، في منطقة تشهد المزيد من الغليان والتحولات وإعادة تشكيل التحالفات الجيوبوليتيكية.

ويمكن القول إنه منذ صعود نجم الرئيس الامريكي باراك أوباما والتباشير التي كانت تشير إلى فوزه في سباق الانتخابات عاد “أوكسجين” التنفس السوري لوضعه المستقر وتراجع “التهديد المباشر” الذي كانت دمشق تتعرض له منذ أصبح الجيش الأمريكي على حدودها الشمالية الشرقية وزوال نظام البعث العراقي.

ومن خلال هذه المعادلة التي أثرت لبضع سنوات في الوضع السوري خارجياً وداخلياً فإن مطلع العام الجاري، حمل لسوريا أولى علامات الانفراج مع وصول أوباما إلى البيت الابيض وبداية حديثه عن “علاقات احترام متبادل مع دول العالم ومصالح مشتركة”، ودعم أوروبي وفرنسي بشكل خاص لهذا التوجه.

ورغم أن مطلع العام المنصرم حمل حرب غزة­ أيضاً غير أنها ساهمت في إعادة التموضع لعاصمة اعتادت الاستفادة بذكاء من استثمار التناقضات وتحويلها لأوراق تستخدم عند الحاجة، وهو الأمر الذي يحسب للجانب السوري، وتعاملت دمشق مع هذا الحدث، بكثير من الشحن والتجييش وتحولت ساحات وشوارع المدن السورية الى مسيرات مؤيدة لـ”المقاومة ومندّدة بالعدوان الإسرائيلي” على غزة المحاصرة التي يتخذ قادة حماس من دمشق مقراً لهم.

توقف المفاوضات مع إسرائيل

وأعلنت سوريا توقفها عن المفاوضات غير المباشرة مع إسرائيل والتي كانت جارية برعاية تركية كادت تتحول في ايامها الاخيرة، بعد عدة جولات جرت في اسطنبول، الى مفاوضات مباشرة قبل ان تسقطها مقدمات حرب غزة.

لكن دمشق الخبيرة في المنعطفات والأحداث التاريخية في المنطقة اجتازت امتحان الضغط والعزلة وبدأت مؤشرات الانفتاح تظهر مع زيارة العديد من وفود الكونغرس الامريكي والرسائل المسبقة التي حملتها هذه الوفود الى القيادة السورية تؤكد رغبة الإدارة الأوبامية الجديدة في الانفتاح على سوريا وبداية حوار يشبه مبدأ “خارطة طريق” يشمل كل القطاعات.

وانطلق الرئيس السوري بشار الاسد في تنفيذ برنامج زيارات خارجية طال تأجيله، شمل حتى اليوم أكثر من 20 زيارة كانت بدايتها من القمة الاقتصادية العربية في الكويت في منتصف الشهر الأول، ثم حضر قمة الدوحة الطارئة التي اتخذت طابعاً إسلامياً أكثر منه عربياً، حيث حضرت إيران وتركيا والسنغال وإندونيسيا.

وجاءت قمة الكويت التي حملت مبادرة مصالحة من العاهل السعودي الملك عبدالله بن عبدالعزيز، حيث تم اجتماع قادة السعودية ومصر وسوريا والكويت.

وأصبح الانفراج العربي تدريجياً يصل الى سوريا، تلى ذلك مصالحة قمة ايضاً في السعودية تبعها الأسد بزيارة اخرى، الى أن وصل العاهل السعودي الى سوريا في أواخر ايلول (سبتمبر) المنصرم ليعلن الجانبان أنهما يتجهان الى تعزيز مصالحهم المتبادلة الثنائية والاقليمية، مؤكدين على الاطراف اللبنانية المتنازعة ضرورة الاسراع في تشكيل حكومة وفاق وطني يترأسها سعد الدين رفيق الحريري بعد سنوات من صراعات وتجاذبات قوى سياسية لبنانية مثلت كل منها مصالح اللاعبين الاقليميين والدوليين ابتدأت بعد اغتيال رئيس الوزراء اللبناني الأسبق رفيق الحريري في 14 شباط (فبراير) عام 2005.

وتحقق بالفعل تشكيل الحكومة اللبنانية في الشهر الماضي، وقام الحريري بأول زيارة له لدمشق منذ دخوله حلبة العمل السياسي بعد مقتل والده، وقد اتفق الرئيس السوري بشار الاسد ورئيس الوزراء اللبناني على فتح آفاق جديدة في العلاقات بين البلدين.

ومع بداية انفراج عربي ودولي اتجاه سوريا بدأ الرئيس الاسد جولة عربية، حيث زار تباعاً بعد السعودية كلاً من الأردن وقطر ثم البحرين وسلطنة عُمان للتأكيد على متانة العلاقات الثنائية مع هذه البلدان.

“الحياد الإيجابي”

وحاولت سوريا خلق مزيد من التوازن في علاقاتها الخارجية وفق مبدأ الحياد الايجابي أو تعويض خسارة الدول الغربية بدول آسيوية مثل الهند أو روسيا أو الصين، وفق مصطلح الحكومة السورية “الاتجاه شرقاً”.

ثم بدأت سوريا الولوج إلى بوابات أوروبا عبر دول سجلت موقفاً الى جانبها، وكانت اولى الزيارات الى النمسا بعد أن كانت جولات “تعزيز الثقة” بين فرنسا وسوريا قد حققت أشواطاً متقدمة، ولعل الحدث الابرز هنا هو تبادل افتتاح السفارات في كل من بيروت دمشق لأول مرة منذ تأسيس البلدين.

أما لجهة الوضع الداخلي، فقد استلزم الامر بعض التأجيل في كثير من القرارات لأن سوريا كانت تعطي الأولوية للأمن والاستقرار حسب ما اعلنت الحكومة مراراً، لكن الانشغالات الخارجية لم تكن لتشغل الحكومة، عند الضرورة، عن استحقاقاتها الداخلية وقت الحاجة، ورغم عدم رضا الشارع المحلي عن نشاط حكومته في الجانب الاقتصادي المعيشي، حيث ازداد حجم التضخم، وزاد الطلب على فرص العمل وأرخت الازمة المالية بذيولها على الاقتصاد الوطني لاسيما أن قطاع التصدير كان ولايزال اكثر المتأثرين وتضاعف حجم الغلاء، وجاءت حزمة قرارات داخلية كتعديل حكومي وتعيين محافظين جدد وحركة تنقلات وترفيعات أمنية وعسكرية طالت العديد من المفاصل الرئيسة، وبدأ الحديث عن حاجة سوريا الى مليارات الدولارات لخلق فرص عمل وتطوير البنية التحتية واجتذاب استثمارات خارجية تسهم في تحريك عجلة الاقتصاد المحلي، وجرى إقرار العديد من القروض الميسرة بكل أنواعهاً.

واستمرت دمشق في تقوية روابطها الخارجية فزار الرئيس الاسد أرمينيا وأذربيجان وسط تنسيق وتشاور مع حليفة سوريا الموثقة تركيا التي ترتبط بحدود واسعة وعلاقات مد وجزر مع تلك البلدان، وأعلن الاسد عن رؤيته “لربط البحار الأربعة” واستعداد بلاده لوساطة ايجابية بين باكو ويرفان.

وقام الاسد بزيارة طهران، بعد إعادة انتخاب أحمدي نجاد لولاية رئاسية ثانية، كما زار اسطنبول وانقرة ليعلن مع الجارة تركيا واحدة من المحطات المفصلية من التعاون الثنائي في كل القطاعات، وتأسيس مجلس تعاون استراتيجي يشمل شتى الميادين، ادى الى ربط مشترك بين الجارتين والغاء تأشيرات الدخول المشتركة.

ومع الاسترخاء السوري وعودة كبار الزائرين الى دمشق من رؤساء وملوك ووزراء عرب وأجانب، فإن منظمات حقوق الانسان كانت ولاتزال تصدر بيانات تلو الاخرى تتحدث فيها عن مزيد من كبح الحريات العامة وأعتقال نشطاء حقوقيين ودعاة مجتمع مدني، وابقاء معتقلي الرأي والضمير، في السجون، مأسوري الحرية و غائبين عن العالم أثر مطالبهم، بتصويب العلاقات السورية اللبنانية والغاء قانون الاحكام العرفية والطوارئ وتوسيع حرية النقاش العام وإقرار قانون للأحزاب وايجاد اعلام مستقل، وتحسين الوضع المعيشي للسوريين حسب تلك البيانات والمنظمات.

ولعل عام 2009 كان بالنسبة لسوريا عاما متميزا من حيث عودتها لممارسة دورها في القضايا الاقليمية ووجودها العام في ساحة المجتمع الدولي إلا ان بعض المنغصات لاتزال تظهر في مواجهة الحكومة السورية، اذ ان العلاقة مع واشنطن تسير ايجابيا، لكن ببطء، وواشنطن لم توافق لسوريا على صفقة طائرات ايرباص التي هي بأمس الحاجة لها، كما انها لاتزال تضعها في محور دول الشر منذ سنوات طويلة، الا ان ابرز معاناة تكمن في العقوبات الامريكية المفروضة على الاقتصاد السوري، ولا تكف الادارة الامريكية عن مطالبة الحكومة السورية بلعب دور ايجابي في الوضع العراقي وملفات اخرى عالقة ليس اقلها شأنا وجود الفصائل الفلسطينية المقيمة في دمشق والعلاقة مع حزب الله و ايران.

وبعد ان كانت الحكومة السورية قد وقعت في الفترة الاخيرة بالاحرف الاولى على اتفاقية الشراكة الاوروبية، عادت دمشق وطلبت مهلة لدراسة هذه الاتفاقية عندما اعلنت الدول الـ 27 جاهزيتها للتوقيع مع سوريا آواخر سبتمبر الماضي كآخر دولة توقع الشراكة الاوروبية المتوسطية، وقد اعلن الاسد خلال زيارته إلى كرواتيا ان “الأولية الآن للتعاون مع أوروبا لأن الاتفاقية تحتاج لنقاش قانوني وفني، وأن العلاقات العربية العربية ليست في احسن حال وان سوريا لا ترى اسرائيل جاهزة للسلام”.

وفي إطار توق دمشق لمدّ مزيد من الجسور مع أطياف من العالم العربي والعالم استضافت الحكومة ممثلين عن عشرات الاحزاب الشيوعية والعمالية في العالم جاؤوا من 43 دولة ليعقدوا اجتماعاتهم في دمشق ويعلنوا تأييدهم لـ”مواقف السورية والقضية الفلسطينية”، كما أكدوا “عودة الجولان السوري الى السيادة السورية”.

ودعا المؤتمر العام الخامس للأحزاب العربية الذي استضافته ايضا الحكومة السورية تحت شعار “القرار العربي المستقل” الى استمرار “النضال من أجل تحقيق الديمقراطية والإصلاح في الوطن العربي”، كما شدد في بيانه الختامي على ضرورة “حماية مشروع المقاومة حتى تحرير كل الاراضي العربية المحتلة”.

وشهدت العلاقات السورية العراقية مزيدا من التدهور أثر اتهام بغداد لدمشق بإيوائها بعثيين عراقيين يقفون خلف تفجيرات انتحارية إرهابية أودت بحياة مئات العراقيين ودمرت مباني رسمية وضربت الأمن والاستقرار الذي كان تعزز بعض الشيء، وردت دمشق بالنفي ان يكون لأي من اللاجئين العراقيين لديه صلة بذلك، اذ انها لا تسمح لهم بأي نشاط انطلاقاً من اراضيها، معتبرة ان الدم العراقي الذي يراق يؤلمها بشدة وأبدت أسفها وضيقها من حكومة نوري المالكي الذي كان قبل تلك الاحداث بفترة وجيزة يتحدث عن تعاون استراتيجي مع سوريا من قلب دمشق وجرى تبادل استدعاء السفراء من الطرفين.

توقيف مسودة “الأحوال الشخصية”

وأدى الحراك العام الى صدور مرسوم إلغاء المادة 548 من قانون العقوبات التي كانت تحل القاتل الذي يقتل زوجته أو إحدى قريباته بداعي “الشرف” ووضع حد أدنى للعقوبة سنتين.

وفي شهر آب (اغسطس)، تم توقيف مسودة قانون الأحوال الشخصية الجديد بعد أن أثارت موجة عارمة من الاحتجاج في أوساط مناصري حقوق المرأة والطفل وناشطي المجتمع المدني وعدد من رجال الدين المتنورين.

وفي مطلع شهر تموز (يوليو) 2009، قام ناشطون سوريون بحملة كبيرة لمناصرة قضية الطفلة خولة من مدينة حلب وعمرها 4 سنوات اغتصبها أربعة رجال بوحشية. وقد قام الرئيس الأسد وعقيلته بزيارة لعائلة الطفلة، وأمر بإرسالها إلى لندن للعلاج. وكانت هذه أول مرة تطرح فيها قضية اغتصاب الأطفال في سوريا على العلن، حسب رأي العديد من المراقبين.

وفي نظرة شاملة على عام يمضي من حياة سوريا تتوضح كثير من الصور العامة، اذ تسجل أوساط الفن السورية تقدماً ملحوظاً على صعيد العمل الدرامي، بينما نجد شكوى مستمرة من دور النشر يؤكدون فيها تراجع سوق الكتاب وشريحة القراء، بينما نجد نمواً ملحوظاً في حركة ودائع قطاع المصارف السورية، وأن قطاع التأمين أصبح في افضل حال في زمن قياسي وشهد العام الحالي 2009 إطلاق سوق الاوراق المالية لأول مرة في سوريا بعد غياب حوالي نصف قرن من الزمن.

وتم السماح لأول مرة ايضاً بأن يسهم القطاع الخاص في استثمار امواله في قطاعات عامة كانت حكراً على الحكومة مثل قطاع توليد الطاقة والكهرباء، وكان مأمولاً دخول مشغلي خليوي اضافيين الى سوريا، لكن ذلك لم يحدث وبقيت كعكة الاتصالات الخليوية مقسومة على شركتين فقط.

وشهدت سوريا موجة من الجفاف صعبة جداً أدت إلى أن تضطر الحكومة الى توزيع مئات آلاف السلل الغذائية لأهالي المناطق الزراعية التي ضربها الجفاف شمال شرقي سوريا بشكل خاص.

ويمكن إجمال الحصيلة النهائية للعام الحالي في سوريا، بحسب رأي كثير من المراقبين، بأنه “عام القطاف” السوري بعد سنوات من المد والجزر، كاد فيه “المد” بعض الاحيان ان يصل حد الطوفان في سنوات سابقة، لكنه في العام الحالي أخذ “الجزر” مكانته شبه المستقرة، وأصبح الشاطئ السوري شبه آمن، دون ان نغفل بطبيعة الحال أن “قطاف 2009 ” تطلب الكثير من التكلفة والصبر.

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December 23rd, 2009, 3:27 pm

 

4. idaf said:

More assessment of the Hariri visit in the Lebanese press:

Interesting details of the Hariri-Asad meeting: Hariri spent 22 hours in Damascus and met privately with Asad for more than 8 hours during. The two guys should be friends by now!
http://www.al-akhbar.com/ar/node/170120

Al-Diyar Newspaper: Asad to visit Beirut next month after Mo’allem
http://dp-news.com/Pages/detail.aspx?l=1&articleId=25823

Syria’s unprecedented welcome for Hariri is explained here as Syria’s need to fortify Hariri’s Sunni “Za’im” credentials in Lebanon (to counter growing Sunni radicalism in Lebanon):
http://al-akhbar.com/ar/node/170254
رهانا دمشق في المرحلة المقبلة: الحريري وعون

يكاد الرئيسان سعد الحريري وميشال عون يصبحان الرهانين الجدّيين الوحيدين الموثوق بهما لدى دمشق في المرحلة المقبلة. ومن خلالهما تريد مقاربة العلاقات السورية ـــــ اللبنانية. تريد استعادة الأول زعيماً لتيار سنّي كان في صلب حلفائها اللبنانيين حتى عام 2005.
وهي وإن تعرّفت إلى الحريري للمرة الأولى، فقد تمرّست طويلاً في نبض شارعه. على مرّ عقود العلاقات اللبنانية ـــــ السورية لزم الشارع السنّي الخيارات الإقليمية لدمشق. تريد أيضاً المحافظة على عون بعدما كان أعتى أعدائها، بنت معه تحالفاً سياسياً لا يخجل به الجنرال ولا يتفاداه. بذلك يكون الرئيس بشّار الأسد قد اختار توازناً جديداً للقوى بين الحريري وعون، يمثّل حزب الله والنائب سليمان فرنجيه جزءاً لا يتجزأ منه، لإدارة استقرار لبنان. استقبل الرجلين استقبالاً استثنائياً وعوّل على حرارة العلاقة الشخصية بكل منهما. ولكل منهما، في الموقف من سوريا، مشكلة مع جمهوره: الشارع السنّي يرفض دمشق بعد جريمة 2005، والشارع المسيحي لا يثق بنظامها.

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December 23rd, 2009, 3:29 pm

 

5. Atassi said:

As we can see and assume that Hariri’s visit bodes well for Lebanon’s political outlook and Damascus proved again it can significantly play the role of “it can be ensuring, or disrupting, stability in Lebanon”, However, I think Assad understand the fact that the results of the UN tribunal may strains in the relationship between the them in the future…

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December 23rd, 2009, 7:45 pm

 

6. Atassi said:

مع أطيب التمنيات بمناسبة عيد الميلاد المجيد و العام الجديد

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December 23rd, 2009, 7:48 pm

 

7. Shami said:

Thank you Atassi ,I wish for Syria comment users a very happy Christmas.

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December 24th, 2009, 1:29 am

 

8. Shami said:

IDAF ,as long there are brave and innocent people in regime’s jails and with the fate of 18000 syrians still unknown,bashar should be considered as a criminal son of criminal.
But on the other hand his Turkish and at some level his iraqi policies,at least in appearance, are welcomed by most .

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December 24th, 2009, 1:39 am

 

9. MONTAGNARD said:

SHAMI,
It is outrageous that the fate of 18000 Syrians is unknown. Do you have a list? What were the circumstances of their disappearance? We should be actively seeking answers to their fate.

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December 24th, 2009, 4:19 am

 

10. offended said:

LOL.

The only ‘pundit’ that I see hasn’t given up the delusional fantasies is Tony Badran.

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December 24th, 2009, 7:26 am

 

11. offended said:

And merry Christmas to all SC regulars.

If you have a twitter account, don’t forget to join in the attempt to make #Gaza a trending topic on the 27th.

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December 24th, 2009, 7:33 am

 

12. offended said:

And merry Christmas to all SC regulars.

If you have a twitter account, don’t forget to join in the attempt to make #Gaza a trending topic on the 27th.

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December 24th, 2009, 7:37 am

 

13. Shami said:

Montagnard arent you a Syrian ? it’s an estimation they could be more or less ,it’s not a matter of numbers,may be you know that many syrian civilians have been kidnapped and disappeared many even after the events,few people in Syria haven’t a family member ,friend or someone they knew who disappeared ,killed or jailed.So take it seriously Montagnard ,at least for the sake of a peaceful future for Syria.If the regime of Bashar doesn’t solve this question ,there could be a lot of blood in Syria’s future.Because justice from the people is often vindictive.

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December 24th, 2009, 7:47 am

 

14. jad said:

I too wish all Syrians a Merry New Year and a great Happy Christmas!

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December 24th, 2009, 8:19 am

 

15. jad said:

Hi Shami, long time no see, I hope everything is good from your side.

Back to business:
“bashar should be considered as a criminal son of criminal.”
(قال الله تعالى (وَلَا تَزِرُ وَازِرَةٌ وِزْرَ أُخْرَى
so how do you call the President a criminal? Why? When did the son had to pay for his father’s acts be it good or bad?
Using the same logic I can call you or any of the Ikhwanjieh’s sons ‘criminals sons of criminals’ since your father was part of the Ikhwan regardless that he didn’t kill any Syrian infidel?

Nobody pays for anybody’s crime, not in Islam nor in atheism, every human being came to this world alone and he leaves alone so what we do we are the only ones responsible for it, not our children or grand grand children.

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December 24th, 2009, 8:21 am

 

16. Shami said:

Jad,so justice must prevail ,let the criminals of the regime or those among ikhwan be judged.Better now than in troubled time.

I agree with your sentence that nobody should pay for his ancestor mistakes.

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December 24th, 2009, 9:04 am

 

17. Shai said:

I too join the wishes of others on SC to all for a very Merry Christmas! May the new year bring about freedom, dignity, and peace that is missing for so long in our region.

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December 24th, 2009, 10:46 am

 

18. majedkhaldoun said:

Merry christmass and happy new year,to all.
Happy new year of 1431 also,
BTW covering up crimes is a crime,justice must prevail.

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December 24th, 2009, 11:01 am

 

19. norman said:

Shami, Majid

Please see the movie , Invictus , The story of Mandela , you will see that , ALAFOO END AL MAQDERA , is very important to build a nation

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December 24th, 2009, 2:18 pm

 

20. Alex said:

Shami and Majed

Thank you so much for your wishes!

I hope you enjoy your holidays

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December 24th, 2009, 10:11 pm

 

21. Shami said:

Ahlen Alex thank you , all days should be days of joy.
Norman ,
We already have many Mandela in Syria that’s why i wish that these stubborn dictators will follow the path of Frederik De Klerk of South Africa.

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December 25th, 2009, 4:19 am

 

22. Zman said:

Long time reader

Happy holidays to all.

http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2009/dec/23/israel-palestinian-peace-movement

Breaking Palestine’s peaceful protest — Palestinians have a long history of nonviolent resistance but Israel has continuously deployed methods to destroy it

Neve Gordon guardian.co.uk, Wednesday 23 December 2009 12.00 GMT Article history

“Why,” I have often been asked, “haven’t the Palestinians established a peace movement like the Israeli Peace Now?”

The question itself is problematic, being based on many erroneous assumptions, such as the notion that there is symmetry between the two sides and that Peace Now has been a politically effective movement. Most important, though, is the false supposition that Palestinians have indeed failed to create a pro-peace popular movement.

In September 1967 – three months after the decisive war in which the West Bank, Gaza Strip and East Jerusalem were occupied – Palestinian leaders decided to launch a campaign against the introduction of new Israeli textbooks in Palestinian schools. They did not initiate terrorist attacks, as the prevailing narratives about Palestinian opposition would have one believe, but rather the Palestinian dissidents adopted Mahatma Gandhi-style methods and declared a general school strike: teachers did not show up for work, children took to the streets to protest against the occupation and many shopkeepers closed shop.

Israel’s response to that first strike was immediate and severe: it issued military orders categorising all forms of resistance as insurgency – including protests and political meetings, raising flags or other national symbols, publishing or distributing articles or pictures with political connotations, and even singing or listening to nationalist songs.

Moreover, it quickly deployed security forces to suppress opposition, launching a punitive campaign in Nablus, where the strike’s leaders resided. As Major General Shlomo Gazit, the co-ordinator of activities in the occupied territories at the time, points out in his book The Carrot and the Stick, the message Israel wanted to convey was clear: any act of resistance would result in a disproportionate response, which would make the population suffer to such a degree that resistance would appear pointless.

After a few weeks of nightly curfews, cutting off telephone lines, detaining leaders, and increasing the level of harassment, Israel managed to break the strike.

While much water has passed under the bridge since that first attempt to resist using “civil disobedience” tactics, over the past five decades Palestinians have continuously deployed nonviolent forms of opposition to challenge the occupation. Israel, on the other hand, has, used violent measures to undermine all such efforts.

It is often forgotten that even the second intifada, which turned out to be extremely violent, began as a popular nonviolent uprising. Haaretz journalist Akiva Eldar revealed several years later that the top Israeli security echelons had decided to “fan the flames” during the uprising’s first weeks. He cites Amos Malka, the military general in charge of intelligence at the time, saying that during the second intifada’s first month, when it was still mostly characterised by nonviolent popular protests, the military fired 1.3m bullets in the West Bank and Gaza. The idea was to intensify the levels of violence, thinking that this would lead to a swift and decisive military victory and the successful suppression of the rebellion. And indeed the uprising and its suppression turned out to be extremely violent.

But over the past five years, Palestinians from scores of villages and towns such as Bil’in and Jayyous have developed new forms of pro-peace resistance that have attracted the attention of the international community. Even Palestinian Authority prime minister Salam Fayyad recently called on his constituents to adopt similar strategies. Israel, in turn, decided to find a way to end the protests once and for all and has begun a well-orchestrated campaign that targets the local leaders of such resistance.

One such leader is Abdallah Abu Rahmah, a high school teacher and the co-ordinator of Bil’in’s Popular Committee Against the Wall, is one of many Palestinians who was on the military’s wanted list. At 2am on 10 December (international Human Rights Day), nine military vehicles surrounded his home. Israeli soldiers broke the door down, and after allowing him to say goodbye to his wife Majida and three young children, blindfolded him and took him into custody. He is being charged with throwing stones, the possession of arms (namely gas canisters in the Bil’in museum) and inciting fellow Palestinians, which, translated, means organising demonstrations against the occupation.

The day before Abu Ramah was arrested, the Israeli military carried out a co-ordinated operation in the Nablus region, raiding houses of targeted grassroots activists who have been fighting against human rights abuses. Wa’el al-Faqeeh Abu as-Sabe, 45, is one of the nine people arrested. He was taken from his home at 1am and, like Abu Ramah, is being charged with incitement. Mayasar Itiany, who is known for her work with the Nablus Women’s Union and is a campaigner for prisoners’ rights was also taken into custody as was Mussa Salama, who is active in the Labour Committee of Medical Relief for Workers. Even Jamal Juma, the director of an NGO called Stop the Wall, is now behind bars.

Targeted night arrests of community leaders have become common practice across the West Bank, most notably in the village of Bil’in where, since June, 31 residents have been arrested for their involvement in the demonstrations against the wall. Among these is Adeeb Abu Rahmah, a prominent activist who has been held in detention for almost five months and is under threat of being imprisoned for up to 14 months.

Clearly, the strategy is to arrest all of the leaders and charge them with incitement, thus setting an extremely high “price tag” for organising protests against the subjugation of the Palestinian people. The objective is to put an end to the pro-peace popular resistance in the villages and to crush, once and for all, the Palestinian peace movement.

Thus, my answer to those who ask about a Palestinian “Peace Now” is that a peaceful grassroots movement has always existed. At Abdallah Abu Rahmah’s trial next Tuesday one will be able to witness some of the legal methods that have consistently been deployed to destroy it.

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December 25th, 2009, 5:14 am

 

23. William deB. Mills said:

It is almost always a mistake to isolate a country. People considered threats are isolated in prison or insane asylums. That approach does not exist for countries (except for Gaza, which has become a rather effective prison, at least for the moment). But even Gaza is an experiment that is not working – the political and security ramifications even of isolating 1.5 million Gazans are enormous and imperil the whole region. The idea of isolating a whole country (Syria? Iran?) or people (Palestinians?) is pretty unrealistic.

The professional approach would almost always be to ask what motivates the opponent and how to draw the opponent into some sort of cooperative behavior (a move that will almost always involve making some genuine concessions). The bottom line is that the enemy country exists, whether you like it or not, so learn to cope with it. Isolating it just reduces any inclinations it might have to cooperate and raises its level of anxiety and anger.

The French pride themselves on being sophisticated movers and shakers in the world (in comparison to Americans). I am so happy that Kouchner has finally learned to stop eating the “fast food” dished out to him by American neo-cons and has started thinking for himself.

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December 26th, 2009, 2:52 pm

 

24. Akbar Palace said:

William Deb. Mills,

Using your “professional approach” by asking “what motivates the opponent”, what do you think caused the son of a wealthy banker to blow up a commercial airliner?

Food for thought from an unabashed “american neocon”;)…

In Nigeria, a prominent banker said Saturday that he was meeting with security officials there because he feared his son was the suspect. Alhaji Umaru Mutallab told The Associated Press said his son was a one-time university student in London who had left Britain to travel abroad. He said his son hadn’t lived in London “for some time” but he wasn’t sure exactly where he went to.

http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20091226/ap_on_re_us/us_airliner_attack

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December 26th, 2009, 5:36 pm

 

25. Off the Wall said:

AP
food for thoughts from an unabashed american anti-neo-con

Probably the same thing that prompted a bunch of Israeli reincarnation of KKK to burn the olive trees of the natives.

http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/news/world/middle_east/article6721173.ece

http://www.facebook.com/note.php?note_id=35444441521

http://www.nogw.com/download2/%5E8_j_settlers_burn_pal_trees.pdf

AP, I really want to send you a holiday gift, a portable mirror, but since you once indicated that you have an Iphone, I want to get you some “dual use” gift, how about this,

http://www.ilounge.com/index.php/reviews/entry/apple-iphone-mirror-screen-protector/

It will protect your iphone, and will allow you to look in the mirror before you try writing wisecracks. What does syria and syrians have to do with a deranged Nigerian. Definitely much much less than you have to do with those settlers

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December 26th, 2009, 8:27 pm

 

26. Off the Wall said:

Dear all
I announce my full intention to violate the most recent fatwa issued by Qardawi and hopefully many more. I already started by celebrating Christmas with my infidel friends and neighbors, and now I would like to wish you all merry Christmas, Happy Chanukah, happy new year, and happy Bodhi day.

It is time to shed away and reject men like Qardawi. I do not care how respected he is among the tribes, he has none of my respect.

http://all4syria.info/content/view/18959/64/

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December 26th, 2009, 8:55 pm

 

27. Akbar Palace said:

What does syria and syrians have to do with a deranged Nigerian.

OTW,

Absolutely nothing. I simply disagreed with William deB. Mills’ statement that:

The professional approach would almost always be to ask what motivates the opponent and how to draw the opponent into some sort of cooperative behavior…

Mr. Mills was talking in generalities.

Let’s see what Mr. Mills has to say about the motivation of the banker’s son who tried to bring down a commercial airliner, kill himself as well as hundreds of passengers. Not very different than the shooting at Fort Hood last month where 13 people were killed by a well-off American doctor. I think the Brits may find some interesting connections as they clean out the plotter,s dorm.

I think the common thread in all these cases is brainwashing by fanatic clerics who are more than happy to have vulnerable dupes die and kill for their own warped ideas.

I suppose it relates to Syria because Syria is one of those few terror-supporting countries that actually promotes and aides these types of dangerous clerics.

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December 26th, 2009, 9:28 pm

 

28. William deB. Mills said:

AKBAR PALACE,

By refering to the Nigerian bomber, you have brought up a very serious problem: the distinction between individuals and groups (societies or, in terms of our discussion here, regimes).

I have no idea what motivated that individual. I also have only a bunch of guesses about what motivate other individuals who appear to prefer violence to reasoned compromise (bin Laden, Netanyahu, Cheney). That problem cannot be solved in the real political world by any science of which I am aware.

One of the basic problems of US foreign policy is the tendency to personalize. Instead of trying to figure out the likely attitude of a regime or a society or an elite power structure and then trying to influence that group with some combination of positive and negative inducements that is balanced and fair and perhaps even of benefit to both sides, we ascribe “evil” to some individual and then make the second idiotic assumption that said individual can be equated with the regime or society or power structure that is our true adversary.

I truly apologize for the long sentence. Maybe I should write these comments out ahead of time! In my defense, I have discussed this in more detail on my blog.

Anyway, I neither know nor care very much what motivates individuals. Take Ahmadinejad. Iran is a very complex, finely balanced, factionalized, and inefficient regime. So…

1. Start by facing the facts. We do know some (e.g., the US is surrounding Iran with military, Israel has nukes, US involvement along with the Shi’ite clergy in the coup against Mossadegh). Now, ask how Iranians are likely to view the world, given these facts. Do not start with prejudices like X is evil, we are perfect, etc.

2. Look for incremental and hopefully positive-sum ways to influence the adversary. If you demand discriminatory nuclear rules, you will strengthen extremists. If you use economic sanctions, you are taking a step toward war and must expect resistance.

This is complicated so I’m about to stop, but the bottom line is that it is, scientifically speaking, also complex: everything influences everything else and nothing is immutable. So, yes, it is tough to design policy, but the very complexity of international politics offers opportunities for real professionals. Just look at how Erdogan, with relatively limited power, has managed to emerge on the regional scene. Concerning the US-Iranian nuclear dispute or ways to undermine bin Laden or the role of Syria, the range of options that might work but have never been tried is enormous. We should try them.

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December 27th, 2009, 2:45 pm

 

29. Akbar Palace said:

I have no idea what motivated that individual.

Dear Mr. William Deb. Mills,

YOU may not have an idea of what motivated the 23 year old suicide bomber on that Northwest airlines flight, but I think it is safe to say it was Islamic extremism (aka “jihadist” tendencies). Considering his privledged, Nigerian background, I think it is also safe to say that no Neocon or Zionist ever “oppressed” him, “humiliated” him, or “stole” his land. Hence, if my assumptions are right, he was brainwashed by an Islamic cleric and/or organization.

I also have only a bunch of guesses about what motivate other individuals who appear to prefer violence to reasoned compromise (bin Laden, Netanyahu, Cheney).

Tell us more about what motivates these 3 individuals. I tell you what I think. Netanyahu and Cheney are motivated by the responsibility they were given to defend their country: Cheney, the United States of America; Netanyahu, the State of Israel. Bin Laden is motivated by a religion that he interprets for other people whether they agree with it or not. He is not an elected leader of any country, therefore, I am not sure what “compromise” would be possible with a jihadist who (a) has no border to protect and (b) does recognize Jewish independence or even equality.

That problem cannot be solved in the real political world by any science of which I am aware.

Some wars are just, and some are not. Bin Laden’s war against “infidels” is not a just war. Again, he has no authority and no borders to defend. The US and Israel (as well as all countries) have the right to self-defense.

One of the basic problems of US foreign policy is the tendency to personalize.

When a country is attacked like the US was on 9-11, I would hope they would personalize it. If they didn’t it would a mistake.

Instead of trying to figure out the likely attitude of a regime or a society or an elite power structure and then trying to influence that group with some combination of positive and negative inducements that is balanced and fair and perhaps even of benefit to both sides, we ascribe “evil” to some individual and then make the second idiotic assumption that said individual can be equated with the regime or society or power structure that is our true adversary.

Actually, the current US administration is bending over backwards not using terms like “evil”, and is currently making every effort to be “resonable”. The result? Nothing, except Iran being more belligerent.

Anyway, I neither know nor care very much what motivates individuals.

IMHO, you should make an effort investigating what motivates terrorists. As you may know, terrorists do not abide by the laws of any nation. Moreover, they are defined by their reliance on targeting unarmed civilians. This is why the Oslo accords spend several sections of text on issues such as “incitement”. IMHO, most ME countries are still inciting their populations to commit “jihad” and “martyrdom” and many are aiding terrorist organizations.

YOU may not know how to deal with such pro-terror ME coutries, but I think the West has a good idea, including Barack Obama.

Take Ahmadinejad. Iran is a very complex, finely balanced, factionalized, and inefficient regime. So…

Not to mention freedomless, totally theocratic, suicidal, and possibly nuclear armed.

Now, ask how Iranians are likely to view the world, given these facts.

Your facts are misleading. Firstly we can’t ask Iranian anything because the government there would allow it. Judging from the demostrations there, a large percentage of the people aren’t very happy with their theocratic leadership. Secondly, there are nuclear armed nations that surround nations that are not nuclear armed, and that doesn’t seem to be a major issue.

Do not start with prejudices like X is evil, we are perfect, etc.

The term “evil” is not necessary. I think the most important terms are freedom, accountability, and the support of terrorism.

2. Look for incremental and hopefully positive-sum ways to influence the adversary.

Obama and the West have done this, and, so far, nothing has come out of this new posture. Does Neville Chamberlain mean anything to you? 17 UNSC resolutions against Saddam Hussein amounted to anything.

If you demand discriminatory nuclear rules, you will strengthen extremists.

The UN and the UNSC makes the nuclear rules. As such, nations like theocratic Pakistan, India and Israel are not required to abide by the NPT. Because Iran signed the NPT agreement, they are bound by it.

If you use economic sanctions, you are taking a step toward war and must expect resistance.

Without sanctions, war may have already taken place.

Just look at how Erdogan, with relatively limited power, has managed to emerge on the regional scene.

Erdogan is the product of an election. He is not a “president for life” like the president of Syria, Egypt, and the monarchies of the ME.

http://www.europeanforum.net/news/762/erdogan_ldquo_no_early_elections_in_turkey_rdquo

Concerning the US-Iranian nuclear dispute or ways to undermine bin Laden or the role of Syria, the range of options that might work but have never been tried is enormous. We should try them.

Give us your list of “options”, and I will be happy to discuss them with you.

Thanks,

AP

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December 27th, 2009, 8:17 pm

 

30. wsdjh said:

IMHO, you should make an effort investigating what motivates terrorists. As you may know, terrorists do not abide by the laws of any nation. Moreover, they are defined by their reliance on targeting unarmed civilians. This is why the Oslo accords spend several sections of text on issues such as “incitement”. IMHO, most ME countries are still inciting their populations to commit “jihad” and “martyrdom” and many are aiding terrorist organizations.

YOU may not know how to deal with such pro-terror ME coutries, but I think the West has a good idea, including Barack Obama.
http://www.onlineedhardystorede.com/
Take Ahmadinejad. Iran is a very complex, finely balanced, factionalized, and inefficient regime. So…

Not to mention freedomless, totally theocratic, suicidal, and possibly nuclear armed.
http://www.onlineedhardystorede.com/
Now, ask how Iranians are likely to view the world, given these facts.

Your facts are misleading. Firstly we can’t ask Iranian anything because the government there would allow it. Judging from the demostrations there, a large percentage of the people aren’t very happy w

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July 26th, 2010, 2:19 am

 

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