Britain and Syria Resume Intelligence Sharing

[Landis analysis] Two pieces of important news. Al-Baradei claims that the traces of uranium discovered at the Euphrates bomb site do not mean there was a reactor. He has demanded greater Syrian and Israeli cooperation. The Syrians are unlikely to allow further teams of investigators to explore Syrian sites. 

Miliband in Damascus

Miliband in Damascus

Second, Miliband, Great Britain’s foreign minister, did two important things. He visited Damascus, which raises the pressure on Obama to revise US policy toward Syria. He has asked Syria to push harder for advances on the peace process – but this should be read in two ways – one as a genuine message to the Syrians, but two is a message to Washington to throw its weight behind the talks and to place the Syrian-Israeli peace negotiations high on its agenda.  Gordon Brown has already state that Mr Obama’s foreign policy priority should be the Arab-Israeli conflict.

The announcement that Miliband has re-established high level intelligence sharing with Syria is also significant. Secretary Rice and Foreign Minister Mu`allim discussed restarting intelligence sharing in May 2007 at Sharm al-Sheikh, but Syria asked the US to return an ambassador to Damascus as a sign of Syria’s cooperation. The US refused this gesture, forcing the US military “to take matters in their own hands.” Ultimately, the politicians in Washington forced the Defense department to settle the border issue militarily – hence the raid last month that killed eight Syrians. (We still have no proof that the Americans killed or captured the “facilitator” Abu Ghadiyya, whom they claim they snagged n the raid. I find it a bit odd that they have not shown us a photo of the man as they did with Saddam or his sons. Why all the secrecy about a raid they claimed as a stunning success and a person they have told us so much about?)

At any rate, the Syrians clearly offered the British the same offer they made to the Americans well over a year ago. The difference is that the British have been smart enough to take the offer, sending their foreign minister to Damascus as a gesture of good will and cooperation. So the British will now supply the US with Syrian intelligence. This will be awkward for the Americans; they will be dependent on the British for intelligence. Of course, if the Americans like the bits of intelligence they get from the Syrians, they will have to ask for more and will have to ask the Syrians to act on the intelligence or to deliver certain fighters. In this way, one can only presume that the Americans will start to negotiate with the Syrians indirectly. Just as the Syrians talk to the Israelis through the Turks, the US will talk to the Syrians through the British. The silliness of this will strengthen the Defense Department’s hand in insisting that Washington politicians do the right thing and grow up. It is just plain silly. Syria wants to help the US kill al-Qaida types, but the US refuses to say yes. How goofey is that? If Obama doesn’t send someone of stature to Damascus to fix this, I will eat my hat.

(By the way, Colonel Patrick Lang just visited the University of Oklahoma to give a lecture. It was very nice to meet him after years of reading his fine blog. He gave an excellent and sweeping lecture on the state of the Middle East. He was the head of the Defense Intelligence Agency’s Middle East stuff for some years, the head of human intelligence, was military attache in Saudi Arabia, Jordan and Yemen, a Green Baret and many other things to boot. 

Syria nuclear clues ‘not damning’
BBC News, 17 November 2008

… “There was uranium but it doesn’t mean there was a reactor… It’s not highly enriched uranium,” Mr ElBaradei added.

The US has said the target of Israel’s raid in September 2007 was a secret nuclear reactor built with North Korean help that was nearing completion. ….

The director of the UN atomic watchdog, has said a report he is due to present later this week on Syrian nuclear activity will “not be conclusive”. “We still have work to do,” …..”We need more co-operation from Syria… We need also co-operation from Israel,”…..

Britain re-establishes high-level intelligence links with Syria
November 19, 2008

Syria is known to have excellent intelligence on tracking the movements of Islamic extremists into Iraq Britain re-established high-level intelligence links with the Syrian authorities as David Miliband made his landmark visit to Damascus yesterday, according to senior Syrian officials. …

In their first phone call since the US election, Gordon Brown emphasised that Mr Obama’s foreign policy priority should be the Arab-Israeli conflict, which he sees as the key to other concerns in the region, including the threat of a nuclear Iran.

Joshua Landis, an American expert on Syria, said the visit was “a message from the British to Obama. Like the French, they want the US to push Syrian-Israeli peace. Negotiations between Syria and Israel began last May, but the Bush Administration was unhappy about the dialogue and refused to support them.”

Iran aims for 2009 launch of nuclear plant  Iran (Thanks FLC)

“…Atomstroyexport, the Russian firm building the plant, said in September the plant was nearing completion and that it would start “technological work” in December 2008 to February 2009 that would put the plant on an “irreversible final” course…”
Dennis Ross, Obama’s adviser on Middle East policy, issued a statement Sunday, saying “I was in the meeting in Ramallah. Then-senator Obama did not say this, the story is false.” The British Sunday Times said Obama expressed this sentiment during his visit to Israel and the Palestinian territories last July.
 Barack Obama brings hope of Iran talks, says Shimon Peres
By Richard Beeston
Times Online, 17 November 2008

The move, first raised earlier this year at a meeting in New York between the Foreign Secretary and his Syrian counterpart, Walid Moualem, was a key objective of the Syrian visit. The newly revived intelligence relationship could be hugely beneficial to Britain. Syria is known to have one of the best intelligence-gathering systems in the Middle East, in particular in tracking the movements of Islamic extremists into Iraq and around the region.

Israel believes that there is a chance for dialogue with Iran if Barack Obama succeeds in uniting the international community behind a common policy.

Shimon Peres, the Israeli President who arrives in London tonight, said that his country’s most implacable foe could be brought to the negotiating table depending on a new political climate and economic factors, in particular a falling oil price.

The veteran politician, who turned 85 this summer, also told The Times that he expected Israel to achieve peace with its Arab neighbours within his life time, and even predicted that he would one day visit Damascus and Riyadh.

His upbeat message will no doubt be dismissed by many in the Middle East as the musings of a lifelong optimist. Certainly no recent Israeli leader has expressed any positive view of Iran, whose nuclear policy and support for militant groups is regarded as the major existential threat to the Jewish state…

POSTGLOBAL: A Debate Blog on Foreign Policy and International Affairs
Iran losing clout in Iraq?
Foreign Policy, 16 November 2008

A sampling of the blog’s debate topics and authors:

Region’s Dynamic Will Change, Regardless of the Outcome
Peace isn’t likely, but a regional shake-up is…

Missing from Talks: Sincerity
Neither Syria nor Israel is prepared or willing to make the necessary concessions…

Talks Poised to Bring Iranian Rebirth
Iran will gain ground in the tug-of-war with the United States…

“….The changes were mostly minor, according to people close to the negotiations, but may have allowed Iraqi politicians to portray themselves as driving a tough bargain. Lawmakers are wary of appearing too pro-American, and some faced pressure from Iran, which strongly opposes the accord, Iraqi officials and analysts said…”

The choice for Obama lies on the road to Jerusalem
By Philip Stephens
Financial Times, November 13 2008

..Yet here Mr Obama has promised least. True, he has made the right noises about throwing his authority behind a two-state solution. There is talk of the appointment of a special US envoy to take a permanent seat at the negotiating table. As yet, however, Mr Obama has given little sign that he is ready to invest the energy and political capital to broker a deal.

You can see why. The Annapolis process, the belated effort by the Bush administration to secure an accord, has gone nowhere slowly. This week the outgoing administration all but abandoned hopes of progress before Mr Bush leaves the White House.

Tony Blair, the United Nations’ special envoy to the region, displayed all his trademark optimism by insisting that a “platform” was in place for a final settlement. We have heard that one before.

The polls suggest that the Israeli elections are unlikely to deliver a coalition with the authority to strike a land-for-peace bargain with the Palestinians. Benjamin Netanyahu, the hawkish Likud leader, may emerge as prime minister. During his last spell in office Mr Netanyahu sought to derail the Oslo accords. I have heard it said that the one meeting that went badly during Mr Obama’s tour of the Middle East and Europe this year was his encounter with Mr Netanyahu.

For their part, the Palestinians remain divided in spite of the best efforts of Egyptian mediation. Hamashas so far refused to offer the recognition of Israel demanded by the international community. In the absence of a committed interlocutor on the Israeli side, it is hard to see what would prompt Fatah and Hamas to settle their differences.

So why should Mr Obama risk his reputation in such a cause? The answer comes in several parts…

In Lebanon, puritanical Sunnis and a reputed playboy team up in politics
By Borzou Daragahi
Los Angeles Times, 17 November 2008

When it comes to strange Middle East bedfellows, Lebanon’s latest politicalpartnership may be the most unlikely: The leader of one party has a reputation as a playboy with ties to neoconservatives in the Bush administration. The other group is widely viewed as a community of extremists whose puritanical strain of Sunni Islam inspired Osama bin Laden.

Lebanon’s Salafists, often equated with terrorists in much of the Arab world, have teamed with Saad Hariri and his mainstream Future Movement to become part of the country’s political order.

“They used to be very marginal,” Benedetta Berti, a terrorism specialist at the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University in Massachusetts, said of the Salafists. “Now, they have to be taken into account by any political movement. They have become a significant political force. Not by number, but in terms of the political impact they could have.”

The curious experiment, in one of the Arab world’s most democratic political systems, could have implications for the rest of the region. In Egypt, Tunisia, Syria and Algeria, Salafists are often tossed into dungeons.

“One of the main reasons Salafists join the jihadist . . . and terrorist groups is because of alienation and marginalization,” said Mustafa Allouch, a Future Movement lawmaker from Tripoli. “They don’t find any hope for expressing their ideas. It’s better to accept all types of ideas and put them under the light so they don’t grow in the darkness…”

In Now Lebanon: Additional confessions link Fatah al-Islam with Syria, according to TV news report

In Now Lebanon:  Miliband arrives in Beirut, says he is pleased with Syrian-Lebanese relations 

In McClatchy’s, here

“The status of forces of agreement between the United States and Iraq goes further than most people in the United States realize. It contains no provisions for the U.S. to leave behind a residual force recently mentioned by Barack Obama or the trainers that have long been part of the withdrawal discussions …Unless the agreement is amended, which would require the formal written approval of both sides, in three years there no longer would be any legal basis for U.S. armed forces or civilian contractors of the Department of Defense to remain in Iraq. If Iraq wants American forces to leave earlier, it could terminate the agreement with one year’s notice. The United States has the option to do the same…”

The Syrian News Agency says Assad expressed Syria’s deep concern over the “deteriorating situation in Gaza” during a meeting in Damascus Sunday with Arab League Secretary-General Amr Moussa. SANA said Assad stressed the need for the 22-member Arab League to take decisions at an Arab ministerial meeting in Cairo later this month to put an end to the Israeli siege.

Pact, Approved in Iraq, Sets Time for U.S. Pullout
New York Times, 16 November 2008

Iraq’s cabinet on Sunday overwhelmingly approved a proposed security agreement that calls for a full withdrawal of American forces from the country by the end of 2011. The cabinet’s decision brings a final date for the departure of American troops a significant step closer after more than five and a half years of war.

The proposed pact must still be approved by Iraq’s Parliament, in a vote scheduled to take place in a week. But leaders of some of the largest parliamentary blocs expressed confidence that with the backing of most Shiites and Kurds they had enough support to ensure its approval.

Twenty-seven of the 28 cabinet ministers who were present at the two-and-a-half-hour session voted in favor of the pact. Nine ministers were absent. The nearly unanimous vote was a victory for the dominant Shiite party and its Kurdish partners. Widespread Sunni opposition could doom the proposed pact even if it has the votes to pass, as it would call into question whether there was a true nationalconsensus, which Shiite leaders consider essential.

The proposed agreement, which took nearly a year to negotiate with the United States, not only sets a date for American troop withdrawal, but puts new restrictions on American combat operations in Iraq starting Jan. 1 and requires an American military pullback from urban areas by June 30. Those hard dates reflect a significant concession by the departing Bush administration, which had been publicly averse to timetables…

Barack Obama links Israel peace plan to 1967 borders deal
By Uzi Mahnaimi and Sarah Baxter
Times Online, 16 November 2008

Barack Obama is to pursue an ambitious peace plan in the Middle East involving the recognition of Israel by the Arab world in exchange for its withdrawal to pre-1967 borders, according to sources close to America’s president-elect.

Obama intends to throw his support behind a 2002 Saudi peace initiative endorsed by the Arab League and backed by Tzipi Livni, the Israeli foreign minister and leader of the ruling Kadima party.

The proposal gives Israel an effective veto on the return of Arab refugees expelled in 1948 while requiring it to restore the Golan Heights to Syria and allow the Palestinians to establish a state capital in east Jerusalem.

On a visit to the Middle East last July, the president-elect said privately it would be “crazy” for Israel to refuse a deal that could “give them peace with the Muslim world”, according to a senior Obama adviser…

Kissinger Says Clinton Would Be Outstanding at State
By Cherian Thomas and Julianna Goldman
Bloomberg, 17 November 2008

Henry Kissinger said Hillary Clinton, a leading contender to be the Barack Obama’s Secretary of State, would be an “outstanding” appointment.

“She is a lady of great intelligence, demonstrated enormous determination and would be an outstanding appointment,” Kissinger, who served in the post from 1973 to 1977 under presidents Richard Nixon and Gerald Ford, told the World Economic Forum’s India Economic Summit in New Delhi today.

New York Senator Clinton appears to be President-elect Obama’sleading choice for the job, according to a Democrat familiar with the matter. Clinton, who lost to Obama for the Democratic presidential nomination, flew on Nov. 13 to Chicago, where the two met.

“If it is true, it will show a couple of things,” Kissinger said. “It shows great courage on the part of the president-elect to appoint a very strong personality, who has an independent constituency, into a cabinet position. It also shows willingness on the part of Clinton to subordinate herself to someone whom she lost out to.”

Former President Bill Clinton declined to speculate today on whether his wife may be offered the job.

“If Obama did decide and they do decide to do it together, I think she’d be really great at being secretary of state,” the former president said after speaking at a symposium in Kuwait. “Whatever happens or doesn’t happen is between Obama and her…”

Professor Hired for Outreach to Muslims Delivers a Jolt
Wall Street Journal, 15 November 2008

Muhammad Sven Kalisch, a Muslim convert and Germany’s first professor of Islamic theology, fasts during the Muslim holy month, doesn’t like to shake hands with Muslim women and has spent years studying Islamic scripture. Islam, he says, guides his life.

So it came as something of a surprise when Prof. Kalischannounced the fruit of his theological research. His conclusion: The Prophet Muhammad probably never existed.

Muslims, not surprisingly, are outraged. Even Danish cartoonists who triggered global protests a couple of years ago didn’t portray the Prophet as fictional. German police, worried about a violent backlash, told the professor to move his religious-studies center to more-secure premises.

“We had no idea he would have ideas like this,” says Thomas Bauer, a fellow academic at Münster University who sat on a committee that appointed Prof. Kalisch. “I’m a more orthodox Muslim than he is, and I’m not a Muslim.”

When Prof. Kalischtook up his theology chair four years ago, he was seen as proof that modern Western scholarship and Islamic ways can mingle — and counter the influence of radical preachers in Germany. He was put in charge of a new program at Münster, one of Germany’s oldest and most respected universities, to train teachers in state schools to teach Muslim pupils about their faith…

Syria heartened by Obama’s plan for Iraq: envoy
By Louis Charbonneau
Reuters, 14 November 2008

Syria said on Friday it was heartened by U.S. President-elect Barack Obama’s plan to pull U.S. combat troops from Iraq within 16 months of taking office since it reflects the desire of Iraq and its neighbors.

Damascus’s Deadly Bargain
by Lee Smith
Hudson Institute, 14 November 2008

….To better understand Syria’s motivations, I visited Abdel Halim Khaddam, Syria’s former vice president, in Brussels, where he was leading a meeting of the National Salvation Front (NSF), a Syrian opposition group. Having served under both Hafez al-Assad and his son Bashar, Khaddam is well-acquainted with the strategic and political exigencies driving the regime’s support for terror. “Fighting the Americans in Iraq is very dangerous,” he tells me. “But it also makes Bashar popular. Under the banner of resistance, anything is popular.”

Thus, it seems the first reason Syria backs these militants is because it wins public acclaim. As is the case in many countries across the Arab world, most Syrians distinguish between terror and resistance. They define the former as violence that hurts Syrians and Syrian interests–such as the Muslim Brotherhood’s war against the Syrian state in the late 1970s and early ’80s, for example. But resistance is the violence that the Syrian regime makes possible at the expense of other states–from Lebanon to Israel to Iraq–strengthening its position as the self-described “capital of Arab resistance…”

Assad urges Arab action to break Gaza siege
AP, 16 November 2008

Syrian President Bashar Assad has called for Arab League action to help break Israel’s siege of the Gaza Strip.

Comments (97)

Pages: « 1 [2] Show All

51. Shai said:


It’s night time where you are, and I can see what you’re thinking about, so I’ll forgive you… 🙂

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November 20th, 2008, 9:46 am


52. Rumyal said:


I’m a little bit skeptic but also a little bit optimistic. There are signs in both directions. First, Shai is correct most Israelis are dissimilar to AIG. To boot, AIG is a very disciplined person (in his own unique way…). Most people (everywhere in the world) are much less calculated and much more emotional. When Saadat came to Israel it was like a miracle that swept almost everybody regardless of their declared political opinions of yesterday. Oslo was also similar although Arafat couldn’t inspire the same level of trust that Saadat did. People have very good instincts that allow them to discern who’s sincere and who isn’t. If Assad really believes in peace, it will show through his discourse. If he isn’t, he won’t be able to hide it. From what I have seen over the last two years it seems highly unlikely that he is insincere and even the head of Israeli intelligence shares the same opinion.

(Here’s how to measure… Check out “Honest Signals”

The concern that a commitment to peace is only Assad’s and not the people’s is a big one, especially after the Israeli public has had some experience with “cold peace” and Oslo breakdown (and that’s were skepticism would come from). I would address this head-on by interviewing people on the street, bringing both the positive and the negative that they had to say about the topic. I don’t think that the Israeli public is incapable of hearing rational criticism. What the Israeli public is afraid of is that the man on the street has burning hatred that could never be pacified, and if this is indeed the case, then why should we fool ourselves into signing treaties that will never hold? This is basically AIG’s position but unlike AIG I believe the typical Israeli will be affected by evidence—if you can show it. And if the people demonstrate that the peace would be cold, that’s good to know too. I don’t think anybody would benefit in the long run from lack of transparency.

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November 20th, 2008, 10:25 am


53. Rumyal said:


Yalla khalas halakhti lishon…

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November 20th, 2008, 10:33 am


54. Alia said:


[Look at the thousand articles we posted here by American and European journalists who visited Syria and had “a conversion” … they realized that Syrians are wonderful people, nothing like the image they got from the biased (or lazy) media coverage of Syria.]

I have not seen thousand of articles, but I have noted privately to myself that this is the case, in the last few days -although the Beaumont article was to my mind really superficial and for superficial media consumption: ex: Twice we are told that the wife of the president is English-born (Emma) and the best times of his life is his marriage…really, the President over 17-19 millions of mostly wretched creatures!!! this is not high political analyis-

Anyway, I wonder if the excessive demonization is leading just to an extreme relief when the journalists are not seeing actually a hoof-footed creature standing in front of them- and hence he giddiness of the approach.

The fact remains that this is a dictator and as Truthquest correctly pointed out, he needs a better circle to hang out with than the corrupt circle of his family to show some credibility, at least to his own people. So the question remains : Can he? Is he able to cut all those corrupt inner ties and make better judgments internally crossing the party line completely towards people who have competencies? Or is he shackled by his legacy?

Once Peace is reached with Israel now or later, the people are still having to live through this state of things.

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November 20th, 2008, 11:30 am


55. Alia said:


Sometimes we may agree with the right wing and at others with the left wing radicals…We are actually not agrreing with anyone, we are reaching our own conlcusions. If there is anything we are familiar with in the ME, it is political manipulation of facts. The Bush admisnistration introduced a new level of such to the majority of unspuspecting politically unsophisticated people. OTW’s response is the only “factual” response- The reports of the IAEA have been openly manipulated- Hans Blix and Scott Ritter and others have tried in vain to correct the spin that was put on their reports in Iraq and were effectively silenced by the clamours for wars.

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November 20th, 2008, 11:38 am


56. Alia said:

Norman, OTW and Jad,

The two party U.S. political system developed from the time of the founder fathers and has some to a standstill in the last few decades. There is no political imperative for it to remain so…in addition, the spectrum of representation of each party is so wide within the one party that one wonders why those people all belong to the same party.

Presently, the left decomcrats are gradually feeling disenchanted with the increasingly Clintonian looking White House – while they were hoping that their common candidate well return back from his increasingly centrist position to an earlier more liberal leaning one. But we know form his political biography that Obama ” although driven by an activist heart, was no radical….overtime he tends to move within the established political order ( adapted from David Mendell’s Bio of Obama)

I do not see that a 2 party system is easily applicable in Syria.

Soemone ( Shai?) mentioned earlier that knowing people who live in a democracy is conducive to supporting democracy. Actually, I would argue that living under democratic rules with clear limits and boundaries on everyone, fair and open participation, is the way to go towards instilling democratic values and encouraging people to uphold democracy- that, along with a vigourous and relentless fight against corruption on all levels. This is the civic learning process everywhere ( Jad look at Germany post-WW II :))_

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November 20th, 2008, 11:54 am


57. offended said:

Alia, thank you so much for the enlightening posts and for taking the time to articulate your thoughts. We may not disagree hugely on the vision of what an eventual democratic Syria might look like. But worries me right now, and what I think is a laborious and mighty task is the transition.

– How can we guarantee secular governance?
– How can we make sure that the system won’t be squashed by a military coup?
– How can we guarantee that the position of Syria itself in the region, as a major supporter for the Palestinian cause, won’t be undermined during such transition?
– How can we accommodate the various political undercurrents within the Syrian society without leading to head-on collisions in the process?

I am not trying to make the task look daunting or anything, but we should really answer those tough questions before anything else.

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November 20th, 2008, 12:15 pm


58. JustOneAmerican said:

OTW and Alia,

I don’t want to hijack the thread but wanted to make a couple of points.

First, the IAEA is different than UNSCOM, which was the agency created to verifiably get rid of Saddam’s WMD. UNSCOM had much more authority than the IAEA because it was created to enforce an armistice.

Second, Iraq signed that armistice ending the 1991 war which it lost and lost badly. Immediately after signing, Iraq began to break every provision of that armistice. One of those provisions was full cooperation with UNSCOM in verifiably dismantling all its WMD. Iraq did something quite different, however. It secretly destroyed its weapons and then went to extraordinary efforts to impede the very verification and inspection regime required by the armistice. Who’s fault was that? If we are to believe you, Alia and others, the fault lies with UNSCOM, the IAEA and the USA and not, apparently, Iraq and Saddam Hussein. UNSCOM, blocked and impeded by Iraq from carrying out its legal mandate at every turn, are “whiners” for asking for more cooperation – cooperation that is legally required. That’s a quite interesting and completely backwards viewpoint.

Third, Saddam, not the sanctions, were the source of inhumanity. Saddam purposely starved and denied medicine to certain parts of his population is order to garner international sympathy (it’s still working I guess!), strengthen his regime and punish his enemies. In addition, Saddam got billions illegally selling oil outside the oil for food program. Where did that money get spent? Weapons mostly, not on saving Iraqi children, that’s for sure. Saddam decides to let his people starve and buy palaces and weapons. Who’s to blame? Not Saddam – the west and their inhumane sanctions! You seriously believe that?

Alia, you talk about political manipulation of the facts. That’s an excellent point and it saddens me that many still seem to buy into the fantasy that the sanctions were responsible for starving children in Iraq. It saddens me that so many still believe that the UN/UNSCOM/IAEA are to blame for the Iraq war when it was Saddam failing to live up to obligations he incurred from a war he started and then lost.

It’s not like these facts are hidden. We know now from interviews with Saddam himself, Tariq Aziz, “Chemical” Ali and other senior regime leaders exactly what Saddam’s strategy was: It was to simultaneously convince one audience (the international community) he did not have WMD while convincing another (Israel, Iran, the Arab “steet.”) that he still did. His basic strategy was to deny inspectors any hard evidence of WMD while keeping the illusion he still had them. His strategy was to keep the expertise and rebuild all his programs once sanctions were gone, all while maintaining ambiguity about whether he might still have weapons hidden somewhere.

For many years inspectors could not understand why Saddam secretly destroyed his chemical weapons after the 1991 war instead of bringing the inspectors in to watch (as he was required to do). We now know that he did not want them verifiably destroyed because he did not want to remove all doubt. He wanted ambiguity. His strategy was so effective that almost all the Iraq military leadership we captured during the 2003 war were convinced the country still had WMD.

So the one person who could have prevented the disastrous 2003 war was Saddam. If he’d lived up to the armistice he signed there would have been no justification for an invasion because there wouldn’t be any ambiguity into which the neocons could plant the seeds to start the war.

Yet despite these facts people continue to believe that UN agencies are “whiners” for attempting to get legally required cooperation. People continue to blame the ambiguity of their judgments on deficiencies in those agencies instead of the government and dictator that created the ambiguity by failing to meet its obligations and by purposely pursing a policy of obfuscation. Saddam must be laughing in his grave at this.

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November 20th, 2008, 3:58 pm


59. Off the Wall said:

Dear Offended
Thes are extremely good and pointed questions, i will take a shot at answering the first one for now:

– How can we guarantee secular governance?

1. You enshrine secularism in the constitution, either in the preamble or ala-American model, by defining a bill of rights that prohibit the state from sponsoring and favoring religious organizations. To be fair, the constitution can not prohibit the establishment of parties along religious of ethnic lines, but it can prohibit members of these parties, when achieving power through election, from favoring their religion or ethnic group. Enshrining secularism can also be strengthened by acknowledging and embracing the pluralism of Syria and defining the country’s self image as a country of many stripes. This is where the preamble comes in.

2. You establish a very competent supreme court, that is either elected or like many other countries, nominated by the president, and confirmed or otherwise by the parliament. You need that court to be highly visible and that can be accomplished by making confirmation hearings public and by encouraging the hearing committee to delve deep into the candidates philosophical and judicial background. A strong religious commitment from the candidate is not a disqualifier, but acting upon it on the bench is, let the parliament decide.

3. You also allow lower courts to decide on the legality of the actions of any political party. You do not need to establish a political court, but you should allow courts at certain level to adjudicate political matters in rather legalistic manner. To avoid the misuse and abuse of these courts, you establish a highly vetted and independent review board that looks into each political law suit before allowing it to proceed. The board can not and should not influence the ruling of the court, but it can clean out frivolous law suits. Once norms are established, the board can be dissolved and the decision on the merit of the case can be left to the judges as they should be. Part and parcel of this is to establish hefty fines including suspension of activities until the matter is addressed. No jail time should be dished out unless a crime is committed, and in that case, the matter is not settled by civil law suite but by a prosecutorial action from the local district attorney or “manager of justice” in the locality on behalf of the people of Syria. For example, criminal electoral intimidation and fraud, are issues to be settled by criminal court not by civil court. But advocating one candidate or collecting campaign contributions for a political party in a mosque, a church, or temple, is a civil issue, which will risk the protected status of the said institution.

4. You downgrade the ministry of religious affairs (awqaf) from a cabinet position to an independent entity but retain the president right to appoint its head and high level executives. The only role of this entity would be to facilitate each group or locality’s management of their huge trust funds and real-estate in legal and accountable manner. Then you move, carefully and slowly towards the eventual abolishment of the official role of the Grand Mufti. The two actions will later ensure that even if a religiously motivated party achieves power through elections, it will have no government mechanism to enforce religious views other than the legally accepted way and that these parties can not divert government resources for dawa, religious education, or through simply gifting tax payer monies to strengthen religious institutions. The only acceptable fund for these institutions should come from the people directly. There are also some good models in Europe and I hope that some expats in Europe will shed light on these models as alternatives to what I am writing here.

5. You establish a strong law that prohibits the incitement of hatred, and you enforce it very effectively as a criminal issue. But what constitutes hate speech must be very clearly articulated in the law as such law can also be used by the government to stifle freedom of speech.

These are some of the things, which I think can make it easier to govern in secular manner. We want to be secular, but we should not use secularism as an anti-religion dogma. Off course educational campaigns must proceed and accompany these actions.

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November 20th, 2008, 4:49 pm


60. Alia said:


I did not bring up Saddam here, nor did I bring up the “whiners” at the U.N.- although I could speak- as many could here- about the heavy double standard in the Security Council resolutions that are vetoed or just plain ignored when Israel is being restricted. So I am wondering why you are bringing them up and being so defensive about them?

UNSCOM was working with the International Atomic Energy on the matter.

This is an excerpt of an interview between Seymour Hersh and Scott Ritter for The Nation in October 2005, going beyond your point to speak about how everyone knew that there no WMD , Saddam’s lies notwihstanding, but the agenda was for war, and war it was going to be:

[MR. HERSH: One of the things that’s overwhelming to me is the notion that everybody believed before March of ’03 that Saddam had weapons. This is just urban myth. The fact of the matter is that, in talking to people who worked on the UNSCOM and also in the International Atomic Energy Agency, they were pretty much clear by ’97 that there was very little likelihood that Saddam had weapons. And there were many people in our State Department, in the Department of Energy, in the CIA who didn’t believe there were weapons. And I think history is going to judge the mass hysteria we had about Saddam and weapons. And one of the questions that keeps on coming up now is why didn’t Saddam tell us. Did he tell us?

MR. RITTER: Well, of course he told us. Look, let’s be honest, the Iraqis were obligated in 1991 to submit a full declaration listing the totality of their holdings in WMD, and they didn’t do this. They lied. They failed to declare a nuclear weapons program, they failed to declare a biological weapons programs, and they under-declared their chemical and ballistic missile capabilities. Saddam Hussein intended to retain a strategic deterrent capability, not only to take care of Iran but also to focus on Israel. What he didn’t count on was the tenacity of the inspectors. And very rapidly, by June 1991, we had compelled him into acknowledging that he had a nuclear weapons programs, and we pushed him so hard that by the summer of 1991, in the same way that a drug dealer who has police knocking at his door, flushes drugs down a toilet to get rid of his stash so he could tell the cops, “I don’t have any drugs,” the Iraqis, not wanting to admit that they lied, flushed their stash down the toilet.

They blew up all their weapons and buried them in the desert, and then tried to maintain the fiction that they had told the truth. And by 1992 they were compelled again, because of the tenacity of the inspectors, to come clean. People ask why didn’t Saddam Hussein admit being disarmed? In 1992 they submitted a declaration that said everything’s been destroyed, we have nothing left. In 1995 they turned over the totality of their document cache. Again, not willingly, it took years of inspections to pressure them, but the bottom line is by 1995 there were no more weapons in Iraq, there were no more documents in Iraq, there was no more production capability in Iraq because we were monitoring the totality of Iraq’s industrial infrastructure with the most technologically advanced, the most intrusive arms control regime in the history of arms control.

And furthermore, the CIA knew this, the British intelligence knew this, Israeli intelligence knew this, German intelligence, the whole world knew this. They weren’t going to say that Iraq was disarmed because nobody could say that, but they definitely knew that the Iraqi capability regarding WMD had been reduced to as near to zero as you could bring it, and that Iraq represented a threat to no one when it came to weapons of mass destruction. ]

This is the link to the whole article :

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November 20th, 2008, 4:50 pm


61. Alia said:

Dear Offended,

Thank you. I see that OTW has given you a nice outline- and many possibilities for further directions..

I will say at the present time, that, the most difficult step in any project is the identification of a clear goal, with the implication that there is an a priori absolute will to achieve it. The steps that lead to the goal are all just a matter of problem-solving, and we are all problem-solvers in our various capacities.
The other thing is that none of it is a one shot deal, that is why great political figures, worked many years at constant revisions and corrections along the way.

Every single point that you have brought up has been already fought by others successfully, in the Arab, Muslim world or elsewhere. We have been brainwashed to believe that our obstacles are insurmountable and that we are destined to live under this rule. But that is not true. This brainwashing is for the sole benefit of the regime.
What have they done all those years? Protect us from Israel? NO they have not. Bring a national reconciliation? NO they have not. Solve any of the issues that existed before they came? No. Create more problems for our future ? :Yes.

It is doable, I am telling you-:)

I too must get some work done- till later.

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November 20th, 2008, 5:04 pm


62. SimoHurtta said:

What have they done all those years? Protect us from Israel? NO they have not. Bring a national reconciliation? NO they have not. Solve any of the issues that existed before they came? No. Create more problems for our future ? :Yes

What I would say the “not liked” Arab countries and leaders have been after WW2 been more active in trying to unite the Arab countries and creating a real social change. What ever we say from Saddam he westernised Iraq and brought many of the rights of the modern society to the people. Only the western pressure forced him to more “religious governing style”.

What USA and Israel have shown many times they are much more afraid of progressive leaders in the region (Arab nationalism and socialism). In their interest are medieval lazy dictators, who keep their countries weak and fragmented. The sad thing is that they also make their best to crush fast any raising more or less democratic leadership or ideology.

Syria and Iran are not worse in the aspect of human rights and democracy as Egypt, Libya, Saudi Arabia etc. In many aspects even better. The difference is in their attitude towards the big brother (on the other side of Atlantic piloted form Tel Aviv).

What Arab countries needs is are a new Marx and Nasser. A new less religiously weighted ideology, popular movements and strong independent leaders.

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November 20th, 2008, 6:13 pm


63. JustOneAmerican said:


It was OTW who used the “whiner” term.

I hear “double-standards” listed as an excuse for almost everything these days, even my kids who complain that their friends get to watch more TV than they do. Crying double-standards doesn’t do much except avoid the reality staring at you.

Regardless, there isn’t the double-standard here you see. The armistice after the Iraq war was not just a UNSC resolution – it was a negotiated agreement ending hostilities signed and agreed to by the State of Iraq. That is quite different from a UNSC resolution demanding a country do something that it has not agreed to do. It’s not nearly the same thing as the UNSC resolutions demanding Iran stop enriching, for example, since Iran never agreed to or signed a treaty that gave up its right to enrichment. See the difference?

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November 20th, 2008, 7:19 pm


64. trustquest said:

You said : “What USA and Israel have shown many times they are much more afraid of progressive leaders in the region (Arab nationalism and socialism). In their interest are medieval lazy dictators, who keep their countries weak and fragmented. The sad thing is that they also make their best to crush fast any raising more or less democratic leadership or ideology. “
Amen to that, but the rest of the comment I could not infer what you are trying to say.
Do you mean that reform and the struggle of civil society is not necessary because it undermines and distracts those dictators from their job in defending their state against the imperialist and the Zionists.
Just clear it up please.

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November 20th, 2008, 7:49 pm


65. Jad said:

I’m with Alia and OTW on the double standard issue of those international organizations, and I don’t understand why you are so defensive?
It’s a common sense that any international organisation with power is going to take sides regardless of right or wrong, fair or unjust, it has always been and it will continue to be this way, the powerful decide.
Secondly, and regardless of the way you want to frame the whole Iraqi issue, it was and still the UN and its organization as well as the IAEA are responsible equally if not more than Saddam himself for the misery of Iraq. Not to mention that the UN is a partners in the Palestinian tragedy.

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November 20th, 2008, 11:27 pm


66. norman said:

OTW,Alia, Jad, offended , Alex, WD , Saghir and Aussama,

One big question which might be insulting to some,

Does Syria needs Democracy to improve the lives of the Syrian people which should the goal of any government.?

Of 300 million Americans Obama won by only 65 million voting for him , still we can manage to live and prosper no matter who is in power ,

I think that the American Legal and economic Systems are more important and should be a priority in Syria,

Any thoughts?.

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November 21st, 2008, 1:15 am


67. Alia said:


[Crying double-standards doesn’t do much except avoid the reality staring at you.]

Reality does not stare at us, we stare at it, and most of the time each one of us sees what he wants to see or even better what he can bear to see.

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November 21st, 2008, 1:29 am


68. JustOneAmerican said:


You mistake my comments for defensiveness. It’s more like incredulousness.

Yes, the powerful decide. What is new here? That is almost always the case in all human endeavors great or small. It sucks, but that’s humanity for you.

Finally, declaring the UN and IAEA are more responsible for the “misery of Iraq” does not make it true.

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November 21st, 2008, 1:30 am


69. JustOneAmerican said:

Does Syria needs Democracy to improve the lives of the Syrian people which should the goal of any government.?

Interesting question. I think over the long run, Democracy is more likely to improve the lives of Syrians than any other form of government but that other forms can still improve the lives of Syrians.

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November 21st, 2008, 1:38 am


70. Alia said:


The institutions of democracy are what insures that the majority continues to live a decent life and to prosper, regardless of who is in the white house. Still poverty and increasing social ills have been related to the massive cuts in the social support networks for the less fortunate even in the U.S.

But how can you have a just legal system if you do not have democracy and a system of checks and balances.? What would it take to corrupt that system ?

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November 21st, 2008, 1:42 am


71. jad said:

Dear Norman,
(I’ll be very quick in my response)

You have two excellent definition of Democracy by OTW and Shai;

“At its heart, democracy is not the laws themselves, it is the process by which laws are made and enforced.”
“I believe Democracy is also, beyond the technical definition, a state-of-mind and a language.”

That means Democracy is the way to answer your needs if you truly understand it, it is for a better, equal and fair society, where people are all treated equally and have the same rights and duty as their fellow citizens. Democracy is not a physical form it is a whole movement that develop with time.

YES Syria needs Democracy very bad because when you have free society, creativity flourish, that translate into more opportunity that eventually leads to stability and fortune.
When you know that you are a partner in any decision your government takes you know very well that it is in your own best interest and not against you.
Democracy is important and we must have but it is not the only element you need to progress and improve people life especially when you have big portion of your population don’t know the meaning of communication and law as the only way. So it should be supported by education and justice.

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November 21st, 2008, 1:55 am


72. norman said:

Alia, Jad

some time i look at Democracy like looking at a religion , It is good to have one but you do not need it to be moral and righteous.

Sometime i look at it as a union in a company , management should not need a union to take care of the needs of their workers , they should do that because it is their obligation .

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November 21st, 2008, 2:00 am


73. norman said:


China is flourishing with increased standard of living and economic freedom without politecal reform, The Chinese are better off than the Democratic Indians.

For Democracy to take hold i think the country needs middle class therefore economic freedom should probably come first.

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November 21st, 2008, 2:11 am


74. Alia said:


May be you do not need democracy to be righteous, but you sure need it to ensure that everybody is righteous. Power corrupts, we need to limit power and not concentrate it in a small number of individuals.

China is flourishing economically but you still cannot write a novel that praises Mongolian enviornmental values, you end up in jail. What is the point of eating and drinking and having new cars if you cannot express yourself.

Indians are very proud of their democracy despite their poverty. I have known quite a few poor simple indians, never heard them wish they were Chinese but all knew that their country was the largest democracy and that counted for something.

I guess it does depend on what your priorities are..

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November 21st, 2008, 2:36 am


75. jad said:

Dear Norman,

With due respect, I don’t agree with you on the two points you mentioned;

1-Democracy can’t be compared to religion one is easily changeable according to the majority benefits the later is untouchable

2-Comparing China to India can be translated into KSA(china) and Egypt(India) which one do you think is better?

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November 21st, 2008, 3:17 am


76. norman said:


KSA is not China , people in China have a chance to innovate , People in KSA are oppressed,

Egypt is not India for many reasons,

I would like Syria with economic freedom and laws that apply to everybody , Syria is going in that direction , Syrians should seek appeals and see what happened , courts sometimes rise to the occasion when they are looked up to.

the people who are in prison should try and use the court system.

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November 21st, 2008, 3:48 am


77. Sami D said:

JustOneAmerican wrote:

Saddam, not the sanctions, were the source of inhumanity. Saddam purposely starved and denied medicine to certain parts of his population is order to garner international sympathy (it’s still working I guess!), strengthen his regime and punish his enemies. In addition, Saddam got billions illegally selling oil outside the oil for food program. Where did that money get spent? Weapons mostly, not on saving Iraqi children, that’s for sure. Saddam decides to let his people starve and buy palaces and weapons. Who’s to blame? Not Saddam – the west and their inhumane sanctions! You seriously believe that? Alia, you talk about political manipulation of the facts. That’s an excellent point and it saddens me that many still seem to buy into the fantasy that the sanctions were responsible for starving children in Iraq. It saddens me that so many still believe that the UN/UNSCOM/IAEA are to blame for the Iraq war when it was Saddam failing to live up to obligations he incurred from a war he started and then lost.

This is a misrepresentation, however unintentional. Iraq’s WMD and the search for them is the excuse. The goal is to control Iraq, with its vast oil supplies, or destroy it if it resisted control and install a client. Saddam would not dare use his WMD –-some of which supplied by uncle Sam-— because he knows what the response would be. The US and Israel know that. The suffocating sanctions were the public punishment of Iraq, for all to learn and see what the price of disobedience to the emperor looks like. Bush Sr. was clear: Dictators must understand that “what we say goes” (he meant, of course, only those dictators not responsive to our demands, not for example the head and hand choppers of Saudi Arabia).

As for US record on Sanctions: First, during the 1991 “war” (more like a massacre or a turkey shoot) the US deliberately bombed the water treatment and electric generation plants (not just relays stations, but the source), with fore-knowledge of the civilian human costs that would result. Saddam, as evil as he was, didn’t make the US attack the civilian infrastructure of Iraq. US planned and did that. Matter of fact, Saddam, re-built the electric plants & bridges much more efficiently than the US, with its looting mercenaries on the loose, did post-2003. What the US did in 1991, including bombardment of bridges, factories, the use of depleted uranium, cluster and daisy cutter bombs, for example against the fleeing soldiers and civilians from Kuwait on the highway of death, constitutes war crimes and crimes against humanity.

It was clear (to the US too) that such barbaric destruction and attack on millions of innocent civilians, especially when followed by one of the most strict sanction regime in history, would produce, for example just by the end of 1991, according to mainstream US press, about 70,000 dead children. With contaminated water supplies, sewers flowing in the streets and rivers, and the US blocking even that basic cleanser of water –chlorine– from reaching Iraq (under the “dual use” pretext), let alone refrigeration tools, ensured that what transpired over the next few years in Iraq would be something on the scale of genocide. And “genocide” was the word used by the UN head of the program (Dennis Halliday) in reference to the US sanctions before he resigned his post after 3 decades of UN service. His successor (Von Sponeck) also resigned expressing similar disgust at the sanctions.

Over 1.5 million dead, and “the price was worth it” Albright said. (Rice would have preferred “birth pangs of a new Middle East”.) This is how the US –the beacon of democracy and freedom– operates when its subjects display disobedience, as the people of Indochina found out before them, for all to see and learn. Sanctions only ensured that Iraq would be devastated, would be reduced from one of the most advanced Arab countries, with social rights, from free education to healthcare (under Saddam, note!), to sub-Saharan Africa, under US sanctions and Saddam. At best, Saddam was only partly to blame, for diverting some of the funds to his personal use and for not resigning. But did the US really expect an honorable behavior and committing suicide on his part, or did it just plan to exploit his reputation and expected behavior to blame him for everything IT did?

It is also noteworthy that most of his crimes, for which he was notorious, like gassing “his own people” or the attack on Shia/Kurds/Iran, were committed while he was a US ally, supported, armed, protected from international law by the US. Even his March 1991 attack on the Shia uprising was aided by the US, when the latter realized that the coup against Saddam was not by military commanders – the desired outcome from US perspective. US can’t let the Iraqis run their country; you gotta have a military thug like Saddam, but one who’s obedient to us: “our SOB” in US intelligence parlance, or “Washington would have the best of all worlds: an iron-fisted Iraqi junta without Saddam Hussein” in the words of Thomas Friedman.

As for compliance with weapons inspection, repeated US leaders (eg, Albright) made it clear that even if Saddam complied sanctions would not be removed, until Saddam was out of power! The meaning was clear: WMD is the excuse. More clearly, in the words of Ritter: “The U.S. has perverted the U.N. weapons process by using it as a tool to justify military actions, falsely so. … The U.S. was using the inspection process as a trigger for war.” The message to Saddam was clear, don’t cooperate and hence give us excuse to suffocate Iraq more, or remove/kill yourself/get removed from power by the starving Iraqi population, to be replaced by a US client. Why would he comply under those conditions?

The real WMD in Iraq were the US sanctions followed by the 2003 aggression, executed cold-bloodedly without regard to civilian life, mainly the children, elderly and most vulnerable. The civilian toll of both must be around 2.5-3 million Iraqis, not to mention double that of refugees, and the devastation of Iraq.

Quote from Joy Gordon, Harper’s, Nov 2002 issue: “In searching for evidence of the potential danger posed by Iraq, the Bush Administration need have looked no further than the well-kept record of U.S. manipulation of the sanctions program since 1991. If any international act in the last decade is sure to generate enduring bitterness toward the United States, it is the epidemic suffering needlessly visited on Iraqis via U.S. fiat inside the United Nations Security Council. Within that body, the United States has consistently thwarted Iraq from satisfying its most basic humanitarian needs, using sanctions as nothing less than a deadly weapon, and, despite recent reforms, continuing to do so. Invoking security concerns—including those not corroborated by U.N. weapons inspectors—U.S. policymakers have effectively turned a program of international governance into a legitimized act of mass slaughter.”

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November 21st, 2008, 5:26 am


78. jad said:

(Yes, the powerful decide. What is new here)
I already state that and I know that, it’s you who is trying too hard to legitmat the unjust and devistation decisions taken by the ‘powefull’

(Finally, declaring the UN and IAEA are more responsible for the “misery of Iraq” does not make it true.)
REALLY???? You think that the UN in it’s supporting and forcing a terrible and unhumain sanctions against the iraqis for all this years and being a cowerd witness of the american invasion is not ‘true’ enough for you? It’s more than enough for me to say that they are worst than Saddam (I’m not defending Saddam at all, he deserve what happened to him but he isn’t worth all the innocent people died to get his head) and they are in many ways responsible of the 2 millions civilian iraqis died and 4.4 millions becomes refuge..
you might beleive this more than my ‘fals decleration’

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November 21st, 2008, 6:31 am


79. jad said:

(Yes, the powerful decide. What is new here)
I already state that and I know that, it’s you who is trying too hard to legitmat the unjust and devistation decisions taken by the ‘powefull’

(Finally, declaring the UN and IAEA are more responsible for the “misery of Iraq” does not make it true.)
REALLY???? You think that the UN in it’s supporting and forcing a terrible and unhumain sanctions against the iraqis for all this years and being a cowerd witness of the american invasion is not ‘true’ enough for you? It’s more than enough for me to say that they are worst than Saddam (I’m not defending Saddam at all, he deserve what happened to him but he isn’t worth all the innocent people died to get his head)
The UN and it’s organization are in many ways responsible of the 2 millions civilian iraqis died and 4.4 millions becomes might beleive this numbers more than my ‘fals decleration’

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November 21st, 2008, 6:45 am


80. offended said:

Dear Alia and OTW, thanks for the feedback. I am reading your posts with great interest. And I must admit that you both are more erudite on the subject than I’d imagined : ) I wonder what’s your educational background? Political science? Law? Journalism?

So far I can only raise questions. I couldn’t find fault in your excellent answers. But one thing I feel I should reiterate is that we should inspect Syria through the binoculars of reality. How do you feed these idealistic plans and values to people on grass root level? How do you reach out to those despondent and cynical people? You’ve got to understand that those people are as suspicious of you as they are of any typical political agenda. Not because they lack the knowledge, but probably because they’ve lost interest….for one reason or the other, they don’t buy a sales pitch very easily. They simply go by the saying “alli beta3rfo a7san min alli betet3araf 3aleeh”….

I’d like to see the spirit of those people revived and awakened. And the last thing Syria need is for those people to resort to some religious figures for guidance….(I think I said this before so I’ll stop repeating myself…)

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November 21st, 2008, 10:08 am


81. trustquest said:

Dear bedfellow, norman, jad, otw, offended and others;
It is great to see you coming to the same conclusions as the opposition in Syria (I mean the good opposition who lives inside the country and struggling for the freedom of “TALKING”, and you until now did not make the connection between these people call for freedom of “TALKING” and the thing you are agreeing finally on this thread).

It seems to me that all happened when you guys secluded together and sat together and discussed the terrible state of the country without the interference of opposition supporters. It seems all this discussions before were not needed, you have been reacting most of the time in fear for change and the mistrust of others and finding excuses related to outside factors. I’m not playing sarcastic or joking I’m sincere and was enjoying the debate.

I’m so glad to hear the comment from JAD-71- acknowledges the dire need of the change. I would add to his comment on the list of democratic value one more item: the value of changing hands, people and responsibilities in the democratic system or lets called the more democratic system since Syria’s constitution is built on the democratic values.
I appreciate OTW hard work to prove that the Judicial System in US is superior and I stress on Norman call for the adaption of this system, even I do think this is not doable because first you have to have, enforce and apply the system you currently have (there is no System now, there is chaos), so you would be able from the current one to move to the new one.

I love it when people bring China example, but please revise that, because China is not India and orange and apples does not mix. Syria first is neither and it is too late to be China but not too late to walk in India direction as India did that in the last 10 years. And if this does not make sense, let say, bring anything please, but MAKE CHANGE – REAL CHANGE, the change which you will see its results in the first year, especially the social change. Btw Norman, I do not see Syria is going in any direction, sorry! You do not have to silence intellectuals from TALKING to go in any direction!
Syrians qualities and capabilities do not match the any in the Middle East; the smart leader would be the one who can build on this quality as Khalid Alazem did in the fifties.

Offended, your question is very important, to feed these changes and values to the public, you have to let the public TALK, make mistakes and keep trying. Thank you for asking.

I would like to add one more thing, the value of respect and recognize the diversity. One more thing the value of respecting fellow citizens with all differences, Shai, Akbar and AIG are great examples, they still respect and love each other with all their difference. Another thing, it should be in our alienated right to attack, dismiss, disgrace our leaders when we disagree with them, we put them there to serve us, if they do not like it, let them quit, we should stop the YES man mentality, this the way to improve.

All, please excuse me for being too judgmental, unrefined and not sophisticated in my comment.

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November 21st, 2008, 3:08 pm


82. JustOneAmerican said:

Ok, this will be my last comment on the subject. I don’t expect to change anyone’s mind on this topic judging from the responses so far, so after this I won’t bother to try anymore. Like the belief among many around the world that 9/11 was perpetrated by a zionist/jewish conspiracy, the idea that Saddam bears little if any responsibility for deaths while Iraq was under sanctions seems to be in the realm of belief that is unassailable by any fact or argument.

On the question of the sanctions, you really need to go back and read what was actually happening at the time. The vast majority of victims of the sanctions (and refugees) were, unsurprisingly, Shia and to a lesser extent, Kurd. Now why was that? It was because, beginning in 1992, Saddam was carrying out military campaigns against both groups. These military campaigns included economic warfare. Not only were food and medicine shipments ceased to the north and south of Iraq, but Saddam also prevented humanitarian workers from providing aid in those areas. Both actions by Saddam were violations of agreements made by Saddam to say nothing of international law. Of course, when innocents were dying in the streets, Saddam was only too happy to give scripted and guided tours to the useful idiots in the press, but not allow in aid workers to help the sick and dying. It was a hugely successful propaganda campaign by Saddam, one that is still working quite well despite Saddam’s demise.

The situation in the north became so bad the the US military and others finally intervened to prevent what would have been a a genocide against the Kurds. After denying the Kurds food and medicine, what was left of the Iraqi military drove them into the mountains to freeze and starve to death. Had there not been an intervention, those here who believe the sanctions were the primary cause of all those deaths would likely be blaming the Kurd genocide on evil western sanctions as well.

In hindsight, it’s too bad the US did not establish a similar safe-haven in the south of Iraq for the Shia for Saddam’s operations there was similar – forced migrations, denial of food and medicine, military operations against civilians, and even the destruction of local agriculture (irrigation mainly).

So let’s recap:

Who prevented food and medicine shipments to many parts of the country – the parts that had the worst humanitarian situation? Saddam

Who prevented international aid organizations from helping those people? Saddam

Who spent tens of billions rearming, building palaces etc. instead of humanitarian infrastructure (often illegally)? Saddam

Who refused to participate in the 1991 OFF program? Saddam.

Despite the clear evidence gathered over the last 15 years that Saddam’s deliberate policy choices are the primary cause of the humanitarian disaster, there are still those who point the finger elsewhere and make statements like, “At best, Saddam was only partly to blame, for diverting some of the funds to his personal use and for not resigning.” Such a statement implies there is little or nothing Saddam could have done differently to change the outcome – an implication which is clearly false. It also seems ignorant that “some of the funds” were really tens of billions of dollars and represented a significant portion of Iraqi GDP. Yes, the only thing we can blame poor Saddam for is diverting a bit of money – everything else was out of his control. That is delusion.

What I will say is that the sanctions were stupid and counterproductive. The US and UN should have known what Saddam would do under sanctions. They should have realized he didn’t care about the Iraqi people and that he was perfectly willing to kill them directly or through conscious neglect to gain a propaganda victory and punish his enemies. They should have realized that most sanctions don’t work against totalitarian states because the regime can and will control who gets the resources. The sanctions were certainly a mistake – or at least the form in which they were implemented – but what’s amazing to me is that there are still those who, despite the historical record, seriously believe that Saddam didn’t do all the things listed above which killed so many innocent people.

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November 21st, 2008, 3:18 pm


83. Friend in America said:

Simo –
Sorry to be late in replying to #6. Your arguments are well taken – I understand your reasons. But, my friend, I am not persuaded by reasoning that belongs to the cold war period.
I am very concerned about the reasoning ‘we must have nukes because they have nukes’ because it will result in every country in the mid east having nukes. That would be uncontrollable proliferation in a very volitile area of the world. What would then be accomplished? No more security than is enjoyed now; more likely less, because of the potential of devastation and aspirations of some political leaders.
A treaty declaring the mid east a nuclear free zone is a far safer alternative not only for all of us living today but also for our children and our children’s children and their children. Given a proper situation I think Israel would be obliged to be a signatory but that will not happen until the proliferation problem in Iran is resolved. Until then the countries between Iran and Israel can declare their part of the world to be a nuclear free zone.
I have been advocating that on this site for over a year. It is in the best interests of all mid eastern countries. That includes Syria. There is no safe next best alternative.
It is naieve military reasoning to believe in today’s hi tech world the military of any country can transport a nucular bomb to a launching site, install it in a warhead, attach the warhead to a missle, and launch the missle without detection or being smashed. There were 250 thefts of fissile material in 2007, almost all from supplies in Russia. Who has them?
There is a balance of power in the mid east at present (some might call it a stable imbalance of power). Nuclear proliferation opens the door to events beyond any single country’s control. All are put at risk.

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November 21st, 2008, 3:35 pm


84. jad said:

(Ok, this will be my last comment on the subject.) Good, me too

In all the comments you got from us, not even one person said that they don’t blame saddam, while in yours, you failed miserably to condemn or even accept any responsibility of the UN or the American administrations for destroying the lives of millions of Iraqis, you just said ‘they should know’ don’t you think that 11 years of sanctions is long enough for them to ‘know’??? No need for answer.

Finally, please don’t mix 9/11 with any other unrelated subject, we all here educated enough and we appreciate if you stick to one subject without transform it to mishmash.

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November 21st, 2008, 3:52 pm


85. Alia said:


[A treaty declaring the mid east a nuclear free zone is a far safer alternative not only for all of us]

Why is this coming up now, and not for the past 50 years as Israel has been the first country in the ME to develop a nuclear program ? Why has Israel’s “nuclear opacity” been allowed to continue despite very specific U.S intelligence on the matter? Why is Israel not a rogue state as per U.S. definition? The worthless argument that in a democracy, the use of nuclear arms is more responsible, is just that, worthless.

[ Given a proper situation I think Israel would be obliged to be a signatory but that will not happen until the proliferation problem in Iran is resolved. ]

Israel has never felt “obliged” to do anything even when the whole world has condamned its actions and stands. When the Israelis could not get the Americans to support the degree of nuclear armement they desired under Eisenhower, they turned to France and obtained what they needed.

I am tired of the hypocritical and patronizing attitudeS and comments of the Israel Lobby being spewed all around without examination.

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November 21st, 2008, 3:56 pm


86. Alia said:


The last paragraph of your comment was the only thing that was needed- you could have started with it – the rest was really not helpful and largely inapplicable-

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November 21st, 2008, 4:00 pm


87. Alia said:

Dear Offended,

Our people are like any other people, you do something constructive for them, they respond to it-
Their bosses that have been nurtured and manipulated by the regime and the Mukhabarat are going to have to be controlled. They and the religious leaders will have to follow legal rules stated in a democracy where inciting hatred and encouraging violence are punishable by law.
We have had a lot of people work to ruin the country’s grassroots over an extended period of time, so yes a lot of work has to be done to reverse the trend.

Norman talks of economic opportunities- well, it would help to spread them a bit all over the country and over all sects and religions, and to show that there is no favoritism, no sectarianism coming from the centre, from the top…

That is the nature of the work.

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November 21st, 2008, 4:12 pm


88. jad said:

Dear Offended,
I have the same impression of Alia and OTW, I’m saving the important points of there exchange in one file of my own to be a good base for any further discussion.
My only concern is that if we don’t have all those comments and ideas saved they are going to be lost between the meaningless comments you get in between, I wonder if Alex can filter them out and save them on his own site Creative Syria?

Dear Alia,
I fully agree that the best investment into the Syrian future should be by educating and spreading the gift of knowledge, enlightenment and responsibility into our public base with zero tolerance of hate, religion segregations and manipulation of power in the way we still see in Syria. I also know that it will take generations to do that…but we MUST start doing that YESTERDAY.

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November 21st, 2008, 6:34 pm


89. norman said:


Alia said (( Norman talks of economic opportunities- well, it would help to spread them a bit all over the country and over all sects and religions, and to show that there is no favoritism, no sectarianism coming from the centre, from the top…

That is the nature of the work.))

Alia ,

You can spread economic opportunity by taxation and redistribution , so a flat tax of 15% with estimated tax payment every three months certified by certified accountants will make difficult for people to avoid taxes as the accountant would not want to lose their license to practice , the treasury employee that now collect bribes instead of taxes will need to have something else to do , the Tax that is collected can be spent by the government on infrastructure , education and health care ,

To give opportunity for Syrian to achieve , the government should only make it easy to start businesses , lift restrictions on prices and get out of the way and be happy with being partner for 15% of the profit.The poor can be helped by subsidies directed toward the poor only , not everybody.

I do not think has years to do that , they should start soon , and no matter how important free speech , the right to produce and eat and take care of your family is more important , at least to most Syrians as i see it,

And that is my take.

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November 21st, 2008, 10:04 pm


90. Alia said:


Your position has merits for the short run. History has taught us that people, as soon as they have food and drink, they look for something more.

The majority of the people of the Soviet Union and the East bloc countries had food, free education and health benefits, and did not worry about being on the street in their old age- yet they resisted their communist-socialist regimes and dreamed of and invited change.

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November 21st, 2008, 10:59 pm


91. Alia said:


You are too nice- It is good to exchange views. Perhaps the fact that our country has suffered so much and continues to suffer brings us closer to one another. We are like the children of a dysfunctional family unit, we ran away but we never forget : )

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November 21st, 2008, 11:04 pm


92. norman said:


They were treated as subjects , had no opportunity to get rich take care of others including their families , they had no chance of being all what they can be , and that is why they seeked change , about halve the people in the US do not even bother to vote and most the people who vote do not think that their vote make a big difference, when people are satisfied economically they will be mature to vote for the better candidates and better ideas instead of voting out of revenge or hate,I am not saying that Syria should have a democracy like in the US , what i am saying is that hungry people create a revolution while satisfied people build a future and a country .

And that is my take.

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November 21st, 2008, 11:13 pm


93. jad said:

Dear Norman,
I don’t want to sound like I’m arguing with you about what you wrote, I’m not, what you wrote is your opinion and I respect that, however, your comparisons are unfair:

East bloc countries citizens where not treated as objects as you said, otherwise they wouldn’t get to an advanced industrial level; they had people who are creative enough to produce and develop their industries.
You wrote; they (had no opportunity to get rich take care of others including their families, they had no chance of being all what they can be, and that is why they seeked change)
Don’t you think we can easily reflect the same thing on Syrians?

Being poor is not the only issue here, what is important in my opinion is how much you know and what is your contribution to improve your family and build your country, that what we are missing in Syria.
It’s true that we don’t have homeless problem in the street of our cities but at the same time we have an army of underage working children that should be in schools learning instead of begging or selling chewing gum.
I agree with you that they need to eat before thinking of democracy but are we doing anything in regard of feeding them at the present?
Do you know how many families are living below poverty line in Syria? To be very honest our society sucks in the way we look and treat poor people.
Does our government now doing anything for those people? My answer is NO, most of them lives on charity and without those organization and individual, the situation will be worse than Bombay and you will need mother Teresa to look after them.
With or without democracy people are going to eat so why don’t they eat with appetite?

Everything is achievable you need the will, the vision and group of people who are committed to do it and not just asking for power.

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November 22nd, 2008, 12:52 am


94. norman said:

First , Thank you for your respose ,
I understand your frustration , but these problem has been in Syria for a long time , I am older than you are and i was like you thinking that the Government should do everything only to find out that the government can only delay the progress of people, for the Syrian government to do what the American government can do with Medicare , Social security , Nursing home and Medicaid , Syria needs revenue which include taxes , property tax , income tax , Syria can not provide free education , free public health care and safety in the streets without revenue , making charitable contribution tax deductible will encourage donation that will help fill the gap and make people participate in building their country and I am not talking about food kitchen and Church and Mosque building but donations to libraries, community Hospitals free clinics for the poor and the disadvantages , vaccination for every child , a Mammogram for every woman above forty yearly and a Colonoscopy for every person above the age of fifty ,these can be provided through charitable foundations,
About the children who are working in young age , they do that to help their parents who are most likely employed and their salary is not enough to provide for the family , that can be corrected by increasing the salary of government employees ,and stop employing people as a way to decrease unemployment with people signing in and out and working in the private sector,
About housing and the lack of available apartments for rent ,or offices for business , Syria can change that by honoring contract laws and canceling price fixing of rent and having taxes on second houses that are not occupied by their owners .even if not finished and making it a requirement to finish buildings so they are not left ( Al Adam ) but finished and ready to rent or sell.

and that is my take.

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November 22nd, 2008, 3:28 am


95. jad said:

Dear Norman
One very important question for you my friend,
What’s the deal with your new signature line?

‘and that is my take.’

It sounds funny, there must be a story behind that new ‘trend’ of yours..smiling..

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November 22nd, 2008, 4:53 am


96. Off the Wall said:

Dear Jad
My vacation was cut short when the Yacht was brought back a shore due to increased Somali-Pirates-Of-the-Caribbean in the region. My security chief is not negotiating with the Indian Navy to see if we can hoist the Indian Flag on the Yacht. ! 

Seriously now, I am truly sorry for not posting for a while. I am extremely busy with a major technical report that must be delivered soon. And you know how that goes. Add to that priority # 1, which is family. I hope that I am forgiven. As I mentioned a few days a go, a will be very busy for a while (may be a couple of weeks). But I try my best to read the new posts and I see some very intriguing comments.

My main problem is that I can not write off-the-cuff. It takes me a long time to write any post. The seriousness of what we are discussing here on SC makes fast, pre-packaged responses real hard, especially as all posters including yourself keep generating interesting Ideas and solid points of discussions.

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November 22nd, 2008, 5:21 pm


97. Alia said:

Norman, #92

[They were treated as subjects , had no opportunity to get rich take care of others including their families , they had no chance of being all what they can be , and that is why they seeked change]

This is the American version of the history of the Eastern Bloc countries. It is oversimplified, tilted to show that the U.S. is the much better model, and based more or less on the idea that “being all you can be” means : materially.
While the truth of it is not so simple. Attempts at breaking away from the USSR sphere of dominance started already in the 50′ when the economic failures of the communist/socialists regimes were not clear-“subjecthood” was protested because of its restriction on choice and ideology. This is all documented in the literature of those countries, not in the U.S. version.

[about halve the people in the US do not even bother to vote and most the people who vote do not think that their vote make a big difference,]

The most common reasons for not voting in the U.S. are poverty, disenfranchisement, helplessness, political ignorance- Not economic satisfaction- that is why you have all the activists rushing to register voters in poor neighborhoods-
Even in the more economically-advantaged classes, political ignorance and lack of sophistication in the rights and the duties of citizenship are the results of an increasingly dominant culture of political illiteracy, and media manipulation-remember that in the midst of the Iraq war and the Guantanmo prisoners in the U.S., post Abu Ghraib, citizens were more interested in tuning in to the events of the death of Ann Nicole Smith than in reflecting about their country’s disasters.

There is a major difference between the definition of human beings, their rights and duties, in the thought of the framers of the U.S. Constitution and those of Reagan, Clinton and Bush 1 and 2-speaking to the “American People”- we, of all people, who were born and bred in the darkness of the hypocrisy of political language should be very sensitive to what we are listening to and what we are saying.

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November 23rd, 2008, 4:03 pm


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