Can Obama and Sarkozy Succeed?

Deputy Syrian Foreign Minister Faysal al-Mekdad’s visited the House of Representatives suggests that Washington is trying to help Syria get sanctions lifted. Sanctions are the sticking point of US-Syrian engagement. The US wants a Lebanese government and headway on Iraq and Palestine. Syria wants sanctions lifted. Ultimately it wants the Golan. But the US is in no position to offer it the Golan. Israel is not playing ball for the time being.

Mekdad and Feltman
Mekdad and Feltman

As Daniel Pipes writes in Netanyahu’s Quiet Success,

Binyamin Netanyahu won a major victory last week when Barack Obama backed down on a signature policy initiative. This about-face suggests that U.S.-Israel relations are no longer headed for the disaster…

Pipes is correct. Obama backed down on his insistance that Israel halt settlement growth. But he may search for a way around Israel’s seeming roadblock to engagement with the Arab World. The way around Israel is to ignore its desire to stop the US from building independent relationships with Syria and Iran, Israel’s enemies in the region. The US can ignore Israel’s wishes just as readily as Israel can ignore the US’s. This means that Obama should push ahead with engagement with Syria and Iran even if these countries do not stop arming Hizbullah or developing more advanced weapon’s systems.

Obama is taking a direct interest in engagement with Syria as well as Iran. Without his backing, many believe that the anti-Syrians in the US bureaucracy would gum up the works. Sarkozy is doing the same in France.

Alistaire Crooke insists that Obama’s diplomacy will get somewhere if he can convince Israel to be more humble….

What we are dealing with is whether Israel and, by extension, the U.S., can accept that Israel will no longer enjoy its hitherto absolute conventional military dominance in the region. This is, at bottom, the choice facing Obama: He can pursue a real solution, one that will have to acknowledge painful new realities and accept new forces arising in the region that inevitably will shift strategic balances. Or he can continue to try to contain them and risk a polarized and unstable Middle East.

It is difficult to get beyond important bureaucratic interference so long as corruption schemes exist, such as the one that Giraldi reports on in the American Conservative involving U.S. government employees and members of Congress and agents of foreign governments. … “Let’s start with the first government official you identified, Marc Grossman, then the third highest-ranking official at the State Department…..” A fascinating article that reveals how  influence peddling had become inseparable from neocon policy making during the Bush administration.

News Round Up follows:

Ibrahim Hamidi in al-Hayat: (Translation thanks to mideastwire.com)

“The discussions conducted by Syrian Foreign Minister Walid Muallem in Paris showed the important change in France’s attitude towards Syria and the existence of a quasi complete agreement over a wide range of issues. Syrian official sources told Al-Hayat that French President Nicolas Sarkozy told the Syrian Foreign Minister during their meeting that he was personally following the state of relations between Syria and France and that he was looking forward to meeting President Assad in order to further strengthen the developing relations between the two states…..

Joyce Karam in al-Hayat: (Translation thanks to mideastwire.com)

“Deputy Syrian Foreign Minister Faysal al-Mekdad has completed yesterday his visit to Washington, during which he held a meeting with Thomas E. Donilon, the White House deputy national security adviser, to discusse bilateral relations and matters that interest both states.

“Officials in the White house told Al-Hayat that Donilon and other officials in the national security team, namely Dan Shapiro, have met with Mekdad in the office of American vice president Joe Biden. The sources noted that it was the first time that such a high level meeting is held with Syrian officials since the Obama Administration moved into the White House. The source was quoted by Al-Hayat as saying: “The meeting was an opportunity, not only to discuss bilateral relations but also to tackle concerning issues for both sides”. Mekdad had started his visit by meeting with his American counterpart Deputy Secretary of State Jacob Law, in the presence of assistant Secretary of State for Middle East affairs Jeffrey Feltman. The visit also led the Syrian envoy to Capitol Hill where he met Howard Berman, the California Democrat who heads the House Foreign Affairs Committee, and other deputies……

Syria seen regaining its influence in Lebanon
By HUSSEIN DAKROUB, Associated Press Writer Hussein Dakroub, Associated Press Writer
Fri Oct 2, 2:32 am ET

BEIRUT – When Syria’s vice president recently boasted that his country is now stronger than ever in Lebanon, many Lebanese dismissed his words as wishful thinking. Months of political stalemate in Beirut may show how right he was.

Lebanon’s pro-Western politicians have been unable to form a government since winning June elections, and many of them blame Damascus, saying it is using its allies in Lebanon — led by Hezbollah — to stymie negotiations and show that nothing can get done without its say-so.

The United States tried for the past four years to keep Syria out of Lebanon’s politics and largely failed. Now the administration of President Barack Obama has sought to improve ties with Damascus, and Syria’s allies and opponents here say that has given it a freer hand to exercise influence in its smaller neighbor.

The Obama administration’s outreach has resulted in “the invigorating of Syria’s role in the region, including Lebanon,” said Wiam Wahhab, a pro-Syrian Lebanese politician.

Syria has “has influence in Lebanon as do Saudi Arabia, America and Iran. But by virtue of its geographical location, Syria has greater influence in Lebanon than other countries,” Wahhab told The Associated Press.

The wrangling over the government is a sign of how deeply the fate of Lebanon is dependent on outside powers. While pro-Western politicians accuse Hezbollah and its allies of carrying out the will of Damascus, they in turn are accused of taking orders from their strongest foreign supporters, the United States and Saudi Arabia.

Now hopes for a breakthrough center on Syrian President Bashar Assad and Saudi King Abdullah. The two met last week in Saudi Arabia. Lebanese papers reported Wednesday that they are expected to meet again in Damascus next week, raising expectations for an end to the impasse. Neither country has yet confirmed a second meeting……

Recent months have seen gains for Syria.

Lebanese Christian leader Gen. Michel Aoun, who fought Syrian troops in Lebanon two decades ago, made his first visit to Damascus in December, meeting with Assad. Aoun has been allied with Hezbollah since 2006, but he had kept some distance from Syria, so the visit marked a significant reconciliation with his former rival.

Also, Druse leader Walid Jumblatt — once a vehement critic of Syria who even called for Assad’s overthrow — quit the Western-backed coalition on Aug. 2. He now calls for “distinctive relations” with Syria and says he’s prepared to also visit Damascus.

Earlier this year, Syrian Vice President Farouk al-Sharaa boasted in a speech to the country’s leadership that Damascus is stronger in Lebanon than it was when it maintained troops in the country.

Weeks later, his words seemed hollow when the coalition led by Hezbollah and Aoun failed to win June elections as many had expected. Instead, the voting maintained the slim parliamentary majority of the Saudi- and U.S.-backed bloc, led by Hariri’s son, Saad Hariri.

But the stalemate since underlines how no one side is able to dominate Lebanon. Prime Minister-designate Saad Hariri has been trying to bring Hezbollah and its allies into a unity government, but negotiations have stalled over who would receive which Cabinet positions.

In particular, Aoun demands that his son-in-law, Jibran Bassil, retain the telecommunications ministry, a sensitive post because of its security connections. Hariri’s bloc has refused, but Hezbollah and its allies say they won’t join his government unless Aoun is satisfied.

Syria’s opponents blame Damascus for the impasse.

Iran and Syria are making diplomatic headway while Lebanon is standing still
Daily Star Editorial

…. Saudi King Abdullah is reportedly planning to visit Damascus within the next 15 days as part of ongoing efforts to repair the rifts that have emerged between Riyadh and Damascus over the last few years. The Syrians have been making similar progress in restoring bilateral relations with both the US and France, with Foreign Minister Walid al-Moallem visiting Paris this week while Deputy Foreign Minister Faisal al-Mekdad was meeting with ranking officials in Washington.  [Can Lebanon be far behind?]

Israel’s Veto
The Daily Dish by Andrew Sullivan, 29 Sep 2009

Robert Satloff reminds Obama of a cardinal rule of American politics: no pressure on Israel ever. Just keep giving them money and they will give the US the finger in return. The only permitted position is to say you oppose settlements in the West Bank, while doing everything you can to keep them growing and advancing.

Michael Young is angry with Nicholas Noe for his excellent story in the Guardian, (Thanks FLC)
In the Daily star

“….. I happened to welcome the war (on Iraq) because it overthrew a brutal regime responsible, directly or indirectly, for the death of some 1 million people. In 2005 I also approved of American and international efforts to end Syrian hegemony over Lebanon (read: rollback a regime that supported Israel’s foes in the region!). Among “progressives” who identify with Arab issues, these positions earned me and other Arabs sharing my views a “neocon” label.

I am not a neocon, though I have found myself on their side on occasion…….

…. Take Lebanon’s emancipation movement against Syria, following the murder of the former prime minister, Rafik Hariri. The US played a key role in forcing the Syrians out by working multilaterally, through the United Nations. Even administration neocons endorsed this strategy, showing the discrepancy between theory and practice. The reality is that the legalistic, internationalist US response to the Lebanese crisis was a far cry from what neocons had earlier advocated. Nevertheless, those in Lebanon publicly lauding this conduct, by virtue of being with America, were still branded hawks, ideologues, and, yes, neocons.

Credit the neocons with one thing. After 9/11 they filled the gap of comprehension in the US when it came to the attacks. Left-liberals, old-line realists, and libertarians had little credible to say about why the crimes were committed. The neocons alone saw them as the consequence of a systemic problem deriving from a lack of Arab democracy. They were right. But the riposte was haphazard …

Daydreaming in Damascus: The Syrian Masturbation
2009-10-02, Newsweek, by Dan Ephron

It started with a post in Arabic last month by 23-year-old blogger Fadal Atamaz Al-Sibai, who complained that masturbation in Syria has “spread among the youths like wildfire,” and announced a campaign to end the “secret habit.”

His comments prompted a snarky response from Abufares, one of Syria’s leading bloggers, who called for a counter campaign culminating in an “unprecedented Syrian Orgasm against absurdity, hypocrisy, and sanctimony.”

Then things really picked up.

Yazan Badran, who blogs from Latakia in northern Syria, suggested observing a week of moral decay, to include drugs, porn, and eating publicly on Ramadan. Two other bloggers proposed campaigns against tribalism and fossilized thinking.

“While unsuspecting parents are watching Bab El Hara (a popular television show in the Arab world), the boys are spanking their monkeys and the girls are beating their beavers,” Abufares wrote, in a posting so chalk with lewd detail that even a jaded reader might blush.

Has the Syrian ether suddenly become a bastion of free expression? Hardly. Just last month, the regime sentenced a 31-year-old political blogger, Karim Antoine Arbaji, to three years in prison for undermining President Bashar Assad’s rule.

But bloggers and analysts say the secular regime in Damascus has proven to be far more tolerant of sex and sexual discussion on the web than other countries in the region. “You’re only in danger when discussing sensitive political issues, the presidency, for example,” Badran from Latakia said in an email exchange. “There is very little concern when it comes to social, cultural or religious debates, especially over a medium like blogs.”…

Guardian (GB): Turkey, Syria’s new best friend
2009-10-01

Just over a decade ago, Turkey’s army gathered on its southern border in anticipation of a war with Syria that was narrowly avoided. Just over a fortnight ago, the two neighbours signed accords allowing for visa-free passage between the two states. …

A better explanation for this developing friendship comes from new diplomatic strategies adopted by both states in recent years. In light of the slow EU accession process and disappointment at the US invasion of Iraq, Turkey has adopted the arch-realist position of its influential foreign minister Ahmet Davutoglu. He argues for “zero problems with neighbours”, whatever their past or current misdeeds. This has allowed the regime to put aside its ideological differences and historical disagreements with Syria, as it has with Greece, Iran and, increasingly, Iraq and Armenia. At the same time Davutoglu advocates increased Turkish “strategic depth” with its neighbours – promoting its cultural, economic and political influence further than in the past. Its stable yet economically under-developed neighbour Syria proves a good test case.

Syria’s shift towards Turkey has emerged out of more desperate circumstances. Frozen out by the US, the EU and the so-called moderate Arab states after the 2003 Iraq war and the 2005 Hariri assassination in Lebanon, Assad was forced to cast his net for new allies. While this drew him closer to Iran and Qatar, it was Turkey that he courted most – making the historic first trip by a Syrian president to Ankara in 2004. Assad was willing to make substantial sacrifices to forge this new friendship, such as finally accepting Turkish sovereignty over the disputed Hatay province in 2005. At the same time he proved a shrewd diplomat, rushing to support Turkey’s incursion against Kurdish rebels in Iraq in 2007, despite international condemnation.

Ostensibly the hard work has paid off, as Turkish support has been instrumental in bringing Syria back in from the cold. Erdogan mediated Israeli-Syrian talks in 2008 that softened Damascus’s negative international image. Not surprisingly, when the French president, Nicholas Sarkozy, eventually broke the international boycott and visited Syria last year, Assad met him accompanied by Erdogan. Economically, the renewed ties have paid dividends, too.

Yearning for the Golan Heights: why Syria wants it back

The disputed territory is key to the broader US goal of Arab-Israeli peace. On Monday, Washington hosted the first high-ranking Syrian official in five years.
By Julien Barnes-Dacey | Correspondent of The Christian Science Monitor, September 28, 2009

Damascus, Syria
The US demonstrated its commitment to reengage Syria as a partner for Middle East peace Monday, advancing a process that some Arab countries had declared dead in recent weeks. At Washington’s invitation – the first one extended to a high-ranking Syrian official in five years – Deputy Foreign Minister Fayssal Mekdad came to town to meet US officials.

Syria’s cooperation is crucial to the chief goal of President Obama’s Middle East policy: Arab-Israeli peace. With ties to three Israeli enemies – Iran, and the militant groups Hezbollah and Hamas – Syria says it can moderate the threats against the Jewish state and thus pave the way for reciprocal Israeli concessions to the Palestinians and their Arab allies.

In return, Syria wants one thing: the Golan Heights.

In Demand
oxford Business Group, 01.10.2009

With demand for both commercial and residential space, Syria’s real estate sector is experiencing substantial growth, with a number of large-scale projects under construction and in the pipeline.

However, with a shortage of available properties for new home and office purchases, property value has risen disproportionately to spending levels, and access to sufficient mortgage financing is resulting in many Syrians being priced out of the market. ….

While new private and foreign capital has been entering the market, barring a few exceptions, many of the announced projects have not got off the ground. This has resulted in the supply gap not being reduced as quickly as hoped. According to a survey by Cushman Wakefield, a commercial real estate broker and consultant, in March, this surplus demand has resulted in Damascus having the eighth highest commercial property prices in the world. …

Real estate, in 2007, accounted for 4.27% of the country’s economy and employed 15% of the national workforce, according to the Central Bureau of Statistics.

With a GDP per capita of $2237 in 2008, income levels in Syria are well below those found in countries with comparable property prices, pointing to a large disparity between property value and affordability. However, according to Fadi Al Nwilati Almasri, the managing director for property agent GS Real Estate, it is a mistake to look solely at the purchasing power in-country, as the majority of buyers for new high-end units are Syrians living abroad.

“Around 95% of the properties I sell are purchased by Syrians living or working overseas. There are an estimated 20m Syrians living abroad, which is roughly the same size as the local population. So for the large developers, it is not a major concern that locally earning Syrians cannot really enter the market,” Al Nwilati told OBG.

There exists a strong impetus for the government to encourage the private sector to further enter into affordable housing. It is estimated that close to 38% of Syrians presently live in informal housing, placing tremendous social, environmental and health pressures on the country’s major urban centres.

According to Riad Kahale, the CEO & managing director for real estate developer Urban Development Group, the challenge for low-cost housing at present is that, “Land and building materials prices result in far higher selling prices than what the average consumer can afford on housing. The government’s help is therefore essential for the private sector to competitively contribute to this sector. This can be done by giving developers land free of charge and an exemption from taxes on imported materials and revenues, in return it would be fair for the government to impose small margin for profits in order to guarantee affordable products for low-income citizens.”

While the country’s banking sector has seen tremendous growth in recent years, with the opening up of 13 new private banks, a substantive mortgage market has yet to develop. Although banks, realising a market need, indicate that they want to focus more on this segment, with many properties not registered, authorised and legally enforceable, property valuations are difficult to ascertain…..

a number of major projects, such as Emaar’s Eight Gate project just outside Damascus, are still going ahead and selling strong.

With huge unmet demand, even if all the announced developments came on-line simultaneously, Syria would remain a long way from reaching anywhere near a property bubble….

Egypt Looks to Triple Power Capacity by 2027
2009-09-30, Reuters

CAIRO (Reuters) – Egypt aims to more than triple its installed power capacity by 2027 by adding 58,000 megawatts (MW) at cost of about $100 billion to $120 billion, the electricity minister said on Wednesday. Egypt, the most populous Arab …

Marwan Hamadeh, AnNahar’s “man for all season”

… if this is true, Imad Mustapha must’ve had a good laugh …

“U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern Affairs Jeffrey Feltman has reportedly summoned Syrian ambassador Imad Mustafa to the State Department over obstacles put by Damascus to Lebanese cabinet formation.

An Nahar daily said Monday Feltman told Mustafa two weeks ago that Washington will not send any high ranking official to Damascus as long as Syria keeps hindering the government formation process. In a clear proof to Feltman’s threat, Middle East envoy George Mitchell made a short visit to Beirut during his Mideast tour earlier this month without traveling to Syria….”

Syria Says It Hasn’t Been Impacted by Global Economic Crisis
2009-09-28, By Vivian Salama

Sept. 28 (Bloomberg) — Syria hasn’t been impacted by the global economic crisis and expects its economy to expand 5 percent in 2009, the country’s Central Bank Governor Adib Mayaleh said.

“We expect the rate of growth to increase in 2010,” he said in an interview at the Arab Monetary Fund conference in Abu Dhabi today, adding that restrictions on economic policy shielded the country from the global financial crisis.

Syria will probably have an average inflation rate of 6.5 percent in 2009, Mayaleh said.

Global Voices: Syrian Students Banned From Using Supercomputer
2009-09-27

Wael Alwani said on his blog [ar] that Syrian Students at King Abdullah University for Science and Technology (KAUST) are forbidden from using Shaheen, a US made supercomputer, due to technology export sanctions imposed by the US against Syria.

JPOst/ here

” … While Israeli eyes are on other fronts for now, there is always a calculation that Egypt may one day turn unfriendly again. The IDF performs exercises for that eventuality from time to time. So does Egypt. In the meantime, however, Egypt and Israel are cooperating on a range of issues, including the fight against arms smuggling into Gaza…..

The IDF wants Syria taken out of the equation of potential violence, and is pushing the political echelon to pay the necessary diplomatic price.

Jerusalem Post: Analysis: Assad skillfully plays East against
2009-09-29 18:55:47.453 GMT

In the decades following the Cold War, of which 1973’s Yom Kippur War was a seminal moment, the Arab Middle East has coalesced into two opposing camps: the “radical” and the “pragmatic.” Syrian President Bashar Assad. Photo: AP SLIDESHOW: Israel & …

“Syria: an Arab search for a regional alternative to national solidarity” [transltions thanks to mideastwire.com]

On September 28, the independent newspaper Al-Arab al-Yawm carried the following opinion piece by Nicholas Nasr: “Even as border fences are rising among Arab League States – be it real separation fences or security barriers truly closing borders, such as the ongoing situation between Morocco and Algeria, or making border crossing by visa like passing through the eye of a needle, another phenomenon is growing in the opposite direction between Arab States and regional neighboring countries: for example, border markings are erased between the Iranian and Iraqi sovereigns, visas between Syria and Turkey are annulled, as well as between Jordan and the Israeli occupation State.

“Peace” treaties and understandings between some of these countries and the Israeli occupation State, along with strategic relations consolidating among them and with the American Occupying State in Iraq, have led to the fall of the minimum level of Arab solidarity. Conversely, the phenomenon of strategic partnership is growing between, on the one hand, Syria and two pivotal regional States like Iran and Turkey, or between States of the Arab Maghreb and Europe, collectively or individually, on the other. If these were not signs for a regional system of a Greater “Middle East” that would gradually replace the Arab League system, then Arab strategists have to provide a different explanation that would clarify what they are.

“Yet, whatever the explanation is, the un-debatable truth is that the Arab League’s failure, the collapse of the lowest level of Arab solidarity, in addition to the defeat of the Arab unity project, have driven regional Arab States to look for reasons to stay within regional or international alliances – or both – that will increase Arab ruptures, and transform any hope of Arab national solidarity into a mirage in the forseeable future, all the while laying objective foundations for a non-Arab regional system that paves the way for a greater or new Middle East – either according to the declared American-Israeli vision, or in line with an independent regional vision that new partners in Damascus and Teheran are hoping for. As scientists say, nature hates vacuum. One of the visions will inevitably fill in the void produced by the downfall of the Arab national project.

“The second un-debatable truth is that the Arab-Israeli conflict was, and still is, the general framework for both visions. Inasmuch as this conflict resides in the American-Israeli basic quest for a Middle East regional system that would be capable of assimilating the Israeli occupation State as an integral part of the region, the Arab League, by force of the organization’s composition and objectives, rejects and does not absorb the Israeli State – this conflict also resides in the basic Syrian quest for a regional system that prevents American-Israeli hegemony over the region on one hand, and promotes, on the other hand, Syria’s defensive capacities in the face of the Israeli occupation State, since Syria is the only Arab State that is in an actual state of war with Israel, and compensates for its loss of the Iraqi strategic depth following the American occupation of Iraq.

“However, in its search for regional salvation, and after losing any hope of any Arab backer, Syria has undoubtedly achieved a national strategic breakthrough. As the proverb goes, every cloud has a silver lining. Syria’s despair with Arab solidarity in its fight for the liberation of its occupied territories – which made it look for a regional alternative for that solidarity, practically lead to depriving the Israeli occupation State of a strategic asset it has used in its battle, since its creation, to impose its existence onto Arabs and the region.

“Israel has always bet on investing Arab differences with non-Arab neighboring countries – especially in Turkey, Iran and Ethiopia, in order to deprive Arabs of their regional strategic depth. Israel and its American sponsor even invested in these conflicts in strong attempts to spark off border conflicts inherited from European colonial times; conflicts that would cause [one] to overlook the main regional Arab-Israeli conflict, and become the priority – as [is seen in] the current attempt to replace the Arabs’ Israeli enemy with an Iranian one through a variety of pretexts.

“Neighboring countries would turn their backs on their natural geopolitical alliances with their Arab neighbors in an alliance with the Israeli occupying State. Alliances with the Shah’s Iran before the Islamic revolution, with NATO member Turkey, and with Ethiopia of Emperor Haile Selassie during the Cold War between the United States of America and the Soviet Union, belong to the nearterm history that is still fresh in Arab memory.

“There is no arguing now as to the Arab national security being the beneficiary of the “strategic change”– a historical one on all levels – within relations of non-Arab neighboring countries with both parties of the Arab-Israeli conflict. There is no doubt either that the successful Syrian diplomacy had a key role in contributing to the happening of that change. One cannot overlook of course international and regional developments as well as internal factors that drove neighboring countries into that direction. Egyptian, Yemeni and Emirati contributions, for instance, cannot be ignored, having been careful to contain their differences with their neighboring countries in Ethiopia and Iran, in order to maintain “normal” relations with both States despite: the case of the Nile River upstream and downstream water distribution, the Somali “detonator” for igniting the conflict in the Horn of Africa that nips this strategic turn in the bud, the Iranian persistence in continuing the occupation of the three Emirati islands, and other legitimate Arab concerns that American and Israeli allies are trying to stoke as flames around them between Arab States and between the two regional neighboring countries.

“…Two reservations may be expressed concerning this historical strategic turn. The first one is that “regional solidarity” cannot be an “alternative” to Arab solidarity. It is rather complementary because the priority-conflict was and will stay first and foremost an Arab-Israeli conflict, and because the Arab solidarity, currently absent for objective reasons, cannot remain forever missing: divided Arab States will sooner or later realize that their regional deliverance depends on their national solidarity, and that searching for that deliverance in individual external alliances, even if the current American world [with America as the] greatest power, might be imposed by temporary, compelling circumstances.

“The same applies to peace with the Israeli occupation State. Yet it will never guarantee long term security and stability. Regional neighboring countries are themselves not directly concerned with the conflict. Their interests could meet with the continuation of the conflict. Their agendas might concur with the Israeli agenda in opposing a genuine forming of an Arab solidarity. Their international relations could also dictate benefits that contradict their present regional regression. And other reasons.

“The second reservation lies in a real postponing of the resolution of Arab differences with regional neighboring countries. For example: ripping off the Iskenderun from the Syrian homeland and annexing it to Turkey, annexing Arab Ahwaz to Iran, the Iranian occupation of the three Emirati islands, the Iranian partnership in the American occupation of Iraq, etc. – since the interest of Arab bullying through neighboring countries, lies in the Arab-Israeli conflict, which threatens relevant Arab rights due to the length of the Arab-Israeli conflict, before Arabs dedicate themselves to solving these border conflicts with their neighbors. ..” – Al-Arab al-Yawm, Jordan

Restricted: Visas Good for West Bank Only
By Nathan Guttman

While most American citizens entering Israel are allowed full access to Israel and the West Bank, Arab Americans coming to visit their families in the West Bank are likely to receive a new “Palestinian Authority Only” stamp on their passports. READ MORE

Comments (75)


idaf said:

Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt met with Bashar and Asma in Damascus:

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2009/10/02/angelina-and-brad-in-syri_n_308149.html

October 3rd, 2009, 2:10 pm

 
 

Shami said:

Regardless of their meeting with Bashar ,I express my deep respect and gratitude to this couple ,especially to Mrs Angelina Jolie ,who visited the iraqi refugees alone in the near past.

The hypocrite shoyoukhs in Syria should learn kindness from those.

October 3rd, 2009, 3:33 pm

 
 

Off the Wall said:

Shami
The hypocrite shoyoukhs in Syria should learn kindness from those.

This is why I never lost hope in you and why I have no doubt about the sincerity of your motives 🙂 . Well said.

I also admire their work on Darfour

October 3rd, 2009, 3:56 pm

 

Off the Wall said:

From the link provided by Shami:

“It is clear that the Syrian people, no matter the challenges or difficulties they may face, have always shown generous hospitality to people in need,” said Jolie,

Nice to hear that and it is True historically.

October 3rd, 2009, 4:12 pm

 

why-discuss said:

It was time there is some visible recognition of the plight of the million of iraqi refugees in syria, the generosity of the syrians and the silence and almost indifference of the country who created the problem: the US the UK.
Iraq Maliki’s thanks to Syria is the unproven accusation that among a million Iraqi refugees in Syria there are some bad sheeps…

October 3rd, 2009, 4:48 pm

 

Alex said:

Michal young:

“I am not a neocon, though I have found myself on their side on occasion …

Credit the neocons with one thing. After 9/11 they filled the gap of comprehension in the US when it came to the attacks. Left-liberals, old-line realists, and libertarians had little credible to say about why the crimes were committed. The neocons alone saw them as the consequence of a systemic problem deriving from a lack of Arab democracy. They were right”

Michael … “on occasion” is not the right way to quantify the frequency with which you found yourself on their side. Please list your last 50 articles and be honest with yourself: How many of those 50 will a typical neocon disagree with?

I would say, none! … but I would bet there are less than two or three they MIGHT partially disagree with … the rest of your printed opinions, they would applaud all the way.

Just count how many times Neocon “research assistant” Tony Badran quotes you enthusiasticaly

You ARE a neocon … you talk like a neocon, you crusade like a neocon, you adopt the same objectives, and you hate Syria just like they do.

October 3rd, 2009, 5:21 pm

 

Off the Wall said:

Alex
I read Michael’s full article. Even when he is saying he is not a neocon, he is pushing their agenda. He argues that the neocon movement has evolved over the past thirty years and then jumps to one recent document without even a cursory attempt to explain that that evolution.

Could it be that he and others are feeling the heat now, and they are retracting to reposition themselves for new realities on the ground. If that is the objective, I am sorry to say that Michael’s article has failed in absolving him from his obvious neocon sentiments and failed in repositioning himself as a neutral journalist.

October 3rd, 2009, 6:27 pm

 

jad said:

In Demand:
1-“However, with a shortage of available properties for new home and office purchases, property value has…”
First the problem is not ‘shortage of available properties’ but not managing the properties right and have a proper zoning and regional development act, this property shortage is similar to our water shortage, we have some water but we waste it and we have properties and again we waste them, get a smart legislation board that deals with properties from legal, planning, sustainability levels, and implement the rules that works.

2-“This can be done by giving developers land free of charge and an exemption from taxes on imported materials and revenues, in return it would be fair for the government to impose small margin for profits in order to guarantee affordable products for low-income citizens.”
That is a disastrous recipe, it means the lands owned or acquisitioned by the government can be given for free for a rich developer to get more money for the developer and the municipality while the real property owners will suffer twice, first from losing their property and getting pennies for it and second those houses which will be built on their property will be unaffordable and will eventually push poor people further out and double the problem.
It doesn’t work this way, you need to know and assure that any acquisition the state does is fair and it became as the last resort, you also need a bylaw stating the new zoning and who is the beneficiary of such act, you can’t just get the land and give it for free? Someone should tell Mr Kahale that.
3-“With huge unmet demand, even if all the announced developments came on-line simultaneously, Syria would remain a long way from reaching anywhere near a property bubble”
Property bubble is not a good thing since every bubble burst at the end Sustainability and implementing a long term planning strategies with steady profits on the property market is what Syria needs the most.
4-There is a real problem in Syria with our understanding of the scale of our cities, most of what I read about regarding ideas of developments treat Syrian cities in the same strategies implemented in north American cities or mega European cities while Syria solution can be as simple as scaling down those strategies and use more the Nordic/Irish planning approach looking at our cities from the same perspectives that been studied and designed at 60 years ago, encourage the ‘neighbourhood’ approach in the natural growth and development, support community movement inside those neighbourhood, treat Damascus by ‘neighboruhood’ in a way similar to Paris circles and not as one city.
Area wise we are a small scale country and we must understand and treat our cities this way, build compact and high density neighbourhood, improve and do studies on the existing ones, develop the illegal part of the cities by including the poor in the process by shares, rebuild the ‘villages’ ‘towns’ and community been effected by any natural disasters, make every man/women of a ‘neighbourhood’ be part of the plan.
It’s so frustrating seeing the solution yet nobody is doing the right thing….Small, Simple, Smart and Sustainable, that’s all you need.

October 3rd, 2009, 7:34 pm

 

why-discuss said:

Waleed Jumblatt already did it. He retracted from his neo-cons ideas and friends when it was clear they were not anymore in charge and that they were blamed and maybe prosecuted for everything that went wrong in the last 8 years in the US and the world. Michael Young is protecting his job, understandable when lebanese newspaper are firing many obsolete journalists (see the hecatomb of al Nahar)

October 3rd, 2009, 7:36 pm

 

norman said:

shami,

If you think that you insult me by calling a rafic , surprise , surprise , you are wrong , actually i did not join any party in Syria ,

Shami,
Syria-comment is the window that the world looks through at Syria and the Syrians who write here , therefore we should show the world a good picture of Syria and advance Syria’s interest no matter what government it has , Think about advancing Syria will help all Syrians which i hope you want to do too.

October 3rd, 2009, 11:02 pm

 

norman said:

Apparently , the relation between the US and Syria are improving ,

This copy is for your personal, noncommercial use only. You can order presentation-ready copies for distribution to your colleagues, clients or customers here or use the “Reprints” tool that appears next to any article. Visit http://www.nytreprints.com for samples and additional information. Order a reprint of this article now.

——————————————————————————–

October 4, 2009
Syrian Visits Washington as Part of Regional Détente
By MARK LANDLER
WASHINGTON — While the Obama administration pursued its high-stakes diplomatic gambit with Iran last week in Switzerland, it was quietly working on another fraught relationship, welcoming to Washington the highest-ranking official from Syria to visit in five years.

“We came with a spirit of constructive engagement,” the official, Deputy Foreign Minister Fayssal Mekdad, said in an interview on Thursday at the Syrian Embassy in Washington. “We know we differ on issues, but the dialogue has started.”

Mr. Mekdad praised President Obama for his readiness to plunge into the Middle East thicket, and for what he said was a more balanced approach to the region than that of President George W. Bush, whom he accused of encouraging extremist elements with his unstinting support of Israel.

“We think the tarnished image of the United States under President Bush is now getting better,” he said. “President Obama believes in dialogue for solving international problems, which we welcome.”

Since shortly after taking office, Mr. Obama has sought to thaw relations with Syria, long chilled by its support for Islamic militant groups and American suspicions of its involvement in the 2005 assassination of the Lebanese political leader Rafik Hariri.

In June, the United States decided to return an ambassador there after a four-year hiatus. The administration sent its Middle East envoy, George J. Mitchell, to Damascus twice last summer. In July, the administration loosened some economic sanctions against Syria, but it still classifies it as one of four state sponsors of terrorism, along with Iran, Cuba and Sudan.

Mr. Obama’s goal is to draw Syria away from its main ally in the region, Iran, and to diminish its support for the militant groups Hamas and Hezbollah.

Mr. Mekdad’s talks with administration officials in Washington last week did not produce any specific breakthroughs, according to an American official. Still, both sides said the talks were more candid than previous encounters.

Mr. Mekdad met with Jacob J. Lew, a deputy secretary of state; Jeffrey D. Feltman, an assistant secretary of state; and Daniel Shapiro, a senior director at the National Security Council.

The détente underscores the important role the administration believes that Syria — a neighbor of Iraq, a friend of Iran, and an antagonist of Israel — could play in the Middle East. The timing of Mr. Mekdad’s visit the same week as the Iran talks was noteworthy, analysts said, because it could keep both countries, which have close but complicated ties, off balance.

“The Iranians are nervous that the Syrians are going to make a deal with the U.S., just as the Syrians are nervous that the Iranians are going to have their own deal,” said Martin S. Indyk, the director of foreign policy at the Brookings Institution and a longtime Middle East negotiator.

The administration, Mr. Indyk said, has set in motion three mutually reinforcing initiatives in the region: the overtures to Iran and Syria, and a renewed effort to break the deadlock between Israelis and Palestinians. The negotiations with Israel and the Palestinians are going slowly, but the efforts to reach out to Iran and Syria have picked up momentum.

Syria, Mr. Mekdad said, would welcome direct negotiations with Israel, brokered by the United States or Europe. But the Israeli prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, has not evinced any interest in that.

These days, Syria’s greatest tensions are with Iraq, which has accused it of complicity in two huge truck bombings in Baghdad last August. Mr. Mekdad said the Iraqis produced no “concrete evidence” of Syrian involvement, and he noted that the Syrian police had jailed more than 2,000 people for illegally crossing its border with Iraq.

Experts noted that the United States had been notably silent about Iraq’s allegation.

“There is a vital interest for Iraq to cooperate with Syria,” Mr. Mekdad said. “We are committed to helping Iraq become more secure. We want to get past this episode today, before tomorrow.”

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October 3rd, 2009, 11:09 pm

 

Shami said:

Norman you are good man and honest patriot and it’s not eyb to be a Baathi or to believe in al Baath ideology.
But let us agree that if Bashar doesnt make himself this transition from a family minority regime to a representative democracy ,there will be a bad end for his family alawite regime and probably for Syria as whole.He is educated ,we must not forgive him if his aim is to survive in power,for what?

October 4th, 2009, 1:43 am

 

Shami said:

And BTW Norman ,the world knows the nature of the regime and knows the quality of the syrian people.

Norman what should we say to the parents ,relatives,friends of Karim jailed by Bashar some days ago ,for the only reason that he wrote his opinion on the internet as we are doing here on SC?

October 4th, 2009, 1:57 am

 

Innocent Criminal said:

Josh,

I really don’t see why would Israel hamper US engagement with Iran and Syria in exchange for halting their land occupation in the west bank. Israel tends to make their cake and eat it with great success in both. But if they had to choose one they will always choose new land in exchange for allowing the Americans to “talk” to the Iranians. And they were more than willing to give all of Lebanon to Syria before giving up the Golan so unless the US threatens Israel by exerting direct pressure on their economy and/or military superiority (both of which are highly unlikely) I don’t see any reason for Israel to feel the need to cooperate.

This is mirrored by the Syrian long term strategic alliance with Iran. The Syrians hope that one day Iran will become a nuclear power that will tip the power balance and seriously threaten Israel’s security. A very realistic possibility in the long if not the mid-term future. In the meantime Syria can try and hope the threat of a nuclear Iran along with its jockeying of regional dynamics would gain it enough brownie points to raise its diminished regional key role to new heights. The unlikeliness of the later is also mirrored in Syria’s unwavering support to Iran, it’s only serious card at the moment.

That said, even if Iran becomes a nuclear nation tomorrow, a stand off with Israel is the best you can hope for for a long time. First their will see an insane regional armed race. And more importantly because the Iranians are not crazy enough to sacrifice their whole country for the Palestinians nor the Syrians.

Call me a pessimist but I like to call myself a realist 😉

October 4th, 2009, 9:21 am

 

Shai said:

Dear IC,

“The Syrians hope that one day Iran will become a nuclear power that will tip the power balance and seriously threaten Israel’s security.”

“… a stand off with Israel is the best you can hope for for a long time.”

I understand what you’re trying to say – that for Syria it is better to have somebody (preferably an ally) also have the ability to threaten Israel. This will be the first time some sort of “real balance” is reached between Israel and its rivals. But I can’t believe Syria can benefit from that.

The tension that is reached between two nuclear powers, especially ones relatively close to one another, is a dangerous one that threatens all those in the vicinity, not to mention the world as a whole. Japan, South Korea, Russia, and also China, are very worried about North Korea’s nuclear capabilities. In our region, as we’ve seen, being an ally today doesn’t mean necessarily an ally tomorrow. So certainly Syria “plays” her part in support of Iran’s legitimate right to nuclear technology. And maybe there is cooperation on that realm, and even for military purposes.

But as you stated, a likely consequence of Iran going nuclear is a region-wide nuclear arms race. Nations such as Kuwait, Jordan, KSA, and Egypt, and as far west as the Maghreb, will all attempt to acquire the ultimate weapon, to protect themselves. Syria knows this, and I doubt it has anything to benefit from this. Theoretically, it could remain one of the few nations WITHOUT nuclear technology. And then what? It will be at far greater risk than it is under today.

One thing I believe Syria has proven in recent years, is its ability to create a certain balance, while not changing the rules of the game too much. It plays its cards carefully, usually indirectly, and yet tries to also offer Peace as an alternative. Iran is not doing that. It is risking far more than Syria, by actively and openly testing the international community’s resolve, by carrying out a very belligerent foreign policy towards Israel, and by attempting to influence regional developments via its proxies in Lebanon, Iraq, and Palestine.

Though I hope Syria is never placed in that position (I think it would be foolish), I’m not sure which Syria would choose – being closely allied with the U.S., or with a nuclear Iran.

October 4th, 2009, 10:36 am

 

Joshua said:

Dear IC,
Obama’s plan, as I understood it, was to begin with a two state solution. He argued that this would be key to defusing radicalism in the region and would make it much easier for the US to mobilize friendly powers to its side in an effort to get out of Iraq, fight a-Qaida, and most importantly, contain Iran and perhaps get it to stop developing nuclear weapon capability.

Netanyahu argued the opposite. He said that Israel would move toward two state only once Iran was taken care of. Iran is the threat not settlements is the mantra.

Netanyahu has won his battle for the time being. Obama has backed down from drawing any sort of line in the sand and settled for anodyne formulations, such as settlements are not helpful, etc.

But US interests when it comes to Iran are different from Israel’s. The US wants to contain Iran, not destroy its Nuclear capacity. Israel wants to destroy it.

The US should be more assertive in articulating its position. It can live with a nuclear Iran, even if it would like to avoid Iran becoming nuclear.

I should think many in the Obama administration will be less likely to take Israel’s interests into account now that Netanyahu has opposed them and thwarted US interests.

Maybe I am wrong, and the pro_Israel sentiment is too strong to cause as backlash.

AS for Shai’s argument that Syria should not want Iran to get the bomb because it will harm Syria to have an arms race in the long fun, I would disagree.

I believe that Syria already believes it is in an arms race that it is losing. Syria, I think we have to believe, tried to get nuclear weapon’s technology itself.

Syria does not see Iran as the violator of nuclear free Middle East but Israel as the power that has upset the balance. Syria’s position is that Iran should not renounce nuclear capability unless Israel does.

The reason Israel began to talk to Syria in 2008 was because of Iran’s growing nuclear capability. Israel wanted to test the readiness of Syria to ‘flip”. It wants to weaken Iran.

This is good for Syria. It gives Syria leverage.

I believe this is how Syria views it.
Best, Joshua

October 4th, 2009, 11:53 am

 

Innocent_Criminal said:

Josh,

My point is that Israel will most likely get what it wants on both sides. Jerusalem, part of the West Bank, all the water in the Golan and possibly part of its land and a contained Iran. I agree with you that US about 2 years ago have come to terms with the fact that Iran will become nuclear one day, if not in 2 years then in 10, but it’s just a matter of time. Israelis on the other hand are still in denial so to speak. Their whole strategy on the issue will not even consider the possibility of a nuclear Iran…yet. That said if Israel was really pressed it would live with all the land and water it gained from its weaker neighbors in the coming years in exchange for a contained nuclear Iran, which for obvious reasons is not a remote possibility.

The only scenario I see Israel being pressured hard enough by the US is if the latter is pressured by the whole of the Middle East. I know pan-arab wet dreams might sound tacky but if the possibility of a nuclear Iran would scare the crap out of the GCC, Egypt, Turkey, etc. to really twist Washington’s arm then maybe, just maybe, the Americans will finally be able to pressure Israel to a fair Middle Eastern peace treaty.

October 4th, 2009, 2:38 pm

 

Shami said:

The iranian and syrian regimes are not a big problem for Israel because they are not permanent facts and above all they are very hypocrites in their love for Palestine and the Palestinians,their absolute goal is how to ensure their regimes survival,the Israel knows this fact perfectly and that Najad or Asad slogans are hypocrisy over hypocrisy .The permanent threat are the people who live around Palestine ,the fear of the renaissance of a powerfull arab and islamic advanced world, ,we will be 500 millions arabs and 2 milliards muslims in 2050,25% of 15-20% of russians and 15-20% of europeans will be muslims.Here stand the existential danger for the jewish occupiers of Palestine.When Bush gave the iraqi police and army to the iranian puppets in Iraq it didnt happen without the Israeli approval.The aim is to occupy the arabs to fight the iranian regime puppets in the region for some decades.
And as many know here,we are not at the first under table deals between the Zionist Israel and the Iranian theocracy.
In my opinion ,we arabs are thanks to our number and the space we live in are invincible and eternal fact ,we should first improve our societies with education ,democratization,women status improvment and become advanced societies then there will be no need of wars to finish with the small zionist entity.

October 4th, 2009, 2:59 pm

 

Shai said:

Joshua,

Thank you for expanding on your analysis of Syria’s interest in Iranian nuclear capabilities. I do see the point, but I can’t help but think that Syria also looks 10-15 years down the line, and asks itself “Well, what might the future be then?” It knows that there is always a chance that Israel will finally be forced to give back the Golan, and that the West will finally get close to Syria once more. There’s no doubt that, despite Oslo, each Israeli PM that has come after Rabin has had to deal with the Palestinian issues, and with “trouble” in the North and South of Israel. The pressure on Israel has been growing consistently ever since Oslo. So if it’s not Bibi (my bet), then it’ll be another one or two PM’s later. But eventually Israel will withdraw to the 1967 lines.

So if Syria assumes this will happen eventually (2 years from now, or 15, but not 50), then it must ask itself what kind of Middle East it wants to see “The Day After”. Does it want a nuclear arms race in the region, also amongst monarchies and republics that can be toppled at any moment? Does Syria want a region with Iranian, Egyptian, and Saudi nuclear capabilities? Syria knows that despite Israel’s nuclear capabilities, apparently in existence since the late 60’s, it has never used them, even in the closest “existential war” since 1947-8 (Yom Kipur War). Israel has been, for all practical purposes, a “responsible” nuclear nation. Can Syria assume this will be true also of other nations in the region? Perhaps. But who would want their neighbors to have nukes?

As you probably know, Martin Van Crefeld of Hebrew University in Jerusalem suggests precisely this – that only once the entire region has nuclear capabilities, will there be peace. Very tempting to think he’s right, but also very dangerous to try out. It’s one thing when the only nuclear powers are Israel and Iran. Both sort-of balancing each other off. It’s a whole other game, if in such close proximity, 4 or 5 or 6 non-democracies have stockpiles of nuclear weapons.

Maybe I’m wrong. But I’m not sure Syria wants anybody to truly balance Israel. The focus will suddenly shift, and a whole lot of support will come Israel’s way, even more than it has already now. The West may end up sympathizing with Israel even more. Suddenly, there really WILL be an existential threat to Israel. But more importantly, Syria also think about itself down the line. If Iraq becomes a 2nd Islamic Republic (Shia-controlled), is Syria interested in having a nuclear Iran as its Eastern neighbor? Or nuclear Jordan as its Southern neighbor? What if Hezbollah one day attains tactical nuclear weapons, from Iran? Is this good for Syria?

October 4th, 2009, 3:08 pm

 

Akbar Palace said:

But eventually Israel will withdraw to the 1967 lines.

No Shai. Israel will never withdraw to the 1967 lines. Israel will never give up their right to the Old City, and judging from recent proposals, will hold onto ~5% of the West Bank. They may give up parts of pre-’67 Israel in exchange.

If Iraq…is Syria interested in having a nuclear Iran…or nuclear Jordan…What if Hezbollah…is this good for Syria?

Lots of “what ifs” and hypothetical scenarios. Everyone is missing the Gulf states. They’re more afraid of a nuclear Iran than Israel.

Saudis will allow Israel to bomb Iran’s nuclear site

http://trak.in/news/saudis-will-allow-israel-to-bomb-irans-nuclear-site/8390/

Israel has been, for all practical purposes, a “responsible” nuclear nation. Can Syria assume this will be true also of other nations in the region?

Silly question. Syria would be the first to arm a terror organization with nukes.

Professor Josh changes his tune:

Syria, I think we have to believe, tried to get nuclear weapon’s technology itself.

Professor Josh, funny how your demonization of John Bolton’s (correct) assessment of the bombing of the Syrian nuclear plant went unanswered. This is just another example of how you’re just a mouthpiece for the regime.

Nice gig.

Comment by JL: John Bolton responds to the news now emerging that Israel’s raid turned up no proof of radiation from the Syrian site that was bombed. Bolton argued that the bombing raid was necessary to destroy nuclear cooperation between Syria and North Korea. The most important line in his defense is,

“Israel’s specific target is less important than the fact that with its objection to the raid, North Korea may have tipped its hand. Pyongyang’s interest in the raid may be evidence of secret nuclear cooperation between the regime and Syria.”
He now argues that because North Korea said it was innocent, it is guilty. Evidence from Syria is immaterial. Proof of Syria’s “evilness” can be established by North Korea’s objection to the raid. One must respect the audacity.

http://joshualandis.com/blog/?p=396

It would be nice if you could add an objective analyses, if that’s possible.

Answering the Good Professor:

Obama’s plan, as I understood it, was to begin with a two state solution.

I think that’s been every US president’s goal since 1993.

Netanyahu argued the opposite.

Israeli Prime Minister opens the door to a two-state solution, but with strict conditions

http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/middle-east/netanyahu-lays-down-the-law-on-palestinian-statehood-1705312.html

JERUSALEM — The prime minister of Israel, Benjamin Netanyahu, on Sunday endorsed for the first time the principle of a Palestinian state alongside Israel,

http://www.nytimes.com/2009/06/15/world/middleeast/15mideast.html

But US interests when it comes to Iran are different from Israel’s. The US wants to contain Iran, not destroy its Nuclear capacity. Israel wants to destroy it.

Not really professor Josh. Your comment is the the typical (false) charge an anti-Zionist makes to TRY to create a wedge between the US and Israel. Pat Buchanan would be proud.

Calling Israel the U.S.’s strongest ally in the region and one of their strongest allies in the world, Obama said nuclear weapons in the hand of the Iranians would create the possibility of nuclear weapons falling into the hands of terrorists.

We also say we’re not going to just wait indefinitely and allow for the development of a nuclear weapon, the breach of international treaties, and wake up one day and find ourselves in a much worse situation and unable to act,” he said.

http://www.reuters.com/article/latestCrisis/idUSN10510082

http://www.haaretz.com/hasen/spages/1027578.html

Anyway, Syria Comment needs a some straight-foward thinking instead of mouth-pieces. Just MHO.

October 4th, 2009, 5:43 pm

 
 

norman said:

Shami,

When the Syrians were banned from using the supper computer in KSA , they did not ban the Christians or the Shia or the Sunni , they banned all Syrians , that should make it clear to you that they treat us all the same , we are all Syrians and that is enough to ban us from learning and using new technology ,

IC ,

i agree with you , i see no chance of peaceful solution in the Mideast without war first , Israel did not get out of Lebanon because they love the Lebanese , they did not get out of Gaza because they love the Palestinians , they left because they were paying a price for being there and they would have left the West bank and the Golan if they were paying a price for being there .

If Syria and the Palestinians want their rights and land back they should be willing to fight for them , until then Israel is staying
Syria and the other Arabs tried the UN , tried honoring their commitment in the disengagement agreement on the Golan , only for Israel to think of that as sign of weak Syria , what the Arabs and yes Shami the Muslims need is the well to fight and fight until they get their rights back , long term war which we should expect to last for years is the only way to get our land back , Israel and it’s attitute is like an abscess that keeps making the Patient (( Mideast )) sick every couple of years , Israel can not occupy all Arab land and can not win Any war decisively , their only chance is peace built on international law , the question is after trying to get the Palestinians their rights for sixty years and our land for 40 years , peacefully even begging , are we willing to fight and die for our rights , If we are or at least we let Israel see that we are then we can get our rights back ,Then and only then we can get our rights ,Shami , i agree with you that our increase number if used well can force the West to support International law in the Mideast ,

October 4th, 2009, 9:13 pm

 

Shami said:

Norman,i think it’s a joke ,i believe that the professors ,the americans before the others, would not prevent its use by phd syrian students.

October 4th, 2009, 10:37 pm

 

norman said:

Shami,

Don’t be so sure , after 9/11/2001, all Arabs , Christians , Muslims , Shia, Sunni became terrorists ,until proven otherwise ,

October 4th, 2009, 10:53 pm

 

why-discuss said:

Josh

Let me just add that the US national interests and Israel interests are not the same when it comes to the role Iran can play with its unstable neighbors: Iraq and Afghanistan.
Iran has borders with Afghanistan and its cooperation with NATO and the US would be welcomed. The Iranians have fought the Talibans long before 9/11 and would collaborate certainly if this would stop the culture of poppies and the drug traffic that has created a huge social problem in Iran.
Iran has also borders and strong allies in Iraq and getting its cooperation may help stabilize the country.
Therefore the US needs Iran on its side in regard to both of these countries while Israel is not concerned by either, except for the fear that they could become anti-Israel.

October 4th, 2009, 11:20 pm

 

Shai said:

Akbar Palace,

“No Shai. Israel will never withdraw to the 1967 lines. Israel will never give up their right to the Old City, and judging from recent proposals, will hold onto ~5% of the West Bank. They may give up parts of pre-’67 Israel in exchange.”

When Israel gets out of 95% or 97% of the West Bank, if to you that means “Israel will never withdraw to the 1967 lines”, that’s fine. It will withdraw to the 2012 lines, which will be very-very close to the 1967 lines. Better?

Btw, have you ever asked yourself what it means to have “a right to the Old City”? Does it mean ensuring only YOU have control of it? Or does it mean you can SHARE control of it with, say, the Palestinian people to whom the Old City belongs no less? Or does it mean some International body controls it, because it really belongs to ALL three major religions? If a peaceful resolution is found to the Arab-Israeli conflict, one which respects all three religions, I don’t see why Israel can’t accept options other than the first. Don’t be so sure you know what Israel “will never do”.

Norman,

The Cold War was also a war. As you know, war in the Middle East has always been taking place, in one form or another. So if you mean to say that only with a large, old-fashioned head-on war will Israel end our Occupation, you may be right, but we don’t know what the price will be. The last time we fought such a war was really in 1973. And back then it was fought with tanks and APC’s and artillery shells. Not with tens of thousands of smart missiles, JDAM bombs, tactical (nuclear?) weapons, and God-knows what other horrific means of destruction. It is safe to assume that Syria has a biological and chemical weapons program. Same with Israel, and probably many other nations in the region. If Israel, for whatever reason, decides to use tactical nuclear weapons against Syria (let’s say after a massive missile attack upon Israel’s major cities), are you sure Syria won’t use its own WMD’s? And if it does, can you imagine how Israel would react?

In 1973, Sadat and Assad had very limited goals, which were to be “proven” on the ground, with tanks rolling up to a certain point and stopping. Moshe Dayan at some point believed they were trying to destroy all of Israel. But he couldn’t prove it. But tens of thousands of missiles raining atop all of Israel will seem, certainly to most, as precisely that. No one will be able to say “We’re only trying to retrieve the Golan”. And a classical-war is no longer a possibility for Syria, because its army is today far inferior to Israel’s, certainly as compared with 1973. It’s a lose-lose scenario for Syria.

But that’s precisely why Syria has developed strategic capabilities to defend herself (if Israel should start a war), and also to push her agenda slowly, indirectly, via Iran, Hezbollah, and Hamas. Syria IS engaged in a war against Israel. But it is a different war. A more “cold” war, and I’m not sure it is any less effective.

Norman, in my mind, the REAL war Syria should have been fighting all along, and also the Palestinians, was the war of PUBLIC OPINION. Both on the world-level, and especially on the Israel-level. There is a way to get Israel to withdraw, and it’s not with military muscle.

October 5th, 2009, 1:57 am

 

majedkhaldoun said:

“Israel will never give up their right to the Old City,”
A.P. Why do you say israel has the right to Old Kuds, actually The palastinian has the right for Kuds and all the area south of a line go east west as of the north part of dead sea, look at Torah and the border that Moses said it is the land of the jews.and there is no temple under the Aqsa mosque.

October 5th, 2009, 3:27 am

 

SimoHurtta said:

Lots of “what ifs” and hypothetical scenarios. Everyone is missing the Gulf states. They’re more afraid of a nuclear Iran than Israel.

Saudis will allow Israel to bomb Iran’s nuclear site

Come-on Akbar. Both claims are pure Israeli propaganda and neocon fiction. Gulf states make much and increasingly more business with Iran. Iran in the end is the country in the region which has the basis and potential to become the regions industrialized biggest power. If Saudis allow Israel to attack Iran using their air space that will create enormous problems for the Saudi regime. Surely Saudi regime do not like to see a stronger Iran, but neither do they want to continue to be dominated by Israel. Maybe Akbar Saudis allow Israeli planes to go to Iran, but drop down the planes when the rest of them return with used weapons. One way ticket you know Akbar. 🙂

For Arab countries and Iran nukes would mean “do not make aggressive moves against us and our interests” so neutralizing Israel’s aggressive policy and disproportionate influence. For Israel the present nuclear weapon monopoly in Middle East means “we can and will do what ever we want”. ElBaradei said that nuclear Israel is number one threat to Middle East. Surely the Arab countries, Turkey and Europe understand what ElBaradei said. Eventually EU and Turkey have to tame Israel and “drop” it to the its real size.

Some reality to the discussion of the “Iran threat”.

The military expenditures of the region are the following
Iran 6.3 billion USD 2.5 % of GDP
Israel 13.3 billion USD 7.3 % of GDP
Syria 0.8 billion USD 5.9 % of GDP
Jordan 1.4 billion USD 8.6 % of GDP
Lebanon 0.5 billion USD 3.1 % of GDP
Turkey 31 billion USD 5.3 of GDP
Saudi Arabia 31 billion USD 10 % of GDP
Eqypt 3.3 billion USD 3.4 % of GDP
Iraq 32 billion USD 8.6 % of GDP
Kuwait 3 billion USD 5.3 % of GDP
etc
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_countries_by_military_expenditures

Even the figures are from different years they “show” the reality. Iran uses the least money per capita counted in the region and has no military capability and equipment for expansive wars. It has a limited capacity to defend its own area and to retaliate if attacked.

Israel reasons for the constant Iran danger exaggerating are simple. Israel needs always a “credible” enemy to keep up the religious war it has been provoking for a long time and keep Israel in the headers.

October 5th, 2009, 4:05 am

 

norman said:

Shai,

Syria never attacked an Israeli city , Syria should limit it’s war to the Golan except if Israel attacks deep inside Syria , like Syrian cities , You smart bombs cost more than the buildings they are going to destroy and Israel can not keep paying even if the US is behind it , the us is paying Billions each month in Iraq and Afghanistan ,

October 5th, 2009, 7:52 am

 

why-discuss said:

Shai

You are right, tradionals war cannot be decisive. This time has passed as modern weapons would be self destructive. Yet diplomatic or public opinions ‘wars’ are unbalanced. Israel has strong insiders and a powerful propaganda in the West, demonizing the arabs and the moslems, benefiting from the negative perception on arabs after 9/11 and often using effectively the Holocaust as a way to manipulate Western consciences.
Small wars are also ineffective as they stir hatred, sense of revenge and deepen the gap. I think that after the 2006 war in Lebanon both Israel and Hezbollah came to realize that.

If there is a shift in the international public opinion, it could happen when significant accumulative events take place and are effectively presented in the media to rehabilitate the arabs. The Goldstone report could be one, peace with Syria is another. The victim-aggressor perception may change in disfavor of Israel and oblige Israel to modify its strategy. This would take a long time and is very fragile.

October 5th, 2009, 8:19 am

 

idaf said:

Shai,

I see your point, but if Syria managed to “tolerate” a nuclear Israel for 40 years, it will definitely be able to tolerate a nuclear much friendlier Iran in the long run, unless that nuclear Iran becomes very friendly with the nuclear Israel, which is highly unlikely in the long run.

I actually argue that nuclear countries existing in the same region (Iran, Israel, Syria, Saudi, etc.) would be far more reluctant to use their nuclear weapons against each other.

If a nuclear Iran triggers a nuclear race in the Middle East then Syria would benefit from that in the short run as well in its strategic goal of regaining the Golan. Any US administration will BE FORCED to solve and defuse regional problems in the Middle East (say returning the Golan to Syria) if everyone gets a nuclear weapon. Israeli politicians understand this and this why they are nervous about a nuclear Iran, not primarily because the potential threat of nuclear Iranian weapons falling in Israel (which has much less probability than Iran (and its allies) utilizing its new standing in the nuclear club to get leverage with the US and Israel in any future negotiations)

So in all cases, it makes much sense for Syria to want a nuclear Iran (as the next best thing to a nuclear Syria). This will strengthen Syria’s position in any future negotiation and will definitely expedite Israel’s (and US Congress’) acceptance to return the Golan. It is another one of Syria’s “cold war” tactics if you like.

October 5th, 2009, 8:26 am

 

idaf said:

Siddiq gets a 6 month jail in the UAE for entering with fake passport. He should be deported on October 15 but it is not clear if is to Syria, Lebanon or another country..

http://www.google.com/hostednews/afp/article/ALeqM5i6Nk3Ytrtq0zZyc6vWiESdexfSEg

October 5th, 2009, 8:30 am

 

Shai said:

Why Discuss,

I agree with you. But Syria can do a far better job diplomatically than perhaps it has done over the years. I think it is starting to do that, as evidenced by Europe’s and America’s change in attitude.

Norman,

But how can Syria limit her struggle to the Golan? Can Syrian tanks begin rolling towards Katzrin? Can Syrian commando drop from helicopters undetected? The only thing it might be able to do (to demonstrate it is interested only in the Golan) is to shell Golan settlements. But how long will that last, before Israel turns it into an all-out war? Israeli artillery and planes will immediately retaliate, and likely punish both the army and the leadership, which will have no choice but defend itself. And then it will get out of control.

Syria’s only real strategic cards are her ongoing support of Israel’s rivals, and seeking unconventional capabilities. That, along with massive diplomatic “warfare” against Israeli occupation of the Golan, and refusal to choose Peace over War.

October 5th, 2009, 8:33 am

 

Shai said:

Idaf,

I understand what you’re saying and, it is precisely what Van Crefeld is saying. But I guess my reluctance to believe it is truly in Syria’s best interest stems more from a long-term vision for Syria, or for any other nation not in the “nuclear club”. I just can’t imagine not fearing a nuclear Iran, or a nuclear Jordan for that matter. Today Iran is a great ally of Syria. And tomorrow? Look at Saudi Arabia. A few months ago, it almost seemed like they were more on Israel’s side than on Syria’s. What if Iran’s long-term goals for the region end up clashing with Syria’s? I’m not sure the depiction of “natural allies” is completely correct. I would bet Syria is more interested in allying itself with the West, than with Iran. If Syria ever had to make that choice (again, I hope it doesn’t), who says it’ll choose the latter? Egypt didn’t!

Imagine for a minute that Iran’s long-term goals include Lebanon and Iraq. Would Syria like to see a nuclear Iran surrounding it from east and west? I’m not sure. It’s good to have powerful friends, but not too powerful…

I understand your (and Joshua’s) rationale, and in the short-term you’re both probably right.

October 5th, 2009, 8:41 am

 

Innocent_Criminal said:

wow, I am glad I started this nuclear discussion.

Shai

I agree that Syria can do better diplomatically than it currently is but that’s only because they have slipped in regional clout in the past few years. Consider that in the late 90s early 00’s they were way more influential and they were still unable to clinch a peace deal. They came close but Barak backed down. Things have changed dramatically since then and its highly unlikely Syria will be able to get that type of influence back on their own anytime soon.

Think of all key Syrian allies and whether Syria can be counted as strategically indispensable to them? Basically what I am trying to say is that Syria currently needs her regional/international allies more than the later needs Syria. Not a very strong position to be in if you ask me.

October 5th, 2009, 1:02 pm

 

Shai said:

IC,

I understand. And I am also aware that it is perhaps innate within me to think that Syria and Iran may not be “natural allies” and, therefore, to see at least a possibility of the two having a very different relationship after there’s peace with Israel, and after America is much closer to Syria.

I’ve argued in the past that should Iran go nuclear, it would be in Israel’s best interest to actually have Syria very close to Iran, and to make peace with exactly that Syria. Just as it would be in the U.S.’s interest to use its ally Syria to help bridge the gaps with Iran.

Akiva Eldar of Ha’aretz wrote today that Peres told him once that Israel’s policy of “not being the first to introduce nuclear weapons in the region” was, and may still be, accompanied by a lesser-known statement, which is that “if regional peace is reached, Israel would be ready to partake in general regional nuclear disarmament”. Akiva further postulates that it is not completely unreasonable to consider that Iran may be ready to do away with her nuclear program, in exchange for Israel doing the same + withdrawing to the 1967 borders. He is in essence telling Israel to “prepare” for this possibility.

I don’t think it’ll happen so quickly, not coming from Iran and certainly not from Israel, but the idea of a Middle East free of nukes, in return for complete Peace, makes a lot of sense. But for that, Iranians and Israelis have to be sitting at the same table… Can it happen? I hope so.

October 5th, 2009, 2:40 pm

 

why-discuss said:

Shai

Today Iran is a great ally of Syria. And tomorrow? Look at Saudi Arabia. A few months ago, it almost seemed like they were more on Israel’s side than on Syria’s. What if Iran’s long-term goals for the region end up clashing with Syria’s? I’m not sure the depiction of “natural allies” is completely correct. I would bet Syria is more interested in allying itself with the West, than with Iran.”

I disagree with you. The US politics in the area changes every 8 years and we see 180 degree changes that are immediately echoed by the Europe. The attitude of the Western countries is unreliable as it is often in democracies, it changes according to the whims of the people and the events that impresses them. The proof is that things have started to move in favor of the arabs only when Iran started to help Syria and Hezbollah and has become a force not to be ignored. Don’t forget Syria has been to only arab country who did not side with Saddam Hussein during the horrific 8 years of the Iraq-Iran war. The iranians will never forget that and will always treat Syria with respect and gratitude. These are values the Western countries cannot understand. They understand guilt and money but not gratitude. The Islamic republic of Iran has been consistent in its position in regard to Israel in the last 25 years. Unless there is another revolution in Iran that breaks totally the Islamic republic foundations than it is possible that there could be a change.
All arabs know that the western countries alliances are based solely on the Western economical interests, their security and on some special interests (guilt) like keeping Israel safe. The claim of human rights and democracy is a cover up for manipulation when it is convenient. We have seen the disastrous shifts of the US policies in the areas that has caused wars and deaths.
So I strongly believe that Syria will be a friend to Iran and will benefit from this friendship in showing some political strength despite its military and economical weakness. Even if the Golan is given back to Syria, I doubt it will turn its back to such a powerful country like Iran to get the favors of a remote France or USA who may within a few years revert to aggressive behavior and impose new sanctions.

October 5th, 2009, 7:36 pm

 

Syria Comment » Archives » Angelina Does Damascus; Saudi King on his Way; Syria’s Attitude toward an Iranian Nuke said:

[…] Simohurtta writes to provide “Some reality to the discussion of the “Iran threat”.” The military expenditures of the region are the following Iran 6.3 billion USD 2.5 % of GDP Israel 13.3 billion USD 7.3 % of GDP Syria 0.8 billion USD 5.9 % of GDP Jordan 1.4 billion USD 8.6 % of GDP Lebanon 0.5 billion USD 3.1 % of GDP Turkey 31 billion USD 5.3 of GDP Saudi Arabia 31 billion USD 10 % of GDP Eqypt 3.3 billion USD 3.4 % of GDP […]

October 5th, 2009, 8:00 pm

 

Akbar Palace said:

Israel reasons for the constant Iran danger exaggerating are simple. Israel needs always a “credible” enemy to keep up the religious war it has been provoking for a long time and keep Israel in the headers.

Sim,

Anti-semites like Ahmadinejad lie to themselves due to their deep-seated hatred of Jews and Israel. These anti-semites claim the Holocaust was a lie, yet they call for one. Strange isn’t it? You may know someone like this. Maybe even Professor Josh, who allows you to post your obnoxious and meaningless figures on his threads.

It is disingenous and dangerous of you and others like you to say Israel is “exaggerating” and that “Israel needs always a ‘credible’ enemy”. Iran has made it plain as day to the internaltional community that she wants Israel “wiped off the map”. Furthermore, the Iran theocracy has been supplying terrorists increasingly sophisticated weaponry as well as forwarding a nuclear weapons program.

BTW, I added to your list of military expenditures the “Manpower fit for military service (males only)” just to bring some “objectivity” to your comparison. Feel free to check the figures on the very public CIA World Factbook website:

Iran 6.3 billion USD 2.5 % of GDP; 17,658,573
Israel 13.3 billion USD 7.3 % of GDP; 1,474,966
Syria 0.8 billion USD 5.9 % of GDP; 4,360,934
Jordan 1.4 billion USD 8.6 % of GDP; 1,593,919
Lebanon 0.5 billion USD 3.1 % of GDP; 948,765
Turkey 31 billion USD 5.3 of GDP; 17,223,506
Saudi Arabia 31 billion USD 10 % of GDP; 7,486,622
Eqypt 3.3 billion USD 3.4 % of GDP; 18,490,522
Iraq 32 billion USD 8.6 % of GDP; 6,203,425
Kuwait 3 billion USD 5.3 % of GDP; 935,525

(75/1.5 million)

October 5th, 2009, 8:03 pm

 

norman said:

The alliance between Syria and Iran is strategic , the only thing that Israel can and actually should hope for is for Syria to moderate Iran’s position toward Israel and for that Israel will be smart to give back the Golan and settle the Palestinian rights issue.

October 5th, 2009, 10:23 pm

 

why-discuss said:

Norman

Israel recently have downgraded Iran’s threat from ‘existential’ to ‘neutral’. In my opinion the reason is simple.
They were the only ones hysterically warning the whole world that Iran is threatening not only Israel but the world. The cancellation by Obama of the anti missile stations supposed to protect Europe from Iran’s missiles gave a blow to this argument.
The meeting in Switzerland was another blow.
Israel found itself shouting in an empty room. Their credibility was at stake, so they decided reluctantly to shut up.
Now they are in trouble, as there is no more any wolf threatening their existence that should be shot. Netanyahu is probably wondering how long he can sustain the growing international pressure. I guess we will read and hear more about the Holocaust in the media, the emergency floater that Israel regularly uses when it is cornered and when it has not found another enemy to demonize. A deal on de-nuclearization between Iran and the USA will be another blow. At the end, I guess this may Obama’s strategy: isolate Israel as much as possible by making deals with its “enemies” while making declarations of support to Israel and giving the impression he is bowing to their demands. Are Israel and its lobbyists been taken for a ride? how could they react?

October 6th, 2009, 12:11 am

 

SimoHurtta said:

Anti-semites like Ahmadinejad lie to themselves due to their deep-seated hatred of Jews and Israel. These anti-semites claim the Holocaust was a lie, yet they call for one. Strange isn’t it? You may know someone like this. Maybe even Professor Josh, who allows you to post your obnoxious and meaningless figures on his threads.

Akbar Ahmadinejad is a Jew as the recent news tell us. I remeber when we some time ago debated here in SC are Jews a race or religion. I preferred before the “theory” that the Jews are followers of Judaism, but very convincingly I was told by a lady that there are for example many Hindu Jews. That will say Jews are an ethnic tribe. So if Ahmadinejad’s parents were Jews he is a Jew – a Muslim Jew. 🙂

Your obnoxious and meaningless figures??? They are not my numbers Akbar, they are the military reality. Akbar adding the manpower doesn’t tell anything. If it would be simply the question of manpower and not weapons and systems Israel has no “hope”. Syria and Egypt could both easily defeat Israel if the manpower would be the ultimate criteria. Even you are not enough naive (you are naive but not so naive) to claim that.

Why not Akbar add to the table the number of nuclear weapons?

Iran 6.3 billion USD 2.5 % of GDP; 17,658,573; 0
Israel 13.3 billion USD 7.3 % of GDP; 1,474,966, 200-300
Syria 0.8 billion USD 5.9 % of GDP; 4,360,934; 0
Jordan 1.4 billion USD 8.6 % of GDP; 1,593,919; 0
Lebanon 0.5 billion USD 3.1 % of GDP; 948,765; 0
Turkey 31 billion USD 5.3 of GDP; 17,223,506; 0
Saudi Arabia 31 billion USD 10 % of GDP; 7,486,622; 0
Eqypt 3.3 billion USD 3.4 % of GDP; 18,490,522; 0
Iraq 32 billion USD 8.6 % of GDP; 6,203,425; 0
Kuwait 3 billion USD 5.3 % of GDP; 935,525; 0

How do you Akbar describe the Israeli governmental system? Only a complete idiot can claim that Israel is a normal democracy where all are treated equally regardless of their religion. Israel is a theocracy as much as Iran is. Also your theocracy are and have been supplying terrorists (Kurds, Sudanese rebels, African dictators, Burma etc) with weapons. The difference is that “your” “customers” have to pay for them with hard cash or gem stones, the Iranian “customers” obviously not. The other difference between Israeli and Iranian theocracy is that the Israeli theocracy has already developed nuclear weapons and made plenty of them. Which is more dangerous a man who has a machine gun (in Israel’s case many of them) or a man who is considering does he need a machine gun?

October 6th, 2009, 1:21 am

 

Shai said:

Why Discuss,

I understand what you’re saying. But then how do you explain Egypt’s gamble? Why did it risk its stance within the Arab world, and ally itself with Israel and the U.S.?

I certainly agree that Syria will not opt to change its strategic relationship with Iran, even after getting back the Golan. It is not in Syria’s interest to “dump” old friends. But first, just how “old” is this friendship, and second, you may be ignoring the other side of the equation – Iran itself. Would Iran remain as close a friend of Syria’s, if Syria tomorrow morning signs a peace treaty with Israel? Also well before a Palestinian state is formed? Will Iran continue to invest in Syria, if her defense alliance changes, and if Israelis begin working with Syrians (diplomatically, economically, etc.)? As long as there’s no source of tension, of course two friends can remain great friends. As long as there’s a common enemy, that threatens both, certainly there are good reasons for alliance. But when one side’s interests change somewhat, in a way that may contradict the other’s interests, the relationship may change unilaterally.

I’m not saying this will happen, but I can imagine this is of a greater source of concern to the Iranians than to Syria. And that may one day effect the relationship.

October 6th, 2009, 5:00 am

 

Akbar Palace said:

Akbar Ahmadinejad is a Jew as the recent news tell us.

Well, wouldn’t you know, the Telegraph article turned out to be false.

http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2009/oct/05/mahmoud-ahmadinejad-jewish-family

Your obnoxious and meaningless figures???

Yes Sim,

Your figures are “obnoxious and meaningless” when coupled by the verbiage you wrote behind them, namely, your claim that Israel is “exaggerating” and that “Israel needs always a ‘credible’ enemy”.

Further, you presented Middle East military spending with the comment: Some reality to the discussion of the “Iran threat”.

Most objective observers wouldn’t put the quotation marks around “Iran threat”, due to the statements and actions of the Iranian government. Also, a careful review of your percent GDP figures of military spending are fairly high for some Arab countries including Syria.

Lastly, I thought it would be interesting to show the size of the Arab standing armies compared to Israel’s. It is 75 million to Israel’s 1.5 million. I think this is something that could add to your comparison. To compensate for the disparity in military troops, Israel has always tried to maintain an edge technologically. This is becoming more difficult due to Iran and Syria’s illegal arming of Hezbollah and Hamas. That Israel probably has nuclear weapons is part of this technological edge. Also, Israel has never threatened to “wipe out” any other country, including countries currently at war with Israel.

And the funny thing is, WITH the high per capita GDP on military spending, Israel STILL has a per capita GDP that is 2 or 3 times higher than the neighboring Arab states. Israelis pay for the security they need.

Sim changes the subject:

Only a complete idiot can claim that Israel is a normal democracy where all are treated equally regardless of their religion.

Sim,

Perhaps a “complete idiot” knows more than you do. A complete idiot can compare the lives of Israeli-Arabs to any other Arab country to see that Israel treats her Arabs BETTER than any other Arab country. Although there is a long way to go, for a country that is a still at war with the Arabs, Israel has done, and IS doing, a pretty good job. That is why most Israeli Arab would prefer living in Israel than Palestine.

Israel is a theocracy as much as Iran is.

In your mind perhaps. Israel has no state sanctioned religion, and her freedom of/from religion is intact.

Funny, even Finland has a state religion, so you’re one to talk Sim;)

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/State_religion

Also your theocracy are and have been supplying terrorists (Kurds, Sudanese rebels, African dictators, Burma etc) with weapons.

Sim,

As a suggestion, you should refrain from calling a group of people “terrorists” depending whether they were enemies of your heroes like Saddam Hussein or friends of Israel. Although there are some terrorist groups in the Kurdish community, by-in-large, the Kurds have bore the brunt of the worse type of terrorism (all ignored for the usual reasons):

During the Iran-Iraq War in the 1980s, the regime implemented anti-Kurdish policies and a de facto civil war broke out. Iraq was widely condemned by the international community, but was never seriously punished for oppressive measures such as the mass murder of hundreds of thousands of civilians, the wholesale destruction of thousands of villages and the deportation of thousands of Kurds to southern and central Iraq. The campaign of Iraqi government against Kurds in 1988 was called Anfal (“Spoils of War”). The Anfal attacks led to destruction of two thousand villages and death of 50,000 to 100,000 Kurds.[36]

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kurdish_people

As far as Sudan is concerned, Sudan has witnessed a level of human destruction orders of magnitude much greater than that of the Palestinians. Therefore, the issue gets much less news coverage as well as attention in the United Nations.

How much Israeli made weaponry get into this conflict, doesn’t seem to be a major factor Sim, unless you have some data to show. Probably MOST of the arms are Russian and American. Just my guess.

Which is more dangerous a man who has a machine gun (in Israel’s case many of them) or a man who is considering does he need a machine gun?

Sim,

IMHO, the man who is “more dangerous”, is not just “considering” anything, it is the well-armed fanatic who has continually proven to the world that he is willing to die and jeopardize his family for his cause. I’m reffering to members of Hamas, Hezbollah, Palestinian terror groups, al-Queda, and the Iranian and Syrian enablers.

Thanks for asking.

http://littlegreenfootballs.com/weblog/pictures/PalestinianChildAbuse/

October 6th, 2009, 8:43 am

 

why-discuss said:

Shai

Egypt is a poor country. A continuous state of war was wearing it down. Sadat did not want to beg undefinitely the rich arabs for help, he knew that the revolution and Gamal abdel Nasser stances had not been popular in the west and had lost him financial support from Europe and the US. His alliance with the Soviet Union did not compensate enough. The second reason is that Egypt did not have a large palestinian population in egyptian cities, they were most of them in Gaza, so by releasing his authority on Gaza he was throwing the palestinian problem back to Israel and we see that is was not a gift. Therefore to stop the hemoragy, he made a radical shift. Of course there was an uproar in arab countries, but did not affect much Egypt. Remember also that egypt is the largest sunni arab country in the region, therefore Saudi Arabia was bound to ultimately accept the shift. Now Egypt is getting yearly billions of dollars from the US and the applaude and investments of the Western countries. Unfortunately this peace has not solved the poverty issues, the corruption and the dictatorship of who came after it. Even Israelis investments are not significant and Egypt needs the rich arab countries in his side (not the poor like Syria)
Egypt’s peace with Israel is impopular with egyptians and if this country becomes a democracy, I believe it may rescind the agreement. This is why all countries shamelessly accept the dictatorship and the authoritarian regime of Mobarak.

Syria will never sign a peace treaty that will not have comprehensive settlement for the Palestinians staying in Syria and Lebanon, whether this will be through financial compensation or other means.
I don’t think Iran will object to such peace if it takes into account the Palestinians plight in Lebanon principally as their alliance with Hezbollah is important to them. In the case of the occupied land, except for Jerusalem, I doubt they will interfere. They would prefer to let the arabs find a solution.
In conclusion, unless Bashar ignores the palestinian issue and drops his support to Hezbollah in his desire to get back the Golan, he can be assured of continuous support from Iran. There is a strong Israeli presence in Turkey, yet this does not change the fact that Iran has a good relationship with Turkey allowing free movement of people ( no visa) and goods.
The Iranians are pragmatists, and will adjust to the situation without falling into extreme. I don’t think they will ever forget Syria’s courageous position during the traumatic 8 years of the iraq-iran war. Syria is a (new or old) friend and will remain so.

October 6th, 2009, 8:56 am

 

Off the Wall said:

AP
the way you added man power is typical of those trying to perpetuate the image of Arabs and Muslims as barbarian hoards at the gate. It is completely illogical and flawed image and your addition makes no sense whatsoever. No one uses mobilization resources as an indication of the army’s potential strength. A true indication is the size of reserve, which includes those with recent and or continuing training.

In fact, only Israel retains its citizens (both males and females) in constant military preparedness during much of their younger lives and only Israel retains highly active reserve that can be mobilized on short notice. Furthermore, you throw in numbers assuming unlimited resources without even a small consideration for the logistic impossibility of mobilizing the millions of soldiers you are dreaming off.

In addition, all of the countries on the list are only allowed defensive capabilities with Israel only having both defensive and offensive postures as we have seen time and again. Israel is the only country in the region that has practiced its offensive capability during the past 30 years. Turkey has gone into very limited operations against Kurdish rebels but never at the scale of Israel’s wars of choice in Lebanon and Gaza to cite the two most recent examples. This is especially the case for the Saudi army, whose defensive posture is not only acknowledged, but celebrated as the country retains no reserves what so ever.

Finally, even if one is to accept your numbers, no one can assume that in case of war the Arabs + Iranian will gather all their forces at the border. Each country will first have to protect its own land and borders, and by that cover a much larger area of land against the country with the largest offensive capability. One indication of the offensive capabilities is the number of fighter-bomber air squadrons. And in that Israel has the lead with 13 squadrons, with Iran and Syria following with 9 squadrons each but with much shorter range and without air fueling capabilities.

Finally, in most wars nowadays what matters is the ordnance, and even if one is to discount the 200-300 nuclear weapon monopoly Israel has, the destructive capability of American conventional ordnance, tried in Iraq and Afghanistan, and dolled out as a gift to Israel, is by far superior to the ordnance allowed any of the countries on the list.

That said, the only country in the region now actively engaged in preparation and training to attack another and advertising such maneuvers for preemptive attack is Israel. Iran is not training to attack, nor is Syria, Turkey, or Egypt. Testing few rockets is more symbolic and its aims primarily to establish a semblance of deterrence. Constantly conducting military exercises with fighter planes flying for a range far beyond the country’s airspace is an offensive action. Only Israel is doing that.

In summary, your nightmares are of your own making.

October 6th, 2009, 11:04 am

 

Off the Wall said:

Correction
I wrote
In addition, all of the countries on the list are only allowed defensive capabilities with Israel only having both defensive and offensive postures as we have seen time and again.

Correction
In addition, all of the countries on the list , except for Turkey, are only allowed defensive capabilities with Israel only having both defensive and offensive postures as we have seen time and again.

October 6th, 2009, 11:10 am

 

Shai said:

Akbar,

I agree with OTW. There’s no doubt that the only nation in our region that is not only building but also exercising its offensive capabilities is Israel. For 60 years we always call it the same thing – Defensive. And, unfortunately, many Israelis and their blind-supporters buy it. Always.

But for an outsider, it’s still difficult to understand how a nation can pretend to defend itself, by killing 1,300 while losing only 10. The “slight” discrepancy or disproportion there sure yells out “Offensive” rather than “Defensive”. Not to mention the invasions of Lebanon, the Occupation of Lebanon over 18 years, multiple wars and operations (most of which had similar “results”), and the continuation of settlement expansion on territory not recognized as Israeli by any nation on Earth – something we conveniently try to forget.

Which would you prefer to be – an Israeli facing a belligerent Iranian leadership calling out for “erasing the Zionist regime”, but so far doing little about it, or a Palestinian in Gaza facing a so-called “peaceful” Israel, that goes on military operations every few years, and kills, maims, and imprisons hundreds and thousands of your fellow brethren?

Israel’s arms are still far louder than Iran’s words.

October 6th, 2009, 11:43 am

 

Off the Wall said:

Yet another clarification
Before AP and others jump on my case, in my post # 48, i did not mention that Iraq was another country that practiced its offensive capability during the past 30 years. Iraq is now completely out of the picture for doing so. Speaking of double standards !

October 6th, 2009, 12:30 pm

 

Akbar Palace said:

the way you added man power is typical of those trying to perpetuate the image of Arabs and Muslims as barbarian hoards at the gate.

OTW,

cc: Shai

Exactly. What we write creates images. This is part of the debate.

Presenting per captia percent GDP figures of military spending doesn’t tell the whole story. Further, stating these figures with the ridiculous comment that “Israel needs always a ‘credible’ enemy” creates a negative image that doesn’t meet the smell test of reality.

Similarly, if I present the figures of the number of males ready and “fit” to go into battle, one does get the image that Israel is completely over-whelmed. Granted, this is an over-simplification.

I never claimed “Arabs and Muslims as barbarian hoards at the gate”. Israel is at peace with Egypt and Jordan. Israel is not at war with Turkey. However, every country has to plan for the worst. My point is, with Israel always mis-matched in terms of number of soldiers available, higher military spending is an obvious necessity.

Israel is the only country in the region that has practiced its offensive capability during the past 30 years.

What about Iraq, Iran, Lebanon, and the PA? When did Kuwait attack Iraq? When did Iran attack Iraq? Do civil wars count? Lebanon, Syria, Iraq, Yemen?

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Iran%E2%80%93Iraq_War

I suppose operations against Israel are, by definition, “defensive”, again, prohibiting Israel from ever legally defending herself?

That said, the only country in the region now actively engaged in preparation and training to attack another and advertising such maneuvers for preemptive attack is Israel. Iran is not training to attack…

Really? The IAEA, the UN and the international community want to inspect Iranian nuclear facilities to see that Iran follows her committments per the NPT treaty. So far, Iran is not premitting inspections and, at the same time, is boasting about her nuclear refinement capability. You don’t necessarily need to “train” when you’ve proven to arm your fundamentalist proxies to the teeth.

http://www.honestreporting.com/articles/45884734/critiques/Iran_A_Threat_to_Israel_and_the_World.asp

http://www.iran-press-service.com/articles_2001/dec_2001/rafsanjani_nuke_threats_141201.htm

http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/middle_east/4912198.stm

October 6th, 2009, 3:08 pm

 

Off the Wall said:

Akbar
Obviously, you did not see my clarification about Iraq.

I agree that Per-capita expenditure on arms is not the only measure. But the size of male population only re-enforces a faulty image of besieged Israel. An image that suites your purpose, but it is faulty nonetheless and greatly exaggerates vulnerability. It is your job to create this faulty image, and you have succeeded in perpetuating it far too long. It is my right also to show the world how faulty and ridiculous this image is nowadays. You create a faulty images, and I and my fellow travelers will keep chipping at them. You said it right, it is the nature of debate.

I never claimed “Arabs and Muslims as barbarian hoards at the gate”

Nice try, But the images you conjure have the same result. You yourself acknowledged that by saying Exactly. What we write creates images. This is part of the debate. or had you forgotten what you just wrote.

? Do civil wars count? Lebanon, Syria, Iraq, Yemen?

No, they don’t. In fact they count to amplify Israel’s military strength and to weaken the armies of its neighbors. So civil wars do not help your cause of besieged vulnerable country.

As for Iran and inspections, and assuming for the sake of argument that Iran is developing nuclear weapons, developing nuclear weapons does not mean plans to attack Israel. You are only trying to give yourself the right to terrorize the region with your nuclear capability but deny deterrence capacity to others. At best, this is unrealistic, at worst, it is arrogant. Iran will eventually develop nuclear weapons, be it under democracy or the mullahs. It can not but do so, and part of that is owed to Israel’s own military posture and to Iran’s nuclear geopolitical neighborhood (Russia, NATO through Turkey, India, Pakistan, and Israel). Shouting that Iran will launch a bomb at Israel at the moment it acquires one is racist in its implication that Iranians can not be as rational as the French (who used poison gas, but not nuclear weapons), the Indians or the Pakistanis (whose program Israel has failed in sabotaging). Yelling that Iran will hand nuclear devices to proxies is also crazy and racist in its implication of stupid Iranian leadership who will yield such an initiative to groups they will no longer be able to control. Trying to draw an example from Iraq first war does not serve you either. Saddam had a plethora of poison gas in 1990 but he only used conventional warheads against Israel. If you say he was scared of the implication, then how come the Iranian’s will not be scared of the implications. You can not have it both ways. I find the campaign against Iran to be racist. No less no more. A true campaign against nuclear proliferation would argue that all nuclear weapons including those of Israel must be accounted for to be eliminated later on, which is my own position. You can not have it both ways. The US and Russia have both accounted for their entire stock. Why can’t you do the same. The argument that the Arabs will risk their existence to launch a weapon against Israel is also racist and it is part and parcel of the barbarian hoards at the gate image. I reject it part and full. In fact all war games exercises for the region indicate that It would be Israel to launch the first nuclear strike, primarily due to the siege mentality, justified or not. It was close to doing so in 1973.

October 6th, 2009, 6:16 pm

 

SimoHurtta said:

Presenting per captia percent GDP figures of military spending doesn’t tell the whole story. Further, stating these figures with the ridiculous comment that “Israel needs always a ‘credible’ enemy” creates a negative image that doesn’t meet the smell test of reality.

Of course the percent of a nation’s economy (plus the size of that economy) is used to defence (in Israel’s case aggression) capacities describes how militarized and military capable the country is. Anybody who has the intelligence to see what kind of weapons Iran has notices in a moment that Iran has no capacity even to invade Kuwait. Iran has 1000 mostly completely outdated tanks, 3 frigates, 3 subs, 11 small subs, about 80 fighter planes etc. Only a complete idiot would claim that with such military force could be made an attack through Iraq and Jordan to Israel or to any neighbouring country.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Current_Equipment_of_the_Iranian_Army
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_Iranian_Air_Force_aircraft
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Current_Iranian_Navy_vessels

If military age manpower would be the criteria we all should tomorrow surrender to China and India. 🙂

Of course Akbar Israel needs a constant “reliable” enemy. Always a new one if the old “vanishes”. When Saddam was tamed in Gulf war one, Israel suddenly changed its old business partner Iran to a main enemy. Your whole country is built on that more or less in present days imaginary threats. Without the “threat” Israel could not keep its asthonishing power in USA and international politics, squeeze money from Jewish people and governments in USA and Europe, keep the Aliyah going, justify the occupation, settlements, mistreatment of non-Jews, cross border aggressions etc. Without enemies Israel would be a relative insignificant country and Zionist a bit more influential than Mormons are.

October 6th, 2009, 6:45 pm

 

Shami said:

Simo,i agree whith what you said above and the israelis are helped in this purpose by najad and co .In reality we have :
http://www.iranian.com/main/2009/apr/reagan-khomeini-deal
http://www.thirdworldtraveler.com/Ronald_Reagan/Iran_Contra_Connection.html
http://www.mywire.com/a/EarthIslandJournal/Halliburton-Iran-nukes-Cheneys-company/1324669/
http://www.iran-press-service.com/articles_2002/Aug_2002/israel_iran_arms_29802.htm

As for the military power of iran,it’s the iranian regime that likes to exagerate it ,in reality even Syria has a more important weaponry than Iran.

October 6th, 2009, 9:41 pm

 

Akbar Palace said:

But the size of male population only re-enforces a faulty image of besieged Israel. An image that suites your purpose, but it is faulty nonetheless and greatly exaggerates vulnerability.

OTW,

Whereas the number of males soldiers available to fight may have once been an important factor years ago before Egypt and Jordan signed their peace agreements, I think the “image of besieged Israel” comes mainly from the video clips of the shear number of missiles fired into Israel from Lebanon and Gaza.

Similarly, one can point to the destruction caused by Israel’s retaliation and say that it isn’t “proportional”, etc.

What’s your point? You side is right and my side is wrong?

As I’ve said many times before, I think the best way to solve the conflict is by negotiation.

October 6th, 2009, 9:59 pm

 

Akbar Palace said:

Of course Akbar Israel needs a constant “reliable” enemy.

http://www.iaea.org/NewsCenter/Focus/IaeaIran/unsc_res1747-2007.pdf
http://www.un.org/News/Press/docs/2008/sc9268.doc.htm
http://www.un.org/News/Press/docs/2006/sc8792.doc.htm
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/United_Nations_Security_Council_Resolution_1737

Sim,

Last I checked, Israel is not on the UNSC. So perhaps Iran isn’t just Israel’s perceived enemy. Of course, you may diagree with the 15 countries that voted for each of these resolutions, but you would have to discuss it with them. Not me.

BTW, is there any reason you didn’t post Iranian missile technology?

http://www.globalsecurity.org/wmd/world/iran/missile.htm#

Also what happended to our theorcracy discussion? I thought maybe you wanted to discuss Finland’s state religion tonight.

Without enemies Israel would be a relative insignificant country and Zionist a bit more influential than Mormons are.

Without enemies, Israel would be fine and Sim would be a sad man.

October 6th, 2009, 10:08 pm

 

Off the Wall said:

Akbar
Whereas the number of males soldiers available to fight may have once been an important factor years ago before Egypt and Jordan signed their peace agreements

So why did you bring it up in the first place, and more so, the number you brought is not the number of soldiers, it is the number of adult males. Thus everyon fights and no one makes bread, till the land, and keep the country going. Oh, I forgot your demos in Gaza and Lebanon, there will be nothing left to care for after your beloved IDF shows their vulnerable, weak, weapons.

You speak of negotiation, what negotiation are you advocating and about what, all what I have heard from you and your likes over nearly two years includes

No Golan back to syria
No to any talks about Jerusalem
No right of return
No return to Isreal’s borders
No Sovereignty over Palestinian border with Jordan
No to a contiguous governable area
Yes to full impunity to Israel
All security to Israel, and no livelihood to Palestinians

And you call this negotiation?

October 6th, 2009, 10:40 pm

 

Off the Wall said:

Add to the list of nos/yeses
No to settlement removal
Yest to settlement expansion

Even if you did not state that these are you opinions, you are enabling those with these “Rafidi” “objectionist” POVs to halt negotiations.

Now granted, I am not a negotiator, nor do I pretend to conduct negotiations. But I can differentiate between honest negotiations and diversionary tactics. So do most observers

Funny how your side and the side of those who hurled rockets enable and empower each others.

October 6th, 2009, 10:49 pm

 

norman said:

Over the last 40 years , i saw optimism after 1973 war and the disengagement agreement which pushed Israel out of Quinetra , it was only to calm that border and not for what we were promised as a first step for the return of all Arab land ,

I think they are laughing at us because we think that Israel will leave any Arab land without war and they keep talking about Egypt , Israel left Sinai because that neutralized Egypt forever , otherwise Israel only understand force and will not leave any Arab land or give the Palestinians their rights without war and force , they keep counting on scaring of their military might like we are supposed to stand still as a target practice for them , pain will be equal on both sides and we believe in GOD so our faith will get us through it while they are running for the West as long as we have the will and the leadership for a long fight that will make us either winners or losers , in the last 40 years , Syria has been under many sanctions , our economy was isolated and our education system was restricted access to technology , all push us into submission , it is time to get our rights back , not wait for the US , Iran , Turkey to get them back for us.

October 6th, 2009, 11:29 pm

 

jad said:

I wish all Syrians a happy 6 Oct.
Dear Norman,
Regarding the sanctions you are talking about, we, Syrian citizens as well as our government are the only one to be blamed for our lack of clean, strong and independent legal system, lack of freedom, lack of education improvement, lack of women rights, lack of development, lack of good/profitable industries, lack of resources management, lack of smart agriculture, lack of professionalism, lack of lots of basic things needed to become a better country that we didn’t and we still not doing.
We proved time after time our failure and incompetence of doing the right things for ourselves; we are always quick of blaming that on something else and that is our biggest problem.

October 6th, 2009, 11:56 pm

 

Off the wall said:

Thanks jad

Akbar
I was reading my next to last cooment and I was unhappy about the phrase
all I heard from you and your likes
I did not like the sound and tone of
your likes.
A better way to say it would be
all I heard from you and those who share your views

October 7th, 2009, 1:03 am

 

Off the Wall said:

Dear Jad
Let us hope that we will never need and/or see another war. I like to celebrate liberation, but I am not very happy that it had to come at such cost in blood and treasures.

October 7th, 2009, 1:10 am

 

jad said:

Dearest OTW,
I share your hopes.

October 7th, 2009, 2:36 am

 

SimoHurtta said:

Also what happended to our theorcracy discussion? I thought maybe you wanted to discuss Finland’s state religion tonight.

Most protestant countries (Nordic countries and Britain) have/had a state religion (the idea of the protestant revolution was to take away the power of the priests and Rome and “transfer” priests more to civil servants serving the interests of earthly rulers). During the past 100 years the link between the church and state has been however almost meaningless. We have not had laws in modern ages which give the majority religion members any special rights. We do not have a Protestant Christian Fund which owns much land. We do not have our religion expressed in our ID cards. We do not give building permits using religious and ethnic profiling. We do not close synagogues or mosques during church holidays. ETC. Religion is no big issue in our societies. It is considered to be a private matter. Our priests do not publicly say that a Christian fingernail is worth 10.000 Jews or Muslims lives. Some of yours do.

Jews in Nordic countries have had exactly the same changes and rights everybody else have. As an example of that in Sweden a Jewish family owns much of the country’s media. In Finnish parliament there are at least 2 Jews. Two out of 200 when there are 1300 Jews in Finland and the population is 5.3 million. The richest Finn is a Jew whose family became rich by selling/transferring in rather mysterious and little documented circumstances Finnish weapon technology to Israel. Jews in Nordic countries are surely not treated like Israeli Arabs are.

Finland, Sweden etc are from the viewpoint of democracy, religious freedoms and equality as far from Israel as they are from Iran.

BTW, is there any reason you didn’t post Iranian missile technology?

Well Iranian missile technology is as meaningless as an attack force and as a real threat as the rest of the armed forces are. Iran has >100 missiles capable to hit Israel. With traditional warheads that is no big threat to anybody. Israel has NOW the capacity to kill all Iranians several times and turn the whole country to a radioactive glass desert. So which of those two countries is a real threat to the region and mankind?

It is Akbar funny how you and pro-Israeli extremists always take out UN and UNSC when it fits your propagandist aims. “You” praise UN when it “works” with matters linked to Iran, Iraq, Lebanon etc. But now when Libya is taking the Goldstein report to UNSC your crowd will say in a second that UN is irrelevant and biased. “You” always say that when the international community has an opinion based on Israeli behaviour. Israel has the superior world record with “conflicts” in UN and with its resolutions.

Without enemies, Israel would be fine and Sim would be a sad man.

Why would I be sad? I would be sad if Israel would nuke the region and kill all those “enemies”. But not if Israeli Jews would manage to create circumstances to live like normal people in the civilized world do. Like Jews do in USA and Europe, in peace and equality with others. No more land theft, no more inflicting religious wars and chaos, no more ethnic cleansing and killings etc.

The sad thing Akbar is that I do believe that Israel has
advanced to far on the road to become a fascist, over militarised apartheid country so that it is impossible internally to turn the tide. When the men in “black shirts” crawl to power they do not voluntarily give up the power. It did not happen in Italy and not in Germany.

October 7th, 2009, 6:32 am

 

Akbar Palace said:

Jews in Nordic countries have had exactly the same changes and rights everybody else have. As an example of that in Sweden a Jewish family owns much of the country’s media. In Finnish parliament there are at least 2 Jews. Two out of 200 when there are 1300 Jews in Finland and the population is 5.3 million. The richest Finn is a Jew whose family became rich by selling/transferring in rather mysterious and little documented circumstances Finnish weapon technology to Israel. Jews in Nordic countries are surely not treated like Israeli Arabs are.

Sim,

This doesn’t sound very different from Arabs living in Israel. There are plenty of rich Arab business owners in Israel as well and all the same freedoms.

But let’s see how Jews are treated in Finland when they claim the country is theirs, go to war against Finland, and arm resistance groups who fire missiles into Finnish population centers and villages.

Another Israeli Nobel Prize winner:

http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20091007/ap_on_re_eu/eu_nobel_chemistry_8

October 7th, 2009, 6:44 am

 

norman said:

http://www.atimes.com

Syria, Saudi Arabia plot peace path
By Sami Moubayed

DAMASCUS – The visit of Saudi King Abdullah to Syria, his first since assuming the throne in 2005, is being hailed as groundbreaking and historic by Middle East observers.

Abdullah, who is married into a Syrian family, visited Damascus countless times for decades, in private and for work, when serving as crown prince under his brother, King Fahd. He attended president Hafez al-Assad’s funeral in June 2000, and was the first Arab leader to visit Syria after President Bashar al-Assad came to power in July that summer.

Relations remained strong throughout 2000-2005, when Syria fully backed the Abdullah plan for peace, later renamed the Arab Initiative, but soured with the assassination of Lebanon’s former

prime minister Rafik Hariri, a long-time friend of the Saudis, in 2005.

Ties hit rock bottom when the Saudis were critical of Hezbollah during the 2006 Israeli war on Lebanon, and eventually led to the withdrawal of the Saudi ambassador to Syria in 2008. Although Lebanon was the source of tension between Syria and Saudi Arabia, both sides stress today that it is not the reason for rapprochement.

Syria and Saudi Arabia mended fences over a summit on Gaza in January 2009. Symbolically, the rapprochement took place on the last day of United States president George W Bush’s term at the White House. Since then, Assad has visited Saudi Arabia once, to confer with King Abdullah and Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak, and his Foreign Minister Walid al-Mouallem went to Riyadh ahead of the parliamentary elections in Beirut in June.

The two sides decided to work for smooth and democratic elections in Lebanon, which took place and led to the victory of Saudi Arabia’s proxy, the March 14 Coalition. Syria supported the election results, although it did not produce a majority for the Syria-backed Hezbollah-led opposition and has repeatedly said that it is willing to work with prime minister-designate Saad Hariri, a friend of the Saudis, despite his loud and aggressive anti-Syrian stance in 2005-2008.

Positive confidence-building gestures quickly followed. The anti-Syrian campaign in major Saudi media came to a halt, a Saudi ambassador returned to Syria and Syria reopened the offices of the popular Saudi daily al-Hayat in Damascus, after they were closed during the low point in bilateral relations in late 2008.

Last week, ahead of the king’s visit to Syria, Syria named a new ambassador to Riyadh, former information minister Mehdi Dakhlallah. In late September, Assad went to Saudi Arabia to attend the launch of the King Abdullah University of Science and Technology, a multi-billion dollar co-ed institute of higher education, perceived as a personal achievement for the Saudi king.

King Abdullah was due to arrive in Syria on Wednesday with his ministers of intelligence, labor and information for a three-day stay that will take him to the northern city of Aleppo, and for Friday prayers at the Grand Umayyad Mosque in Damascus.

The Damascus agenda of the king will include a basket of issues related to bilateral relations, the situation in the Palestinian territories and relations with Iraq. On bilateral relations, the countries will discuss political and economic development, as well as counter-terrorism operations to combat the influence of groups like al-Qaeda, which is a mutual threat to both countries.

Both are keen to bring about a rapprochement between Hamas in Gaza, which is backed by Syria, and Fatah, which is backed by the US and Saudi Arabia. More importantly, the Saudis are backing Syria in its current feud with Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki. They believe Syria had nothing to do with the six attacks that ripped through Baghdad on August 19 that killed 100 Iraqis, although the Iraqi government claims the masterminds were Iraqi Ba’athists based in Damascus.

Saudi Arabia is not too fond of Maliki, seeing him as a sectarian leader who has worked hard at promoting Iranian influence in Iraq at the expense of Saudi Arabia. He has refused to mend fences with Iraqi Sunnis, making no effort to bring them back into power after they walked out on him in 2007, and done nothing about Shi’ite militias in Iraq, striking at the Sunni community in revenge for having produced former president Saddam Hussein.

They are fearful that some in Maliki’s entourage are still toying with the explosive option of creating an autonomous district for Shi’ites in southern Iraq, similar to the Kurdish region in the north. If that happens, Iraqi Sunnis, who have traditionally fallen under the umbrella of Syria and Saudi Arabia, would be left in central Iraq, where there is no oil.

Both Syria and Saudi Arabia are eyeing the situation closely in Iraq, fearing that if Maliki gets the upper hand in parliamentary elections in January, Iraq will slip into more sectarianism, violence and chaos – three elements that could dangerously spill over the border into neighboring Syria and Saudi Arabia.

The more Maliki escalates tension with Damascus – as he has done by taking the August 19 case to the United Nations – the more this brings the Syrians and the Saudis closer. The countries have similar visions for the future of Iraq, once the Americans leave in 2012, and both can fill the vacuum that is expected to arise.

They have cooperated in the past, during the Iraqi provincial elections in January, and as a result, the Sunnis who had shunned the post-2003 system in Iraq came out and voted in large numbers, demanding political representation that is rightfully theirs. If the scene is repeated in the January elections, this could spell political defeat for Maliki.

Clearly from the policies of Saudi Arabia, Riyadh is no longer interested in breaking the Syrian-Iranian alliance. On the contrary, much like US President Barack Obama, it sees it as a godsend, hoping that Syria can help moderate Iranian behavior in the Arab neighborhood.

Syria is a reasonable, secular and moderate country, which has no history of radicalization against either Saudi Arabia or the United States (with the notable exception of the Bush era). By distancing themselves from Syria in 2005-2008, the Saudis only strengthened the Syrian-Iranian alliance, at the expense of Syrian-Saudi relations. That immediately backfired on Saudi interests in Palestine, Iraq and Lebanon.

Far from breaking it, Saudi Arabia wants to invest in the Tehran-Damascus alliance, similar to the situation when most of the Arab world sided with Iraq in the Iran-Iraq war of 1980-1988, the Saudis insisted that Syria remained allied to Iran. Syria had the ear of Iranian decision-makers, and the Saudis were keen that this channel with Tehran remained open during the 1980s.

Given its political and economic weight, the Syrians are proud of a friendship with Saudi Arabia, which dates to the inter-war years of the 20th century. In the 1920s, scores of Syrian businessmen, doctors and administrators went to Riyadh – long before oil was struck – to help King Abdul Aziz found the modern Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.

When the nationalist leader Shukri al-Quwatli came to power in 1943, he enjoyed excellent relations with King Abdul Aziz, and the Saudi monarch used his considerable influence in the West to build bridges between him and British prime minister Winston Churchill, so that Syria could get British help to end the hated French Mandate. He even tried to arrange for a meeting between Quwatli and US president Franklin Roosevelt.

The two countries went to the founding conference of the United Nations in San Francisco together, coordinating foreign policy on Arab affairs, especially the situation in Palestine in 1945-1948. They co-founded an army of Arab warriors, known as the Army of Deliverance, to fight the British and the Zionists in Palestine shortly before the official entry of Arab armies into war, as a result of the creation of the state of Israel in 1948.

The Saudis bankrolled the army and the Syrians provided it with men, leadership and political cover. In 1973, the Saudis rushed to the aid of Syria and Egypt, famously launching their oil embargo to pressure the US to cease its support for Israel during the second Arab-Israeli war, known as the October War. They hammered out an end to the Lebanese civil war in Taif in 1989, and joined forces to eject Saddam from Kuwait in 1991.

With such a history on the shoulders of Riyadh and Damascus, it is no wonder that they are insisting that Syrian-Saudi relations cannot – or should not – be seen from the narrow prism of Lebanese politics. Although many Lebanese politicians are optimistic that the Saudi king’s visit will speed up the formation of a cabinet in Lebanon, which has been lagging since June, the Syrians insist that Syrian-Saudi relations cannot be “dwarfed” by the situation in Lebanon, They claim that they are more macro and strategic, related to Arab and international affairs at large.

Iraq, for example, is more of a priority for both countries today than Lebanon and so is the situation in Jerusalem, where fighting is escalating between Palestinians and the Israeli Defense Forces. The Saudi king’s visit comes only days after a senior meeting failed to solve pending problems between Obama, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas in New York.

The improvement in relations between Syria and the US, after Obama came to power, certainly had an effect on relations between Syria and Saudi Arabia. If the Americans were now talking again to the Syrians, it was only logical for the Saudis to do so as well – illogical in fact, for them to do otherwise. After five years of UN investigations, there is no evidence that Syria had anything to do with the 2005 murder of Hariri.

That is something well noted and appreciated by the Saudis. So is the fact that Syria has unparalleled influence with non-state players like Hamas and Hezbollah, and heavyweights like Iran, that can all come into play in mapping out the future of the Middle East.

Sami Moubayed is editor-in-chief of Forward Magazine in Syria.

(Copyright 2009 Asia Times Online (Holdings) Ltd. All rights reserved. Please contact us about sales, syndication and republishing.)

October 7th, 2009, 8:17 am

 

why-discuss said:

ref to Moubayed article
Bashar’s resilience and steady track in international affairs seem to bring fruits. He stands out of the crowd of awkward and petty arab ( and israeli) politicians who have no vision, no strategy and are pulled back and forth by the whims of the big powers. I just hope that Syria’s internal affairs will evolve also in a healthy way, now that the pressure is decreasing. There is always the danger of KSA imposing its extremist religious traditions and religious schools and that Syria ends up resembling Pakistan. i hope Bashar will refuse to let, under the cover of financial help, the wahhabite influences sneak in the syrian society.

October 7th, 2009, 9:47 am

 
 

Shai said:

Akbar,

“This doesn’t sound very different from Arabs living in Israel. There are plenty of rich Arab business owners in Israel as well and all the same freedoms.”

Is it Finnish April Fool’s Day, Akbar? But it is oh so easy to type on a blog, isn’t it?

“But let’s see how Jews are treated in Finland when they claim the country is theirs, go to war against Finland, and arm resistance groups who fire missiles into Finnish population centers and villages.”

I’m sorry, do you have some information about Arab-Israelis “arming resistance groups”? Sounds to me like a neocon faux-pas, slipping out the 5th-column beliefs with just some tiny bit of fiction… Oh well, again, so easy to type on a blog…

October 7th, 2009, 11:41 am

 

norman said:

Jad ,

What are your recommendations to correct these problems.

October 7th, 2009, 11:43 am

 

Akbar Palace said:

I’m sorry, do you have some information about Arab-Israelis “arming resistance groups”? Sounds to me like a neocon faux-pas, slipping out the 5th-column beliefs with just some tiny bit of fiction… Oh well, again, so easy to type on a blog…

Um Shai,

There have been MANY examples of Arab-Israelis harming/killing Jewish Israelis, as well as aiding and abetting Palestinian living outside of Israel. Where have you been?

The “faux-pas”, IMHO, is accepting the myth that the imaginary “Green-Line” will solve all of Israel’s problems. It never did in the past and never will in the future.

http://www.lindasog.com/public/terrorvictims.htm

http://www.haaretz.com/hasen/spages/1003470.html

http://www.zoa.org/sitedocuments/pressrelease_view.asp?pressreleaseID=1634

http://olehgirl.com/?p=2033

http://www.jpost.com/servlet/Satellite?cid=1251145167321&pagename=JPost/JPArticle/ShowFull

http://www.ynetnews.com/articles/0,7340,L-3378086,00.html

October 7th, 2009, 4:08 pm

 

jad said:

Hi Norman,
While I’m NOBODY to tell anyone what to do but here are couple quick thoughts of what can be done:
– Make a strong and independent legal system to get back the Syrian confidence
– Start a real free conversation between all involved parties
– Support and protect by law all kind of freedoms
– Have an absolute equal rights for women
– Upgrade the education system and put higher standards on every aspect of Syrian professional life
– Encourage individuals/groups innovation in every field
– Get rid of the existing economical monopoly of certain people, it’s destructing
– Protect the Syrian natural resource and make them last longer, for me that is one of the many urgent priority we have no choice but to do if we want to become a better and long lasting nation.

October 7th, 2009, 10:17 pm

 

norman said:

Hi Jad ,
(( Make a strong and independent legal system to get back the Syrian confidence))

The legal system needs to evolve and used to settle conflicts , as what happened when an activist found not guilty on appeal ,
((- Start a real free conversation between all involved parties))
That is going on , they are even speaking with MB
((- Support and protect by law all kind of freedoms))
I agree , but these freedoms are taken and when restricted these restriction should be challenged in court , the legal system will not mature if it is not used ,
These freedoms should also be used with the good of the country not some people is the goal ,

((- Have an absolute equal rights for women))

I agree on this too , but let us see how much of the population believe that , if people do not treat women in their families as equal , how do we expect that to happen by decree, it takes time ,

((- Upgrade the education system and put higher standards on every aspect of Syrian professional life))
with many private schools , competition will bring higher standards
((- Encourage individuals/groups innovation in every field))
Probably Syria needs to protect pattens and intellectual properties o encourage innovations
((- Get rid of the existing economical monopoly of certain people, it’s destructing ))

I understand , but it is early to destroy a monopoly in Syria as wealth concentrating in Syrian individuals will give them the chance to compete for contracts which are given only to well capitalized individuals , the US has the Rockefellers , they broke AT@T when it became too big , in Syria we need well financed individuals , otherwise our economy will be controlled by foreign investors like AL Walid Bin Talal and others ,
The Syrian stock market should Make more Syrians owners of these companies
– Protect the Syrian natural resource and make them last longer, for me that is one of the many urgent priority we have no choice but to do if we want to become a better and long lasting nation

The question that i have for you is , weather there are things that can be done by the private sector or charitable organizations ?.

October 8th, 2009, 10:57 pm

 

Syria Comment » Archives » King Abdullah’s Visit to Damascus – A New Era of Arab Relations? said:

[…] Syria, Saudi Arabia plot peace path By Sami Moubayed, Asia times DAMASCUS – The visit of Saudi King Abdullah to Syria, his first since assuming the throne in 2005, is being hailed as groundbreaking and historic by Middle East observers. […]

October 10th, 2009, 7:08 pm

 

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