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)


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51. 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 !

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October 6th, 2009, 12:30 pm

 

52. 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

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October 6th, 2009, 3:08 pm

 

53. 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.

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October 6th, 2009, 6:16 pm

 

54. 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.

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October 6th, 2009, 6:45 pm

 

55. 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.

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October 6th, 2009, 9:41 pm

 

56. 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.

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October 6th, 2009, 9:59 pm

 

57. 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.

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October 6th, 2009, 10:08 pm

 

58. 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?

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October 6th, 2009, 10:40 pm

 

59. 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.

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October 6th, 2009, 10:49 pm

 

60. 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.

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October 6th, 2009, 11:29 pm

 

61. 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.

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October 6th, 2009, 11:56 pm

 

62. 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

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October 7th, 2009, 1:03 am

 

63. 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.

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October 7th, 2009, 1:10 am

 

64. jad said:

Dearest OTW,
I share your hopes.

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October 7th, 2009, 2:36 am

 

65. 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.

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October 7th, 2009, 6:32 am

 

66. 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

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October 7th, 2009, 6:44 am

 

67. 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.)

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October 7th, 2009, 8:17 am

 

68. 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.

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October 7th, 2009, 9:47 am

 

69. norman said:

xxx

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October 7th, 2009, 11:37 am

 

70. 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…

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October 7th, 2009, 11:41 am

 

71. norman said:

Jad ,

What are your recommendations to correct these problems.

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October 7th, 2009, 11:43 am

 

72. 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

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October 7th, 2009, 4:08 pm

 

73. 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.

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October 7th, 2009, 10:17 pm

 

74. 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 ?.

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October 8th, 2009, 10:57 pm

 

75. 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. [...]

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October 10th, 2009, 7:08 pm

 

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