Democracy is Out; Baker’s Advice

“I believe in talking to your enemies,”

James A. Baker III, the Republican co-chairman of a bipartisan panel reassessing Iraq strategy for President Bush, said Sunday that he would suggest that the White House enter direct talks with countries it had so far kept at arm’s length, including Iran and Syria.

He noted that he had made 15 trips to Damascus to negotiate with then president Hafez al-Assad to get involved in Middle East peacemaking. It worked. Syria did become involved and Middle East violence diminished. “It’s got to be hard-nosed, it’s got to be determined,” Baker said. “You don’t give away anything, but it my view, it’s not appeasement to talk to your enemies.” The UNHCR had previously been concentrating its operations in Iraq on helping exiled Iraqis return home and helping non-Iraqi refugees living there.

According to a New York Sun article, copied below, James Baker’s group is going to propose to President Bush that he drop the objective of democracy in Iraq and the Middle East in favor of “representative” governments. Also US troops would simply try to stabilize Baghdad and go after al-Qaida in Iraq. But how can the US stabilize Baghdad without becoming involved in the civil war? Baker implies this can be done by accommodating the different groups. He makes it sound easy. They may not be accommodated. What seems to be happening in Iraq is a power struggle between the various militias. One needs to win, or at least become dominant in order to establish an order.

Secondly, as the leaker of this report explains, Baker distinguishes between a “democratic” government and one that is merely “representative.” “Baker wants to believe that Sunni dictators in Sunni majority states are representative,” the group member, who leaked this report claimed.

If the “representative” concept becomes accepted, it would mean that Syria is the one unrepresentative state in the region. (It sounds like representative is being used to denote confessionally representative.) Lebanon could be the other state that is not fully representative because the Shiites don’t have their share of power. If the US used the same representative model on Lebanon that it used on Iraq, the Shiites would have to get either the presidency or Primiership. Perhaps one could argue that Jordan would have to become a Palestinian state? Bahrain a Shiite dominated state? Clearly the “representative” word used by Baker is only a fig leaf meant to mitigate the political damage of jettisoning the concept of democracy from US goals in the region.

If the use of the word “representative” will help in dumping democracy as the military goal of US forces in Iraq, I am all for using representative. The US should always stand by the notion of promoting democracy as a civilized goal, but it must recognize that democracy cannot be forced at the end of a gun. This notion is a deception. The faster Americans recognize that democracy cannot be forced on people the better. As things stand today, the Bush doctrine of unleashing chaos on the region has only relegitimized dictatorship as a form of government. 

Baker’s Panel Rules Out Iraq Victory
BY ELI LAKE
October 12, 2006
New York Sun

WASHINGTON — A commission formed to assess the Iraq war and recommend a new course has ruled out the prospect of victory for America, according to draft policy options shared with The New York Sun by commission officials.

Currently, the 10-member commission — headed by a secretary of state for President George H.W. Bush, James Baker — is considering two option papers, “Stability First” and “Redeploy and Contain,” both of which rule out any prospect of making Iraq a stable democracy in the near term.

More telling, however, is the ruling out of two options last month. One advocated minor fixes to the current war plan but kept intact the long-term vision of democracy in Iraq with regular elections. The second proposed that coalition forces focus their attacks only on Al Qaeda and not the wider insurgency.

Instead, the commission is headed toward presenting President Bush with two clear policy choices that contradict his rhetoric of establishing democracy in Iraq. The more palatable of the two choices for the White House, “Stability First,” argues that the military should focus on stabilizing Baghdad while the American Embassy should work toward political accommodation with insurgents. The goal of nurturing a democracy in Iraq is dropped.

The option papers, which sources inside the commission have stressed are still being amended and revised as the panel wraps up its work, give a clearer picture of what Mr. Baker meant in recent interviews when he called for a course adjustment.

They also shed light on what is at stake in the coming 2 1/2 months for the Iraqi government. The “Redeploy and Contain” option calls for the phased withdrawal of American soldiers from Iraq, though the working groups have yet to say when and where those troops will go. The document, read over the telephone to the Sun, says America should “make clear to allies and others that U.S. redeployment does not reduce determination to attack terrorists wherever they are.” It also says America’s top priority should be minimizing American casualties in Iraq.

Both Mr. Baker and his Democratic co-commissioner, Lee Hamilton, have said for nearly a month that the coming weeks and months are crucial for the elected body in Baghdad. More recently, Mr. Baker has said he is leaning against counseling the president to withdraw from Iraq….

The “Stability First” paper says, “The United States should aim for stability particularly in Baghdad and political accommodation in Iraq rather than victory.”…

But he also hastened to distinguish between a Middle East that was “democratic” and one that was merely “representative.”

“If we are able to promote representative, representative government, not necessarily democracy, in a number of nations in the Middle East and bring more freedom to the people of that part of the world, it will have been a success,” he said.

That distinction is crucial, according to one member of the expert working groups. “Baker wants to believe that Sunni dictators in Sunni majority states are representative,” the group member, who requested anonymity, said.

The following article explains how US diplomacy has retreated from democracy promotion since the Hamas victory gave democracy a bad name. David Morgan, Reuters, October 12, 2006 U.S. seen retreating from democracy push.

Pam O’Toole of the BBC writes that ever more Iraqis are ‘fleeing rising violence’ writes that ever more Iraqis are ‘fleeing rising violence’

‘Silent exodus’

The UNHCR says that last year about 50,000 Iraqis returned from neighbouring countries. This year only 1,000 did.

“UNHCR is monitoring the border in Syria, for example,” said UNHCR spokesman Ron Redmond. “Our staff [are] seeing about 2,000 people a day coming across, so it’s more than 40,000 people a month just into Syria.”

The UN estimates 50,000 Iraqis are internally displaced each month There are also increasing numbers of people leaving their homes but staying in Iraq.

“The estimate now is something around 50,000 people per month are joining the growing numbers of internally displaced inside Iraq,” Mr Redmond said. Most of those Iraqis who have fled to Syria and Jordan have not registered with the UNHCR, in what the agency calls a “silent exodus”.

The UNHCR says that tens of thousands more are moving on to Turkey, Lebanon, Egypt, the Gulf States and Europe. Statistics from the first half of this year show that Iraqis were the biggest single national group claiming asylum in Europe, while the number claiming asylum in industrialised countries had risen by 50% compared to the same period last year.

The UNHCR says it has had to rechannel its efforts from helping exiled Iraqis return home to assisting those who have fled insecurity.

Peace with Syria should include withdrawal from Golan an honest Israeli Internal Security Minister reminded Israelis. Giving back the Golan is the real impediment to peace. The percentage of Israelis who are in favor of leaving the entire Golan is usually below 50%. A strong Israeli leader might be able to swing a majority behind peace with Syria, but only if he were willing to put his full attention to the task.

Official Israeli Internal Security Minister Avi Dichter said on Thursday that it is impossible to reach peace with Syria without an Israel’s withdrawal from the Golan Heights, Israel’s local daily Yedioth Ahronoth reported. Avi Dichter said that a peace agreement with Syria would have to include an Israeli withdrawal from the Golan Heights. “Those who say that the Golan Heights will remain under Israeli control after an agreement with Syria suffer from a failure in logic…they don’t understand reality,” said Dichter, adding that ” I don’t think it’s possible to reach peace with Syria without an Israeli withdrawal to the international border.” Dichter, however, disagreed with the approach of putting the Syria subject off the agenda.

He said that Israel needs to improve relations with Egypt and Jordan, and wait for (Syrian President Bashar) Assad to get ready for peace talks.

Meanwhile, Syria rejected Thursday Israeli Vice Premier Shimon Peres’ invitation for Assad to visit Jerusalem, saying the Israeli gesture reflected the country’s weak position after its war with Lebanon. According to a latest poll published by professors Ephraim Yaar and Tamar Hermann of Tel Aviv University on Israel’s newspaper Jerusalem Post on Thursday, the recent bellicose declarations by Syrian President Bashar Assad were heard much more loudly by the Israeli Jewish people than his statements calling for peace. The warlike statements caused a further decline in the already low support for giving the Golan to Syria, even in exchange for full peace, and in the small number of those who believe such a peace is possible in the foreseeable future. Assad has in recent weeks renewed a call for peace talks with Israel. Last month, he told the German magazine Der Spiegel that ” We want to make peace with Israel.” But in an interview with the BBC on Monday, Assad cast doubt on Israel’s desire for peace.

Marc Perelman of The Forward explains how many liberal Jews in the States are joining the chorus of those demanding that Bush jump-start Arab-Israeli peace talks and get Syria involved. Soros and other philanthropists are also talking of setting up an alternative Jewish lobby to Aipac.

Ray Close, ex-CIA bureau chief in Saudi Arabia and a number of other Americans are worried that Bush is serious about using military power to keep Iran from gaining the bomb. Close sent around this article by former New York Times bureau chief Chris Hedges. 

Chris Hedges: Bush’s Nuclear Apocalypse
Posted on October 9, 2006 By Chris Hedges

Editor’s Note: The former Middle East bureau chief for The New York Times and author of the bestseller “War Is a Force That Gives Us Meaning” reports on Bush’s plan for Iran, and how a callous war, conceived by zealots, will lead to a disaster of biblical proportions.

Egypt and Syria seem to be putting their differences behind them in order to find a working solution to the Palestinian impasse. Many Syrians are happy to see the war of words between Egypt and Syria ended. Mubarak sends message to Syria’s Assad

October 14, 2006 Damascus- Syrian President Bashar Assad received a letter from his Egyptian counterpart Hosni Mubarak dealing with “developments in the region,” Syria’s official news agency SANA reported. The report said that Assad received Omar Suleiman, the head of Egyptian intelligence, who delivered the letter from Mubarak which dealt with “bilateral relations and the developments in the region.”

Comments (31)


1. ausamaa said:

So, all that has been happening was about “Democracy”?

What a shame, we totally misunderstood!

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October 15th, 2006, 7:31 am

 

2. Alex said:

Ariel, when Israel decides that it needs to destroy Damascus, then the tens of nuclear bombs will do .. you really do not need the Golan.

And it is wrong to assume that peace with Syria will be “meaningless”

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October 15th, 2006, 8:11 am

 

3. Innocent_Criminal said:

Ariel,

Are you Israeli?

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October 15th, 2006, 8:14 am

 

4. Dubai Jazz said:

Ariel,
you are adviced to leave this forum … you don’t belong here.

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October 15th, 2006, 8:37 am

 

5. Innocent_Criminal said:

I just want to clear one thing up. asking Ariel if he is Israeli was a trick question. But once he said “We still need the Golan” it made it official.

See Ariel has a very peculiar thing about his IP address. Its the exact same one that True Facts (who claims to be Lebanese) uses. True Facts has been annoying us with comments such as the ones
posted “here” , “here” , and my personal favorite “here”. please take time to read these nutty gems. because they will be his last. True Facts/Ariel or whoever you are say “bye bye” 🙂

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October 15th, 2006, 9:13 am

 

6. Dubai Jazz said:

Innocent Criminal, very interesting! So do you think that Ariel is an Israeli disguising as a Lebanese or vice-versa?

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October 15th, 2006, 9:22 am

 

7. Innocent_Criminal said:

He can be Martian monkey for all i care. where he’s from is not the problem, his bullshitting is.

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October 15th, 2006, 9:31 am

 

8. ivanka said:

The US has officially given up on a “democratic” government in Iraq. So what form of government will ensue?

Many people, including in the US, are talking about a military coup and dictatorship, I don’t think this is possible. The army is not strong enough. The question is, a new form of government will emerge in Iraq. Will it be the least bit pro-american? Will it be pro-Iran, pro-Saudi, …

I think this new form of government will arise either after fighting between the militias is over and one of them has prevailed, or after someone in the army takes controle and successfully asks the US to leave, which would make that person very popular.

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October 15th, 2006, 11:33 am

 

9. ivanka said:

Yes innocent criminal I remember the one about the fact-finding trip to “Syria”. I don’t know where that guy went. I really really liked it too.

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October 15th, 2006, 11:35 am

 

10. t_desco said:

Retired Gen. Wesley Clark questions foreign policy

Bin Laden’s strategy, Clark said, is to encourage the U.S. to invade Iran and Syria.

“His strategy is to create zones of chaos and savagery,” Clark said. “He wants more Iraqs … where he can go in and emerge with leadership.

“Why do we want to play his game, when it is totally against our interests?”
October 14. 2006

General Clark on Iran:

I am very concerned about the Administration’s plans about Iran. And clearly there is a risk that two threatened nations may cooperate to frustrate what they see as US intent. We could have truly created an Axis of Evil.

I do believe there are still those within the national security apparatus advocating a strike against Iran. I suppose it is possible before November, but I believe that this will be politically difficult for the Administration to focus on with the NK crisis and the election problems. So sometime in the spring is more likely the target window.
October 11, 2006

The USS John C. Stennis is scheduled to deploy early 2007 and it may also be sent to the Gulf:

O’Kane Conducts Counter Small Boat Attack Exercises

“This was great training for the upcoming deployment,” said Luckenbill, a Harrisburg, Pa., native, “especially considering that we may be operating in 5th Fleet, where there are many small craft and the ship has to transit narrow straights.
October 03, 2006

The USS O’Kane is part of the John C. Stennis Carrier Battle Group (CSG 3).

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October 15th, 2006, 11:55 am

 

11. ausamaa said:

Ariel..

Israel also needed the Sinai, the West Bank, Gaza Strip, and most recently Southern Lebanon, unfortunately for Israel, you know what happened….!!

looks like Israel is as unsucessful at KEEPING the things it “wants”, as its at KNOWING what it really wants.

If I was an Israeli, I would opt for reconciling myself with my current nieghbours and live peacefully with them within the 1967 borders. Beats living in the European Ghettos, or being used as a cat’s claw to be disposed of once not needed.

Is South Africa a far fetched example of how your friends stick to their allies???

And imagine what it would be like with another Hassan Nassrallah in Syria; and another in Jordan, and another in Gaza and the west bank.

Time you stopped creating such dangerous nieghbours. Is it not?

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October 15th, 2006, 2:37 pm

 

12. ausamaa said:

True_Facts

Are you sure you are not an anti-Lebanese who is acting this way to give a very bad impression about the Lebanese people???? Or are you just exhibiting and confirming your true sole??

And guys, Ariel does not sound like an Israeli. On the average, Israelies -unlike many Arabs- do not opt to score points in public debates by using confrontational language. That is the speciality of our other great brotherly people.

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October 15th, 2006, 2:55 pm

 

13. t_desco said:

Christian opposition leader General Michel Aoun on Sunday accused the current leadership of corruption and called for a government of national unity and balanced relations with neighboring Syria.

He also called for “just” relations with neighboring Syria, which should be “without tutelage” and involve diplomatic representation.
Naharnet

Spanish Foreign Minister Hails ‘Positive’ Syrian Attitude to Truce Resolution 1701

“There will not be a final solution in the Middle East if there is not a solution of the Syrian-Israel relationship, so we need a comprehensive peace,” he said.

“They (Assad and Moallem) conveyed to me the genuine wish and will to work in a constructive and positive manner,” he added.
AFP/Naharnet

Olmert dismisses Syrian President Assad’s call for peace talks

Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert on Sunday rejected the possibility of talks with Syrian President Bashar Assad, saying Assad was responsible for harboring terrorists and was attempting to destabilize the entire region, an official said.
AP/IHT

IDF: Syrian army in battle positions

“Assad has not returned the army to its pre-Lebanon war positions,” Beyditz said.

However, he added that the Syrian army is not prepared to attack, but rather to defend the country against a possible Israeli offensive

“These are artillery cannons, missiles and rockets positioned in forward positions. He is preparing for a defensive and not offensive response. He estimates that Israel would want to attack him,” he said.
Ynetnews

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October 15th, 2006, 6:13 pm

 

14. michael benton said:

I would like to extend an invitation to you to join in on a collective blogging section of our upcoming winter issue of Reconstruction. The issue is the “Theories/Practices of Blogging.” In addition to the special section of posts on blogging there will be about a dozen essays on blogging.

The deadline is October 27th.

Our intent in this section of the issue will be to collect a wide range of bloggers and link up to their statements in regards to why they blog (something many of us are asked) and any statement they have on the theories/practices of blogging.

If you already have a post on this you can feel free to use it, or, if you are interested, you can submit a new one.

We will link to each statement from the issue at our site, with the intent of creating a hyperlinked list of statements on blogging that can serve as an introduction to blogging (or an expansion of knowledge for those already blogging).

If you are interested please contact me at mdbento @ gmail.com

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October 15th, 2006, 8:55 pm

 

15. Nur al-Cubicle said:

Ah, does the Baker report mean that Washington is going to flip-flop and “tilt” to the Sunni cause in Iraq so it can ratchet up the pressure on Iran?

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October 16th, 2006, 7:39 am

 

16. ausamaa said:

TRUE_FACTS,

Not ignorant Lebanses, “some” ignorant Lebanese. Actually “ignorance” has nothing to do with it, “vengeance” is a more suitable word.

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October 16th, 2006, 12:37 pm

 
 

18. Ehsani2 said:

This was always a risk with Bashar’s strategy of calling for a peace deal.

If he can do it, why can’t the Lebanese Prime Minister announce that he too is ready?

Previously, he would have been branded a traitor who is about to sell out the “Kaddiya”. Bashar’s repeated announcements that he is ready himself for a deal with the enemy makes this harder now.

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October 16th, 2006, 3:52 pm

 

19. Ehsani2 said:

BEIRUT (AP)–Prime Minister Fuad Saniora rejected his Israeli counterpart
Ehud Olmert’s call Monday for direct peace talks between the two countries.
A statement from Saniora’s office said he “had announced more than once that
Lebanon would be the last Arab country to sign peace with Israel.”
“Real peace should come with Israel’s acceptance of an Arab peace initiative
proposed by (then) Saudi Crown Prince Abdallah and that was adopted by an Arab
summit conference in Beirut” in March 2002, the statement said.
“In this context, it has become clear that, as a first step to prove its
desire for peace, Israel should withdraw from occupied Lebanese lands,
including the Chebaa Farms and fully apply U.N. Security Resolution 1701,” the
statement added.
Olmert made his proposal in a speech at the opening of the Israeli
parliament’s winter session.

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October 16th, 2006, 4:06 pm

 

20. Ehsani2 said:

For a mere $1.25 mm in revenues, the SEC is getting involved!!

FedEx Corp., responding to a U.S.
government query about its business in Syria, said it received an
“immaterial” $1.25 million in annual revenue from shipments to
and from the country, which the U.S. State Department says
sponsors terrorism.
FedEx, the world’s largest cargo airline, provided the
information in response to a June 29 letter from the U.S.
Securities and Exchange Commission. The SEC sought details after
noting FedEx didn’t refer to the business in its annual report,
though it was mentioned on its Web site and in news stories.
FedEx, based in Memphis, Tennessee, never has had assets or
employees in Syria and has no direct operations there, the
company said in a July 14 letter to the SEC. The $1.25 million in
revenue during the fiscal year ended May 31, 2006, is less than
0.004 percent of FedEx’s $32.3 billion in total sales.
“Our contacts with Syria comply in all respects with U.S.
law and foreign policy, and are not material to our financial
condition or operating results,” said the letter from Robert
Molinet, FedEx vice president for securities and corporate law.
FedEx said it hires other companies to deliver packages to
and from Syria. A company spokesman declined to comment
immediately on the letters.
FedEx’s FedEx Express airline unit began service into Syria
in 1989 and out of Syria in 1993. Emirates airlines in Dubai
currently flies FedEx shipments into and out of Syria, and the
packages are picked up and delivered within Syria by Falcon
Express Inc., also based in Dubai, the company said.

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October 16th, 2006, 4:51 pm

 

21. norman said:

The offer by Olmert for talks with Lebanon indicate that Israel respect only force and untill Syria tries to get the Golan Hights by force Israel will not seek peace ,Israel fails to understand that with the rise of Islamic fundimentalism it,s survival is attached to a peace treaty with Syria,Lebanon and the Palestinians in a hurry ,the difficulty that the US is having in Iraq and Israel in Lebanon are making the militery option desirable although not my choice but seems the only option Israel understands.

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October 16th, 2006, 5:31 pm

 

22. Ehsani2 said:

Norman,

Thankfully, and judging by this story, our commander in chief does not seem to be listening to your military suggestion:

UPI) — An Israeli general says the Syrian army has adopted
a defensive, rather than offensive, stance since the war in Lebanon.
Brig. Gen. Yossi Baidatz, told Israeli ministers during their weekly meeting
Sunday that Syrian president Bashar Assad believes Israel wants to attack
Syria, the Jerusalem Post said.
Baidatz said he believed that Assad provides backing to Hamas, the Islamic
Jihad and Hezbollah, and indicated that Assad helped to get weapons to
Hezbollah, the Post said.
Baidatz also told cabinet ministers that Hamas apparently was smuggling anti-
aircraft missiles into the Gaza Strip, the Post said. If this information is
correct, Baidatz said, it would mean that Hamas could better fight Israeli
troop raids, the Post reported.

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October 16th, 2006, 6:26 pm

 

23. norman said:

I still think Israel only understands force and will not give the Golan peacfully ,apparently Israelies and Syrians have to die for the Israeli goverment to have an excuse to reach out to Syria and make peace.

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October 16th, 2006, 6:35 pm

 

24. Alex said:

Actually Norman I would make this conclusion instead:

Israel (Olmert’s weak govenment at least) can only negotiate with weak parties. If you are strong and you expect to get a real fair deal, then Israel is not interested in talking to you. Syria will be “a partner for peace” only when it drops all its cards and become weak enough to not dare to ask for hte full Golan back. So if you want “peace for peace” Israel will talk to you. If you are willing to do what you are asked to do in exchange for “democracy” then the United States will also talk to you.

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October 16th, 2006, 9:37 pm

 

25. norman said:

Alex ,I think you remember that sharon refused to talk to Asad saying Asad was weak and i remember you mentioning that Israel will not responds to Asad,s suggestions of peace at that time because Syria was weak and now after Lebanon,s war Syria is in strong position and some Israelies are taking it seriously but will not move toward peace if they do not suffer from occupying the Golan.

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October 17th, 2006, 2:18 am

 

26. Alex said:

True, I did say that, but I guess what I meant to say was:

The Israelis would not negotiate with you if you think you are strong and therefore you tell them that you are expecting something tangible in return; the Golan, and recognition of Syria’s role in the Middle East.

But they would love to negotiate with a weak Lebanese prime minister who can not ask for anything, of a weak Palestinian president who they hope will accept to compromise over most things, or a weak and defeated Bashar Al-Assad who would sign a peace for peace agreement after they forced him earlier to drop all his cards.

The Israelis are basically waiting until the Arabs are convinced that they are helpless and they have no option but to sign on a peace-for-peace deal with Israel.

Of course, if you develope much more strength … if you become a real threat to their survival (existential threat) then they MIGHT follow Norman’s scenario (to be forced to talk to Syria) .. but they might follow president Bush’s advice instead; treat Syria to a pre-emptive war.

So what shoudl Syria do? continue to bother Israel, maybe bother Israel a bit more, but this approach requires a parallel intensive public relations campaign designed to deliver the message to the Israelis that Syria is only doing this to gain their attention until they are convinced that Syria can not be ignored, and to therefore accept to return the Golan and to respect Syria’s positive future role in the Middle East (post peace settlement)

Unfortunately, for now, Syrian strategy is misunderstood by most Israelis .. they think that Syria supports terror simply because it likes to support terror!

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October 17th, 2006, 3:38 am

 

27. ivanka said:

I was surprised by Olmert’s proposal to Saniora. There is no deal to be made in Lebanon and no one to make a deal with.

A deal would include Israel demanding Hezballa disarm. But who will do this, unless Israel negotiates directly with Hezballa. I mean I can’t imagine Saniora telling Hezballa please disarm, I promised Olmert I would ask you. Also Lebanon is currently divided, if you make a deal, you are making it with a faction and you are sure the other faction will be against it.

More importantly, I would ask the question if there is anyone in Israel to make a deal with. If Olmert signed a peace deal with Syria or Lebanon now, maybe his cabinet will fall the next day.

Until now, I think the most intelligent person in the public relations game about negotiations is Olmert. He is using them very well to stay in office and recreate a consensus about his government.

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October 17th, 2006, 9:37 am

 

28. norman said:

Syria,s position is intentionaly misunderstood because they do not want to have land for peace ,the only reason that is the case is because the Golan has been calm for so long and the Arab leaders lack the well to fight a long war which Israel can not tolerate.syria sould change the chronic deasease case to an acute disease which can be cured ,all or nothing ,either Israel winns once and for all or Syria winns and takes back it,s land and give the Palestinians their rights.

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October 17th, 2006, 11:57 am

 

29. norman said:

the door to peaceSyria offered to negotiate a peace deal with Israel if Israel will return the Golan Heights. Israel rejected the offer, but some diplomats see hope for Mideast talks.
BY DION NISSENBAUM
McClatchy News Service
DAMASCUS, Syria – The first and last thing that Syrian Foreign Minister Walid Moallem looks at each day at work is a large map of the Middle East with the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights shaded in distinctive brown.

”This is my territory,” Moallem said as he pointed to the land at the heart of chilly relations between Syria and Israel. “This is my life.”

In the wake of this summer’s war in Lebanon, the Golan Heights have reemerged at the center of the latest land-for-peace proposal that some see as a chance to reshape regional dynamics. In an unexpected move, Syrian President Bashar Assad has offered to end his conflict with Israel if it gives back the disputed territory it has held for nearly 40 years.

Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and influential U.S. diplomats have rejected the proposal as a meaningless feint from a weak authoritarian ruler. But others, including a growing number of influential Israelis, see the offer as an opportunity to jump-start dormant negotiations at a time when the Middle East is drifting towards further instability.

Israel’s defense minister, internal security minister and some of its veteran peace negotiators have urged Olmert to use the opening to lure Syria away from its alliance with hard-line groups that they think pose a greater threat to regional stability.

”I believe it is imperative for Israel to penetrate and shatter the vicious triangle comprised of Iran, Syria and Hamas by creating an impenetrable channel of communication,” Uri Savir, Israel’s chief negotiator of the Oslo peace accords with the Palestinians, wrote in The Jerusalem Post.

Assad surprised Israel with the offer. Only weeks earlier, as Israeli soldiers began withdrawing from Lebanon after a stalemated fight with the militant group Hezbollah, Assad delivered a derisive speech in which he hailed Hezbollah and said it had “shattered the myth of an invincible army.”

Now the 40-year-old Syrian president is offering to sit down with Israel and talk.

In an interview with McClatchy News Service, Moallem said Syria was willing to normalize relations with Israel for the first time in history if Israel returned the Golan Heights, a vast swath of mountains that it captured during the 1967 Six Day War.

”Between Syria and Israel, the issue that stands between us is the Golan Heights,” Moallem said. “After each war, there is a narrow window of opportunity for peace, and it depends on what effort and message you do to enlarge it.”

Moallem said the Syrian offer was likely to stand for only a few months, and Assad has warned that he may consider attacking Israel if his entreaties are rebuffed.

Monday, Olmert repeated his rejection in a speech before the Israeli parliament.

Even if Israel were to launch talks with Syria, the initiative could be derailed quickly by the probe into last year’s assassination of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri. A preliminary investigation suggested that high-level Syrian officials were behind the attack, which forced Assad to pull his troops out of Lebanon.

Still, coming at a time when there are few peaceful options in the simmering Middle East, a growing number of Israeli officials, Western diplomats and intellectuals see a chance to isolate Iran further and undermine militant groups.

”A peace accord with Syria would deal a mortal blow to the current regime in Tehran and would bring its end closer,” Israeli commentator Sever Plocker wrote. “A Syrian-Israeli peace will pull the rug out from beneath the feet of the terrorist organizations that are based in Damascus, will help the Palestinians regain their sanity and will serve as leverage for a comprehensive Israeli-Arab peace.”

M O R E N E W S F R O M
• Israel
• Middle East
• Syria
• Terrorism
• World News
• Discuss World News

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October 17th, 2006, 12:06 pm

 

30. Akbar Palace said:

Ariel –

Someone said “You don’t belong here”.;) If you haven’t noticed, the main theme on this weblog is:

1.) How to keep Assad in power.

2.) How to defeat Israel.

I would stick around, how else will these brainwashed jihadi-sympathizers know any different?

Alex stated:

“Ariel, when Israel decides that it needs to destroy Damascus, then the tens of nuclear bombs will do .. you really do not need the Golan.”

My response is simply it depends on Syria’s actions. Certainly Israel can’t force a peace treaty with Syria, however, if Syria attacks Israel, certainly Damascus would be vulnerable just as Beirut was when Israel was attacked by Lebanon. Just as Gaza is vulnerable when they continue to attack Israel.

I suppose Assad understands the rules of the game and this explains why (for all these years) he’s so careful about the Syrian-Israeli border. If only the Lebanese and Palestinians were so well-trained.

As far as James Baker (the big Republican Arabist)is concerned, he offers nothing new to the stalemate created by Arab extremism.

Judging from the high voter turnout in Iraq, there is no question about the desire of Arabs to live in a democracy. The only problem is the Arab ruling class and their jihadi bull dogs who stand in the way.

Baker, the Democrats, and the fearful Arab man in the street, need to show a little COURAGE.

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October 18th, 2006, 4:14 pm

 

31. Fares said:

Exotic Aleppo Flood Pictures

By independant Journalism….who needs media when we have digital cameras and critical eyes.

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October 18th, 2006, 7:58 pm

 

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