Economic War: Syria’s New Struggle

Syria risks more isolation over Lebanon
By Khaled Yacoub Oweis
Tue 1 Apr 2008

DAMASCUS, April 1 (Reuters) – Syria faces more isolation unless it helps resolve Lebanon's political crisis blamed on Damascus by Arab and Western states despite its conciliatory stance at the Arab summit it hosted last week.

Diplomats and commentators said Syria's diplomatic offensive will do little to rescue it from dire political and economic straits set to worsen unless Damascus pushes its Lebanese allies to abandon their quest for greater power in Beirut.

"Tough times are ahead for Syria," Joshua Landis, a Syria specialist at the University of Oklahoma, told Reuters.

"Syria thinks it can persevere another year and then it will be a new day. But the U.S. Treasury is laying landmines that Syria will find it difficult to negotiate," he added.

The March 29-30 meeting in Damascus, which was boycotted by Beirut's Western-backed government and skipped by three key Arab leaders — Saudi Arabia, Egypt and Jordan, made no progress towards ending the crisis which has poisoned Arab ties.

The conflict in Lebanon pits the Beirut government close to Saudi Arabia and the United States against an opposition dominated by the Shi'ite Hezbollah, backed by Syria and Iran.

The government has been paralysed by the crisis and Lebanon has been without a president since November 2007. The main point of dispute is the opposition demand for effective veto power in cabinet. The ruling coalition has rejected the demand.

Syria pledged at the summit to cooperate on ending the crisis but made it clear that it will not push its allies in Lebanon to allow the election of a new president unless their demands are met.

Landis said Syria could find it tougher to play for time as Washington already expanded sanctions on Damascus and Arab states siding with Lebanon's government showed no willingness to welcome Syria back to what they regard as the Arab mainstream.

Syrian officials admit privately they are in a hunkering-down mood. They expect no imminent solution in Lebanon and more U.S. sanctions, which were first imposed in 2004.

France is also pushing for European Union pressure on Syria after talks between Paris and Damascus late last year failed to end the stalemate in Lebanon, diplomats said.

MORE EU PRESSURE

EU foreign ministers met in Slovenia a day before the Arab summit to discuss Syria. An EU statement said the ministers agreed to improve coordination on Syria and not "reward a lack of cooperation" from Damascus.

With parliamentary elections in Lebanon scheduled for 2009, Syria could be calculating that its allies, who are now in the minority, will emerge with more seats than their opponents, diplomats say.

"The EU is struggling to take a unified stand against Syria and the stalemate in Lebanon might not be that bad for everyone, but can Syria afford more pressure with its economy already reeling?" one diplomat said.

Although Syria is drawing limited Gulf investment, its budget deficit almost doubled last year and falling oil production means that revenue from crude exports is no longer enough to cover fuel import costs.

New U.S. economic sanctions imposed on Syria in February included freezing the assets of Syrian businessman Rami Makhlouf for alleged corruption and links to President Bashar al-Assad.

The United States also deployed warships off Lebanon's coast to show impatience with Damascus and its allies.

Ties between Syria and Lebanon's governing coalition soured after the killing of former prime minister Rafik al-Hariri in 2005. An international investigation team has also implicated Syrian officials in the assassination, one of the reasons for the crisis in Lebanon. Syria denies involvement.

Syrian political commentator Ayman Abdelnour said Syria has realised it could not afford to continue to alienate the West and regional powers such as Saudi Arabia at the same time.

"The other option of keeping up the confrontational stance was obviously a loser," Abdelnour said. (Editing by Samia Nakhoul)

(Comment by Landis) The following two articles about how the US Treasury Department is taking over foreign policy from the State Department on Iran and Syria is very telling. It is not clear where this all leads, but as John McGlynn insists, it is a new form of warfare that can have important repercussions. Syria has resisted opening up to foreign influence for decades for fear of foreign "conspiracies." Today, Syria must open up to foreign banking and investment in order to find a new engine for its economy now that the benefits of socialism, Cold War receipts, and the export of oil can no longer sustain the state.

Syria will find it very difficult to transition to a free market without making concessions to the US and EU on its foreign policy. The Bush administration is busy planting as many landmines for the fragile economy as it can.

The day the US declared war on Iran (Thanks to Enlightened)
By John McGlynn

March 20 is destined to be another day of infamy. On this date this year, the US officially declared war on Iran. But it's not going to be the kind of war many have been expecting…. (Continued)

U.S. Asks Swiss for Copy of Iranian Gas Contract
2008-03-31 11:53 (New York)
By Marc Wolfensberger

(Bloomberg) — The U.S. has asked the Swiss authorities to provide a copy of a 25-year gas import contract signed this month between Iran and a Swiss power company to see if it breaches U.S. sanctions.

"The U.S. government has made an official request to the Swiss government for a copy of the contract, which it didn't receive,'' the U.S. embassy to Switzerland said in remarks posted on March 28 on its Web site. Lars Knuchel, a spokesman for the Swiss Foreign Ministry, declined to comment on the U.S. request when contacted in the capital Bern today.

The contract, valued as high as 27 billion euros ($42.7 billion), was signed on March 17 between Elektrizitaets-Gesellschaft Laufenburg AG and state-owned National Iranian Gas Export Co. The U.S-Iran Sanctions Act permits penalties on foreign companies investing more than $20 million a year in Iran's energy industry. No company has ever been punished.

The U.S. said after the contract was signed that it sends “precisely the wrong message at a time when Iran continues to defy United Nations Security Council resolutions'' over its nuclear program. The U.S. cut diplomatic relations in 1979.

The Swiss authorities attended the signing but are not part of the deal, which envisages the import of 5.5 billion cubic meters of gas a year.

The World Jewish Congress today criticized Swiss Foreign Minister Micheline Calmy-Rey's decision to attend the signing ceremony in Tehran. In 2005, President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said Israel should be “wiped off the map'' and that Europe, the U.S. and Canada should use their own land for a Jewish state.

"Calmy-Rey has sold out her government's international credibility in return for 5.5 billion cubic meters of Iranian natural gas and perhaps for some new friends in the radical Muslim world — definitely not a good investment,'' Ronald Lauder, congress president, wrote in an opinion piece on the organization's Web site.

Lauder called the Swiss foreign minister's visit a “propagandistic triumph for the mullahs.''

Swiss Foreign Minister Micheline Calmy-Rey has defended the Swiss move, pointing out that the natural gas accord breached neither UN nor US sanctions, which forbid any investment in Iran's oil and gas sector worth more than $20 million (SFr20 million). Switzerland represents Washington's interests in Iran and Tehran's interests in the US.

U.S. names N. Korean nuke experts allegedly helping Syria

A high-level diplomatic source on Monday said that the U.S. obtained the list of officials including nuclear engineers, who were involved in the supply of nuclear technology to Syria, through various intelligence networks. This persuaded the U.S. that the North Korea-Syrian nuclear connection did exist.

The smart way out of a foolish war
By Zbigniew Brzezinski, Washington Post, March 30, 2008

Both Democratic presidential candidates agree that the United States should end its combat mission in Iraq within 12 to 16 months of their possible inauguration. The Republican candidate has spoken of continuing the war, even for a hundred years, until “victory.” The core issue of this campaign is thus a basic disagreement over the merits of the war and the benefits and costs of continuing it.

The case for U.S. disengagement from combat is compelling in its own right. But it must be matched by a comprehensive political and diplomatic effort to mitigate the destabilizing regional consequences of a war that the outgoing Bush administration started deliberately, justified demagogically and waged badly. (I write, of course, as a Democrat; while I prefer Sen. Barack Obama, I speak here for myself.)

The contrast between the Democratic argument for ending the war and the Republican argument for continuing is sharp and dramatic. The case for terminating the war is based on its prohibitive and tangible costs, while the case for “staying the course” draws heavily on shadowy fears of the unknown and relies on worst-case scenarios. President Bush’s and Sen. John McCain’s forecasts of regional catastrophe are quite reminiscent of the predictions of “falling dominoes” that were used to justify continued U.S. involvement in Vietnam. Neither has provided any real evidence that ending the war would mean disaster, but their fear-mongering makes prolonging it easier.

[http://www.haaretz.com/hasen/spages/969953.html]

Zvi Bar'el in Haaretz, here
"….The task of dealing with the Middle East's three major crises has thus been returned to individual states or small groups of countries. The Israeli-Palestinian crisis will be handed back to Egypt and Saudi Arabia; the Lebanon crisis will be dealt with by Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Syria and Iran; and the internal Palestinian conflict will continue to be left to sporadic initiatives such as that of Yemen and Egyptian mediation. Syria might ultimately dive into this latter conflict as well….
As for Syria, it seems that its "punishment" by other Arab leaders made it clear even to them that if they wish to thwart Iran's influence in the Arab Middle East, they must hasten to rescue Damascus from that very isolation in which they seek to imprison it. Their public display of anger might prove to be a boomerang that, should Syria choose to flex a few additional muscles, will make it even harder for the Arab states to resolve the Lebanon crisis and the Palestinian conflict."
What big picture?
By Amr Hamzawy
Al-Ahram Weekly, Issue No. 890, March 27 -April 2, 2008
 

The common idea that every regional contest is succinctly played out in Lebanon is false, writes Amr Hamzawy*

"Is it safe to go to Lebanon in the next few days?" an American colleague at the Carnegie Endowment asked me. I didn't know what to tell him. For one thing, I'm not a specialist in Lebanese affairs. Also, I hate to speculate on a situation that remains, in my view, too fluid. Still, as I started to pay more attention to Lebanon, going over dozens of reports and commentary, I formulated some thoughts on the matter:

First, some Arab commentators have developed a maddening tendency to connect everything that happens in the region with developments in Lebanon and call it the "big picture". They rehash the Iranian-US crisis, proposed UN sanctions on Iran, and the Israeli offensive in Gaza, throw in a few words about the failure of dialogue among the Lebanese and the frustrated efforts of the Arab League in narrowing the differences, then tie all of the above with heightened Saudi-Syrian tensions, the assassination of Imad Mughniyah, and the deployment of USS Cole. The result is not a "big picture", but a bundle of muddled up interpretations.

Second, I know how tempting it is to explain everything that happens in Lebanon by way of the US-Iranian standoff. But we must not downplay the autonomous inclinations of the Lebanese opposition and majority. And we cannot discount the independent thinking of such countries as Saudi Arabia and Syria. The picture one gets from reading current commentaries suggests that everyone is somewhat waiting for inspiration from Washington or Tehran. Granted, there is coordination between the US, the Lebanese majority and Saudi Arabia over Lebanon. But one cannot assume that everything is happening just because the Americans want it so, or that Washington can dictate a specific course of action on its allies. Actually, regional players have their own agendas and are willing to pursue an independent course of action if need be. The Lebanese majority, also known as the 14 March movement, is mainly interested in having US backing against Syria. And Saudi Arabia has concerns in Lebanon and the region that do not exactly tally with those of the Americans.

The same thing goes for the Iranian-Syrian-Hizbullah connection. Iran has benefited much from its relations with Damascus. The latter helped Tehran emerge from its regional isolation in the 1980s and allowed it to develop ideological, military, and organisational links with Hizbullah. The Syrians, however, have their own agenda both in the Gulf and Lebanon. Hizbullah, for its part, relies a lot on Tehran and Damascus, but its involvement in local politics affords it a considerable degree of independence. Hizbullah emerged from its confrontation with Israel as a sovereign institution within a weak state. The situation in Lebanon is therefore one in which alliances are formed without any of the players sacrificing totally their independence.

Third, the excessive focus by analysts on the US-Iranian conflict is perhaps due to their failure to see the constraints of both Washington and Tehran. It was the adventurism of the Bush administration that prompted it to rely heavily on military force to advance its Middle East agenda, but that approach has backfired. Now Washington is not in a position to control the course of events in the region. More often than not, Washington reacts to Iranian policies rather than takes the initiative. Furthermore, US Arab allies are thinking twice before listening to the Americans. In short, the US may have immense military presence in the Middle East, but not enough leverage to impose the future course of action in Iraq, the Gulf, Lebanon and Palestine.

Tehran has benefited from Bush's adventurism and it is now hoping to forge a network of alliances with Arab partners that would boost its stature. But let's not forget that Iran is almost as internationally isolated as it was in 1979. Iran's nuclear programme is causing much concern abroad, and not just to the Americans. And it is likely that the new US administration (certainly if McCain comes to office) would try to stop Iran in its tracks. Also, many of Iran's neighbours have their own reasons to keep it at arm's length.

What we have in the Middle East is not a struggle between two invincible powers. It is rather a scene in which a troubled superpower and a hobbled regional power try to find their bearings in passageways cluttered with various Arab and non-Arab agendas.

Iran Incites Cold War With U.S. in Lebanon Roiled by Hezbollah
2008-03-31 20:13 (New York)
By Janine Zacharia

April 1 (Bloomberg) — When David Welch, the U.S. State Department's top Middle East envoy, wakes each morning, he asks himself, “Is everything OK over there?''

“Over there'' is Lebanon, caught in a political stalemate that is putting American officials and much of the Arab world on edge. During six months of paralysis in electing a Lebanese president, Iranian and Syrian support for the Shiite Muslim party, Hezbollah, has flourished while the U.S. has tried to keep its Sunni ally, Prime Minister Fouad Siniora, from being ousted.

In this contest is the danger that Lebanon may turn into a full-fledged battleground in the ongoing conflict between the U.S. and Iran, which is allied with Syria to derail Lebanon's fragile democracy…..

Comments (21)


1. jo6pac said:

Hello

Today, Syria must open up to foreign banking and investment in order to find a new engine for its economy now that the benefits of socialism,

Syria will find it very difficult to transition to a free market without making concessions to the US and EU on its foreign policy. The Bush administration is busy planting as many landmines for the fragile economy as it can.

This stickes out to me as someone who watches and reads, it’s the same economic package the US brought South America during the 70s and the freedom they have in Iraqi. Hell if they’re not careful you could have the same freedom we have in the US and economics we have here now in are own melt down.
jo6pac
Good Luck to us all, we’ll need it.

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April 2nd, 2008, 12:31 am

 

2. Qifa Nabki said:

“Major Hariri Investigation Breakthrough”

By Jacob Tafnis, Associated Press Writer
1 hour, 27 minutes ago

Fresh on the heels of its 10th Report, the UNIIIC has released an 11th Report which is likely to increase the pressure on the various players currently embroiled in the Lebanon-Syria standoff. Canadian head prosecutor Commissioner Daniel Bellemare’s latest report clarifies in detail what was described in the previous report as “a criminal network of individuals acting in concert to carry out the assassination,” and goes so far as to identify the nationalities of six key figures in the plot, suggesting that indictments will be issued within a matter of days.

Official sources have informed AP that this move was likely in response to widespread criticism among the upper ranks of the Bush adminstration of the initial report’s ambiguity with regard to the anticipated implication of Syria in the murder of the Lebanese politician.

The relevant paragraph in the report states: “Evidence now confirms, on the basis of DNA testing and isotope analysis conducted at the CERN laboratories in Geneva that the perpetrators of the assassination were almost certainly Syrians (although possibly also Lebanese), due to the high concentration of trace quantities of z-7UMuS/BT71Ni, a compound found at unusually high levels within the chemical ‘signatures’ of inhabitants of the region.” Scientists confirm that while the substance is also found in Lebanese individuals as well, the specific compound identified in the suspects’ DNA traces conforms more to the Syrian strain.

The news is expected to deal a major blow to Syria’s efforts to emerge from its current isolation.

[read the full report]

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April 2nd, 2008, 12:55 am

 

3. Enlightened said:

In the Spirit Of April Fools here is my contribution an article by MESH Titled: Disreali ” A Counterfactual History 1848- 2008″ by Walter Laquer. Here is the link

http://blogs.law.harvard.edu/mesh/files/2008/04/disraelia_laqueur.pdf

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April 2nd, 2008, 1:05 am

 

4. Majhool said:

Qifa Nabki

Thanks for the news report. This sounded more like research in Genetics. I am afraid no one will buy this genetic evidence if it is not linked to real names, pictures, killing orders etc..

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April 2nd, 2008, 1:22 am

 

5. norman said:

QN,

So are these Syrian Syrian GIS or Al qaeda , are they Syrian living in Syria or Saudis living in Syria , we all should remember that 17 of the 19 Hijackers were Saudis and the KSA royal family was not blamed to my amazement with all the hatred that that government teach in their land.

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April 2nd, 2008, 2:01 am

 

6. Enlightened said:

Norman:

QN was joking!

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April 2nd, 2008, 2:15 am

 

7. norman said:

I guess i got fooled,

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April 2nd, 2008, 2:41 am

 

8. Qifa Nabki said:

Sorry, Norman. You should have clicked on the report link!

Also, does this look like any chemical compound you’ve ever seen? (Read it carefully, out loud)

z-7UMuS/BT71Ni

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April 2nd, 2008, 3:00 am

 

9. norman said:

QN,

I used to like HUMMUS BI zate,

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April 2nd, 2008, 3:13 am

 

10. Enlightened said:

QN:

You will now receive detention for being an impudent school brat!

Interesting to read this post, Josh feels that the Syrian economy is in for a rough ride. Although I don’t have a meticulous understanding of the Syrian economy, I feel the US sanctions will count for little unless the EU (combined comes on board) with a similar unified strategy.

We have seen what sanctions have done to the Zimbabwe economy over the years. This was systematic and choked the living hell out of its populace. If this is the preffered strategy in tackling the Syrian government, then it will be years before we see any results.

A similar strategy has been under way against Iran, it was also noted in the post, choke also the provider. If no violent strategy is to employed against Syria or Iran, then this slow (Chinese)water torture strategy will only let the region drift towards more uncertainty and inevitably war.

Summer holidays in the ME anyone?

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April 2nd, 2008, 3:16 am

 

11. Shai said:

QN,

Chemical “signatures” of inhabitants of the region? Sounds to me like… WMD’s! Aha! Bush was right! Quick, get Cheney back here. We can start a MidEast war based on these conclusive findings. And link everyone – Assad, Hariri, Al Qaida, the U.N., Iran, Israel, Iceland, heck we can start a ‘fricken World War Seven based on this… I’m in.

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April 2nd, 2008, 3:59 am

 

12. AnotherIsraeliGuy said:

“Resistance” or significant growth. Syria can have only one, not both. My bet is on Asad choosing “resistance” just as his father did. Abandoning resistance is too dangerous for the regime. As usual, the Syrian people will suffer.

Regime change will wait another 10-20 years but it is inevitable. The demographic bomb in Syria cannot but explode. Bashar has to create jobs for 50% of the population that is under 25 over the next 2 decades. He has absolutely no chance of creating enough jobs without China like growth rates. And with Syria becoming a net oil importer this year or next, something will give eventually.

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April 2nd, 2008, 4:24 am

 

13. Shai said:

AIG,

I think use of the word “resistance” is a game, intended to ya’ani legitimize Syria’s support for Hamas, Hezbollah, and Iran. It would have made much more sense, and sounded much more logical, to the West (Israel included) if Bashar simply said: “Listen, you guys have fancy planes, sophisticated missiles, millions of nuclear warheads. We have SCUDs that can rain terror over your cities, and we have alliances with others that can do the same. Until we have reason to put down our weapons, and our military alliances, we will continue to hold, and nurture, every strategic capability and element of deterrence we can possible have, even if for you, Israel, and the West, it doesn’t fit your preferred Enemy-Profile…” If Israelis heard that, though they may not particularly like it, they would at least go to bed understanding Syria’s position a little better. Don’t you think?

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April 2nd, 2008, 4:55 am

 

14. Naji said:

Shai,
It is very perplexing and very telling that your response to AIG about “resistance” is not completely obvious and needs to be explained to the Israeli public…!!??

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April 2nd, 2008, 7:34 am

 

15. Naji said:

It seems that Israel’s image in the world is improving… It used to be viewed as THE worst, …now it is the SECOND WORST…!!?

Last update – 09:23 02/04/2008
Survey: Israel second to Iran as most negatively viewed in world
By Haaretz Staff

Israel is viewed as the country with the second most negative influence on the world, according to a poll released recently by the BBC World Service.

Iran was considered to have the most negative influence, ranked lowest in world opinion at 54 percent – the same ranking it was given in a poll taken last year.

Israel’s negative rating dropped this year from 57 percent to 52 percent, moving it from having the worst influence in world opinion to second most negative.

Pakistan was rated the country with the third most negative influence in the world.

The survey also found that world opinion of the United States has risen, with 35 percent of respondents finding it to have a positive influence, compared to 35 percent in the last poll.

According to the poll, Germany was considered to have the best influence on the world, with a positive score of 56 percent and a negative score of 18 percent.

Japan ranked closely behind Germany, with a positive score of 56 percent and a negative score of 21 percent – though respondents in neighboring Asian countries China and South Korea showed negative views.

The poll was conducted by the international agency GlobeScan along with the Program on International Policy Attitudes at the University of Maryland.

Respondents were asked to rate Brazil, Britain, China, France, Germany, India, Iran, Israel, Japan, North Korea, Pakistan, Russia, the U.S. and the European Union as having positive or negative influence.

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April 2nd, 2008, 7:39 am

 

16. Shai said:

Naji,

Sorry, didn’t understand you…

Did you mean that what I said to AIG was “obvious”? Well, to many in Israel and other countries in the West it isn’t. That is to say, that they believe Syria should not support “terrorism” (via Hamas/HA), and don’t view terrorism as legitimate “resistance”. Many here in Israel want Syria to resist Israeli occupation of the Golan, by doing… nothing. And what I meant was, that Bashar should not be afraid to call it “support of terrorism”, because terrorism is the poor man’s only weapon. It is the only thing that Syria has which may truly deter Israel. I think that while it may be very uncomfortable for Israelis, certain Americans, Europeans, etc. to hear the word “terror”, if explained correctly, they should start to actually understand and accept certain parts of it. A nation that does not have a modern army, that cannot defeat her rival face-to-face, has, in my mind, the legitimate right to seek “other means”, even ones that I would deem “unacceptable”. If I understand this correctly, I may realize that Syria has every right to support Hezbollah, HA, and Iran, and that the only way to cause her to reconsider her military support of these, is either to destroy her (which we are not ready to do), or make peace with her (which we should be ready to do).

If I sounded repetitive, sorry… But what seems obvious to you and to most readers here, actually is not so obvious to Israelis and certain non-Arabs around the world. Once they label Hamas a “terrorist group”, it seems no longer legitimate to support it or its activities. As much as it hurts me and/or my people, I believe it is high time we understand it, and deal with them just as with any other legitimate enemy. Either destroy them, or make peace with them. We can’t do the first, so we should do the second.

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April 2nd, 2008, 12:16 pm

 

17. AnotherIsraeliGuy said:

Shai,
In the issue of the “resistance” we have a fundamental disagreement. Unlike you, I don’t believe that all is fair in war.

If Syria wants to build or purchase missiles for itself or make its army stronger or develop sophisticated weapons, I have no problem with that. If it destablizes Lebanon and attempts to destabilize Israel by giving missiles to Hizballah, that is another thing completely. When Syria supports Hamas and its terrorist tactics that cost the lives of a thousand Israeli civillians, that again is completely different than arming itself or fighting from its own land.

Even in war there are rules and Syria is beyond the pale. You do not cynically put at grave risk another country for your strategic interests like Syria did with Lebanon. You do not arm and fund terrorist groups whose main aim is to kill citizens of another country like Syria does with Hamas and Iraqi terrorists. Syria has the right to launch a war to reclaim the Golan. But it has no right whatsoever to use the methods outlined above.

And if Syria can’t use accepted methods, then it should not do anything, plain and simple. You are not allowed to kill children because that is the only way you can fight and are too weak. You should just stop fighting until you are ready to wage a legitimate war.

I am quite disappointed Shai that you endorse the view that all is fair in war. No it isn’t. There is a good reason why Syria is on the US list of terror supporting countries.

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April 2nd, 2008, 12:21 pm

 

18. Shai said:

AIG,

I understand our differences, indeed they are as you say. But I don’t believe that it is useful for us Israelis to limit ourselves in who we can make peace with and with whom we can’t, based on the strategic capabilities that we have “no problem with”, and the ones with which we “do”. Many nations throughout history made peace with enemies that used terror tactics, guerrilla warfare, you name it, not only “classic” fighting. In fact, we made peace with Egypt, who always supported terrorist groups from Egypt, Jordan, the PLO, etc. You cannot choose the rules your enemy will play by, just as he doesn’t choose yours. Imagine all the Arabs, after becoming democratic nations, would say to us: “Ok, to make peace with you, and end our conflict, we demand that you play by the “rules”, and get rid of your nuclear arsenal first.” Would we accept that? Of course not. Enemies always try to get whatever edge they can over their rival, even if it means supporting terrorist groups. We may not like it, we may not want to play according to those rules, but that’s the enemy we have. And, to remind us, we don’t make peace with non-enemies. We only make peace with enemies, and the more bitter, the better. (Funny equation “Bitter=Better”… sorry a moment of humor).

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April 2nd, 2008, 12:33 pm

 

19. AnotherIsraeliGuy said:

Shai,
Would you have supported making peace with Hitler?
Not that I think that Bashar is anything like Hitler but just to show that some enemies you don’t make peace with, some you have to annihilate.

And there is a difference when you say “I don’t approve of Bashar’s methods but I think we should make peace with him” and when you justify for Naji what Bashar is doing. Do you really believe that Syria’s methods are justified?

And when all Arab states are democratic, why won’t I support a process of complete de-nuclearization of the mid-east? It is the best long term strategy and would be great for Israel.

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April 2nd, 2008, 12:49 pm

 

20. AnotherIsraeliGuy said:

Shai,
I find your clarification to Naji extremely radical. Even the most left wing parties in Israel do not hold the position that terrorism is justified as the “poor man’s” weapon.

If you hold that position, why wouldn’t you support the Palestinians obtaining a few nuclear bombs and setting them off in Tel-Aviv, Haifa etc.? This will finish Israel and allow them to reoocupy it.

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April 2nd, 2008, 1:44 pm

 

21. Shai said:

AIG,

I’m not identified with the Left, extreme Left, Right, or extreme Right. I’m identified with one side, and one side only, mine. I believe I am far more pragmatic in my thinking than most on the Left, Center, and Right. Because I can say in the same breathe that I believe we need to get out of the West Bank and the Golan because they’re not ours AND that as long as Hamas doesn’t work out it’s differences with Fatah, I have no choice but to fight both. If tomorrow Israel has to fight in a regional war, I will be there to fight to defend my country. If, however, tomorrow there’s an opportunity to make peace with my enemies, I’ll be the first to put on my peace uniform, and to fight for it as well.

You’re right, Bashar is NOT Hitler. Bashar shows no inclination to wipe the Jewish people off the face of the planet. The opposite – it seems he, like the rest of the Arab world, has come to accept Israel’s existence as a matter of fact, and one which cannot be changed. Syria’s strategic decision to make peace with Israel IS sincere, because it has come to accept our existence, which is something that was not available to us a mere few decades ago. But I make a very clear distinction between an enemy that supports militias that are giving us a hard time (not threatening our existence, but terrorizing our population every now and then), and an enemy that puts Jews in concentration camps. If I was British PM, I would certainly NOT negotiate with a Hitler, I don’t think I need to say that.

While I do think it serves our best interests to recognize that “poor” enemies using terror are also enemies that should be negotiated with, if they agree to do so (like Bashar is), I never said I accept use of terror. If I accepted it, I wouldn’t fight it. But when Hamas uses terrorism, and when Hezbollah blows up Jewish centers in South America, I will fight both, and fight them hard. Hopefully, both parties will come to their senses, and at a certain point realize that neither will defeat the other, and therefore decide to sit down and talk, rather than fight. While I understand the use of terror in certain cases (not all), I certainly do not accept it.

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April 2nd, 2008, 3:19 pm

 

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