“Farid Ghadry, Syria’s Chalabi: From Washington to Damascus,” by Salim Abraham

Salim Abraham, a Syria journalist from Qamishli who worked for Associated Press in Damascus for years before winning a grant to attend the master's program at Columbia University's School of Journalism in 2005 and 2006, wrote this essay on Farid Ghadry. It is taken from his master's thesis, completed in the spring of 2006. Salim Abraham has recently moved to London with his new bride, who is also originally from Qamishli. He can be reached at salym2@yahoo.com

A Power Struggle from Washington to Damascus: Syria's Ahmad Chalabi
By Salim Abraham
March 2007
Published by Syria Comment

The road from Washington, D.C., to Potomac, Maryland, snakes alongside the river that gave the suburban town its name. On this sunny Wednesday in December, the roads are covered with snow, as is the backyard of the red-brick Gothic-style home of the man I am visiting.

Farid Ghadry, 52, a Sunni Muslim from Syria, emerges from his back door, which leads directly into the guest hall. A large painting of three nude women hangs on the left wall in the sitting room. The windows overlook the front yard, where tables and chairs painted in white are set around a small, snow-covered pool.

Ghadry’s Lebanese-born wife, Ahlam, emerges from the kitchen where pans and pots hang down from the ceiling over island counter in its midst. Two red-and-white striped Lebanese flags sit on a table in a "V "shape, emerging from a vase full of red flowers embraced by green leaves. The house is empty of anything indicating Syria, the country which Ghadry left when he was 10.

“I don’t put the Syrian flag in my house because we need to change it,” Ghadry, a businessman turned politician, explained. “I will display the flag of the new, democratic Syria one day.”

Ghadry was the first Syrian to openly invite external forces to rid Syria of the Arab Socialist Baath Party. For 43 years the country has been ruled by the Baath and Syria's 18 million people still lacked basic freedoms. Its socialist-style economy is stagnant.

Soon after the United States overthrew Saddam Hussein’s Baathist regime in Iraq, Ghadry founded the Reform Party of Syria. He wants to mobilize the support of Syrian dissidents who will push for democratic change back home. He shocked Syrians by calling for American intervention to oust Syria’s Baath Party from power. “We hinted to the US administration that we want regime change by any means,” said Ghadry. Ghadry seemed to have the perfect opportunity. He has the connections. He has the favor of the Bush administration. So why is Ghadry, a political maverick, failing?

***

Born in the northern city of Aleppo, Ghadry is the eldest son of a well-known Syrian journalist, Nihad Ghadry, who still owns and edits the Beirut-based, Arabic-language newspaper al-Muharer al-Arabi – (or The Arab Liberator). Farid Ghadry learned the Quran, Islam’s holy book, early in his childhood before leaving Syria for Beirut. In Lebanon, he was educated at the Christian Maristes Brothers School. At 13, his father took him to Munich, where he learned about the Nazi concentration camps and the Jewish Holocaust. Ghadry’s father was on a journalistic mission to check the truthfulness of media reports that have said the Gamal Abdul Nasser’s government had laid a wreath of flowers on Dachau concentration camp – a step that signaled that Egypt officially recognized the Holocaust shortly after Israel occupied Arab lands in the 1967 Middle East War. Just a few years before, Nasser vowed to “throw Israel into the sea.”

Ghadry immigrated to the United States with his family when the civil war in Lebanon erupted in 1975. His father returned to live in the Lebanese capital only a year later to run his newspaper. Ghadry once held Saudi citizenship through his father.

Five years after graduating from American University with a degree in finance and marketing in 1979, Ghadry started an Arabic-language software company, International Techgroup, Inc., which he has since sold. Ghadry reached an agreement with Saudi government to digitize its Civil Register through his company, but the Saudis backed off after Ghadry spent more than a year working on creating the software. Today, Ghadry invests money in and analyzes the international real estate market.

Sources close to Ghadry explained that Ghadry's father, Nihad, took a 12-million dollar bribe from Saudi officials in France in exchange for retracting a book he wrote in 1987, the year the Ghadry's' Saudi nationality was revoked. The book, published in Paris, was highly critical of the Saudi government and royal family. The sources, who prefer to remain anonymous, add that Farid Ghadry's share was half the amount in exchange for the software business deal the Saudis backed off from.

***

Starting in the late 1980s, Ghadry began to discuss informally with Arab friends how to topple authoritarian regimes back home. In 1987, the Saudi Arabian government turned against Ghadry. The Saudis revoked his Saudi citizenship and passport because, he claimed, of his stance on democratic reforms there. “I have had communications and talks with Saudi reformists, Egyptian groups and Lebanese activists about Arab reform and enlightenment,” Ghadry said of his early political activism. “But we have always reached a deadlock.”

When the September 11, 2001 terror attacks struck New York and Washington, the landscape changed and paved the way for “a real political activity,” said Ghadry. Since then, Ghadry has reached out to other Syrian exiles and networked with the Bush administration officials. “When the September 11 attacks took place, we found them as a window for changes in the [Middle East] region at a time the atmosphere in America was changing,” Ghadry said.

Ghadry did what he could to win the US administration’s favor by linking up with political activists, such as Ziad Abdelnour, a New York-based Lebanese-born tycoon. In an interview in January, Abdelnour said he had introduced Ghadry to lobbyists, including Daniel Pipes, who runs the Middle East Forum, a neo-conservative think tank. Abdelnour claimed that he also introduced Ghadry to the administration’s influential politicians. “I introduced him to many guys in Washington,” Abdelnour said. He did not specify who. However, Ghadry strongly denied the claim. Abdelnour and Pipes produced a report to encourage the U.S. government to press Syria to leave Lebanon in 2000.

Nina Shea, a member of Freedom House and the director of the Center for Religious Freedom, said she facilitated American media coverage for Ghadry. “Ghadry is a very good guy,” Shea said in an interview at her office in Washington in December. “He is secular and advocates minority rights.” By late 2003, Ghadry had become a media celebrity: he has written columns for several American newspapers, including the Washington Times and has been invited to speak at the various universities, think tanks and European parliaments.

***

Ghadry said he is working for a post-Assad Syria, where freedom of expression and human and minority rights are respected. He also looks forward to rebuilding Syria’s economy based on a free market system. He is confident that his party “is going to win” the support of Syrians after toppling the Baath regime, he said, because non-liberal ideological parties, whether Islamic, communist or Arabist, are “all tested and defunct.” “The Reform Party is going to win because we are a more economic than a political party.”

To that end, Ghadry has adopted the model of the Iraqi politician, Ahmad Chalabi, to overthrow the regime in Damascus. Like Chalabi, he has saught  the favor of the Bush administration’s neoconservatives. Chalabi allied himself with administration hawks, such as former Secretary of Defense Donald H. Rumsfeld, former Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz and Richard Perle, chairman of Defense Policy Board, and helped convince the president to wage the regime-change war in Iraq in March 2003.

Like Ghadry, Chalabi left Iraq for Lebanon as a boy at the age of 12. In 1992, he founded the Iraqi National Congress to lobby for ousting Saddam Hussein. Chalabi helped galvanize an Iraqi uprising of Kurds and other Iraqis in the Kurdish north. The uprising in North Iraq was quashed, and hundreds of his supporters were killed by Saddam’s troops. But Chalabi backed regime change earlier: he lobbied for the passage of the Iraq Liberation Act in February 1998. To this end, the State Department awarded Iraqi opposition groups in the north and south $97 million. His support mainly came from Pentagon and parts of the CIA. In the run-up to the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq, Chalabi provided the U.S. government with information about Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction programs and Saddam’s ties to the al-Qaeda terror network. When Saddam Hussein was toppled, Chalabi returned to Iraq and was appointed as a member of Iraq’s Interim Governing Council by the U.S.-led Coalition Provisional Authority. He served as the council’s president for one month in Sept. 2003.

But weapons of mass destruction were not found, and charges that Iraq had links to the al-Qaida turned out to be unfounded. "We are heroes in error,” Chalabi told London's Daily Telegraph in February 2004 in response to allegations that he provided false information. “As far as we're concerned, we've been entirely successful. That tyrant Saddam is gone and the Americans are in Baghdad. What was said before is not important." Today, Chalabi is one of the players in Iraqi politics as the present government’s deputy prime minister. But he did not even win a seat from Iraqi parliamentary election in December 2005.

“He is someone I like and respect because what he has done for his homeland nobody could do,” the soft-spoken Ghadry said. “His goal was to rid his people of despotism. Actually, my American friends call me ‘Syria’s Chalabi.’”

Both men still maintain close contacts. Early in 2005, Ghadry made a trip to Baghdad where he met with Chalabi and other Iraqi officials “to build a relationship for the future, when Syria is democratic,” as he later explained. In November 2005, Ghadry joined Chalabi in a meeting with Perle in Washington, where Iraq and “the next steps in Syria” regime change were discussed, he said.

***

Ghadry rose to public attention in Syria when he showed up on al-Jazeera in Jan. 2004. The Arabic-language cable network aired footage of a meeting he held with other exiled Syrian opposition groups in Brussels, Belgium. Soon afterwards, news about his activism and interviews with American and Israeli newspapers attacking Syrian President Bashar Assad’s regime spread throughout the country. Syria’s government-run Tishrin newspaper translated one of Ghadry’s interviews with the Jerusalem Post last year to discredit him as “a collaborator” with Syria’s staunchest foe, Israel.

The interest of the neo-conservatives in Ghadry also picked up when the US government announced its “Greater Middle East” initiative to promote “democracy and good governance” in that region in June 2004 at the Group 8 summit. Scott Carpenter, the deputy assistant secretary at the State Department’s Bureau of the Near East Affairs, said, “I think Farid was somebody who – for a very long time – has been talking about the need for democracy in Syria. And he was – for a long time – a kind of a voice crying in the wilderness frankly in the administration’s point of view.” Carpenter, who oversees the Middle East Partnership Initiative, continued: “But Farid now is a voice – and an important voice – among many other voices that we are interacting with and supporting.”

Indeed, Ghadry’s call to bring down the Syrian government came amid rising tensions between Washington and Damascus, which staunchly opposed the U.S.-led war on Iraq.

But tensions between the U.S. and Syria boiled over when former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafiq Hariri was assassinated in Beirut. That, in turn, transformed the political landscape for Syria’s political opposition.

***

On Feb. 14, 2005, Hariri and 22 other bystanders and bodyguards were killed in a car bombing. The United Nations assembled an investigative team, led by the German prosecutor, Detlev Mehlis.

The preliminary U.N. report, released last October, implicated six Syrian senior officials, including Asef Shawkat, Assad’s brother-in-law and powerful chief military intelligence, in the killing. The U.S. withdrew its ambassador, Margaret Scobey, from Damascus two days after the assassination of Hariri without directly accusing Syria of plotting the car bombing. The ambassador has not returned since.

In mid-December, the U.N. Security Council adopted resolution 1636, calling on Syria to “unconditionally” cooperate with the team investigating the killing of Hariri or face unspecified punitive action.

The Syrian government denied any involvement in Hariri’s assassination and said it would fully cooperate with the U.N. investigative team. But international and U.S. pressure on Assad’s regime started building up even before that.

In the summer of 2004, Damascus’s decision to extend Lebanese President Emile Lahoud’s term by three years angered Washington and France and drew world criticism of Syria’s meddling in Lebanon’s internal politics.

The U.N. Security Council Resolution 1559, sponsored by France and the U.S., called on Syria to pull its troops from Lebanon and disarm Lebanese Hezbollah guerrilla group. It was passed in September 2004.

Mounting international pressure on Damascus – especially after the Hariri killing – eventually forced Assad to withdraw the remaining 14,000-strong troops stationed in Lebanon since 1976. A Sunni Muslim, Hariri was a self-made business tycoon who rebuilt Lebanon from the wrecks of its civil war. He returned to Lebanon from Saudi Arabia in 1992 and served as prime minister until 1998. He returned to his office again in 2000 and resigned in 2004 upon his dispute with Syrian leadership over extending Lahoud’s term by three years.

Hariri’s assassination, and the investigation that followed, would send greater political tremors than Damascus might have expected.

The threat of international sanctions on Syria caused the Syrian pound go down to record low against the U.S. dollar. The price of the U.S. dollar stood for days at 67 pounds immediately after the U.N. resolution 1636 was passed in October before it returned to its regular value of about 54 pounds.

Such sanctions would weaken the already frail economy of Syria, where the unemployment rate stands officially at 12.3 percent. Many Syrians recall the days when the U.S. and the European nations imposed crippling 12-year-long economic sanctions on the country in 1986 after a British court accused Syrian officials of being involved in an attempt to plant a bomb aboard an Israeli El AI civilian jet. Syrians crowded the government-run retail stores to get their daily needs, and stood in long queues to buy bread, napkins, vegetables and fruits.

People in Syria’s northeastern town of Qamishli still recall a woman in her 60s who thrust herself into a throng of people buying tomatoes in front of one of the retail stores run by the government. She made her way to the salesclerk, bought a kilo of tomatoes and made her way out of the crowd only to find her tomatoes squashed. She tossed the tomatoes down on the sidewalk and began trampling them underfoot and shouted, “We sacrifice our blood and soul for you, Hafez.” In a matter of minutes, a security patrol hauled the woman away only to return her with her hair shorn off.

***

Along with the U.N. measures, the U.S. imposed “targeted sanctions” on Syrian officials implicated in Hariri’s assassination; the Bush administration froze the assets of Asef Shawkat, Assad’s brother-in-law, in January. It has also recently offered $5 million for Syrian opposition to the regime to finance their pro-democracy activism. But the internal opposition groups rejected the offer, claiming that change should be brought about by Syrians themselves and not outside forces.

U.S. pressure on Syria began even before the extension of Lahoud’s term. In December 2003, President Bush signed the Syria Accountability and Lebanese Sovereignty Act, imposing economic sanctions on Syria. For years, Syria had been on a list of countries accused by the State Department of sponsoring terrorism.

The bill bans all American exports to Syria except food and medicine. It accuses Damascus of not doing enough to prevent militants from slipping across its 360-mile-long borders into Iraq. The bill also accused Damascus of developing programs of weapons of mass destruction. Syria denies the allegations. Finally, the bill called for ending Syria’s 30-year military presence in its smaller neighbor, Lebanon.

***

Ghadry, like other regime’s opponents, started counting Assad’s days in power. Reflecting on Assad’s situation, Ghadry said he has “a historic moment” to seize as the American military is stationed next door to Syria, the neo-conservatives are in control of the Oval Office, the U.S. war on Islamic terrorism is still ongoing, and the Assad regime is under international and American pressure after being implicated in the killing of Hariri.

Ghadry insists an American plan for regime change is already in place. “There is a plan to change the regime,” he said. “But it’s prohibited to change the regime without something that fills the vacuum.”

So he accelerated his efforts to convince other dissidents to escalate their opposition to the Baath regime and to convince the American administration that he could bring people into his fold. By late December 2005, Ghadry’s cell-phone was burning up with calls from fellow Syrian-American activists inquiring about a conference he called to bring together all Syrian factions, including those inside the country. The meeting, which never took place, was to have concentrated on a “practical plan to destabilize Bashar Assad’s rule.”

“We are calling all Syrian opposition groups together for a national conference to create a parliament in exile and draft a new, secular constitution for Syria,” said Ghadry. “Then, take people to streets. Some people get killed. The international community gets further angry at the regime. Then, have NATO forces protect a safe zone in northern Syria,” on the border with NATO member Turkey. He grinned and concluded, “This way we will move right away into Syria.”

The constitution, written by the Baathists under Hafez Assad in 1973, provided for the Arab Socialist Baath Party, in power since March 1963, to be the "leader of state and society" in Syria. It doesn’t recognize Syria’s ethnic or religious minorities. An earlier interim constitution, enacted in 1953, had stipulated that Syria's president must be a Sunni Muslim. But the 1973 constitution eliminated the requirement that the president be "Sunni." This allowed Hafiz Assad, a member of teh Alawite sect, an offshoot of Islam, to rule Syria for thirty years until his death in June 2000. The constitution was kept intact until 10 days after Hafez died, when the People’s Assembly, the Syrian parliament, swiftly voted to amending a clause stipulating that the president be 40 or older in order to allow Bashar Assad, who was then 35 to assume the presidency.

Syrians are divided along ethnic and religious lines. Official statistics conducted over the last six months of 2005 say that the Sunnis, including ethnic Kurds, account for 70 percent of the population. The Alawites represent 20 percent – or 3.6 million people. The Christians, including Assyrians, are about 2.1 million people. The Druz, another Muslim sect, make up three percent of the population. Other smaller religious groups, including Shiites, Yazidis and Turkmen, represent about five percent of the population.

***

The next step in Ghadry’s plan is to create change on the model of Iraq, where a safe zone for Kurds was carved out of the mainly Kurdish north following the 1991 Gulf War. Meanwhile, the opposition factions inside Syria are first working for a peaceful change or “a Jasmine revolution” against the Baath regime on the model of the Ukrainian “Orange Revolution” and the Czech “Velvet Revolution.” But both Ghadry and the internal dissidents lack a solid vision for a post-Assad Syria to avoid the fate of Iraq, which is still mired in factional fighting and is suffering from nonstop attacks by Islamic extremists and Hussein loyalists.

But Assad’s opponents inside the country, including human rights groups, Arab nationalists, leftists and ethnic Kurdish and Assyrian factions, started a first step toward a peaceful democratic transformation. They formed a coalition and in mid-October 2005, signing a statement they named the “Damascus Declaration.” Thanks to external pressures imposed on Syria, including by France, a one-time friendly country, the declaration came into being after much deliberation and negotiation. An interim committee representing all factions was created to run the coalition.

***

This debate over Syria’s future, however, was unimaginable before the ascension to power of Bashar Assad in July 2000. Until then, voices for change in Syria were rarely heard. Since the secular Baath Party took power in Syria in 1963, the Syrian authorities have tried to subdue secular dissent and Islamic factions, including the Muslim Brotherhoods, which waged a bloody rebellion against Hafez Assad’s rule in the late 1970s and early 1980s. The darkest days of Syria’s opposition parties came when Hafez Assad harshly hit back at the brotherhoods’ rebellion, killing 10,000 people and destroying parts of the western city of Hama, then a stronghold for the rebels. All opposition political parties went underground. And prison was the fate of whoever opposed the regime.

After the death of Hafez Assad, a new era in Syria’s political life started emerging. Since he assumed office a month after his father’s death, the younger Assad has shown his willingness to change at least the image of Baath rule. He has presented himself as an open-minded Baathist who might recognize his political rivals and tolerate dissent. As a sign of openness, Assad has ordered the release of hundreds of political prisoners and has issued hundreds of laws aimed at liberalizing the country’s socialist-style economic system.

Syrians’ hopes were high that the younger Assad, a British-educated eye doctor, would bring an end to years of repression under his father and that he would build – even if at a slow pace – a country that embraces democracy and human rights.

Because of these hopes when he first became president, political discussion salons spread throughout the country. Syrian intellectuals freely discussed issues ranging from corruption of the Baath rule to minority issues.

But a year into his presidency, Assad ordered a crackdown on the salons and arrested the country's leading political and human rights activists, including lawmakers Riad Seif and Maamoun Homsi. The so-called “Damascus Spring” was as quickly halted as it was started. Following the U.S.-led war that toppled the Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein, however, voices of change in Syria once again grew louder.

Syria, a country slightly larger than North Dakota, relies on a Soviet-era economic system that leaves more than 30 percent of its 18 million people in poverty. Syrians hoped the Baath Party Conference, held June 2005, would advance genuine political reforms. But few changes emerged from the conference and even the Emergency Law, which clamped down on political dissent and has been in effect since 1963, remained intact.

***

In January 2006, seven activists representing the Damascus Declaration and human rights groups came from Damascus to the U.S. to join about 60 Syrian exiles, including Islamic activists, from the U.S., Canada, France, Germany and Switzerland for a Jan. 28-29 conference held in suburban Washington. The Syrian National Council (SNC), another Washington-based group that competes with Ghadry for the U.S. administration’s favor, organized the conference. Also, five dissidents inside Syria spoke on the phone from Damascus to the conferees to directly call for Washington’s help in that effort, stepping over one of the most feared “red lines” in Syria, namely, collaborating with external forces to bring about regime change in the country.

To the rapturous applause of the conferees, Seif, who was released from prison on Jan. 18, 2006 along with four other activists, including Homsi, declared on the phone through loudspeakers, “We are in urgent need of the external opposition’s help.” Sief, Homsi and eight others, leaders of the “Damascus Spring,” had been arrested in the 2001 crackdown. The Supreme State Security Court charged them with attempting to change the constitution by force and convicted them to five years in the infamous Adra prison on the outskirts of Damascus. Their release was seen as an effort to gain Syrians’ support for a government weakened by heavy international pressures.

But Suhair Atassi, the leader of the Atassi salon, was even more blatant: “We must sever all contacts with the regime and step forward to build a friendly relationship with the West,” she said, her voice tearing through stormy applause of the attendees. She was also speaking on the phone from her Damascene house, which used to host dissidents and intellectuals from various parts of Syria every first Tuesday of each month since Assad came to power. It was the only forum that remained operating after the government’s crackdown on democracy forums. Atassi was released in May 2005 along with seven other members of her forum after months in prison for allowing a statement from Sadreddin al-Bayanouni, the spiritual leader of the Syrian Muslim Brotherhoods, to be read in one of her forums. “The regime lacks legitimacy,” she daringly told the audience in the Marriott Crystal City hotel, the site of the conference.

***

Seif and Atassi and three other dissidents from Damascus ratcheted up opposition rhetoric. In Syria, multiple intelligence agencies, known as Mukhabarat, use hundreds of thousands of collaborators and informers to monitor every detail of political, religious and social movements. Allan George’s book, Syria neither Bread nor Freedom, states that those agencies employ about 65,000 full-time officers.

The alliance among Assad’s opponents from within and outside Syria took shape in force after Syria’s former Vice President Abdul Halim Khadam stunned Syrians by declaring his break from Assad on the al-Arabiya satellite TV channel on Dec. 30, 2005. Khaddam was a longtime member of the Baath’s Regional Command, the party’s most powerful body, for 30 years.

Khaddam was also Syria's nominal leader for a few days after Hafez Assad death, and helped transfer power to Bashar. He was Syria’s top official in Lebanon for years. He left his post in the Syrian government in June and now is leading an anti-Assad movement from his residence in Paris.

To the shock of the Baath Party, Khaddam joined the opposition’s calls for “peaceful regime change” in Syria. Since then, Khaddam has waged direct attacks against the Syrian regime and has accused President Assad of ordering Hariri’s assassination. Last February, Khaddam met with Al-Bayanouni and other opposition leaders to discuss plans for ousting Assad from power.

***

Ghadry was denied a place in the emerging alliances of Syrian opposition groups, even though he helped found the Syrian National Council early last year. Shortly afterwards, he withdrew from the council, which included exiled opposition groups from the U.S. and Canada, because, he said, it was “controlled by Islamists.” But the council officials said their group is diverse and it is not dominated by Islamic elements. Also, his call to hold his own national conference and form a parliament in exile was met by deaf ears inside Syria, where opposition leaders are reluctant to establish any contacts with “Syria’s Chalabi.” Ghadry said they are wary of him seizing power since he’s seen as an outsider. “Those dissidents say Chalabi came from the diaspora and he is now in power; [Afghani President Hamid] Karzai came from the diaspora and now rules Afghanistan; and Hariri came from outside to ruled Lebanon,” Ghadry said, laughing. “The opposition inside is afraid.”

Indeed, that fear among dissidents is well-established. It has its roots in a history of coups, reprisals, and ethnic violence.

***

For Syrians, Ghadry’s plan to force regime change conjures up nightmares of military coups, as well as Iraq’s anarchy and violence that followed the ouster of Hussein’s regime by military force. Ghadry said he doesn’t mind a short period of turmoil in Syria after overthrowing Assad. “There will be some revenge killings, unfortunately. There will be a fight among opposition groups,” he said. “But the U.S. and France will be like traffic cops, who would organize and ensure” a peaceful transformation.

But the instability and violence seething in Iraq, where the U.S.-led coalition forces face a growing insurgency, show the dangers of regime change. Similar religious and ethnic fighting could emerge in Syria after violent instability and a power vacuum.

A trail of military coups began to destabilize Syria in 1949, three years after Syria’s independence from France. Husni al-Zaim seized power in April of that year in a bloodless coup. The first Syrian president, Shukri al-Kuwatli, was imprisoned and later sent to exile in Egypt. Al-Zaim’s takeover, the first military coup in Syria’s history, had deep effects on the fledgling parliamentary democracy, the first in the region. It set off a series of violent military coups, one of which would unseat al-Zaim after only four and half months in power.

Four military coups followed until the first presidential elections were held in 1955 under the auspices of president Hashim al-Atassi. Kuwatli, having returned from Egypt, won the elections and stayed in power until Syria and Egypt merged in 1958 to form the United Arab Republic with the Egyptian Gamal Abdul Nasser president. The union collapsed in 1961 and another round of military coups began until Hafez Assad, then Syria’s defense minister, seized power in a bloodless coup in 1970 against Nuredeen al-Atassi, Suhair’s father. Assad often boasted that he could stabilize the country because he prevented regional and international powers from meddling in Syria’s internal affairs.

American interference in Syria is anything but new. William Blum says in his book, Killing Hope: U.S. Military Interventions since World War II, that the U.S. interest in Syrian politics goes back to 1956. Wary of the then-rising power of the Syrian Communists and leftist-leaning Baath party, President Dwight D. Eisenhower decided to help Adib al-Shishakli, who ruled Syria from 1951 till 1954, to return to power after being ousted two years earlier. The attempt failed.

Iraq’s religious and ethnic violence is another harbinger of potential sectarian unrest in Syria.

In mid-March of 2004, the government had to deal harshly with Kurdish riots that were sparked by the death of five Kurds in a stampede in Qamishli when fighting erupted at a soccer match. The riots swiftly spread to nearby towns as well as to Aleppo and Damascus suburbs. Twenty-five people were killed and a hundred others were injured during clashes between authorities and Kurdish rioters.

Seven months later, for the first time in Syria’s modern history, about 2,000 Assyrians took to the streets in the northeastern city of Hasaka in October 2004 to protest the killing of two fellow Assyrians at the hands of two Arab brothers, who insulted their victims as “Christian dogs.” The demonstrators demanded that justice and law prevail. As a result, sixteen protesters were rounded up, then released a few months later. These Kurdish riots and the Assyrian demonstration marked the growing impatience with the totalitarian regime, but they also were harbingers of ethnic and religious turbulence.

Joshua Landis, a historian at Oklahoma University who spent a year in Damascus as a Fulbright scholar, expressed such fears. “Syrians want democracy,” said Landis. “But they don’t want Syria to fall apart.”

***

But Landis explains that Ghadry has play a role in the political struggle in Syria. “His party played an important role, because he has good links inside the [Bush] administration and forced Washington to begin looking at the Syrian opposition as a potential tool in its anti-Syrian diplomacy. Ghadry also convinced other opposition parties to begin looking to Washington as a potential ally," he said. "Whether one agrees or not with Ghadry's methods or objectives, there is no denying that he was the first Syrian to convince the Bush administration to begin developing a Syria politicy that included the opposition."

Ammar Abdulhamid, a Syrian scholar at the Washington-based Brookings Institute, also stressed that the best Ghadry “can do, in my opinion, the best fortune he can have, is to play the role as a communicator between the internal Syrian opposition and external Syrian opposition.”

“He is trying to do that but to no avail so far, I believe,” Abdulhamid added.

In order for him to play that role, Carpenter said, “Farid knows that he needs to influence people.” Indeed, Ghadry said he had many channels within the administration but he complains that leaders of opposition groups inside Syria marred his efforts. “I have contacts with the Pentagon, the State Department and even with the White House,” Ghadry said. “I opened the doors for the opposition inside to use my connections. The opposition inside has no power and they can’t move because they are besieged and restricted by the regime.”

However, leaders of the Muslim Brotherhoods showed interest in Ghadry’s efforts, seeing him as a vehicle to open up for them the already closed doors of Washington. “We have contacts with Ghadry although we have differences with him,” al-Bayanouni said.

But despite this relationship between the staunchly secular Ghadry and an Islamic party, Landis said, “The Muslim Brotherhoods keep a distance.” He went on: “The Muslim Brotherhoods are wooing America and trying to overcome the administrations ban on talking to moderate Islamist parties; to this end, they must preserve a modicum of civility with Ghadry. They are not going to get in bed with him, however, which would destroy their credibility at home.”

Encouraged by Khaddam’s break from the regime, al-Bayanouni turned his back to Ghadry. He announced on March 17 with Khaddam and other expatriate dissidents the formation of “the National Salvation Front.” At the end of the two-day meeting in the Belgian capital, which included other representatives of exiled, liberal and pro-democracy groups, the Front called on Syrians to stage anti-government demonstrations inside the tightly government-controlled country. The burgeoning front called for forming a six-month transitional government to “take up the reins of power at the appropriate moment” in order to avoid chaos and prepare for elections after toppling the Syrian regime.

The move was made to reassure Syrians that their country will not slip into violence the way Iraq did should they rebel against their government.

Of late, the Muslim Brotherhoods’ alliance with secular parties inside and outside Syria has been widely debated. Washington and secular Syrians’ fears run high that a democracy in Syria would bring Islamist to power. This fear was heightened after Egyptian parliamentary elections brought 88 members of Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhoods to the parliament and after Palestinian elections swept Hamas to power.

Nevertheless, Carpenter said Washington will continue to exert pressure on Syria to democratize. After those elections, Carpenter said, “some people said: ‘Ah now the United States will ease up its pressure.’ We won’t, because our lesson from that election is that unless there is more political space, the only opposition to the regime are Islamists.”

Although its membership is punishable by death in Syria, the brotherhood is believed to be able to mobilize the already high religious sentiment in the country. In order to assuage those fears and pave the way to join the Syrian mainstream opposition, the brotherhood has renounced its unpopular violent rebellion in the late 1970’s and early 1980’s against Assad’s father, Hafez.

Mohammad al-Habash, a legislator and the head of the Islamic Studies Center in Damascus, said 80 percent of Syria’s Sunni Muslims are religiously conservative, while moderate Muslims represent only 20 percent. “If democracy were to come, the Islamic presence will be more effective in political life.”

But Habash, who promotes a moderate version of Islam, played down the brotherhoods’ influence on Syria’s politics. “Their history doesn’t help to have people sympathize with them,” Habash said, referring to brotherhoods’ rebellion.

Michel Kilo, a prominent writer and opponent of Assad’s regime, said before his arrest in May 2006 in a telephone interview from his home in Damascus that the brotherhood has “accepted democracy as a basis for their political activity.” Kilo, a Christian, continued, “There is no problem to have a temporary understanding with the Muslim Brotherhoods,” whose agenda includes establishing an Islamic state in Syria after Assad’s ouster.

But policymakers in Washington are divided on how to respond to religious groups, according to William Rugh, a retired U.S. ambassador to Yemen and the United Arab Emirates.

“There are people in the [U.S.] administration who say Islamists should be allowed,” said Rugh. “And there are people saying watch out before pushing for democracy.”

Landis said the Pentagon supports the secular Ghadry, while the State Department supports both Ghadry and the SNC, which also joined the Damascus Declaration.

Weighing the brotherhoods’ growing importance in Syria, Ghadry said the constitution he is trying to promote “must be secular but approved by the Muslim Brotherhoods.”

Ghadry hopes that “American support” for him will “ensure their approval of the constitution” that might run against their religious beliefs which restrict women's freedoms and stipulate an Islamic life style. Ghadry was playing on the brotherhoods’ willingness to open a dialogue with Washington for a possible regime change in Syria. But Carpenter said the Muslim Brotherhoods constitute a “problem” for U.S.’s Syria policy. “It’s a false choice,” he said.

But the head of the brotherhood since 1996, al-Bayanouni, emphasized his group’s commitment to a pluralist Syria. “We have stressed our commitment to establish a civil state, not religious,” he said. Al-Bayanouni, born in 1938 in Aleppo, Syria’s second largest city, recalled that the Muslim Brotherhood participated in election during the 1950’s and formed coalitions with other Syrian parties, including the Baath, which was established by the Greek Orthodox Michel Aflak and conservative Sunni Salah Bitar in 1947.

***

After Khaddam openly accused Assad of ordering the killing of Hariri, the U.N. investigation team demanded early in January that Assad and his top Vice President Farouk al-Sharaa be interviewed. Serge Brammertz, who was appointed in January 2006 to take over the U.N. team investigating the Hariri killing, reported on March 14 to the U.N. that President Assad and then foreign minister Sharaa agreed for the first time to meet with him in April. Brammertz, a Belgian prosecutor, submited his most report detailing his findings in Hariri’s killing in March 2007.

“I think we are waiting to see what the conclusion is of the U.N. investigation,” said Carpenter. “But I think it will certainly set the tone and stage for all that happens next in Syria.”

With Iraq’s post-Saddam violence in mind, Carpenter denied that the U.S. is seeking regime change by force. “The [Syrian] government knows what we are seeking. What the international community has asked for is a dramatic change in behavior,” Carpenter said. “We want to see change in the political system. We want to see change in Syria's foreign policy. We want to see change and openness.”

Rugh attributed the U.S.’s subordinate role to France in dealing with Syria to its problems in Iraq, where more than 2,100 American troops have been killed as of early January. He also expressed his belief that U.S. leverage inside Syria is not sufficient to force Damascus to respond to Washington’s demands. For example, “the American policy was not enough to force Syria out,” Rugh said. He was referring to France’s backing of U.S. efforts to have Syria pull its troops out of Lebanon.

Ghadry said he even dropped his call for a U.S. military invasion of Syria to topple Assad. “Our success relies on Bashar Assad’s mistakes. He is our friend,” Ghadry said.

***

“Farid wants to rule,” Hussam al-Deiri, a member of the executive committee of the SNC who worked with Ghadry on founding the council, said in an interview at his house in Georgetown, Washington. “We do not accept Farid ruling us.” However, he said the legitimacy of Ghadry’s activism is unquestionable despite Ghadry’s absence from Syria for more than 30 years. “At least, his hands are not soaked in Syrians’ blood like the Assad regime,” al-Deiri said.

Although they agree that without the superpower’s intervention, the regime in Syria may survive years longer, both al-Deiri and Ghadry differ on methods. “All we are asking of the American administration is to lift its protection off the Syrian regime,” said al-Deiri. “We do not want a military attack or a military coup. We want to move step by step in line with the opposition inside.”

But Ghadry bluntly said he hasn’t considered working with the dissidents inside the country since he founded his party. He slammed the Damascus Declaration as “a piece of paper, no more, no less.” Taking a sip of coffee, Ghadry continued, “Our goal was to strengthen ourselves through our relations with the international community, the American administration and certain people.”

U.S. officials, however, deny that Washington has a favorite politician for Syria. “We have selected nobody to be our guy,” Carpenter said in an interview at his office at the State Department late in February 2006. “There is no Ahmad Chalabi scenario for Syria.” He said of Ghadry, “It’s not for us to demand that he be included in anything. We are not going to lend the United States’ name to any specific individual to advance his or her objectives.” Carpenter added: “American policy is designed and devoted to building a network of contacts within the opposition.”

***

Ghadry drives his luxurious computer-equipped BMW to Washington, D.C. almost daily to meet with media people and U.S. officials, including Richard Perle, “to discuss steps to topple the [Syrian] regime.”

But Ghadry, who aspires to rule Syria, knows that the path from the Potomac back to Damascus will not be easy.

And for Ghadry to join the mainstream opposition in Syria, he has to “prove he is not part of an external design to weaken the country,” said Kilo. “The internal opposition agreed that we would not invite external [forces] to solve our problems and we would not give a hand to those who might shed the blood of Syrians,” Kilo stressed, referring to Ghadry’s call for American military intervention.

Al-Bayanouni, who lives in London, echoed the same sentiments. “Syrian people do not accept the American agenda,” He called on Ghadry to “distance himself from the external agenda” designed for his country.

But Ghadry sharply answered his critics. “When we leave things for the [opposition] inside, they can not do anything,” he said. Ghadry pointed to the slow pace of political movement inside Syria, saying, “They have been working for 42 years to no avail. This shows political immaturity.”

“We are using this historic moment and our connections with the Bush administration to oust the regime,” Ghadry said.

***

“Mom, I want food,” said the 24-year-old Omar, Ghadry’s oldest son, who studied economics in college and works for a marketing firm in Washington, D.C. In many respects, Ghadry leads a typical American, suburban life in Washington.

Dalia, 18, Ghadry’s youngest, pops out of her room. The high schooler asks her father about her Christmas gift. Christopher, Ghadry’s third child, appears with his blonde, American girlfriend, Alex. The whole family was waiting for the long-haired, bearded Samer, Ghadry’s fourth child, to come home from college for Christmas holidays.

Ghadry often switches between English and Arabic, but his children only speak flawless American English. For Ghadry’s four children, America offers them opportunities he could not enjoy during his childhood; Syria is foreign to them—a land without promise or even family.

But Ghadry is eagerly hoping to return to Syria and to create a niche in its politics for himself—though not “until it is liberated from Baath regime.”

Ahlam, Ghadry’s wife, agrees. She still speaks Lebanese-accented Arabic, and pines for her homeland. Like her husband, she hopes for better days in the Middle East. “Our region has to change,” she said. “I fully support Farid because someone must work for change.”

Ghadry assures her change in Syria is nearing.

“I think it’s in the summer of 2006,” Ghadry explained to me in January of that year. “Everything indicates that the change is coming soon.”

He looked at the vase where the two Lebanese flags were set and pointed his finger between them.

“I will place the flag of new Syria here.”

–   End –

Comments (163)


Alex said:

Dear farid,

There will be no “flag of new Syria”. Place the current Syria flag in your kitchen if you are really Syrian. Remember the new flag of the new Iraq? it won’t happen.

And, in general, interviews like this one will not gain you votes in Syria. Assuming you intend to be elected to office.

March 25th, 2007, 5:50 pm

 

SimoHurtta said:

“I will display the flag of the new, democratic Syria one day.”

Interesting to see what kind of blue – white flag that will be. An equal “hit” as proconsul Bremmer’s new Iraq flag?

It is astonishing that Washington invests so much to people who have no real political creditability and support outside Washington. Does somebody really in earnest think that these kind of people who have left the country as little children would be elected as the new leaders of the country?

Seems that USA is exporting besides “democracy” also new hand-picked leaders to different countries. It is like in old good times of Comintern when Moscow was full of “democratic” new future leaders. The only way Soviet Union managed to put those chosen ones to power was with tanks. And the people did not like those chosen ones…

March 25th, 2007, 6:25 pm

 

Innocent_Criminal said:

I’ll reiterate what i said every time we discussed this dork. he is not worth it, even entertaining the idea of his is a waste of time and giving him undeserved due. just ignore the loser

March 25th, 2007, 6:52 pm

 

G said:

Maybe a Syrian with a Master’s Degree from Columbia should be expected to display better Arabic skills.

al-Muharer al-Arabi – (or The Arab Liberator)

Right… because that’s the only meaning for Muharrir. Not “Editor” or the like…

March 25th, 2007, 7:21 pm

 

George Ajjan said:

This Dalia Ghadry is quite a politically astute youngster. She must have sold a lot of girl scout cookies in order to contribute $2,000 to the campaign of former Middle East subcommittee chair Ileana Ros-Lehtinen.

What a coincidence that her dad “Frank” was then called to testify before that very committee. Isn’t democracy great?

GHADRY, DAHLIA MS
POTOMAC, MD 20854
STUDENT/STUDENT

ROS-LEHTINEN, ILEANA
VIA ROS-LEHTINEN FOR CONGRESS
08/03/2005 2000.00 25991043347

from the FEC website.

March 25th, 2007, 8:25 pm

 

annie said:

I totally agree with Alex : a white and blue flag would not get a lot of support and with Innocent criminal: dealing with Ghadry is a loss of time and space. But… remember Chalabi ?

March 25th, 2007, 8:46 pm

 

Ford Prefect said:

And, of course, this genius has finally caught the most important point under this posting: the correct translation of “al Muharer”.

March 25th, 2007, 8:48 pm

 

SimoHurtta said:

Cubans will certainly love to vote Ilena Ros-Lehtinen as their next president and return to the golden Mafia casino era. And Finns would certainly want Dexter Lehtinen*) as their future president so Finland can join NATO and have missile and radar bases against “Iranian” missiles (just opposite Murmansk and St Petersburg).

*) Lehtinen is one of the most common Finnish family names. So Dexter’s ancestors were most certainly Finns.

March 25th, 2007, 9:08 pm

 

Ford Prefect said:

Uh oh, Ghadry’s father is a Ba’athist, turned out (http://www.nysun.com/article/40427). Daddy is suing lovely Farid for $12.7 million. I wonder where Ghadry accumulated this kind of money and how can his father bring a lawsuit against him in a Maryland court. Which failed and bankrupt business produced this money? Was it this one http://www.bizjournals.com/washington/stories/1996/12/16/story8.html?

March 25th, 2007, 9:18 pm

 

Wassim said:

Farid is waiting for his version of the Syrian flag. Let me guess, that flag is white perhaps? Everything this man says from start to finish is complete and utter tosh. Oh, and he works with the American administration which means he’d be quite happy to bend Syria over in front of Israel and the West. I’m now going to make some tea and relax, reading the quotes from this fool has ruffled my feathers. Good night.

March 25th, 2007, 9:20 pm

 

M said:

The fact that Ghadry would call on the U.S. to destabilize the Syrian regime and make way for his “democracy” shows how little trust he actually has in the notion of a democracy from the grassroots, and in fact makes such an outcome much more unlikely. Ghadry is a self-serving cynic no less than Chalabi. But this is not surprising, because I can see few people who would be so willing to work with Bush who could not be cynical at heart.

March 25th, 2007, 9:34 pm

 

marc hussein said:

Farid Ghadry is the only Syrian leader willing to risk it all for freedom and democracy. Attacking him shows just how influential he is and how much the regime fears him and the more attacks he gets from the Ba’athists in Damascus, the more we stand by him and support him. So keep them coming…

March 25th, 2007, 9:35 pm

 

Ziad said:

Ghadri and his friend Nabil Fayyad are syrian regime agents.
They have the right to exist in Syria but they must accept majority’s will.

March 25th, 2007, 10:10 pm

 

Akbar Palace said:

Alex –

Thanks for the interview from Israel channel 10. Why do you suppose this Farid Ghandry is so anti-Syrian? Did the Syrian government do something against him?

Is the Syrian opposition all located outside the country? Is there much of an oppoisition to Assad IN Syria? Is there someone you like who is part of the Syrian opposition, or are you simple an Assad supporter?

Thanks.

March 25th, 2007, 10:19 pm

 

EHSANI2 said:

Ford Prefect,

This father-son relationship that you uncovered in your linked article makes the appeal of this gentleman that much more intriguing.

As for the main post, here is my own favourite line:

“We are calling all Syrian opposition groups together for a national conference to create a parliament in exile and draft a new, secular constitution for Syria,” said Ghadry. “Then, take people to streets. Some people get killed. The international community gets further angry at the regime. Then, have NATO forces protect a safe zone in northern Syria,” on the border with NATO member Turkey. He grinned and concluded, “This way we will move right away into Syria.”

In case anyone is worried about the people that he expects to “take to the street” before he “will move right away into Syria”, Mr. Ghadry offers the following words of comfort:

“There will be some revenge killings, unfortunately”. There will be a fight among opposition groups, he said. “But the U.S. and France will be like traffic cops, who would organize and ensure” a peaceful transformation.

In other words, when the “short period of turmoil” is over and after some of the people that take to the street get killed unfortunately, there will still be a final moment of salvation. That moment will arrive when Mr. Ghadry and his entourage “move right away into Syria”.

He has disdain for the local opposition group but he expects them to “take to the street” and “get killed” before they pave the way for his arrival.

Mr. Ghadry,

Are these really your words? If the answer is in the affirmative, then I would suggest that you go on a hiking trip with your four children and forget this far-fetched dream of yours once and for all.

March 25th, 2007, 10:51 pm

 

Alex said:

Akbar,

There is nothing wrong in talking to moderate Israeli journalists, I wish the Syrian president would do it.

Second to last paragraph.

But Farid gives a bad name to those of us who talk to Israeli journalists… I am sure you realize by now he represents only himself. Even the few people in his party deserted him.

March 25th, 2007, 11:08 pm

 

Alex said:

From Elaph

بري: السنيورة خدع الأمم المتحدة والشعب اللبناني ونواب الأكثرية
GMT 23:15:00 2007 الأحد 25 مارس
الشرق الاوسط اللندنية

——————————————————————————–

..لأن رئيس الحكومة قال إنه سيرسل مشروع المحكمة الدولية إلى البرلمان بعد القمة

بيروت، ثائر عباس

اتهم رئيس البرلمان اللبناني نبيه بري أمس، رئيس الحكومة فؤاد السنيورة بـ«خداع الشعب اللبناني ونواب الاكثرية»، معتبرا «أن كلامه (السنيورة) امس عن نيته ارسال مشروع المحكمة الدولية الى البرلمان بعد القمة العربية، اعتراف بانه لم يرسله اصلا. وكان يقول للجميع انني ارفض اقرار المشروع».
وقال الرئيس بري لـ«الشرق الأوسط» ردا على سؤال حول ما قاله الرئيس السنيورة، من انه سيرسل مشروع المحكمة الى المجلس بعد القمة: «وأخيرا بان الحق، ومن صارع الحق صرعه. وبعد لأي شديد وانكار عظيم، اعترف دولة الرئيس السنيورة بأنه لم يرسل حتى الآن قانون المحكمة ذات الطابع الدولي الى المجلس النيابي. والسؤال الآن طالما الامر كذلك كيف ارسل (الرئيس السنيورة) رسالة الى الأمين العام للأمم المتحدة (بان كي مون) تقول ان رئيس المجلس خطف البرلمان ورفض طرح قانون المحكمة لاقراره، رغم طلب تقدمت به اكثرية المجلس المؤلفة من 70 نائبا؟»، وسأل ايضا: «كيف يمكن تبرير هكذا رسالة لخداع الامم المتحدة؟ ثم ما رأيكم الآن بالحملة التي شنت على الرئيس بري بانه رفض قبول عريضة الـ70 نائبا ولم يصدقوا انذاك انه لا يوجد لدي مشروع قانون وان فاقد الشيء لا يعطيه؟». وتوجه الى الرئيس السنيورة قائلا: «ماذا ستقولون الآن للـ70 نائبا الذين خدعوا، هذا عدا عن خديعة الشعب اللبناني برمته». وأضاف: «اما وان هناك وعدا لأمين عام جامعة الدول العربية (عمرو موسى) بعدم ارسال المشروع، فإن الاستاذ موسى نفسه فوجئ اليوم بأن المشروع لم يرسل رغم هذه المدة الطويلة»، مشيرا الى ان موسى «كان قد طلب من الرئيس السنيورة أمرين، الغاء نشر القانون في الجريدة الرسمية، واعادته الى رئيس الجمهورية كي يرسله الى المجلس النيابي».

March 25th, 2007, 11:43 pm

 

K said:

When Joshua Landis originally posted ‘The Syrian Opposition’ on his blog on February 24, the article DID NOT INCLUDE THE TABLER REFERENCE.
Check out p.55 – the same statement is made about Kilo meeting Bayanuni but WITH NO REFERENCE.

the Feb 24 blog entry:
http://joshualandis.com/blog/?cat=27

the early “Syria Comment” version which lacks the Tabler reference:
http://faculty-staff.ou.edu/L/Joshua.M.Landis-1/Landis-PaceWQ_2006_Syria_Opposition.pdf

In contrast, the article that was published in the Washington Quarterly, and which Michael Young commented on, DOES include the Tabler reference.

the later “Washington Quarterly” version which includes the Tabler reference:
http://www.twq.com/07winter/docs/07winter_landis.pdf

It seems he first made the Kilo allegation in an early draft without citing any source as a reference. An editor at the Washington Quarterly must have asked him to account for that, leading him to insert the Tabler reference into the final version. It’s strange that this is the one single discrepancy between the 2 versions: the first
version lists 70 citations, the second version lists 71.

How does everyone else interpret this?

Prof Landis?

March 26th, 2007, 12:01 am

 

Joshua said:

Dear K,

It is easy. The earlier copy is the proof that was sent me by the copy editor days before it went to press. I noticed it was missing an important footnote. Of course, I did not notice how important it would be. We had a crisis correspondance back and forth as I tried to get it restored. She didn’t recognize the publication with the Tabler stuff. I had to send her a pdf copy to demonstrate it was real and that I had, in fact, footnoted it correctly. She restored the Tabler part, but in the scramble I did not get the ideal footnote, which should have included an extra line: “Interview with anonymous, May 15, 2006.”

I posted the copy of the proof sent to me on my site a month after the print edition came out and before I discovered that WQ had posted the final article on their own site. I linked to the final copy in my response and the one that was published in the issue of WQ.

Best, Joshua

March 26th, 2007, 3:14 am

 

K said:

Prof,

Thanks for the response.

March 26th, 2007, 3:48 am

 

annie said:

Farid Ghadry is the only Syrian leader willing “to risk it all” for freedom and democracy ?

After the killing is over, in he comes to be crowned the next dictator with an escort of American and Israeli marines.

March 26th, 2007, 5:14 am

 

Obai said:

Locked away in an ivory tower, it’s easy for Western ‘academics’ to belittle the efforts of those that attempt to bring about real change to Syria. This is ambush ‘journalism’ at its finest. If nothing else, I judge Mr. Ghadry’s value and the impact of his work by that of those who oppose him. Liberating Syria is an uphill battle, and the self-interested polemics of those that want to derail any budding effort to fight Asad are a disservice to the Syrian people. Ghadry is feared by Ba’athi apologists because he has not equivocated or compromised in his commitment to a better Syria; and the more personal invectives are hurled at his person from such company, the further our conviction is strengthened that Mr. Ghadry is on the right track.

March 26th, 2007, 1:21 pm

 

Alex said:

Sources: Arabs may offer to repackage peace plan

By Aluf Benn, Avi Issacharoff and Gideon Alon, Haaretz Correspondents, Haaretz Service and News Agencies

Arab countries including Egypt, Jordan and Saudi Arabia may propose repackaging the 2002 Saudi peace initiative, Arab diplomats said Monday in private discussions.

The leaders were seeking fresh ways to moderate their position without being seen as giving in to Israeli or American demands to change the offer, said the diplomats, speaking on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the discussions.

Saudi Arabia’s foreign minister suggested Monday that Arab leaders would be willing to consider changes in their 2002 peace offer to Israel to make it compatible with new developments.

Under the repackaging plan, the Arab leaders would insist Israel accept the initiative in principle before returning to any talks, but would also agree that the Palestinians and Arab countries would be ready to soften their conditions once negotiations began, the diplomats said.

March 26th, 2007, 3:30 pm

 

Akbar Palace said:

“There is nothing wrong in talking to moderate Israeli journalists, I wish the Syrian president would do it.”

Alex –

Which “moderate Israeli journalists” do you talk to, the ones who recognized Israel as a Jewish state with a right of self-defense or the ones who don’t?;)

BTW – It seems that talking with Israeli journalists isn’t as simple as you think…

http://www.nytimes.com/2007/03/24/world/middleeast/24cnd-saudi.html?ei=5090&en=beef715018d9d446&ex=1332388800&partner=rssuserland&emc=rss&pagewanted=print

“Sources: Arabs may offer to repackage peace plan”

Alex –

I heard this peace plan allows only 10 katyusha firings from Lebanon and only 100 qassam firings from Gaza, annually.

I think this is a rather positive development.

I mean, who really needs a hand-shake from the Islamic rejectionists Nasrallah or Haniyeh when the chances of being hit are so low?

March 26th, 2007, 4:05 pm

 

Alex said:

Akbar,

There is no rule, but I can detect wise people with relative ease.

Zvi Bar’el is my favorite Israeli journalist. Very balanced, and very experienced. He is not the most Pro Arab rights by the way.

What do I like about him? he does not get excited about IDF show of power (like many Israeli journalsits do) and he does not think only of his side’s fears and needs … he takes both sides’ needs into accounts almost equally I would say.

And we need more people like him on both sides.

March 26th, 2007, 5:30 pm

 

Alex said:

What is it with the Al-Faisal brothers? : )

Today at the Arab summit, Saudi foreign minister Prince Saud repeated the famous Baath slogan:

“نحن أمة عربية واحدة ذات رسالة خالدة”

He was half-joking (he said it with a smile).

Of course last month his brother, Prince Turki, seemed to support the other popular Syrian party (the SSNP) when he proposed the idea of the fertile crescent in the Levant extending from Iraq to Lebanon and Palestine, and led by Syria:

دعوني أقولها بملء فمي: فعوضاً من الحلم بهلال شيعي، أو التخوف منه ، يمكن أن نعمل معاً لبناء هلال خصيب يمتد من العراق حتى لبنان، تكون لسورية صدارة فيه، وللأردن حصة فيه، ولفلسطين زاوية فيه، ينشغل بالبناء والرخاء والسعادة، وتستفيد منه دول الخليج كافة، ليكن هلالاً نتفق عليه، لا هلالاً نختلف عليه.

March 26th, 2007, 9:23 pm

 

EHSANI2 said:

Alex,

Any idea as to what that eternal “risala khaleda” exactly is? After 44 years, I am yet to figure it out.

March 26th, 2007, 10:06 pm

 

Alex said:

Ehsani, I would not know.

Ask this guy.

Or even better, find your answer from the lyrics of the party’s official Baath song : )

I have not heard it for 20 years at least!. It reminds me of elementary school.

March 26th, 2007, 10:16 pm

 

Syrian said:

Where do you find these gems Alex? The last time I heard this song was in 1976; summer camp for 10th grade. Well, maybe not quite a camp 🙂

March 26th, 2007, 11:35 pm

 

ugarit said:

Obai said: “Locked away in an ivory tower..”

For a moment I thought you were talking about Farid Ghadry.

March 26th, 2007, 11:42 pm

 

Alex said:

Syrian, since you are here,I have to alert you.

He is now in the KSA…. Predictably, The Syrians looked very worried… and isolated.

How worried are you?

March 26th, 2007, 11:57 pm

 

Syrian said:

Alex,

What can I say, You can’t stop him, only hope to contain him.

BTW, wasn’t he supposed to be Lahoud’s Man. What happened.

#11
http://www.lebanonwire.com/0705/05071901LINEUPLW.asp

March 27th, 2007, 12:12 am

 

EHSANI2 said:

Alex,

I have no idea how you find these things but that Baath nashid was outstanding. I never paid attention to the lyrics as a youngster during those summer camps. I love the “cadiheen” reference. I certainly felt like one during those hot summer months before I was able to bribe my way out of them.

March 27th, 2007, 1:17 am

 

Alex said:

Now, Ehsani and Syrian, I hope you are not wondering if I have a connection to the multi-media resources and digital data department of the party of the كادحين

My Summer camp at age 12 was easy … while my friends had to work hard under a 40 degree summer sun, I was the only one who could play Piano by ear, so any song they asked me to play (on an accordion) I managed … I spent the 7 days inside a nice hall “practicing” on the accordion to play at the closing ceremonies!

But for some reason they canceled that closing ceremony and I did not have to play. But it was good to practice for a week… that was a very useful summer camp.

March 27th, 2007, 1:27 am

 

Sami D said:

Obai wrote, in defense of Ghadry: “it’s easy for Western ‘academics’ to belittle the efforts of those that attempt to bring about real change to Syria.”

Only if you consider exchanging the Assad dictatorial rule of Syria by a US-Israeli puppet/dictatorship — like Mubarak/Abdalla/Karzai — “real change”! Opposing Assad and dictatorial rule in general is necessary; but to advance it atop American-Israel-neocon tanks makes a mockery of true freedom and democracy. The tactic of scaring Ghadry’s detractors as “Baathi apologists” is bankrupt, similar to Cheney calling those who oppose aggression against Iraq as supporting terrorism, or Bush’s “with us or with the terrorists”. Ghadry, who writes that “Israel builds for Nobel prizes, Arabs build for suicide bombers” or “Only when [the Palestinians] recognize that Israel is a neighbor and not an occupier [ie, that the snow is black] will they reach peace for their people that will include most of their lands back” or that the US, by destroying the city of Fallujah/using banned incendiary weapons, was just clearing it of terrorism, has no credibility, and deservedly so. Baathi/apologists don’t even care about someone who’s so easy to discredit, let alone “fear” him. On the contrary, his position strengthens Assad’s rule, who can now point to Ghadry as representative of all democratic currents (true ones and fake), as supporters of Israel and Syria’s enemies. By echoing the American-Israeli conqueror’s line, joining the pro-aggression “Committee on the Present Danger” (membership include the Gingrichs and Woolseys) he will sure please the Western master, who might reward him with Assad’s seat/palaces/sports cars, but will not trick the minds of the conquered. In the end, his actions and stands will relegate him to the trash bin of history, like the Chalabis and other quislings.

March 27th, 2007, 2:18 am

 

majedkhaldoun said:

Ehsani and Alex;
I am surprised that you guys do not know what eternal message is in the Baath party logo, if you go to any office in Syria you will see Baath flag and on it you see this logo, it was written by Salah eddin AlBitar,when he establish the Baath party, in his lecture in 1962, at his house in souk Sarouja ( I was there), he was asked about it, and his answer was the meassage of the prophets (believe in God)and arab unity.

March 27th, 2007, 3:08 am

 

ausamaa said:

First time I knew that the music was by Elias Rahbani..!

BTW, I told yesterday that the word on the streets of Riyadh was that instruction at the Summit were that the Syrian and the Lebanese delegations (Lahoud) were to be treated a “notch” better than the rest of the delegations. Also that the best “palace” in Riyadh was assigned to President Assad!!

At least it is significant that people think those were the intentions of Riyadh !

March 27th, 2007, 3:29 am

 

majedkhaldoun said:

The arab security and peace council,must be supported wholeheartedly, it means the establishment of an arab army ,financed by arab states, to exert its authority where there is trouble in the arab world,only defending the arabic countries against foreigners,I wonder what Isreal and the USA will do to subbotage this idea, I am sure that they will stop it by cutting the money supply that is needed for it, may be I am still dreaming.

March 27th, 2007, 3:41 am

 

Alex said:

Majed, that’s interesting to know. Thanks.

I never thought about the meaning of “the eternal message”… when I was young I did not care much. I was only interested in trying to find out how many Mig 25 Syria has and if that was enough to defend Syria in case Israel attacked us (late 70’s).

And Ehsani was only interested in chasing pretty girls in Aleppo swimming pools : )

Ausamaa … I was also enjoying the music (although I was not going to admit it to anyone) but then I realized it was Elias Rahbani who wrote it … so now it is ok to admit I liked the song (somewhat).

As for Bashar being hosted in the largest palace. Interesting, but not at the expense of a private 2 hour meeting with King Abdullah at the end of which they emerge genuinely smiling.

March 27th, 2007, 4:30 am

 

ausamaa said:

Alex,

A new Bush vision???? Transforming the Old middle east into an Oasis of peace, or at least an Oasis of peace-talk, until he is safely and satisfactorily -to all involved-, on the way out of the Iraqi pit??

Does it now look like the Bush Admin is trying to “snatch a victory from the jaws of defeat” by attemting to relunch the Arab(Fahd)peace plan of 2002? He is still has a year or so to get it going!

Wow, that would be great. Imagine, as in the holy books, Seven years of draught followed by Seven years of rain?

Too good to imagine!!

Everybody is ready for that, but the only problem with this (anti-thesis), is that Israel is in a bad “negotiating” posiotion (keeping the Second Lebanon War in mind).

March 27th, 2007, 4:32 am

 

ausamaa said:

Alex,

You will have your two hour meeting and a lot more. Actually I think they will pamper Syria at this summit!

First, it was that they need to “enlist” Syria to help on the Iraqi problem, then now they need Syria’s help with the relaunch of the Peace Initiative. So the stakes are a bit higher. And finally, there is their need to to enlist Syria’s “good offices” as far as the Iranian issue is concerned. And Lebanon; how could we forget!

And of course, Syria is willing to cooperate! We are in the HELP BUSNIESS now!! 24/7!

March 27th, 2007, 5:45 am

 

Alex said:

Ausamaa,

Too many things can go wrong… some probably will.

I think Bush needed to keep everyone busy with some process for the next two years. The “Arab moderates” lobbied him to concentrate on Palestine since everything else meant talking mainly to Syria.

I still see two inherent difficulties:

1) Too many things can, and will, go wrong on Israel’s side:

Any major agreement you reach with the current Israeli government is subject to approval by the Knesset or a national referendum probably… you correctly referred to the generally negative mood among a majority of Israelis who will likely blame the extent to which their weak government went with “painful concessions” on the government’s weakness and maybe even possible corruption (they think like us Arabs sometimes).

The right of return and Jerusalem are almost guaranteed to destroy the process at some point in the future.

2) Arabs (Syria, Saudi, and Egypt) will probably get competitive again .. I am not sure if the Saudis and Syrians are now convinced of each other’s size… the Americans do not seem to be ready to buy Syria’s indispensable status …Imad Moustapha’a article was clear in my opinion.

We will probably learn more about the Syria vs. Saudi Arabia part at least during the summit. Lebanon is the real test. If they treat the Lebanese problems through statements of generalities, then it means the Syrians and Saudis are still not ready to agree on the core issues.

March 27th, 2007, 6:01 am

 

George Ajjan said:

Majed Khaldoun,

Interesting you mention the Baath Party logo. I remember the irony of seeing it all over Iraq in September 2003, even when it was posted below the portraits of Saddam Hussein that had been painted over by US soldiers.

Even a poster for the Iraqi national weightlifting team showed the logo.

March 27th, 2007, 8:52 am

 

Syrian said:

When is Syria going to be more democratic like Egypt; where referanda pass by a mere 75.9% with the high 27.1% turnout rate.

BTW it is now against the constitution in Egypt for parties to be formed with “any religious reference or basis.” Sounds familiar.

http://news.xinhuanet.com/english/2007-03/27/content_5903560.htm

Egypt is high stepping towards Democracy!!

March 27th, 2007, 12:17 pm

 

idaf said:

Syrian,

I suggest you talk to a couple of Egyptians on the latest amendments. I did not do any research on how this latest constitutional amendments are being portrayed in the Western media (which might explain your enthusiasm), but Egyptian democracy activists are seeing these latest amendments as a “10 years step backward”.

There’s actually a sort of boycott movement by democracy activists against this vote. I can’t see how a 27 percent turnout looks “high” to you. Moreover, I think that Egypt is not a good benchmark for Syria on democracy issues at the moment.

March 27th, 2007, 1:13 pm

 

norman said:

I wonder if the plan to reactivate the Saudi peace plan is a first step to send the plan to the security counsel and with the US influance there a new resolution will come down to superseed 242 and 338 denying the Palestinian the right to return and to call for changes in the borders ,the Arabs then will axcept the resolution as ther is no other option because of their fear from iran , I wonder what Syria will do , Do you have any thoyghts.?

March 27th, 2007, 3:08 pm

 

Alex said:

IDAF,

Don’t worry. Syrian is being sarcastic.

I received a copy of a letter the director of one of the provinces of Egypt (Doumiat) sent to all government employees in his province “make sure you all go and vote YES thus ensuring we will have the highest votes”

March 27th, 2007, 3:52 pm

 

Alex said:

سلطان القحطاني من الرياض: منذ ساعات الصباح الأولى كان العاهل السعودي الملك عبد الله بن عبد العزيز في مقدمة مستقبلي ضيوفه من الرؤساء العرب المشاركين في القمة التاسعة عشر التي تحتضنها بلاده، على مدار يومين متتاليين، بعد مضي ربع قرن على إستضافتها للقمة الأولى، في ظل إستحقاقات مهمة على الصعيد العربي الداخلي، وملفات ساخنة تزخرُ بها المنطقة الشرق أوسطية من العالم يومًا إثر آخر. وكان الإستقبال الملكي الكامل للرئيس السوري بشار الأسد، على أرض مطار القاعدة الجوية في وسط الرياض، هو الحدث الأبرز في قائمة الإستقبالات، التي بلغ عددها نحو 14 من رؤساء دول وضيوف على القمة، وذلك بعد القطيعة التي إستمرت عدة أشهر بين الرياض ودمشق إثر خطاب للرئيس الأسد عرّض فيها بالقيادة السعودية بسبب موقفها من النزاع بين إسرائيل وحزب الله اللبناني.

ومن المنتظر أن تشهد القمة جلسة ثنائية بين الزعيمين بحيث تنهي حالة الخلاف الذي أثر جزئيًا على فعالية التحرك العربي منهيًا محور الرياض – القاهرة- دمشق الذي كان فاعلاً في إحدى الفترات، فيما رجح دبلوماسيون عرب أن تتم هذه الجلسة على هامش حفل العشاء الذي سوف يقيمه الملك السعودي لضيوفه من رؤساء الدول العربية المشاركة في أعمال القمة.

وشرب الملك عبد الله بن عبد العزيز 14 فنجانًا من القهوة العربية المرة تباعًا، كما تقضي التقاليد غير المكتوبة للإستقبالات الرسمية التي يقوم بها مسؤولو البلاد، وذلك بمعدل فنجان واحد مع كل إستقبال رسمي، في حين كان نصيب ضيوفه فنجانًا واحدًا لكل منهم، ولم يسبق أن سجلت المراسم الملكية السعودية حالة واحدة طلب فيها أحد الضيوف الرسميين فنجانًا ثانيًا من القهوة.

ورغم الساعات الطويلة التي قضاها الملك برفقة أخيه وولي عهده الأمير سلطان في استقبال الوفود، لم تبدُ ملامح الإرهاق ظاهرة على ملامح وجهه، الذي كانت تغطي جزءه الأكبر نظارة شمسية سوداء، فيما هو يمضي مرتديًا عباءته الهفهافة على السجاد الأحمر الرسمي خلال الإستقبال الأخير الذي خُتم بوصول الرئيس المصري حسني المبارك الذي حاز على النصيب الأكبر من كعكة الحفاوة السعودية.

لحود إستقبل بغياب الملك

بدوره وصل الرئيس اللبناني اميل لحود الى الرياض على راس وفد للمشاركة في القمة بعد ساعات من وصول وفد لبناني آخر يترأسه رئيس الحكومة فؤاد السنيورة، إلا أن العاهل السعودي لم يكن في إستقباله كما كان الحال مع بقية رؤساء الدول الذين وصلوا خلال النهار. ووصل لحود على راس وفد ضم خاصة وزير الخارجية المستقيل فوزي صلوخ، واستقبل في الصالة الملكية المخصصة لرؤساء الوفود وإنما كان في إستقباله أحد الأمراء وليس العاهل السعودي عبدالله بن عبد العزيز.

وفي وقت سابق وصل رئيس الحكومة اللبناني فؤاد السنيورة على رأس وفد ثانٍ وكان في إستقباله نائب أمير منطقة الرياض الأمير سطام بن عبد العزيز، وذلك في قاعة غير تلك المخصصة لقادة الدول.

March 27th, 2007, 4:06 pm

 

Alex said:

There it is … look how friendly we are today!

More fun

And one more

March 27th, 2007, 5:03 pm

 

norman said:

Alex, do you have a picture holding the King’s hand?.

March 27th, 2007, 5:23 pm

 

Alex said:

Me and the king? no.

March 27th, 2007, 5:36 pm

 

Atassi said:

Alex, Norman,ausamaa and other’s .. ..
as you can see, the KSA is becoming friendly to Assad again, Are you planning to have a change of heart and stop bashing them? Keep in mind; they are already doing that in Damascus 🙂 …
.. Dudes… you sound so excited. I hope you are not hard-on !!

March 27th, 2007, 5:54 pm

 

syrian said:

Alex,

Now that would have been a sight to see. You and the king. I bet you can photoshop something.

P.S. What do you think about the Kurds boycotting the april elections

http://syrianeconomy.blogspot.com/2007/03/boycotting-elections.html

March 27th, 2007, 6:12 pm

 

norman said:

Alex, Asad and the king.

March 27th, 2007, 6:36 pm

 

norman said:

atassi, we do not take orders from Damascus , we are free and indipendent.

March 27th, 2007, 6:36 pm

 

Alex said:

Atassi,

I was joking. This is not my real interpretation of what is necessarily going on.

My real opinion is: Syria wants to be the one in charge of managing (or co-managing) the area … Palestine, Lebanon, maybe even co-manage Iraq until Iraq is a powerful country again.

If and when the Saudis and Americans are ready to accept that, we can have more harmony in the Middle East. Otherwise … it will be a never endng story.

But at least today, we are reading a pleasant chapter. Hope next chapter is also nice.

March 27th, 2007, 7:07 pm

 

ausamaa said:

The Saudi Royal Protocole office informed all arriving delegations that king would be at the airport from 12:30 to 3:30 only, so it was not a matter of Who was recieved by the King or who was not. Whoever arrived within that time slot, the king was there.

March 27th, 2007, 7:20 pm

 

K said:

Alex,

Please don’t stop there. How do you think the Mideast will look with Syria “managing” Lebanese, Palestine and Iraq? Don’t hide behind a disinterested analytic tone. Tell me whether you want to see this outcome.

March 27th, 2007, 7:23 pm

 

Alex said:

K,

I’m at work now. I won’t be able to give you a proper answer. Besides, who cares what I think?

The fact is, I really believe Syria will not accept any Arab country trying to take a leading role in managing the area. The others simply do not understand it and should not try to manage it the same way the Syrians do not try to manage the Arab Gulf or Morocco and Algeria …

But yes, I do believe we will have a much more functional Middle East if “Syria” was assigned to handle the area … but not in the negative way some see it. Syria will need to change and reform itself to a large degree before this is a real option.

I am not suggesting more than what Prince Turki al-Faisal suggested.

March 27th, 2007, 7:39 pm

 

ausamaa said:

Alex,

“Your” two hours closed meeting between King Abdulah and President Assad had started!

March 27th, 2007, 8:16 pm

 

Alex said:

Ausamaa, since when do you have this close access to what’s happening in Saudi Arabia? : )

Syrian, I agree with you … Syrian Kurds should have participated heavily in this election while continuing to protest, if they wish, regarding the case of the 100,000 Kurds waiting for Syrian nationality.

March 27th, 2007, 8:33 pm

 

Atassi said:

Norman,
I did not imply that you are taking the orders form Damascus; I am just telling what the current trend is.

March 27th, 2007, 8:52 pm

 

majedkhaldoun said:

something is going on in Iran

March 27th, 2007, 9:06 pm

 

ausamaa said:

Alex Habibi alla yakhaleli eyak, bala hal haki!I have as much access to things as much as you have pictures with the king….

Let us say I am guessing or having visions, and I hapen to live around the corner.

March 27th, 2007, 9:22 pm

 

Atassi said:

Syrian, Saudi leaders meet for first time since Lebanon war
27 March 2007
16:55
Agence France Presse

RIYADH, March 27, 2007 (AFP) –

Saudi King Abdullah held a closed-door meeting with Syrian President Bashar al-Assad in Riyadh Tuesday, the first since relations chilled after last summer’s Lebanon war, a source in Assad’s delegation to an Arab summit here told AFP.

Abdullah earlier greeted and embraced Assad when he flew into a Riyadh air base to attend the summit opening Wednesday, but a bilateral meeting on the sidelines of the Arab League gathering had been in doubt.

The meeting, which began late Tuesday, followed the failure of Saudi-led efforts to resolve a months-long crisis between Lebanon’s anti-Syrian government and pro-Syrian opposition.

Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Saud al-Faisal had implicitly blamed Lebanon’s Hezbollah, backed by Damascus and Tehran, for the devastation wrought by the war which broke out after the group captured two Israeli soldiers.

But in a speech last August, Assad said the Israel-Hezbollah war had “exposed the Arab situation entirely… because it has downed the people of half positions, or the half men, and brought down all the tardy positions”.

Regional newspapers said Assad was criticising the leaders of pro-US Arab states such as Saudi Arabia, but Syrian Foreign Minister Walid Muallem said the president was not referring to any Arab leader.

Relations were further strained over Syrian policy in Lebanon in the past few months after the opposition led by Shiite Hezbollah launched a campaign to oust the government of Western-backed Sunni Prime Minister Fuad Siniora, who has close ties with Saudi Arabia.

The standoff in Lebanon was evident on the eve of the two-day Arab summit when two delegations — one led by pro-Syrian President Emile Lahoud and the other by Siniora — arrived in the Saudi capital to represent their country.

Riyadh’s efforts to broker a deal in Lebanon faltered despite hopes raised by a series of meetings between leaders of the parliamentary majority and the opposition.

The encounters followed a March 3 landmark visit to Saudi Arabia by Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad during which the Lebanese crisis was discussed.

The two issues at the crux of the Lebanon crisis are the opposition demand for a blocking minority in the government and the majority’s insistence on ratification of a proposed UN tribunal intended to try suspects in the 2005 murder of former Lebanese premier Rafiq Hariri.

The assassination has been widely blamed on Syria, but Damascus has denied any involvement

March 27th, 2007, 9:24 pm

 

Alex said:

Ausamaa

I know, you have a second cousin who lives in Saudi Arabia

: )

March 27th, 2007, 9:55 pm

 

ausamaa said:

Right,

March 27th, 2007, 9:59 pm

 

ausamaa said:

Right, down south by Yaman boarder. Far away from all!

Let us hope for some good news tomorrow, or at least, no bad news

March 27th, 2007, 10:00 pm

 

3antar said:

مجلس الأمن يمدد تفويض التحقيق الدولي في لبنان عاما آخر

وافق مجلس الأمن الدولي اليوم الثلاثاء على تمديد التحققيق الدولي في اغتيال رئيس وزراء لبنان الأسبق رفيق الحريري لمدة عام كامل.

March 27th, 2007, 10:16 pm

 
 

Gibran said:

Seniora is the legitimate representative of Lebanon. He is getting the royal treatment par excellence. He already met the king for 45 minutes. Lahoud is a no show:

وفهم ان السنيورة سيجلس خلال الجلسة الافتتاحية في المكان المخصص للشخصيات الكبيرة، اما في الجلسة المغلقة فسيجلس الى جانب رئيس القمة الملك عبدالله بن عبد العزيز، وأمامه الأمين العام للجامعة العربية والعاهل الأردني الملك عبدالله الثاني.

Alex is again halucinating. Do you need a reminder that the Syrian army was kicked out dishonorably from Lebanon in May 2005 on a one way trip?

March 27th, 2007, 11:47 pm

 

K said:

Alex,

you write:

“If and when the Saudis and Americans are ready to accept [Syria “managing” Lebanon, Palestine and Iraq], we can have more harmony in the Middle East. Otherwise … it will be a never endng story.”

“The fact is, I really believe Syria will not accept any Arab country trying to take a leading role in managing the area.”

By the same token, Lebanese liberals will NEVER accept submission to Syrian hegemony. If and when Syria accepts that, we can have more harmony in the Levant. Otherwise – it will be a neverending story.

And you add, almost as an afterthought: “Syria will need to change and reform itself to a large degree before this is a real option.”

Well, change and reform your Syria first, before daring to suggest that Syria “manage” my country.

March 28th, 2007, 12:11 am

 

norman said:

Alex, you are fascinating. Thank you.

March 28th, 2007, 1:03 am

 

Atassi said:

Wow…Norman, Alex,and Aussama..Wow..
No comment

March 28th, 2007, 1:07 am

 

norman said:

You are fascinating too ATTASSI , Sorry not as much as Alex. don’t be jealous , i never thought you will response that fast.

March 28th, 2007, 1:13 am

 

Gibran said:

Syria is behind 90% Iraqi terrorism:

ساترفيلد: 90% من انتحاريي العراق يدخلون عبر سوريا

قال مستشار وزيرة الخارجية الاميركية للشؤون العراقية ديفيد ساترفيلد امام معهد واشنطن لسياسة الشرق الادنى امس، إن واشنطن تقدر ان ما يصل إلى 90 في المئة من المفجرين الانتحاريين في العراق يدخلون البلاد عبر سوريا التي لم تحرك ساكنا لوقف تدفقهم.
وأكد أنه يتعين على سوريا منع “الجهاديين” من العبور إلى العراق . وأضاف ان ما يقدر بنحو 90 في المئة من المفجرين الانتحاريين في العراق أجانب يعبر ما بين 85 و90 في المئة منهم الى البلاد من سوريا وإن تغيرت نسب الجنسيات بينهم.

K.

Don’t mind Alex. He is a known delusionist – typical of Syrian regime apologists.

March 28th, 2007, 1:32 am

 

norman said:

When people are not doing well they blame everybody else except themselves.

March 28th, 2007, 1:40 am

 

Gibran said:

Syria is a pariah state, membder of the band of four pariah states (Iran, Belarus, Venzuela, Syria):

قال مساعد وزيرة الخارجية الأميركية نيكولاس بيرنز إن قرار العقوبات الذي تبناه مجلس الأمن «سيجعل إيران أكثر عزلة من السابق». وزاد أن إضافة بند إلى قرار العقوبات الدولية، يحظر على إيران تزويد أي فرد أو منظمة سلاحاً ويحذر الدول من تصدير الأسلحة إليها، شكلت الهدف الرئيس لأميركا في المفاوضات حول القرار. واستدرك: «نرى كيف تسعى ايران إلى أن تصبح الدولة العسكرية الأكثر هيمنة في المنطقة، وهي تزود «حزب الله» و «حركة حماس» و «الجبهة الشعبية لتحرير فلسطين» (القيادة العامة) و «الجهاد الإسلامي» الفلسطيني… أسلحة لأغراض سلبية ونتائج سلبية». واعتبر أن الدول الوحيدة التي تتحدّث دفاعاً عن إيران هي سورية وبيلاروسيا وفنزويلا وكوبا، واصفاً إياها بأنها «عصابة الأربعة».

March 28th, 2007, 1:44 am

 

norman said:

This is what i fear comming from this summet.

عبد الباري عطوان

28/03/2007

اختتمت السيدة كوندوليزا رايس وزيرة الخارجية الامريكية جولتها المكوكية في المنطقة بتوجيه نصيحة الي الزعماء العرب الذين سيجتمعون اليوم في الرياض بضرورة المصالحة مع الدولة العبرية، والاقدام علي خطوات تطبيعية معها، لطمأنتها، وبالتالي تشجيعها علي المضي قدماً في عملية السلام.
ومن الصعب علينا التكهن بكيفية تعامل القادة العرب مع هذه النصيحة، او التوجيه الامريكي، ولكن ما يمكن استخلاصه من كل ما تسرب عن محادثاتها مع وزراء خارجية دول الرباعية العربية هو وجود مرونة عربية، ولو من قبل محور الاعتدال ، لبدء اتصالات مع حكومة ايهود اولمرت، بعد ان اصبح الجميع يؤمن بأن الخطر الذي يهدد المنطقة قادم من ايران وبرنامجها النووي علي وجه التحديد.
الصحف الاسرائيلية لم تتوقف طوال الاسابيع القلـــيلة الماضية عـــن الحديث عن وجود اتصالات سعوديــة ـ اسرائيلية، وذهب الحال بالصحافي الامريكي توماس فريدمان الي درجة مناشدة العاهل السعودي الملك عبد الله بن عبد العزيز اتباع خطـــــي الرئيس الراحل انور السادات، والذهاب الي القدس المحتلة ومخاطبة البرلمان الاسرائيلي مباشرة لتحقيق المصالحة التاريخية بين العرب والاسرائيليين، وتحقيق التسوية التي تنهي الصراع بينهما الي الأبد.
السيدة رايس لا تنطق عن هوي، وانما تستند الي سوابق عربية، فتحت ذريعة طمأنة اسرائيل وتشجيعها للمضي قدماً في عملية السلام، اقامت عدة دول عربية علاقات دبلوماسية، وفتحت سفارات ومكاتب تجارية في عواصمها، ولكن جاءت النتائج مخيبة للآمال كلياً، فقد ترسخ التطبيع، دون ان يحدث اي تقدم علي صعيد السلام، والأكثر من ذلك ان الاطمئنان الذي حصلت عليه الدولة العبرية من جراء هذا الكرم العربي، شجعها علي بناء المزيد من المستوطنات، واعادة احتلال الضفة الغربية، وارتكاب مجازر اكثر فظاعة في جنين وبيت حانون ورفح ونابلس.
القمة العربية لن تقدم علي تعديل مبادرة السلام التي تبنتها قمة بيروت عام 2002، حتي تتجاوب مع المطالب الاسرائيلية في اسقاط اهم بندين فيها، وهما حق العودة ومنع توطين اللاجئين الفلسطينيين في الدول التي يقيمون فيها مثل الاردن ولبنان وسورية، ولكنها، اي القمة، ستعمل علي الالتفاف حول هاتين المسألتين، بطريقة او بأخري.
فإحياء مبادرة السلام العربية، بعد خمسة اعوام من الموات، وفي مثل هذا التوقيت بالذات، هو امر يثير الريبة والشك، خاصة بعد اعلان اكثر من وزير خارجية عربي، بينهم السيد احمد ابو الغيط، ان هذه المبادرة هي اطار للسلام يمكن ان يكون اساساً للتفاوض من اجل حل القضية الفلسطينية.
فاطار السلام قابل للتعديل، والأخذ والرد، عندما تبدأ المفاوضات، ونحن نعرف ان الطرف الاسرائيلي هو الأكثر مهارة في المساومة، وفرض صياغات مبهمة للمعاهدات او للحدود، وثقوب اتفاقات اوسلو الكثيرة هي المثال الأبرز في هذا الخصوص.
مسؤول كبير يمثل احدي دول اللجنة الرباعية العربية قال لي شخصياً إن هناك ثلاثة ملفات رئيسية مطروحة امام القمة العربية، هي النزاع العربي ـ الاسرائيلي، والوضع المتفجر في العراق، والبرنامج النووي الايراني. واعترف بأن الملف الاول اي الفلسطيني هو اسهلها واقلها تعقيداً، ولهذا يمكن ان يتم البدء في التعامل معه، بعدها يتم الانتقال الي الملف العــراقي ثم الملف الايراني.
سهولة الملف الفلسطيني المفاجئة هذه تعود الي أمرين اساسيين، الاول هو عدم وجود قيادة فلسطينية قوية، وترويض حركة حماس من خلال ادخالها حكومة الوحدة الوطنية، وبيت الطاعة العربي عبر بوابة اتفاق مكة ، والأمر الثاني اتفاق محور المعتدلين العرب علي التضحية بهذه القضية وتقديم تنازلات كبيرة بشأنها، من اجل الدخول في شراكة امنية وعسكرية مع الدولة العبرية لخوض حرب مشتركة للتخلص من التهديد النووي الايراني.
فليس من قبيل الصدفة ان يتم تجويع الشعب الفلسطيني لأكثر من عام بوقف الرواتب والمساعدات عنه، ومشاركة الدول العربية بـحماس غير معهود في هذا الحصار المالي الظالم. فالهدف هو تيئيسه وإذلاله، ودفعه للقبول بأي شيء بما في ذلك التنازل عن حق العودة.
فالحكومة الفلسطينية الجديدة ليست معنية بالمفاوضات، ولا بدعم المقاومة، وانما بكيفية كسر الحصار، فالهدف الاساسي من تشكيلها هو كيفية استئناف ضخ المساعدات العربية والدولية لموظفي السلطة، ونيل الاعتراف الامريكي والاوروبي بها. ومن اللافت ان حركة حماس دخلت هذه المصيدة، واصبحت المحلل لمثل هذا التوجه المرسوم بعناية من قبل الولايات المتحدة واسرائيل وبعض الدول العربية.
السيدة رايس اكدت علي هذه المسألة بوضوح عندما نجحت في ترتيب لقاءات دورية بين السيد محمود عباس رئيس السلطة، وايهود اولمرت رئيس الوزراء الاسرائيلي، تبحث في القضايا الامنية والانسانية فقط، اما قضايا الحل النهائي والجدار العنصري العازل، والتوسع الاستيطاني وخنق القدس، فعليها ان تنتظر ريثما يهدأ غبار الحرب القادمة ضد ايران، وتحصل الولايات المتحدة علي ما تريد، وتغير النظام في طهران مثلما غيرت النظام في العراق، ولكل حادث حديث بعد ذلك.
اللقاءات المنتظرة، او المتفق عليها بين عباس واولمرت برعاية امريكية، هي بهدف الايحاء بان القضية الفلسطينية علي طريق الحل، مما سيسهل، او سيوفر الغطاء، للقاءات عربية علنية مع المسؤولين الاسرائيليين، وخاصة بين مسؤولين عرب في دول لم تقم علاقات مع تل ابيب مثل المملكة العربية السعودية ودول الخليج.
القمة العربية الحالية ربما تدخل التاريخ كقمة تشريع التطبيع، وتأكيد الزعامة السعودية للمنطقة بعدما تخلت عنها مصر طوعاً، وانتهت منافسة العراق لعدة عقود، واصبحت القيادة السورية تسعي جاهدة لنيل الرضي السعودي، او تجنب العزلة الخليجية.
تأكيد الزعامة السعودية للعرب علي درجة كبيرة من الاهمية، لانه يعني توفير الغطاء السني العربي والاسلامي لأي ضربة امريكية قادمة وشبه مؤكدة لايران، لان السعودية ستكون الشريك الاساسي فيها، مثلما كان حالها في كل الحروب الامريكية في المنطقة ابتداء من حربي افغانستان الاولي ضد السوفييت، والثانية ضد الارهاب وانتهاء بحربي امريكا ضد العراق، لتحرير الكويت اولاً، واطاحة النظام البعثي الوطني ثانياً.
ما زلنا، وسنظل نعتقد ان هذه القمة هي اخطر القمم العربية، او واحدة من اخطرها علي الاقل، ومثلما غيرت قمة القاهرة في اب (اغسطس) عام 1990 وجه المنطقة، واغرقتها في الفوضي والحروب الاهلية وادخلتها تحت الهيمنة الامريكية، فان هذه القمة قد تكرس الاهداف نفسها، وتضيف اليها تقسيم العالم الاسلامي الي معسكرين احدهما سني وآخر شيعي، وتمزق الدول القطرية نفسها، وتغرقها في حروب اهلية علي هذا الأساس.

——————————————————————————–

ارسل هذا الخبر الى صديق بالبريد الالكتروني

March 28th, 2007, 2:21 am

 
 

Alex said:

Gibran,

Good to see you back here. I missed your “delusionist” “regime apologist” and “regurgitating” …eh… regurgitation.

K,

Sorry I was still at work and I could not give you a proper answer.

Here is what I needed to add, and please feel free to take it apart point by point, preferably not considering what took place in the past, but what is optimal or necessary in the future.

The last sentence I added was absolutely not an after thought. One of the reasons we have conflicts today is the indecision regarding Syria’s “size”, or weight. Some of the Saudis, the Bush administration, the neocons, the late Hariri, Jumblatt …etc, believed that Syria’s regional role (or management role) was earned by Hafez elAssad personally.

When Hafez died, the 34 year old Bashar had an obvious challenge: convince them to respect him the way they respected his legendary father.

They did not respect him much. Instead, they started to take another look at Syria and decided that this is an economically weak country, its army has nothing but useless weapons from the 70’s, its “leader” is “weak” and inexperienced … and it is therefore more the “size” of … Jordan.

So if Syria wants to lead again (along with Egypt and Saudi Arabia) it will need to develop its army, its economy and … to earn respect for its leader…this is still mostly the typical Middle East … with all due respect to the Lebanese (and Syrian) liberal thinkers… being “democratically elected” is not what makes you a successful leader in the Middle East.

Besides the post 9/11 and Iraq war complications, the chaos we witnessed in the Middle East the past few years was the result of Syria’s refusal to give away its regional-role “earnings” that Hafez accumulated for 30 years.

So, my last statement about Syria’s need to change and reform had three components:

1) To earn the respect of the liberals, the thinkers and the “democracy lovers” Syria needs to gradually (over the next few years) implement convincing political reforms… this will be challenging.

2) To earn the confidence of the business community, Syria needs to continue its economic reforms. This one seems to be on the right track.

3) Again, this is the Middle East: power and the willingness to use it if necessary, are still essential leadership assets. When the culture int eh Middle East becomes Northern-Europe-like, then we will know it. But for now … Syria will continue to modernize its army until the Israelis see it again as a relatively serious threat (they are starting to).

All of the above says that Syria is not completely convincing today to many people that it is a regional leader like it used to be under Hafez. But it is half way there .. Bashar did a lot to make them respect him or to realize his essential role.

Lebanese liberals need to be convinced that Syria is the most secular force they can rely on… Lebanon is a wonderful place, but to continue functioning as a “country” you need to admit you are half-Christian/Half Muslim .. you are half secular/Half religious … half Sunni/half Shiite … half liberal/half backward … You can’t blame it always on outsiders (Syria usually) … For now you need Syria to balance you, but you need to make sure it does not come as part of what you perceive as “Syrian hegemony”.

Finally … I am convinced that within 50 years there will be some serious rethinking about the meaning of “borders” everywhere … Lebanon and Syria will be one of the earliest pairs of natural partners. The “border” between them will be history… don’t defend it as if it is something that will go on for eternity… it is all temporary… for now it is necessary and Syria should send an ambassador to Lebanon ..etc. But it would be better if you plan for the future in a positive way … Syria will not go away. It will be your partner at some point in the future …

March 28th, 2007, 3:22 am

 

G said:

ha ha ha! Priceless… Stalinist and silly.

March 28th, 2007, 3:50 am

 

Gibran said:

Alex now has a long term plan. You know what? In 50 years there will be four states neighbouring Lebanon: two to the west, one to the north and another one to the south. The borders will become delineated in accordance with UN requrements. You know what they say: ‘Partnerships’ are losing ventures.

March 28th, 2007, 4:02 am

 

Alex said:

G and Gibran

I love it how synchronized you are.

By the way, Gibran, what you mentioned (and you meant east, not west) is also a possibility … I think it is very unlikely, but it is a possibility.

March 28th, 2007, 4:20 am

 

SimoHurtta said:

Syria is a pariah state, membder of the band of four pariah states (Iran, Belarus, Venzuela, Syria)

Gibran what happened to Libya, North Korea, Zimbabwe, Burma etc? It is rather amusing that obviously the pariah states are mostly defined by their relations with USA. Whoever agrees to sell their raw materials to the west with minimum compensation is a “friend” so long the profit margin stays healthy. Like some of the Stan state “democracies”. Democracy level has very little to do with the pariah state status.

Not even George Bush can claim that Venezuela is not a democratic country. The only “democratic” problem is that Venezuela’s population and and president do not like US hegemony. Gibran in Venezuela they at least can calculate their population. One thing the “democratic liberals” of Lebanon can’t or do not want to do.

Belarus seems suddenly to have been “vanished” from the US pariah state list when Belarus’ relations with Russia worsened. However the leadership and its ruling style are the same as before.:)

Gibran any comments about Egypt’s elections? Is it now more or less democratic as Syria?

March 28th, 2007, 4:21 am

 

annie said:

Any news from Michel Kilo ? He went before the judge yesterday.

March 28th, 2007, 4:38 am

 

ugarit said:

As far as I can tell the USA, Israel and Saudi Arabia are major pariah states.

March 28th, 2007, 10:56 am

 

Gibran said:

SH,
I find your comments very anti American. Why? What do you have against America?

March 28th, 2007, 12:41 pm

 

K said:

Annie,

The charges against Kilo, in Ba’thist lingo.

speading false information
sowing discord
weakening national sentiment
inciting prisoners
provoking religious and racial dissent
http://news.yahoo.com/s/afp/20070327/wl_mideast_afp/syriaoppositiontrial_070327140451

Lebanese read this and reflect on how well Syria “manages” itself, and they collectively yearn for Syria to return to “managing” our affairs. Palestinians and Iraqis also erupt into joyful celebration, demanding prompt Syrian “management”.

March 28th, 2007, 1:08 pm

 

ausamaa said:

القمة العربية القادمة تعقد في سوريا
GMT 11:30:00 2007 الأربعاء 28 مارس
أ. ف. ب.

الرياض: صرح مصدر سوري مسؤول في الرياض لوكالة فرانس برس الأربعاء أن سوريا ستستضيف القمة العربية العادية المقبلة في آذار/مارس 2008 .

وقال مصدر سوري مسؤول أن وزراء خارجية الدول الأعضاء في الجامعة العربية وافقوا على هذا العرض.

March 28th, 2007, 1:37 pm

 

majedkhaldoun said:

there are people talking about dividing Syria,this is exactly what they want, this is not patriotic idea, to prevent that we need to get rid of these people, hopefully, they will be gone forever.

March 28th, 2007, 1:49 pm

 

Gibran said:

Dividing Syria is one of the most advatageous schemes for the region. And the people who want to divide it are going to be around for a long long time. So, Majed either you like it or you may want to knock your head against some wall. How is that?

March 28th, 2007, 2:03 pm

 

Samir said:

Gibran ,dividing Syria means a posthumous victory for sulayman asad ,grandfather of bashar..
But in reality, no one can divide Syria ,the Syrian unity is deep rooted in the conscience of the syrian people if we forget some small minorities that have accumulated a deep hatred toward the syrian people like bashar and alex…
Syria is not divisible.
We are not Iraq.

March 28th, 2007, 2:29 pm

 

Gibran said:

SAMIR,
That’s what they said about the atom long time ago. Isn’t it?
Sulayman may have been a good chemist, it seems.

March 28th, 2007, 2:32 pm

 

syrian said:

Alex,

You might want to expand on what you mean by “manage”. Do you mean control and dictate actions or coordinate foreign policy type of activity.

March 28th, 2007, 2:40 pm

 

syrian said:

Syria is already divided. 14 Muhafazat, well 15 if you count lebanon. 🙂

March 28th, 2007, 2:46 pm

 

Gibran said:

It is amazing what impotence can achieve. A dysfunctional Syrian regime keeps brainwashing Alex-like ‘zombies’ into believing in dictation and coordination.

March 28th, 2007, 2:49 pm

 

majedkhaldoun said:

Gibran:
infileq

March 28th, 2007, 2:51 pm

 

Alex said:

Gibran

Brilliant remarks.

Samir,

Since you are including me in your “small minorities that have accumulated a deep hatred towards the Syrian people” then now I know better to try to ignore your comments in the future.

K,

I would like to remind you that “Syrian management” is not “God’s perfect management”… I would like you to tell me

1) Did Lebanon do better managing by itself? if there was no Saudi, American, Iranian mediators … where would you be today? a number of Lebanese groups with very different objectives and mentalities who are more or less equal in power. Many are armed. Many use indirect threats often … I think Lebanon needs management for now. And I think Hafez managed it much better than any one else.
2) Can Iraq manage itself anytime in the near future? (It will eventually)
3) If Syria’s jailing of Kilo (a big mistake in my opinion) is upsetting you so much. Which other Major Middle Eastern country is doing better? Iraq? Egypt? Saudi Arabia? .. even Jordan.

And I did say that Syria needs many reforms before it its role is more widely accepted … and there will always be many who dislike Syria in surrounding countries .. like they dislike the US in Canada or Mexico …

Syrian,

I already mentioned more than once that “management” does not imply hegemony. It is obvious for those who want to think using their brains, and not their emotions, that Syria can not go back to the days of sending its army back into Lebanon, or to having its friends put a picture of the president of Syria at the Beirut airport that is larger than the picture of the Lebanese president.

March 28th, 2007, 2:52 pm

 

ausamaa said:

GIBRAN,

How about we all test the idea first by dividing Lebanon?

It is much smaller than Syria, a hell of a lot more fragmented than Syria, and at least two of its half-prominent war lords seem to like the idea.

March 28th, 2007, 2:53 pm

 

Gibran said:

Majid:
Tilhas
AUSSAMA:
We don’t have good chemists in Lebanon. And we are not ruled by a minority of a minority Alawis.

March 28th, 2007, 2:56 pm

 
 

majedkhaldoun said:

Ausamaa:
Western province of Syria(WPS) will not divide,it will join its mother SYRIA

March 28th, 2007, 2:59 pm

 

ausamaa said:

Majed, what if they insist on having a J&B Republic, sorry J&J Republic? That is Ja Ja and Junblat Free Republic. Oh.. that is three Js. So it becomes J&J&J Free Republic! or 3JInc. for short!

March 28th, 2007, 3:03 pm

 

Alex said:

Bravo Gibran,

You succeeded in creating few more zombies!

Syrian : )

Forget Gibran, the scary thing is that Syrians, and the other evil ones, look like that to President Bush too.

March 28th, 2007, 3:14 pm

 

Gibran said:

Eh lhas kaman Majid

It is a big chorus of zombies today it seems.

March 28th, 2007, 3:17 pm

 

ausamaa said:

Gibran,

So,.. why bother any longer? Wallah; Syrians DO have other things to be concerned about? Your “version” of Lebanon is the least of Syrians’ concerns right now!

Sit down, take a deep breath, think about the future. Lebanon’s future that is. Think about how Lebanon would look after the next Parlimentary Elections, think about how Junblat will make it up with Syria?, and about what happens after Bush and Chirac leave office, or about how to get out of that forty billion dollars debt -maybe fifty billions by now for all we know-?, about who will attend the next Arab Summit in Damascus on behalf of Lebanon next year?,… there are many things you can focus on other than you dedication to slandering of Syria which has been no more than a sorce of amusement to many readers here.
Dont you think that this will be a better utelization of your, and our, time and energy?

March 28th, 2007, 3:35 pm

 

Gibran said:

Chou AUSSAMAA kaman inta sirt bidak tilhas?
Amazing what jealousy can do to you!

March 28th, 2007, 3:51 pm

 

ugarit said:

Gibran said: “I find your comments very anti American”

You say that as if it’s a bad thing.

March 28th, 2007, 3:55 pm

 

Alex said:

OK, Gibran,

Enough fun for today. If you have any useful comments or suggestions, including your breaking up of Syria plans, go ahead and discuss them. But enough of this nonsense.

March 28th, 2007, 3:57 pm

 

ausamaa said:

Gibran,

Your performance had deteriorated from Slandering Syria, to Name Calling people who do not agree with you. If this is how you intend to carry on, which is an insult to this forum, please let me know, so that I steer clear of this bath of yours. Are you still an undergradute by any chance? Even “them”, they know how to conduct themselves in public! Come on!

March 28th, 2007, 3:57 pm

 

3antar said:

so its a race to sit on king abdullah’s lap now?
what most people dont realize is that this is not the first time saudi/syrian relations have turned 180 degrees within a short time.
its like a menstruation cycle. but most importantly for many syrian, saudi/syrian relations of little value, all they signify is an indirect improvement or deterioration of syrian/american relations. KSA is merely a medium, or messenger for that matter. yom birdu 3alena , u yom biz3alu. bless’em.

so if the lebanese are so keen, then please do. because thats as good as it gets. getting pat on the back and perhaps a biscuit for being loyal. some countries have a role to play, others are just there to exist and take what’s being dashed out of gratuity.

Saudi being interviewed at the US Embassy.*

Consul: “Your name please?”

Saudi: “Abdul-Aziz.”

Consul: “Sex?”

Saudi: “Six times a day.”

Consul: “I mean, male or female?”

Saudi: “Both male and female sometime even camels.”

Consul: “Holy cow!”

Saudi: “Yes, cows & dogs too.”

Consul: “Man, isn’t that hostile?”

Saudi: “Horse style, dog style, any style!”

Consul: “Oh dear!”

Saudi: “Deer? No deer, they run too fast..!!”

March 28th, 2007, 3:59 pm

 

Alex said:

More “happiness” at the Arab summit!

Here are the Saudi and Egyptian leaders warmly welcoming the Emir of Qatar (who they hate).

March 28th, 2007, 4:00 pm

 

norman said:

That is funny.

March 28th, 2007, 4:03 pm

 

EHSANI2 said:

March 28 (Bloomberg) — Syria invited property developers,
banks and investors to bid for contracts to build tourist
resorts, golf courses and theme parks near Lake Al Assad, in the
northern part of the country.
The area to be developed is about 3.95 million square meters
(1.5 square miles), Tourism Minister Sadallah Agha Al Kalaa said
in an advertisement in the London-based Al-Hayat newspaper today.
Offers are to be submitted to the ministry in Damascus by May 31.
Syria, which is under U.S. economic sanctions, introduced a
new law in January to bolster foreign investment. It allows
investors to own or rent land and to take profit out of the
country in any currency. The Arab nation is targeting 7 percent
economic growth by 2010, up from 5.6 percent this year.
The U.S. accuses Syria of permitting terrorists to enter
Iraq and of involvement in the assassination of former Lebanese
Prime Minister Rafiq Al-Hariri. It supports the Hezbollah
militia, which is in a political standoff with the pro-U.S.
Lebanese government.

March 28th, 2007, 4:04 pm

 

norman said:

Alex, why qatar is hated by Egypt and Saudi arabia?.

March 28th, 2007, 4:11 pm

 

3antar said:

Norman, they dont reaaaaly hate hate. its a love/hate relationship. abit like the syrian/leb relationship.

March 28th, 2007, 4:18 pm

 

3antar said:

was flippin through Al-jazeera, and came across this.
was overwhelmed with amusement.
since when did Col G sport such a fashionably up to date look? he should be the new face of Calvin Klein! 🙂

http://www.aljazeera.net/NR/exeres/E5748084-3C04-45AD-B811-B184DBAF27BD.htm

although someone should bring his attention to the bit of mloukhieh spilt on his ever so white shirt.

March 28th, 2007, 4:33 pm

 

3antar said:

here is a strategy that lebanese companies could implement with the obvious slight amendment.

see, one can find good in practically everything.
hhehe

http://www.ananova.com/news/story/sm_2258592.html

March 28th, 2007, 4:43 pm

 

ausamaa said:

I think that the the best description for the revised Draft of the Arab Summit Final Comunique is that the summit has acknowledged the “True Balance of Power on the Ground in the Arab World” in the wake of the apparent failing of the necons projects in the area.

A rebuff to all the acts of isolation that we have seen during the past few years and a return to realisem! A final nail in the coffin of Clean Break.

Israel was kept at bay by the clever Amr Mousa hint that Israel should first accepts the Arab Peace Plan as it is and then negotiate better things.

The Arab version of the Bush “REDIRECTION” !

March 28th, 2007, 5:09 pm

 

Alex said:

Norman,

The Emir of Qatar continues to challenge Saudi Arabia in everything. Did you notice how Al-Jazeera is moderately anti-Saudi?

The Saudis have many Qatar attack dogs in the media .. the Al-Arabiya and Asharq al-Awsat are not only anti Syria, but equally anti Qatar.

With Egypt it is an older story. It started with Qatar accusing Egypt of attempting a coup in Qatar.

March 28th, 2007, 5:13 pm

 

EHSANI2 said:

Just follow the $$$$$$$$$$

Money is pouring into Syria and Lebanon as we speak.
Judging by the capital pouring into the two countries, a significant political and economic turnaround seems the best bet. Money has the strongest nose and what it smells right now is a positive solution and a much more optimistic outcome than the consensus.

March 28th, 2007, 5:19 pm

 

ausamaa said:

Qatar? A loud voice, street-popular stands, lots of money, and the biggest base for the US in the area. The perfect formula. It makes the other contestants eat their hearts out.

But I think it all goes back to the success of Al Jazira. What a smart move by Qatar. That is the best example of Having your cake and Eating it too.

March 28th, 2007, 5:21 pm

 

K said:

Alex,

1. REFORM

When you said Syria had to reform itself before managing its backyard, I naively thought you meant democratization. I was getting ready to give my standard answer to greater-Syria fantasizers: If the prevailing regime is fair and democratic, may the whole planet unite and we’ll do away with nation-states altogether. But if the prevailing regime is tyrannical, I prefer my small independent state.

But when you said “reform” you meant nearly the opposite: For you, Bashar must convince regional players “to respect him the way they respected his legendary father.”

Of course, to earn this “respect” Bashar must embark on regional terrorist campaigns, foster wars in neighboring countries, and murder his opponents. And he must “develop its army and economy”. This is your idea of reform.

Once he has “reformed” Syria this way and has earned regional “respect” (like his murderous father) Syria can return to its rightful place, “managing” the region. Excellent.

2. RESPECT

You agree with me that war-mongering and terrorism is Bashar’s path to “respect”:

“…the chaos we witnessed in the Middle East the past few years was the result of Syria’s refusal to give away its regional-role “earnings” that Hafez accumulated for 30 years.”

“Again, this is the Middle East: power and the willingness to use it if necessary, are still essential leadership assets. ”

“…Bashar did a lot to make them respect him or to realize his essential role.”

But you call it “leadership”, “willingness to exercise power”, “refusing to give away accumulated earnings”, “making them realize his essential role”. With this language you obscure reality. You elevate Bashar’s mafia-like crimes into statesmanship.

When people accuse you of being a propagandist, or a regime apologist, I believe they are referring to this type of rhetorical obfuscation. You even provide encouragement, you want MORE of this from Bashar. Bravo.

3. LEBANON

Your ideological background come to light by your patronizing attitude towards Lebanon, Syria’s kid sister. You think Syria should throw Lebanon a bone by exchanging ambassadors and other trappings of recognition, to temporarily quell Lebanese nagging, until the right moment comes for unification, within 50 years, you hope. Do me a favor and hold your breath.

Alex, Lebanese like myself resent the arrogant, patronizing attitude of Syrians like yourself. There is no room in your assessment for the freedoms, desires and dreams of the Lebanese people. Only power calculations between Syria and regional rivals, with Lebanon as a prize.

We in Lebanon have other plans. We are weak and divided, so we might very well fail to set our own path, but surely, we will not lay down easily for Syria. We will obstruct its schemes every step of the way. We will use every means at our disposal – our free press, our alliance with Syrian dissidents, and yes, our relations with global powers.

We hope against hope that a new Syrian regime would treat Lebanon differently. If a new regime takes power and continues Syrian policies towards Lebanon – we will have to restart our resistance.

March 28th, 2007, 5:25 pm

 

K said:

“1) Did Lebanon do better managing by itself? if there was no Saudi, American, Iranian mediators … where would you be today?”

First, it’s none of your business. (Not you personally). If Lebanon is doomed to fail, let it fail without foreign interference.

“I think Lebanon needs management for now. And I think Hafez managed it much better than any one else.”

It’s not your choice buddy. That’s up to the Lebanese to decide. And if someone attempts to impose their choice on Lebanon, we will resist with all available means.

I personally consider Hafez in the top 5 foreign butchers of Lebanon, along with Sharon, Arafat, Kissinger, and other mass-murderers. I’m an atheist, but I hope there is a hell for Hafez to roast in for all eternity.

“2) Can Iraq manage itself anytime in the near future? (It will eventually)”

Bashar has played a most damaging role in Iraq. He has one card, and one card only: mukhabarat relations with Sunni fanatical murderers. Just to be a toothpick in America’s ass, he is happy to see Shi’a civilians butchered en masse. Iraq will never forgive him; nor should it.

“3) If Syria’s jailing of Kilo (a big mistake in my opinion) is upsetting you so much. Which other Major Middle Eastern country is doing better? Iraq? Egypt? Saudi Arabia? .. even Jordan.”

Each of these countries is a hellhole. May all their tyrants be overthrown and strung from lampposts.

March 28th, 2007, 5:38 pm

 

ausamaa said:

The Day After!
Feeling “abadoned” and “disillusioned” is a very very bad feeling! Aint it? Well, “Mislead”, “Used” and “Self-decieved” are more accurate words perhaps!

March 28th, 2007, 5:59 pm

 

Alex said:

Dear K,

First, I am delighted to have an intelligent conversation with an intelligent Lebanese here in Syria comment. Please ask more of your good friends to join us. So far we had to deal with G and Gibran who do not have much to say.

The issues we are debating are very complex. I will be happy to comment on each of your points, but I would like you to first start by clarifying to me and to yourself:

1) Are we interested in optimizing moral values and good governance?

2) Are we defending national pride? my tribe is better than your tribe?

3) Are we interested in real world solutions?

4) Do we understand that we can not instantly beam the Middle East from today’s point A to the desired point B? that we need to find some real path to go there.. over a period of time? and that we should not be discouraged and to boycott the process of change simply because the beginning of the path today obviously looks just as undesirable as point A itself?

Looking forward to continuing this discussion. And please believe me that for every thing I criticize in Lebanon, there is another something I respect and admire. My concentrating on the negative parts is only because we are discussing them … if you want to discuss architecture and urban planning for example, all the negativity goes to Syria… Lebanon can teach Syria a million lessons… in Banking, service industries, tourism, free press (although last few years I am not too sure). And I would throw Syrian TV in the garbage and buy any existing Lebanese station, from LBC to Almanar.

March 28th, 2007, 6:19 pm

 

syrian said:

K,

I had no intention of intervening in this debate you are having with Alex; however, this paragraph attracted my attention and I felt I would need to say something

“There is no room in your assessment for the freedoms, desires and dreams of the Lebanese people. Only power calculations between Syria and regional rivals, with Lebanon as a prize.”

I am sorry to say that there is no room in anyone’s assessment (political force) for the dreams and aspiration of the people. The idea that competitors are going to take into account the needs of the tools used in their competition is naiive at best and dangerous in many other respects. The world around you is not run by happy people who wish the best for each other and it will not become that way as much as we might wish it to be. People are instinctively power seeking and when faced by someone weaker, they will take advantage; and I am not being cynical, it’s simply a matter of observation. Look around you and anywhere you see someone preaching love, compassion and concern, you will find someone taking advantage of that same love, compassion and concern.

I doubt that you will find anyone here who will condone, at an ideological level, what the Syrian apparatus may have done in Lebanon, afterall, these are some of the same things that are done in Syria.

Here is a quote that illustrates the Syrian role in Lebanon. Click on the quote for the source.

Corruption was rife in Lebanon long before the Syrian army entered the country. More than one Syrian commentator has lamented that it was Lebanon that corrupted Syria. Once the Assad regime became kingmaker in Lebanon, a world of riches opened before it. A Lebanese cabinet minister who might pocket $200 million in bribes a year gladly remits half in return for the Syrian support necessary to remain in his position. In this respect, Syrian officials did not come into the country and change the rules—they simply used their control over Lebanon to siphon money out of the system in the same way, albeit on a greater scale, that Lebanese political elites had been doing for generations.

March 28th, 2007, 6:30 pm

 

norman said:

Thanks ,Alex and ausama for the info about Qatar.

March 28th, 2007, 6:37 pm

 

majedkhaldoun said:

King Abdullah,God bless him,is calling arab to unite,and stop fighting each other, this clear message to those who are blowing fire instead of waving olive branch, Love is always better than hate(do you understand that ya maflooq,Gibran)cooperation between WPS and Syria, is better than fighting and going to France and USA asking for help,something the people in the arab world will never accept as patriotic. King Abdullah is acting like true tall arab leader.
As far as Ja’Ja’ he should go back to jail,Junblat need to buy a house in Paris, I am sure Khaddam will help him, he has no place in WPS

March 28th, 2007, 6:48 pm

 

ausamaa said:

I have been following the callers to the various Arabic talkshows on Channels like Al Jazeera and Orbit (mostly Egyptians!) and a lot of callers are upset over one issue; they are not happy with the Summit acting “nice” towards Israel and the Bush Admin. Their argument is that we have never had the balance of power so tilted in favour of Arabs as it is now. The US and Israel are in deep trouble and we have the upper hand now -they are saying-, so we must demand a higher price for our cooperation. They all mentioned the “defeat” of Israel during the July war Lebanon and the “collapse” of Bush policies in Iraq and Afghanistan!

Talk about “winning” Hearts and Minds!

March 28th, 2007, 7:34 pm

 

Gibran said:

K.,
Before you go any further with your exchanges with Alex and the rest of the Landis chorus, be aware of the nature of these zombies. I’ve been exchanging nonsense with these ideologues for almost a year and believe me they still live in a stone age. I have raised all of the points that you raised (and even more) with this so-called Alex hoping to sway him into common sense but to no avail. In fact, I have noticed that he has been called a regime drum beater by some blogger somewhere in blogsphere. I find the description very revealing in the sense that Alex-like characters (the chorus) will beat the drum to any regime that happen to be in control in Damascus. So let’s say Khaddam takes over tomorrow, then Alex will play a different tune but will maintain his drum beating role.
So, whereas it may not be a bad idea to engage with such creatures, don’t count on any breakthroughs with go-with-the-wind characters. The problem is you have Landis and a chorus of about five to six diehard drum beaters who sometimes descend upon you all of a sudden in an effort to stifle any common sense for the one and only purpose: Defending an indefensible and dysfunctional regime of terrorist thugs that are better off behind bars than being in charge of the daily lives of millions of poor Syrians.

I would advise you never to discuss Lebanese matters with such aliens.

Now Majid take it once and for all and continue with your talhis, and buzz off will you?

March 28th, 2007, 7:34 pm

 

majedkhaldoun said:

Gibran;
You are Obnoxious,I strongly believe that wps is part of Syria, if you do not believe so, that is your opinion, but you are not lebanese, dare you again to say your real name, tell us why you choose fake name, you are coward and ZANEEM (arabic word).

March 28th, 2007, 8:13 pm

 

Gibran said:

Majid,
You are a ZINDEEQ in Arabic who doesn’t know who his father is. How is that? So buzz off will you?

March 28th, 2007, 8:27 pm

 

SimoHurtta said:

SH,
I find your comments very anti American. Why? What do you have against America?

Gibran I am not anti American, I am anti Bush, anti Neocon and anti Zionist. Are you for example anti Zimbabwean if you do not approve the present regime? If you do not approve the regime it doesn’t mean that you hate the country and her people. By the way the clear majority of Americans are also “anti American” like me (by your definition) because they do not approve Bush’s “strange” foreign policy.

What most irritates me is the the complete lack of intellectual honesty of some commentators. For example some ultra-Lebanese (living abroad – naturally) are capable only to mock Syria and other commentators without any rational constructive visions of the way forward. A Jew commentator (living in North America – naturally) is only able to speak about “thhherrorihhhst”, like Israeli politicians pronounce that term in television, but is not able to see the unnecessary aggressiveness of his dream Lilliput state (where he doesn’t live – naturally). Decades of WMD building in secret, killing, religious and racial discrimination, financial blackmail, building slave camps, land theft, starting wars etc. Can a supporter of such a state really lecture what other countries should do and how to develop.

If we blame Syria and Iran for the lack of democracy the minimum would be compare those states to the situation and behaviour of the neighbours. No doubt that ALL Middle Eastern countries have much to do on the path towards real democracy. Especially Israel and Lebanon, if those countries will be real democratic beacons for the Middle East as they claim to be. Now both countries are simply caricatures of real democracies.

Why I as a non Muslim, non Jew and non Arab do waste my time in commenting and trying to follow what happens in Middle East? It is simply because what happens in Middle East will have consequences also to my country, directly and indirectly. US neoconservatives have also dreams to keep Europe ethnically divided, unable to build an own army and are building with all means quarrel between EU and Russia using much the same methods as in Middle East. Divide and rule – you know. Some examples of the views
http://www.heritage.org/Research/Europe/bg1991.cfm
http://www.heritage.org/Research/Europe/bg2010.cfm
http://www.heritage.org/Research/Europe/hl983.cfm

Maybe Gibran your nation should count the population and have elections which would honestly share the political power. Then you would have more moral “foundation” in your views. By the way a country which army is equipped and capable only for riot control has probable not a very bright future. When Lebanon’s army can keep Israeli planes out of their airspace and make Israel think twice before “socializing” the waters of Litani, your country has probably more “respect” also in Damascus.

March 28th, 2007, 9:44 pm

 

EHSANI2 said:

Gibran,

You are a persistent and a tenacious person. Where others may have given up and quit, you have continued to speak your mind against the barrage of other commentators on this blog.

Inadvertently, however, you seem to have acted as a unifying force for the many Syrian regulars here. Every man has a nationalistic gene hidden in his DNA mix. You have successfully awakened those somewhat sleepy genes in a lot of us.

I, for one, value your contributions here. I think that you represent the views of a significant number of Lebanese. The way many of them feel towards Syria is very similar to what you write on these pages. Just like you, they also seem to have helped Syrians have more passion for their national identity. The more their country gets attacked, the more Syrians rally around their leadership.

Dear K

As for the discussion between you and Alex, I want to second what my friend Syrian said.

Leaders, as all humans, have to learn to extract the most they can out of whatever resources they have at their disposal. Using this yardstick, the Syrian leadership has done a truly outstanding job. Many people do have a big problem with the methods that this leadership uses to achieve its goals. I think that it is hard to argue with that. But, suppose that you were in Bashar’s shoes for a second, what would you have done? Compromise and going soft in our region does not necessarily bode well for your long-term survival.

The leaders of our region are not running for a Nobel peace prize. They have to survive in very treacherous waters. From our computer screens and from the comforts of our living rooms, it is tempting to see them as thugs and tyrants. From the perspective of those in power however, calls for democracy and respect for civil liberties is a naïve notion that poses a grave threat to their survival. When faced even with the remotest of probabilities of losing power, leaders and the communities that they represent will fight back with all the means and tools at their disposal. Were the Maronites of Lebanon to face the same predicament, they will do the same (and rightly so). The same goes for others. The Sunnis of today’s Iraq are involved in a fight for their survival. Saddam clearly was not smart enough to hold on. The same cannot be said of the Assads of Syria. They have proved themselves to be a worthy adversary to the many people that want to see the back of them. Given their limited resources, they have done an outstanding job regardless of your feelings towards them. That, I hope we can all agree on.

March 28th, 2007, 9:50 pm

 

Gibran said:

Dear SH,
I am sorry that Europe was dwarfed by the US to your disdain. It may well be true that whoever said Europe is the Old continent may have been right. I am still going to continue to eat French fries and not bother whether Chiraque was right or wrong. On the other hand, I don’t think that gives you enough reasons to sound anti-American, anti-neocon or anti-anti whatever. In addition, I find that your declared interests in reading about the ME did not translate into better understanding of the region. You look no different to me than most of what I refer to as the Landis chorus. In particular, you seem to rely on relativism to justify the unjustifiable rogue regimes of Syria and Iran. You also seem to lack quite a bit of depth with regards to Lebanese issues, particularly the capabilities of the Lebanese army. I will refrain from further dialogue with you until you show that you have caught up on these issues.

Dear EHSANI,
We seem to continue to discover new things as we go on. I have no problem with Syrians becoming more or less nationalists. It is the least of my concerns.
Unfortunately, you also seem to have been infected with the virus of relativism plaguing this blog. As a reminder, I would like to draw your attention to the simple fact that utilitarianism justified on the basis of relativism will not achieve your goals of bringing free market economy to your Syrian homeland. As a distinguished graduate of economic theories, you should know full well that liberal political democratic governance is the most essential prerequisite for such outcome (free market economy) to be brought about. So, putting nationalism aside, I’d invite you to stop shooting yourself in the foot, abandon relativism and call loudly for the political transformation of Syria towards liberal democracy. Or saying it concisely, the cart cannot be placed before the horse.

March 29th, 2007, 12:45 am

 

norman said:

For democracy to take hold Syria and other countries should have a large midlclass , free market economy does not require democracy , examples ,Spain under Franco , China , when political reform started before establishing a wide midleclass colaps of goverment and coruption took hold , example Rusia.

March 29th, 2007, 1:06 am

 

Syrian said:

Liberal political democratic governance is the most essential prerequisite for such outcome (free market economy) to be brought about

As impressive as that sounds it could not be more wrong. The pre-requisit for a capitalist economy is protected ownership of private property and well identified property rights. Democracy and capitalism may work to augment and promote one another but neither is a pre-requisite for the other.


Free markets and democracy: Can capitalism promote political freedom
and vice versa?

Norman
A large middle class is usually the result of a free market economy not a cause of it.

March 29th, 2007, 1:08 am

 

norman said:

Syrian , I thought i said that free market will lead to larg middlclass which will lead to democracy ,May be i was not clear as usual.Democracy does not lead to large middlclass free market does , that is propably clearer.

March 29th, 2007, 1:29 am

 

Gibran said:

A self-proclaimed ‘genius’ is quick to jump on the wagon and proclaim unequivocally:

“Liberal political democratic governance is the most essential prerequisite for such outcome (free market economy) to be brought about

As impressive as that sounds it could not be more wrong.”

What are we going to say to such ‘genius’? Go back to ESL? Or may be you don’t read your linked material:

“F. Hayek, Milton Friedman, Ludvig Von Mises, and many others see matters differently. They believe that liberties in the political and economic spectrum are complementary and mutually dependent. According to them, there is an inbuilt similarity between democratic government and property rights, for democracy is the best guarantor of limited government and free enterprise. Open political systems tend constrain government from expropriating private holdings. We could also add that democracy has independent benefits, too, because of the constant float of information permitted in democratic societies.”

Notice what it says: “According to them, there is an inbuilt similarity between democratic government and property rights, for democracy is the best guarantor of limited government and free enterprise.” Property rights: That was the basis of your argument (or lack of it), was it not? Very ingenius indeed.

And again:

” Moreover as statistics prove representative government institutions and property, each have a positive association with the rate of production. Democratic and property-oriented regimes have the better growth record in recent years. The connection between politics and economy is not grammical but dialectic. One is affected by the other and from the forthcoming results the latter is affected from the former. Over the longer-term, it is likely that growth does modify the institutional framework in a country.”

Notice their argument: “One is affected by the other and from the forthcoming results the latter is affected from the former.” The latter is affected from the former: What is the latter here? Is it not economics according to the previous sentence? And what is the former? Is it not politics according to the same previous sentence?
Even though the realtion is dialectic, yet it is clear economics is affected from politics according to your own link.

Now the title of your linked article is a question:
“Free markets and democracy: Can capitalism promote political freedom
and vice versa?”

If you read the whole article, you will conclude that it did prove political freedom leads to capitalism based on historical facts, examples and statistics. it leaves the reverse side of the question (i.e. can capitalism lead to political freedom) hedged without a conclusive proof – so much for dialectics.

Now it is indeed tedious to argue with you Mr. SYRIAN

March 29th, 2007, 1:57 am

 

Alex said:

الشرع: العلاقات السعودية السورية عادت الى سابق عهدها

GMT 3:30:00 2007 الخميس 29 مارس

العاهل السعودي يلتقي الأسد ثانية .. وفريق دارفور
ايلاف من الرياض: اكدت مصادر مطلعة لـ”ايلاف” ان لقاءا ثالثا سيجمع الملك عبد الله بالرئيس السوري بشار الاسد اليوم بعد اللقاء الثاني الذي تم ليل امس بعد انتهاء الجلسة المغلقة.وقد أعرب الاسد، عن ارتياحه للنتائج التي توصل إليها القادة العرب خلال الجلسة المغلقة، معتبرا قمة الرياض “من أفضل القمم العربية”. وأكد أن أهم ما يميز القمة الحالية هو توصل الدول العربية والقادة العرب إلى صورة متقاربة لم تكن موجودة في القمم السابقة.

وردا على سؤال حول علاقات سوريا مع الدول العربية، وصف هذه العلاقات بأنها “دية وممتازة”، مؤكدا أن “هذا هو الموقع الطبيعي لسوريا وأنه ليس لها أي موقع آخر”. كما تطرق الى دور سوريا في معالجة الأوضاع في لبنان قائلا إن “هذا الأمر يتم عندما يتوافق الأشقاء اللبنانيون”، مضيفا ان “دور سوريا سيكون مساعدا كدور أي دولة عربية اذا كان هناك إجماع لبناني على شيء معين”.

وأعلن أمس أيضا عن لقاء يعقد صباح اليوم بين الأسد والرئيس المصري حسني مبارك، فيما لم يحسم بعد احتمال تحول اللقاء الثنائي إلى ثلاثي يضم الملك السعودي. من جهته وصف ووصف نائب الرئيس السوري فاروق الشرع اللقاء خلال حديث لصحيفة السفير اللبنانية” بالجيد الجيد جدا والأخوي”، مشيرا إلى أنه كان “تصفية للقلوب ولقاء مصارحة ومصالحة”. وقال إن “العلاقات السعودية السورية عادت إلى سابق عهدها”، لافتا إلى أن اللقاء “انتهى إلى أفضل ما بدأ عليه”، وأنه “جرى الحديث في كل شيء وتطرق إلى كل المواضيع”، وأن “ما بين البلدين في العمق هو ما بحث أكثر”.

March 29th, 2007, 4:35 am

 

majedkhaldoun said:

the arab summit may have impove the relation between king Abdullah and Asad, but it did not solve the lebanese crisis, this crisis is moving fast toward dangerous level, Lahoud will go by october, he may dissolve the goverment but he cannot form another goverment in lebanon till it is approved by the house of representatives,whose Berri is preventing from meeting,thus creating a political vaccum, for the house to convene,that means Berri is out, and the tribunal is approved, then the army has to take over,because of the vaccum, the UNIFIL can not stay in Lebanon without a goverment approval for extension,but where is the goverment then? so the security council have to act soon,probably issues a mandate to a country,(probably France)to manage Lebanon,another arab country occupation,this will be a vulnerable period for Asad,he will have to give a concession after another.
If the USA attacks Iran the whole thing will be different.

March 29th, 2007, 4:47 am

 

Syrian said:

Ehsani2,

Can you explain to the persistent and the tenacious on this forum what the following paragraphs mean; since apparantly I need to go back to ESL, (I don’t read exnglish good)

India also took a quasi-socialist path with its Permit Raj and central planning; on the other hand countries like South Korea and Taiwan, preferred a more private enterprise path. By the 1990s those countries’ per capita incomes were 10 to 15 times that of India. As a result democracy and respect for human rights have replaced authoritarian rule in South Korea, Taiwan. And the recent turn of India towards liberal capitalism is not irrelevant with these historical consequences.

Changes in the way the global economy works are playing a big part in rendering government control unproductive. As the Cato Institute notes while global output rised at an annual rate of 1.4% between 1989 and 1997, international trade grew much more swiftly — at 5.3%. Foreign direct investment increased even faster, at an annual rate of 11.5%. As a consequence, it is not possible nowadays to keep a national economic policy in isolation. Business now easily reaches across national boundaries, and governments no longer have the leverage over their own economies that they once did. The social consequences of this truth are more than obvious. Free markets remove boundaries and promote cultural exchange, freedom of movement and information circulation. Decentralized governance seems to be an inevitable perspective.

The reason for these events is obvious. Free markets provide a successful counterweight to central/planning and governmental decision making, thus mobilizing uncontrolled social forces which tend to seize power from the ruling elites and distribute it to the masses. Private enterprise maybe the answer to the question why open market as Cato Institute notes, ‘’till the soil for democracy”.

Especially the last sentence of the last paragraph that I am quoting and the second sentence of the first paragraph someone else quoted. None of this appears to me to imply that Liberal political democratic governance is the most essential prerequisite for such outcome (free market economy) to be brought about

March 29th, 2007, 6:08 am

 

Gibran said:

Hey Mr. ‘Genius’,
Are you here to argue for the sake of argument? And are you an Alex-like creature in need of constant chorus support to carry out a debate? Can’t you do it on your own? You should be able to stand or fall on your own merits. Otherwise why should we bother with your presence and address you as such? And do you copy statements from anywhere without criticism? As far as we know Taiwan and S. Korea have been under US protection at least since the end of Second World War. The reason for such protection was first and foremost due to the desire of the general population of those states to be part of the liberal democratic west as opposed to the centralized rules of mainland China and N. Korea. I wouldn’t take what this study says at face value without critical examination. So, at what point did this replacement of authoritarian rule with respect for human rights and liberal democracy take place to say it was the result of private enterprise? I don’t think your article provides an answer. Same argument applies to India. We know India was created as democratic state since 1948. Its recent economic successes (even though still lacking behind Taiwan and S. Korea according to your link) is clearly due to the precedence of the existence of democratic governance which you foolishly insist on ignoring that it is the best guarantor of private ownership laws (clearly stated in your link), but grudgingly admitting its being the most relevant pre-requisite for private enterprise. So your link provides tremendous evidence to support the argument that Democratic governance leads to liberal free economy, at least in terms of providing the best protection for private ownership. But it leaves the second part of the question (Can capitalism promote political freedom?) unanswered and without any supporting evidence. I think the link provides clear examples that this actually may not be the case. Does it not refer to Kuwait and SA as examples of abnormal case? They’re very much capitalized obviously, but are they liberal? But then their capitalism is a special case due to natural bounties not seen in normal circumstances.
Please allow me to use your own pompous but empty phrase: “As impressive as you sound you can’t be more contradictory.” Enough with your ESL.

March 29th, 2007, 7:36 am

 

SimoHurtta said:

You also seem to lack quite a bit of depth with regards to Lebanese issues, particularly the capabilities of the Lebanese army. I will refrain from further dialogue with you until you show that you have caught up on these issues.

Hmmm Gibran what are the capabilities of Lebanese army? Has it won any battle during the last lets say 60 years? Was it able to avoid or to end the civil war? Was it able to throw out the invading foreign armies? Almost every day Lebanon is complaining about Israeli planes coming to their air space, but nothing is (=can be) done. The only military deterrent Lebanon has is in reality Hizbollah. The official army is a slightly over equipped riot police, but so far nothing else. You probably have a different view, but how do you justify your view?

If you Gibrain would have a capability to a real dialogue, you could also explain me why the Lebanese political system has no self-correcting mechanism which would guaranty a better stability. Anybody with a little political sense can see that Lebanon’s main problem is the outdated sharing of power – inability to count the population and then correct the constitution. This “impotence” has already caused one civil war.

March 29th, 2007, 8:01 am

 

Syrian said:

Dr. Moron,

No I do not need anyone else to chorus for me.

Read carefully if you can. South Korea and Taiwan had authoritarian rule and flourished economically. The economic success led to political liberalization. Freedman, Von Mises and F. Hayek have all through the ages argued that capitalism is the guarantor of freedom not the other way around. When Milton Freedman advised Pinochet of Chile, he did not advise him to implement democratic rule; he advised him to implement a capitalist system. As you would see in the article and you can search the web, you will find that Pinochet replaced a democratic (politically liberal) government.

The democracy of india provided nothing in terms of economic growth until a free market system was implemented. The fact that it was a democracy is irrelevant. Much as the currently democratic government of Venezuela will not lead to much in terms of growth in the long run.

In the meantime, authoritarian China experiences double digit growth rates because private enterprise is being encouraged. we can expect that, in the course of time and as the chinese per capita GDP starts coming to parity with those of western societies, that the chinese will become more and more vociferous in demanding political liberalism and eventually getting it.

You insist that your phrase is correct and from historical evidence (your history here that is), i am sure that nothing i can say can convince you otherwise. However, for all the others that are reading these tidbits, here is what I am saying political freedom and economic liberalism can re-inforce each other. Either one can lead to the other but neither is an essential prerequisite for the other.

I will use a portion of the quote you provided

They believe that liberties in the political and economic spectrum are complementary and mutually dependent

This sentence stands on its own. It is what they believe.

in the same article from the sections I quoted above you will find this The social consequences of this truth are more than obvious. Free markets remove boundaries and promote cultural exchange, freedom of movement and information circulation. Decentralized governance seems to be an inevitable perspective.

to put it more succinctly, Economic liberalism and Political liberalism are not a horse and a carriage; they are more like a chicken and an egg.

March 29th, 2007, 8:11 am

 

Syrian said:

SH,

Gibran’s views are self evident truths, don’t you know that.

March 29th, 2007, 8:12 am

 

Alex said:

Dear SH, Syrian,

“you seem to rely on relativism to justify the unjustifiable rogue regimes of Syria and Iran.”

Please understand Gibran’s simple but beautiful applied economics (and politics):

When it comes to Syria … nothing is relative, only bad.

You get it? … pompous “geniuses”.

March 29th, 2007, 9:37 am

 

K said:

Alex, Syrian, Ehsani:

I propose 2 paths for our discussion. We can choose to allow ethical judgment into our discussion, which allows us to critique unjust and oppressive policies, whether committed by Syria, the US, or others. Or we choose to be amoral and apply only a power-politics lens, which allows us to praise effective behavior, even when committed by tyrants or foreign occupiers or cynical politicians. I am happy to discuss both in parallel, but for now you all seem to be leaning towards pure politics.

From your perspective, Syria’s cruel policies in Syria, Lebanon, Palestine and Iraq are only natural; not only has it been effective in maintaining Bashar’s status, it is a simple fact of life, and the sooner the rest of the planet faces the fact that Syria cannot be sidelined, the better for everyone.

Extend this logic to Syria’s Lebanese opponents. March 14’s alliance with the Syrian Opposition, Lebanese free press’s relentless barrage of criticm of the Syrian regime, and even M14’s alliances with various powers (US, KSA) are perfectly natural phenomena.

As Lebanese, we know nobody really gives a shit about our aspirations, so we must manipulate larger powers to do our bidding for us, by persuading them it is their interest to do so. This is risky, because these powers have their own interests, but you play the game and do what you can. The best player sucks the most he can out of the patron power at the lowest possible price.

I applaud Jumblatt for cynically seizing the moment of neocon dominance in Washington to lobby the greatest power on earth to our cause. Moral judgments aside, the man is doing the right thing to maximize his power.

Where M14 has fallen short is in being too weak, too embarassed in its positions. We have ceded the rhetorical high ground in our internal debate with the Opposition. We need to reclaim “resistance” from Hizballa, we must consistently frame Syria’s abuse of Lebanon as being ON PAR with Syrian abuse, we must attack the Opposition’s foreign patrons (Iran and Syria) with just as much venom and viciousness as they hold for the US, France and even Israel. We should long ago have officially called for int’l powers to invade Syria and destroy its regime, and done so openly, without shame.

We have another right, under int’l law, that we have not used in a long time – the right to resist militarily. So long as Syria holds Lebanese prisoners, violates Lebanese borders, infiltrates weapons to Lebaese militias, and disrespects Lebanese sovereignty in myriad ways, Lebanese citizens have the right to (re)form militias to kill Syrian troops and their Lebanese collaboratos, and to capture enemy troops to exchange for our long-suffering prisoners in Syrian dungeons.

Alex, Syrian, Ehsani:

Is this the path you want to lead us down?

March 29th, 2007, 9:48 am

 

K said:

* correction:

“… we must consistently frame Syria’s abuse of Lebanon as being ON PAR with ISRAELI abuse…

March 29th, 2007, 9:51 am

 

Alex said:

Dear K,

I actually disagree to some extent with the way Ehsani put it. It is NOT all about power. The reason I posed that set of questions to you earlier was to propose keeping both tracks in mind when we discuss Syria’s relations with Lebanon… to be cognizant of each track’s role.

I will not talk abut the “power” track this time (since Ehsani and Syrian did). I will start with the other track: Good and Evil.

Everyone seems to want us Syrians to simply accept that our president should be called “the head of the Syrian regime”, whereas the others are “presidents and kings”. We are supposed to accept statements like “the thugs and murderers in Damascus” but we are not allowed to apply relativism by mentioning for example that Jumblatt and Jeajea are the biggest murderers among the leaders today.

So my next question is: What criteria are we supposed to use to rate our Murderers and thieves? And to decide which ones we need to insult and boycott and try to overthrow.

And using that criteria, please rate for me leaders from all sides in the Middle EAst (including M14th group) on that scale.

March 29th, 2007, 1:03 pm

 

Alex said:

I just listened to most speeches in teh closing session of the Summit.

Bashar surprised all by having the shortest speech!… saying he is very satisfied that the decisions taken at this summit seem like they will have a good chance of being implemented, and that he is confident that Arab national security will not be allowed to be compromised by outsiders who thought they can do that with ease.

He was known for delivering extensive lectures at the previous summits.

Lahhoud delivered a very hard line speech, praising Hizbollah’s performanc ein its war with Israel last summer for example.

The rest were very bland and generic speeches.

March 29th, 2007, 1:12 pm

 

Gibran said:

K.,
Why did you have to make that correction? The way you phrased it initially was the correct one: “we must consistently frame Syria’s abuse of Lebanon as being ON PAR with Syrian abuse”. That’s right ON PAR with Syrian abuse; which could be rephrased as: “we must consistently frame Syria’s abuse of Lebanon as being ON PAR with its own, which has nothing to do with Israeli abuse. The idea of Lebanese ‘resistance’ is at least outdated if not a total mirage to begin with. Israel and Lebanon never had a problem since the Armistice agreement of 1948 until the Cairo accord of 1969 was forced by an incompetent Arab League down the throat of the Lebanese government. In effect, the government of Lebanon relinquished Southern Lebanon to lawlessness as a result of this accord. Israeli intrusions into Lebanese sovereignty began since the PLO moved to the South, and as such Israeli actions were a reaction to an abnormal situation that would not be acceptable under any circumstances under International law. After the PLO was kicked out and the accord rightfully abrogated by the government of Lebanon, Hezbollah appeared on the scene with Syria’s support and reclaimed PLO’s role, preventing again the government of exercising its authority. You may say Israel was occupying the South at that time and resistance should be a lawful activity for Lebanese militias. But wait a minute. Why should the Lebanese fight among themselves in order to prevent the May 17 agreement from getting implemented? Was it not in Lebanese national interests to normalize Israel-Lebanon relations in 1983 under some sort of peace treaty? The only party to benefit from scuttling the May 17 agreement was the Syrian regime of the late demagogue Assad senior. Lebanon only delayed its reclaim of its sovereignty as a result and look what we got: Most horrible assassinations on a daily basis plotted and cooked in Damascus and implemented on Lebanese streets.
I agree fully with what you said that the Lebanese must reform their militias into some sort of national guards geared towards fighting any ingress of Syrian aliens into the country. I would go further and require that no Syrians should be allowed to come and work freely in Lebanon as the vast majority of these guest workers have proven to be mukhabarat agents to the thugs sitting in Damascus. In fact our real enemy is the Syrian regime of Bashar and his band of thugs. Lebanese government must move quickly to normalize its relations with its southern neighbor and sign a peace accord the sooner the better.

March 29th, 2007, 2:25 pm

 

Innocent_Criminal said:

Gibran,

You’re an idiot. I wouldn’t waste time diagnosing your retardation because it’s obviously malignant. But I just want to mention one point. For you to blame the abnormality of south Lebanon purely on the PLO’s shoulders without considering the fact that the Palestinians were kicked out of their own country by the Israeli’s just speaks volume of your a) delusion and b) prejudice

True the PLO stepped out of line in Jordan and went completely overboard in Lebanon but in true Lebanese fashion you blame everyone but yourself. And don’t get me started on May 17th treaty cause that was too pathetic to deserve a rebuttal.

March 29th, 2007, 2:45 pm

 

EHSANI2 said:

Dear K:

I have absolutely no problem with the path that you described. You applaud Jumblatt for seizing the moment. This man rolled the dice and decided to bet the farm on Bashar’s ultimate loss of power. Were his dream to come true, he can declare himself a winner and a hero. Conversely were his bet to go wrong; his political and personal future is likely to suffer appreciably.

You seem to paint a scenario where some Lebanese citizens “could” form armed militias to kill Syrian troops and their Lebanese collaborators. Why do you think that has not happened thus far? Why has it taken your people 30 years to go to the streets and demand the exit of Syrian troops?

Syria’s leadership acts the way it does because it “CAN”. Syria’s leadership was able to squash the Moslem Brotherhood rebellion because it knew that no one would resist it. It stayed in Lebanon and acted the way it did because the world and the region turned a blind eye. When humans get convinced that they can get away with certain behavior, it is most likely that they will not stop on their own until being told/forced to. If you have children of your own, I am sure that you can appreciate this fact of life. Bashar only went out of Lebanon because he knew that the pressure on him from the backers of Lebanon had become too hot to handle.

My friend Gibran,

Why don’t you go back to Lebanon and start forming a militia to fight as K suggested?
It is easy for you to sit from afar and use this bravado language. I will spare you the thought and offer you the answer to my own question:

You don’t have the stomach to play this game . The Lebanese have not formed a militia because they know that they will get massacred as they take on an adversary that is willing to play by rules and standards that they are simply not unwilling to engage in.

March 29th, 2007, 2:49 pm

 

Gibran said:

INNOCENT_CRIMINAL
O’ really? And you think yours’ is worth even pondering over. Get lost will you?

EHSANI
I’d like to see how much stomach you have in fighting for the Golan.

March 29th, 2007, 2:56 pm

 

EHSANI2 said:

Gibran,

I don’t have the stomach to fight “anyone” for that matter. I am not pretending. I don’t use Bravado language. My priorities in life revolve around work and family. Unless you are willing to act, there is no use opining and hitting you chest like a “batal” from afar

March 29th, 2007, 3:10 pm

 

Gibran said:

EHSANI
Now don’t tell me about bravado and acting like a “batal” when you’re doing exactly that while pretending being a family man. Herein in below is your bravado nonsense in defense of the “prowess” of your incompetent band of thugs:
“The Lebanese have not formed a militia because they know that they will get massacred as they take on an adversary that is willing to play by rules and standards that they are simply not unwilling to engage in.”
So you think Syria will massacre the Lebanese if it has to. Well, may be you’d like to show me your stomach when it comes to this if you don’t have one for the Golan.

March 29th, 2007, 3:23 pm

 

EHSANI2 said:

Let me try again:

The Lebanese have not formed a militia to fight Syria because they know that they will lose badly.

What is so hard to understand here?

I would not take on the Syrian Mukhbarat and security services. I never did and never will. I will leave that to the “abtal”. I have no stomach for this . I have more important things that I want to do in life. You be my guest. I will sure wish you the best of luck though

March 29th, 2007, 3:32 pm

 

Syrian said:

Ehsani2,

Here are the abadaiat
middle eastern style. 🙂

March 29th, 2007, 5:09 pm

 

EHSANI2 said:

Too funny

March 29th, 2007, 10:39 pm

 

Asymmetric said:

I don’t like this stuff. It may not be wrong in the theological sense, but it violates standards of American etiquette. We know differences exist between religions, but we have to live together. I assume, when I travel our great land that I won’t see “the Pope is the Antichrist” signs strewn along the highway- not that I’d go nuts or anything. Stay strong in your belief, defend and discuss, but don’t antagonize. And, yes, I know some Muslims in some Muslim countries do bad things to non-Muslims. So what? We’re not them.

May 13th, 2007, 11:03 pm

 

Post a comment