“Forces of Stability: Syria and Iran or the USA?” by Jihad Makdissi

Forces of Stability: Syria and Iran or the USA?
By Jihad Makdissi, Spokesman of the Syrian Embassy-London
(Partial and edited transcript of a talk delivered at University College of London on 2nd of December 2008)

President George W Bush changed the course of history — unfortunately, in the wrong direction. This dubious distinction may earn him a prominent position in America’s pantheon of famous presidents, somewhere above the cherished founding fathers. In the continuing debate over America’s military and moral role in the world, his legacy is bound to loom very large.

A quick review of President Bush’s fiascoes:

  • America’s image has been badly damaged in the hearts and minds of the millions of Arabs and non-Arabs who have been perplexed by the needless blood spilled in Iraq, Palestine, Lebanon, and more recently Syria when four US helicopters killed nine unarmed civilians. Scandals such as Abu Ghraib Prison, flying Prisons, renditions, Guantanamo, and the needless violence of security firms such as Blackwater in Iraq have tarnished the moral underpinnings of America’s once sterling reputation in the world.
  • Instead of guaranteeing peace and stability in the world, the USA has become a rogue nation, attacking friend and foe alike. Washington has recently expanded its regional wars to attack both Syria and Pakistan.
  • The US has prepared to attack Iran for no legitimate reason.
  • Iraq is destroyed but allegedly democratic, (the death toll among Iraqis is as high as one million by some estimates; among American soldiers it is 4,300). Rather than discuss how it can help Syria and neighboring countries cope with the millions of Iraqi guests it has caused to flee Iraq, America has targeted Syria and pushed Iraq to approve the SOFA agreement.
  • The US has helped to drive a wedge between Palestinian factions by supporting the PLO and isolating Hamas which was democratically elected. The result is the further impoverishment of the population, which has already tasted its share of despair and hopelessness. The life of Gazans has become too miserable to describe.
  • In Afghanistan, the US is discussing the need to talk to the Taliban. There is much anxiety that it is engaged in an unwinnable war. (The Death toll of American soldiers is 700).
  • Finally, one must point to the world financial crisis that has its origins in the mountain of bad and risky debt fobbed off on a trusting world by American financiers. The world has never seen such a pyramid scheme before.

What has Syria done to limit the damage of these foolish policies?:

  • Syria, although subject to both indirect and direct military intimidation, met US aggression with patience and resilience. It avoided confrontation and pursued proactive policies to counter false accusations, limit the chaos and divisions instigated by the US, and unify the Arabs around the common objective of negotiating peace and freeing themselves from foreign occupation.
  • Syria has fostered dialogue between Palestinian factions in order to build Palestinian national unity, which is a prerequisite to any lasting peace or long-term solution. When Israelis throw up their arms, pretending that there is no Palestinian partner to talk to about peace, Arabs become exasperated. Israel and the US rub salt into Palestinian wounds in order to weaken them, and then accuse Syria of being a spoiler. By pushing for Palestinian unity, Syria seeks to build the only condition that will allow for the creation of an independent and viable Palestinian state.  
  • In Lebanon, a neighbor so vital to Syria’s own stability and security, Damascus pushed for the unity exemplified by the Doha agreement. It helped promote a consensus president and cabinet that represented the interests of all. The US did what it could to generate division and rancor among Lebanon’s factions, hoping to promote the subjugation of one half of Lebanon by the other. The irresponsibility of this winner-take-all policy cannot be exaggerated when one considers how recently Lebanon emerged from its brutal fifteen-year civil war that caused the death of close to 200,000 and the displacement of so many more. Nothing captures the Orwellian spin of Washington’s disinformation machine more than Secretary Rice’s insistence that the sounds of Israel’s exploding bombs over southern Lebanon were in truth “the birth pangs of a new Middle East.”
  • America’s politics of division extended to the entire region in its promotion of sectarian distrust. By mobilizing Sunnis against Shiites, Washington undermines the difficult task of nation-building, Arab Unity, and the promotion of tolerance and coexistence so crucial to the region’s happiness and progress.
  • Syria exerted its good offices with its Iranian Friend following a request from president Sarkozy in order to clear up misunderstandings between Iran and the West regarding the peaceful nature of their legitimate nuclear program. The unique Syrian-Iranian relationship is crucial to the peace and stability of our region.
  • Syria has fully cooperated with the UN Commission investigating the al-Hariri assassination because Syria is interested in the truth. Every UN report has included a phrase attesting to Syria’s full cooperation with the commission.
  • Syria has completed four rounds of indirect talks with Israel using our Turkish friends as interlocutors. We seek common ground for direct negotiations and a just and comprehensive peace.
  • We fully support the political process in Iraq. We want to help Iraq keep its Arab identity. We recently appointed an ambassador to Baghdad and will soon receive an Iraqi Ambassador in Damascus
  • Syria has stretched its military capacity and spent money it can ill afford to secure the long border with Iraq in order to prevent the insurgency from disrupting good relations between us. We called upon the Americans to help us, or at the very least to form joint patrols along the border that could put an end to misunderstandings and allow for better coordination in apprehending infiltrators. We requested that the Americans provide us with much needed high technology equipment that would permit Syrian soldiers to patrol more effectively, but to little avail. The US preferred to use Syria as a scapegoat for its inability to bring stability, prosperity, or a modicum of protection to Iraq’s long suffering population. Washington persists in blaming its own senseless shortcomings on Syria. Although American officers belatedly praised themselves for the novel idea of treating Iraqi Sunnis as human beings during the “Awakening,” rather than as cardboard cut outs of terrorists, it was completely beyond their capacity to deal with Syria with similar common-sense. Americans clung to their ideological bombast and arrogance. How many lives could have been saved had the US been able to treat Syria non-ideologically? Always ready to accuse, pontificate, and posture, American political leaders allowed one Syrian demarche after another to go unanswered. What were we to conclude but that Washington was seeking to justify its failures at Syria’s expense and could not learn from its mistakes?
  • Syria is part of the answer to the global war against terrorism not part of its cause. After September 11th, America thanked Syria for its contribution in fighting terrorism and saving American lives. Syria has every interest in thwarting al-Qaida and its affiliates. When America is prepared to extend its hand to Syria in a gesture of understanding and cooperation, Syria is ready to resume its cooperation against a common enemy. Syrian interests, however, cannot be ignored.
  • Syria is working with countries, such as Turkey, Qatar, France and Iran, to maintain stability in the region. Syria held a summit in Damascus for these countries in order to discuss stability and way to attenuate the growing radicalism and extremist groups in our region. President Assad made it clear that this is an open club for all countries to join.
  • It is not Syria that has brought suffering and turmoil to Iraq anymore than it is Syria that has increased radicalism, anger, and a growing sense of injustice among Middle Easterners whether in Mesopotamia, Palestine or Afghanistan. On the contrary, Syria has been the most generous refuge for the unfortunate victims of Washington’s hapless diplomacy in the region. Syrians have opened their homes to over a million Iraqis and half a million Palestinian refugees. One out of every ten people in Syria is a refugee or child of a refugee. No country has done more to alleviate the suffering of its neighbors. We took in the Armenians, Syriacs, and Kurds when they fled Turkey’s nation-building wars at the start of the last century. We took in Iraq’s Assyrians when they fled persecution in the 1930s. Now Syria is welcoming the ancient Christian and Sabian communities of Iraq which face extinction in their own country thanks to Washington’s merciful “freedom agenda.”  
  • For America to brand Syria a rogue nation and troublemaker is perverse and cynical. Syria has done more than any other country to preserve the pluralism of the Levant and make the region safe for all regardless of religious and ethnic origins. 
  • Syria can be tough; it will not shrink from using force when it is pushed against the wall; it will defend its land and its friends, but Syria does not look for a fight. To the contrary, Syria wants a just and comprehensive peace agreement with Israel. I do not suggest that Syria is the only or primary source of wisdom in the region, but it understands the needs of its people and ideological currents of the Middle East. It is a central regional player and an important Arab opinion maker. If the United States hopes to make a positive contribution to settling the region’s ills and working toward just and lasting solutions to the many outstanding issues in the Middle East, it will do well to coordinate its efforts with Damascus.

Jihad Makdissi
Spokesman of the Syrian Embassy-London

Comments (197)


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151. majid said:

Joshua says ” I even began to feel badly for Majid, who objects to my being married to an Alawi daughter of Syria”

Really? what for do you feel badly about me? You know I feel great and don’t feel I need sympathies from anyone.

Object? To what? You being married to an Alawite? You gave me a huge laugh Landis, badly needed after a real hard day. Thanks.

Well, there you go. I thought EHSANI2 was the only one who might be in need of additional care and perhaps even sympathies getting points across to him. The Professor himself is in dire need as well. Is this something that you both share and acts like the cement to your friendship? Never mind close or far, so please don’t trifle me with this line.

You guys are almost exact copies of each other. It is very clear that both of you have a remarkable resemblance by exhibiting the talent of taking words out of context and injecting your own words into someone else’s mouth. Not surprised. It is typical Baathists propaganda taught at the indoctrination school of the party. That’s why you, Makdus, Imad and others should be forced to disclose such links to enemies of free speech before you guys speak out. In case you are wondering. That’s why you qualify as a derivative of the Syrian government. NOT because you married a Syrian Alawite.

WD: You’re quite welcome.

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December 11th, 2008, 3:47 am

 

152. jad said:

Dr. Landis, Ehsani2 and many on this blog were being extremely polite and very sincere considering replying to you Majid, I won’t, your ridiculous and rude comments regarding our Syrian diverse religions and political society, only reflect who you really are and still before any country of the west accepted you to live in it, you are nothing but a big filthy mouth that just left his tent to live in an urban society. Try to learn from your new surrounding (unless you are still living in a farm) before having any conversation with civilized people.
PS. you ignorant the name is Makdisi not Makdus

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December 11th, 2008, 4:24 am

 

153. Shai said:

Ya JAD,

Want to join me in forming SC’s first Meditation-Group? 😉

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December 11th, 2008, 4:34 am

 

154. Jad said:

Dear Shai
I was trying my best to meditate but it’s really hard, however, you have my trust and consider me IN.

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December 11th, 2008, 4:42 am

 

155. norman said:

Shai, Jad,

What are we , Chopped liver ?.

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December 11th, 2008, 4:49 am

 

156. Jad said:

Dear Norman,
I missed your point?
And that is my take.

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December 11th, 2008, 4:57 am

 

157. Shai said:

JAD, Norman,

Believe me, I do understand how annoyed one can get sometimes. I’ll suggest to Alex to place a “Meditate” button on the right which, when clicked, will play nice serene music that’ll soothe anyone’s annoyance… For some, it can be the Republican party jingle… For others, sounds of nature.

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December 11th, 2008, 5:15 am

 

158. Majid said:

Dear Dr. Landis,

I was very intrigued by your last statement distorting my comments and purporting that I object to you “being married to an Alawi daughter of Syria”

I thought there should be more behind such bold statement coming from a person like you. I told myself there should be some psychological factor behind such assertion. I went back to the comments that I made and tried to find a link that may cause you psychologically to say such a thing. I came across a link provided by Akbar which chronicles the happy event that took place in your life. I learnt many things about this marriage and the actors involved in it. It suddenly clicked in my head just like a switch turning on. I believe I discovered the vulnerability that you are suffering from and which reflects in your interactions with others. You are actually trying to protect your marriage because deep down inside your mind you think others disapprove of your marriage and you know the reason why. You just happen to be 14 years her senior!!! This is good enough reason here in America to feel such vulnerability. You also react in a way that is contrary to the fundamental beliefs of the society because you think that these beliefs may deprive you of the continuation of this happy event which took place of course in Syria. My advice to you and to your wife is to go back to Syria and build a home in that country. A difference of 14 years or even 20 years between husband and wife is very common in Syria and neighboring countries. I’m sure you both of you will find happiness and you would also be cured of this vulnerability. Finally, and that will sound a bit selfish on my part, you would also save free speech in America the task of having to legislate against itself.

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December 11th, 2008, 5:29 am

 

159. Shai said:

Netanyahu WILL continue peace talks with Syria. Here’s what he had to say to Ha’aretz, and will be saying to the EU today:

Netanyahu to Haaretz: Likud is behind me; Feiglin will soon disappear
By Yossi Verter and Barak Ravid, Haaretz Correspondents
Tags: Israel News

Likud chairman Benjamin Netanyahu reassured his supporters on Wednesday after the primary that produced a particularly right-wing list. He has also launched a campaign to calm down the international community and ease concerns about the peace process should Netanyahu become prime minister after the February election.

Concerns increased this week after far-right-winger Moshe Feiglin and many of his supporters did well in the primary.

In a series of consultations, Netanyau said the “Feiglin effect” would fade and the party would soon regain what few Knesset seats it might lose from the recent negative publicity.
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“The entire faction is with me,” he told confidants.

“They all called today and expressed their support. Feiglin will fade away very quickly. They can blow it up more and more, but even this lemon doesn’t have much juice left in it,” he said.

Netanyahu launched a campaign to allay fears in the United States, Europe and the Arab world for the fate of the peace process.

On Thursday, Netanyahu will meet 27 European Union ambassadors to Israel and tell them that he is committed to continuing the peace talks with Syria and the Palestinians.

Netanyahu has recently sent dovish messages to officials in the international community, his aides say. Netanyahu met Egyptian ambassador to Israel Yasser Reda last week and told him that if he won the elections he would not stop the peace process, only add components such as his “economic peace” plan.

He conveyed similar messages to the Czech foreign minister, whose country will take on the rotating EU presidency in January.

The meeting with the EU ambassadors had been scheduled for several weeks ago, but Netanyahu asked to postpone it until after the primary.

Though Netanyahu will assure the ambassadors that he will continue the talks with the Syrians and Palestinians, he will say he needs to study the talks that took place during Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni’s term, because these negotiations were covert.

Since he is keen to focus on achievements, he will continue negotiations he believes can lead to progress and suspend others, he is expected to say.

Netanyahu will outline his “economic peace” plan and say he wants to raise the Palestinians’ living standards, improve their economy, build government institutions and strengthen their defense capabilities.

He will not rule out security cooperation with the Palestinian Authority and passing on more West Bank cities to forces led by PA President Mahmoud Abbas.

He will say that this process, which can lead to faster achievements, will not be at the expense of the peace talks but in addition to them.

This approach is similar to the one favored by Barack Obama’s national security adviser James Jones and Quartet envoy Tony Blair, Netanyahu will say, according to his aides.

He will say that in view of Hamas’ control of the Gaza Strip, it is difficult to find a partner on the Palestinian side who can assert his authority there. He will urge the international community to join Israel in isolating Hamas.

In recent weeks officials abroad have voiced concerns about Netanyahu’s plans on the peace process.

A senior EU official told Haaretz that “Netanyahu’s victory [in the election] could strike a fatal blow to the peace process.”

U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice dismissed the “economic peace” plan at a meeting of foreign ministers in Brussels last week, saying that the goal is to reach a two-state solution.

Former U.S. president Bill Clinton, whose wife Hillary will be secretary of state under Obama, has also criticized Netanyahu’s position. Last week, at the Saban Forum debates in Washington, Clinton said there would be no chance for economic progress in the PA, except as part of talks leading to a comprehensive final settlement.

A source close to Netanyahu said on Wednesday that the fears in Europe and the United States about him stem in part from a campaign Livni’s people are conducting overseas.

“They’re inciting the whole world against us, spreading fears that we will bring disaster,” the source said.

A source close to Livni said that “the world remembers very well who Netanyahu is and needs no reminders of it from us.”

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December 11th, 2008, 5:33 am

 

160. jad said:

Dear Alex,
The scumbag called “Majid” Last comments must be removed immediately; we don’t discuss any personal issues on here for any reason that is WAY too low.
J.

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December 11th, 2008, 5:37 am

 

161. Shai said:

JAD,

We need you healthy here buddy. Not worth getting so upset over silly comments. Do like me – breathe in, breathe out… 🙂 (And you’re about to go sleep! What do you need this on your mind for?)

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December 11th, 2008, 5:49 am

 

162. jad said:

Come on Shai don’t you think that this is the worst comment you ever read on here for the last 3 years…

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December 11th, 2008, 5:53 am

 

163. Shai said:

JAD, I’ve only been here about a year, but it is a nasty one. Course, to be called “useful idiot” (by your buddy AIG) isn’t overly flattering either… Some people just run out of vocabulary faster than others, that’s all…

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December 11th, 2008, 6:28 am

 

164. Alex said:

Jad,

I agree that the comment above was in bad taste. But I will leave it to Joshua to to decide if he will keep that comment or not.

He already got an automatic email with the content of that, and every, comment.

Majid,

You started making a reasonable suggestion that many people here debated … sufficiently.

I will ask you, and everyone else, to move on to other issues.

Make sure you take a look at the rules of this blog in case you did not see them:

http://joshualandis.com/blog/?page_id=698

If you have arguments against any opinions expressed here then write your counter opinion, but stay away from attacking those who are expressing those opinions you do not believe in.

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December 11th, 2008, 6:41 am

 

165. Shai said:

Alex,

The pressure Kadima is placing upon Likud in Israel and abroad seems to be taking its toll. Bibi is now trying to calm everyone down about his intentions vis-a-vis peace. See the article above. This is good news.

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December 11th, 2008, 6:46 am

 

166. jad said:

Shai,
AIG with all the attack he gets I never read any comments of him getting personal with anybody attacking his ideas including me and to be honest I respect that in him regardless of our huge differences in seeing things but at the end of the day I have no hard feeling toward him and I will be debating with him again the next morning, on the other hand and when someone gets personal and start including your family and your believes in his comments, that is just low and you loos any respect for anybody does that.

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December 11th, 2008, 6:49 am

 

167. Alex said:

Shai

I would say this is borderline good news. Bibi could still be interested in peace negotiations while intending to offer Syria peace for peace and the Palestinians 70% of he west bank.

Jad,

AIG got much better with time, I agree.

But he started somewhat like Majid calling everyone a liar and a regime mouthpiece.

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December 11th, 2008, 7:08 am

 

168. offended said:

An art scene of Damascus.

http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/in_depth/7774177.stm

(Kind of crazy and not an overly accurate representation of damascene beauty : ) )

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December 11th, 2008, 7:57 am

 

169. offended said:

“it’s the way the syrian society: women are handicapped with no hands. Men are hanged on trees.”

Huh?!

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December 11th, 2008, 8:28 am

 

170. EHSANI2 said:

Dearest Majid,

I am very sorry that you found me too slow and that I was in “need of additional care and perhaps even sympathies getting points across to” me.

I will do my best to be quicker and at least sound smarter the next time you present a new idea/concept to us.

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December 11th, 2008, 2:23 pm

 

171. Alex said:

Hala’s website:

http://www.halafaisal.com/gallery37.htm

She’s very creative.

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December 11th, 2008, 2:32 pm

 

172. Shai said:

Alex,

I beg to differ. Like any good businessman, Bibi can no longer offer anything less than he already offered in August of 1998. We have a PDF-copy of the two pages Ronald Lauder (Bibi’s personal friend, and Head of Jewish Federations in the U.S.) presented in person to Hafez Assad precisely 10 years and 4 months ago. When contents of this document leaked out to the press in Israel, Bibi denied making any such offers to Syria, but then, when his own Defense Minister Itzik Mordechai challenged him to continue denying it, there was no reaction. Both Mordechai, as well as Uri Sagi (Head of Intelligence), knew exactly what was offered, and refused to play Bibi’s game. The most Lauder himself ever said about it, years later in 2004, is that Bibi never promised to withdraw to the 1967 lines, and didn’t even know about the contents of the document. I leave it up to you to decide how truthful his statement is, and whether it makes much sense, given that he was sent by Bibi to meet directly, in person, Hafez Assad himself.

I’m sure to some it would seem perfectly logical that given Syria’s relationship with Iran, Hezbollah, and Hamas, that Netanyahu would now offer less than he did in 1998. Realistically, if the nature of those relationships will not change, then Syria will not get any part of the Golan back (so there is nothing to be offered). But if Syria will offer a change (that is acceptable to Israel), then Bibi will have to offer the full price. And he will.

As for the Palestinians, I don’t think he’s about to offer them 70%, or 80%, or 90% of the West Bank. His party’s Order-of-the-Day very clearly states that certain initiatives will be suspended, and it is fair to assume that they mean Abu Mazen. If or when Hamas and Fatah work out their differences, and if or when Hamas decides to talk to Israel, then Bibi will be in a position to offer something. He already has the experience of talking to Arafat, so negotiations with the Palestinians, and the notion of a Palestinian state, aren’t foreign to him.

Whether he’ll decide to explore every possible way to achieve peace or, instead, to continue the political stagnation that has plagued us for over three decades, is yet to be seen. But one thing is almost for certain – if he does choose the path of peace, he’s the best political leader in Israel to deliver it, as his spiritual father Menachem Begin was at the time.

Here’s the PDF copy of the document Lauder presented to Hafez Assad: http://prospectsforpeace.com/Resources/Plans/Syria_Israel%20Peace%20Treaty.pdf

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December 11th, 2008, 3:28 pm

 

173. why-discuss said:

MAJID

We dont need a Dr Phil on this website. Your scenarios are better that soap operas. If you have marital or psychological problems, please refrain from projecting them on this Blog. Anyway your writing circonvolutions to express simple ideas and to attack people personal lives also show that you need to consult urgently. At best just follow the KISS principle.

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December 11th, 2008, 3:54 pm

 

174. nafdik said:

Why-discuss,

I think your name says it best as far as people like Majid are concerned.

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December 11th, 2008, 4:14 pm

 

175. nafdik said:

Shai,

I am surprised that a lot of talk is centering around Israel return of Golan heights in exchange of change in Syria’s relationship with Iran, Hizbullah and/or Hamas.

No sane person will give away land in exchange for a transient, non-verifiable promise of change.

How would such a deal be constructed? Does Syria have to fire the Iranian ambassador? Does Assad have to deliver a speech? Do they have to refrain from activities they do not admit to today?

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December 11th, 2008, 4:32 pm

 

176. Akbar Palace said:

No sane person will give away land in exchange for a transient, non-verifiable promise of change.

Nafdik,

cc: Shai

I agree, no sane person would. But “sane people” are currently not leading Israel. And don’t you remember Oslo? The whole process was build on Arafat’s promises and conscious effort to cover one’s eyes whenever Arafat ignored his commitments.

This is why BB and the Likud are gaining in popularity.

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December 11th, 2008, 4:46 pm

 

177. Alex said:

Shai, Nafdik, AP

No sincere person who genuinely wants to see peace in the Middle east will demand that one country (syria) destroy its relations with other countries and people … the 70 million Iranians, the millions of Lebanese Shia and Palestinians who elected hamas to lead them.

If the majority of Israelis will elect Mr. Netanyahu because they are, like Akbar, not willing to see the Arab world beyond the video clips that Memri selects for them … then I am not optimistic.

I understand that I am saying “trust me, Hamas will change”, and Shai is saying “trust me, Netanyahu will change” …

But the difference is that I know that Syria will be committed to helping Hamas change and moderate its positions … but the Obama administration is not yet clear on its approach to “helping” Israel commit to peace. Will they pressure Mr. Netanyahu like President Carter pressured Prime minister Begin in Camp David?

If they don’t, I don’t think Mr. Netanyahu will go far enough … he will make an offer that he knows Syria will refuse… for example, and offer that formally states that Syria MUST cut its relations with Iran and Hamas and HA …

Then his friends in AIPAC can make sure that the press in the US will blame Syria for refusing this historic opportunity for peace …

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December 11th, 2008, 5:07 pm

 

178. nafdik said:

Alex, if the proposal was “trust me X will change” in exchange for “trust me Y will change” then this would be a conceivable deal.

The proposal is “give me X piece of land” in exchange for “trust me I will talk to Y and I promise you he will change, or else I will not talk to him”

Please do not misunderstand my statement to say the Israel has the right to the Golan or that it should not withdraw.

I am just trying to figure out the what incentives Syria can give it to withdraw.

I would go further asking what incentive Assad&co have to actually close the deal, but that is another topic all together.

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December 11th, 2008, 5:24 pm

 

179. Ghat Albird said:

A reading of the following link will attest to the realities enunciated and presently practiced by the Israel – Britain – US cabal as to the never ending unstability first articulated by Bernard Lewis;

Dr. Landis might want to post it in its entirety for all to read since its an ongoing process.

http://www.globalresearch.ca/index.php?context=va& aid=11313

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December 11th, 2008, 5:26 pm

 

180. Alex said:

Nafdik,

1) Israel and Syria will make peace when Israel returns the Syrian lands it currently holds contrary to many UN resolutions. In return Syria will consider Israel a normal neighbor and consider reasonable Israeli security needs.

The above will be clearly stated in the peace agreement.

In addition:

2) Syria wants Israel to be convinced that there has to be a settlement with the Palestinians too … also based on UN resolutions 242 and 338.

3) Israel would like Syria to help in eliminating threats from Hizbollah and eliminating or minimizing “threats” from Hamas.

Parts 2 and 3 can not be guaranteed in advance … both countries will have to rely on “trust me I will because I am convinced it is the right thing” and “trust me, I can do it” …. and then “anyway, the international community is clearly committed to making sure we both try our best to deliver, even though we did not sign on this part in our peace agreement”

Otherwise, if Israel wants Syria to detroy its relations with Iran and Hizbollah and Hams, then Syria must expect Israel to also cut its relations with the United States which attacked Syria recently and killed many Syrian civilians.

If Israel is not ready to understand the above logic which is based on absolute equality, then Israel is still convinced it is sitting with a defeated Syrian side that should beg for the Golan under any conditions Israel wants to add to the “agreement”

I know it when I see it … and I know Syria is committed and ready for peace. Israel needs some help .. it is in a transition state now. Some wiser Israelis (like many ex army and intelligence generals) are convinced they should not fight more wars … other Israelis (likud+) are not ready … they are feeling quite superior.

But I might be wrong … I will wait until I hear and watch a debate between Mr. Netanyahu and his opponent to see if she pushes him on this question what more details we can find out about his position.

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December 11th, 2008, 6:30 pm

 

181. nafdik said:

Can the Israelis reading the forum comment on this.

1) What kind of deal would you accept?
2) What kind of deal would would 60%+ of the Israeli electorate accept?

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December 11th, 2008, 7:16 pm

 

182. EHSANI2 said:

NAFDIK,

Perhaps giving up the Golan for Aleppo?

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December 11th, 2008, 7:18 pm

 

183. offended said:

Ehsani2 my friend. : )

I am glad your proposition is not logistically or geographically possible. Besides, the poor israelis will have to deploy half their army just to keep law and order during ittihad football matches!

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December 11th, 2008, 7:49 pm

 

184. EHSANI2 said:

OFFENDED HABIBI,

That is the point. Give them Aleppo to manage. A couple of weeks/matches and I predict the occupation will be over.

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December 11th, 2008, 8:08 pm

 

185. nafdik said:

Ehsani,

Very unsavory suggestion 🙂

http://www.gastrosyr.com/eng/gastronomy2.htm

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December 11th, 2008, 8:20 pm

 

186. Akbar Palace said:

1) What kind of deal would you accept?
2) What kind of deal would would 60%+ of the Israeli electorate accept?

Nafdik,

IMHO, a deal where there are so many cultural exchanges, meetings, business deals, and religious interaction that something like this would never happen:

http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/middle_east/7773047.stm

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December 11th, 2008, 9:02 pm

 

187. Shai said:

Alex, Nafdik, AP,

I can “calm” all of you (especially you Nafdik) by reminding us all that the scenario is not “Israel gives Syria back the Golan” in return for “Israel trusts Syria will do x, y, and z”. The real scenario is closer to “Israel will begin withdrawing from the Golan, a process that will end 15 years later with the complete transfer of ownership to Syria…” in return, and conditionally based on “Israel trusts Syria will do x, y, and z…” In other words, no side is going to hand everything over to the other in one shot.

But the nice thing that will occur, finally after 60 years, is that from the minute a peace agreement is signed, each side will acquire something it will (hopefully) not wish to lose by not adhering to the contractual responsibilities. While Israel begins pulling its troops off the Golan, Syrian troops will begin pulling back as well. While Israeli citizens living on the Golan begin to leave, full normalization will begin to take shape. Exchanges of the type AP mentioned will also help to bring the two nations closer, and will give us yet further reasons not to fail in carrying out our mutual responsibilities.

Also, hopefully very soon after an agreement is signed, Syria will take a very active role in helping Israel and the Palestinians resolve their problems, and reach a final agreement as well. Slowly but surely, Israel, Syria, Lebanon, Palestine, perhaps Egypt, KSA, the EU, US, etc. will all start to work together in a way that would begin to form positive cross-dependencies, and would again discourage any foul play on the part of the relevant parties. Nothing will happen overnight – Arabs and Jews won’t be hugging the next day. But perhaps a real feeling of Hope, one that is so desperately needed in our region, will be created, and will have its “shockwave effect” on the people of the Middle East. And then, inertia will start to run its course.

Alex, Netanyahu is not Shaul Mofaz, or even Bugi Ya’alon. He’s far smarter, he’s a professional lifelong diplomat and politician, and he knows “peace-for-peace” is more relevant to what your grandmother wants you to do with her amazing cake, than what Syria and Israel need to agree on, before we can have peace. He’s also not so extreme or unrealistic, in thinking that he can demand or expect Syria to cut off all relationship with a nation like Iran, or even political support of Hezbollah or Hamas. He’ll ask Syria to end any and all military alliances, agreements, and support. And that, I believe, is something Syria can “swallow”. Give Obama a few weeks as President, and most of us will quickly forget what the “Axis-of-Evil” ever was. It’s like Reagan’s “Evil Empire”. Until today, I’m not sure who took the terms from whom, Reagan from George Lucas, or the other way around…

Ehsani,

Loved your idea of Golan-for-Aleppo! 🙂 (If only our mutual suspicion and fears could be replaced by humor, eh?)

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December 11th, 2008, 9:31 pm

 

188. offended said:

I’ve probably talked about this before, but I will ask the gentlmen here to give it a thought one more time since it’s kind of relevant to the discussion:

If the nuclear disarmament treaty between the sovs and the americans could be negotiated and implemented, then it ought not to be an awfully difficult job to reach similar formula between Syria and Israel. For the concept is almost the same: both sides hold cards, and they won’t give it up unless they make sure the other side is doing exactly that.

and when you think of it, it was even tougher with the nukes since theirs where the only way possible to strike the ballance of ‘mutual destruction’; in other words you’re giving up the very same thing that ensures that your enemy won’t be missing with you. And yet they’ve done it. It’s not impossible my friends.

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December 11th, 2008, 10:37 pm

 

189. Enlightened said:

HMMM:

Luckily a few days I decided not to escalate an interaction. But learned to laugh them off.

Today I logged in to read the SC Daily comments with my two trusted sidekicks- my coffee and my muffin.

Every now and then we get characters who over step the mark with Ad Hominem attacks. When these are directed against people who don’t have web links- we invariably brush them off.

How ever Josh is a easy target for some who come here, click the link and it is all there to see. His academic papers, his contributions in print and other media. I did the same 4 years ago when i stumbled across SC. I had a look, I saw Josh’s wedding photos, the birth of his first child, his back round.

What perplexed me for a week or two after doing this, and reading his academic articles and blogging, and reading his articles on this blog was a man who had a very genuine interest and perhaps love for Arabic culture, these I would hazard a guess was built up during the years he spent as a youngster during his fathers posting in the middle east.

Digging a little deeper, I was able to overcome a few little prejudices that I had. It is a sign of a weak state of mind and constitution to attack some one , especially his family, his affiliations- not so his work, as many of us have had different points of view. Family is sacrosanct in Arab culture.

So Josh having interacted with you these four years, let me tell you the best thing you ever did was embrace our Arab culture.

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December 12th, 2008, 12:06 am

 

190. AIG said:

It is extremely unlikely that Asad would agree for withdrawal over 15 years. The main reason is that during these 15 years he will have to show real progress economically in Syria because he will not have any person to blame the situation on but his own rule. That was the main mistake of the Oslo process. It created expectations that the Palestinian leadership, even though they got billions from the West, could never deliver upon.

Asad knows that he cannot deliver a Syrian economic miracle especially with the huge population growth and awful droughts hitting the middle east. A peace agreement will not make Syria a less corrupt country and will not improve the Syrian education system. That will take many many years. And in the meantime, if you cannot blame Israel or the West, who will Asad blame?

And what about the “strength” of Syria? If after peace Syria will stop leading the “resistance” and will not be able to destabilize its neighbors for fun and profit, it will just be a very poor third world country on the verge of bankruptcy.

In every sense, peace does not make sense for Asad. He can gain nothing from it. Instead it will put his regime in danger. The only reason Asad could agree to a peace treaty is if he believes that otherwise there will be food riots in Syria and peace could buy his regime a few more years. What makes sense for Asad is to talk about peace so as to make sure that there is no military intervention in Syria to topple the regime. He has learned the lesson of Saddam Hussein well.

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December 12th, 2008, 1:48 am

 

191. norman said:

US president-elect Barack Obama and his future administration must open dialogue with Iran and Syria to “solve” long-standing issues plaguing the Middle East, the Iraqi government said Thursday.

“I call on the new administration to open a dialogue with Iran to resolve the exceptional problems which are affecting stability in the region,” government spokesman Ali al-Dabbagh said in a statement released at the outset of an international conference in Washington.

“We do encourage the administration to have a dialogue with Syria,” Dabbagh added later Thursday in comments to reporters at the Pentagon.

“Whether the US would like Iraq to initiate that dialogue with Syria, we are ready.”

But the outgoing administration of President George W. Bush has cut nearly all diplomatic ties with Damascus, which it accuses of poorly policing a porous border with neighboring Iraq, helping to swell the ranks of the insurgency there.

“Without having that dialogue between Iraq and its neighbors, between the US and the region, I think we will not solve the problems between Iraq and its neighbors,” Dabbagh said.

In a televised interview Sunday, Obama confirmed he wants to hold talks with Iran, stating his readiness to end a 30-year stand-off between Washington and Tehran.

“We need to ratchet up tough but direct diplomacy with Iran,” Obama said, promising a “set of carrots and sticks.”

Despite security improvements in Iraq this year, some US officials continue to accuse Iran of financing, arming and training Iraqi Shiite militias — a claim Tehran denies.

But the number of Iranian-made explosively formed penetrators (EFPs) in Iraq has decreased appreciably in recent months, indicating Tehran’s support for Iraqi insurgents is waning, according to US Army Lieutenant General Thomas Metz.

EFP attacks, which can penetrate heavy armor, are down to “a dozen, 20 in Iraq in a month from maybe 60, 80,” Metz told reporters Thursday, adding that EFP caches and casualties had also decreased.

Asked if the reduction meant that the Iranian government or the elite Quds Force — a special unit of Iran’s Revolutionary Guard — is pulling back its support of the Iraqi insurgency, Metz answered: “I am not in the intel business but that’s the conclusion I would draw.”

While EFPs only account for five percent of all roadside bomb attacks, they represent up to 35 percent of US roadside fatalities, said Metz, who heads a Pentagon program to prevent such attacks in Iraq and Afghanistan.

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December 12th, 2008, 2:17 am

 

192. Shai said:

AIG,

“It is extremely unlikely that Asad would agree for withdrawal over 15 years.”

He already has. Israel asked for 5-15 years. Syria’s response was “take 15”. Listen to the podcast up above.

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December 12th, 2008, 5:02 am

 

193. offended said:

AIG,

You’re really exaggerating the thing about Syria ascribing the lack of economical development to the lack of peace with Israel. We almost never hear that excuse in public anymore. We used to 15 years ago when we had days and days of electricity outage. But not now, even last year when there were outages in the summer; the government gave a very transparent statement explaining the reasons. Look up all the interviews with Al Dardari (his official title skips me at the moment, but I think he’s a deputy PM for economical affairs), he has never even once attributed economical difficulties for the enmity with Israel.

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December 12th, 2008, 8:51 am

 

194. Akbar Palace said:

In every sense, peace does not make sense for Asad. He can gain nothing from it. Instead it will put his regime in danger. The only reason Asad could agree to a peace treaty is if he believes that otherwise there will be food riots in Syria and peace could buy his regime a few more years. What makes sense for Asad is to talk about peace so as to make sure that there is no military intervention in Syria to topple the regime. He has learned the lesson of Saddam Hussein well.

AIG –

I both agree and disagree with you. I disagree somewhat because the West can pump the regime up with LOTS of money, and more importantly, LOTS of military equipment (to keep any opposition group far away from the “government-for-life”). But Syria would become another Egypt and Jordan: an autocracy that has turned its back on the poor Palestinians.

So the downside will be a renewed dissatisfaction with the Syrian government from the “arab street”.

Will this matter to Assad? YES! He doesn’t want to mess with his present support. He’s already a billionaire and doesn’t need any more money. And his military is strong enough to put down any uprising. His people love him, his stance on Israel, and he has plenty of friends on the Arab street (right Alex?). As they say, “If it’s not broken, don’t fix it”.

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December 12th, 2008, 1:25 pm

 

195. Shai said:

Akbar,

I don’t understand your rationale. What do you think matters more to the average Syrian – whether Assad continues supporting Hamas (and the Palestinians), or whether he fixes up their economy? Does the average Syrian think more about the Palestinians’ freedom, or about his/her own? My guess is, the latter. So even Assad recognizes that sooner or later, either he’ll have to face another Hama-style uprising, and may have to resort to certain tactics he probably disagrees with, or he’ll have to show his people, year after year, how their lives are improving. He can’t do that with his own “billions” (as you called them), but rather with money that flows in from the outside. And that won’t happen, if he’s bluffing about peace.

True, the Arab street will not love him if they feel he’s “selling out” the Palestinians. But that may not necessarily be the image. What if Syria joins the effort in helping Israel and the Palestinians reach a solution? What if Syria helps Fatah and Hamas work out their differences? There is a lot Syria can do, to help out the Palestinians, even more than they’re already doing.

I very much doubt that Bashar is bluffing, because it is extremely easy to call his bluff. What is Syria asking for? What are her conditions? From everything I see, Syria is asking ONLY for the Golan, up to the June 4, 1967 lines. They are not requiring first the creation of Palestine. They’re not demanding a one-state solution. They’re not even talking about settlements in the West Bank. So if or when Netanyahu will negotiate with Syria, and will offer (in the end) the June 4 lines, if Syria is then not ready for peace (recognition, normalization, etc.), then the whole world will see Bashar was bluffing, and that certainly won’t “help” either Syria, or Bashar. So chances are, that’s not the case here. It makes far more sense to me, and apparently to Israel’s heads of Intelligence, head of the Army, heads of political parties, heads of Industry, that Syria IS serious about peace.

Even Netanyahu himself isn’t suggesting that Syria is not serious about it. The opposite – he’s now committing himself to continuing the talks with her, after “studying” the progress made so far.

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December 12th, 2008, 2:01 pm

 

196. Akbar Palace said:

I don’t understand your rationale. What do you think matters more to the average Syrian – whether Assad continues supporting Hamas (and the Palestinians), or whether he fixes up their economy? Does the average Syrian think more about the Palestinians’ freedom, or about his/her own?

Shai,

Good question. Yes, basically what I’m saying is that Syrians and the Arab street prefer “resistance” to Israel over the return of the Golan (or the economy for that matter). Therefore, this is what Assad prefers as well.

Certainly, the same was true for Arafat for exactly the same reasons.

BTW – Israel has shown the she can “resist” and create a decent economy at the same time. Why can’t Syria?? Oh, right…the West.

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December 12th, 2008, 4:18 pm

 

197. Shai said:

Akbar,

I don’t understand what you’re saying. You claim that “Syrians and the Arab street prefer “resistance” to Israel over the return of the Golan…” But what is the purpose of the resistance for Syrians, if not in order to make Israel withdraw from territories it occupies which, in their case, is the Golan? If Syrians had a choice right now – get the Golan back and end your resistance, or continue resisting until Israel withdraws also from the West Bank, but that might take another 10 years, you’re saying they’d choose the latter? That makes no sense for me and, according to the poll taken here, also not for nearly 70% of the voters.

I believe Bashar will be deemed much more of a hero if he is able to retrieve the Golan peacefully, than if he continues to “resist” Israeli Occupation of Palestine, at the cost of ordinary Syrians’ wellbeing, freedom, reform, etc. Your argument could hold, perhaps, with regards to Israel not opting for peace. We’ve got the Golan already, the border with Syria has been our most quiet one since 1974, we can probably afford the “cost” of a few soldiers a year to the “resistance” (Hezbollah and Hamas), and otherwise we get good wine, nice mineral water, beautiful zimmers, great fresh air, and amazing real-estate. So why should WE want to give it away? But the argument doesn’t work for Syria, or for Syrians.

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December 12th, 2008, 6:17 pm

 

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