Foreign Militants Crossing Syria-Iraq Border Drop to 40-50 a Month

Banning Facebook in Syria
BBC Arabic Radio
BY Louay Ismail

Part1 (Landis speaks Arabic) 




The flow of foreign militants entering Iraq to fight for al Qaeda has fallen by half
Gen. Petraeus on Monday February 11 said: (Reuters)

The flow of foreign militants entering Iraq to fight for al Qaeda has fallen by half, General David Petraeus, the U.S. commander in Iraq, said on Monday.

Much of the fall in numbers was due to countries barring young men from flying to the Syrian cities of Damascus and Aleppo on one-way tickets, said Petraeus.

The U.S. government has long urged Syria to take steps to stop foreign fighters crossing its long land border with Iraq. Damascus says it has stepped up security on the frontier after the U.S. criticism.

"The flow of fighters is down, we think by about 50 percent," Petraeus told Reuters in an interview.

"It's a result not just of Syrian activity, although there has been some. It's the result of source countries making it tougher to fly as a military age male," he added.

Most of the fighters coming across the borders are believed to be affiliated with Sunni Islamist al Qaeda in Iraq. Al Qaeda's foot soldiers and suicide bombers attack U.S. forces, the Shi'ite-led government and groups they regard as un-Islamic.

Last month the U.S. military said captured al Qaeda documents showed 750 militants from 22 countries entered Iraq during the 12 months leading up to August 2007.

Petraeus did not say which countries were taking action at airports, but the documents said just under half the foreign fighters entering Iraq come from Saudi Arabia, followed by Libya, Yemen, Syria, Tunisia and Morocco.

It also said 90 percent of the al Qaeda suicide bombers were foreign. Most of al Qaeda in Iraq's leadership is foreign while the rank-and-file are Iraqi, the U.S. military says.

Petraeus said suicide bombers were still getting through, although he said it was difficult to assess numbers.


MEMRI, here and here via War&piece "Saudi FX remains unchanged" here (thanks FLC)
"…A knowledgeable Syrian source has said that Saudi Foreign Minister Sa'ud Al-Faisal's visit to Russia and France is aimed at thwarting the Arab League summit, meant to take place in Damascus at the end of next month. The source also said that the visit was aimed at internationalizing the Lebanon crisis.
Also, Arab diplomatic sources said that Saudi Arabia refused to approve a visit by Syrian Foreign Minister Walid Al-Mu'alem to the kingdom, during which he had intended to give Saudi King Abdullah an invitation to the summit…."



Comments (73)

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51. Enlightened said:

HP :

I can recall a article of Dershowitz a while ago taking Finkelstein to task on a number of issues, and he led the campaign to deny Finkelstein tenure at St Paul (correct me if my memory is wrong). Most academics have a coocoo bent ( Sorry Josh), its how they get noticed LOL

Dershowitz is by all accounts a brilliant lawyer and speaker, and so is Pipes a brilliant writer, but I wouldnt entrust these men at the negotiation table, articulate and brilliant they might be, but not compromisers , bt alas they would make good dinner guests , it would be interesting table talk!

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February 20th, 2008, 2:33 am


52. Honest Patriot said:

Enlightened, yeah but keep some distance b/c Dershowitz has really bad breath 😉
(And I guess AIG fait dodo maintenant)

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February 20th, 2008, 2:48 am


53. AnotherIsraeliGuy said:

No, there were many Jews that were antisemitic way before Zionism existed. Karl Marx is a famous example and there are many others.

I am not calling Finkelstein an antisemite to shut him up or because he is an anti-Zionist (he is a zionist by the way as he is for the two state solution and the existence of a Jewish state in Israel). I am calling him an antisemite because I heard him make an antisemitic remark. What is so difficult to understand?

Thank you for making sure I get enough sleep.

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February 20th, 2008, 2:50 am


54. Honest Patriot said:

You must be on travel, AIG, or an early riser as it is now close to 5 a.m. in Israel, no?
Anyway, time for me to hit the sac now, but before I do let me reiterate my appreciation for all the superbly interesting exchanges. If it were up to you guys (and gals) on this forum, peace would have been signed a long time ago.

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February 20th, 2008, 2:56 am


55. Enlightened said:

AIG (I Yawn)

you seriously like a verbal stoush dont you? Get some sleep and dream of peace, not anti semites and tell us where you really are! The suspense is killing some here ( I dont care where you are as long as you are as far away from sydney as you can be North pole would be my wish)

Anyway, do you think war will break out with HA?

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February 20th, 2008, 3:02 am


56. Shai said:


Soon I’ll tell you where he is… 🙂

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February 20th, 2008, 4:59 am


57. Alex said:


I just finished reading the comments in this post. Sorry for the late reply.

So you want me to guess what Syria will do with the assassination investigation info? : )

I HOPE Syria will not name specific Arab countries.

The Syrians probably have lots of dirt on everyone … from Lebanese politicians, to Arab leaders. But they never used it in the past… I guess if they use it, then it is consumed. But also, there are red lines that everyone in the Middle East still observes apparently.

Besides … most people are not sensitive anymore to news about Arab Moderate leaders “cooperating” with Israel or the United States… so, even if Syria comes up with the most stunning story … most people will either say that Syria invented the story or that … who cares, we know that the Jordanian King, or the Saudi or Egyptian leaders are “American agents” ….

One thing I want to repeat because I am sure of it: The Syrian regime never cared for Arab summits … they will not compromise on anything (except if it was a transient thing) in order to convince his majesty to show up in Damascus.

Besides … many summits are attended by 10 to 15 leaders out of the 22 … But when they try to spin the absence of Mubarak and Abdullah as a sign of Syria’s isolation … I will not be surprised.

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February 20th, 2008, 6:48 am


58. Shai said:


People like AIG see the world in black-or-white, in us-vs-them, in me-right-them-wrong. They cannot fathom that someone could have harsh criticism towards the Jewish people, and very positive criticism at the same time. People like AIG call us “liberals” traitors, and pro-Syrian, and whatnot, because we actually criticize ourselves (Israelis, Jews) much more than we do others (like the Arabs). They find that bizarre, and cannot accept it as a positive thing. For every accusation I make towards my people, they want to hear 50 towards you. That’s the only way “we” can prove we’re not anti-Semitic or anti-Zionist. It is WE that are the ones still in Israel, even though we can live elsewhere, it is WE that are fighting for peace, and not against it, WE are here to make sure Israel remains a nation and not destroy itself from within, all the while THEY (these AIG’s) are comfortably lounging themselves in the U.S., wasting their abilities typing nonsense rhetoric into blogs like these, instead of fighting for progress right here, in this region.

I had a commander in the army once, who used to say to his soldiers “become experts at how TO DO, not at how NOT TO DO”. Any Dick and Jane out there can be experts at how NOT to make peace. But it takes a lot of courage to find the few that are willing to lead. Nothing is easier than staying behind, labeling people, wasting good oxygen. God gave us not just a mouth, but also two ears, and a mushy brain between them. It’s really our privilege and duty to every now and then not fear using them in ways we never thought we would…

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February 20th, 2008, 6:52 am


59. Shai said:


Shouldn’t you be asleep? Soon I’ll start to think that you also live in Ramat Hasharon, instead of New Jersey… 🙂

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February 20th, 2008, 6:54 am


60. MSK said:

Ya Offended,

The Mahdi Army is NOT Iran’s arm in Iraq. The Badr Corps, the military wing of the SIIC (ex-SCIRI) is. Contrary to them, Muqtada al-Sadr has only tenuous links to Tehran, and building up the Mahdi Army (as Mughniyeh is claimed to have done in the article you cited) would be a direct threat to Iranian interests in Iraq. The MA is the only truly Iraqi-nationalist Shi’ite force in the country and they are diametrically opposed to Iran’s allies in the country.

Sorry to burst your bubble.


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February 20th, 2008, 8:29 am


61. Kooki said:

We don’t know who killed Imad, and we’re not even sure if Facebook is blocked…But we’re still reading Syria Comment.

Why-Discuss is right. You can access Facebook from most internet cafes in Damascus now. But on the other hand, it is still blocked by the biggest ADSL service provider, the Syrian Telecom Establishment. I just tried, and was given the usual “access denied” message highlighted in yellow.

If you REALLY want to access your Facebook account, however, you can get around the block by going to what’s called a proxy site and it will piggy-back you into Facebook. I don’t want to name them because that would be tempting fate, but if you google “Facebook proxy sites” you will come up with half a dozen alternatives. They are mostly designed for teenagers trying to outwit their parents’ bans on endless chat sessions.

Out of idle curiosity, I keep a record of what’s banned and what’s not, and believe me, there is not much logic to it. So not surprisingly, all sites ending in the Israeli .il domain name are banned. But Jerusalem Post and Haaretz and other key sites are not., outrageously, is blocked, but other Amazon sites are not. Anyone with a blog on blogspot is banned, but many other bloghosters are not. Logitech is banned etc etc.

In November, Facebook was pretty much universally banned. I talked to an internet cafe owner who was very cross about this and went along to his service provider to protest (!). A few days later he informed me he was back on line.

Following the previous discussion regarding the identity of Qifa Nabki, can I suggest that Joshua incorporates some of the feature of Facebook into his own site, eg pix of contributors etc?

Just Kidding

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February 20th, 2008, 8:44 am


62. Honest Patriot said:

Kooki, I like you already, even with a name like that 🙂
Shai, I just suffered insomnia (~4:00 a.m. EST); I’m NOT in Beirut 😉 (nor Ramat Hasharon for that matter)

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February 20th, 2008, 8:56 am


63. Shai said:


Sorry to hear… maybe you should move to this part of the world, it’ll cure your insomnia! 🙂

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February 20th, 2008, 9:39 am


64. AnotherIsraeliGuy said:

The problem with you is that you psycho-analyze people instead of addressing the issues. A sure sign that you lost the debate.

You can call me whatever you want and make as many absurd claims about me as you like but it won’t change a single fact on the ground. I never called you an antisemite or a traitor, just a useful idiot, and I am on record saying that I am sure your are sincere in your naive beliefs.

If you think Finkelstein is not an antisemite, if you think there is some shade of “gray” about this, just say so and let’s discuss. Or are you waiting for a CBM from Finkelstein also?

In any case, nipagesh bakalfi. I am for Bibi, who are you supporting? The fact that you cannot bring yourself to say which Israeli party you support, makes me very suspicious. What are you ashamed of? Why are you hiding this? Are you worried that the people on this blog will not “approve”?

So, how about being honest and telling us which Israeli party you support? If there were elections today, who would you vote for?

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February 20th, 2008, 1:28 pm


65. Shai said:


Your suspense is over. This AIG is indeed in New Jersey, not in Ramat Hasharon as he tried to claim. That, in my book, makes him both a liar, and a coward. What do you think about his “10 years in the IDF”? Should we believe that? You know, he tries so hard to upset us all, but you know what, he ain’t gonna succeed. Because this AIG, a truly “VERY-useful-idiot-and-now-liar” is only about the past, not about the future. He doesn’t have the slightest clue how to get Arabs and Jews together, only apart. So he does what he knows – I guess in that way, we can’t really blame him. But just someone remind me, why on earth he does what he knows on THIS forum? I’m sure there are far better places, where real antisemites congregate, where anger and hatred is spewed much more efficiently, and where he’ll surely find himself at home. I pity the guy – he could have even made 34th seat in the Likud party…

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February 20th, 2008, 1:51 pm


66. AnotherIsraeliGuy said:

You are a despicable liar. I am now actually in Ramat Gan but will be going home soon. We already had a discussion here about the NJ IP. And if you want to track me, in a few days I am flying to the US. Have fun.

So please, let us know, which Israeli party would you vote for? Is that too difficult to ask? Why can’t you be honest about it? Doesn’t that matter a little more than playing “where in the world is Carmen San Diego” with me?

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February 20th, 2008, 2:09 pm


67. Shai said:


It seems the gentleman from Ramat Hasharon, now Ramat Gan, tomorrow San Diego, is desperate to know what party I would vote for in Israel’s next election. So for the record, so that no one on this forum or any other, can ever say I wasn’t clear about my intention for the upcoming election in Israel, I am hereby declaring that I will be voting ONLY for a party that doesn’t have AIG as its member. Think of the power I’ve just placed in this gentleman’s hands – he can literally make sure that I don’t vote for any party he chooses, by simply joining it himself. “Lost the debate”? What debate? Does he not understand that this isn’t about A debate, it’s about MANY debates, and debates only occur between two people that want to listen, not just talk… and talk… and talk.

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February 20th, 2008, 2:50 pm


68. AnotherIsraeliGuy said:

I am not desperate to know who you will vote for. I have a good idea. I would just like to make the point that for some reason you are ashamed to say which party you support and let the others on this blog think by themselves why this is the case. Why not just be honest? What are you hiding? Why can’t you be clear about your position?

A debate is each side questioning the reasoning and logic of the other side. You may find it hard to believe, but I most enjoy people challenging my ideas.

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February 20th, 2008, 3:06 pm


69. Shai said:

Another “Israeli” Guy,

Though I promised not to address you directly, I will do so one last time, hoping you’ll finally get the message.

The only thing I’m “ashamed of” in this forum is, my friend, YOU. I’m not ashamed of telling people the political party I’ll vote for, that is, if I know which party I’ll vote for, and if anyone I care about asks me. Since I neither know which party I’ll vote for yet (I’m quite disappointed with ALL parties right now), nor have I been asked by anyone I care about in this forum, I haven’t and won’t discuss this issue now. I’ve mentioned in the past that the bizarre political logic in Israel is such that those who speak against the Arabs and against compromises are precisely those most likely to make peace with them. That does not mean I’m voting Bibi in the next election (sorry), but it does mean that choosing a party or a leader is even more difficult than it might be in any other normal country.

So that you, AIG, and others understand, there is a very simple reason for my disinterest in engaging you in anything whatsoever. It has nothing to do with “losing the debate”, or not enjoying being challenged by other ideas – I debate plenty of people on this forum, and have in the past, who completely disagree with me. I’ve engaged Rime Allaf, for instance, in numerous exchanges on a particular topic in the past, and although it was evident to me that she is as close to being anti-Zionist as one could be (or at least at the time I saw her as such), I still enjoyed our debates, because they were civil. With you, from the minute you first read my words on this blog, you began labeling me. The instant you referred to me as a “useless idiot”, you lost any sense of respect I may have been able to have for you. The content of your words became meaningless, because the disrespect you showed me was the kind that my worst enemy on this blog wouldn’t have shown. I’ve debated people here that have basically blamed me, and my fellow countrymen, for everything wrong in the universe, including murder, rape, you name it. But I’ve been able to hear them, and even respond, much more easily than with you.

I don’t know where you grew up, and frankly I don’t give a hoot, but where I come from words matter, and respect matters. No one I associate with would listen or speak to anyone who referred to them as “useless idiots”. That’s not the kind of language I learned to use, when I disagree with someone, even greatly. I haven’t and I won’t engage you, not because of the thoughts that may stand behind the words, but because of the words that stand before the thoughts. To me, you come off as an arrogant, relentless, disrespectful SOB. I never imagined I could meet someone like that on a blog, certainly not a “fellow” countryman. You’ve caused me to feel not love or hatred towards you, but plain apathy. And that’s a shame, if you at least hoped to get a response from me on any of the issues you’ve raised. So that’s it, really, I have nothing else to say to you. I wish you all the best, and I hope you get from this forum what you wish for. But with all due respect, it won’t be from me.

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February 20th, 2008, 6:58 pm


70. Honest Patriot said:

I think AIG used the phrase “useful idiot,” not “useless idiot.”

… Not trying to get in the middle here but just wanted to suggest, Shai, that you lighten up a bit and not be so upset at AIG. After all, showing disrespect to others only hurts those who actually do so, not their targets, at least in the eyes of folks whom you, Shai, would care about.



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February 20th, 2008, 7:27 pm


71. Shai said:


Thanks for trying to calm me down. But for me it’s not an issue of “lightening up” or not. From the minute I stepped into this forum, I was extremely impressed by the visitors, by the writers, and by the commentators. There are tons of blogs out there that try to deal with serious issues, but unfortunately attract all sorts of “trash”. Here, that is just not the case. Remember, I’m here not because I’ve got nothing better to do in my early mornings or late evenings, I could easily spend the time with my wife or two little girls. I’m honestly trying to learn as much as I can from engaging Syrians, Palestinians, Lebanese, and other Arabs, as well as non-Arabs, who are willing to share their thoughts with me. I’m here to build an understanding and knowledge-base that can help me and my counterparts have a better chance at succeeding in our quest – peace in our region, in our lifetime, soon. The interaction and learning, therefore, is very important.

And then I run into this AIG, who from the first minute differentiates himself from all the rest, by labeling me, and by using the kind of language I use to hear about 20 years ago, during my youth. Now it’s not that it hurts me – it doesn’t. In fact, at first it made me laugh. That there are still “serious” Israelis out there who just hate us “liberals” that much. But then the relentlessness about silly things (like trying to get me to say which party I’ll vote for) started getting annoying. And AIG knows that it’s annoying, but he quite enjoys that fact it seems. So I decided I had had enough, and I would say so. That’s really all, HP. I get less emotional when I hear Rime Allaf, or Nour, suggesting that my fellow countrymen are a bunch of murderers and rapists, than I do hearing AIG badmouth me… Oh well, c’est la vie, non?

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February 20th, 2008, 8:17 pm


72. Enlightened said:

LOL Shai, Because of the time difference I just read the posts I’m in Sydney Australia.

Look firstly I admire your stances RE peace, I think we are far closer than people think, I always believe if various vested interest groups have had limited power to sway public opinion there would have been peace 2 years after Israel was established.

Anyway, concerning AIG if I ever did meet him I would engage him and have coffee with him, even given his faults (we all have them), whether he is in New jersey or in Israel it doesn’t matter, most use different names here and don’t tell where they are from, its inconsequential really. ( I would prefer as I stated earlier that he would be isolated at the North Pole to gather his thoughts and learn some meditation) 10 years in the army might have fried his brain a little, but thats normal. I have an employee (Syrian Alawi served 3 years in Iraq, got discharged from Army after his stint, I always tell him he is a bit loopy)

AIG I have noticed does come up with some good points but the whole thrust of his arguments ” Syria, Arabs aren’t democratic we don’t engage them for peace until they are) etc is getting tiresome, I believe he is one of those that doesn’t really desire peace, thats why everything is black and white, you cant compromise unless you have the ability to see things in grey and white. (so using logic he might have bad eye colour receptors) Anyway Shai keep posting and and worry about the criticism from AIG, and I am going to apply Murphys law to him ” Never argue with a fool, people might not know the difference”

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February 20th, 2008, 11:45 pm


73. Shai said:


I’ll take your words of wisdom, and apply them from now on.

BTW, it never bothered me where he was from, Israelis or ex-Israelis have the right to voice their opinion wherever they may be. It’s just the relentless badgering about silly things was getting to be too much. I’ve hinted on numerous occasions that I did not wish to engage him, yet he continued. But you’re right, no one is forcing me to respond… so I won’t. But I was hoping he’d finally get the message.

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February 21st, 2008, 12:11 pm


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