Imad Moustapha on US-Syrian Relations

An interview with the Syrian Ambassador
by Shafique Jamal, MPAID1
Staff Writer
Wednesday March 21, 2007

On Wednesday March 21 the Syrian Ambassador to the U.S., Dr. Imad Moustapha, spoke at KSG. Sponsored by the Dubai Initiative, his presentation “The Middle East: A Perspective From Within” examined both US-Syria relations and Syria’s role in the Middle East. Moustapha (IM) spoke here with The Citizen (TC):

TC: How can Syria help bring peace to Iraq?

IM: We have excellent relations with all political groups in Iraq, including the Kurds and former Baathists.We used to host [Iraqi President] Jalal Talabani and gave him a Syrian diplomatic passport. There are 1.3 million refugees in Iraq. The U.S. should include all of Iraq’s neighbors in the discussions.

TC: What do you think about partitioning Iraq in order to solve the sectarian violence?

IM: The idea of partition is a stupid idea that comes from the neo-conservatives.We are totally opposed to discussion of partition – it will only lead to a bloody civil war.

There is no military solution. Only when the power controlling Iraq, that is the U.S., starts to include all political parties, many of which feel disenfranchised, will there be a resolution. There needs to be a political process. Everything else, including the [troop] surge, the new security plan, is an illusion. The U.S. should realize that all neighboring countries should be involved.

TC: In your opinion, what motivates U.S. antagonism towards Syria?

IM: Syrian relations with the U.S. have been worse under the second Bush administration than in previous administrations. Previous presidents from Nixon to Clinton have visited Syria. This administration has not.

Definitely, the source of hostility is Syria’s refusal to support the second invasion of Iraq. Ever since then we’ve not had much official communication with the U.S., except for after 9/11 and very recently. In fact after 9/11 Syria provided information on Al-Qaeda to the U.S. Then Secretary of State Colin Powel said Syria provided actionable information that has saved American lives.

The willingness of the U.S. to talk to us now about Iraq is because of domestic pressures from the political establishment, and even this is much less than what the U.S. and Syria used to enjoy.

TC: What is the nature of the relationship between Syria and Iran?

IM: We have excellent relations with Iran. Iran has never occupied Palestine, they didn’t kill over a thousand people in Lebanon. If the U.S. has a problem with Iran they should deal with them bilaterally and not by pressuring us with their bellicose attitude.

TC: What do you think is the future of U.S.-Syrian relations?

IM: Communication has been superficial so far, but I do think there is a realistic probability that relations will improve. The U.S. could play a constructive role in the conflicts in the region. It is the only country that can pressure Israel into entering into peace negotiations with Syria. Previous administrations have encouraged this dialogue.

TC: How has Syria changed since Bashar Al-Assad became president in 2000?

IM: We’ve opened up socially, politically, economically. The latest World Bank report in the last three years shows a large improvement in friendliness to business. The relative progress in this area has been the largest.

While we continue to face challenges we recognize that the Syrian leadership has been careful to not cause upheaval. For example look at the case of Russia. Under their reforms a few people became very rich while many did not do very well. So we’ve paced the reforms such that we opened the economy without hurting the less fortunate. The price is that we haven’t seen tremendous levels of wealth, but we’ve also not seen extreme economic inequality. Still our growth rate is at 5% GDP.

TC: In recent months Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad has offered to negotiate peace with Israel. Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert has refused to negotiate.

Some supporters of Israel say that the offer to negotiate is intended as a diversion to relieve the diplomatic pressure on Syria.What is your response?

IM: This is an absurd argument. For the past 15 years Syria has been offering Israel land for peace, and we have always honored our agreements. Why do they really refuse? It is because of the Zionist regime’s ideology, of expansion of settlements, for example. Israel will eventually realize that they can’t continue with a military solution forever, because the military option is bound to fail.

TC: What can Syria do to bring Israel to the negotiating table – what is Syria’s leverage?

IM: There are constituencies in Israel that are interested in peace.We just have to wait for them to have a stronger influence.

Also See: "A Little Less Lonely These Days" By Dan Ephron, Newsweek: "The Syrian Ambassador to the US didn't used to get many visitors. Suddenly, his date book is filling up. What he makes of the new American outreach- and how Syria hopes to gain from it." Read Full interview here.

Comments (43)


1. G said:

This interview is full of lies and outrageous revisionism. Just to pick one at random:

Syrian relations with the U.S. have been worse under the second Bush administration than in previous administrations. Previous presidents from Nixon to Clinton have visited Syria. This administration has not.

This is incredible. What happened to the Powell, Armitage, and the countless other visits up to 2005?

Imad Moustapha is a pathetic liar.

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April 24th, 2007, 12:02 am

 

2. Bakri said:

Imad Mostapha is not from a bad background…but it’s required for any syrian official who work for the syrian regime ,to be a liar and hypocrit …but what they really think inwardly ?

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April 24th, 2007, 12:49 am

 

3. Enlightened said:

“For the past 15 years Syria has been offering Israel land for peace, and we have always honored our agreements.”

Truth serum intervention:

We have armed Hezbollah to the teeth
We are and continue to destabilize Lebanon
We have promoted and sheltered Hamas
We have encouraged violence over dialogue
We have silenced all our internal critics

Seriously,Mr ambassador give up your day job and join the circus, you would best be served in emplyment as a clown.

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April 24th, 2007, 1:59 am

 

4. EHSANI2 said:

Bakri,

What background are you referring to? Is it his religious background that you consider “not bad”?

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April 24th, 2007, 2:27 am

 

5. Alex said:

G,

You can imagine lies from Syria, and backwardness, and anything that makes you feel superior as a Lebanese, but Imad really meant to say: “Previous presidents from Nixon to Clinton have visited Syria.”

Presidents… like President Nixon or President Carter and again … or President Bush in Geneva or president Clinton in Damascus again

You see G, Imad actually made a small mistake, President Reagan did not really meet with President Hafez Assad, because President Reagan (President George W Bush’s idol) is another President who did not know anything about the ultra-complicated Syria when he took over.

The other presidents ALL paid their respects to Hafez Assad in Damascus or in Geneva. Hafez never visited them in the United States and he told president Carter in the 70’s that he will never visit Washington (form Carter’s new book).

Anyone knows why?

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April 24th, 2007, 2:32 am

 

6. norman said:

This is an intervew with newsweek

Syria’s Suddenly Popular Man in Washington
The Syrian ambassador to the U.S. didn’t used to get many visitors. Suddenly, his date book is filling up. What he makes of the new American outreach—and how Syria hopes to gain from it.
WEB-EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW
By Dan Ephron
Newsweek
Updated: 6:02 p.m. ET April 23, 2007
April 23, 2007 – The inked-up pages of Imad Moustapha’s date book have a story to tell. In the first four months of 2007, the Syrian ambassador to Washington has had more interaction with U.S. officials than in all of 2005 and 2006. He has met with every single member of the Senate Armed Services Committee. He coordinated the trips to Damascus of at least three congressional delegations, including House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s this month. He’s even had talks with a senior official in the State Department. (As further evidence of the warming trend, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice travels to Egypt next month to meet with representatives of Iraq’s neighbors, including Syria). Many people in Washington still support the Bush administration’s strategy of shunning Syria for its alleged ties to terrorist groups like Hizbullah and Hamas and its possible involvement in the assassination two years ago of former Lebanese prime minister Rafik Hariri. But Moustapha, a computer scientist by training, says the isolation policy is unraveling. He spoke recently with NEWSWEEK’s Dan Ephron.

NEWSWEEK: A lot was made of the visits by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and others to Syria, but what tangible results came of them?
Imad Moustapha: Syria sent very clear messages to all the congressional representatives and leaders from both sides of the aisle that visited Damascus. First, we reiterated Syria’s willingness to engage with the U.S. on the different issues of mutual concern…. Second, we asked them to deliver a message to the U.S. administration stating that working with Syria will always yield better results than working around, or isolating, Syria.

But to many people here in Washington, Pelosi’s visit looked more like partisan politics. What’s your view?
It is unfortunate that this visit has been turned into a partisan topic. The bipartisan Baker-Hamilton report recommended that the U.S. engage directly with Syria. Mrs. Pelosi’s visit was a result of a general consensus amongst leaders from both sides of the aisle advocating talking to Syria.

You’ve been the ambassador since 2004. How lonely has it been?
There were no contacts on any level for a very, very long time—since February 2005.

So the visits mark a real change. Still, we’re talking about trips by members of the legislative branch. As you know, foreign policy is made largely by the executive branch.
I think the United States, strangely enough, is reconsidering its policies…. I got an invitation from the State Department recently to meet with officials there. The assistant secretary of state for immigration, refugees and population went to Damascus. Regardless of the issue, this is the assistant secretary of state going to Damascus when three months ago they used to say, we will never talk to the Syrians. Very soon there will be a ministerial-level meeting of the neighboring countries of Iraq, somewhere in the region.

What does the U.S. stand to gain from engaging with Syria? How could Syria help improve the situation in Iraq, for example?
Nothing magical. We don’t have a magic wand. But we are neighbors and we have excellent relations with all the groups across the spectrum. At least we can help revive the national dialogue among Iraqis. Some of them do listen to us. Some of them do heed our advice…. Our policy is different from the United States. We talk to all the parties.

Some people hope engagement would be a way of wooing Syria away from its relationship with Iran? What are the chances?
It’s bemusing to hear this…. While we are the best possible friends with Iran, we don’t have the same policies as Iran. Iran has a well-publicized policy against Israel, but President Assad, at least once a month, has publicly invited the Israelis to peace talks in the last four years…. Iran is a friend to Syria. It is an ally on many issues. But we disagree with Iran on other issues.

How do you respond to the U.S. assertion that Syria is undermining stability in Lebanon?
Today the Lebanese are divided half and half. The tension is very high and Lebanon can easily reach a tipping point after which, God forbid, a civil war might erupt. And there is a very keen initiative to try and convince the Lebanese to have a coalition of national unity. We are supporting this, the Saudis are supporting this, the United States is opposing this…. Yet we are considered as negative and disruptive, and the United States considers itself the moderate player in the Middle East.

When did Syria drop its demand that talks with Israel resume from the point they left off years ago?
We used to say we want to resume peace talk from the point where they stopped, that it would just be a waste of time to go back to the beginning. The issues are well known for us and the Israelis. For us, it’s the (Israeli withdrawal to the) line of June 4, 1967. For them, it’s total security arrangements, total peace between Syria and Lebanon on one side and Israel on the other side. So why waste time again on these games? But Israel claimed publicly that Assad’s insistence that we would start from the point we left off is proof he’s bluffing. That became the issue. So we said, OK, if this is the point, fine, let’s start wherever you want to start. Once we said that, Israel changed its mind and said it’s about Syria’s support for terrorism.

When did the shift take place?
It happened over time. There wasn’t one meeting when the policy changed.

URL: http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/18278508/site/newsweek/page/2/

——————————————————————————–

© 2007 MSNBC.com

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April 24th, 2007, 2:35 am

 

7. norman said:

Alex, Because he was not America’s boy like the other Arab leaders

In histery the pilgrmage was allways to Damascus.

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April 24th, 2007, 2:41 am

 

8. Enlightened said:

Alex enlighten us to why he never visited, I am curious!

Just been reding Ammar abdulhamids blog about the elections, very interesting, does anyone have any figures on the turnout. Some sites are saying the turnout in some cities has een as low as 2%.

Can anyone clarify?

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April 24th, 2007, 2:42 am

 

9. Alex said:

Enlightened,

If you can listen to the tax accountants at any of the biggest US corporations (and the smaller ones too) you will perhaps realize that in the realm of Business you have to respect tax laws, but you can still do everything you can to end up not paying much taxes on your profits. As long as you do not break the law.

As for Syria, what can I say after reading your half-cooked comments above … there you go again! (president Reagan’s favorite sentence).

You want Syrian politicians to be angels! .. you want Syria to not only respect its signed international agreements (which it does) but to go out of its way to act like Sweden while being actually within the crazy Middle East!

So Israel can fly their F16’s over the presidential palace in Syria, they can assassinate Lebanese and Palestinian leaders in Lebanon, Tunis, and Gaza, and they can totally disregard UNSC resolutions 242 and 338 … but Mr. Enlightened would like the Syrian Ambassador to be ashamed of himself for his country’s not going out of its way to please the sweet, harmless Israelis who are occupying Syrian lands illegally for 40 years.

Enlightened, you are a wonderful, but a brainwashed man. I’m sorry to tell you that as s Syrian, I am liking this regime more and more every time I see how people like you and G attack and insult someone very decent like Imad for nothing!.. just because you are brainwashed to react this way to anything from Syria.

Ever wonder why the Syrian people are overwhelmingly pro Bashar? .. It is partly because they can tell that most of the times Americans, Israelis, Lebanese and Saudis attacked him it was unfounded.

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April 24th, 2007, 2:53 am

 

10. Enlightened said:

Alex:

Firstly relax, its the first time ive seen u “steamed” ( note sarcasm to your half cooked statements ). In Australia they call it “Creative Accounting”

My remarks towards Mr ambassador are not half cooked, but well cooked to perfection. he might be a decent man Alex, point taken, but he is a politician and his statements are up for public scrutiny, and he should not be immune from it!

How were my comments insulting? Calling someone a clown? i could have chosen far harsher words, but that description suits him quite aptly. Alex calling me brainwashed? You are losing your polish Alex, the man works for the regime, as a public figure my comments are far from vulgar, but more to the point here it highlights your attempts at defending the regime and regime figures to the point of aburdity. Its the same old arguments and ideas. I know you are pro regime, that is your choice, respect our choices.

Get a grip Alex, I was more fond of you when you were more rational. And its not because its from Syria…… blah blah blah, the man has been in his position for a while and he is a waste of space ( like many mid east politicians and ambassodors).

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April 24th, 2007, 3:13 am

 

11. norman said:

Enlighted one ,
MR Mustafa is not part of the Baath party , he represents Syria and any disrespect to him is a disrespect to Syria not the regime ,
We in Syria respect the people who represent Syria even if we do not agree with everything they do ,
Disrespect of the people who represent Lebanon ( like what you do president Lahood) is something limited to Lebanon.

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April 24th, 2007, 3:25 am

 

12. EHSANI2 said:

“Under their (Russian) reforms a few people became very rich while many did not do very well. So we’ve paced the reforms such that we opened the economy without hurting the less fortunate. The price is that we haven’t seen tremendous levels of wealth, but we’ve also not seen extreme economic inequality.”

Mr. Ambassador:

“We haven’t seen tremendous levels of wealth, but we’ve also not seen extreme economic inequality.”

Is this quote for real?

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April 24th, 2007, 3:26 am

 

13. Enlightened said:

Norman:

The DIFFERENCE is and always will be that the lebanese are not silenced though brutality to speak their minds ( although i am told it did happen during the occupation, but not thorugh first hand experience), I am sure that you agree that this is not allowed in Syria. Furthermore he works for the Syrian regime! How is that for clarity?

“We haven’t seen tremendous levels of wealth, but we’ve also not seen extreme economic inequality.”

ehsani this quote is for real he said it! He musnt be aware of the 30% unemployemnt and the daily struggles of the people. The bloke is more clown than ambassador.

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April 24th, 2007, 3:30 am

 

14. Bakri said:

Alex ,
The problem is that the victims of your regime’s policy are the syrian and lebanese people not the vietnamese nor the tibetan.
Maybe,u will commit suicide when the syrian people will be liberated from tyranny.

And welcome to our leb brothers.

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April 24th, 2007, 3:32 am

 

15. Bakri said:

What background are you referring to? Is it his religious background that you consider “not bad”?

Not at all Ehsani but he is at least not a dictator son of a murderer and thief.

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April 24th, 2007, 3:34 am

 

16. norman said:

I was watching Kudlow and company few days ago on CNBC

They were faulting the IMF and the reform ( shock reform)that they impose on countries in return for lawns as the reason for the failure of the Russian economy during the nineties.

I think Syria learned that lesson.

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April 24th, 2007, 3:42 am

 

17. EHSANI2 said:

WASHINGTON (AP)–The U.S. has imposed sanctions on 14 foreign people,
companies and government agencies, including the Syrian navy and air force, as
it boosts efforts to stop transfers of advanced weaponry to and from Iran and
Syria.
The 14 – which also include Lebanon’s radical Hezbollah movement and firms
from China, Malaysia, Mexico and Singapore – are accused of selling to or
buying from Iran or Syria missile technology or material to make weapons of
mass destruction.
The sanctions, announced by the State Department on Monday, bar any U.S. aid,
government contracts or export licenses to the named entities for two years.
They may be renewed at any time during that period.
State Department officials refused to comment on specific allegations against
those listed in the notice because the determinations involved sensitive
intelligence. But, they said Washington had “credible evidence” they had been
involved in illicit transfers.
The measures are largely symbolic because many of the targets are already
subject to U.S. sanctions for previous similar transactions, most recently in
December 2006, officials said.
However, the Syrian navy and air force, have never before been identified as
violators of the Iran and Syria Nonproliferation Act, they said.
Neither has Hezbollah, which is backed by both Syria and Iran and is covered
by existing U.S. sanctions because it is designated a “foreign terrorist
organization” by the U.S., they said.
Other violators named in Monday’s notice are:
– the China National Precision Machinery Import/Export Corporation, or
CPMIEC;
– the Shanghai Non-Ferrous Metals Pudong Development Trade Company of China;
– the Zibo Chemet Equipment Company of China;
– Iran’s Defense Industries Organization;
– Singapore’s Sokkia company;
– Syria’s Army Supply Bureau;
– Syria’s Industrial Establishment of Defense;
– Malaysia’s Challenger Corporation of Malaysia;
– Malaysia’s Target Airfreight;
– Mexico’s Aerospace Logistics Services; and
– a Pakistani individual named Arif Durrani;

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April 24th, 2007, 3:43 am

 

18. Alex said:

Enlightened,

🙂

ok, “steamed” was funny.

But the reaction to Imad moustapha was more than what you explained.

When I hear “criticism” to “the Syrian regime”, I am perfectly willing to understand the “we can criticize politicians” part. I agree, and that’s partly why I refuse to ever get into politics (I have been asked to). And that’s also the reason many talented people stay away from running for a public office, and we often end up with mediocre leaders instead.

But there are two other components:

1) Criticizing Syria’s role in the Middle East .. Syria is not allowed to play a role. The others are allowed of course.

2) automatic repetition of the unfounded accusations! … like Mr. G’s wild comments just above you.

Remember Mr. Powell that G mentioned? .. he lied the biggest lie in recent history … a lie that helped start the war that led to the killing of hundreds of thousands of innocent Iraqis. You think he got a fraction of the insults that Mr. imad Moustapha is getting for .. not lying?

It is about being “brainwashed” by all the media lies about Syria.

I am NOT “pro regime” … I have criticized the regime as much as I defended it. For example, today I called the elections a big joke.

But I believe in consistency and in balanced judgments and analysis. Unfortunately, anyone who is balanced when it comes to Syria needs to explain that he is not a Baathist. One needs to follow the Fox news, and Al Hariri-inc brainwashing media machine’s standards to be accepted as being in the mainstream.

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April 24th, 2007, 3:47 am

 

19. Enlightened said:

Stands and applauds Alex and gives him a big HUG;

Alex: I have banned in my house any arabic hannels, my wife was keen to get the arabic channels when we just bought a new house, mainly because of the propoganda, the net is my only source of information.

Thank you for clarifying my statements, I have never insulted Syria on this blog, its people especially. The regime and its employees are fair game, you should have earlier made the distinction between mine and G’s comment ( who i know you suspect is Gibraan, he hasnt been here lately hope he is ok).

I dont care for labels, being in the mainstream is not important ( although i do believe thorugh scandelous rumour that you have old baathi schhol song lyrics hidden in your wallet for sentiment), i have family through marriage in Syria, i am more concerned about their daily struggles, as I am concerned about my extended family in Lebanon. You must concede that the status quo cannot be maintained in both countries, IT MUST BE MOVED FORWARD (albeit no Iraqi style change), here is my thought for the day Alex:

“Progress is like a wheel barrow, if you dont keep pushing it, it stops”

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April 24th, 2007, 4:10 am

 

20. Alex said:

Bakri,

When the Syrian people get liberated from Tyranny, it will be great news .. because it will only happen when the Syrian people want it, not when a coalition of Mr. Khaddam and the MB imagine (like they did for he past year) that in few months the end of the regime is near.

And I suggest you look at the numbers in Joshua’s article since you seem to believe that the Syrian regime was worse that average for the Middle East.

Oh but I forgot, they are supposed to be saints. Otherwise, we need to replace them with the real Saints. Mr. Khaddam and the MB coalition.

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April 24th, 2007, 4:12 am

 

21. Alex said:

Time to go to sleep on this very special (not) Syrian elections night.

Hope our next election is more meaningful.

And by the way, Majed was right earlier today, we need to watch what happens in Turkey this week .. Erdogan might be a candidate for the presidency… a post usually reserved for a secular Turk.

300,000 demonstrated against it. But he did not confirm or deny his alleged intentions.

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April 24th, 2007, 4:24 am

 

22. Alex said:

What does this mean? (from Annahar)

معلومات عن مسعى قطري لتأليف لجنة لنظام المحكمة ذات الطابع الدولي بمتابعة سورية سعودية

أفادت معلومات ليل امس ان قطر أبدت رغبة واضحة في الدخول على خط معالجة موضوع المحكمة ذات الطابع الدولي . واوضحت ان لا مبادرة قطرية وانما رغبة جرى التعبير عنها في اللقاء الذي عقده امير قطر الشيخ حمد بن خليفة آل ثاني ورئيس الوزراء وزير الخارجية القطري الشيخ حمد بن جاسم بن جبر آل ثاني مع الامين العام للامم المتحدة بان كي – مون عشية سفره ووزير الخارجية السوري وليد المعلم الى دمشق اليوم في طائرة واحدة وضعتها القيادة القطرية في تصرفهما. ونقل عن مصادر ديبلوماسية لبنانية ان العمل جار على اقتراح تأليف لجنة لدرس نظام المحكمة بين الاطراف اللبنانيين بمتابعة قطرية وسعودية وسورية سعياً الى توافق تؤخذ فيه وجهات نظر جميع الاطراف اللبنانيين في الاعتبار.

النهار

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April 24th, 2007, 4:33 am

 

23. Bakri said:

Alex,Khaddam was a civilian and servant of the regime as today is Otri and Habash and you know that any small moukhabarat officer from qurdaha has more power than them.
And we never praised Khaddam but it’s you who worship day and night on this forum the heads of this regime who ordered the killing of 10 000’s of syrian,palestinian and lebanese civilians.

Khaddam was guilty but he is now in the opposition and it’s a good thing…unlike the iraqi opposition ,the syrian opposition is against debaathification,and this is wise policy.

For you Alex, the syrian people are backward and dont deserve freedom ….for us we have faith on our people capabilities and the regime of asad familly is not representative of our culture and civilization.

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April 24th, 2007, 5:08 am

 

24. K said:

As’ad AbuKhalil, upon reading Dennis Ross’s new tome:

“I may not recommend that you read the 800 pages of this book, but students of political science should read it (to see the deception and lies of diplomats), as should all Arabs. They should see how their leaders–all their leaders, Hafidh Al-Asad and `Arafat included–negotiate away the rights and aspirations of the Arab peoples if it meant keeping themselves in power, or solidifying their rule. I certainly left this book with more contempt for Hafidh Al-Asad (who was busy sending laudatory secret messages to Israeli leaders while maintaining his empty Ba`thist rhetoric in the Syrian media) and for `Arafat–not that I ever respected those two, not to mention the rest of the Arab tyrants. I singled out those two leaders because some Arabs, especially Palestinians, may still harbor some illusions about the two.”

http://angryarab.blogspot.com/2007/04/note-taker-as-historian-pain-of-reading.html

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April 24th, 2007, 5:20 am

 

25. K said:

Bakri,

Salutations.

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April 24th, 2007, 5:22 am

 

26. idaf said:

Enlightened(?!),
Please note the following FACTS. Imad Moustapha is not a member of the Baath party. He never was. He is an independent and is not allied with any political party in Syria. He does not “work for the regime”. He is the representative of SYRIA (the country and people, not the Baath or the regime) to the US. He is a respected scientist, artist, academic and diplomat. Even Syria’s most staunch adversaries talk about him with respect. You attacking him personally actually undermines your own argument and credibility. Being a diplomat or a public servant in Syria does automatically make insulting you a “fair game”. If so, then what you’re saying is that every public servant in Syria is working for the regime?! That’s more than half of the working force in Syria!

Bakri,
You said: “Khaddam was a civilian and servant of the regime as today is Otri and Habash and you know that any small moukhabarat officer from qurdaha has more power than them”. I’ll borrow Ehsani’s remark above: “Is this quote for real”?
Becoming an opposition figure does not automatically grant you amnesty or means that you are now “good”! The same way that working with the regime or “for the regime” for that matter does not automatically make you “bad”.

Ehsani,
There’s some truth to the ambassador’s comment. Please read this extremley intersting report that gives one example of the societal impact and challenges of economic reform in Syria. Unlike you Ehsani, I think the “Social Market Economy” approach that is being implemented now is a key transitional tool to move from the extreme socialist system to an open market one. It worked for East Germany better than the sudden “switch” to open market economy that you are preaching for Syria. (Btw, Syria News reporters should be applauded for their investing journalism on areas that delves deep into Syrian society.. here’s a list of other investigative reports on the Syria by SN).

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April 24th, 2007, 7:06 am

 

27. Bakri said:

Idaf:Becoming an opposition figure does not automatically grant you amnesty or means that you are now “good”! The same way that working with the regime or “for the regime” for that matter does not automatically make you “bad”

I agree and i have nothing againt most of the syrian civilian ministers or baathi civil servants,those have no syrian blood on their hands ,they are our relatives …. and they have an accurate knowledge of syrian regime’s schemings but dont have the courage of Aref Dalila or Antoine Makdessi….

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April 24th, 2007, 7:31 am

 
 
 

30. Alex said:

Dear Bakri,

Before this turns into a childish game, please let me try to change the tone of our conversation here.

I have had a lot of friendly exchanges by email with a number of NSF supporters. You surely sound like one. They all sounded the same. On the one hand “we accept all Baathists and Alawites”, on the other hand “The murderers and child rapist regime, Qurdaha people …”

It is great that my smart friend Ammar Abdelhamid joined the NSF because he surely made a difference in educating them on what to say or not to say… I noticed a difference before and after.

But believe me, to those of us who know few things beyond the blah blah of the neocon and Hariri media broken record on Syria, the NSF does not sound convincing. The outer acquired layer of media-friendliness and political-correctness that the NSF members would like us to see is so thin that we can see beneath it with ease… and what we can see is not attractive… not more attractive than the old Baathist monotone newspapers.

I am hoping that instead of this rush of “the Syrian regime will fall within few months” that Mr. Khaddam keeps promising/threatening, a real long-term learning process will make the outside layer into a real part of the NSF and not only a quick layer of white paint on top of rust. I hope events allow us in Syria to have more meaningful elections next time and I hope people like you and the other NSF members will by then be more mature politically to compete and enrich the Syrian political system and hopefully deserve to win seats in a new parliament that carries much greater weight than today’s almost useless one.

But this year, you are rushing it too much. You are nowhere near being ready to play the game. Mr. khaddam and Mr. Banayouni are both intelligent and ambitious, just like politicians in any other country. But one is an independent aging man (Mr. Khaddam), the other (Mr. Banayouni) is too dependent on a rather rigid and specific ideology that enjoys significant support within Syria, but is, in my opinion, impossible to accommodate in today’s Syria and today’s Middle East… imagine Pat Robertson wanting to run for President in the United States … he also enjoys the support of many Americans (like the Muslim Brotherhood does in Syria) … Despite his smile and nice talk, despite claiming to speak on behalf of God, he is resented and feared by almost all the others who do not support him… I’m afraid the MB are still resented by too many Syrians. They need few more years of morphing into some other political party (with a new name too) before there is less resistance to, and fear from, their role.

My hope for you and the other NSF supporters is to not approach us with absolute grandiose statements about the noble intentions of the NSF vs. the child-raping Bahsar Al-Assad … the regime’s image is changing… it is not like what you keep bombarding us with from your worst memories of what happened decades ago.

Stick to the issues .. like any decent politician running for office (for the next elections) would do. Then I and other Syrians will be happy to listen to them and potentially support them when the time comes to have free, multiparty elections in Syria.

Forget the regime, it will not crumble as planned despite the help you were promised by America, Saudi Arabia, Chirac, and Hariri group. Work on continuing to turn yourself to a viable future political party (or “parties” more likely) because we need to have other alternatives to the Baath.

We don’t want fast food Syrian politics. You saw I’m sure the bizarre posters of some of those running for Parliament this year … your NSF candidates would have been just as bad this year.

But the good news is that everyone is interested in learning. You, the regime, and independents are all learning how to play politics… when enough of you are ready, the Syrian people will be encouraged to put the necessary pressure on the regime asking for some initial form of “democracy” that suits Syria.

And I wish you all the best.

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April 24th, 2007, 10:54 am

 

31. Akbar Palace said:

Enlightened said:

“For the past 15 years Syria has been offering Israel land for peace, and we have always honored our agreements.”

Truth serum intervention:

We have armed Hezbollah to the teeth
We are and continue to destabilize Lebanon
We have promoted and sheltered Hamas
We have encouraged violence over dialogue
We have silenced all our internal critics

Seriously,Mr ambassador give up your day job and join the circus, you would best be served in emplyment as a clown.

Enlightened –

It is not my business to tell a Syrian how his government should be managed. I always thought that democracy and freedom was a fundamental human right. In any case, the said government arms a terrorist militia that will be in perpetual war with my people and because they’ll do whatever they can to start wars and violence against us.

So in light of your comments above, I must offer you a warm “thank you”. The Golan will be returned, with more people like you.

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April 24th, 2007, 11:26 am

 

32. MSK said:

Ya Ehsani2,

that was exactly what I thought. And I think that the domestic question (rich vs. poor, economic development, etc.) is actually going to be much more important for Syria (people & regime survival) than int’l politics.

Imad Mustapha must’ve not been to Syria in over a decade if he makes such statements. Back in the 80s up to mid-90s that was true, but when I saw the first BMW X5 with a Damascus license plate I said to my friends “That’s it, socialism has ended.”

Today, Syria is where infitah-Egypt was in the late 80s, in terms of difference between rich & poor.

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April 24th, 2007, 12:07 pm

 

33. Milli Schmidt said:

ANWAR AL-BUNNI HAS BEEN SENTENCED FOR FIVE!!! YEARS! This is a terrible blow to his wonderful family, his three teen-age children and a sad development in Syrian politics. Anwar is a visionary and clever man full of energy and it is a hidious crime to send him to prison for trying to create some space in Syrian society for a free exchange of views and for the protection of people against arbitrary violence from the authorities. Shame on those who conspired to do this to him and his family.

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April 24th, 2007, 12:09 pm

 
 

35. majedkhaldoun said:

With one of the smartest move by Erdogan, he declared his closest friend and loyalist Abdullah Gull for the job of presidency of Turkey, Gull is sure to be approved and will assume the job on may 15, Gull relations with arab leaders are very close, especially that with Syria, this mean also that Erdogan will be the president next time, both of those men will lead Turkey to its appropriate place in the middle east politics.

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April 24th, 2007, 3:09 pm

 

36. LEFTCOAST said:

I appreciate the discourse between everyone on the forum. I did not read all of your arguments so if I repeat any of them please forgive.

Syria does not deserve a visit from a U.S. President nor should it want one from Bush.

With an ongoing U.N. investigation and sanctions by the U.S. against Syria the idea of a President visiting the country is absurd.

The administration should have used its time wisely and engaged Syria diplomatically with regards to Iraq a long time ago. Honestly(and thankfully) its too late now for the Bush admin. Pelosi’s visit to Syria under his protest is an example on how the winds of change are blowing in U.S. public opinion of the Bush admin’s policies in the Middle East.

One thing Dr. Moustapha is absolutely correct about is that there is no military solution to the problem in Iraq.

The troop surge is the last attempt by a dying regime who is out of ideas on Iraq. Hopefully we will soon see a new set of policies on the Middle East by the U.S., one which respects the will of the American people who overwhelmingly think we should repair relations with Syria.

The inadequacies of Moustapha and Asad in dealing with the U.S. are glaring as well. A lack of U.S. interest has to be some indication of the failings of Syrian leadership to recognize the international arena. You will notice that all of those Presidential visits came during the time of Hafidh, who had a clear vision of Syrian interests.

Hafidh cooperated with the U.S. during the first invasion of Iraq in order to further future Syrian interests after the conflict. The first Bush(haha) saw Syrian support of the invasion would help U.S. interests as well. Both leaders should learn from their fathers and the way things were handled then.

Real actionable assistance by Syria to end the current Iraq civil war would do wonders for all involved. U.S. and Syrian cooperation is essential to stability in the region. It is also in the interests of both nations.

Both will need “attitude” adjustments in order to make this happen.

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April 24th, 2007, 4:31 pm

 

37. Bakri said:

Alex ,this is what they are and the syrian people have endured from them all of these crimes..Now i agree that such words should not be repeated daily but it’s sometimes not wrong to call a spade a spade.

When i say the alawite regime ,this is the reality as u know all the key officer mukhabarat are alawites from a specific region…today with bashar ,most are relatives of bashar…..from the alawite regime of hafez it’s now the familly regime of bashar.
It must be clear this is not an attack against the alawite community nor against qurdaha….among the most brave people in Syria are alawites like Dr Aref Dalila and qurdahis like Dr Abdelaziz al Khayer.
If sometimes the things are mixed between alawite regime and alawite people it’s not our fault but the regime’s fault…and any opposition member must always insist on this distinction.

Despite all we have endured and it continue when one of the best son of syria is sentenced today,i repeat :the culture of revenge is not ours.

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April 24th, 2007, 4:35 pm

 

38. ugarit said:

Bakri said: “If sometimes the things are mixed between alawite regime and alawite people it’s not our fault but the regime’s fault…and any opposition member must always insist on this distinction.”

You may take it that way but impressionable people may misunderstand it and go all out against the Alawites. If all the major mukhabarat officers were Sunni would we say the Sunni regime is a problem?

There is really no reason to emphasize their religious background if one is truly for a unified Syria.

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April 24th, 2007, 5:20 pm

 

39. Bakri said:

Ugarit ok , but here in the syrian case 90 % of the syrian people are not alawites…and we are humans this is normal feeling if we want to be ruled by people who belong to our culture.
In the same way i dont think that the french people will agree to be ruled by a muslim dictatorial state who spy on them ,kill them and torture them ,as you know the percentage of the muslims there is equivalent to the alawite percentage in Syria.And btw ,i dont have a problem if an alawite is democraticaly elected president of Syria and a man like Aref Dalila deserve greatly this post my problem is the minority dominated security apparatuses and not the alawite civilian who is like any other syrian.

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April 24th, 2007, 6:24 pm

 

40. Ford Prefect said:

Bakri, stop it right there. I truly respected your previous opinions but you have just crossed the Rubicon. Your remark is shameful at best and racist at worst. You are talking about the 10% who are Syrian citizen – just like you. In fact, they are all even better than you in charisma, intellects, and patriotism. Please retract your remark – it does not belong here.

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April 24th, 2007, 6:34 pm

 

41. Bakri said:

Ford Prefect ,the asad regime is the biggest threat on the alawite community ….when a young syrian of 18 years old goes to the military service and sees that all the powerful officers belong to one minority ,what kind of mechanism will go off in his mind ?

FP=You are talking about the 10% who are Syrian citizen

yes they are and i never said the opposite .

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April 24th, 2007, 7:15 pm

 

42. Bakri said:

FP and again Welcome to our leb brothers.

What is your problem with our leb brothers ?
You are more close to those you are attacking than to us ,because Syrians are mostly conservative and not europeanized.Only in the conservative Tripoli i feel myself in Syria.
It’s funny when i see you attacking the lebanese people and in the same time your are culturally deeply libanized.
And all my respect to the dynamism of the lebanese people,despite wars ,plots ,and crisis ,they are only 3,5 millions and have 22 universities and may be more and 10’s of banks….

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April 24th, 2007, 7:40 pm

 

43. trustquest said:

I like the blog of Mr. Mustafa and appreciate his efforts to interduce the intelctuals and the artists of Syria and Palastine. BUT, I do not commend people like him on their purposed ignorance of what regimes like the one he defend have done to those same people he claim their side. Not all people working for the regime are bad, but the opportunists of them are hated by most people. Here is an example.
Introduction: Most if not all of our intellectuals died in the western countries without being known or even mentioned by the tyrants regimes, neither in media or education books and most of them deprived from their own countries. What hurts more when an opportunist does not recognize his position and what he represents in front of those people and plays dump. Here what I have against Mr. Embassor from his blog talking about his meeting with Hisahm Sharabi:
Imad Mustafa writes:
Almost 18 months ago I saw the legendary Hisham Sharabi for the first time in my life at the Palestine Center in Washington. I went straight to him, extended my hand and said to him without much ado: “Marhaba ya Ustazi”.
The elderly professor looked intently at me, his eyes narrowed while he was trying to remember me, but failed to recollect an image in which my face fitted among his numerous students throughout decades of teaching and advising aspirant PhD students.
I said to him: “don’t try to remember who I am, this is actually the first time we meet, yet you are one of the most influential teachers I have ever had in my life. I started by telling him about the great pleasure and profound impact his two biographical volumes “Embers and Ashes ” and “Images of the Past” had left on both myself and my father, about the great respect I had for his “The Arab Intellectuals and the West”, and particularly his outstanding “Preludes to the Study of the Arab Society”.
After a lengthy conversation it occurred to him to ask me what I was doing in America. He thought I was a visiting academic on the Fulbright program, I told him that I was the Syrian ambassador. After a brief moment of awkward silence, he continued his conversation with me as if I had told him nothing about my job. I think the late Sharabi was not very fond of ambassadors, but how can I help it?
That was the first and last encounter between us. Four months later he passed away.

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April 25th, 2007, 3:10 pm

 

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