In the News Archives 2010


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27 December 2010
Syria may provide key in neutralizing Hezbollah threat
By William F. O’Brien The Edmond Sun

One of the foremost authorities on the nation of Syria is University of Oklahoma professor Joshua Landis, and he recently explained that Syria’s primary foreign policy objective is to regain the Golan Heights, a part of its territory that it lost to Israel in the 1967 Arab-Israeli war. According to Landis, Syria’s secular rulers support Hezbollah for strategic reasons and would be willing to stop supporting it and recognize Israel if Israel would return the Golan Heights to Syria. The Jewish state may wish to consider reaching such an agreement with Syria as a way to neutralize the threat that Hezbollah currently poses to its well-being.

23 November 2010
Syrian bloggers brace for fresh blow
By Sarah Birke, The Christian Science Monitor – published on gulfnews.com

“The internet is almost impossible to police and Syria and other countries already mete out penalties without a specific law,” says Joshua Landis, a Syria expert at Oklahoma University. “It will, however, add another layer of anxiety for journalists.”

13 October 2010
Ahmadinejad’s Lebanon Visit Shows Hezbollah Ascendant
By Ben Holland and Louis Meixler, San Francisco Chronicle

Oct. 13 (Bloomberg) — President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad arrived in Beirut today for his first official visit to Lebanon, a trip that signals the growing strength of the Iran-backed Shiite Muslim Hezbollah movement.

The Iranian leader met with President Michel Suleiman and will later hold talks with Prime Minister Saad Hariri. He is also scheduled to attend a rally in southern Beirut with Hezbollah Secretary General Hassan Nasrallah, and visit villages near Lebanon’s border with Israel.

11 October 2010
Hariri Probe May Spark Violence in Lebanon as Hezbollah Resists
By Massoud A. Derhally, Bloomberg

Hariri told Asharq Al-Awsat newspaper last month that blaming Syria for his father’s killing was a mistake. While the comments were seen by some supporters as a climbdown, Hariri “has no choice,” said Josh Landis, director of the Center for Middle East Studies at the University of Oklahoma in Norman.

2 October 2010
SYRIA: Entrepreneurs chafe over slow pace of economic reforms
By Sarah Birke, The Los Angeles

President Bashar Assad “has worked hard to strengthen relations with regional countries and turn Syria into an energy and transportation center,” says Joshua Landis, a Syria expert at Oklahoma University.

23 September 2010
Activist promotes feminism in Islam
By Natasha Goodell, The Oklahoma Daily

Mona Eltahawy, OU’s activist-in-residence for the Center for Social Justice and professor of a three-week course, was the honorary guest at the dinner hosted by Joshua Landis, Walker Tower faculty-in-residence. Landis, director for the Center for Middle East Studies, organized the event to cultivate open discussion about Eltahawy’s experiences as an activist working to promote women’s freedoms in Islam.

23 September 2010
Oklahoma scholar may someday chronicle peace in the Middle East
By William F. O’Brien, The Edmond Sun

He minored in Middle Eastern Studies at OU, and said that region had always been of interest to him. As a child and a teenager, he traveled there on an annual basis with his parents to visit members of his extended family. He speaks with respect and affection for the teachers that he had at OU while taking courses on the Middle East, including Dr. Joshua Landis, an Arabic-speaking professor who is an internationally known authority on Syria and also edits an influential website about that nation.

21 September 2010
OU to hold Islam panel tonight
By Nanette Light, The Norman Transcript

“There’s great anxiety in Oklahoma that Muslims may be trying to take over the country, and it seemed like a good time to have a debate,” said Joshua Landis, director of the Center for Middle East Studies and associate professor of Middle Eastern Studies at OU.

15 September 2010
New Media Strain Government Tolerance In Syria
By Deborah Amos, NPR

While the Internet has been a new challenge, Arab governments have learned how to counter any threat, says Joshua Landis, an American university professor who writes an influential blog on Syria.

“It’s about establishing limits,” says Landis, director of the University of Oklahoma’s Center for Middle East Studies. “The government sits on top of its people and it says OK, you can read all this stuff, you can do it. But if you think you are going to organize, if you think you are going to make a campaign or try to bring down the government, you are going to go to jail.”

14 September 2010
Syriawants to play an influential role
By Viktor Kaspruk, The Ukrainian Week

Joshua Landis is Director of the Center for Middle East Studies and Associate Professor at the University of Oklahoma. He writes question, a daily newsletter on Syrian politics that attracts some 50,000 readers a month. It is widely read by officials in Washington, Europe and Syria. Dr. Landis consults frequently in Washington and Europe; he has spoken recently at the Brookings Institute, USIP, Middle East Institute, and Council on Foreign Relations.

9 September 2010
Remaking the Middle East in Syria’s Image
By Hussain Abdul-Hussain, The Huffington Post

The objectivity of Malley and Harling on the Middle East should be also questioned. In the words of Joshua Landis, a confidant of Syria’s Ambassador to the US Imad Mustafa: “Malley is one of the few Americans who has taken the time and energy to understand Syria’s point of view and make contacts in Damascus when this was not easy to do.”

8 September 2010
Syrian Influence In Lebanon On The Rise Again
By Zeina Karam, CBS2

“Syria had been placed in the docket for the murder of (Hariri’s) father … and for him to look the world in the eye and say ‘I was wrong’ — it’s an extraordinary about-face,” said Joshua Landis, an American professor and Syria expert who runs a blog called Syria Comment.

6 September 2010
Interview of Joshua Landis by ORSAM
By Tonkuş Kareem, ORSAM

ORSAM: To start with Syrian foreign policy in general, it is usually analyzed with neo-realist considerations, omnibalancing approach rests on regime survival concerns, historical sociology pays attention to the levels of state formation or political economy. What do you think are the main determinants of Syrian foreign policy?

Joshua M. Landis: All regimes and countries defend themselves. This is not shocking and shouldn’t be a revelation in explaining the behavior of Syria’s leadership. For example, Tony Blair has revealed in his recently published memoirs that Vice President Cheney was deadly serious in his ambition to bring down the Syrian state following Washington’s successful destruction of the Iraqi state. It is in this light that we can understand Syria’s determination to assist the emergence of an Iraqi resistance that could frustrate Washington’s further designs of regime destruction in the region.

31 August 2010
Khaled Meshaal Interview: Hamas Chief Weighs In on Eve of Peace Talks
By Sharmine Narwani, The Huffington Post

With pundits in most capitals already predicting failure for the US-brokered Palestinian-Israeli peace talks to begin on Thursday, it seems only natural to start asking the question: “What’s next?”

25 August 2010
Two Minutes to Midnight? – Cutting Through the Media’s Bogus Bomb-Iran Debate
By Tony Karon, TomDispatch.com

America’s march to a disastrous war in Iraq began in the media, where an unprovoked U.S. invasion of an Arab country was introduced as a legitimate policy option, then debated as a prudent and necessary one. Now, a similarly flawed media conversation on Iran is gaining momentum.

2 August 2010
Obama’s Cairo speech yields fruit in Damascus, a year later
By Sarah Birke, The Christian Science Monitor

Joshua Landis, a Syria expert at the University of Oklahoma believes the initiatives will have mutual benefits, also affecting how Washington views Syria.

“This sort of soft diplomacy – as well as rising tourism – will have an effect on Washington in time,” he says. “There is so much ignorance about Syria – some of which can be blamed on the Syrian authorities – but most people who visit love it and wonder why it is demonized.”

30 July 2010
Niqab Ban Unveils Controversy in Middle East
The Layalina Review

Joshua Landis from the Center for Middle East Studies at the University of Oklahoma concurs that this ban aims at protecting Syrian secularism. Kristen Chick for The Christian Science Monitor adds that the coexistence of religions could be considerably undermined by the development of radical Islamism, for which the niqab is a primary symbol.

21 July 2010
Ban uncovers links between poverty and faith
By AP, The Star

“We are witnessing a rapid income gap growing in Syria – there is a wealthy ostentatious class of people who are making money and wearing European clothes,” said Joshua Landis, an American professor and Syria expert. The lower classes were feeling the squeeze. “It’s almost inevitable that there’s going to be backlash. The worry is that it’s going to find its expression in greater Islamic radicalism.”

21 July 2010
Veil ban: Why Syria joins Europe in barring the niqab
By Kristen Chick, The Christian Science Monitor

“Syria is adamant about its secularism,” says Joshua Landis, director of the Center for Middle East Studies at the University of Oklahoma. “If the next generation is going to be raised to embrace the strict Islamic values for which the niqab is the expression, it will undermine the project Syria is trying to build, of secularism and coexistence of religions.“

20 July 2010
Analyst: Israel’s Next War Could Be Lebanon
By Jim Lobe, Antiwar.com

Joshua Landis, a Syria expert at the University of Oklahoma, expressed disappointment that the study did not recommend a more assertive effort by Washington to push Netanyahu into negotiations with Syria over the occupied Golan Heights as a way of gaining Damascus’s cooperation in curbing arms supplies to Hezbollah.

14 July 2010
Damascus checking Washington’s temperature
UPI.com

Josh Landis, author of the influential Syria Comment Web site and director of the Middle East program at the University of Oklahoma, told the Jewish Telegraph Agency that Damascus was checking what role U.S. President Barack Obama could play in the region.

12 July 2010

Syrian president to mark 10 years in power
By Reuters, gulfnews.com

“The government undoubtedly assumes that by keeping a tight rein on the people and maintaining clear red lines, it will face less trouble in the long run and fewer people will go to jail,” said Joshua Landis, a Syria expert at Oklahoma University.

9 July 2010
Octavia, Frances, and the Late, Great Ayatollah Fadlallah
By Sharmine Narwani, The Huffington Post

“Sad to hear of the passing of Sayyed Mohammad Hussein Fadlallah. One of Hezbollah’s giants I respect a lot.” And so this is how an 86-letter Tweet ended the career of CNN’s veteran Middle East editor Octavia Nasr.

4 July 2010
Roadblocks to Damascus
By Frederick Deknatel, The Nation

Like the West Bank and Gaza, the Golan Heights were seized by Israel in the 1967 Arab-Israeli war. Regaining sovereignty over the fertile and strategic plateau above the Sea of Galilee underlies Damascus’s foreign policy. According to Joshua Landis, a professor and director of the Center for Middle East Studies at the University of Oklahoma who runs the influential blog Syria Comment, “Syria cannot allow peace to reign on those borders forever, unless it wants to re-evaluate its attachment to the Golan, which it has said it does not want to do. It maintains relations to do just that. That’s why it’s arming Hezbollah. Unless Syria can raise the price for Israel to keep the Golan, the issue will be dead.”

3 Jul 2010
What Effect Will Turkey’s Switch To Israeli Opponent Have On Syria And Regional Balance Of Power?
By Joshua Landis, Eurasia Review

How and when Turkey’s switch from Israeli ally to Israeli opponent will effect the balance of power in the Middle East is disputed. But most analysts agree that it will have profound consequences in time. George Friedman of Stratfor argues that there is no greater likelihood of “significant military threat to Israel” today than there was before the flotilla fiasco. World condemnation is a nuance but it does not alter the basic balance of power which is very favorable to Israel.

2 July 2010
The U.S. Military ‘Mainstreams’ Hezbollah and Hamas
By Sharmine Narwani, The Huffington Post

Hezbollah and Hamas just went mainstream. According to Foreign Policy magazine’s Mark Perry, in a recent US military report “senior CENTCOM intelligence officers question the current U.S. policy of isolating and marginalizing the two movements” and encourage a “mix of strategies that would integrate the two organizations into their respective political mainstreams.”

23 June 2010
Anger over Syrian-Israeli peace website
BBC

The founder of Syriacomment, Professor Joshua Landis, says the internet has opened up a unique space for dialogue.

“It holds the potential for people-to-people diplomacy that did not previously exist,” he says.

20 June 2010
Sanctioning Syria
By John Dagge, Syria Today

“In contrast to President George W. Bush, who sought to use only sticks in disciplining Syria, President Obama has taken a more conciliatory approach – he wants to use carrots as well as sticks,” Joshua Landis, director of the Center for Middle East Studies and associate professor at the University of Oklahoma, said. “This explains the permission he has given for Syria’s new status at the WTO even as he renews economic sanctions.”

11 June 2010
Israel vs Turkey: Which Serves US Interests Better?
By Sharmine Narwani, The Huffington Post

In light of Turkey’s reaction to the Israeli attack on the Gaza-bound flotilla last week, media pundits and policy wonks are already underlining the demise of the US-Turkish special relationship. The growing chorus of critics miss one vital point. Turkey was criticizing Tel Aviv’s military overkill off the Gaza coastline, not Washington’s.

9 June 2010
Christians view Syria as haven in unstable region
By Alistair Lyon, Reuters

“The fact that Iraqi Christians became a special target of Islamist prejudice and general banditry and extortion following America’s destruction of the Baathist regime in 2003 only drove home the vulnerability of Syrian Christians,” said Joshua Landis, a Middle Eastern scholar at the University of Oklahoma.

5 June 2010
Obama’s stature among Muslims slips over Israeli-Palestinian standoff
By Kristen Chick, The Christian Science Monitor

“Obama promised he would solve the Arab-Israeli conflict for good, not just push ahead with the process. But in fact he’s just pushing ahead with the process,” says Joshua Landis, director of the University of Oklahoma’s Center for Middle East Studies and a renowned expert on Syria. “And as long as that happens, things are going to be bad.”

5 June 2010
Obama’s stature among Muslims slips over Israeli-Palestinian standoff
By ANI, dailyindia.com

“Obama promised he would solve the Arab-Israeli conflict for good, not just push ahead with the process. But in fact he’s just pushing ahead with the process. And, as long as that happens, things are going to be bad,” says Joshua Landis, director of the University of Oklahoma’s Center for Middle East Studies and a renowned expert on Syria.

4 June 2010
Obama’s stature among Muslims slips over Israeli-Palestinian standoff
By Kristen Chick, Correspondent Christian Science Monitor

“Obama promised he would solve the Arab-Israeli conflict for good, not just push ahead with the process. But in fact he’s just pushing ahead with the process,” says Joshua Landis, director of the University of Oklahoma’s Center for Middle East Studies and a renowned expert on Syria. “And as long as that happens, things are going to be bad.”

According to a recent poll conducted by YouGov, 60 percent of Arabs now believe Obama is too weak to deliver a peace agreement. (The poll also found that 58 percent believe Obama has good intentions.) Landis says Obama quickly realized the political costs of a commitment to a two-state solution and backed off. That is now costing the US dearly in its relations with regional allies such as Turkey and Saudi Arabia, which have already begun distancing themselves from some US policies.

“At the end of the day, if we look at Obama’s harvest in the Middle East, we’ve lost friends, we haven’t gained them,” he says.

4 June 2010
U.S political analysts: Events around “Freedom Flotilla” can deteriorate U.S-Turkey relations

In TREND

“The Israel attack on the Turkish ships and killing of 9 Turks will strain U.S – Turkish relations,” Director of the Center for Middle East Studies at the University of Oklahoma Joshua Landis told Trend by e-mail.

18 February 2010
Experts: U.S. tries to exert pressure on Iran through Persian Gulf countries
By T. Konyaeva, Trend

Hillary Clinton’s visit to the Persian Gulf countries was aimed at involving these countries into the process of exerting pressure on Iran, but the creation of a coalition against the Islamic Republic is unlikely today, the experts.

“I do not think that the United States and Arab countries will establish a coalition against Iran, chairman of Urosevic Research Foundation of London Piruz Mudzhtahidzade told Trend by telephone from London. I think that the purpose of Clinton’s visit was to show a threat posed by the Iranian regime, so, this trip rather was a political propaganda to exert pressure on Iran.”

24 January 2010
Tourists Return to an Ancient Crossroads in Syria
By Lionel Beehner, New York Times

TO shouts of “yella-yella” — move along! — the driver of a donkey lugging a wagon overstuffed with pistachios parted the throngs of shoppers in Aleppo’s medieval souk. It was the middle of Ramadan, just hours before the iftar, the evening meal when Muslims break their daily fast, and the market’s serpentine rows of squat stalls were filled with black-veiled women and keffiyeh-clad men, sniffing the handmade olive soaps and stocking up on spices.

22 January 2010
Syria: the prospects for political change
BBC

Back in the 1950s, as a lawyer and a judge, Haitham Maleh began promoting human rights in Syria. In the 1980s he was detained without trial for seven years.

Since then he has been tried three times by military tribunals and only last year, now in his late 70s, Haitham Maleh was arrested again.

7 January 2010
A Double Agent, the CIA and al Qaeda
By Warren Olney, KCRW

When a double agent turned into a suicide bomber, seven US intelligence agents were killed. How much expertise did the CIA lose? What does the incident say about the abilities of al-Qaeda — and the quality of US intelligence? Also, the Environmental Protection Agency promotes new regulations to improve the quality of the air Americans breathe.

Listen

8 January 2010
Tide Of Arab-Turk Tension Rises Amid Water Shortage
By Deborah Amos, NPR

Turkey’s Bosporus strait is one of the world’s busiest shipping lanes for oil transport. On a recent day, more than a dozen tankers are on the horizon, but none of the oil comes from Turkey. The resource that counts here is water. Turkey is one of the only countries in the region to have enough water for its population.

“The Arabs, the Iraqis and the Syrians feel very much that Turkey is asserting itself as a regional hydrological superpower,” says Hussein Amery, a water specialist at the Colorado School of Mines.