Michael Young Talks Sense about Syria

Michael Young finally talks some sense on Syria in his latest article: Corner Syria at the Annapolis conference. He suggests including Syria in the "Peace Conference" to be held in Annapolis. He argues that Lebanon may possibly be able to gain Syrian compliance on various UN resolutions in exchange for the Golan Heights and Israel's compliance with UN resolutions. This would mean Syria clearing up border issues, halting arms flows to Hizbullah and Palestinians. This is a deal that Bashar al-Assad has welcomed. He has said that both Syria's relationship with Hizbullah and Iran would be on the table if the Golan were to be returned. Young wants Lebanon at the table to police such a deal — all very reasonable.

Of course there is a black lining to every silver cloud. Young doesn't believe that Israel and Syria will actually reach a deal. That is why he insists that Lebanon get its part of any bargain first.

He claims that a main reason that Syria may be allowed into the talks is because Israel wants a "peace process" with Syria, although, not a peace, i.e. it doesn't want to give back the Golan. He writes:

"Israel might have an incentive in resurrecting its Syrian track in order to play it off against the Palestinian track, as it did throughout the 1990s. The fact that Syria might be interested far more in a negotiating process than in a peace settlement would only interest the Israelis more." 

Needless to say, Michael believes that Syria doesn't really want the Golan back and only wants the process of talking with the West and being brought out of isolation. This is a common misapprehension and often repeated.

But, of course, the opposite is true. Syria wants the peace more than the process. That is why Hafiz al-Assad broke off talks with Israel in 2000 when he finally realized that Israel and the US only wanted the process and would refuse to hand over the Golan. Both Clinton and Barak were left blaming Hafiz for abandoning a process he understood was leading no where. "Where is your counter offer?" Barak asked Hafiz. He wanted to go on talking without giving.

At Geneva, Hafiz became convinced that Israel would never return the Golan, so he cut off the process. This is not something he would have done had he really been interested in the process more than the peace. He didn't need the process, Barak did. Clinton confirms this reading of events in his memoirs. He describes Barak's scuttling of the negotiations politely – "Barak got cold feet." In other words, Barak did not want to go through with the peace and did not believe that the Israelis could digest losing the Golan, particularly as Barak hoped to get a Palestinian deal, which would have entail 20% of the Israeli settlers being withdrawn from the occupied territories. Barak was using the process to keep Syria cooperative and pliant while he pursued the Palestinian track. In the end, Hafiz had been suckered by both Clinton, who didn't have the political will to pressure Barak to take the final steps, and by Barak, who jilted him at the alter. As Clinton has said, "A deal could be struck in 30 minutes." Even Sharon admitted that "everyone knows what a deal would mean" — the return of the whole Golan.

Michael believes that Syria wants Lebanon more than the Golan and will not give up its interests in Lebanon to get the Golan. To prove this, he refers to the fact that Syria did not offer to give up Lebanon during the 1990s, which is true. But this argument has no merit.

No one pushed Syria to give up Lebanon in the 1990s. Both Israel and the US believed that Syria was playing an important role in stabilizing Lebanon and restraining Hizbullah from attacking Israel or expanding its power in Lebanon. They were content to leave Syria in Lebanon. Hafiz understood this. The Syrian-US deal that led to the deployment of Syrian troops in the first Gulf war alongside America's laid the groundwork for this understanding. In 1990 Syria offered to help the US consolidate its control over the Gulf region. In exchange the US acquiesced in offering unchallenged Syrian control over Lebanon. This is the cynical view, but one could argue that it was good for Lebanon at the time. Syria brought the Lebanese civil war to a definitive end by subduing General Aoun. Of course it didn't disarm Hizbullah or the Palestinian militias.

Today, Syria does not own Lebanon. It has influence because it arms Hizbullah, but it does not occupy Lebanon, as it did in the 1990s. Syrian calculus will be very different going into peace talks. And so will international calculus. Today, the US and Israel want to keep Syria out of Lebanon; whereas, in the 1990s, they did not. 

Bashar al-Assad has stated directly that Syria is willing to transform its relations with Hizbullah in order get back the Golan. There is every reason to believe that he is telling the truth.
Nicholas Blanford writes here (via "friday-lunch-club")
"…Hariri’s backbone when the Future Movement leader meets Bush on Thursday. The US government is publicly limiting its involvement to calls for a fair and on-time election, free from foreign meddling. US Ambassador Jeffrey Feltman has repeatedly said that the US is not in the business of naming preferred presidential candidates.

Nonetheless, the Bush administration privately supports Jumblatt’s stand, concerned that the election of a consensus president would strengthen Hezbollah, and by extension Syria and Iran, at the expense of Washington’s influence over the current government.

“The Americans are convinced,” Jumblatt said. “But maybe the Europeans and the Saudis need convincing that the president should be elected by the half-plus-one.”

Memo From Damascus Syria, Seeking Investors, Turns Cautiously to Iran
New York Times by HUGH NAYLOR

From car manufacturing plants and a proposed $2 billion industrial zone for Iranian businesses, to plans to overhaul urban transportation systems, Iranian companies are charging into Syria, looking to cash in on a recent privatization push by Damascus.

Weighed down by a behemoth public sector, an influx of nearly two million Iraqi refugees and falling oil production, Syria’s leaders are trying to liberalize their economy in hopes of avoiding a financial meltdown.

 

In another time, the privatization effort might have presented an opportunity for the United States and Europe to use their enormous commercial muscle to drive a wedge between Syria and Iran, Washington’s foremost antagonists in the region.

But the United States imposed sanctions in 2004 as punishment for Syrian support of militant Palestinian and Lebanese organizations. These banned American exports to Syria and gave President Bush the added option of outlawing American investment in the country, effectively scaring off American and other Western companies.

At the same time, Iran, the subject of two recent rounds of United Nations sanctions for its suspected nuclear weapons ambitions and a long boycott by the United States, has few opportunities to invest abroad. The end result, Western diplomats and analysts say, is that Washington has effectively pushed Damascus and Tehran into deepening their alliance of nearly three decades.

“It’s logical why we have been working much closer with the Iranians,” said Mustafa Alkafri, head of the Syrian Investment Agency, a government body. “We’re both under the American blockade.”

The Syrian government estimates that Iranian investment in 2006 alone surged to more than $400 million, making Tehran the third-largest foreign investor here, behind Saudi Arabia and Turkey. Though exact figures are unavailable, by some estimates Iran has invested a total of $3 billion in Syria, most of that in the last few years.

In September, officials from both countries announced plans to expand Iranian projects in Syria to $10 billion over the next five years, which would cast Tehran as the economic powerhouse here. … (Read entire article, interesting)

Comments (45)


1. MSK said:

Josh,

You are contradicting your own sources. Please go back to that post from earlier this summer where you cited from a recently published book on the Israeli-Syrian Peace Process that has a detailed description of the Geneva Talks.

Assad Sr. didn’t break off the talks because “he realized that Barak didn’t want to give back the Golan.” Barak got “cold feet” over giving Syria access to the Lake, since he was afraid he couldn’t sell it to the Israeli voters, who have to approve a peace deal. So he backed out of a previously agreed deal. Clinton got mad at Barak, but then told Ross to “fudge it” with Assad. Ross tried to “convince” Assad but the old man just wouldn’t have it & said “yallabye”.

Barak was ready to give back the Golan minus the Lake shore. Obviously, that’s not a fair deal and Assad, predictably, didn’t take it. Barak (and most other Israeli governments before & since) want to get “their kind of deal”, one that gives Israel maximum gains. Needless to say – this doesn’t work. Nor should it.

As for Syria wanting peace more than the process and “really” wanting the Golan back … I believe it when I see it. At this point … there hasn’t been any attempt by Syria (except for the negotiations in the late 90s) to actually retrieve it. No wonder everyone else in the region is yawning when Assad Jr. and his guys are trying to talk tough – so far it’s all been nothing but hot air.

At this point, there are successful strategies to get land back:

1. “Land for Peace” Negotiations, a la Egypt-Israel and Jordan-Israel

2. Armed resistance / liberation movements, a la Hamas etc. in Gaza & Hizbullah in Lebanon.

I’m still waiting for those “Golan Liberation Front” forces to show up.

–MSK*

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October 4th, 2007, 5:56 am

 

2. Disaffection said:

The continual assertion of responding to Israel by other “means” is laughable and says it all. It is such a weak and handicapped comeback. Israel doesn’t care what means Syria responds by, as it knows that “mean” means nothing.
What happened to Eye for an eye. The regime is incapable of defending its own people that’s all, Fakidu al-shai2 la yu3teeh. But they sure can defend themselves against their own people, credit is due there.
Israel can patronise, tease and dangle its carrots of peace processes all it wants, knowing fully well the Syrian authorities can do nothing but bark. The only concern of the Israeli govt. is how to make sure Bashar signs a peace treaty for free. As the consequential absence of the current regime can be detrimental since the “real” Golan Liberation Front or Front for the Liberation of the Golan Heights (FLGH) (whatever you wanna call ’em) will emerge and equate a Hizbulla resistance…. if not more.

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October 4th, 2007, 9:25 am

 

3. Akbar Palace said:

Michael Young has too many “ifs” in his article to take seriously. Obviously, Lebanon can only hope that the US and Israel will not sell out their interests, but that’s another story.

I think the issue boils down to the differece between the American and Israeli approaches to this conflict. The Israelis want to deal with a strongman, the US wants to deal with a democracy.

Of course, I believe dealing with thugs-for-life is always a bad, short-term prospect. Dealing with democracies is much better in the long run. I wouldn’t meet any of Assads conditions. Let him negotiate if he wants or let him stay home and call on his terrorist friends if he wants.

Israel should be prepared to give up as much land and she wants depending on what sort of peace is negotiated with the government of Syria. And the closer the Syrians negotiate toward the shores of the Knerret, the more tangible the peace treaty will be.

Lastly, thugs-for-life are usually not very “keen” on peace treaties. Thugs-for-life thrive on conflict and uncertainty. Arafat was a good example. So was Saddam. I don’t see Dr. Bashar aiming in this direction for obvious reasons: he’ll get knocked off by one of the terrorists he helped to create or his people will revolt once the external enemy is out of the picture.

Regime change has its advantages.
_________________

Changing the subject:

Simohurtta,

In your expert opinion, do you think it is a good sign when the head of the Palestinian Authority shows up inside a Succah with an Israeli Prime Minister?

http://www.ynetnews.com/PicServer2/04062007/1248803/pm-olmert-abu-mazen-1_m.jpg

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October 4th, 2007, 11:03 am

 

4. alle said:

MSK – I’m still waiting for those “Golan Liberation Front” forces to show up.

Well, with a Syrian Golani population of 20,000, outnumbered by settlers and locked down by the army, I don’t think there’s much hope for armed resistance (your point 2). And Damascus knows it.

Asad must rather be thinking along the lines of a third way, to give the Golan front a minor jolt. That could come either through some supposedly accidental skirmish or a one-off “resistance” attack, but with no hope of actually liberating anything, just showing that they’re still in the game and shocking US/Israeli sensibilities enough to gain leverage/initiative in negotiations (your point 1).

If Israel thinks the same, both the airstrike and the troop surge on the Golan front could be intended to show that it won’t tolerate it, but will respond in force to any disruptions of its hegemony. (Which might in itself be a mistake, à la 2006, but that’s open for speculation.)

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October 4th, 2007, 1:32 pm

 

5. Joshua said:

MSK, I don’t see the contradiction. Clayton Swisher’s book, “The Truth About Camp David,” says that Assad believed that he was going to get the entire Golan when he went to Geneva. He had already agreed to arrangements to keep the Syrian army off the Heights. Dennis Ross offered him less than this. Assad said, “Israel doesn’t really want peace,” and left. I think we are both saying the same thing.

As for Syria being weaker than Israel, you are completely right.

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October 4th, 2007, 2:23 pm

 

6. ausamaa said:

Never mind Young and his many “ifs” as noted by expert Akbar Palace, what Surprises would Harriri Jr. hear at, and come back with, after his meeting with Dubbya? Would he agree to Burning Lebanon to suit Bush strategy? Most likely. Would he “explain” to Bush or “hear” from Bush that its time to comprmise? I Doubt it. Would he “carry” a special Saudi request to both to compromise? I also doubt that; Saado can hardly complete a full sentence while at SAudi or Beirut, can you imagin him trying to “convince” Bush and Cheney of some listening to reason? I can not. Would he use the Bush visit to stand up to certain Saudi pressures on the 14 Feb crowd to compromise. Or will he just come back to Berri and swear to him that he had tried his best, threatened Dubyya maybe, but in the end Dubyya was so stubborn that Harriri Jr. was lucky enough to merely convince Bush of not sending the Marines to Beirut again. And he will boost about that as if it was a fact.

But, my guess is that what he would bring back with him would be more confusion and a plan of further bloodshed in Lebanon as a prelude to further actions elsewhere. Unless Bush is now more foucused on Syria’s attenance of his proposed peace conference, then, it is back to normal. Long shot! As you can teach an old dog new tricks.

God Save Lebanon.

The problem is that we are attempting tp predict the actions of a peculiar mix of neo-con Crazies and Impotent Lebanese Surrogates. Both of which have proven to be magnificant loosers.

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October 4th, 2007, 2:42 pm

 

7. Alex said:

Akbar, you said something interesting:

“I think the issue boils down to the difference between the American and Israeli approaches to this conflict. The Israelis want to deal with a strongman, the US wants to deal with a democracy.”

Well, we have a problem.

This US administration is having a bad case on conflict between its fabricated morality of its conscious mind, and its selfish and primitive subconscious desires. The conscious mind says “Sorry Bashar, we are the force of goodness on earth and we only work with good people” … the subconscious part says: “Bashar, before we leave office we will make sure you regret the day you took the job” … and it also says “Lebanon is mine mine mine, I will not share it with you”

Bashar can try as hard as he can to convince them that he can help achieve good things everywhere in the Middle East, but the problem is that whenever your conscious and subconscious are in conflict, your subconscious invariably wins. This is called the law of conflict… this administration will continue to act out of its selfish and revengeful subconscious mind’s directions.

And your second point that Israel wants to make a deal “with a strongman” who is supposedly not democratically elected… it is true that these frustrating times will ensure that a democratically elected leader will be from some fundamentalist religious background, who will probably not be too friendly to Israel. But on the other hand, “a strongman” gives Israel an excuse to refuse to negotiate.

So again, there will be no solution … Israel won’t negotiate with a thug and won’t negotiate with democratically elected Hamas or Ahmadinejad or Hizbollah types.

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October 4th, 2007, 4:13 pm

 

8. Akbar Palace said:

Alex said:

Akbar, you said something interesting:

I guess it was about time.

Well, we have a problem.

I don’t think this is necessarily a “problem”. After all, the US and the UK dealt with Qaddafi. I think either approaches can be successful depending on the specifics of the agreement. Again, democracy is preferable (IMHO), but certainly not a hard requirement.

This US administration is having a bad case on conflict between its fabricated morality of its conscious mind, and its selfish and primitive subconscious desires.

I think you’ve included too many psychological terms. Please put down your mental health reference.

The conscious mind says “Sorry Bashar, we are the force of goodness on earth and we only work with good people” … the subconscious part says: “Bashar, before we leave office we will make sure you regret the day you took the job” … and it also says “Lebanon is mine mine mine, I will not share it with you”

No, that is not what the US conscious and subconscious mind is saying. Perhaps something was lost in the translation. I help you with this:

The US (or “Americans” if you will) believes we are mostly a “force of good in the world”, but Americans understand we have made grave errors in judgement during our 200 year plus history. With respect to Islamic terrorism, as in the case with Germany in WW2, yes, generally, Americans believe we are a “force of good in the world”. However, a handful of Demcorats in the US Congress would differ with me. The debate is alive and well.

Bashar can try as hard as he can to convince them that he can help achieve good things everywhere in the Middle East, but the problem is that whenever your conscious and subconscious are in conflict, your subconscious invariably wins. This is called the law of conflict… this administration will continue to act out of its selfish and revengeful subconscious mind’s directions.

There is no conflict. Bashar has only convinced terror-supporters “he can achieve good things everywhere in the Middle East”. Americans, and everyone else in the world, are NOT convinced of this, especially when Syria continues to support terrorist groups and rely on regimes that have been shunned by the world community.

And your second point that Israel wants to make a deal “with a strongman” who is supposedly not democratically elected… it is true that these frustrating times will ensure that a democratically elected leader will be from some fundamentalist religious background, who will probably not be too friendly to Israel. But on the other hand, “a strongman” gives Israel an excuse to refuse to negotiate.

Israel has had success (so far) making peace agreements with governments that aren’t very democratic: Eygpt and Jordan. Israel is also still entertaining peace with the Palestinian Authority, whose democractic credentials are, shall we say, suspect. Israel is not altruistic. She knows the playing field. Americans are more theoretical in their approach, but again, theory can be abandoned depending on the circumstances (again, refer to Libya).

So again, there will be no solution … Israel won’t negotiate with a thug and won’t negotiate with democratically elected Hamas or Ahmadinejad or Hizbollah types.

Israel will negotiate a thug who is truly interested in a true peace with Israel. I know that sounds funny. Israel will not negotiate with any democracy that does not recognize her existence. Sort of like the US’s lack of interest in negotiating with the democratically elected Nazi party 60+ years ago.

I hope this is making sense to you Alex. Let me know if you need further clarification, translation, references, quotes, links, or textbooks. I am sure these concepts are difficult to understand for people who want to know how terrorism can succeed in the world.

Professor Josh stated:

As for Syria being weaker than Israel, you are completely right.

Life is full of disappointments.

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October 4th, 2007, 4:49 pm

 

9. Alex said:

Akbar,

Let me simplify it for you:

The conscious mind says: America is helping Iraq and Lebanon to become democracies.

The subconscious mind … well, look at how the news is reported in the United States: “another violent day in Iraq … two US soldiers and 140 Iraqis killed”

Two of yours … then the 140 of the others that you are supposedly helping.

Similarly … What this administration is mostly working for in Lebanon is its own interests and not Lebanon’s.

Same applies to Iraq … and the prospects of peace between Syria and Israel … This administration is “selfish” not “good” as president Bush thinks.

So … his selfish subconscious won over his “good” moral conscious… yet he feels that he has the moral justification for his continued stubborn policies that are leading to nothing good in the Middle East.

As for Israel or the United States dealing with dictators sometimes:

1) Egypt was a case of survival .. after the close 1973 war Israel decided that it is worth it to give Egyupt back its Sinai to end end the possibility that the Arabs will attack Israel again. And that worked beautifully for Israel.

2) Qaddafi? … did they lose anything by dealing with him? or was he the one who accepted all their terms.

3) King Hussein? … eh .. what exactly did it cost you to make peace with him?

Besides, the King of Jordan was not considered a dictator … he was a brother.

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October 4th, 2007, 5:23 pm

 

10. G said:

As usual, Landis, your description bears no resemblance to the article you’re referencing. It’s quite entertaining to observe you twist it beyond recognition to fit Syrian propaganda.

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October 4th, 2007, 6:24 pm

 

11. offended said:

As usual, G as well as Tony Badran and all the other 14th March tadpoles make a habit of picking up on Dr. Landis’s ‘mistakes’…

Well Dr. Landis, I hope you never stop writing, because the moment you do, Tony will be out of his job. Begging for another cause to defend…

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October 4th, 2007, 7:39 pm

 

12. Kamal said:

This isn’t Michael Young “finally making sense”. This is what every Lebanese liberal believes in.

Syria must regain the Golan Heights and all aggression against it must cease, whether by Israel or others. For 2 reasons, one principled and one practical (from a Lebanese and Syrian perspective)

1. In in the interests of justice and international law

2. To pull the rug out from under the regime argument that the conflict with Israel justifies the exploitation of Lebanon and the suppression of Syrian freedom

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October 4th, 2007, 8:02 pm

 

13. Avner said:

How do you understand this: http://www.sana.org/eng/21/2007/10/01/141868.htm

?

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October 4th, 2007, 8:37 pm

 

14. SimoHurtta said:

Simohurtta,

In your expert opinion, do you think it is a good sign when the head of the Palestinian Authority shows up inside a Succah with an Israeli Prime Minister?

Shows Aklbar that Palestinian politicians have god manners, better than Israelis. Do you Akbar remember when a Israeli politician has visited Palestinians on their festive occasions without an armed division and shooting everything moving between the age of 0 to 99?

It also shows that Palestinians in earnest want a speedy solution to the four decades long ethnic cleansing problem. Israelis (like normal) are increasingly dragging their feet in the peace negotiations. Palestinians would like speak about real issues, Israelis want to hold hands and dance in the summit and afterwards continue as they have done for the past 40 years.

This time Israel has to deliver fast a solution for the Palestinians. And that seems to make the hard-line Israelis and their few supporters extremely nervous and the panic is increasing.

The Israelis want to deal with a strongman, the US wants to deal with a democracy.

Are you joking Akbar? Would USA regime like to make business for example with a democratic Saudi Arabia, with a Chavez type nationalistic democratic leader? I seriously doubt it. USA’s regime has always lowed strongmen and has installed numerous of them in Europe, Latin America and Asia. Come-on Akbar Bush vetoes expansion to children’s health care. His own nations children, why would that guy care about democracy in Middle East or elsewhere.

Lets remember the immortal comment by President Lyndon B. Johnson who said to the Greek ambassador Alexandros Matsas when he objected to American plans in Cyprus: “Fuck your parliament and your constitution. America is an elephant. Cyprus is a flea. Greece is a flea. If these two fellows continue itching the elephant they may just get whacked by the elephants trunk, whacked good.” The rest is history Greece got after a while their strongman, a military junta.

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October 4th, 2007, 8:53 pm

 

15. Friend in America said:

Here is the latest on Iran’s nuclear program. It is farther along than than those who dispute the seriousness of a nuclear threat in the middle east think.

Thursday, October 4, 2007
Global Security Newswire is now available: http://www.nti.org

Top Stories

Iran Centrifuge Installation Progressing, France Warns

Iran could have nearly 3,000 uranium-enriching centrifuges in operation by the end of October, French diplomats said yesterday, potentially putting it on track to produce weapon-grade uranium in usable quantities (see GSN, Oct. 3).

France received a telegram from the U.N. nuclear watchdog yesterday indicating the agency’s belief that Iran is set to have 18 centrifuge cascades — slightly under 3,000 centrifuges — running at the end of the month, the Associated Press reported.

While Iran has insisted its nuclear program is intended only for power production, France, the United States and other Western powers suspect that Tehran aims to build a nuclear weapon. …Full Story

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October 4th, 2007, 10:23 pm

 

16. majedkhaldoun said:

Imad Mustapha comments about Presaident Bush,are deplorable,in many ways they remind me of Bashar comments about arab leaders, we need someone who is diolomatic(mudamshaq)

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October 4th, 2007, 10:52 pm

 

17. Jamal said:

Alex, I read all your posts. I enjoy what you write and admire your ideas and your civilized tone.

But when you snarl about the psychology and morality of the US and make neutral noises about Bashar, I am disappointed.

On the US I’ve found it’s simply not that simple. You discover this if you study some US government committee hearings and reports. I have found a reassuring and surprising amount of highly evolved thinking and morality going on there.

With Bashar and co, I believe it IS that simple. They would mark the furthest imaginable point on the other end of the spectrum as far as morality and thinking goes.

And I am not a US apologist. On ME issues they often infuriate and disturb me more than I could express in a month of SyriaComment.

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October 4th, 2007, 10:58 pm

 

18. Jamal said:

Majed – don’t start me on Mustapha. He’s an optical illusion, when you look close you find the hardest core of the Syrian regime disguised as a pantomime figure.

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October 4th, 2007, 11:06 pm

 

19. Nour said:

Majedkhaldoun,

What comments by Mr. Moustafa?

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October 4th, 2007, 11:25 pm

 

20. t_desco said:

David Wurmser:

US ‘must break Iran and Syria regimes’

By Toby Harnden in Washington
Last Updated: 11:41pm BST 04/10/2007

America should seize every opportunity to force regime change in Syria and Iran, a former senior adviser to the White House has urged.

“We need to do everything possible to destabilise the Syrian regime and exploit every single moment they strategically overstep,” said David Wurmser, who recently resigned after four years as Vice President Dick Cheney’s Middle East adviser.

“That would include the willingness to escalate as far as we need to go to topple the regime if necessary.” He said that an end to Baathist rule in Damascus could trigger a domino effect that would then bring down the Teheran regime.

In an interview with The Daily Telegraph, the first since he left government, he argued that the United States had to be prepared to attack both Syria and Iran to prevent the spread of Islamic fundamentalism and nuclear proliferation in the Middle East that could result in a much wider war.

If Iran was seen to be powerless to prevent regime change in Syria, Mr Wurmser claimed, Teheran’s prestige would be undermined just as the Soviet Union’s was when it failed to come to the aid of Syrian forces during the Israeli invasion of Lebanon in 1982.

Regime change was possible because Syria was “weak and rattled” while Iran had adopted a “go-for-broke strategy” of stirring up regional tensions to overcome the reality that “the foundations of the regime in Teheran are fragile”.

A situation such as last year’s attack on Israel by Hezbollah, which was backed by Iran and Syria, could provide an opportunity for US intervention. …
The Daily Telegraph

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October 4th, 2007, 11:49 pm

 

21. norman said:

Avner,
The Syrian government is trying to make raising prices more tolerable for the majeroty of Syrians.

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October 5th, 2007, 12:40 am

 

22. ausamaa said:

US ‘must break Iran and Syria regimes’

Unfortunately for Wurmser, those are the things that are easier said and wished than done.

Can you imagin how the hardcore neo-cons must be feeling with so much of their Agenda not been accomplished seven years after Bush & Co. took over the Republic? Frustrated and desperate as hell for sure, but still hoping for a miracle to happen somehow, somewhere. I keep saying; even -or especially- in the world of impotent fools, hope springs eternal!!!!

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October 5th, 2007, 1:00 am

 

23. ausamaa said:

And now after littel Harriri has been to DC and met with his mentor who encouraged him to “stay the course”, what uncertaineties await poor Labanon?

But should we take Saado and Bush words at face value, or should we await the upcomong visit by Condi who will come either to reinforce what was said, or to clear things up if local reactions prove threatening too threatning? Or is what was said in DC intended to be the first step in preparing the field for another go at Hizbullah by Israel as Wurmser advocated above?

Either way, its a no-win situation for the Bush administration. One should presume that they know what they are doing, but the record does not support such an optimistic presumption.

Let us wait and see. Again!

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October 5th, 2007, 1:14 am

 

24. ausamaa said:

Bush said after meeting with Saad Hariri, leader of the anti-Syrian majority in Lebanon’s parliament. “The United States is more than just an admirer. We want to help as best as we possibly can.”

Didn’t he something like that to Ahmad Chalabi before or during the early stages of the Iraqi Liberation/Democratization war????? It just rings somewhat familiar!!

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October 5th, 2007, 1:23 am

 

25. majedkhaldoun said:

From BBC
وأضاف مصطفى ان هذا يعاكس تصريح الرئيس بوش الذي “لا يعرف كيف تطبق السياسة الاميركية على الارض وما يفعله السفير الاميركي في لبنان”.

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October 5th, 2007, 1:38 am

 

26. why-discuss said:

Wurmser “.. argued that the United States had to be prepared to attack both Syria and Iran to prevent the spread of Islamic fundamentalism ”
The war in Iraq has done just the opposite! Iraq that was the most ‘civil’ society of the arab world has become a nest of fundamentalists, pervading the governemnt at all levels, shia or sunni..
Syria and Lebanon are still more ‘civil societies’ that the terrorist-breeding Saudi Arabia. With US brilliant views of “democratisation of the middle east”, the whole arab world will soon become more fundamentalist and more anti-Israel than ever. Bravo the neo-cons! They are digging the grave of Israel…

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October 5th, 2007, 1:46 am

 

27. norman said:

Is Wurmser Jewish.?.

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October 5th, 2007, 2:28 am

 

28. IsraeliGuy said:

“….He said that an end to Baathist rule in Damascus could trigger a domino effect that would then bring down the Teheran regime.”

Well, I don’t see how.
Actually, the opposite sounds much more reasonable to me.

An end to the current Iranian regime could trigger a domino effect that would then bring down Assad’s one.

Assad managed to isolate Syria like never before.
He used his last card to bet on Teheran.

If there’s gonna be no war on Iran, the man will turn out to be a genius who managed to keep Syria’s head above water, under very difficult circumstances and without giving anything to the US.

If there will be a war, he’ll be the first to be affected from the strategic alliance with the Iranians.

In fact, Assad brought himself to a position where his future totally depends on the Iranian regime’s future.

If they’ll survive – he will too.
If they don’t – he’ll be the first to pay the ultimate price – and Syria too.

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October 5th, 2007, 3:15 am

 

29. why-discuss said:

Israeli guy

Bashar is a winner in both cases. As they say in french he is “incontournable”
If Iran is attacked all Shias will be outraged and the US will face upsurge of violence in Irak that may drive the country to a real civil war. Even Lebanon may see renewed violence and risk of clashes. For fear of it spilling to their land and the killing of sunni iraqis, the arab monarchies will ask Syria to intervene with the Iranians to diffuse the situation. Bashar is a winner,

If Iran retaliates by attacking the US bases in KSA and the gulf, the arabs monarchies will ask Syria to intervene so they dont receive bombs on their head. If Iran attacks Israel they will get the support of all arab masses as it was the case for Hezbollah.
Bashar is a winner.
In my view Israel will be foolish to attack Iran as the consequences may push Iraq into a real civil war whose victims will also be US soldiers and shift the whole area in favour of Iran.
If they don’t attack, Bashar will be looked at as a admirable politician with a rare perpective. He is a winner.

If the US attacks Iran, I guess it would be the same scenario. The Iranian regime will be reinforced greatly and if it retaliates well, that would be a huge blow to all the sunni monarchy terrifed by the advent of a Shia ( heretics in their eyes) influence on the region.
A win win for Iran and Syria..

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October 5th, 2007, 4:58 am

 

30. IsraeliGuy said:

Why-Discuss, in your opinion, what happens if the Iranian regime is toppled?
Where does it leave Assad and Syria?

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October 5th, 2007, 5:06 am

 

31. MSK said:

Alle-

There were many reports, cited on this blog, that the Syrian state is establishing some kind of “irregular guerilla forces” along the lines of Hizbullah to be used on the Golan front. I was referring to those when I said that Syria has, since 1974, only been blowing hot air towards Israel.

Josh-

You said that “Barak wanted to continue talking without giving.” That’s what I object to because it’s simply not true, as Swisher’s book proves. Barak did want to give, just not 100%. He thought that he couldn’t sell a “100% deal” to the Israeli public, and hoped that Clinton could convince Assad to agree to a 95% deal, just like it happened before with Arafat and King Hussein. Of course Assad said “Thanks, but no thanks.” but he didn’t become convinced that Barak/Israel did not want to give up the Golan at all. He learned – the hard way, having gone all the way to Geneva – that Barak was not strong enough for a full deal. So Assad went back to waiting.

Long story short: Israel does want to return the Golan, but is still delusional about being able to strongtalk Syria into such unequal deals like it did with the PA.

–MSK*

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October 5th, 2007, 5:51 am

 

32. Alex said:

Thanks Jamal.

I probably disagree with you, an many others, about Bahsar’s intentions. I see his regional policy as a constructive one in the long run… more constructive than any of the others.

In normal times, I would have paid attention to balancing my comments about him, mixing support with criticism. But as long as this administration is still pushing for creative chaos in he middle east, no one can match their ability to generate chaos… and death and destruction on an unprecedented scale. I am focused there for now.

In the mean time, I have a lot of smart friends who share your point of view and I am always happy to listen to their opinions and stories.

I hope we will get to see a calmer Middle East that allows us to focus on the normal things that Syrians should focus on.

Israeliguy:

If you are asking: What wil they do now? will they survive the great challenge.

The answer comes from recent history… Syria survived much greater challenges … Starting with the Carter administration’s decision to abandon Syria for a separate Egyptian Israeli peace, along with the loss of Egypt as a strong fighting parter… then came the civil war in Lebanon that Syria had to manage … then came the anger of the Arab brothers who hated Syria for helping the Lebanese Christians against the Palestinian forces … then came Arab support to regime change in Damascus through violence (the Muslim brotherhood).. then came the initially successful Israeli invasion of Lebanon … Rifaat Assad trying to overthrow the regime of his ailing bother Hafez who was recovering from a heart attack … then 8 years of boycott by the Reagan administration and its Arab allies … the loss of the Soviet Union as a military backer of Syria! … all the things Saddam tried to do over two decades to destabilize the regime and Syria (his enemies) … The boycott of Europe after the Hindawi affair (remember that one?) … The initial crazy stages of the Hariri investigation and all the lies about Syria’s role (nothing is proven 2 years later) … last year’s Israeli invasion of Lebanon …

Enough?

Syria got used to it. Bashar said in that interview: If they think they isolated Syria, then how come they are always asking for our help and asking us to change behavior? … if we are isolated then we are not relevant.

If Syria is not relevant, if Syria is boycotted .. then how come in ebanon every party and every politician is classified under “pro Syria” or “anti-Syria” .. did you hear the term “pro France” anywhere?

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October 5th, 2007, 5:59 am

 

33. Joshua said:

MSK,

I have no quibbles with your account. I think we agree. The point I make is that Assad’s behavior in 2000 suggests that Syria was very much interested in the ‘Peace,” and not just in the “process,” as is so often claimed, but he needed to bring home 100%, not 97% or whatever it was on offer.

The process served Israel well by keeping Syria cooperative with what was happening on the Palestinian track.

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October 5th, 2007, 6:10 am

 

34. Alex said:

Our dear friend Yazan Badran, a Syrian blogger, lost both his parents in a car accident yesterday.

For those of you who know him, please try to support him on his blog

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October 5th, 2007, 6:21 am

 

35. IsraeliGuy said:

***********
“If you are asking: What will they do now? will they survive the great challenge.

The answer comes from recent history… Syria survived much greater challenges …”
***********

Alex, I think that all the challenges that you described are indeed real ones, but I don’t feel that any one of them equals the scenario that I described – on the strategic level.

We’re talking about totally different magnitudes.
It will put Syria in a totally new and unfamiliar position – even for an isolated country as Syria.
This is not ‘yet another bump on the road’.

But I like your sense of optimism 😉

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October 5th, 2007, 6:35 am

 

36. Bakri said:

Allah yerhamon.
He is a very brave and intelligent person.

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October 5th, 2007, 6:42 am

 

37. ausamaa said:

ISRAELIGUY,

Beleive you me, Syria had seen it all. This is much easier than “other” times gone by. Actually, Syris’s position is a lot more comfortable that it was at many past junctions. And the isolation you are talking about is a joke. As Alex pointed above and Like Bashar said: if Syria is so isolated and weak, then why does Bush and the neo-cons give it all this attention and tender loving care?

But I know, you will beleive it only when you see it again.

As to the “srategic levels” things that will happpen to Syria, about the “totally different magnitudes” and the “not yet another bump on the road”, this is all sounds to us (Syrians and Arabs) like the empty mucho of a Mafia looser threatening the residents of a certain neighberhood.

What is more, the FEAR from the consequences of possible actions by either Israel or the US is not felt on the street here anylonger with the way the both fared in Iraq and Lebanon. There is a certain FEAR of how much dammage a desperate BUSH and a scared Israeli can do in the china shop, the worry of how to “contain” and “fix” the possible damage of their following another and stupid and eventually loosing act. No less, No more. No fear of an invincible enemy or a a mighty Superpower. Both Israel and the US have really shot them selves in the foot and the US has destroyed any military credibility the had through their failures from Afdganistan to Iraq to Palestine to Lebanon and Syria.

This should be where you should focus your efforts: the “totally new and unfamiliar position” that Bush and Israel find themselves in” . Try to realise and adjust to those facts rather than threatening with more of the same!

The Law of Unintended Consequences applies perfectly in the Middle East. And it applies most to situations created by those who do not see the facts as they are on the ground, but seem them as they wish or want others to see them.

My dear, it is time to realise that the Old Days are over, the old Myths and Fears have been broken, a new reality had set in. Which requiers new approaches and a whole new set of rules. We know, this is a difficult task for the Bush and Israel who still appeare, or want to appeare, in a continious state of denial.

So, we have to bear with “them” while it lasts…the state of denial by Bush and Israel I mean.

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October 5th, 2007, 7:27 am

 

38. IsraeliGuy said:

LOL, good comment, Ausamaa.
You actually managed to put a smile on my face.

I’m afraid you’re a little bit too jumpy (or perhaps tense) 🙂

Alex and me had a discussion and I simply disagreed with her observations (as I usually do…).

I read my message again and couldn’t find any threats.
I even ended my comment with a smiley – not a common threatening practice.

I’m “sure” Alex is extremely intimidated by my “threats”.
LOL! that was a good one…

Keep cool, buddy 😉

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October 5th, 2007, 8:06 am

 

39. Akbar Palace said:

Simohurtta asks:

Shows Aklbar that Palestinian politicians have god manners, better than Israelis. Do you Akbar remember when a Israeli politician has visited Palestinians on their festive occasions without an armed division and shooting everything moving between the age of 0 to 99?

Er, yes:

http://www.usatoday.com/news/world/2007-08-06-israel-palestinians_N.htm

But I just wanted to know how these meetings were seen by rejectionists and Hamas supporters like you and Alex. I imagine it must be a bit depressing.

Alex continues psycho-analyzing the US and Bush:

The conscious mind says: America is helping Iraq and Lebanon to become democracies.

The subconscious mind … well, look at how the news is reported in the United States: “another violent day in Iraq … two US soldiers and 140 Iraqis killed”

There is no contradiction here Alex. America and the Americans I talk to mostly understand that this IS a battle between “Good” and “Evil”. Please write this down so you don’t forget. I would compare this to wars the US fought where we lost orders of magntitude more of soldiers: WW2 and the Civil War. Most of the Americans I have talked to do NOT want to contemplate what the ME would look like if we simply walked away.

Similarly … What this administration is mostly working for in Lebanon is its own interests and not Lebanon’s.

The US is on the offensive. The current administration believes that democracy is not only a fundamental human right for all people, but that democracy is what the people of the ME want, and the best way to insure a stable ME.

If Hilary geets elected, let’s see what she does. I think we’ll both be a bit surprised. If we get a republican president, I am certain the US will not allow Iraq to return to autocracy.

Same applies to Iraq … and the prospects of peace between Syria and Israel … This administration is “selfish” not “good” as president Bush thinks.

What “prospects of peace between Syria and Israel” were you referring to? The prospect of conventional and non-coventional weapons falling into the hands of the Syrians and Hezbollah from the likes of Iran and NK?

So … his selfish subconscious won over his “good” moral conscious… yet he feels that he has the moral justification for his continued stubborn policies that are leading to nothing good in the Middle East.

Selfishness is better defined by politicians like Pat Buchanan and Ron Paul who believe allies should be thrown to the dogs including Lebanon, Iraq and Afghanistan.

Norman asks:

Is Wurmser Jewish?

Yes, I used to know him personally. Most americans are jewish* too.

(“jewish” meaning “pro-Israel”)

To help with this problem, I suggest that the rejectionists and pro-terrorists on this forum link to more articles about the “Liberty” attack.

The Syrian government is trying to make raising prices more tolerable for the majeroty of Syrians.

My take on the bonus payments is to keep the Syrian people happy. Israeli warplanes flying in and out of Syria isn’t a pleasant thought.

BAGHDAD – U.S. forces backed by attack aircraft killed at least 25 Shiite militia fighters north of Baghdad Friday in an operation targeting a cell accused of smuggling weapons from Iran, the military said.

The troops were seeking the commander of a rogue militia group believed to be associated with the Quds Force, an elite branch of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards, the U.S. military said.

Osama adds:

Perhaps not as much excitng and pleasant as the thoughts the Israelies were having during the Nassrallah July 2006 Festival.

Feel free to conduct another “festival”. Terrorists and peole like you that support them are always itching to have “fun”.

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October 5th, 2007, 11:18 am

 

40. ausamaa said:

AP

Perhaps not as much excitng and pleasant as the thoughts the Israelies were having during the Nassrallah July 2006 Festival.

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October 5th, 2007, 11:26 am

 

41. why-discuss said:

ISRAELI GUY

If one regime cannot be toppled in the middle east is Iran. While it is a repressive regime in religious areas, Iranians have had already a revolution that did not fulfill the promises, they are not ready for another deception. Yet they have a “semi-democracy” that is gradually evolving.
Remember that they had 8 years war in total indifference ( if not collusion) from the rest of the world. If they don’t like their regime , they still trust it much more than they trust the other countries who let them down under the gaz and the chemical weapons of Saddam Hossein. Iranians are very nationalist and emotional, any civil casualties from an attack will bring more solidarity. In many ways they ressemble the israeli jews who have been let down by the europeans during the holocauste and who have developed a stronger trust in their own kind, and a suspicion of the europeans. The israeli jews trust Israel despite the corruption and the flaws of their leadership. Same applies to Iranians.
Funnily both claim that the other regime should be toppled!

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October 5th, 2007, 1:38 pm

 

42. Alex said:

Akbar,

Never mind … I don’t think you can understand what I was trying to say no matter how I simplify it…the two of us live in totally different worlds. Israeliguy can understand … you are not are quite far from the middle east and it shows.

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October 5th, 2007, 3:43 pm

 

43. ausamaa said:

Alex, I think AP knows and understands perfectly what you try to say. He is just playing it -but in a very primitive way- according to the Official Israeli PR manners learned from Gobbels. Actually I think his remarks are intended for “targets” mostly uninitiated in the affairs of the area. And you should give him his due, he maintains a somewhat consistant presence on syriacomment when he is not off duty.

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October 5th, 2007, 4:21 pm

 

44. GG said:

“In exchange the US acquiesced in offering unchallenged Syrian control over Lebanon. This is the cynical view, but one could argue that it was good for Lebanon at the time. Syria brought the Lebanese civil war to a definitive end by subduing General Aoun. Of course it didn’t disarm Hizbullah or the Palestinian militias.”

Is this the extent of your expertise Joshua: ignoring realty? I have no time for Young’s frequent rants and drivel in the Daily Star, but how can you expect to be taken seriously with such comments. You’re nothing but a propagandist.

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October 9th, 2007, 10:17 pm

 

45. Syria » Blog Archives » A Bunch Of Unfounded Theories And Rampant Speculation said:

[…] Michael Young Talks Sense about SyriaIn September, officials from both countries announced plans to expand Iranian projects in Syria to $10 billion over the next five years, which would cast Tehran as the economic powerhouse here. … (Read entire article, interesting) […]

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October 11th, 2007, 6:32 pm

 

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