More on the Bandar Affair

Here is Robin Wright elaborating on the Bandar-Turki fight:

Robin Wright in the Washignton Post explains some of the reasons for the tug of war between Saudi Arabia's ambassadors. Bandar's faction was able to cut off Turki's funds, forcing him to leave behind millions in un-paid emabassy debts when he departed the US. The important policy debate which under girded the factionalism was over how to deal with Iran and how much to support Washington's Middle East policy. Here are a few paragraphs from her story. 

The woes within the royal family reflect a tug of war over how to handle foreign policy. Eighteen months ago, Prince Bandar bin Sultan ended a legendary 22-year career as the face of Saudi Arabia in the United States. Word at the time was that he was bored, preferring his palatial Aspen, Colo., lodge to Washington. As it turns out, however, Bandar has secretly visited Washington almost monthly over the past year — and is at least as pivotal today in influencing U.S. policy as he was in his years as ambassador.

Last week, his successor, Turki, abruptly resigned from the post — partly, sources close to the royal family said, because of Bandar's back-channel trips to meet with top U.S. officials, including Vice President Cheney and national security adviser Stephen J. Hadley.

Turki was kept so out of the loop that Bandar often did not inform him he was in town, much less tell him what he was doing, the sources said. Twice, the Saudi Embassy was told by an outsider that Bandar had arrived — and the embassy sent someone to the airport to look for his private plane to confirm it, according to the source who provided the tip.

The rise of Bandar, who is now Saudi national security adviser, may reflect the waning influence of the sons of the late King Faisal, who dominated the diplomatic and intelligence services for decades, say sources close to the family. Turki, who was intelligence chief before becoming ambassador to Britain and then the United States, has poor chemistry with King Abdullah, they note. His brother Prince Saud al-Faisal, who has been foreign minister since Henry A. Kissinger's era, is ill….

The cutoff of funds appears to be one manifestation of a royal rift over, among other things, the way to handle the rising influence of Iran in the Middle East.

In his secret visits, Bandar increasingly pressed the Bush administration not to deal with Iran — and, instead, to organize joint efforts to counter Iran's growing influence in the Middle East, such as in Lebanon, said sources close to the royal family. The new model would be based roughly on the kind of joint U.S.-Saudi cooperation that assisted anti-Soviet forces during Moscow's 1979-1989 occupation of Afghanistan, the sources said.

Washington and Riyadh are already planning a major aid and military training package for the beleaguered Lebanese government of Prime Minister Fouad Siniora, whose government is besieged by thousands of supporters of Iranian-backed Hezbollah.

The Sunni kingdom sees Iran as a threat because of Tehran's alleged nuclear weapons program. The kingdom also fears the shifting balance of power — under Iran's tutelage — between minority Shiites and majority Sunnis, who have dominated Middle East politics for almost 14 centuries. The monarchy faces its own restive Shiite minority in the main oil-producing province.

The kingdom grew particularly alarmed as the report of the bipartisan Iraq Study Group began to leak out last month, with recommendations that the administration talk to both Iran and Syria, say U.S. officials and sources close to the royal family. Even before the report was released, Abdullah summoned Cheney to again warn about Iran and the regional implications of its growing influence — and offer Saudi assistance and discuss joint U.S.-Saudi efforts.

The al-Faisal brothers, in contrast, have consistently urged dialogue with Tehran and are wary of joint U.S.-Saudi efforts against Iran and its surrogates. Turki often urged the United States to deal with its enemies. In one of his final public speeches, at the Philadelphia World Affairs Council last month, Turki said: "We speak directly with Iran on all issues. We find that talking with them is better than not talking with them."

Turki's frequent public events — in which he was frank about America's poor image abroad and urged progress on the deadlocked Arab-Israeli peace process as the key to defusing broader regional tensions — generated an unusual amount of attention in the Saudi media and made him a popular figure back home.

Saudi experts say differences within the royal family, like virtually everything having to do with the House of Saud, are heavily nuanced. "On Iran policy, they all make the same diagnosis but have a different prescription for what to do about it," said David E. Long, a former U.S. diplomat and the author of five books on Saudi Arabia.

After a year of internal tensions and failure to pay bills, Turki was not invited to Riyadh for Cheney's visit, Saudi sources confirmed. And Bandar returned to Washington again right after the meeting to discuss the specifics of the joint efforts. Two weeks later, Turki quit.

Report on secret Olmert-Sanyurah meeting in Egypt (mideastwire.com)

On December 21, the Ma'an News Agency reported: "A well-informed Arab source has revealed to Ma'an that following the war in Lebanon, during Id al-Fitr, a secret meeting took place in Sharm al-Shaykh between Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, and Lebanese Prime Minister Fu'ad al-Sanyurah. The meeting was attended by Usamah al-Baz, Egyptian presidential adviser, and Prince Bandar, head of the Saudi National Security Council, who had been tasked by the Saudi Government to conduct the contacts with the Israelis and arrange the meeting. The source, who is well-versed in Israeli affairs, added: "The five-hour meeting took place in the Egyptian president's holiday resort in order to keep it a secret. They discussed issues pertaining to coordination and cooperation between Egypt, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, Israel, and their allied forces in Lebanon in order to confront the danger of the Tehran-Damascus axis, and their allies Hezbollah, Hamas, and! Palestinian Islamic Jihad.

"The source further noted that "Olmert told the Lebanese prime minister that the enhanced international presence in Lebanon as well as the backing provided by the United States to its friends have created an unprecedented window of opportunity to rid Lebanon of Iran's and Syria's allies." The source added that Al-Sanyurah confirmed to Olmert that his government is determined to carry out what is required of it, such as implementing Lebanon's sovereignty, eliminating anything that stands in the way of this process, disarming the Hezbollah, and eradicating pro-Damascus and pro-Tehran forces. The source said that Olmert arrived in Sharm al-Shaykh on board a commercial airliner belonging to Arkia Airlines, which has commercial flights to Taba and Sharm al-Shaykh." – Ma'an News Agency, Palestine

Syria's 'isolation is over': Syria's Deputy P.M. spins that Syria's has broken out of its isolation
23/12/2006 08:32  - (SA) 

London – The international isolation of Syria is over as Western powers have realised they need to work with Damascus, Syrian deputy prime minister Abdallah Dardari told a British newspaper published on Saturday.

Dardari told the Financial Times business daily that the international community now recognised that it ought to talk to President Bashar al-Assad's regime if it wanted progress in the Middle East, particularly on Lebanon and Iraq.

"The former political isolation of Syria has ended. It is no longer there," he told the FT.

"I don't want to say there is a sense of 'I told you so' but there is a sense that people are realising in Western capitals that if you want to be influential in the Middle East, you have to come through Damascus."

Relations between the United States and Syria are tense. But earlier this week, two US senators, including John Kerry, the former Democratic party presidential candidate, were in Damascus for talks with Assad.

Dardari said that previously, the United States had simply presented Syria with a list of demands to end various practices, instead of talking about mutual interests, and that this attitude proved ineffective.

"It didn't work in April 2003, just after (the) occupation of Baghdad. If it didn't work then, at the peak of US influence in the region, it will not work now with Syria," he said.

Dardari added that Syria's priority was to secure the return of the Golan Heights, occupied by Israel since 1967.

The United States said Wednesday it supported Syrian opposition groups rivalling Assad, but said such support was overt, and not a secret bid to undermine his government.

US President George W Bush has dismissed calls for a direct US dialogue with Syria, which Washington accuses of letting extremists into Iraq and undermining Lebanon's fragile democracy by funding and training the militant Hezbollah group.

The Syrian government daily Ath-Thawra hit out on Friday at terms set out by the US government for heeding a bi-partisan panel's recommendation to open a dialogue on calming neighbouring Iraq.

The paper was following a line already set out by Assad.

"They (the Americans) have to differentiate between a dialogue and giving instructions. We are open to a dialogue, but we will not take instructions," Assad said earlier this month.

The Israeli public is not yet ready for a Golan-for-peace
Yossi Sarid in Haaretz

It was not Bush, but the occupation. The findings of the Peace Index survey published in Haaretz about a month ago indicated a clear trend: Most of the Jewish public is opposed to a full peace treaty with Syria in exchange for a complete withdrawal from the occupied Golan Heights (67 percent are opposed and only 16 percent are in favor). Some 51 percent believe that sooner or later a war will break out between the two countries. And nevertheless, the public is firm in its opposition to a formula of total peace for all of the Golan.

There is nothing new under the local sun, which beats down and dries up people's brains. Only being beaten over the head with a club or a hammer opens people's minds here and leads to a painful sobering up.

That's what happened when public opinion refused to give up Sinai, and only after a terrible war did it accept an overall withdrawal down to the last of the settlements; and that's what happened when public opinion supported the first Lebanon War before it became complicated and contaminated and forced us to flee by the skin of our teeth; and that's what happened when our public opinion rejoiced in anticipation of America's war in Iraq, of which Israel is the main victim; and that's what happened only five months ago when public opinion goaded Olmert and Defense Minister Amir Peretz into striking at Lebanon mercilessly, and during the first week even crowned the two military commanders with more than 80 percent support.

Politicians tend to flatter and praise their nations: a smart and wise nation, they say; the public is not foolish, they say. But when nations are in distress, they are liable to be revealed not only as laymen but as absolute lunatics. In times of anxiety, the voice of the people is not the voice of God. Public opinion is a rooster-shaped weather vane that rotates with the direction of the winds, the winds of foolishness; public opinion is shifting sands – from the right to the left, just sand, mainly sand.

If Olmert and Peretz and Peres and Herzog and Bar-On had seen contrary surveys, indicating support for a complete withdrawal in exchange for complete peace, you can rest assured that they would be singing a different tune to Israel, and that the Bush excuse would have been erased without leaving a trace. They are yet to see other days, other surveys, immediately after the next war.

Michel Kilo, who is in jail and must watch his words, calls for Israeli engagement with Syria. He claims that the best way to promote democracy in Syria is to return the Golan and begin dialogue between East and West.

دعا الكاتب والمعارض السوري ميشال كيلو، من سجنه أمس، الرئيس الاميركي جورج بوش إلى «العمل الجاد لإقامة دولة فلسطينية» وإجبار إسرائيل على الانسحاب من الجولان وبقية الأراضي اللبنانية، وسحب القوات الاميركية من العراق. وقال مقربون من كيلو المعتقل في سجن عدرا شرقي دمشق، بعد توقيعه على «إعلان بيروت ـ دمشق»، انه بات يستطيع استخدام هاتف عمومي في باحة السجن، على غرار سجناء الحق العام.وقال كيلو، في مقابلة مع وكالة «فرانس برس» من سجنه، «كنت أتمنى لو أن بوش لم يكتف بالمطالبة بحرية المعتقلين السوريين»، في إشارة إلى بيان بوش مؤخرا، والذي دعا فيه دمشق إلى الإفراج عن جميع المعتقلين السياسيين في سوريا، وضمنهم كيلو. وأضاف كيلو «كنت أتمنى لو أعلن برنامجا زمنيا ملزما لانسحاب (القوات الاميركية) من العراق، وتعهد بالعمل الجاد لإقامة دولة فلسطينية… كنت أتمنى لو التزم بإجبار إسرائيل على الانسحاب من الجولان وبقية أراضي لبنان المحتلة». وأوضح كيلو «لو أن الرئيس الاميركي فعل ذلك … لقدم خدمة كبرى للديموقراطية وحقوق الإنسان، ولقيد بصورة جدية قدرة نظم الفساد الاستبدادية العربية على قمع شعوبها».   

Comments (70)


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51. Alex said:

Dear G and Gibran

You fall under groups: 1,2,3,5 .. you’re lucky you are not a western journalist (#4) otherwise you would have had a perfect score in natural propensity for biased analysis.

I fall under group #2, as I admitted earlier. But at least I know it and I try my best to moderate its effect.

Read this if you can … it is not long. It might explain to you how everyone reads news in a biased way. Maybe you won’t feel defensive about your own bias.

Ahmad,

Ambassador Moustapha is a very intelligent, capable, and dedicated diplomat. During and after the Lebanon war he appeared I think 73 times on American television in one month. I don’t think any other Arab diplomat worked as hard as he did. And if you actually watched him, most of what he was pushing for was an immediate stop to the war.

As for your conclusion about how the Ambassador’ kind comments about me might have affected me. Please remember that I have also had kind comments from moderate Israeli Journalsits and historians, from Turks, from American journalists, from Syrian opposition journalists … if each one was to change my position then I will be a zionist, Communist, Islamic fundamentalist, Imperialist, in addition to being a Baathist.

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December 29th, 2006, 4:51 am

 

52. Alex said:

Ehsani,

You are in a group by yourself:

Those who are wasting their energy analyzing the Micro level at the expense of the much more relevant Macro level … You are frustrated because Syria has a Billionaire relative of the president plus a lot of other corruption. The macro view will show you a similar, often much worse, pattern of behavior… look at the rest of the region … look at the commisions paid when the rich Arabs buy anything from the west and pay double the regular price … look at how much the Hariris made in Lebanon (mostly by acquiring some prime real estate properties)

The Middle East (including Syria) is swimming in corruption. Let’s see what we can do to move the Middle East in the right direction, and then we’ll see how that can craete better environmental conditions for reducing the culture of corruption.

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December 29th, 2006, 5:23 am

 

53. simohurtta said:

No Mr. SIMOHURTA you got that wrong my friend. No one likes your local big stick. You want a frank answer? Since you asked here it is. If it is a choice between local and American big stick, the choice is obvious: Bring in the American stick.

What good has Gibran the big stick of USA and Israel brought to Iraqis and Palestinians? Are those nations really free and democratic?

I personally can’t see any difference between the local big stick in Saudi Arabia and Egypt or the big stick in Iran and Syria. Not even the Gibrans can say that Saudi Arabia is less religiously ruled as Iran or Eqypt is more democratic than Syria. The only difference is in their relations to the holder of the really big stick.

What good would your American stick bring to Syria and Syrians? After we have seen how skilled USA has been hitting with the big stick in Iraq, only an “Israeli neoconservative” wants more of that medicine to the region. Most of the worlds nations have been able to develop their societies towards democracy without no US help (actually many have developed only after they managed to kick out the US installed dictator). Eventually the Middle Eastern countries can do the same. It is up to them, not up to us Europeans and Americans.

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December 29th, 2006, 5:41 am

 

54. Gibran said:

SIMOHURTA,
You can lock yourself in Europe if you like and forget about the rest of the world. My reply was an answer to a hypothetical question to a choice between two possible alternatives. What part of Europe do you come from, by the way? Don’t forget the great service the US rendered to post war Germany. Japan is yet another case. The US now has a status quo presence in the region. Rest assured it will remain in the region for the next 50 years at least; and you should know why. It is not just the plain old idealism of democracy. There are some real economic interests at stake. The Middle East benefits from American partnership as much as the US. Radicals like Bashar and Nejad are impediment to economic progress and their removal will be the greatest benefit to the region. Saudis and Egyptians have made sound choices regardless of their political system. Bashar and Nejad would rather squander their resources on petty troublemaking in neighboring states instead of bettering the lots of their people. Do you know who are the poorest per capita people in the ME? EHSANI pointed out the case of the Syrians. I can tell you the Iranians are in the same category despite their oil wealth.

Alex your classifications are not worth considering (as usual). Neither is your link to that garbage about news bias.

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December 29th, 2006, 6:36 am

 

55. Ahmad said:

Alex
I just want to make one point,

The 73 times Ambassador Moustafa appeared on TV he stated the same sentence(over and over and over) He was begging the American to love Bashar. So please, if you like his appearence and his achivement that’s your opinion.
I am not a Syrian-American or Syrian-Canadian … I am a Syrian and I want back my Syrian Arab Republic.

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December 29th, 2006, 7:13 am

 

56. Gibran said:

AHMAD,
I have a feeling that we may have met. Do you live in west end Vancouver?

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December 29th, 2006, 7:24 am

 

57. Ahmad said:

Alex
He let you change your mind about (carpet).

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December 29th, 2006, 7:37 am

 

58. majedkhaldoun said:

Alex whatis your blog address?

hanging Saddam will have a baleful effect on George Bush,just like Holegu after he destroyed Baghdad,within two years,his troops were defeated by relatively small army(al Zaher bibers),and later by his cousin Barake,and his troops drowned, later he died within five years of destroying Baghdad ,at a young age.
Bush will see nightmares,that will wake him up,will see Saddam in his dreams.
Saddam is a bad man,deserve to die, but not at the hands of traitors,and under american occupation.

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December 29th, 2006, 8:00 am

 

59. Alex said:

Ahmad,

ok … you’re right about the carpets part :)

But again, we both picked the parts of Dr. Moustapha’s words in a way that fits our arguments … the fact is he did the Syria PR part as you suggested, but he also did mention at every interview “we need to stop this war today”

Majed, I do not have a blog! .. that’s why I’m here enjoying intellectual discussions with my friend Gibran.

Gibran, not that it will go anywhere, but I’ll tell you what Desmond Tutu’s father used to tell him: “don’t raise your voice, improve your argument”

And if you can’t improve it … just don’t argue. follow your own suggestion … ignore me.

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December 29th, 2006, 8:20 am

 

60. simohurtta said:

Gibran Iraq is the best example that exporting “democracy” (or hunting for WMD’s as the original excuse was) is to complicated for the simple Yanks. Since George Marshall, William L. Clayton and George F. Kennan there has been a serious degeneration in US skills in ruling occupied areas. After that episode (to which USA joined reluctantly as you remember) USA has not “created” a single democracy. Actually it distinguished for example in turning the cradle of democracy (Greece) to a dictatorship. “Fuck your Parliament and your Constitution” as the Texas’ other great gift for worlds “democracy” (L.B. Johnson) said.

Gibran “locking out” is a better strategy than starting wars on very suspicious reasons. Gibran you clame that on the other hand that USA operates for humanitarian reasons (“democracy” to a nation like Iraq which had nothing to do with 911) on the other hand you admit the economic realities (= some economic reasons as you describe it).

In what way are secure and cheap access to oil and raw materials and democracy linked? Actually the history shows us much evidence that the greatest fear of US foreign policy are nationalistic, democratically elected leaders who want the best price for for their natural resources and labour. What USA likes most are authoritarian leaders who allow US companies to drill oil and mine minerals with the minimum compensation. Then the whining of “human rights” is minimal. The past decades history is full of such examples.

Syrians and others are responsible for their own nations democratic development. As Americans, Canadians and Europeans are for their own. If you Gibbon still support spreading “democracy” with US Army why not start from North Korea, then continue to Burma and finalize the excursion in Palestine. After such a successful tour US would have some moral authority to tame milder human rights abusers.

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December 29th, 2006, 1:31 pm

 

61. ausamaa said:

Nice, Ahmad and Gebran have found each other!!! please break the news to Junblat, Saad and Jaja’a and to their Godfather Abu Jamal, they will be very happy:The “Freeddom” pack is getting larger by the day….!! You guys, and AkbarPalace of course, always remind me of Mohammed Darwish poem:
عابرون في زمان عابر

I also wish you a happy new year and I would like to dedicate an everlasting Fairuz song to you in 2007. The one that goes:

يوم عيناها بساط السمـــا
و الرماح السود في الهـــدب

If you know the one I mean….. Happy New Year to Syria and All Arab Syrians and Arabs.

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December 29th, 2006, 1:44 pm

 

62. John Kilian said:

simohurtta said:
“… Since George Marshall, William L. Clayton and George F. Kennan there has been a serious degeneration in US skills in ruling occupied areas.”

I think you are right, and the role of economic development, such as the Marshall Plan, is essential to reaching all of our strategic goals. There is so much unemployment in Iraq and the region as a whole, how can democracy expect to flourish? That is putting the cart before the horse.

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December 29th, 2006, 2:21 pm

 

63. DUBAI JAZZ said:

Aussama ; I wonder what kind of a sense-lacking person this Griban is.
I made it clear to him a while ago that given his attitude toward Syrians he shouldn’t be posting in this forum. But what to do? It seems that those glitzy, schmaltzy Lebanese who pretend to be classy and superior, are nothing but bunch of idiots……
“جلده متنحس”

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December 29th, 2006, 3:59 pm

 

64. ausamaa said:

Dubai Jazz,
It can get on your nerves some times, such hate I mean, but considering that there are many, many and many true Lebanese who have a different orientation, then just put him in the File & Forget folder and skip his comment to the next if you are really busy.

As to Al Sabeeil park, last time I saw it was in 1975 when I was at Aleppo University, and it was rather dull even then. But that is Ehsanni2 God bless him. Angry with the Syrian economy as many of us are, but trying to change it how? He does not tell, but keeps trying to crtisiz the situation despite the changes that are taking place there. I really do not care who and how people win a contract to develop anything in Syria as long as someone does. And I don not see many takers. We just wait till Makhloof or Nahas, or this or that does something and then we jump on their tail and shout foul. Hell, are they going to make money out of it? Yes. So?

To be frank with you, and while this may be below the belt, did any Syrian critic invest in any Syrian stock or buy shares in the public companies which have been operating and distributing dividends in Syria for years and years, and hence lend support to those enterprises? No. I do not think so. We rather invest in blue chips outside Syria, marvel at how smart our investment decisions are, but we are always ready to hand out advice to the government at every turn. Well, not to say that the miracles are being achieved, but they are not just sitting there skimming profits and pocketing it. That is how we are.

Imagin what the reaction will be if the Syrian Prime Minister wanted to personally develope parts of downtown Damascus ala Solideir style?

No offense intended..to anybody!!!

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December 29th, 2006, 4:13 pm

 

65. Gibran said:

SH,
Points well taken. Actually the US never ruled any other nation even though it may have had military presence here and there for various reasons. So it is a given, the US cannot rule other countries and it also lacks the experience. You’re also right. US incursions are always tied to some economic reasons.
But, let us look at it from a different angle. The countries of the Middle East do not qualify as nation states in the proper sense of the word; i.e. in comparison with European, American and Asian States. In fact, Syria in particular has never evolved into something more than a Province since history began. I’m sure the Syrians would now want to jump on my neck out of rage. But before they do that let’s remember that they are being fed nationalist nonsense for over a century. So they would be at a great loss to grasp the truth about the inherent deficiencies of their homeland. Province is some political entity attached to a central authority located somewhere else on the planet. Syria was a province in Roman times. It was a province during Arab rule. It was a province during Ottoman rule. It was a province during French rule. It was a province of USSR during the cold war. And guess what? It is now a province of so-called Islamic Republic of Iran. Syria’s fall into province hood of none other than Iran (because of the sudden disappearance of the bi-polar world) is a striking example of the inability of this country to evolve. The conclusion is clear: Syria has to invent a patron if there is none available!
So we go back to the original hypothetical question. Given a choice between local and American sticks: Bring in the American stick.

DJ,AUS Buzz off.

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December 29th, 2006, 4:21 pm

 

66. ausamaa said:

Gebran,

By the look of things, I am afraid you are going to be stuck with the Local Stick for a long while. Live with it and try to get the best out of the situation. As usual,.. you know..

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December 29th, 2006, 4:54 pm

 

67. Atassi said:

Everyone,
I wish you EID MUBARAK AND HAPPY HAPPY NEW YEAR

كل عامٍ وأنتم بخير
Ausamaa, Gibran and the Stick ” discussion Group”
We Syrians ARE NOT going to tolerate the Local nor the external Sticks in 2007 :-)
..
ندعو الله أن يعيده بتبدل الأحوال
Salamat

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December 29th, 2006, 6:17 pm

 

68. Gibran said:

Thanks Atassi
same to you in all what you said.
Guess what? I’m happy some one can bring sanity of the issue as you did. I hope more Syrians will reach your convictions even if they had to be enraged into it!!

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December 29th, 2006, 6:29 pm

 

69. simohurtta said:

Gebran what kind of nation states are USA, Canada or Australia?

USA is collection of people who still after living for generation on land liberated from “pagan savages” and Mexicans have a strong identity to their ancestors countries. Chicago’s firemen “pretend” to be Irish, Mafia men Sicilian etc. Come-on Gibbon the national identity of Americans is hardly any stronger than that of Syrians, Lebanese etc. Many Americans living in Europe, Asia, Latin America nowadays say that they come from Canada to avoid unnecessary political “discussions”. :)

By the way what has the national state identity to do with democracy and US stick? Belgium has a rather rather “weak” national identity. Do they need the famous American stick to hold the country in “order”?

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December 29th, 2006, 10:48 pm

 
 

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