New Cold War or Merely Jockeying for Position? What Does Syria Want?

[Landis analysis]

The Russian move into Georgia has begun a tectonic shift in the region. It has emboldened Syria, Hizbullah and Iran to push harder against Israel and the US in an attempt to capitalize on recent set backs in the Balkans, Lebanon, and Afghanistan.

Hizbullah's and the Lebanese opposition's success in rolling back the influence of the March 14 coalition in Lebanon has emboldened Syria to push its advantage.

The peace talks with Israel, which Syria is counting on, have stalled due to US opposition and Israel's conviction that Syria is asking too high a price for the Golan. The notion that Syria is weak and unable to deliver a shift in the regional security balance has led to its isolation over the last 6 years and to the failure of peace talks under president Clinton. An Obama advisor, Daniel Kurtzer, has recently asked Syria to make deeper concessions to Israel in order to move the talks to another level. The implicit threat in such advice is that the Obama team of policy makers will follow the Bush administration in shunning the Syria-Israel negotiation track, unless Syria is forthcoming. In short, the democrats agree with Israel that Syria is too weak and demanding too high a price from Israel. Israel recently acquired new promises from Washington for technology transfers and missile improvements that improve Israel's defense posture. This has emboldened it to demand deep Syrian concessions in the peace negotiations. (see Ahram article below)

Syria's bad negotiating position is leading it to look for more weapons and to try to grow more teeth before returning to the table with Israel. Both Assad and Hizbullah are hoping to get new weapons systems from Russia and greater diplomatic backing. Israel cannot afford to sit idly by as Syria and Hizbullah flex their muscles. They are raising the military bar themselves, suggesting that they are not frightened to use force and next time they strike, it will be much more devastating and effective than it was in 2006. If Syria can up the ante, so can Israel. Yesterday, Israel threatened that if it bombs again, Lebanon will be smashed in its entirety – the North and Beirut will not be spared. It is in this context that Hizbullah threatens today that "Israel will no longer exist on the map," when it strikes back.

This is a new war of words. For the time being the diplomatic jockeying is tactical and not a game changer. All eyes remain on the peace process. Nevertheless, the increasingly bellicose rhetoric is not propicious for peace. We will have to see if all sides can climb down from their new and hardened stands to make compromises that will lead to a peace deal. There is little chance of the peace process advancing during the next year of elections and reorganization in the US. In the mean time, both Israel and Syria will be elbowing each other.

[end of analysis]

News Round Up:

Under Moscow's wing
Events in Georgia have had some surprising repercussions in the Middle East, leaving Syria looking perkier than usual
James Denselow, Guardian
Friday August 22 2008

James Denselow 

Israel's involvement with the Georgian military has been somewhat overlooked in light of more blatant US support, such as the airlift of some 2,000 Georgian troops from Iraq at the start of the conflict. However Misha Glenny spotted it, writing in the New Statesman that Prime Minister Putin warned President Shimon Peres to "pull out your trainers and weapons or we will escalate our co-operation with Syria and Iran" – after which Israel dutifully complied.

Hizbullah's leader, Hassan Nasrallah also spotted it and subsequently mocked Israel's withdrawal, claiming that "the entire front line of the [Israeli] army's brass stepped down because of the [Lebanon] war. Gal Hirsch, who was defeated in Lebanon, went to Georgia and they too lost because of him."

The Russians are indeed emboldened by their sweeping victory which has highlighted the impotence of both the US and Nato. Jonathan Spyer, in the Jerusalem Post, described Russian action as throwing down "a direct challenge to the US-dominated post Cold-war international order" and expressed concern over Moscow's willingness to supply Syria with the S-300 long-range anti-aircraft missile system, a defensive measure that has the potential to impede Israeli airstrikes such as the one that targeted a suspected Syrian nuclear site last September.

Then the BBC reported yesterday that Syria's President Assad met with President Medvedev at the Black Sea resort of Sochi to discuss "deals on anti-aircraft and anti-tank missile systems".

Like any customer visiting his main arms dealer, Assad praised Russian actions in Georgia, explaining that "we understand the Russian stance and the Russian military response as a result of the provocations which took place. We appreciate the courageous decision taken by the Russian leadership in responding to the international initiatives and the start of withdrawing its forces".

Assad also signalled his willingness to have Russian Iskander missiles (which according to are capable of overcoming the enemy's anti-missile defences and hitting targets at a distance of 280 kilometers) situated on Syrian territory, although he refused to commit to any timeline for such a deployment.

The Syrians have survived six years of Isolation led by Washington and Tel Aviv following 9/11, an isolation that has only shown recent signs of ending. If a small country like Syria can survive years of western isolation then the Russian bear empowered with petrodollars and a stable, if undemocratic, leadership, will surely feel more confident in throwing its foreign policy weight around.

The Times reported that Russia's activism, particularly in arms dealing, was sparking fears of a Middle East "Cold War". …. (read the rest)

U.S. to Syria: Do not meddle in Russia-Georgia conflict

Senior U.S. officials severely criticized Syria on Thursday after Syrian President Bashar Assad voiced his country's support of Russia in its military conflict with Georgia, saying that Syria should keep out of issues that don't pertain to them.

The officials suggested that Syria refrain from meddling in the affairs of other nations, "such as Georgia," Channel 10 reported Thursday. They added that Syria should remain focused on its own problems in the Middle East and keep trying to achieve peace in the region.

Israel threatens to target 'entire Lebanese state' in next war (AFP)

Hizbullah Responds:

Hizbullah to Israel: Expect Huge Surprises Soon

Hizbullah threatened "earth shattering" retaliation against Israel which the group accuses of killing its top commander Imad Mughniyeh in a car bombing in Damascus last February.

"Retaliation is coming soon," Hizbullah official in south Lebanon Sheikh Ahmad Mrad said in remarks published by the daily Al Akhbar on Friday. "Retaliation is going to be earth shattering and there will be huge surprises," he vowed. "Resistance weapons will stay in the hands of Hizbullah until Palestine is liberated," Mrad pledged. He declared that Hizbullah would go deep into Palestine and vowed that "Israel will no longer exist on the map."

In Haaretz, here (Thanks to Friday Lunch Club)

"…Earlier Thursday, Assad backed Russia's military action against Georgia at talks with President Dmitry Medvedev on Thursday
…According to Russian media, Assad offered to host the Russian missiles as a response to a deal signed by Washington and Warsaw this week to deploy elements of a U.S. missile defense system in Poland, which has aggravated Moscow's relations with the West. Assad's visit is likely to become an additional irritant for Washington. In the past, the United States has more than once warned Moscow against selling arms to its longstanding ally Syria….."
Jason Koutsoukis in Damascus
August 23, 2008
THE visit to Moscow by the Syrian President, Bashar al-Assad, has received saturation coverage in Syria, with the media reporting the trip as a move to strengthen already close relations between the nations.

Israeli media described Mr Assad's two-day visit to Moscow as a "weapons shopping trip", but the Syrian Government broadcaster carried a statement yesterday morning angrily denying the reports.

Israeli and Russian media reported yesterday that he had offered to host Russian Iskander missiles on Syrian territory.

The reports said Mr Assad had made the offer in response to a deal signed by Washington and Poland this week to deploy elements of a US missile defence system in Poland. The Syrian statement, shown on Damascus television last night, said the reports were groundless.

Syria's Al-Watan newspaper, a self-described independent political broadsheet, reported that Russia's Foreign Minister, Sergei Lavrov, had told Mr Assad that Russia was ready to help Syria build a defensive shield. But it said Mr Lavrov had not indicated that Russia was willing to supply Syria with weapons that could be used to attack another country.

"We are indeed prepared to sell only defensive weapons which do not violate the regional balance of power," Mr Lavrov was quoted as saying.

Russia's acting ambassador to Israel, Anatoly Yurkov, was even more direct.

"Why in the world would we need to deploy our missiles [in Syria]? Against whom? We have no enemies in the region," he told the Israeli news site Ynet.

Al-Thawra, the official newspaper of the ruling Ba'ath party, carried a front-page headline trumpeting Mr Assad's visit. It reported that President Dmitry Medvedev had emphasised Russia's warm friendship with Syria, and pledged to help Syria regain control of the Golan Heights, seized by Israel in the 1967 Six-Day War.

Israel's US missile shield
Aug. 21, 2008, al-Ahram
While Israel appears the beneficiary of US interests in the Middle East region, its place is ultimately as one pillar under a US strategic umbrella, writes Galal Nassar

During his visit to the US last month, Israeli Defence Minister Ehud Barak announced that Washington would soon link Israel to two advanced missile detection systems that would strengthen Israel's preparedness against any Iranian threat. Following his meeting with US Defense Secretary Robert Gates, Barak also announced that Israel and the US were at an advanced stage in talks on upgrading Israel's Arrow-II ballistic shield, though they disagreed over whether it should incorporate an American interceptor missile. He told reporters that Washington would also increase Israel's access to its Defence Support Programme (DPS) satellites that can detect missile launches, adding that the US and Israeli governments "see eye to eye on the need to keep all options on the table, though we may not agree on each and every detail. It's important the Americans understand our position, and I think that they understand it a lot better after this visit."

Click to view caption

The Pentagon has also agreed to install a powerful radar system in Israel in the coming months. Israeli officials described the system as capable of tracking an object the size of a baseball from about 4,700 kilometres away; it would enable Arrow to engage an Iranian Shehab-3 ballistic missile about halfway through what would be its 11 minute flight to Israel.

According to Al-Ahram Weekly sources, after heavy pressure on the part of the Israeli defence minister, Washington agreed to include Israel in the US global satellite defence system, capable of spotting missile launches on a constant rather than per-request basis. They also said that Israel has been seeking assurances of logistical support from Washington in the event that the Israeli army is forced to launch an assault. In addition, Washington will help finance and upgrade the Iron Dome antiballistic shield, which will strengthen Israel's protection against Qassam missiles, and it will also finance a new phase in the Arrow project. The new Arrow III antiballistic system would be capable of shooting down missiles at greater atmospheric heights. Informed sources told the Weekly that all these secret talks, arrangements and agreements ultimately aim to include Israel in the American missile shield. …. (read the rest)

Sami Moubayed writes: "Overall, however, the crisis is playing nicely into the hands of Syria, which is using it to strengthen its ties with an old and resurrected friend, send messages to a traditional foe (Israel, and pressure the United States into changing course over Damascus.

Although the "great red army that defeated Hitler" was never a match for the American one that ended World War II and helped bring down the Soviet Union, it was always an influential player in the complex web of Middle East politics, and seemingly signals one thing: the Russians are back, and the Syrians are making the best out of it.

Lysander wrote in the last comment section:

I want to address some points by AIG et al regarding the notion that a new cold war would benefit Israel more than Syria.

A true cold war scenario (if one were to actually happen) is of no benefit to Israel at all. Its influence over American politics has grown by leaps and bounds over the past 10 years in the absence of any Russian threat and being able to say its ‘protecting’ the west from mighty Syria is unlikely to add to that.

By contrast, the realist camp will argue that to persuade Syria…and Iran…to leave the Russian camp concessions will have to be made. Such concessions are hardly necessary if Syria is alone. But in a global competition Syria has options. I would not dismiss this effect. I doubt Sadat could have possibly gotten the Camp David deal were it not for America’s desire to place Egypt firmly in the American camp. Does anyone disagree? Zbig Brzerzinski was NSA in Carter’s tie. He is Obama’s advisor now.

AIG is correct that Western tech and trade would be much better for Syria. Alas, that option doesn’t exist. Until recently, Syria had a large target sign on its head and can count itself lucky America was too distracted in Iraq. So Assad’s choices are Russian help or nothing. Russian tech is definitely better than nothing. Otherwise, nobody in Israel would care about Russian rearmament of Syria and yet they clearly do.

Outside of Syria, it presents new found leverage to America’s “moderate” allies (Egypt, Saudi Arabia)

Again I would add that cold war is hardly inevitable. The Russians would love to cooperate with the west. They have no wish to aquire a Syrian dependent. But with any push to get Georgia in NATO and insistence on the missile shield, Russia will find a way to retaliate.

P.S. I would add that the same is triply true for Iran. Also, Assad may very well have miscalculated, not by picking the wrong horse. But by discovering the horse wont let him ride. Russia may very well rebuff Syria’s request for closer relations, which means Assad will have annoyed the west but gotten nothing in return.

Still, no reward without risk and if the missile shield in Poland moves forward its not a bad risk.

Comments (87)

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51. Lysander said:

From Shai’s link;

“The first shot fired from the Zionist entity toward Iran will be met by a response of 11,000 rockets in the direction of the Zionist entity. This is what military leaders in the Islamic republic have confirmed,” said the Hezbollah official Mohammed Raad. His remarks were reported by Lebanon’s National News Agency.

Its not entirely clear but it seems he meant Iran would retaliate with “11,000” missiles, and not Hizbollah. I doubt Hizb can be seen so obviously in Lebanon as acting in Iran’s interest.

Its probably a moot point since honestly, I don’t see any attack on Iran anytime soon. If they didn’t attack when oil was 40-50$/barrel, why would they do it when it’s 110-115?

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August 24th, 2008, 9:34 pm


52. Charles Coutinho said:


Once every so often (not very these days), I venture to make a comment on this site, and, as often as not, am taken aback by the vulgarity and stupidity of the response. Yesterday, I ventured to hope that the result would be a bit different, alas I was mistaken.

Specifically, I refer of course to the fellow who goes by the name of ‘Alex’ (what is your real name by the bye? Would you care to tell us a bit about yourself? Why the nome de plum?). I will not of course stoop so low as to respond to the idiotic charge that he made yesterday. Except to remark, that when he advances a little bit on the academic hierarchy (B.A.? M.A.? Ph.D.? Where from?), I will take start to take his commentary a little bit more seriously. Until then I am afraid that he is just whistling Dixie…

Addio amici.

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August 24th, 2008, 10:53 pm


53. norman said:


You are mistaken about Alex,

By the way , click on his name you will find out who he is , and yes that is his real name.

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August 24th, 2008, 10:58 pm


54. Alex said:


I am 42 but I am in high school, repeating the year before last for the third time. wish me good luck.

I am also taking introductory English language courses. When I speak, I still have a heavy Syrian accent.

I definitely do not live in a Manhattan Penthouse like you proudly announce on your blog … a blog about diplomacy.

Because I have nothing better to do in my life, I happen to be the moderator for this blog.

So I would ask you again to please stop lecturing everyone here like you used to do in almost every comment you left last year when I asked you the same, in case you forgot.

If you are looking for a place to lecture students, this is not the right blog for you. Most others here are Ivy League Ph.D.’s or physicians**

In other words … You are not the only one with a “Dr.” title.

If you click on my name (“Alex”), it will take you to my site … click on contact us if you want to complain to me by email or if you want me to give you my full, real name. Then you can google it to find out more.

Thank you

** Except Shai and Ehsani … they were never good in school.

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August 24th, 2008, 11:07 pm


55. Off the Wall said:

Mr. Charles

Hold on, as we say 7abibi, vulga-what?.

We are a bunch of simpletons here, and we believe that since specialists in Russian affairs such as our indomitable Condi Rice, have demonstrated abysmal performance, my be some of us can help by attempting our own way of reading Putin’s soul through his blue, or whatever color, eyes and can probably get a hint of things to come. We find that a good supplement to our astrologers predictions and horoscopes, to our highly reliable “fish entrails” readout, and most importantly to our Turkish coffee mud reading.

The only problem is that I have not observed vulgarity on this site. My be my vulgari-meter is in need of re-calibration, but what does a simpleton like me, and like many on this site, with barely a high school educatin, if at all, know about vulgarity or about stupidity.

Unlike a sophisticated blogger, we follow the teachings of our supreme leader in the white house and feel politics with our guts and then just gush out what we feel.

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August 25th, 2008, 2:32 am


56. Shai said:


I once felt intimidated by a few professors, it was more than twenty years ago, while I was doing my Bachelors in Mathematics. Back then, it was because they truly WERE geniuses, and I, a mere mortal. It wasn’t because they were arrogant, or rude. But not every PhD is a genius, and some indeed ARE arrogant. And the sad thing is, some don’t even realize it. I guess one doesn’t need to realize much, from atop a Manhattan penthouse, eh? 🙂

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August 25th, 2008, 4:24 am


57. Off the Wall said:

Dear SHAI,
I hope you tell your precious daughters that story and instill in them not to fear or be intimidated by any Professor. After all, professors are mortal, but they do have big egos. Funny I was talking with my nephew today about Ego, and we agreed that it combines both pride and vanity and by that It should qualify as a “composite sin”. 🙂

Yup, Manhattan it is. 🙂

But seriously, I have been in the presence of genius few times in my life, and it is awe inspiring and intimidating simply to try to imagine how their minds connect things together. And i can easily understand how one can be intimidated by such. In some cases, what seems to be their arrogance is nothing more than impatience with our slowness. 🙂

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August 25th, 2008, 6:54 am


58. Shai said:


Yes, I’ve known a few lecturers that initially turned me off by sounding arrogant, but later I fell in love with them, because of their brilliance. But none of them had penthouses in Manhattan… 🙂

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August 25th, 2008, 8:16 am


59. Off the Wall said:

Dr. Charles
Here is a guy who knows Russian, in he lives and works in Moscow. But he probably is inexperienced and may not pass your test.

Fallout from the Georgian War


Fortunately, the Russia-Georgia war was short-lived, but its repercussions will be felt for quite a long time. By defeating Georgia and showing that Washington was unable to defend its own ally, Russia humiliated the United States in front of the whole world.

While U.S. officials and the global media criticized Russia for its “unforgivable” conduct in invading South Ossetia and Georgia, most of the world was filled with delight: At last, someone put high-handed Americans in their place. Against the background of anti-U.S. sentiment during President George W. Bush’s two terms in office, this desire to snub the United States is not surprising.

Perhaps Georgia deserves some sympathy. After all, it is a small country that tried to resist its powerful neighbor. But the conflict was less about Georgia and South Ossetia than it was a global battle between East and West.

Russia won the latest round with unexpected ease, but this will surely not be the final battle. After experiencing an embarrassing humiliation, the Bush administration will have difficulty forgiving Russia. Even worse, the U.S. government’s indignation has turned into an anti-Russian consensus among Washington politicians and their electorates. As a result, the anti-Russian views of presidential candidates Barack Obama and John McCain hardly differ from those of Bush. Coming from U.S. politicians, however, the argument that Georgia’s territorial integrity should be preserved doesn’t sound very convincing. After all, it was the United States that set an example after it invaded sovereign Iraq and overthrew the local government. It later separated Kosovo from sovereign Serbia.

The war with Georgia was a sharp turning point in U.S.-Russian relations. From now on, the desire to punish Moscow will become an important component of U.S. foreign policy. The underlying conflict of interests will turn into a protracted confrontation.

Paradoxically, this conflict will most likely turn out to be good news for Russia. What Washington thinks is punishment for Moscow may in fact turn out to be a blessing. For example, the United States believes that blocking Russia’s entry into the World Trade Organization is one way to retaliate. But for Russia’s domestic industries — particularly when there is a global economic downturn — entry into WTO would be a death sentence. Therefore, if this sentence will be postponed, the Kremlin can only thank the United States and Georgia.

In addition, Washington and London are threatening to investigate the bank accounts of senior Russian officials that are held abroad. It’s surprising that this wasn’t done earlier. Russians can only benefit if the United States leads a new fight against money laundering, particularly when it involves top officials from the Russian government. Moreover, NATO is threatening to suspend joint military exercises with Russia. That means Russia will save a nice amount of money and fuel. Finally, in light of the increased tension, liberal opposition groups in Moscow will receive more active help from the West. This is also beneficial because new financing will mean the creation of new media outlets, new nongovernmental organizations and new jobs.

When it condemned Russia’s incursion into Georgia, the United States appealed to international public opinion and threatened Moscow with global isolation. But it is the United States that will becoming increasingly isolated in the world. Over the last five years, Washington has met worldwide criticism, including from its allies in Europe. As a result, Moscow’s heightened conflict with the United States makes Russia more appealing for a significant part of the world. The question is only whether the Kremlin is able to take advantage of this new opportunity.

Boris Kagarlitsky is the director of the Institute of Globalization Studies in Moscow.

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August 26th, 2008, 3:51 pm


60. Alex said:

It is getting serious. The Russians are now taking a hard line position on everything from Georgia to Afghanistan.

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August 26th, 2008, 4:17 pm


61. norman said:

Russia maintains pressure with recognition of Georgian territories
Medvedev approved the move a day after parliament voted unanimously in favor of it.
By Steve Gutterman | The Associated Press
from the August 27, 2008 edition

Moscow – Defying the United States and Europe, Russian President Dmitry Medvedev announced Tuesday he has signed a decree recognizing the independence of the breakaway Georgian territories of South Ossetia and Abkhazia.

Few other nations are likely to follow Russia’s lead, but the move is likely to further escalate tensions between Moscow and the West.

“This is not an easy choice, but this is the only chance to save people’s lives,” Mr. Medvedev said in a televised address a day after Russia’s Kremlin-controlled parliament voted unanimously to support the diplomatic recognition.

Medvedev’s declaration comes as Russian forces remain in Georgia after a war, staking out positions beyond the de facto borders of the separatist regions. Abkhazia and South Ossetia have effectively ruled themselves following wars with Georgia in the 1990s.

Russia’s military presence seems likely to further weaken Georgia, a Western ally in the Caucasus region, a major transit corridor for energy supplies to Europe, and a strategic crossroads.

Russian tanks and troops drove deep into the US ally’s territory in a five-day war this month that Moscow saw as a justified response to a threat in its backyard. The West viewed it as a repeat of Soviet-style intervention in its vassal states.

Medvedev said Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili had forced Russia’s hand by launching an Aug. 7-8 overnight attack to seize control of South Ossetia by force. “Saakashvili chose genocide to fulfill his political plans,” he said. “Georgia chose the least human way to achieve its goal – to absorb South Ossetia by eliminating a whole nation.”

On the heels of Russia’s first post-Soviet invasion of a foreign country, recognition was another stark demonstration of the Kremlin’s determination to hold sway in lands where its clout is jeopardized by NATO’s expansion and growing Western influence.

After Russia’s parliament backed the move Monday, the US State Department said recognition of the areas would be “unacceptable.”

President Bush urged the Kremlin against it. “Georgia’s territorial integrity and borders must command the same respect as every other nation’s, including Russia’s,” he said late Monday. Vice President Dick Cheney is visiting Georgia next month to show supportn.

Russia says the West badly undermined its own arguments for the sanctity of Georgia’s borders by supporting Kosovo’s declaration of independence from traditional Russian ally Serbia in February.

Georgia lashed out at Russia. The recognition has “no legal status,” Georgia’s state minister on reintegration, Timur Yakobashvili, told the AP.

Russia can expect “further diplomatic isolation” following the decision, said Masha Lipman, a liberal expert with the Moscow Carnegie Center think tank. She noted that even Germany, which has maintained close ties with Russia even as Moscow’s estrangement from other Western nations grew, had warned the Kremlin against formal recognition.

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August 26th, 2008, 4:31 pm


62. Alex said:

“Russia ready to break off relations with NATO – Medvedev. A Multi-Polar World is needed. The US blackened the UN when they invaded Iraq illegally and no WMD were found. Russia must not become The Grand Area of the EU.”

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August 26th, 2008, 4:58 pm


63. AnotherIsraeliGuy said:

I think this is great for the US. First, it brings the US and Europe much closer together. See the recent missile defense deals. There is nothing better than common enemies.

Second, the US has become serious about eliminating its dependence on foreign oil. In 10 years, when oil is $25 a barrel, the Russians will be talking in another tone.

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August 26th, 2008, 5:44 pm


64. Off the Wall said:


Only lip service to independence from foreign oil in the US. Only lip service. The republican plan is a disgrace, and the democrats have none.

Also, I am not sure US independence from foreign oil will be good for Israel.

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August 26th, 2008, 6:20 pm


65. Shai said:


Many enjoyed the Star Wars movies, and would like to see the world’s “Evil Empire” emerge once more. A bipolar world helps them define themselves as, naturally, the Good Guys. So much easier than contemplating complex scenarios such as the Arab-Israeli conflict, when you’ve got Israel on the Good Axis (U.S.-Europe) versus Syria on the Evil Axis (Russia-Iran, etc.)

The dependency on oil has indeed caused the world much pain and suffering. It is time (probably a few decades away still) for nations to become energy independent, wherever possible. Alternative energy sources and technology are just a matter of time. There’s an Israeli startup company, doing a lot of research with MIT, which apparently has found a way to create commercially-viable fuel out of algae grown through depleted CO2 from power-stations. Check them out on Sounds interesting… Maybe not next year, but a decade from now? At least for some nations…

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August 26th, 2008, 6:30 pm


66. AnotherIsraeliGuy said:

Not lip service at all. The First Cold War was won by making the Russians spend too much. The Second Cold War will be won by reducing their income.

Some combination of the Pickens and McCain plan could easily do the trick. Move electricity manufacturing to wind and nuclear predominantly. Free natural gas (of which there is plenty in the US) to run cars and develop in the meantime all the technologies that will power cars on electricity, hydrogen, air-pressure etc. It is quite doable and both the Democrats and Republicans understand there is no choice.

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August 26th, 2008, 6:41 pm


67. Shai said:


But what if all these green-startups (like the one I mentioned) are bought up by Saudi investors? Or Russian and Iranian ones… ? Then we’re back in square one, no? 🙂

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August 26th, 2008, 6:57 pm


68. Alex said:

Why I had to recognise Georgia’s breakaway regions

By Dmitry Medvedev

Published: August 26 2008 18:48 | Last updated: August 26 2008 18:48

On Tuesday Russia recognised the independence of the territories of South Ossetia and Abkhazia. It was not a step taken lightly, or without full consideration of the consequences. But all possible outcomes had to be weighed against a sober understanding of the situation – the histories of the Abkhaz and Ossetian peoples, their freely expressed desire for independence, the tragic events of the past weeks and inter­national precedents for such a move.

Not all of the world’s nations have their own statehood. Many exist happily within boundaries shared with other nations. The Russian Federation is an example of largely harmonious coexistence by many dozens of nations and nationalities. But some nations find it impossible to live under the tutelage of another.

Relations between nations living “under one roof” need to be handled with the utmost sensitivity.

And this is one of the two main reasons Syria will not allow anyone to mess up with Lebanon … what happens in Lebanon WILL eventually affect Syria.

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August 26th, 2008, 7:13 pm


69. Shai said:


But didn’t the U.S. and France basically say the same thing in 2005, that Russia is saying now? They “recognized” Lebanon’s independence. Could it have happened without the interference of a superpower?

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August 26th, 2008, 7:20 pm


70. AnotherIsraeliGuy said:

The problem Alex is that Syria has a problem with Lebanon being a simple country of tourism and trade that lives peacefully with its neigbors. THAT is what the Syrians do not want in Lebanon because it will undermine their position relative to Israel. But of course, only for the Syrians peace and quiet in Lebanon means messing Lebanon up.

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August 26th, 2008, 7:23 pm


71. Alex said:


The Syrians are using Lebanon to some extent, that’s true.

But Israel, Saudi Arabia, the US, and France also used Lebanon.

And of course, comparing Bashar’s approach to Lebanon, to Israel’s Bashar did not spray millions of cluster bombs over Lebanon like Israel did … You don’t want me to link a few You tube videos here.

The point I made is there for anyone who want to understand the main reason Syria is always going to fight anyone over Lebanon.

Our area is full of minorities and complexities … your Israel has no sensitivity whatsoever to others … it is a heavily armed nation living inside a fortress.

The Saudis proved they are totally unqualified to manage anything outside their region.

The United States alone does not understand Lebanon (or Syria, or Iraq) … can only mess up and destroy.

France talks a lot but accomplish nothing.

Syria will not allow any of the above to introduce hell to Lebanon … then to Syria.

When Hafez Assad decided to send the Syrian army into Lebanon to stop the civil war, it was an extremely costly decision … but he had no choice.

Here is a reminder from History.

Glass-photo, ca 1860, of the destruction of the Christian Quarter in Damascus in 1860. The violent incident started on the 9th of July, when a mob of 20,000-50,000 from the Maidan, and Salihya districts of Damascus attacked, killed and pillaged the Christian Quarter and its inhabitants, 5,000 to 12,000 were estimated to have perished. The Greek Orthodox, the Greek Catholic and the Armenian churches were the first to be burned. The Russian consulate was the first to be attacked, followed by the French, then the Dutch, Austrian, Belgian and the American consulates. Abdu Costi, the American Consul was beaten and left for dead. The Prussian and the English Consulates were saved. “AN OCCASION FOR WAR, Leila Tarazi Fawaz, University of California Press, 1994”. Abdul Qadir al-Jazairi, the exiled Algerian hero, along with his 1000 volunteers protected most of the Diplomats, and thousands of Christians in his houses. He was awarded the highest medals by the European governments. The building on the left is the French Lazarists Monastery and school burned by the attackers.

And this followed what started in Lebanon:

Read this

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August 26th, 2008, 7:43 pm


72. AnotherIsraeliGuy said:

The situation today is quite simple. Syria wants to use Lebanon to fight Israel. Israel is not using Lebanon anymore for anything. We just want to be left alone. Most Lebanese believe that what Syria is doing is not moral and that Syria should fight Israel from the Golan. But, Lebanon is weak relative to Syria so I guess it must suffer.

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August 26th, 2008, 7:52 pm


73. Alex said:


the situation is actually even more simple

Syria wants to have peace with Israel and to be the best friend of the Untied States int he whole Middle East.

But for some Israelis to say “we just want to be left alone” … without returning the lands they “captured” to their owners, is equivalent to saying “We will use our power if necessary until you are convinced that we can keep the lands we want to keep, AND we can convince you one day that it is on your best interest to leave us alone”

Nothing is simple in the Middle East … only AIPAC propagandists can magically frame it that way.

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August 26th, 2008, 8:09 pm


74. Shai said:


That’s the perfect Likud platform for the next election: “Leave us alone!”

Sounds like my two girls, when their daddy is in one of his annoying moods… 🙂

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August 26th, 2008, 8:13 pm


75. Qifa Nabki said:

Syria wants to have peace with Israel and to be the best friend of the United States in the whole Middle East.

What?! If this doesn’t say “I am a puppet regime in waiting,” I don’t know what does.

(Just kidding ya habibi Alex. I couldn’t resist.)

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August 26th, 2008, 9:19 pm


76. AnotherIsraeliGuy said:

It is very simple. Syria has a problem with Israel because Israel does not want to return to Syria the Golan. Therefore, Syria has decided to use Lebanon to get back the Golan because Lebanon is weak relative to Syria and therefore Syria believes it can be bullied to further Syria’s interests at the expense of Lebanon’s interests.

You would agree that most Lebanese do not understand why Syria does not fight Israel from the Golan but from Lebanon. You have a problem with Israel keeping the Golan. I get it. But why does Lebanon have to pay the price? Your answer is: Because Lebanon is weaker than Syria. Well, if that is a valid answer then you should not really complain about Israel keeping the Golan.

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August 26th, 2008, 10:02 pm


77. Alex said:


True, Syria is weaker than Israela nd Lebanon is weaker than Syria, but there is big difference … Syria is not trying to take part of Lebanon like Israel is trying to keep the part it took from Syria.

To the contrary .. Syria GAVE Lebanon the Shebaa farms … most Israelis, and many at the UN, were trying few years ago to force Syria to claim the Shebaa farms.

And Syria withdrew immediately from Lebanon when there was a UNSC resolution and when it was obvious most Lebanese wanted Syria out in 2005.

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August 26th, 2008, 10:15 pm


78. Qifa Nabki said:

To the contrary .. Syria GAVE Lebanon the Shebaa farms … most Israelis, and many at the UN, were trying few years ago to force Syria to claim the Shebaa farms.

Umm, Alex? As much as we Lebanese are grateful for this lovely gift, we were wondering if it would be possible to return the Shebaa Farms to Syria and exchange it for a nice piece of coastline near Tartus/Latakia. Would that be ok?

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August 26th, 2008, 10:39 pm


79. AnotherIsraeliGuy said:

I don’t understand your argument. Syria has a problem with Israel. Fair enough. But why put Lebanon at great risk to solve it? Just because Syria is stronger?

As for giving Sheba, that is just not true. All Syria has to do is send a letter to the UN saying Sheba is Lebanese, but Syria will not do that.

And it is true that Syria is not trying to take part of Lebanon. It wants to control all of it.

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August 26th, 2008, 10:45 pm


80. Alex said:


Lak I know : )

Actualy many Lebanese initially did not want the Shabaa farms .. they knew that it will be used as an excuse fro Hizbollah and Syria to continue confronting Israel.


Again you are trying to blame Syria for Israel’s faults.

Shebaa is Lebanese … Syria is not claiming them. You can link to this comment and prove me wrong at any point in the future if you want.

But here is what your friends at are arguing:

The Washington Post’s Misrepresentation of the Shebaa Farms

Washington Post news coverage of and commentary on Israel’s war against Hezbollah in Lebanon often refer to “the disputed Shebaa Farms” region and “Israeli-occupied Shebaa Farms.” Such descriptions frequently accompany reports of Hezbollah insistence that it will continue “armed resistance” until Israel ceases occupying Lebanese territory.

But there is no international dispute over the status of the 10-square-mile area at the intersection of the Lebanese, Israeli and Syrian borders. In the successful self-defense of the 1967 Six-Day War,Israel took Shebaa Farms and the Golan Heights from Syria.

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August 26th, 2008, 10:50 pm


81. AnotherIsraeliGuy said:

I am not trying, I am in fact blaming Syria for bullying Lebanon and puting it at grave risk.

If Syria agrees that Sheba is Lebanese, why does it not just send a letter to the UN saying this? I will pay for the stamp. Israel will then be forced to return Sheba to Lebanon because its committment to the UN on this issue. It is really that simple.

Until Syria officially tells the UN that Sheba is Lebanese, it is part of the Golan and therefore by Israeli law (the only one that matters in this case) Sheba is Israeli since the Golan was annexed to Israel and is part of Israel now.

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August 26th, 2008, 11:01 pm


82. Off the Wall said:


Move electricity manufacturing to wind and nuclear predominantly. Free natural gas (of which there is plenty in the US) to run cars and develop in the meantime all the technologies that will power cars on electricity, hydrogen, air-pressure etc. It is quite doable and both the Democrats and Republicans understand there is no choice.

Couldn’t agree more. But i really do not think that it is being approached with the seriousness it requires as a National priority.

In fact I am a firm believer in the value of nuclear energy not only for the US but also for developing countries. I believe that safety standards are now reasonable enough to move towards more reliance on nuclear energy.

I agree, and part of that was what tried to say in a much earlier post by alluding to the possibility that even if Russia does not want to carry a multi-polar banner, there are countries around the world eager for that to happen. Some are justified, and some are not. But we can not ignore the fact the the US has gravely abused (or as bush says missabused) the first two decades of the uni-polar world.

I still believe that the future is for regional alliances built on economic cooperation between countries with similar value systems.

Be careful what you wish for, there are assassins lurking in the waters along that segment of the coast you like to have. 🙂

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August 27th, 2008, 12:30 am


83. jad said:

Someone here is always arguing when he should concentrate on trying to understand and listen to the other side, like Shai, that I do respect for his vision and willingness of listening to the other side not just arguing without even reading the answers he got.
What I don’t understand is how can this person argue rationally about democracy and being the defender of Lebanon that his army destroyed and invade so many times, especially when his “democratic” government daily job for the last 60 years is killing Palestinians and Arabs (including Lebanese), humiliating them, supporting settlers to do the worst any human can imagine, destroying houses, burning olive tress, stealing the lands, and lately confiscating historical documents from it’s owners and keep occupying our land.
How can we take such person’s endless arguments and turn it into a worthy debate, I don’t think that is possible…it’s like wasting our time and ideas over a wall…

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August 27th, 2008, 12:48 am


84. Shai said:


When one doesn’t want to make peace (recognizing what that entails), one seeks and finds an infinite amount of reasons not to. While I am deeply disappointed in my own people’s ability to exercise such numbness when it comes to peace initiatives (not to mention the continued Occupation of lands that were never ours), I am at least “comforted” by the knowledge that most are not using the Democracy-excuse. Most Israelis have never met an Arab, have never listened carefully to his/her concerns, have never had to face the truth up close. The closest any Israelis have come to that, are patrolling the streets of Palestinian villages and towns in Gaza and the West Bank and, in fact, exercising the role of Apartheid police.

I know that some soldiers (mere 18 and 19 year-old kids) completely lose their minds over it. They were raised one way, and now they’re forced to act another. They are literally forced to become animals. While it is customary for guys in a particular unit to keep in very close contact after the army, and meet every so often for get-togethers, many who have served in the Territories for a long time do the opposite – they keep a long distance from one another – for fear of having to discuss what they’ve done there. So these Israelis can’t even begin to digest the evils of our Occupation, and raise it to the level of national discussion.

So what most Israelis discuss, is the very superficial level of “land-for-peace”, spending more time interpreting this as “giving-into-terrorism”, rather than doing what is just, and 60 years overdue. Most Israelis are actually not aware of the extent of their nation’s crimes. When considering peace, they have only one side to look at, their enemy’s. There is no self-introspection and certainly no remorse. But that is due not to innate inabilities, but rather to the lack of serious national discourse, and to the near-decade long numbness that has engulfed most Israelis since the second Intifada.

The near future is very unclear. Who will lead Israel? When will a new PM be in power (as early as two months from now, or as late as next March) Will the new PM continue the peace talks? Are we to face more military “adventures” (Iran, HA) by Israel? All these could have major and dramatic effects on peace, both negative as well as positive ones. Let’s hope cooler minds will prevail, and the slight momentum (which I’m actually suspecting to be quite major, behind-the-scenes) will continue. While I believe Netanyahu will win the next elections rather easily, I’m hoping he will not miss his second, and last, opportunity to end the Israeli-Arab conflict by delivering peace. As I’ve stated many times on SC, the political absurd in Israel, is that precisely those who speak against peace, are best suited to deliver it…

As for democracy, let’s first prove we can give equal rights to the Palestinians… before we suggest freedom somewhere else. I’ve never appreciated a smoking cardiologist telling his patients smoking is bad for them… 🙂 (no relation to Al-Taqi, as I know he’s also a cardiologist).

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August 27th, 2008, 4:21 am


85. jad said:

The reality that you are from the other side yet you are trying to understand your enemy (me) point of view is a courage that very few people can do, I envy you for that, I honestly do.
When we were kids we had a Jewish neighboor, my parents liked him and I did to, for my family he was as Syrian as us, he had couple kids, I remember that one day his older son was crying because someone called him a Jew not in a nice way, I felt so bad for this kid that someone called him names just because he was a different “Syrian” than them. Since that time It bothers me so much to see anybody talking about religion as an obstacle of communicating.
I admit that we as syrian didn’t treat our citizens fair enough that we lost most of our Jewish Syrian community because of that, however we didn’t kill any of them or take their homes, if you go to Damascus you will see that all their properties and houses are untouched.
my point is that eventhough we don’t have the democracy in it’s new European or American forms we still have morals, it may not work perfectly all the time but it works fine most of the time.
I know very well that there are people of honor in Israel that are fighting for the right thing and for justice but they are not the average joe, they are minority, when your majority have the same mentality and way of thinking that somone here always show, I doubt that we can move forward anywhere, it’s a sad fact, yet I’m optimistic by nature and I wish that one day we can share the same vision. Again, I respect you and I hope more israelis can see and understand the other side point of view as you do unlike other blinded ones.

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August 27th, 2008, 5:33 am


86. Shai said:


In’shalla, we will all become unblinded one day, and at last understand how pride and arrogance has cost us and too many generations precious years and life. It’s not courage that’s required, it’s empathy. It’s the ability to understand that there are two sides (at least) to this “coin”. That unless we are ready and willing to not only listen, but indeed to understand the other side, as he sees us (not as we see ourselves), we cannot move forward. Empathy is the key, I believe.

I too am optimistic, and not only because it’s a better way of living, but because I do believe that most Israelis have the moral makeup that can bring them to change their view of the Arabs (and in particular the Palestinians). We should, perhaps no less than anyone on earth, understand the suffering of an entire people, at the hands of their masters, in this case, us. It will take some time, however, and these peace initiatives (even if initially leading to mere superficial peace) are the first steps on the way to breaking the innate emotional walls we in Israel have created over the years, mostly to justify not needing to look ourselves in the mirror, again, especially when it comes to our treatment of the Palestinians for the past 60 years.

Please know that most Israelis do not share the views expressed by some anti-peaceniks here. They do not require “democracy” in any of our neighboring nations as preconditions to anything (peace, normalization, etc.) They are making their decisions purely based on emotions of fear, distrust, and suspicion, and not on rational thinking. Most, like anywhere else, are led, and are not leading. They swallow what they are fed. So when the right leader comes along (and believe it or not, it may be Netanyahu as I’ve suggested previously), they’ll swallow the right pill… and support peace.

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August 27th, 2008, 7:41 am


87. Bookmarks about Lebanon said:

[…] – bookmarked by 1 members originally found by Emogirl953 on 2008-09-19 New Cold War or Merely Jockeying for Position? What Does Syria Want? – bookmarked by 5 members originally found by hominymanchild […]

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October 9th, 2008, 1:00 am


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