News Round Up (11 October 2008)

I just returned from Northwestern University where I debated Syrian foreign policy with Robert Rabil. It was great fun. The students who participate in the Model Arab League at NW organized it. Rabil has just had an article on Hezbollah’s command leadership, structure, modus operandi, and ascent to political preeminence in Lebanon published in the Journal of International Security Affairs.

Rabil, Hezbollah: Lebanon’s Power Broker.

….. From its origins as a radical sectarian militia in the 1980s, it has migrated into Lebanon’s political mainstream. In the process, Hezbollah has acquired the institutional trappings of a state and the capabilities of an army.

The Shi’ite group now stands squarely at the center of an Iranian-Syrian regional axis generated no less by Iran’s regional ambitions than by Syria’s regional weakness. …..

Despite the obvious recent setback, the United States still has the necessary leverage to frustrate Hezbollah’s ambitions. The first step is reestablishing its credibility vis-à-vis Lebanon’s democratic government….

Washington, therefore, must demonstrate its willingness to adopt a more active role in stabilizing Lebanon and helping to dilute Hezbollah’s power, even as it presses the March 14 forces to adopt a more robust, independent posture. …

The organization’s myth of resistance has now been debunked in the eyes of many Lebanese and Muslims. Insofar as Hezbollah may attempt to identify itself in that fashion, the March 14 forces should press the issue, insisting that the arms of Hezbollah have been used against Lebanese forces. They should also launch an international effort to bring about an Israeli withdrawal from Shebaa Farms and the hills of Kfarshouba, for practical reasons. Hezbollah has predicated the legitimacy of the resistance on tangible results, ….

This should be followed by the development of a long-term strategy designed to weaken the hold of Hezbollah over its main base of support, Lebanon’s Shi’a community. In devising this strategy, Washington will need to address three issues: the development of southern Lebanon, amendment of the electoral law, and a widening of the political debate in Beirut. ….While such a strategy may not compel Hezbollah to disarm in the near future, it will help rob it of its raison d’être and force it to decide whether it is a spearhead for Iran’s national interests or a Lebanese political movement. A great deal will rest on what it chooses.  

Nathan Field writing in The National has also published on Hezbollah, explaining how Al-Qaeda is hoping to chisel away at Hizbullah’s popularity and do much what Rabil recommends the US to do to it.

The Foreign Ministry Notifies the US. Embassy in Damascus about the Illegal Entry of Two American Nationals to Syria, Thursday, October 09, 2008 – 03:00 PM

Damascus, (SANA)- The Foreign Ministry on Thursday summoned the Charge d’Affairs of the US. Embassy in Damascus and told him that the Syrian security authorities had detained two American nationals , Holy Robin Shmella , and Taylor Langley Luke for entering Syria this morning through the northern Syrian-Lebanese borders illegally with the help of a smuggler. The Foreign Ministry official source stated that the Syrian specialized security authorities is interrogating them currently to know how they entered Syria without obtaining the required visas and they will be delivered to the US. embassy in Damascus after the conclusion of the necessary procedures. A.N.Idelbi

Very luck for these two that they were not Arabs trying to smuggle their way past Homeland Security into the US. They might have disapeared into Guantanemo for a long time.

How to Move Forward on Syria
by Theodore H. Kattouf, former U.S. ambassador to Syria and the United Arab Emirates; president and CEO, AMIDEAST. Interview with Middle East Bulletin.

[T]here are things that Syria would like. They would like to have their honor restored by regaining all the territory lost in the June 1967 war. They would like to be off the state sponsors of terrorism list … They would like help with their economy in terms of reform and attracting foreign direct investment.

And I think in return, the Syrians would be willing to quit allowing the supply to Hezbollah of Iranian arms through their territory … They would have to insist that Hamas and Islamic Jihad either become normal political parties with no militia wings or expel them altogether from Syria … They would need to support peace in terms of a two-state solution between the Palestinian Authority and Israel. … There’s plenty to talk about but right now Syria is feeling vulnerable and its only reliable ally is Iran. And they are not going to alienate the Iranians until all the t’s have been crossed and i’s dotted in some sort of a Grand Bargain that I referred to. Access the full interview>>

Who is targeting Syria? Bassel Oudat of al-Ahram Weekly joins the host of journalists speculating about who was behind the bombing in Syria’s capital and tries to link it to other recent assassinations and unexplained terrorist attacks on Syrian soil. He doesn’t rule out 1980s type Muslim Brothers or blow back from the US invasion of Iraq, but his last line he asks, “Is Syria under attack because it opened that channel of indirect talks [with Israel]?

The Middle East’s unending political crunch
By James Denselow
The Guardian, 9 October 2008

Coverage of the global financial meltdown in the wake of the credit crunch has tended to obscure reporting of events in the Middle East, a region apparently stuck in a never-ending political crunch….

Despite the incredible thaw in international relations with respect to Syria, including the possible offer of board membership of the International Atomic Energy Agency, Syria remains nominally in Washington’s bad books. This was made clear in George Bush’s speech at the United Nations last month, in which he said: “A few nations – regimes like Syria and Iran – continue to sponsor terror, yet their numbers are growing fewer and they’re growing more isolated from the world…”

Has the United States Poisoned Democracy?
By Amaney Jamal, Mark Tessler
The Arab Reform Bulletin, October 2008

Has the association of democracy promotion with U.S. foreign policy, and especially with the occupation of Iraq, spawned a backlash and led ordinary Arab citizens to question whether democracy is appropriate for their countries? Certainly the United States’ lack of even-handedness in dealing with the Israeli-Palestinian conflict has long been a major Arab complaint, and more recently the U.S.-led invasion and occupation of Iraq have given rise to widespread anti-American sentiment in the Arab world. Associated with this is U.S. government insistence that its actions in Iraq are part of an effort to promote democracy in the Arab world.

To examine the relationship between anti-Americanism based on antipathy toward U.S. foreign policy, on the one hand, and views about desirability of democracy on the other, we analyze data from the Arab Barometer project. With scientific and administrative leadership provided by a team that includes prominent scholars from five Arab countries, as well as the present authors, the Arab Barometer carried out in 2006-2007 face-to-face interviews with large and representative national samples of ordinary citizens in seven Arab societies: Algeria, Jordan, Kuwait, Lebanon, Morocco, Palestine, and Yemen. A total of 8,555 men and women were interviewed. Information about the organization, methodology and findings of the Arab Barometer may be found at http://www.arabbarometer.org/…

Fair Winds for the Brotherhood
By Shadi Hamid
The Arab Reform Bulletin, October 2008

The fortunes of the Jordanian Muslim Brotherhood may be shifting after three difficult years that saw the group’s worst electoral result in history, reports of diminished influence, and sustained government repression. After hitting an unprecedented low, the relationship between the Jordanian regime and the Muslim Brotherhood, the country’s largest opposition grouping, has improved recently. This is the opposite of what many observers, including this author, expected. Hammam Sa’id, known as a hardliner, was elected General Guide of the organization in May 2008, leading many to predict heightened confrontation between regime and opposition. Analysts Matthew Levitt and David Schenker wrote, for instance, that the leadership change suggested the Brotherhood “can no longer be considered ‘loyal’ to the kingdom.” During Sa’id’s tenure, however, events have moved in an unexpected direction. Since being elected, he has toned down his abrasive rhetoric, emphasized domestic priorities, and made an effort to reach understandings with the government of Prime Minister Nader al-Dahabi on key issues of contention.

The question of the Palestinian Resistance Movement (Hamas) is one area where Islamists and the regime have moved closer to each other. After nine years of severed ties, Jordan has opened a dialogue with Hamas, recognizing the group’s growing influence and its strong position in Gaza. With its close ties to Hamas leaders, the Jordanian Muslim Brotherhood and its political arm, the Islamic Action Front (IAF), played a critical role in facilitating the resumption of contacts.

Moreover, Jordan’s King Abdullah—known as one of the region’s most pro-Western rulers—has attempted to strengthen ties to other U.S. adversaries, including Iran and Russia. He has met with Russian President Dmitri Medvedev three times in the last eight months, and their discussions have increasingly revolved around military assistance and cooperation, including joint production of multi-caliber grenade launchers. Such moves have given Islamists hope that Jordan is beginning to shake off Washington’s tight embrace…

Interview with Ghassan al-Khatib on Leadership and Elections
The Arab Reform Bulletin, October 2008

How would postponing the presidential election for one year, until January 2010, affect the current Palestinian political situation?

First, it hasn’t been confirmed yet that the election will be postponed. There is still a discussion about the legality of doing this. The election law clearly states that presidential and legislative elections should be held together, while the Basic Law limits the president’s term to four years.

After the initial announcement that elections would be postponed until January 2010 met with opposition, President Mahmoud Abbas revised his decision, saying that legal procedures would be examined and that all options were under consideration. In other words, the president left the door open for elections either in January 2009 or 2010…

If elections were held as scheduled in 2009, would there be more than one candidate?

Most likely only one candidate would run on behalf of the Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO), but that is not guaranteed unless President Abbas achieves better organization and coordination within the PLO. In the last election there were a large number of candidates…

What will happen if presidential and legislative elections both are held in 2010, in view of the standoff between Hamas and Fatah?

Hamas is not enthusiastic about holding elections, whether in the West Bank or Gaza, but it is still unclear at the moment whether Hamas would take part. Political bureau leader Khalid Mishal said recently that there should be coordination among Hamas members leading up to elections, which suggests that he wants to clarify certain matters such as who would be on the election commission, which government would run day-to-day affairs until then, which security apparatus would maintain order during polling, etc.

Without Hamas’s involvement in preparations, it would be impossible to hold elections in Gaza, which means that only Palestinians in the West Bank would be able to vote for their president. That would deepen an already serious divide between the West Bank and Gaza…

Interview with Yossi Alpher on Leadership and Elections
The Arab Reform Bulletin, October 2008

Following the victory of Tzipi Livni in the Kadima party primary, what do you expect from her efforts to form a new governing coalition?

Presumably Livni will try to reestablish more or less the same as the outgoing coalition—the Kadima, Labor, and Shas parties. I do not think she will have much difficulty with Labor, other than Ehud Barak’s discomfort with being her defense minister; he said some uncomplimentary things about her during the primary.

Livni’s big problem will be with the conservative Shas Party, which will take this opportunity to squeeze her for more money for religious schools and benefits for large families. This is a national scandal, which continues to this day. Likud leader Benjamin Netanyahu, while he was Minister of Finance a few years ago, finally managed to cut back these payments per child but now Shas is pressing to restore them. The price Shas exacted from former Prime Minister Ehud Olmert was his declaration that we would not negotiate with the Palestinians about Jerusalem. Giving in to such demands goes very much against Livni’s instincts, but it is the classic way of putting together a coalition. Livni only entered politics about ten years ago and this will be her first test; she comes to this situation with less experience than Olmert in this kind of political wheeling and dealing. It is also very important to watch what Olmert himself does in the background. If Livni fails to form a coalition, Olmert will remain as caretaker prime minister until elections are held, which could be another 6 months.

Don’t forget Livni can bring in the pro-peace party Meretz instead of Shas and reach some arrangement with the ten members of Knesset who represent Arab parties. That would be a tenuous coalition, but one that would be much more peace-oriented.

If Livni succeeds in forming a new coalition, will she serve out what would have been the rest of Olmert’s term as prime minister?

In theory, yes, she could serve another two years. But judging by the fate of previous coalitions, if she reaches some kind of achievement in negotiations this would precipitate new elections. Let us remember that the Palestinian issue, which she is as dedicated to as Olmert was, has brought down every single Israeli governing coalition for the last twenty years. Olmert’s resignation actually was an exception, a coalition brought down by the prime minister’s corruption rather than by the Palestinian issue. One could hardly say that’s a refreshing change but at least it is different from the pattern we have seen.

What are prospects for Israeli-Palestinian negotiations at this point?

If Livni forms a coalition, it is not clear what she wants to do with a government. Does she want to pick up where we left off with the peace process with the Palestinians, for example? She is the chief negotiator. Or does she really want just to stabilize her prime ministerial image in the eyes of the Israeli public in the hopes that this will help her win an election? Maybe she wants to do both of these things and she is going to be playing it by ear. She has a lot of integrity on her side and a very good image in the public eye but not a lot of experience at this kind of political backroom dealing with the likes of Shas.

Another question is Syria. Livni has been rather cool to those talks and much more dedicated to the talks with Palestinians. Olmert also was cool to talks with Syria until he listened to his security community, who told him that peace with Syria is much more doable and could help to push Iran out of the region and reduce support for militant Islamist organizations. It’s very possible that Livni as foreign minister didn’t hear all the briefings that Olmert did. In Israeli political culture, the foreign ministry is a weak partner at best in national security decision-making, which is done by the prime minister and the defense minister, who are sometimes the same person. So, now Livni is going to step into those shoes…

Syria releases two U.S. journalists who entered state illegally
Haartez.com, 10 October 2008

Two American citizens who had been missing for days have been released in Damascus after being detained by Syrian authorities, the U.S. State Department said on Thursday.

The Syrian foreign ministry said earlier that authorities were questioning Holli Chmela, 27, and Taylor Luck, 23, for entering the country illegally. The pair had been reported missing by the U.S. embassy in Lebanon on Wednesday.

The Americans were released into the custody of the U.S. embassy in Damascus on Thursday after U.S. charge d’affaires Maura Connelly was summoned to the Syrian foreign ministry, said State Department spokesman Gordon Duguid.

“They are now in the U.S. embassy in Damascus and are reportedly in good shape,” Duguid said.

He said he had no details of any charges against the pair or whether they would be allowed to leave Syria. They were making contact with their families, he said.

Russia hints it won’t sell advanced missiles to Iran
The Associated Press, 10 October 2008

A Russian Foreign Ministry official is suggesting Moscow won’t sell advanced anti-aircraft missiles to Iran.

Observers have said sophisticated S-300 missile systems could be used by Iran to defend military targets like the Russian-built Bushehr nuclear power plant.

That would make any military strike more difficult, and Israel, the United States and other nations have pressured Russia not to sell such weapons to Iran, Syria or other nations that have threatened Israel.

Outgoing prime Minister Ehud Olmert said he discussed Russian weapons sales during a visit to Moscow this week.

Foreign Ministry spokesman Andrei Nesterenko was asked by reporters Thursday whether Russia had promised Israel it would not sell weapons such as S-300s.

“We have declared more than once at the very highest political level that we do not intend to supply those types of armaments to countries located in regions that are, to put it mildly, uneasy,” he said. “This is not in the interests of our country’s policy or the interests of preserving stability in one region or another of the world.”

He said Russia would make decisions on selling weapons systems based on both “preserving the balance of power in the given region, and taking into account the need to provide stability and security in the region.”

Iran’s president has vowed that Israel should be wiped off the map – and Israel fears that the nuclear program Iran says is to produce power is actually meant to manufacture weapons.

Siniora dismisses rumors of Syrian military intervention in Lebanon as ‘not possible’
By Hussein Abdallah

….”Some are speaking about Syrian military intervention in Lebanon … this is not possible in my opinion,” he added.

Asked when Beirut and Damascus would exchange ambassadors, Siniora said that Lebanon had taken all the necessary measures in this regard, adding that Syria still had to take some measures for its part…

Comments (37)


1. Alex said:

Good news!

Obama is NOT an Arab.

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October 11th, 2008, 5:36 pm

 

2. Seeking the Truth said:

“Taylor Luck and Holli Chmela, the two Jordan Times journalists, who were released by Syrian authorities on Thursday after they were reported missing in Lebanon said they entered Syria against their will.”
http://www.jordantimes.com/?news=11252

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October 11th, 2008, 7:14 pm

 

3. Shai said:

Alex,

Oh thank god! Because I was about to be labeled an “Arab-Lover” by Israelis who don’t understand why I’m for Obama, and not for “well Charlie” Sarah… 🙂 This is the most pitiful election campaign in recent U.S. history, I believe. And, the scariest.

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October 11th, 2008, 7:28 pm

 

4. Jihad said:

Mr. Robert Rabil’s “article” is a rehash of what is already knwon and published about Hizbullah. Nothing new in it, albeit glimpses of Rabil’s Lebanese Forces’ Zionist view. It is like a pharmacist’s prescription: The US should do this and that! All in all, it is an “article” that could have been better written by a high school student than a director of graduate studies. Only in the US, as the say goes!

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October 11th, 2008, 8:07 pm

 

5. Alex said:

Shai,

You need to stay away fro Argeeleh first if you do not want to be labeled “Arab lover”

But seriously.

I am interested to know if there are opinion polls in Israel asking “which team will be better for Israel”.

I see the following choices

1) Sarah is probably borderline anti-semitic. But her way of thinking (good guys/bad guys) would probably suit Israel (Democracy, therefore good guys) … I can see Sarah automatically siding with Israel against the Ayrabs.

2) Obama … not anti semitic at all … but his “support for Israel” is not as strong as his statements. Obama might put some minor pressure on Israel in the future.

So you have a candidate who is not good for Jews but good for Israel, and another who respects Jews but will not be automatically siding with Israel.

Will Israelis conclude that they face less risks and stand to gain more if they support the anti semitic but pro Israel candidate?

I see that Akbar and AIG are with Sarah… they are probably the majority (as usual)

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October 11th, 2008, 8:14 pm

 

6. norman said:

Alex,Shai,

You do not have to worry , At the end of the day the Jews in the US fear more Christian fundamentalist than any Arab or Muslim ,
A fundamentalist can stirr the people while a president can not change US policy much.

They will be voting for Obama, an Obama presidency makes other minorities including the Jewish one closer to the White house and that is why Obama should and will win .

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October 11th, 2008, 9:05 pm

 

7. Akbar Palace said:

Editor of Syrian government newspaper Tishreen on the similarities of Nazism and the Bush Administration:

http://www.memri.org/bin/latestnews.cgi?ID=SD207708

Sarah is probably borderline anti-semitic. Obama … not anti semitic at all …

Alex –

Please post a link showing why you think Sarah Palin is “probably borderline anti-semitic”.

After you do that, I’ll gather some links showing how Obama’s associates are “borderline antisemitic”…

Deal?

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October 12th, 2008, 2:39 am

 

8. why-discuss said:

North Korea off the axis of evil..

What about North Korea alleged support in building Syria’s “Dangerous nuclear site” happily bombed by Israel? Forgotten? Forgiven? Fantasy?

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October 12th, 2008, 4:04 am

 

9. Qifa Nabki said:

Very interesting reading from the indomitable Jawad Adra. Here’s an excerpt:

A Shi`a: What a great relief it was when I saw the Israeli Army enter South Lebanon! The Palestinians treated us awfully and it was time the Israelis entered our land to put an end to the ongoing humiliation.

I sympathized with calls by the Phalange Party that the Lebanese Army should be the sole authority, as well as the Phalanges calls for disarming Palestinian militias inside and outside of refugee camps so that all “Fatah lands” will be dismantled.

It’s true that I threw rice at the Israeli Military but once they became their true selves, “occupiers instead of liberators;” my mother was the first one to pour boiling oil over their heads.

I never felt that Lebanon cared for me; we were even deprived from schools and hospitals in our villages in the South and the Bekaa. We were considered as second class citizens, and pejoratively referred to as “matawleh.”

Also, remind me to tell you about our strong relationship with the Phalanges and the military intelligence, or what was referred to at the time as the “Second Bureau.” My sole focus was to get rid of the Palestinians. “Palestinians out,” I shouted back then.

But Imam al-Sadr12 recovered our dignity and made us proud. We are now the Resistance against Israel and we will never surrender.

We stand united, along with Syria, and Iran, against the United States and Israel… But what if Israel withdrew from the occupied Sheba’a Farms and reached a peace agreement with Syria? What if a Syria-Iranian rapprochement takes place?

“This is not the time to discuss this,” we are told.

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October 12th, 2008, 4:10 am

 

10. Shai said:

Why Discuss,

Following suit, Israel has removed Syria from its list of “Nations whose alleged nuclear facilities we’ve bombed.” 🙂

The Bush administration was waiting with this announcement for Kim Jong-Il to show his face again in public. Now that his pro-democracy reform is kicking into high gear… it’s time to place N. Korea in a new list called “Axis of Freedom” (Axis of Free Doom maybe).

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October 12th, 2008, 4:37 am

 

11. Shai said:

One of those rare moments of sanity in our region… http://www.haaretz.com/hasen/spages/1027968.html

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October 12th, 2008, 5:15 am

 

12. Jad said:

I totally didn’t get the point of QN comment about the Shia. Why did you choose the Shia part only? what does it mean? what was the moral of concentrating on the shia and not other sects that is written about on the link he post?
You lost me QN, big time…

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October 12th, 2008, 6:07 am

 

13. Qifa Nabki said:

Jad,

I chose the Shi`a bit because I found it the most striking. We all know about the flip-flopping of the Maronites, Sunnis, and the Druze and their wayward alliances with Israel. The Shi`a narrative is perhaps less well known.

I didn’t post the entire thing because it is very long. That’s why I provided the link.

PS: What was the moral of your question, by the way? 🙂

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October 12th, 2008, 2:28 pm

 

14. Alex said:

Akbar

I said “probably” because I do not KNOW for sure that she is.

I find it hard to believe that she is not… This is my subjective opinion, based on her own character, not on her associates’ statements.

1) she is not very intelligent
2) she believes there are “bad guys”
3) she often gets angry at those who are different
4) she is from a small town where she did not meet people who are different from her … Like “Ayrabs” or Jews.

Obama is much smarter … He is not the angry type … He is not the Good guys / bad guys type …

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October 12th, 2008, 3:20 pm

 

15. norman said:

The Middle East’s unending political crunchThe US is considering a ‘diplomatic reconfiguration’ in its relations with Syria, but what will that mean for Lebanon?Comments ()
James Denselow guardian.co.uk, Thursday October 09 2008 09.00 BST larger | smaller Article historyCoverage of the global financial meltdown in the wake of the credit crunch has tended to obscure reporting of events in the Middle East, a region apparently stuck in a never-ending political crunch.

The build-up of more than 10,000 Syrian troops on the Lebanese border, nominally to “stop smuggling”, a car bomb in Damascus, and continued fighting in and around the northern city of Tripoli, are all part of the continuing saga of poor relations between Syria and Lebanon since the 2005 Syrian “withdrawal” from Lebanese territory.

Despite the incredible thaw in international relations with respect to Syria, including the possible offer of board membership of the International Atomic Energy Agency, Syria remains nominally in Washington’s bad books. This was made clear in George Bush’s speech at the United Nations last month, in which he said: “A few nations – regimes like Syria and Iran – continue to sponsor terror, yet their numbers are growing fewer and they’re growing more isolated from the world.”

Last week the bizarre story emerged of a US judge ordering Syria to pay $400m to families of contractors killed in Iraq, accusing the country of supporting those in Iraq who carried out the killings.

But with US officials now admitting to a “reconfiguration” in policy towards Syria, it is worth asking what those Syrian connections to the Iraqi insurgency and al-Qaida linked-groups actually are.

The American military has consistently accused Syria of allowing al-Qaida fighters to cross into Iraq through its border. Yet the crux of the debate should be whether Syrian support for such groups is active or passive. Whereas Damascus’s alliance with Hizbullah can be described as an active and largely stable relationship based on a rational strategy of non-conventional proxy attacks on their enemies, the blowback from supporting jihadis for a secular Ba’athist Syrian regime is an obvious danger.

Yet links between Damascus and certain extremist groups have been proven. Shakir al-Absi, the commander of the fundamentalist Fatah al-Islam group that clashed with the Lebanese army in the battles of the Nahr al-Barid (the Palestinian refugee) camp in 2007, used to travel around Syria in total freedom.

It seems that today, as the Damascus car bomb proved, other Islamist groups in Lebanon are being used back against Syria – in a form of tit-for-tat jihadi proxy-battle. Indeed Lebanon’s leading cleric, Dai al-Islam al-Shahal, has warned Syria to stay out of north Lebanon or risk opening “the gates of hell”. The Economist reported that “after closing the borders, the Syrians got a message from the Salafists [Sunni jihadists]: you leave us alone or we target you”.

These groups are said to have been supported by the anti-Syrian March 14 Alliance, headed by Saad Hariri, who called Syria “a clear and direct threat” to Lebanon. Yet he “has been paying jihadis not to be jihadis but they’ve been rebelling against him”, according to Nadim Shehadi of Chatham House.

Paradoxically, traditional American support for the March 14 anti-Syrian – and thus anti-Iranian – elements in Lebanon is thus linked to supporting al-Qaida-linked groups that the so-called war on terror is supposed to be directed against.

Essentially Washington has found itself in a localised conflict with a bitter history that makes redundant policies such as “with us or against us”. As the Lebanese Daily Star reported last week, “too many people in both Beirut and Damascus appear to be operating under a winner-take-all mentality that can only guarantee net losses for all concerned”.

The Syrian regime feels an ownership of Lebanon that can almost be compared to its ally Russia’s quasi-sovereign control of South Ossetia. Syria also believes that the high tide of US power in the Middle East arrived in 2005, when Syria was forced out of Lebanon, and has been in decline ever since.

In 1990 Syria was granted de facto American support for its occupation of Lebanon in exchange for joining in the anti-Saddam coalition. Today the Syrians believe helping a weak US achieve the right conditions for withdrawal from Iraq – hence help sealing the Iraq-Syria border, achieving influence with the so-called Awakening of Sunni tribesmen, and so on – should come at a similar cost of accepting high levels of Syrian suzerainty over Lebanon. With the Hariri tribunal seemingly on the back burner and Syria actively courting its neighbours – including Israel – the US “diplomatic reconfiguration” may do just that.

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October 12th, 2008, 3:36 pm

 

16. Off the Wall said:

AP

Palin quoted Westbrook Pegler a well known antisemitic writer.

She did not disavow her pastor when he introduced into her church someone from Jews for Jesus, here are some excerpts of an article on that subject, the incident occurred barely 2 weeks before her induction


An illustration of that gap came just two weeks ago, when Palin’s church, the Wasilla Bible Church, gave its pulpit over to a figure viewed with deep hostility by many Jewish organizations: David Brickner, the executive director of Jews for Jesus.

Palin’s pastor, Larry Kroon, introduced Brickner on Aug. 17, according to a transcript of the sermon on the church’s website.

“He’s a leader of Jews for Jesus, a ministry that is out on the leading edge in a pressing, demanding area of witnessing and evangelism,” Kroon said.

Brickner then explained that Jesus and his disciples were themselves Jewish.

“The Jewish community, in particular, has a difficult time understanding this reality,” he said.
Brickner’s mission has drawn wide criticism from the organized Jewish community, and the Anti-Defamation League accused them in a report of “targeting Jews for conversion with subterfuge and deception.”

Brickner also described terrorist attacks on Israelis as God’s “judgment of unbelief” of Jews who haven’t embraced Christianity.

“Judgment is very real and we see it played out on the pages of the newspapers and on the television. It’s very real. When [Brickner’s son] was in Jerusalem he was there to witness some of that judgment, some of that conflict, when a Palestinian from East Jerusalem took a bulldozer and went plowing through a score of cars, killing numbers of people. Judgment — you can’t miss it.”

Palin was in church that day, Kroon said, though he cautioned against attributing Brickner’s views to her.

The executive director of the National Jewish Democratic Council, Ira Forman, cited the “cultural distance” between Palin and almost all American Jews.

The article is available on
http://www.politico.com/news/stories/0908/13098.html

She did not utter a word in response afterward. Had Obama been in such incident, he would have been grilled over it. Biden, would have probably stormed out of that church.

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October 12th, 2008, 4:48 pm

 

17. jad said:

Thank you QN for the explanation.

P.S. The moral of my question was that you sometimes concentrate too much on one sect. To be fair is always a better choice 🙂

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October 12th, 2008, 4:54 pm

 

18. OFF THE WALL said:

AP

If guilt by association is acceptable, Sarah Palin lives in a house of glass, and she should be very very careful. Here is another illuminating speech by the guy who got the evil spirits out of her flesh, you know, her witch doctor. It turned out that the guy believes that Christians should get more involved into banking so that they can balance the Jews. Here you go


The second area whereby God wants us, wants to penetrate in our society is in the economic area. The Bible says that the wealth of the wicked is stored up for the righteous. It’s high time that we have top Christian businessmen, businesswomen, bankers, you know, who are men and women of integrity running the economics of our nations. That’s what we are waiting for. That’s part and parcel of transformation. If you look at the—you know—if you look at the Israelites, that’s how they work. And that’s how they are, even today.

If these words were uttered in a mosque in the US, I would be the fist to call for removing such a repulsive speaker. Palin allowed this person to bless her and cleanse her body from evil spirits. Go figure.

Here is a link to the video,

http://andrewsullivan.theatlantic.com/the_daily_dish/2008/09/palin-muthee–1.html

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October 12th, 2008, 5:03 pm

 

19. Qifa Nabki said:

Jad

P.S. The moral of my question was that you sometimes concentrate too much on one sect. To be fair is always a better choice

Kellun zbeleh… mnee7 hek?

🙂

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October 12th, 2008, 5:11 pm

 

20. Jad said:

LOL, much better….

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October 12th, 2008, 5:13 pm

 

21. Off the Wall said:

Here is an email I sent to Rachel Maddow and Keith Olberman

Please feel free to send it to any media outlet you like but change the addressee

Arab, Muslim, Or Terrorist, The racism of McCain-Palin and Media Complicity

Dear Rachel and Keith

When Senator McCain responded to the “lady in red” among his supporter, his response was more insulting to me and to many Arab Americans than her ignorance. He thought that he had to defend Obama from being called an Arab as if that epithet tipped the scale being worst than “Terrorist”, which he did not question

Had the honorable senator knew his friends in congress, and a little bit more of our (his) military history, he would have responded by saying

Well madam, even if he is an Arab, so are the following people, who were entrusted with our lives and well-being at one point or another in our nation’s history:

Military
James Jabara : Korean War hero, U.S. Air Force Col.
Maj. Gen. Fred Safay : fought alongside Gen. Patton
Brig. Gen. Elias Stevens served on Gen. Eisenhower’s staff.
Navy Lt. Alfred Naifeh of Oklahoma (in 1944 the destroyer escort USS Naifeh, was named in honor of his heroism)
Brigadier General James J. David : Company Commander of 101st Airborne Division in Vietnam in 1969 and 1970)
four-star Gen. George Joulwan: Served as NATO Supreme Allied Commander of Europe,
Brig. Gen. William J. Jabour: Director of the Air Force Program Executive Office for Fighter and Bomber programs
General John Abizaid

Politics
Nick Joe Rahall II(West Virginia),
Ray LaHood (Illinois),
Charles Boustany (Louisiana),
Darrell Issa (California),
Senator John E. Sununu (New Hampshire)
John Baldacci who is now the Governor of Maine. Former congressman
Mitchell E. Daniels, Jr., who is now the Governor of Indiana and (Former director of OMB)
Spencer Abraham (former U.S. Secretary of Energy )
Donna Shalala, Former Secretary of Health and Human Services, (President U-Miami) John H. Sununu Former White House Chief of Staff and a Governor of New Hampshire
George Mitchell, former U.S. Senate Majority Leader
James Abourezk , former U.S. Senators
Pat Danner of Missouri,
Mary Rose Oakar of Ohio, the
George Kasem of California,
Abraham Kazen, Jr.of Texas,
Toby Moffett of Connecticut, and
Chris John of Lousiana.
Victor Atiyeh was the popular governor of Oregon.
Ambassadors:
Selwa Roosevelt. Ambassador (WH chief of protocol)

Ambassadors:
Thomas Nassif
Edward Gabriel
Theodore Kattouf,
Marcelle Wahba
Philip C. Habib (Presidential Medal of Freedom)
Helen Thomas,
James Abdnor,

Of course I am not asking the senator to cite all these names, but it would have been sufficient to name a couple of his friends in the house or senate.

The above list is a stripped down version of a comprehensive list that is available at the Arab Institute-USA web site

http://www.aaiusa.org/arab-americans/23/famous-arab-americans

It is about time someone in the media steps up to this issue. Throughout this campaign we, Arab Americans and Muslim Americans sat watching with indignity and frustration our identities, being used as slurs. The media has been participating in this racist hate game very actively. While right wing media utter the slur and emphasize it, progressive media, to a large extent, have defended Senator Obama by implicitly accepting the racist premise of equating being Arab or Muslim with being a terrorist and then arguing that he is neither instead of exposing the fallacy and racism of the premise itself. Keith once brought up the issue and I applaud you for doing so.

I believe that it would be an interesting segment on one of your shows to talk about. You can interview one of the above-listed heroes (those still living) and talk to them about their feelings and response to this issue. May be show a few photos along with brief description of some of the above Arab American heroes and civil servants.

A rather interesting Irony is that many of the above Arab-American politicians are conservative republicans.

Although I do not pretend to know much about the broadcasting art, I think that such segment could start by showing the photos while asking, what is a common denominator between these people, and then answering it by saying, they are all Arab-Americans and then moving to talk about the issue.

Thank you both for your consideration. Keep up the good work and Good luck to both of you. I hope that one of you would pick up on this issue and set the record straight. We are tired of our identity being used as an epithet, our patriotism being questioned, and our contributions to our beloved country being ignored.

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October 12th, 2008, 5:29 pm

 

22. Alex said:

OTW,

Thanks for the above list.

The McCain campaign is continuously emitting worrying signals. The United States deserves wiser leadership.

Of course even the Obama people managed to offend Muslim Americans when they asked the two Muslim women to move away from behind Obama during one of his political rallies this year.

http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/25279716/

At least Obama apologized. I doubt McCain will clarify his “NOT an Arab” remarks.

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October 12th, 2008, 7:20 pm

 

23. Alex said:

Akbar,

Here is more on what’s her name.

Pay attention to who she said “Keep up the good work” this year.

And Pay attention please to who she wanted to hire.

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October 12th, 2008, 7:31 pm

 

24. norman said:

OTW,

We can help too by telling people who ask us where we come from to say as i do ( An Arab from Syria ) , I have to admit that some time i have to explain that Syria is next to Lebanon and Israel but i always said that I am an Arab , If people like us and they usually do when they know us they will like the Arabs , that lady probably never met an Arab before , and it is like building credit ,it take time but we have to be persistent and avoid denying our origin , even if we are American now.

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October 12th, 2008, 7:40 pm

 

25. norman said:

Alex,

Isn’t Max Blumenthal Jewish.

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October 12th, 2008, 7:47 pm

 

26. Off the Wall said:

NORMAN
Fully agree. But there is a difference between liking us for who we are and for knowing some of us, and disliking all of us without knowing any of us. The former is called friendhsip and probably bias, but the latter is bigotry and racism.

I am fighting the latter.

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October 12th, 2008, 8:01 pm

 

27. Akbar Palace said:

I said “probably” because I do not KNOW for sure that she is.

I find it hard to believe that she is not… This is my subjective opinion, based on her own character, not on her associates’ statements.

1) she is not very intelligent
2) she believes there are “bad guys”
3) she often gets angry at those who are different
4) she is from a small town where she did not meet people who are different from her … Like “Ayrabs” or Jews.

Obama is much smarter … He is not the angry type … He is not the Good guys / bad guys type …

Alex –

1.) Hitler was intelligent. So is Nasrallah.

2.) To most Arabs, Israel is a “bad guy”. What’s your point?

3.) Please elaborate or post a link.

4.) People from small towns does not necessarily mean a person is a bigot or a racist. There are plenty of racists from large cities like Damascus for example.

Again, I’m finding that you are making assertions based on your own misconceptions and prejudices than on fact. “Borderline anti-semitic” is a serious charge Habibi.

OTOH, Obama’s top advisors, his pastor for the past 20 years, etc all quite anti-Israel.

I think one would objectively agree with me. Why else do you think the candidate of choice in the Middle East is Barack Obama?

http://www.breitbart.tv/?p=193353

Frankly, it looks like Obama is going to win it. And when my Jewish friends start to complain about Obama, you can bet I’ll quote the percentage of Jews who voted for this phoney.

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October 12th, 2008, 10:10 pm

 

28. Alex said:

Akbar,

I am already agreeing that my opinion is only an opinion … I did not do an “AIG” … I did not say “the fact is”

But I hope you understand that you also do not have the power to KNOW that my understandings are based on my own “misconceptions and prejudices” .. they are based on my own conclusions .. I might be wrong… but I do have that opinion of her and of many people on the right… they are not able to understand or accept or trust those who are different from them in any wway, including reigion.

My original point was: I now realize that “supporters of Israel” like you or AIG are not sensitive to “borderline anti-semitism” when a candidate is stupid enough to blindly support “America’s democratic ally”, the state of Israel, even when Israel is wrong ..

This is the only level of “support” you can trust from American leaders … otherwise you worry.

I am not a huge fan of Obama by the way … he might be partially “phony” … he is a politician after all.

And yes it does look like he will win with ease, although on election day many borderline voters might decide to switch back to the “safe” white candidate.

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October 12th, 2008, 10:48 pm

 

29. Shai said:

Alex,

People who believe in “us-versus-them”, in a world that’s either wrong or right, typically also have little if any humility. An admission in doing wrong shatters their thin lining of self confidence, hence they’ll always seek evasion tactics against criticism. Very few Republicans would publicly admit that Sarah Palin is a very poor choice, and not because she reads no newspapers, and knows nothing about the Bush Doctrine, but because she’s a dangerous person to have leading the most powerful nation on earth. Most Republicans won’t even admit that Bush made terrible decisions. But a few would, including John McCain himself.

Has anyone asked him if he believed Sarah Palin could serve as President of the United States, should the unthinkable happen (heart attack, 4th case of cancer, etc.)? I want to hear McCain say “Of course she could, why else would I choose her as a running mate?”

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October 13th, 2008, 5:59 am

 

30. Akbar Palace said:

An admission in doing wrong shatters their thin lining of self confidence, hence they’ll always seek evasion tactics against criticism.

Shai,

An ADMISSION that the democrats (collectively) were doing their best to get the troops home in defeat instead of the unthinkable: bringing the troops home with victory is something we haven’t had the pleasure to hear on our TV screens.

Very few Republicans would publicly admit that Sarah Palin is a very poor choice, and not because she reads no newspapers, and knows nothing about the Bush Doctrine, but because she’s a dangerous person to have leading the most powerful nation on earth.

Shai,

IMHO, pulling our troops prematurely out of Iraq, allowing Saddam Hussein to remain in power without verifiably knowing the extent of this WMD program after 12 years and 17 UNSC resolutions, and negotiating with every anti-American “tin pan” dictator out there is more dangerous than anthing Sarah Palin stands for.

Although I would have preferred Mitt Romney, Sarah Palin strengthened the conservative base among women and paleo-conservatives. It was a wise choice at the time, when no one knew the extent of the financial crisis.

I’ll take Sarah Palin to be president over Obama, Biden or any other naive, anti-Israel liberal any time.

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October 13th, 2008, 12:04 pm

 

31. Shai said:

Akbar,

“I’ll take Sarah Palin to be president…”

I do hope you’re joking. Please don’t tell me you prefer this hockey-mom with the nuclear football over the anti-Israel Obama and Biden.

And by the way, as an Israeli, I’m not sure I sleep better at night knowing Sarah Palin’s “pro-Israel” stance stems out of a belief in our role in bringing about Armageddon, the reappearance of the Antichrist, and a whole bunch of other celestial occurrences that don’t seem to go hand-in-hand with greater safety or security for Israelis.

To all the Jews out there, Chag Sameach (Happy Sukkot). To all the non-Jews out there, also Chag Sameach! 🙂

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October 13th, 2008, 5:40 pm

 

32. Alex said:

Thanks Shai : )

It is also thanks giving in Canada today, but too cloudy to be festive.

Akbar,

I have a feeling if “the Arabs” were very enthusiastic for Sarah, THEN you would hate her.

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October 13th, 2008, 6:47 pm

 

33. Shai said:

Alex,

You mean if the indecent, non-family men, were enthusiastic about Sarah…

Happy Thanksgiving nonetheless! (How can it be “cloudy” over an entire nation almost the size of Neptune?)

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October 13th, 2008, 7:01 pm

 

34. Alex said:

Shai

It is cloudy in MONTREAL : )

Enjoy this clip


How to Ruin a BMW

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October 13th, 2008, 7:14 pm

 

35. Shai said:

Alex,

Isn’t he the guy Samir Al-Taqi keeps behind the curtain for make-or-break moments at the peace talks? 🙂 “Well Avi, if we can’t agree, I guess I’ll have to bring in Ahmed, with his beamer…”

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October 13th, 2008, 7:39 pm

 

36. Leila Abu-saba said:

This kidnapped Americans story made my relatives very nervous last week, because I and my best friend, two middle-aged American women, were planning to go to Damascus by taxi (private, no shared rides) from Saida on October 7. Our trip went smoothly except on our return trip we arrived at the Damascus taxi garage to find that our driver never showed up, and his cel didn’t work. I had to figure out who of all the shouting drivers (and porters and chiclets-socks-placemats sellers) was trustworthy. I selected well. I liked his face but at first was uncertain – he told me his name was Ali al-Imam and I demanded his i.d. – and read it – I read Arabic – because I thought he was pretending to be the Imam Ali to have a joke. He was who he said he was, however, and he was quite the decent fellow. Once on the road, he told me the other drivers told him he was nuts to take two Americans to Sidon. What if we were kidnapped and he was held responsible?

Meanwhile my relatives were frightened and relieved to discover upon our return that I had negotiated my own taxi driver (all in Arabic of course). The women said they were too scared to do such a thing, how is it that I, the American, had the nerve? I was aware of all the stories, and was frankly a bit dismayed for that half an hour in the parking lot at Soummeriyya garage when we had no driver and I was figuring out what to do while fending off shouting, pushing, aggressive drivers and vendors.

By the way the Syrian border people could not have been more professional or polite. THey have my record in a computer file, looked me up and stamped my passport. No problem.

Why were the Americans crossing via a smuggler? Those are rough mountains. You don’t evade border security by accident.

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October 14th, 2008, 2:50 pm

 

37. Leila Abu-saba said:

PS I am so glad I spent the last 2+ weeks cushioned from the news, especially the American political news. Really I missed nothing.

You should have been in Damascus with me drinking coffee and eating sesame cookies! Also makdoos, my first experience…

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October 14th, 2008, 2:52 pm

 

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