Opposition News and Bashar Sba’i’s Return

[I will be in Vermont for two weeks until Aug. 16, where I will have limited ability to post. My number there will be 802-767-9038]

Bashar Sba’i’s Return
By Joshua Landis, Aug. 1, 2009

Bashar Sba’i, a leading member of the Syrian opposition in exile, has thrown in the towel. He quit the opposition movement and has found an accommodation with the Syrian government that allowed him to return home after 28 years.

Syria’s opposition movement is in shambles. Obama’s victory changed the calculations of the opposition in exile. US government supplied MEPI money, which sustained some, has dried up. But mostly, Syrians, who had hoped that President Bush would “reform the greater Middle East” as promised, understood it was not to be. President Assad is firmly in control at home; the Iraq fiasco has re-legitimized authoritarianism in the Middle East, at least tmeporarily; and Obama has little choice but to engage with America’s erstwhile enemies in the region, as he is now doing.

The National Salvation Front, of which Sba’i was a leading member and articulate and passionate spokesperson, has crumbled. The Muslim Brotherhood announced it was pulling out of its alliance with ex-Vice President Khaddam in April and was seeking a new relationship with the Assad regime. The immediate pretext for this move was the Gaza war, but the M.B’s rational for linking up with old Baathists, such as Khaddam, disapeared with the departure of President Bush.

Bashar Sba’i, who had joined Khaddam’s effort as the director of his Zenobia TV, also decided the time had come to mend fences with the Syrian government. Having lived abroad since 1981, he was lonely for his homeland. The pull of family must be great. America, as well, is less the attraction that it was some years ago. In full recession, with a budget that has grown out of control, the US has seen its best days as a symbol of world leadership. Prejudice against Arabs and Muslims is at an all time high. Sba’i also tells us that the leadership of the Syrian opposition in exile was not inspiring.

It is in this context, that Bashar al-Sba’i, whose articles are copied below, must have negotiated a deal with the Syrian government to go home a short time ago.

Bashar al-Sba’i writes a long article extolling the wisdom of Assad’s rule in Syria, explaining that the president is responding to the demands of the age for stability, security and keeping the country from being torn apart by sectarian and ethnic divisions.

He apologizes for working with the opposition, claiming that the opposition painted an unjustifiably bleak picture of conditions in Syria and blamed the president wrongly. He claims that after living in the West and American, he was taken by the rule of law, democracy and progress he saw around him and naively wanted it for Syria. He did not take local conditions into account…..

Here is the original All4Syria, April 22 story about the break up of the Salvation Front. Bashar Sba’i’ announces and explains his resignation.

“Damascus Spring” is Bashar el-Sba’i’s blog. He wrote frequent and lively commentary on these pages under a pseudonym.  Many of the participants on Syria Comment had long conversations with Bashar, both on the phone and in the comment section over the last three years.

The following is a translation contributed by JAD of a only a part of Bashar al-Sba’i’s first article after returning to Damascus.

“All I can say today after having arrived a few days ago in my hometown, Damascus, is that Syria today is changing for the better, developing, flourishing, and enjoy security, tolerance and love under the same leadership whose good intentions I questioned for months. What I couldn’t imagine or expect, what I saw and heard about the President of the country exceed my expectation of enlightened thoughts and acts in the interest of the country, the homeland and the citizen, that was truly unexpected.

Today I am unable to find words to express my thanks and my gratitude for this leadership to allow me to be a witness and a participant on the ground in the building of this fatherland and it’s primacy in my future field of work.  I hope that my own personal experience is proof of the change and reform Syria is going through and is an example of trust and confidence for all Syrian citizens abroad to return home.” Bashar Siba’i

معارض سوري يمتدح النظام بعد هجائه له لثلاثة عقود..! !

بيان من بشار سبيعي
07/ 07/ 2009

منذ إصدار بيان اعتزالي العمل السياسي المنظم بكل أشكاله وأنواعه منذ أكثر من شهرين , تسلمت الكثير من الرسائل والاتصالات الهاتفية من أعضاء في المعارضة السورية في الخارج تضمنت أكثرها تساؤلات إذا كنت أنوي الرجوع إلى سورية في المستقبل القريب , وقد كانت تلك الفكرة حينها من أبعد الخواطر عن ذهني لما فيها من مخاطر نسمع عنها فقط في الإعلام المعارض للنظام السوري في الخارج .
لقد كنت من الناشطين السياسيين أكثر الحدة في النقد لهذه الحكومة والأجهزة الأمنية في مقالاتي السابقة , وكنت أشعر آنذاك , أن ما أكتبه عن الممارسات الشمولية لهذه الحكومة ضد أبناء شعبها ووطنها واجب على كل مواطن سوري يعشق الحرية والديمقراطية أينما وجد فأنا لم أكن أعرف بعد مدى حقيقة رغبة الحكومة السورية في التغيير والإصلاح بجميع أشكاله وأطيافه ومدى جديتها في ذلك وكنت أتابع عبر الإعلام حالات الإعتقال والإدانات الصادرة عن محكمة أمن الدولة ضد نشطاء سياسيين وكتّاب في مجال الديمقراطية والحرية وحقوق الإنسان وهذا ما جعلني أكثر خوفاً على أن أفكر بجدية كاملة في الرجوع إلى ربوع الوطن بما أنني كنت واحداً من هؤلاء الأشخاص في السابق .
ولكن ظروفي الخاصة واشتياقي لبلدي وأهلي وأصدقائي بعد أكثر من ثلاثة عقود من الزمن في الغربة حملني على التفكير جدياً بالعودة , وهذا بالواقع ما حصل تماماً وعلى عكس ما كنت متصوراً , ها أنا أخط هذه الكلمات اليوم حراً طليقاً من أجمل مدينة في العالم دمشق .
كل ما أستطيع أن أقوله اليوم بعد أيام قليلة من وصولي إلى مسقط رأسي أن سورية اليوم تتغير نحو الأفضل , وتكبر وتزدهر وتنعم بالأمن والتسامح والمحبة تحت نفس القيادة التي كنت أشكك في نواياها الحسنة منذ شهور وهذا ما لم أكن أتصوره وأتوقعه ، إن ما سمعته وما شاهدته عن رئيس البلاد كان فائق التصور من فكر مستنير وفعل لمصلحة البلاد والوطن والمواطن ، كان ذلك بالحقيقة يفوق الوصف .
وأنا اليوم عاجز عن إيجاد الكلمات المعبرة عن الشكر والإمتنان لهذه القيادة لإتاحة الفرصة لي بأن أكون شاهداً ومشاركاً على الأرض في بناء هذا الوطن ورفع شأنه في مجال عملي المستقبلي .
وأتمنى أن تكون سيرتي الذاتية برهاناً لحقيقة التغيير والإصلاح المنشود ومثالاً للثقة والطمأنينة لكل مواطن سوري في الخارج يفكر في العودة إلى ربوع وطنه .
بشار سبيعي
عضو جبهة الخلاص سابقاً و مدير البرامج السياسية في قناة / زنوبيا

Syria renaissance excludes human rights
By Lina Sinjab, BBC News, Damascus

In a quiet neighbourhood in the centre of Damascus Michel Kilo sits in his small flat sipping coffee as his wife shells beans for lunch…..

Weeks after finishing a three-year prison sentence, Mr Kilo dedicates his time to family life, while the enthusiasm that characterised his writing before his arrest is now directed solely at articles focusing on pan-Arab and regional issues, rather than local ones.

In 2006, Mr Kilo and 10 other activists were arrested after signing the Damascus-Beirut declaration….
Mr Kilo was in prison for three years after signing the declaration

But today, the situation has changed. The country is no longer isolated by the West and key Western leaders have approached Syrian President Bashar al-Assad to help stabilise the region.

The country has attracted both foreign investment as well as tourism – signs it is beginning to come in from the cold.

But the authorities show no sign of relinquishing the tight control which the Baath Party has exerted since it took power in a 1963 coup and banned all opposition.

“The priority is not to have any opposition or independent voices and it is successful in oppressing this scene,” says Yassin Haj Saleh, a writer and human rights activist.


A campaign of arrests has left an estimated 6,000 people in jail as political prisoners.

Meanwhile, about 400-450 people are subject to official travel bans, although the real number could be in the thousands, human rights groups say.

The measures are extended to young bloggers and some internet users, as well as civil society activists and some artists.

Civil society needs to be revived and reactivated and this is only in the hands of the authorities”
Mohannad al-Hassani
Lawyer and human rights activist

“There is a continuous deterioration in the human rights situation in Syria,” says lawyer and head of Syrian Human Rights Organization Mohannad al-Hassani.

But the worst situation is suffered by the Islamists, according to Yassin Haj Saleh.

“There are many young people who are arrested for their Islamic affiliation, but they are not organised. They are mostly villagers and their families are being harassed and pressured,” he says.

The crackdown has attracted little media attention, especially in suburbs and rural areas.

Last year, riots erupted in Sadnaya prison. A number of prisoners were reported killed. The government said then the prisoners were Islamists.

Human Rights Watch recently called on the Syrian government to provide information on the incident.

“The Syrian government should end the anguish of the prisoners’ families, disclose the names of those injured or killed, and immediately grant them access to their loved ones,” said Sarah Leah Whitson, Middle East and North Africa director at Human Rights Watch.

‘Lack of vision’

There is no organised opposition in Syria, just individuals who oppose government policies.

And even these figures are fragmented and lack vision says Omar Amirallai, an intellectual and filmmaker.
Syrians pass under poster of President Bashar al-Assad
President Assad maintains a tight grip on opposition

“The opposition in Syria is in need of self-criticism, reform and reconciliation,” he says.

But others believe that even with more vision and organisation, their efforts will come to nothing under current government restrictions.

The streets of Damascus have the feel of a relaxed and bustling city.

Around cafe and restaurant tables, discussions are heated about global and regional politics – but no one talks about the political situation in Syria.

Mohannad al-Hassani believes the country should embrace international and regional changes with its own progress on the level of civil and human rights.

“Civil society needs to be revived and reactivated and this is only in the hands of the authorities.

“They should look into these needs seriously as it is difficult for Syria to continue in isolation from what the whole world is moving towards.”

Syria: Human Rights Lawyer Held
By REUTERS, July 30, 2009 in NYTimes

Syrian authorities arrested a leading human rights lawyer, his colleagues said Thursday. The lawyer, Mohannad al-Hussani, who has been handling high-profile political cases, was summoned Tuesday to State Security, one of many intelligence agencies in Syria. Mr. Hussani has not been heard from since then and no charges have been lodged against him, his colleagues said. There was no comment from the Syrian authorities. Arbitrary arrests in Syria are common, international human rights organization say, and it is common for detainees to remain in jail for months before facing any charges.

See Siba’is most recent article (in Arabic)

عاد لدمشق بعد 28 سنة من عدائه للنظام : بشار سبيعي يضع وصفة للحل في سورية… تفاءلوا بالخير تجدوه

بشار السبيعي عضو جبهة الخلاص سابقاً
23/ 07/ 2009
المتفائل في الحياة يرى نصف الكأس مملوءاً، والمتشائم يرى الكأس نفسه نصفه فارغاً، ومن يبتعد عن وطنه مدة طويلة من الزمن ويعش في عالم أكثر تقدماً ورقياً في مختلف جوانب الحياة يعتد أن يقيس أمور الدنيا والحياة بمقياس عال في السقف والدرجة ما يرمي نتائج الرؤية في قاع المراتب، ويغلف الأحكام والاستنتاجات النهائية لواقع الأمور على الأرض بغطاء المطلق، وهذا ما يدفع به لتصديق قشور التكبير والتعظيم الإعلامي لأصغر الأمور.

منذ خروجي من الوطن الحبيب سورية في أوائل عام 1981، وأنا أتّبع تلك القاعدة للنظر في أمور الحياة والشأن العام، وكنت أظن (مخطئاً) أن ما وصلت إليه دولة عظمى مثل الولايات المتحدة الأميركية من رقي وعظمة في نظام الحياة مجتمعة يجب أن يكون المقياس الرئيس للمقارنة مع حال مجتمعنا العربي والإسلامي، ناسياً أو بالأحرى متناسياً أن لكل حضارة ظروفاً تاريخية وسياسية واجتماعية وثقافية تدفعها نحو رسم حاضرها ومستقبلها وتحثها على خلق نظام يتناسب مع أعرافها وتقاليدها ويحترم تاريخها.
خلال رحلتي القصيرة في العمل السياسي المعارض في الخارج، قرأت الكثير عن مطالب المعارضة السورية التي يمكن تلخيصها في المطلب الرئيس وهي الديمقراطية في الحكم والتعددية السياسية. وطبعاً ما يتبع ذلك الوضع من حرية في التعبير والرأي وضمانة حقوق الإنسان تحت غطاء القضاء المستقل واحترام الدستور وسيادة القانون. ومن يقرأ ما يكتبه البعض من أعضاء تلك المعارضة في الإعلام يظن أن سورية تئن تحت وطأة الاستبداد والسلطوية لدرجة من الاختناق تكاد تلغي جميع جوانب الحياة السياسية وهذا بالطبع إجحاف في الوصف لحقيقة الأمور.
تعودت المعارضة السورية أن ترى الأشياء بألوانها المطلقة إما أن تكون سوداء قاتمة وإما بيضاء ناصعة، ونسيت أو بالأحرى تناست أن هناك أطيافاً متعددة الألوان تفصل بين الطرفين، وأن الحقيقة تكمن بينهما. فما بين المطلب الرئيس للمعارضة السورية في الديمقراطية بالحكم في سورية والتطبيق الفعلي له على الأرض، مسافات واسعة من الزمن يشغلها الإصلاح والتغيير لنظام حكم يعمل في الوقت نفسه على استيعاب متطلبات العصر والعالم وتوفير الأمن والسلام لشعبه دون أن يخلق هزة أرضية سياسية واجتماعية تذهب به وبالوطن إلى ظلمات الانشقاق والتمزق الوطني والحروب الأهلية وال !
راب المستأصل بما يحوطه من أقطار عربية.
لقد عانت سورية في السنوات الأخيرة من ضغوط سياسية إقليمية ودولية كادت تضعها في دوامة الحروب الإقليمية والأهلية التي تعصف بالمنطقة، ولكن توافق الموقف بين الشعب والسلطة عزز الوحدة الوطنية وأعطى الثقة للقيادة بالاستمرار بتلك السياسة الحكيمة التي أثبتت وتثبت اليوم أنها كانت وما تزال على صواب في الرؤية المستقبلية والإستراتيجية للوطن والمنطقة كلها. فاليوم تتمتع سورية بموقع أقوى مما كانت عليه منذ خمس سنوات، وأكثر انفتاحاً لها في الخيارات الاستراتيجية. فمنذ انتخاب الرئيس الأميركي باراك أوباما، وتغير سياسة الولايات المتحدة في المنطقة عن الإد !
رة السابقة من سياسة الخيار العسكري أولاً إلى الحوار والدبلوماسية، أصبحت سورية في مركز متقدم يدفعها نحو قيادة عملية السلام في الشرق الأوسط ونحو الإطار القومي العربي.
كنت قد أشرت في مقالة سابقة إلى أن سورية بلا شك تمر في مرحلة من التجديد والتغيير المستمر منذ سنوات، ومن يعود إليها من أبناء الوطن في زيارة من الخارج بعد غياب طويل لابد له من أن يلحظ تماسك وتطابق الموقف الوطني بين السلطة والشعب. وعلى الرغم مما تروّجه وسائل الإعلام المعادية للموقف القومي العربي تجاه القضية الفلسطينية والأراضي المحتلة لابد للمشاهد على الأرض أن يلمس الدعم الشعبي الحقيقي للمقاومة ضد مشروع الاستيطان والاحتلال الإسرائيلي للأراضي العربية المحتلة. أما على الصعيد الداخلي فمن غير الممكن أن يخفى على الزائر مدى الحب والإعجاب الشعبي ا!
لذي يتمتع به سيادة الرئيس بشار الأسد في الشارع السوري والعربي، وهذا ما يدفع المشاهد على الأرض لأن يتساءل عن مدى مصداقية ما يُكتب ويُنشر في صفحات ومواقع الإنترنت للمعارضة السورية في الخارج.
لا يمكننا التخلي عن التغيير والتجديد والمطلب الديمقراطي في الحكم في سورية، فهذه هي الضمانة المستقبلية والتركة الوحيدة التي تضمن الأمن والسلام للأجيال القادمة، وما تتمتع به سورية اليوم من مثال التعايش بين الطوائف والتوافق في الموقف الوطني بين السلطة والشعب يجب أن يكون الحافز الرئيس لتبني قيم التقدم والمدنية للوصول إلى تلك الأهداف النبيلة. ولكن علينا أولاً أن نثق بقيادتنا الحكيمة لأنها تعمل من أجل بناء هذا الوطن، ونسهم بكل إمكانياتنا في العمل إيجابياً في هذا البناء، فالوطن مُلك لأبنائه وأولاده الأبرار والمتفائل يرى الكأس نصفه ممتلئاً و!
يسعى ليملأ النصف الآخر.

بشار السبيعي عضو جبهة الخلاص سابقاً
صحيفة الوطن السورية الخاصة

Commentary: Death in Iran touches lives in Syria
McClatchy, By Layal Demashqi | The Institute for War & Peace Reporting

DAMASCUS, Syria; I cried when I saw the video of Neda Agha-Soltan, covered in blood after being shot to death in the streets of Tehran…..I feel she died not only for her country but also for my freedom.

Before the protests began, I had never even thought that people brave enough to protest like Neda existed in Iran.

It’s no secret that Syrians don’t have much in common with Iranians. For the older generation, it’s a religious issue: Most Iranians are Shias; the majority of Syrians are Sunnis.

And younger Syrians, especially the Westernized ones, are appalled by the numerous restrictive religious rules their Iranian peers are forced to abide by.

Syrian dissidents regard Iranians with disdain for supporting the regime in Damascus, as well as other extremist groups in the region.

To many Syrians like me, Iran is populated by angry men and women endlessly chanting “Death to Israel and America” and blindly following their religious leaders.

When we come across Iranians in Damascus, the women are usually draped in black and the men wear long beards.

So the fact that there are young Iranians willing to take to the streets and courageously face the security forces came as a complete surprise to us.

Today, I hear a growing number of people around me say that they couldn’t believe that Iranians could speak openly about freedom and act so bravely.

The protests in Iran have become the most important topic of conversation wherever I go in Syria. Some Syrians are saying, “We wish we were with them.” Many young Syrians feel a desire to support their peers in Iran, but have done so only via the Internet. They send messages of support, sign petitions against the suppression of the marches, circulate updates on the protests and join electronic support campaigns.

Even a political prisoner here who is serving two and a half years in jail for supporting democratic change, made a statement from his cell condemning the Iranian regime and praising the Iranian people.

This solidarity stemmed from the fact that freedom matters to people everywhere. Like Iranians, we see ourselves enslaved and oppressed.

Every young Syrian who has ever prayed for change in their country has been touched by the bravery displayed by the young men and women marching in Iran…….

Our hearts are with the Iranians. I hope when it’s our turn to demand democratic change that their hearts will be with us.

And I hope we don’t wait too long for that to happen.

ABOUT THE WRITER: Layal Demashqi is a reporter in Syria who writes for The Institute for War & Peace Reporting, a nonprofit organization that trains journalists in areas of conflict. Readers may write to the author at the Institute for War & Peace Reporting, 48 Grays Inn Road, London WC1X 8LT, U.K.; Web site: www.iwpr.net. For information about IWPR’s funding, please go to http://www.iwpr.net/index.pl?top-supporters.html.

Iraqis Stay Silent on Protests in Iran


No statements have been issued by Iraqi political parties that got their start in exile in Iran during the 1980-88 Iran-Iraq war. Although as many as 2,000 Iranian religious pilgrims enter Iraq daily, there have been no demonstrations, like the sympathy protests that have taken place from New York to Dubai….

أوباما يلغي الدعم المالي المقدم للمعارضة السورية!

داماس بوست

06/ 07/ 2009

قالت منظمة «فريدوم هاوس» الأميركية، في تقرير نشرته على موقعها الإلكتروني، إن إدارة أوباما رفضت تجديد الدعم المالي المقدَّر بخمسة ملايين دولار، لبعض المنظمات السورية غير الحكومية التي تعمل في الخارج، وفي مقدمتها منظمة «ثروة» التي يرأسها المعارض السوري عمار عبد الحميد (ابن الفنانة السورية المعروفة منى واصف). وقد أدّى وقف المساعدات الأميركية إلى اضطرار المنظمة لإغلاق مكتبها في واشنطن وتسريح العاملين فيه

Appropriations Bills Under Consideration

Today the House is expected to rule on the 2010 Department of State, Foreign Operations and Related Programs Appropriations Act (H.R.3081), which authorizes funding to expand State Department and USAID operations and oversight, funding global health and humanitarian assistance and supporting development, national security and counterterrorism capacities. Included in the legislation is the Democracy Fund intended “to promote democracy, including support for human rights, media, and the rule of law.”

In 2008, the Near East region experienced a period of political stagnation, with little significant democratic movement from a part of the world that has proven most resistant to democratic change.

The Administration has requested a substantial increase in GJ&D funding for the Near East from $309 million in FY09 to $328 million in the FY10 request, and requested funding in the area of Rule of Law and Human Rights is nearly doubled. Civil society would experience a significant cut in this budget, primarily due to a $48 million request decrease in Iraq from FY09 estimated levels. Individual GJ&D country levels are increased across the region in countries like ….Lebanon, which sees a GJ&D increase from $18 million to $27 million. These increases appear to recognize the difficult political challenges faced by these countries in the coming year. A sharp decline is requested in the West Bank and Gaza ($60 million to $42 million) and is due in part to inflated budgetnumbers in FY09 resulting from the U.S. response to the war in Gaza.

Debate over the Obama Administration’s democratization policies in the Near East region has been sharp. While Freedom House applauds the Administration’s financial commitment, we hope that the State Department will increase its efforts to diplomatically engage in the region on behalf of democracy and human rights activists. There are indications that some U.S. diplomatic missions do not share a common commitment to democratic activists for fear that these relationships would complicate relations with the host government and compete with other U.S. interests.

Despite the sharp cut in overall bilateral ESF funds for FY09, the Bush Administration had maintained democracy funding at a robust level of $45 million in Egypt. Unfortunately, the Obama Administration and the Congress cut FY09 funding for democracy and human rights by half to its current estimated level of $22 million. This led to dramatic reductions in the support provided to independent civil society activists in Egypt at a time of heightened pressures and restrictions on the more politically active groups and individuals within Egyptian society.

The reduction in assistance for democracy and human rights continues, with the Obama Administration requesting only $20 million for GJ&D in FY10. The Obama Administration should reassess this reduction in support and strengthen its diplomatic efforts on behalf of independent democracy and human rights activists in this important country. We were pleased to see that in the FY10 markup of the Foreign Operations Appropriations bill, the House of Representatives included a floor that would allow no less than $25 million to be spent on democracy support in Egypt.

While the Administration has requested substantial increases and robust funding for several countries in the region, there are noteworthy gaps in countries like Libya and Tunisia, where democracy funding has been zeroed out, and Algeria, where the commitment to democracy efforts totals less than $1 million. Civil society programming in Jordan also declines by $2.5 million, despite impressive gains made by groups working on minority rights and women’s issues.

Congress should address these shortfalls through the appropriations process. Within this region there are two funds dedicated to democracy support, the Middle East Partnership Initiative (MEPI) and the Near East Regional Democracy Fund. Both would receive substantial increases in funding through the President’s request and indicate sustained support to democracy and human rights actors in the region. It is assumed that this regional funding would support frontline human rights defenders and democracy activists in countries not slated for GJ&D funds in the Congressional Budget Justification, including Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Bahrain and Iran.

No USAID GJ&D funding was requested in FY10 specifically for the following countries: Bahrain, Iran, Israel, Kuwait, Libya, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Syria, Tunisia and the United Arab Emirates.

The Project on Middle East Democracy (POMED),
and the Heinrich Böll Foundation North America present:

FY2010 Appropriations and
Middle East Democracy

In May, the Obama Administration submitted to Congress the details of its first annual budget request for foreign operations, for Fiscal Year 2010. As the House and Senate now continue their debates over appropriations, POMED is pleased to announce the publication of a new report, The Federal Budget and Appropriations for Fiscal Year 2010: Democracy, Governance, and Human Rights in the Middle East.

What are the most significant changes in these portions of the budget request, as compared with the appropriations made in previous years? How does the budget impact US efforts to support democracy in the Middle East and North Africa? What does this budget tell us about the priorities of the new administration and its policy approach to the Middle East? And how are the appropriations made by Congress likely to compare with this request?

Please join us for a discussion of these issues with:

Stephen McInerney, Director of Advocacy, Project on Middle East Democracy.

Thomas Melia, Deputy Executive Director, Freedom House.

Marina Ottaway, Director of the Middle East Program, Carnegie Endowment for International Peace.

Moderated by Andrew Albertson, Executive Director, POMED

Tuesday, July 28, 2009
2:00 – 3:30 pm
Rayburn House Office Building, Room 2200

Comments (125)

Pages: « 1 2 [3] Show All

101. jad said:

I honestly can’t imagine how SC would be without men like you and Yossi in it, you two have so much good energy, it makes me happy just reading your words.
I wish that average Syrians can see that even in the middle of the darkness there is light and there is always good people who use their flame to lead us to safety.
God bless you, your families and any man and woman who knows the way and doesn’t stop marching toward it through all kind of obstacles they face.

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August 6th, 2009, 6:55 am


102. SimoHurtta said:

You seemed passed my comment on 45.
The story is not if it is 20 times or 5 times, the story is when national wealth drained on the level of GPD it is a dreadful situation no country can recover after that. The original comment was a reflection on the Baath party who is watching all this looting and still there is someone considers him as champion of good.

If you claim that the “story” is 20 times of the GDP so that 20 is the story. In your comment (number 45) you quote completely wrong GDP numbers to which I answered in the comment number 49. To your claim in comment 45 that the baathists are upset and asking for their share I have nothing to say, because I have no knowledge what Syrian baathist think, what is supposed to be their their share and how upset they are.

I did only say in my comments that your claim of 20 times of GDP to be made during a 30 years period is an absurd big “estimation”. I do not defend the regime (“family”) or the party (Baath). Nobody denies that there does not exist or had existed widespread corruption in Syria and other Arab nations. I can’t provide you or anybody else the with the correct number. The only thing I can say with “self-confidence” that the 20 times the GDP during 30 years is an absurd and impossible exaggeration. If you provide an exact number, which you did, it is your responsibility explain to sceptical readers on what you base your numeric claim. Not tying to pass the ball back. If you can’t defend your 20 timed GDP claim avoid using such exact claims and simply speak about “vanished” billions.

By the way the Finnish police has finished (just told in radio news) its inspections of the corruption in arms trades (artillery) between the state owned defence equipment manufacturer Patria and Egypt. Some Finnish businessmen are probably facing jail time, the Egyptian side who got the money hardly. 🙂

A link to the earlier developments of this sad “technology transfer”.

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August 6th, 2009, 7:43 am


103. LeoLeoni said:


You have stated:

“\”the opposition\” is full of crooks who would be just as corrupt if they manage one day to reach power.”

That is a grotesque generalization and an insult to a large proportion of Syrians who oppose the Baath party and the government policies. This is something very typical that we hear from Pro-Baath, government supporters, and the Arab ultra-nationalists who lash out at anyone who disagrees with their policy and are automatically labeled as traitors and agents.

“The Opposition” is not a monolithic entity. It is comprised of any independent individual, group, or party that opposes the government policy or the Baath party, because de jure and de facto they are intertwined. Between themselves, these individuals, groups, or parties may have a different vision, ideal, or political program, which in many cases are conflicting. You may disagree with all opposition, that is your right, but to label them as crooks and to assume that they will be just as corrupt once they reach power is abusive and not does not help any case.

Afterwards, Akbar stated that “I guess we’ll never know for sure” (if they will ever be as corrupt), and you reply
“We already know, we already know
Go google
the ikhwan (Muslim brotherhood)
Farid Ghadri
Mamoun Homsi
all bad news.”
1st, assuming these 4 individuals/group are as corrupt/crooks as you say, do they represent all opposition?
2nd, May I know what do you have on the ex-Parliamentarian prisoner Mamoun Homsi?
3rd, Are the Damascus Declaration for Democratic National Change also crooks/corrupt?

4th, What about those thousands of opposition political prisoners who were jailed for speaking their views, names like Riad Turk, Fidaa Horani, Riad Seif, Aref Dalila, Michel Kilo, Anwar Al Bunni?

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August 6th, 2009, 11:07 am


104. Akbar Palace said:

Excuses? It’s you who’s giving us every excuse in the book for why Israel should NOT make peace with Syria, with Hamas, with Hezbollah.


First you condemn everything Israel does. All the while, you find it difficult and nearly impossible to criticize the actions of terrorists and jihadists. So naturally you compare peaceful settlers in Efrat to Daniel “I Love Jihad” Boyd. I suppose Mr. Boyd and his family suffered greatly under Zionist Occupation™.

Then you compare your excuse-making of jihadists to my “excuse making” of Israel and “why Israel should not make peace”.

I’ll explain myself again at the risk of boring the readership here.

1.) I don’t know what Syria is offering for the Golan. If YOU know please list the details.

2.) Hamas does not recognize Israel per their anti-semitic charter.

3.) Ditto for Hezbollah.

4.) Israel is not going to unilaterally withdraw to the green line or the Golan. There is nothing “holy” about the green line and NO ONE with half a brain expects Israel to give up their claim to the Old City of Jerusalem.

What’s your “excuse”?

I am all for “land for peace”, and when I know the details, I’ll tell you whether I’m for it or against the “proposed” agreements.

It’s you who demands capitulation-first of your enemy. It’s you who has an explanation for why Israel has to Occupy the Territories and the Golan.

How am I for “capitulation first”? I’ve stated numberous times that everything must be implemented simultaneously. Certainly Israel shouldn’t withdraw before knowing what “peace” she gets in return. Why would you expect “captiualtion-first” from Israel but not the Arabs? Get real!

I have no excuses for any of those things. And it is me and my children that are paying the price for our “excuses”, not you.

OK, convince your countrymen that your way (Israeli “capitulation first”) is better than my way: negotiation.

From the safe shores of New Jersey, fox news links sure are cheap.

Don’t be afraid of my opinions, or Fox’s, or any other source. Just make a case that makes sense Habibi.

God bless you, your families and any man and woman who knows the way and doesn’t stop marching toward it through all kind of obstacles they face.



At least your opinions are welcomed by the readership here. And that’s no small feat.;)


cc: Yossi

BTW – You sort of side-stepped a number of questions that I asked you yesterday. Please use your intellectual, ethical and moral prowess to answer:

1.) How are the residents of Efrat more “racist” than the residents of any other Arab village?

2.) How is the government of Israel more “racist” than the Palestinian Authority?

3.) Should the GOI make any claims for the Jewish Quarter and/or the Western Wall? As you know, it is beyond “The Green Line”.

Kach Yom Tov


“”the opposition” is full of crooks who would be just as corrupt if they manage one day to reach power.”


I am certainly overstepping the bounds of my knowledge for arguing this point, but it seems as if Alex knows everything about Syrian politics.

I just feel that one can never know unless given the opportunity. Thank you for coming to my defence. Haven’t the Assads had enough time (40 years?).

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August 6th, 2009, 12:20 pm


105. Akbar Palace said:

Today’s Question:

Are the people at Human Right’s Watch as mentally deficient as they seem?

Rights group: Hamas “may have” committed war crimes


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August 6th, 2009, 12:30 pm


106. Yossi (AKA Rumyal) said:


I’d love to explain to you what is wrong about Efrat but unfortunately, and I hope I don’t sound too pompous here, I don’t have a lot of free time to do that at the moment, and I have to think how I apply my time in an optimal manner. I think that there is little value in debating you since I have yet to see you change your opinion on any topic. At the same time, there is nobody else here who could benefit from such analysis because everybody else knows how much the settlements are unjust and an impediment to reaching peace. But I’ve noted down to do some research in my blog (where I can include pictures and maps) to answer your question more fully.

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August 6th, 2009, 3:36 pm


107. Akbar Palace said:

At the same time, there is nobody else here who could benefit from such analysis because everybody else knows how much the settlements are unjust and an impediment to reaching peace.


Thanks, that’s fine. We’re all busy I know.

Let me just say that settlements never impaired signing a peace treaty. As you know, it is a myth. The peace treaty with Egypt is one such data point. Every time the GOI has asked settlers to leave, they go one way or the other.

That being said, if a settlement gets too large (Ariel, Maale Adumin, Efrat), it does make it more difficult. Yamit was a large settlement. That’s gone. The settlements in Gaza were not small; they’re gone too.

Israel now awaits further negotiation before leaving anywhere.

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August 6th, 2009, 5:07 pm


108. Alex said:



I definitely did not imply that all the opposition leaders, critics, and their supporters are crooks. “Full of crooks” means there are so many crooks.

The names I listed are all corrupt unethical politicians aspiring for money and personal power. They are also the ones who had the best chance to replace the current government system in Syria had the Bush administration’s efforts been successful in overthrowing the Syrian leadership.

The names you mentioned are the more respectable ones, and I have stated a thousand times my disappointment when Kilo and Dalileh for example were in prison. But Kilo and Dalileh were never going to govern Syria … and they were not the ones behind the energetic negative propaganda that was mostly coming from the crooks (Ghadry and khaddam and Homsy …)

What do I have against Homsy? … how about his meeting with Bush and Ghadry? .. how about his appearance on LBC to apologize for his majesty, the King of Saudi Arabia, on behalf of the Syrian people? then to tell us how great is Saudi Arabia and its wise king …

Here is Farid Ghadry telling us about his meeting with Mamoun Homsy “Why I admire Israel”


He is exactly the type of hypocrite and corrupt “opposition” that make me sure I prefer what we currently have.

Again, I am full of respect to many of the brave and patriotic figures in the opposition, and I am not impressed at all with corruption in Syria … a lot more can be done about it.

The starting point of my comment was to tell Trustquest how disappointed I was in seeing an intelligent man like him absolutely trusting anything he reads from anything “opposition” and refusing to trust anything from “the regime”… I made the point that opposition leaders are mostly corrupt politicians, just like the rest of politicians. We have to filter the propaganda coming from “opposition” sources and their websites and their friends… like Mamoun Homsy who many of you respect.

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August 6th, 2009, 6:53 pm


109. jad said:

Dear Alex,
I agree on every word you wrote in your last comment.
I want to add that we didn’t hear any voice of those who pretend being the opposition about what really matters in our lives, they are useless and opportunist.
Lots of crooks indeed!

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August 6th, 2009, 9:47 pm


110. Alex said:

Thanks Jad. All we heard from “The opposition” was generic pro democracy statements. That was the fashionable thing to say during the Bush administration’s years.

Here is Ghadry supporting Israel’s Golan bill:


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August 7th, 2009, 1:59 am


111. trustquest said:

Alex, it seems I’m an ignorant and I do not know as much as you know and I should stop reading from all sources and keep reading the government sources, because I easily get taken by any piece of information. Actually I did not bring any piece of information from any resource except the Syria News and government resources which I built on it the amount the looting the country has subjected to. What I was trying to point out that no country can function after embezzling that large chunk of money accounts to more than its GDP, it is impossible, and I thought this fact might inspire you and the government supporters to find solution otherwise, my stupid mind telling me that collapsing is imminent and I do not wish that to my birth place. Dalilah spoke of 100 billions dollars deposited outside the country by the year 2001, this number is a formula for disaster, if you like your birth place tries to highlight the danger it’s in and give solutions. I’m not talking about toppling the regime I’m talking about a system will collapse naturally if nothing done about it. Economy and oppositions is essential to the survival of any country in these times, thing can not be ignored for ever.

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August 7th, 2009, 2:12 am


112. LeoLeoni said:


There is nothing wrong with meeting the most powerful president of the world at a conference on Democracy and Security. Ghadry happened to be there and discussed various issues with Homsi regarding Democracy and freedoms. There is nothing wrong with sitting with other people and discussing various issues, even if they oppositely disagree on the principles. Politicians do that all the time, even with their enemies. The only difference is that transparent folks do it publicly, because they have nothing to hide, as opposed to our leadership who tries to do everything in secret, behind closed doors.

In addition, there is nothing wrong for calling on closer relations with a fellow Arab country like Saudi Arabia, a regional powerhouse and the most influential country in the Gulf and GCC. Why is it okay to praise the Iranians, including Khamenai and Ahmedinajad (Syria was the first country to praise Ahmedinjad in the last Iranian elections) and yet it’s frowned upon to praise other countries and their leadership?

You stated:
“Again, I am full of respect to many of the brave and patriotic figures in the opposition, and I am not impressed at all with corruption in Syria … a lot more can be done about it.”

The corruption can only be eradicated when there is transparency within the system. Transparency comes with freedoms, especially civil liberties and political freedoms. Since these are almost non-existing, thus, the corruption, nepotism, despotism, and political trials will continue to exist.

Many would rather discuss international relations than discuss internal issues. While they have all right to do so, one thing we must understand is we can never achieve much on the international arena without solving all those 30+ years of pending issues that deal with the political, legal, economical, and social problems within Syria.

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August 7th, 2009, 2:31 am


113. Akbar Palace said:

The “Olive Wood Camel Award” goes to none other than Leoleoni this morning (for his post above).

Your 100% olive wood camel will be mailed to you today and should arrive within 5-7 business days.

Here’s your UPS tracking number:


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August 7th, 2009, 12:48 pm


114. Nour said:


There is definitely something wrong with meeting a foreign president when you know what that foreign president’s declared intentions are toward your country. Any half-intelligent person knows that the Bush administration’s goal was the destruction of Syria, ala Iraq. And therefore, meeting with such figures and cheering such an agenda as a so-called “opposition” figure is quite disingenuous and debased. Moreover, what could he possibly have to talk about with Farid Ghadry when Ghadry positioning himself as a supporter of “Israel” against Syrian interests. This is not serious work to change the current situation in Syria but rather a spiteful reaction to quench a vengeful thirst.

As for the Saudi King, there is no reason why a Syrian opposition figure should be heaping praise on such a corrupt treacherous figure. Yes politicians and state heads meet with representative of different countries and forge relations with them because this is the nature of the world. Countries have to deal with each other. Yet it is also possible that relations sour between countries due to a divergence of interests, which was the case between Syria and KSA at the time. However, as a Syrian opposition figure, Mr. Homsy is not at this point in charge of forging ties with other countries on behalf of Syria, and therefore has absolutely no reason to place the Saudi king above his own country especially when that king had been working against Syria’s interest.

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August 7th, 2009, 2:01 pm


115. norman said:

Hi Nour ,

I saw this in the Comment section of Haaretz, you would like it,i think ,

Syrian President Hafez Assad once told PLO leader Yassir Arafat:
You do not represent Palestine as much as we do.
Never forget this one point: There is no such thing as a Palestinian People,
there is no Palestinian entity, there is only Syria. You are an integral part of the Syrian people,
Palestine is an integral part of Syria. Therefore it is we, the Syrian authorities, who are the true representatives of the Palestinian people.

Assad stated on March 8, 1974, “Palestine is a principal part of Southern Syria, and we consider that it is our right and duty to insist that it be a liberated partner of our Arab homeland and of Syria.”

In the words of the late military commander of the PLO as well as member of the PLO Executive Council, Zuhair Muhsin:

There are no differences between Jordanians, Palestinians, Syrians and Lebanese.
We are all part of one nation. It is only for political reasons that we carefully underline our Palestinian identity…yes, the existence of a separate Palestinian identity serves only tactical purposes. The founding of a Palestinian state is a new tool in the continuing battle against Israel.


I know it is difficult to accept so at least try to discredit the source or the poster 😉

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August 7th, 2009, 7:40 pm


116. Alex said:

11. trustquest said:

Alex, it seems I’m an ignorant and I do not know as much as you know and I should stop reading from all sources and keep reading the government sources, because I easily get taken by any piece of information.

Dear Trustquest:

“it seems”? .. from where? … All I was saying was that one should be suspicious when reading “opposition” supplied information just as one is usually suspicious when reading government owned publications.


I agree with Nour … it is none of Mamoun Homsi’s business to call an LBC program discussing internal Lebanese politics then to keep talking until they shut off his mic, about the virtues of the King of Saudi Arabia and about the mistakes of teh Syrian regime …

It was cheap … low, and silly. I’m sorry, but if his meeting with Bush and Ghadry were not enough to totally expose his character (an opportunist) then his phone call to LBC did it.

As for your other points you made, I agree with you to a large extent .. indeed, progress can be much more feasible if we had rule of law, transparency, and accountability. Too bad. I understand the challenges, but we are not doing enough at all.

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August 7th, 2009, 10:40 pm


117. Alex said:

They seem to be doing something about the environmental threat of plastic bags in Syria:


إطلاق حملة “لا لأكياس البلاستيك” للحد من تلوث البيئة في سورية

الاخبار المحلية

أطلقت وزارة الدولة لشؤون البيئة اليوم حملة وطنية وإعلامية حول مضار أكياس البلاستيك وانعكاساتها تحت عنوان لا لأكياس البلاستيك.

وقالت وزيرة الدولة لشؤون البيئة كوكب داية في بيان صحفي إن “المخرج الوحيد وتجنب الخطر المميت لاستعمال البلاستيك هو الإزالة التدريجية لاستعماله وإنتاجه واستخدام الأكياس القماشية والورقية وسلال القش ذات المظهر الجميل والصحي”.

وكانت الوزارة كشفت مؤخرا أن الملوثات الموجودة في دمشق فاقت الحد الطبيعي, لكن لعمل جار لوضع دراسات ترصد مواصفات وتطوير معايير التلوث ووضع الحلول المناسبة للحد منه.

وأضافت داية أن “الأكياس البلاستيكية إضافة إلى آثارها السلبية على الصحة فإنها تشوه البيئة وجمال الطبيعة وتسبب تلوث البيئة ونفوق الحيوانات حيث ينفق كل عام مئة ألف حيوان من الدلافين والحيتان والبطريق بسبب أكياس النايلون التي يتناولونها خطأ”.

يشار إلى أن هذه الحملة الوطنية تنفذ بالتعاون مع جميع الجهات الحكومية والجمعيات الأهلية التي تعنى بشؤون البيئة.

Some of you might remember that we discussed this issue on SC three months ago:


Aliens in the shape of plastic bags

I joined the I Hate Plastic Bags group on Facebook before the trip but now I have all the more reason for it. I have seen other countries where there is no concept of recycling or collecting plastic bags, where poor people use them as food containers for their daily rice or soup. One country where these bags just lie around after use was Vietnam. But Syria was a lot worse. In fact, of the many villages we drove through, not a single one was without a serious littering problem. The bags were everywhere, myriads of them. It is not just an aesthetic problem. These bags don’t rot for a long time, and sheep die after swallowing them. There seemed to be no serious trash problem in the cities. We even saw see garbage collectors. And little trash in the alleys. The cities were clean compared to how the countryside looked; especially the inner cities with the historic sites were being taken care of. But the countryside looked pathetic. Unfinished concrete houses, plastic bags, concrete, plastic bags, concrete, plastic bags. The few communal sites, like the roundabout we saw on the way to Dura with a fountain and the usual Assad father and sons portraits, looked like leftovers from the Soviet Era. It had this desolate look and seemed unused for decades. And of course full of plastic bags. I can imagine that a concept like communal effort (everybody get together and pick those bags up) does not apply to Syria but it does apply to the communist or socialist countries I knew here in Europe. Therefore, I don’t understand why Syria, being a tightly run one-party one-family country, can’t solve this problem. Everybody get up and pick up the trash. Invent a national trash-pick up-day. What’s the problem? Am I too romantic?

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August 7th, 2009, 10:46 pm


118. Akbar Palace said:

As for your other points you made, I agree with you to a large extent .. indeed, progress can be much more feasible if we had rule of law, transparency, and accountability. Too bad. I understand the challenges, but we are not doing enough at all.


What would happen to you if you held a large poster on the corner of some busy intersection in Damascus saying, “Syria needs fair elections, Syria needs progress”?

What do I have against Homsy? … how about his meeting with Bush and Ghadry? .. how about his appearance on LBC to apologize for his majesty, the King of Saudi Arabia, on behalf of the Syrian people? then to tell us how great is Saudi Arabia and its wise king …

If they are so bad Alex, let them run and be beaten by Assad?


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August 7th, 2009, 11:44 pm


119. trustquest said:

Plastic bags scattered across the land unfortunately is not because of the use of the plastic bags, it is because of the lack of standard land fill in any place in Syria and the lack of modern urban solid waste management system. Since the creation of municipalities the trash is sold outside the cities to the farmers and used as a fertilizer and some sheep and goat Bedouins who sell milk, find it a great source to feed the animals so they visit daily the trash piles around cities. I used to see them inside the city and around the trash piles as a normal scene and then see them move to the neighborhoods and sell milk fresh from the sheep or goat.

USA till now, could not find alternatives to the use of plastic bags even the research has been going on since the sixties. One of the stocks I owned promised green alternatives to McDonalds chains 20 years ago and they till now could not come up with the promised product.

The Syrian authority because of the priorities and because of the cash shortage can not come up with the real solutions to the waste removal and disposal or build a standard land fill (which everybody knows by now the consequences of over blown government bureaucratic system and scurity apparatus which they can not get rid of due to safety reasons), the authorities are an able to handle the tons of environmental, health, management and economic problems compiled through the years, so they encourage and cheer to any public participation which they find useful as a way of truing blame to the on public for shortfall of the government, regime, system becuae they can not blame the real perpetrators for and they can not point to where the real deficiencies are (cash). That is the reason why I mentioned the billions of dollars in foreign banks which is really like a human body needs 5 liters of blood to function and only has 1 litter and most of it going to one place.

The danger of re-using plastic bags in Syria is very serious things. I noticed in my last visit in 2006 that there are people (vendors) who come to trash pins ( pictures available, and Synews made report on this) collect the plastic bags for recycling = reselling them to the stores and to be re-used again and again. My advice if you see a shop owner using used bags, be careful for hygienic issues to yourself and your family and your loved ones. I had hard time where to buy trash bags and when I found the place the only bags I found was very dated black thick and without wrap.. Read the comments on this same subject : http://www.syria-news.com/readnews.php?sy_seq=99512

Plastic bags for the food reserve is not known in Syria yet, when my wife visit Syria she takes to her mom, zip bags, aluminum foil and clear plastic wrap, not to mention that public and shop owners can not afford them.

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August 8th, 2009, 4:44 pm


120. Alex said:


I wish we can see them run. But it is not my priority for now.

Completely unrelated item:

The (Kurdish) President of Iraq says he does not own any property in Iraq.. his home is an apartment he purchased in Damascus


يقع بيت الرئيس طالباني، وهنا كان علينا أن نتعود على لقب الرئيس كرديا باعتباره «مام جلال»، وتعني «العم جلال» وليس الرئيس طالباني، على سفح جبل، ويطل على جزء كبير من المدينة، البيت مؤثث بالأعمال الفنية التشكيلية من لوحات ومنحوتات، قالت زوجة الرئيس هيرو خان إنها تختار هذه الأعمال بعناية بالغة، اختيارات تنم عن وعي ومعرفة وفهم دقيق لموضوع العمل وبنائه وألوانه التي تتناسق مع كل ما موجود في البيت من أثاث ينم عن ذوق رفيع يجمع بين البساطة والجمال.

بروحها البسيطة وابتسامتها وحديثها الذي يوحي بالثقة العالية بشخصيتها، وعلى الرغم من بساطتها التي تلغي المسافة بينها وبين الآخرين، رحبت بنا صاحبة البيت، هيرو خان، سألتها إن كانت تفضل بين البقاء في السليمانية أو بغداد، قالت: «أنا أحب بغداد لأنني أمضيت فيها جزءا من حياتي ودرست في إحدى جامعاته، المستنصرية، لكنني أفضل البقاء في السليمانية لأشرف على إعالة منظمتي التي تهتم بالأطفال، وعلى العموم فأنا منذ تزوجت وحتى اليوم لا أعرف الاستقرار، سنوات متنقلة في الجبل، ثم بين دمشق والسليمانية، والآن بين السليمانية وبغداد، وهكذا».

قلت: «بيتكم يبدو جميلا»، ابتسم الرئيس طالباني وعلق قائلا: «هذا ليس بيتنا، هذا البيت مسجل في دائرة العقاري باسم الاتحاد الوطني الكردستاني، ولو تراجع دوائر تسجيل العقاري سواء في السليمانية أو بغداد، أو أية مدينة عراقية لن تجد هناك عقار واحد أو قطعة أرض مسجلة باسمي أو باسم زوجتي، نحن نملك شقة واحدة في دمشق اشتريناها عام 1975،

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August 9th, 2009, 11:00 pm


121. Alex said:

I would appoint Hoff as ambassador to Syria.


يستبق خطة أوباما عن السلام …هوف يزور دمشق خلال أيام لإجراء محادثات “مهمة”

تزامناً مع زيادة الحديث عن احتمال إطلاق الرئيس الأميركي باراك أوباما خطته للسلام الشامل في الشرق الأوسط، نقلت وكالة الأنباء الألمانية عن مصادر مطلعة مواكبة للعلاقات السورية الأميركية أمس عن أن السفير فريدريك هوف نائب المبعوث الأميركي للسلام في الشرق الأوسط السيناتور جورج ميتشل يعتزم زيارة سورية خلال الأيام القليلة المقبلة.
وأكدت المصادر التي لم تسمها الوكالة أن وفداً غير سياسي سيرافق هوف في زيارته إلى دمشق بهدف إجراء محادثات مهمة مع المسؤولين السوريين استكمالاً لزيارات سابقة قام بها ميتشل وهوف في الأشهر القليلة الماضية في إطار “خريطة طريق بين واشنطن ودمشق” كما اصطلح على تسميتها في وقت سابق.
وتدور محادثات مباشرة بين إدارة الرئيس أوباما والقيادة السورية من خلال ميتشل منذ عدة أشهر تشمل العلاقات الثنائية ومسارات السلام في المنطقة والوضع في العراق والأراضي الفلسطينية ولبنان والملف الإيراني.
واستبق هوف زيارة ميتشل إلى سورية الأسبوع الأخير من الشهر الماضي بمباحثات أجراها مع وزير الخارجية وليد المعلم.
وتناقلت بعض وسائل الإعلام خلال الأيام الماضية خبراً عن أن الرئيس أوباما بعث برسالة إلى الرئيس الأسد تتعلق برؤية أوباما لعملية السلام في المنطقة لكن لم تعلن أي مواقف رسمية من الجانبين بهذا الخصوص.
وتتزامن زيارة هوف مع معلومات أشارت إلى أن أوباما سيطرح خطته لتحقيق السلام في الشرق الأوسط مطلع أيلول القادم خلال اجتماعات الجمعية العمومية للأمم المتحدة.
ونقلت قناة المنار اللبنانية عن مصادر في واشنطن لم تسمها قولها إن استناداً لخطة الرئيس أوباما “ستبدأ مفاوضات مكثفة (بين العرب والإسرائيليين) تستمر من ثلاثة إلى ستة أشهر، على أن توقع اتفاقيات السلام في مدة أقصاها عامان”.
وأردفت: إن “المفاوضات يجب أن تنتهي بانسحاب إسرائيلي من الجولان والأجزاء المحتلة من الأراضي اللبنانية، وفي إطار اتفاقيات وترتيبات أمنية تشرف عليها الولايات المتحدة”.


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August 9th, 2009, 11:03 pm


122. Zenobia said:

Landfill is not a solution to anything. that’s what syria needs? some landfill of plastic and incineration fumes added to the already putrid air?… i think we could do better than that.

There is such a thing as biodegradable plastic bags. They are slightly more expensive than regular ones and not so easy to get just anywhere, but they DO exist.

I am still in favor of someone starting the pick up the garbage campaign…. who is going to do it…. I am still waiting…… since this subject came up three years ago!…

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August 11th, 2009, 6:18 am


123. trustquest said:

Zenobia, I do not like either those large landfills which stretch miles and go 50-100 deep emitting gas, building golf courses above do not reduce environmental impact. I don’t think they are suitable for country like Syria after building long experience and knowledge in this field but that was the technology available after the 50s that been adopted by most countries.

BTW, could you please name a brand of biodegradable plastic bags.
I know that some partially biodegradable degradable type of plastic bag exist but still not green enough to call them fully degradable, but that was not my point. My point is that Syria did not move into the planned urban solutions whilst its population increases many folds and stayed pedaling in place and kept the 50s thinking because state was not interested, they were busy with other things and problems piled not only in trash collection or sewer treatment.

When trash sold to farmers it should not be used before going into some type of process at least the removal of plastic bags or by grinding of the trash and some sort of treatment.
What ever effort you put in collecting these bags from the field you can not succeed because it’s renewable.

Petrochemical industries did not find its way to Syria yet and you wish state opened its doors to this type of industries it could have changed Syrian’s economy.
Municipalities laws remain primitives and not enforced and the results is what you see when you visit the any city and what worse than that is size of the unplanned communities especially in the capital because after the 70s, there was no control of any type.

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August 16th, 2009, 6:47 pm


124. jad said:

Landfills when exist or planed is not 100% bad, it can be used for producing electricity through the methane that comes out of the decompose of organic waste and that is actually if planned can help the environment by reducing the pollution and help in the electricity shortage we have in Syria, however, this solution needs more strict and more organized society than us.

I agree with you that in Syria there is no vision in any municipality/town/village of a real future plan for dealing with the collective garbage or having solution, we are still behind in that field and our environment is already hit the wall with major impacts on our health.
Regarding the plastic bag solution I think the Irish tax implementation on plastic bags was more effective than banning the plastic bag use altogether as we might implement one day in Syria since that ban may result in introducing bribery and give the police the baton they need to get more money from those small plastic factory owners to let them produce and not bother them for the ‘usual’ price.
The problem of plastic bags is global it defiantly worsen in the developing countries than the developed one, China already ban them but still has the problem, India is thinking of doing that but they will face the exact same problem we face. An introduction of new materials might be good as well as keeping the plastic bag collectors to do the collect and give them some refund by the government/the waste management companies as a solution to reduce the number of plastic bag in the country and destroy them in the best way possible.
I liked your idea of encouraging the petrochemical industries which will lead to a great future if the government adopt it.
That is the far I know about the subject, and I strongly believe that it is an extremely important subject that we need to educate our Syrian society about for the future and our government MUST do real work on that instead of running away and be blind on what is important as they usually do.

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August 17th, 2009, 4:49 am


125. trustquest said:

I have a personal question to you, I think Alex mentioned previously that you are a city planner; if that is the case could you please tell me what are doing in Syria?. I mean I don’t think you will find work in your profession, may be you do politic and that is fine, this way there is a reason why you are there. I’m serious in my question and not trying to be less respectable.
I believe there is no need for such profession and if there is a need they do not utilize such profession and that is what I’m trying to say about the political structure in Syria. I think there is no indication that they are going into that direction either. This political attitude is what is governing the administrative mind which has different priorities reflect on the live of the citizens and creating that chaos we see in the real world on all levels. The political system in Syria is not yet ready to delve into introduce “planning” of any sort since the political clout is larger than the public demand and voices which kept oppressed under the tyranny. Do you agree with me?

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August 19th, 2009, 1:26 am


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