Reactions to Revelations of Israeli-Syrian Unofficial Peace Negotiations

Here are some initial responses to the leaked story of second track Israeli-Syrian peace negotiations

PM: No government officials involved in secret Syria talks
By Haaretz Staff: Last update - 17:01 16/01/2007

Prime Minister Ehud Olmert said Tuesday that no government officials were involved in secret contacts with Syria, responding to a Haaretz report that understandings on a peace agreement between Jerusalem and Damascus were formulated in a series of secret meetings in Europe between September 2004 and July 2006.

"No one in the government was involved in this matter," Olmert told reporters in northern Israel. "It was a private initiative on the part of an individual who spoke with himself. From what I read, his interlocutor was an eccentric from the U.S., someone not serious or dignified."

The Syrian Foreign Ministry also rejected the report.

"No negotiations took place, the Haaretz report is completely false," a Syrian Foreign Ministry official said in Damascus

Official Israeli response to the report was more tentative.

"This is the first we have heard of the talks, we have never sanctioned anybody to speak to the Syrians and the prime minister first learned of these conversations through the newspaper report this morning," said Olmert's spokeswoman Miri Eisin.

An unnamed senior cabinet minister was quoted Tuesday as saying that there were no contacts between the two nations, and that the story was "a bluff."

"We don't know about this, and if this had happened, we would have known about it," Israel Radio quoted the minister as saying. "This is not serious. It's possible that there were contacts on the level of academics, it's possible that there were reports to officials on a low level. But it did not reach higher than that."

The minister dismissed the report as a "bluff," the radio said.

Former foreign minister Silvan Shalom said that he first learned of the talks by reading Tuesday's paper. He said the last contact Israel had with a Syrian representative was in 2003.

Dr. Alon Liel, a former director general at the Foreign Ministry, who took part in all the meetings, was quoted as saying that he had not acted the representative of anyone. Liel further declined to state whom he had informed of the meetings.

The radio quoted unnamed senior Israeli officials as stating that Israel is not holding contacts with Syria.

The officials referred to the sensitivity of the issue, in view of the opposition of Washington, Israel's main ally, to negotiations with the regime of Syrian President Bashar Assad.

"Syria is trying to topple the Siniora government in Lebanon, a government which the United States is trying to aid," the radio quoted one official as saying. "Syria streams terror elements to Iraq, where they operate against the United States military, Syria fosters [Damascus-based Hamas leader] Khaled Meshal, it transfers arms to Hezbollah, hosts headquarters of terror organizations, supports Hamas, and, in general, undermines any attempt to reach a [peace] agreement

A figure described as a very senior official in the office of then-prime minister Ariel Sharon was quoted as saying that "there was no reports to Sharon, there were no reports to his office, there was no connection between Sharon and Alon Liel, this never happened."

"This is absolute nonsense."
[END]

Akiva Eldar's comments on Olmert's denial: The denial / Assassination of a peace initiative

 

Uzi Benziman: Israel's refusal to give up the Golan will lead to war.  

 

Bushra Kanafani, the spokesperson for the Syrian Ministry of Foreign Affairs also insists the Haartz articles about peace negotiations are fabricated: “News about reaching ‘secret understanding’ for peace with Israel are fabricated”

A follow up article by Akiva Eldar in Haaretz claims that VP Cheney was kept in the loop about the second track negotiations

U.S. officials: Cheney was kept abreast of Israel-Syria talks

Senior American government officials received regular reports of the secret meetings that took place in Europe between a former Israeli official and a Syrian representative, Haaretz has learned.

Senior officials in Washington told Haaretz that U.S. Vice President Dick Cheney was kept in the picture about these indirect talks between Syria and Israel.

Ibrahim (Ayeb) Suleiman, the Syrian representative, also said this at his meetings with former Foreign Ministry director general Alon Liel, adding that Cheney had made no move to stop him from participating in the talks. Suleiman is a Washington resident.

A document that Dr. Nimrod Novik, a former political advisor to Vice Premier Shimon Peres, disseminated last October to members of the Council for Peace and Security also said that Washington knew about the talks. “While the administration is taking care not to broadcast a U-turn in its approach as long as the president has not given it an explicit green light, the signs of a change in direction are multiplying,” Novik wrote.

“During the fighting in Lebanon, former senior [U.S.] officials were authorized to speak with Damascus, within a narrow mandate, while Pentagon and State Department officials support a change in the policy toward Hamas and quote the president in this context.”

Geoffrey Aronson, of the Washington-based Foundation for Middle East Peace, who helped arrange the secret meetings, also participated last year in meetings organized by Alastair Crooke, the European Union’s former security envoy to the territories, with key Hamas and Hezbollah members.

These meetings, which took place in Beirut, were also attended by two former senior Central Intelligence Agency officials. Haaretz reported at the time that Cheney also know about the existence of these meetings, and received regular reports from the American participants.

Novik wrote that “during secret talks via a third party a few years ago, the Syrians already demonstrated much more flexibility than they did at Shepherdstown on matters such as the pace of the withdrawal, implementation of normalization and creative solutions (’a peace park’) for the area north of [Lake] Kinneret. Then, too, it was Israel that refused direct, official talks.”

The Shepherdstown talks were formal Israeli-Syrian negotiations started by Ehud Barak’s government.

Meretz-Yahad Chairman Yossi Beilin said in media interviews Tuesday that the European mediator in the secret talks was Nicholas Lang, head of the Middle East desk at the Swiss Foreign Ministry.

Lang also played a key role in organizing the Israeli-Palestinian meetings at which Beilin and Yasser Abed Rabbo drafted the Geneva Initiative, their proposal for a final-status agreement between Israel and the Palestinians. Liel, who was the driving force behind the secret meetings with Suleiman, is one of the people closest to Beilin.

Raviv Drucker, of Channel 10 television, reported last night that Lang met not long ago with Shalom Turjeman, Ehud Olmert’s political adviser, and presented him with the draft. According to Drucker, Turjeman told Lang that Israel has no interest in the understandings. Drucker also said that Lang visited Damascus several times during the talks, met with Syrian FM Farouk Shara, and reported that he believed the Syrian leadership genuinely wanted a deal.

Camille-Alexandre Otrakji, Director of The Syrian Think Tank, wrote me:

Amazing story. Akiva Eldar had a very productive week in Madrid!

But I am not surprised to hear that the Syrians had to settle for this type of channel. Given the hard line official positions of Israel under Mr. Sharon (and Mr. Netanyahu before), Syria had no option but to seek indirect channels through influential Jewish businessmen. Other examples, Jack Avital, close friend of prime minister Sharon and leader of Syrian Jews in New York. Imad Moustapha convinced him that Syria is serious about peace … but it did not seem to change Mr. Sharon's public positions.

In the 90's, Mr. Netanyahu's refusal to publicly negotiate with Syria also forced the Syrians to seek another Jewish millionaire’s help (I can’t remember the name, but I think he was friend of the British prime minister)

But I have some reservations on the parts where Syria supposedly committed (verbally or in writing) to this back channel to 1) get rid of Mashaal and Hamas, and 2) to cut ties with Iran in favor of sunni direction (as the story says) .. I think this is a distorted version of what the Syrians offered. They are much more careful than that. Remember how the Syrians refuse to even speak to Israeli journalists … they don’t commit to anything in advance.

Helping Hizballah turn into a political party is more realistic.

As for Israeli right-wing governments .. I don’t understand their motivation to go through these exercises. At the end they don’t seem to go for it … I think they just want to keep this option (Peace with Syria) an available open option in case they need to go for it. But Israel is still not decided … Is Syria worth the “painful concessions”?Egypt (the largest Arab country) was a much easier decision for Mr. Begin at the time … Egypt was worth the price for peace. Syria’s value is a more complex variable that they don’t know how to evaluate… Syria, through these secret meetings hopes to help Israel in estimating Syria’s considerable significance to Israel.

Imad Moustapha, Syria's Ambassador to the US, said Syria had repeatedly called for diplomatic talks with Israel.
"We want peaceful relations with Israel, but also not in a sell-out way," he said. "We want dignified relations with the United States, but also not in a sell-out way."

As for Lebanon, the ambassador said he was concerned by news of continued domestic turbulence in Beirut.
"The situation is very tense in Lebanon – they need a national coalition."

Hizbullah leader Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah said this week that peace anytime soon between Israel and Syria was unrealistic. In an interview with Kuwaiti newspaper Al-Anba, he said "the American government will not allow the [Israelis] to negotiate with Syria."

Reinoud Leenders just published this short and excellent article, "Israeli-Syrian Negotiations – An observer’s view of lessons and prospects"

Farid Ghadry – Reform Party of Syria
Alleged Deal with Israel is a Mirage

Washington DC, January 16, 2007/Reform Syria Blog – Farid Ghadry/ — Haaretz reported today that a deal has been struck between Syria and Israel. The article details secret talks that have been conducted since 2004 with the tacit approval of Ariel Sharon.

The planting of this news item today, even though the supposed negotiations were halted in July 2006, was intended to coincide with the new US Iraq policy determined to stop Syrian and Iranian interference in Iraq. This leak is simply an attempt by Israelis who support Assad to impose themselves on the Olmert government the way the Iraq Study Group tried to impose itself on the Bush administration.

This latest attempt is one of desperation on the part of Assad. He is looking through his crystal ball and what he sees makes him worry. The Syrian economy cannot be sustained for long at this rate of decreased oil revenues and increased isolation. Even Iran will not be able to foot the bill because it has to maintain a certain military readiness that is exhausting its treasury.

The US policy of isolating Assad is working like a charm as witnessed by Assad's desperate moves. He will have no choice but to quit his violent policies and open Syria for real reforms. Keep the pressure up. 

An Alawite businessman who has worked assiduously with Jewish counterparts to get peace talks started wrote this very negative reaction to the peace proposal. His reaction was typical among many Syrians and helps explain why Foreign Ministry officials denied it:

Even though I am a polite person, and do not use such words, my politest response to the Israeli who proposed the draft agreement below is:  go fuck yourself.

Syria will not accept any condition on how it uses its rightful land, such as enforcing a park or any other stupid and insulting ideas like these.  This foxy idea by the Israelis is intended to deprive Syrians from inhabiting the land so close to the border, and therefore depriving them from using resources like water in the region, all that while Israelis can build new settlements right at the border.

The same thing applies to all the other stupid ideas like having a monitoring point controlled by the US in the  Mt. Jabal El-Sheikh.

This is not negotiations, this is trying to make fools of the Syrians, and Israel must learn the true meaning of land for peace before anything positive can take place.  I am truly more pessimistic right now.

My advice to the Israelis is to make sure that whatever they put in a proposal for peace should apply on both sides.  So if they want to have a monitoring point commanded by the US in the Golan, they must allow an Iranian commanded monitoring point inside Israel.  If they want the Syrians to have a freeking park in our land, they MUST have the same on their side of the border.   If they want a demilitarized zone in the Golan, they must have one on their side of the border, etc.

Until then, there shall be no peace and no improvement of the situation.  Let us see how long it will take, and how many lives and bloods will be wasted.

David W. Lesch, Trinity Univ.

Syria

One of the priority recommendations of the Iraq Study Group report released in early December was for the United States to re-engage in a dialogue with Syria. This would be part of an overall diplomatic initiative in the Middle East that would re-start negotiations on a variety of fronts leading ultimately to that elusive comprehensive Arab-Israeli peace, all of which would have serendipitous repercussions (from the U.S. point of view) for the U.S. position in Iraq, and it would by default diminish Iran’s enhanced influence in the region. According to this line of thought Syria is a keystone. It goes something like this: with Syria engaged in peace negotiations with Israel amid an improved diplomatic environment with the United States, both Hizbullah and Hamas could be more effectively emasculated, which would in turn lessen Teheran’s ingress into the Arab-Israeli arena, improve the chances for a final Israeli peace agreement with a more moderate Palestinian negotiating partner, and loosen the ties between Syria and Iran. In addition, Syria would be held to a higher standard in terms of more energetic efforts by Damascus to stem the inflow of support for Iraqi insurgents crossing over the Iraqi-Syrian border, thus helping U.S. efforts to stabilize the deteriorating situation there.

There was a great deal of hope in Damascus that the combination of the Iraq Study Group report with the Democratic victory in both Houses of Congress in the 2006 midterm election would compel the Bush administration to finally give up its clear objective of isolating, if not overthrowing, the regime of Syrian President Bashar al-Asad. It was thought—and not just by those in Damascus—that Syria’s presumed added leverage from its self-professed victory by proxy through Hizbullah in the Israeli-Lebanese conflict this past summer along with the deepening U.S. quagmire in Iraq would result in Syria’s reintegration into the Middle East diplomatic paradigm. This would improve Syria’s position in Lebanon (as something of a trade-off for re-starting negotiations with Israel), allow Damascus to acquire a voice in the diplomacy regarding Iraq and overall break-out of its diplomatic isolation regionally, and, finally, get the Bush administration off of its back and take it seriously. This was apparent the last time I met with Bashar this past July during the Hizbullah-Israeli conflict. I asked him how he felt about President Bush’s off-hand expletive regarding Syria that was recorded during a luncheon at the G-8 summit in June. Rather than expressing anger, Bashar immediately said that it was a good sign, i.e. the president of the United States was actually thinking about Syria for a change rather than ignoring it. Bashar seemed to be on the precipice of returning his country to the more cooperative relationship with the United States that existed in the 1990s.

Not so.

The Bush administration has made it clear in recent weeks that it will not re-open a dialogue with Syria along the lines recommended by the Iraq Study Group. Quite to the contrary, there are numerous reports that the Bush administration has embraced with renewed vigor the idea of regime change in Damascus. It will utilize Syrian exile groups and regional allies to isolate and pressure the Syrian regime as well as ensure that Syria does not “win” in Lebanon through the political empowerment of its Lebanese allies. Bush administration officials want to split Syria off from Iran, but rather than attempt to do so through diplomatic engagement with a willing Bashar, it means to do so by removing him and putting in power someone more amenable to U.S. designs. There is little hard evidence to suggest this is imminent, but with this administration, where there is smoke there is often fire, and administration ideologues have long had a monopoly on the relentless U.S. policy toward Syria. Anything less would appear, from this administration’s point of view, to be rewarding Syria for its perceived hostile policies.

If true, this would be pure folly. Beyond the fact that the U.S. has few assets to utilize in any attempt to effect regime change in Damascus, including the divided and de-legitimized Syrian exile groups, even if this was the right thing to do, would anyone really entrust to this inept administration such a complex and delicate task? Israeli officials certainly do not want it because it would most likely lead to another Iraqi mess on their doorstep. Logic dictates that the Bush administration could not possibly be thinking along these lines, but ideology often trumps logic, and moral absolutism buries compromise; therefore, such nonsense must be quashed before it becomes a reality. Many now wish there was the political, academic, and media wherewithal to deter an ideologically driven policy toward Iraq in 2003. History doesn’t have to repeat itself.

For Bashar, he will now probably return to his wait and see approach regarding the United States, meaning staying alive until a new U.S. administration comes to power that may be more amenable to a dialogue and will not ask Syria to give up all of its perceived assets before negotiations on any front begin. In the meantime, he will attempt to implement real and much-needed economic reform, consolidate his gains in Lebanon, an environment in which Syria is well-placed and has the motivation to again defeat the United States there, and continue to send out peaceful signals toward Israel in the hope that an Israeli leader will have the gumption to crawl out from under U.S. pressure and explore Syrian intentions. It could be a very dull 2007 regarding Syria—or, indeed, very dramatic.

David W. Lesch is professor of Middle East history at Trinity University in San Antonio, Texas. His most recent publications are ‘The Arab-Israeli Conflict: A History’ (Oxford University Press, 2007), ‘The Middle East and the United States: A Historical and Political Reassessment (Westview Press, 2007), and ‘The New Lion of Damascus: Bashar al-Asad and Modern Syria’ (Yale University Press, 2005).

 

Comments (53)


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1. MSK said:

Dear Josh,

I don’t know in which universe that “Alawite businessman” is living, but (1) he obviously hasn’t read the draft, (2) he has absolutely no clue of the Assad-Rabin negotations and the details of the almost-signed deal there, and (3) he is out of touch with the reality in the Middle East.

Maybe the ascendancy of Iran and that Hizballah “victory” last summer have gone to his head.

Or maybe he’s just pissed that Ibrahim Suleiman gets to be famous and not him.

Very bizarre “response”.

–MSK

http://www.aqoul.com

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January 17th, 2007, 9:24 am

 

2. Joe M. said:

First off, I want to say that I agree 100% with the “Alawite businessman who has worked assiduously with Jewish counterparts to get peace talks started.” This person is absolutely correct and I am glad that Dr. Landis put these comments up.

But, in any event, it doesn’t matter because it is now absolutely clear that this was not a serious deal at all. The most obvious evidence of this was this little statement from the article about Cheney:

“Meretz-Yahad Chairman Yossi Beilin said in media interviews Tuesday that the European mediator in the secret talks was Nicholas Lang, head of the Middle East desk at the Swiss Foreign Ministry.

Lang also played a key role in organizing the Israeli-Palestinian meetings at which Beilin and Yasser Abed Rabbo drafted the Geneva Initiative, their proposal for a final-status agreement between Israel and the Palestinians. Liel, who was the driving force behind the secret meetings with Suleiman, is one of the people closest to Beilin.”

HAHAHAHA as if these people have any influence in what happens in Israel. They are good propaganda to give the impression of positive developments, but nothing more. So, this “deal” can be put to rest right now. We can forget about it without a second thought. it was nothing but an academic exercise. Please, add it to all the volumes of work done in every conflict-mediation class in western universities…

Lastly, I want to thank simohurtta for your continued willingness to defend serious economic views, and not simply allow the neo-liberals to dominate the discussion. I am sorry i have not helped more, but these debates tire me out. I will try to help more in the future when i see that you are the lone voice of reason on these issues.

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January 17th, 2007, 9:44 am

 

3. 3antar said:

A park, demilitarized zone, access to water for Israel, and US check points….
Ok, so let say these plans materialize. How is it suppose to benefit Syria as a govt, as a country, as a population or a ruling family? Does anyone here believes that the Syrians will stomach such deal? Does anyone dismiss that such form of selling-out wont feed into underground extreme groups, and fundamentalist currently spreading in Syria, waiting for the right moment become active, similarly to the 80s? this is a recipe for disaster in my opinion. so whats being suggested here is a scenario where Israel would continue to have an unstable authoritarian run system on its door step. using oppression as a tool to protect and meet the requirement of the so called “peace treaty”. Does the west honestly believe that such a Syrian govt can truly survive and co-exist with its neighbors? and if it did, for how long? This isnt a “salam”, this is “istislam”. I can tell you, that reaction on the street wont be pleasant. Bashar certainly does have a much higher level of popularity than his father. no doubt about it. and there is a sense of “ana u ibn 3ammi 3ala el ghareeb”, But that can easily get reversed out of proportion with such a deal. It wont show in the short run, but it will be brewing. I think every syrian recognizes that to a certain extent.

Another scenario is out right confrontation with syria. From an optimistic western point of view, result will be achieved within days which is complete capitulation of syrian army. hense following the example of Iraq in terms of anarchy and deluded powerless puppet government. Is Israel prepared to share borders with such a Syria?
Perhaps Israel should just invade the rest of Syria. Not sure how realistic that is.

On a different level. I keep reading about economic crash and so forth. has anyone here ever lived or visited Syria in the 80′s? Are you telling me things now are worse? I find that hard to believe based on first hand experience. I argue the 80′s being far worse economically, yet by some miracle, survived it. (ya khaio,fi3lan, Suria alla 7amiha! ;))
How does anyone explain the shopping spree Bashar went on in Moscow? Not being an economist or someone that indulges with economic technicalities, the basic facts are there. If Syria cant benefit financially from a deal with Israel PLUS secure public approval and continued stable rule of the Baath party, all at the same time, then might as well just stay the course and shop for more arms, perhaps from china this time. West must realize that one cannot fight fire with fire, and more importantly, your worst enemy is one who’s got nothing to lose.
http://news.independent.co.uk/world/middle_east/article2160384.ece

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January 17th, 2007, 11:36 am

 

4. Akbar Palace said:

Joe M said:

“… I am glad that Dr. Landis put these comments up.”

It would be nice if, one day, Professor Josh would post some REAL news instead of conjecture and articles based on “informed sources”.

Half of the “stuff” on this website is conspiracy theory. Syria is no closer to making peace than they are at introducing a multi-party general election.

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January 17th, 2007, 12:19 pm

 

5. 3antar said:

who says Syria needs a multi-party general election at this moment? What would that achieve? For a democracy, there needs to be predicates. What Syria needs at this moment is justice and unity more than any time before. Democracy would not work. It would collapse instantly just as Weimar Republic did.

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January 17th, 2007, 12:34 pm

 

6. MSK said:

Antar,

First of all, no “US checkpoint”. (From where did you get that idea?)

Second, the benefit for Syria is that it could (1) scale down its military spending and use the money for civilian projects (an argument often used by the Syrian gov’t), (2) have the foreign blockade opened, (3) receive massive Western (most likely EU) money for projects to bolster the peace (like in Palestine after ’93), and (4) have regained full sovereignty over 100% of its land.

Making sure that the Jordan river isn’t blocked upstream is as important for Israel (& Palestine, btw.) as having the Euphrates not being blocked by Turkey is to Syria.

As for the Syrian gov’t, such a deal would bolster Bashar & Co., as he will have been the one having gained the Golan back, and not under a worse deal than the one his father had, in principle, agreed on. The big question is if then – with the Israeli threat gone – Bashar can translate it into economic & social prosperity for all Syrians.

As for your 80s vs today argument: Back then the Soviets supported Syria massively. And even now, I do wonder if those Russian weapons are paid for with Syrian money or if there are Iranian loans.

I found the recent Iranian-Venezuelan initiative to establish a kind of IMF/WB alternative quite interesting. On the other hand, the Iranians are more and more questioning why their president is giving lots of money to foreign countries when their own situation is not improving … So that Iranian help might not last for long.

–MSK

http://www.aqoul.com

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January 17th, 2007, 12:41 pm

 

7. Ford Prefect said:

3antar,
You are making valid points and raising interesting questions. I happen to agree with you that any peace with the Israel can only last if it is construed to be fair and legal by the Syrian population. If Sadat did get all of Sanai minus an inch, Egypt today would still be dealing with war and peace issues. It is not the inch or the kilometer that matters to the Syrians as much as the principal of a dignified deal. One can argue that the Arabs attacked, the Arabs cannot be trusted, or why should Israel give back anything forever, but at the end of the day if Israel prefers to have peace with its neighbors and protect itself form the rise of extremisms, it needs to hand back all of the occupied territories. Alternatively, it can certainly keep ignoring that simple fact and continue on its current path of military confrontation, regimes destabilization, and war mongering. But if that path has not worked for 60 years of trying, I am not sure it will ever work at any time. And I am not sure how much more can the Israeli public stomach such a path – let alone the US or the world. Israel must have a soul searching mechanism to reach out and exercise a leadership role in peace as much as it did for war. Israel too is fighting extremism within its own population. Many Israelis have yet to recover from the murder of Rabin by Jewish extremists.

No country is immune from extremists and no country is immune from using extremists to advance its national agenda. The US used them successfully to drive the communists out of Afghanistan and the Central America. Syria is not an exception to the rule.

3antar, well written comment man. Thanks for the thoughts.
FP

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January 17th, 2007, 12:50 pm

 

8. Innocent_Criminal said:

I am not sure the Syrians will be against a SMALL PART of the Golan designated as a park if its administrated by the Syrians and legally declared Syrian land. People have had enough with this war and would probably be happy with such a compromise over a technicality if it’s accompanied by SOME water rights (I don’t think the Israelis would ever agree to full water rights).

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January 17th, 2007, 12:56 pm

 

9. 3antar said:

IC, true people are tired of this war. but we’re also tired of being slapped in the face time and time again.
The syrians are still expected to “compromise”? is that because there is no other choice or is it because its the right thing to do?
which one is it?
is there anything left to compromise?
A Park? 7dee2a mu? lak aaakh bas. so this is called “regained full sovereignty over 100% of its land” what about Skandarun? should we compromise with that too? or perhaps not bother mentioning it all together. Is it not enough that the French did us the big favour of dividing the entire region and carving bits out of others and declaring them countries?

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January 17th, 2007, 1:10 pm

 

10. MSK said:

Antar,

just out of curiosity: if a region in today’s Syria would overwhelmingly (say, over 80% of the inhabitants) VOTE to declare independence & leave Syria … would that be ok or not?

I am not saying that there is such a region nor am I referring to Iskenderun (we all know that Turkey rigged that vote & the French had no problems with that).

I’m just curious what your concept of “Syria” is.

–MSK

http://www.aqoul.com

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January 17th, 2007, 1:37 pm

 

11. Mo said:

MSK, don’t get started..

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January 17th, 2007, 1:51 pm

 

12. Ford Prefect said:

Regardless of the Anglo Franco mistakes of splitting up the region irrationally based on their economic interests at the time, 3antar is raising a valid point. What constitutes a sovereign and an honorable peace to most Syrians is what matters. Whether it is the suspended gardens of Eden or a falafel stands, in order for Israel to receive full, secure peace in return, Syrians must be convinced they have received what they know is theirs in the first place. What they do with it afterward is secondary. It is a matter of national pride and identity, not real estate haggling. Short of that peace, we will be back at square one.

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January 17th, 2007, 2:22 pm

 

13. MSK said:

Dear FP,

I completely agree with you and Antar on that matter. Which is why I called that multi-national land swap idea of a few posts ago completely ridiculous.

Only an agreement accepted by the citizens of Syria is a lasting one. And that means the complete withdrawal of Israel to the pre-67 line.

Mo,

“Don’t get started” with what? It’s a legitimate question. What’s your problem with it?

–MSK

http://www.aqoul.com

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January 17th, 2007, 2:31 pm

 

14. 3antar said:

MSK,
im not going into duel into the different forms of democracies that can or should be implemented. you can pick an area like Kamishli and take the residents votes. what do you think the outcome would be? even better, if you take the Scottish or welsh vote over independence.. guess what the result would be.
“An ICM/Sunday Telegraph poll in November 2006 said 52 per cent of Scots favoured an independent Scotland. The poll also suggested that 59 per cent of English voters also support independence for Scotland.”
http://www.politics.co.uk/issuebrief/domestic-policy/scotland/scottish-independence/scottish-independence-$366563.htm
you can end up with infinite number of states. mid east map looks bad as it is.

But to get answer your question. In my opinion, the concept of Syria for Syrians should be the return of Golan and Skandarun rightfully to the original side of the border. without being dictated how to use it, upholding regular border controls as any other corner of the country. is it too much to ask? are we trespassing here? please tell me. that would be a serious step towards peace and that would shut fundamentalism up and everyone calling for the return of khilafa. who by the way, are increasing in number as they see it the only way out of this hell. providing them with doctrines of Unity and Justice. not compromise and salvaging leftovers.I would like a modern secular Syria who can host people from all walks of life and denomination and sects. But by taking the wrong turn, Syria could turn into Iran.

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January 17th, 2007, 2:49 pm

 

15. MSK said:

Dear Antar,

I am not “duelling” and I wasn’t talking about “different forms of democracies that can or should be implemented”. I was just curious on what you base your concept of Syria. Nothing more.

And it seems to me (please correct me if i misunderstood you) that when you say “Syria” you mean the Syrian state in its pre-1938 borders.

What, in your view, makes that area “Syrian”, as opposed to, say, have also Jordan/Lebanon/Palestine/Israel be part of Syria?

–MSK

http://www.aqoul.com

PS: I personally don’t care about where a border is as long as it is there by consent of all people involved. So, if Scotland is independent or not makes no difference to me, if that’s what the Scots want. “Right of self-determination of peoples” is easy … until we try to find out who gets to be a “people” and who doesn’t.

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January 17th, 2007, 4:04 pm

 

16. Innocent_Criminal said:

3antar.

Alexandretta is long gone. even the syrian government recognized it was turkish not too long ago. But what makes that region different than the Golan. is 1) internationally Alexandretta is Turkish just as the Golan is Syrian. So Damascus was forced to agree to international law on land to claim the other. 2) The ingabitants of Alexandretta have long considered themselves Turkish while Arabs in the Golan remain loyal to Syria.

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January 17th, 2007, 4:19 pm

 

17. 3antar said:

Dear MSK,
Yes you understood me right. I was referring to the pre 38 borders as those borders are the most relevant to modern state syria. Going beyond those borders, then the issue becomes an ideological one. How can we claim or even dream of a greater syria or nation, in which its occupants would or might WANT to be part of if we cant even keep hold of the current area plus the Golan and Skandarun only. Areas which are in fact rather insignificant in comparison with “Jordan/Lebanon/Palestine/Israel”. that would only be achieved via strict criteria and attractive levels of prosperity. We probably wont live to see it. the ambitions have to be proportional and realistic some what.

As for “Right of Self-determination”. Are you sure that members of our society or any society for that matter are capable or possess the will of Reason and rational to make an informed decision of that dimention? Dont you think Constituency Representatives should be the ones who take on the responsibility of being part of a referendum? Presuming of course that those representatives are educated(can do more than read and write), and have their community’s interest at heart.
Is your average Joe, shawi, dia3ji, zabbal,or fallah able to make an informed decision? Im not saying their opinion is negligent, but how reliable could it be? but i think you recognize what i mean hense: “until we try to find out who gets to be a “people” and who doesn’t.”

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January 17th, 2007, 4:36 pm

 

18. 3antar said:

dear MSK,
out of interest. what is your concept of Syria?

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January 17th, 2007, 5:00 pm

 

19. Alex said:

Syria now

Haaretz Editorial

Since the end of the second Lebanon war, Jerusalem has received a flood of messages from Damascus about Syria’s desire to resume negotiations with Israel. Akiva Eldar published a document in Haaretz yesterday that summarized a series of understandings reached via a secret, informal channel under the auspices of a European foreign ministry. Those involved in the secret meetings do not claim they constituted negotiations, or that the document binds the Israeli government or even represents its positions. However, the official European representative visited Damascus a few times and met with senior Syrian government officials, and received confirmation that the stances presented by the Syrian representative, Ibrahim Suleiman, had the blessings of official Damascus.

The document, which was drafted last summer, evinces a Syrian willingness to compromise over Israel’s security needs and water concerns. A degree of flexibility was also evident in Syria’s positions on the timetable for evacuating the Golan Heights. The parties found a creative formula to bridge the gap between Syria’s demand that Israel withdraw from the Golan Heights to the June 4, 1967 lines and Israel’s insistence on retaining control over use of the Jordan River’s headwaters and Lake Kinneret: A park would be created for joint Syrian-Israeli use in a buffer zone along the Kinneret, and this park would cover a significant portion of the Golan. It was also agreed that the territory on both sides of the border would be demilitarized, with the Syrian demilitarized zone being four times as large as the Israeli demilitarized zone.

The meetings’ participants say that in the context of a peace treaty that would include United States and United Nations guarantees, Syria would promise to work to turn Hezbollah into only a political party, stop its support for terrorist organizations and also help promote a permanent agreement between Israel and the Palestinians. The Syrians even hinted that an end to America’s boycott of the Assad regime would reduce their dependence on Iran. No responsible Israeli government can allow itself to refrain from making an effort to examine Assad’s intentions in-depth.

On the eve of her visit to the region, U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice declared that all the parties involved in the Middle East conflict should be involved in efforts to resolve it. Nevertheless, the Bush administration opposes removing Syria from the “Axis of Evil,” and therefore Rice once again skipped Damascus. One can understand Prime Minister Ehud Olmert’s reluctance to bypass our American friend, who is leading the international fight against Iran’s nuclear program. Nevertheless, in light of the involvement of two American citizens in the European channel, Olmert is obligated to determine whether the U.S. is indeed a barrier to negotiations with Syria. If this is in fact the case, the prime minister must make an effort to persuade President Bush that removing Syria from the region’s cycle of violence is an Israeli and American interest of the highest order.

Yet Olmert’s response to publication of the document that was agreed on in the secret talks creates the impression that Israel is frightened by the peace signals coming from Damascus and prefers to frighten the public with Syrian threats of war. This creates the suspicion that the prime minister is making cynical use of America’s position to avoid a genuine examination of Syria’s intentions.

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January 17th, 2007, 6:11 pm

 

20. MSK said:

Dear Antar,

in answer to your questions:

(1) until we try to find out who gets to be a “people” and who doesn’t. – I actually meant something else. If “French” and “Spaniards” get to have a state for their “people” or “nation”, then why not the Basques? If the Turks and Arabs get to have their own countries, then why not the Kurds? We could actually go further and say, why not the Druze? Or the Maronites? Or … the “Sha’b al-Furat”? Or … the Bekaaites? Or the Aleppines? (I’m trying to stay in the region.)

This doesn’t have to do with education level, but with identity and sense of belonging to a certain linguistic or religious group, or a territory.
When we look at modern nations (actually, “nations” are all modern) then we see that they base themselves on language, perceived kinship, religion, territory, shared history (however mythological) or a combination of those.

Had the Ottoman province of Mosul (where Kirkuk is) not been included in Iraq upon British insistence but, according to the original Sykes-Picot agreement, been part of post-WW1 Syria … well, then now the people in the region would be Syrians.

Habit is a force of its own.

In 1920 there were no “Palestinians”. By the late 1930s there were. Things change.

National self-perception is very powerful, which is why it is inconceivable for most Syrians, and Iraqis, and Lebanese … and French, and Germans, and Italians etc. … to have a part of “their” country split off.

(2) what is your concept of Syria? – I have two concepts of “Syria”. One is the modern state of Syria its internationally recognized boundaries, i.e. the ones with which it became a (founding) member of the U.N. in 1945, with the understanding that the Israel-Syria border is the pre-67 armistice line. And should those borders change at some point (on the basis of an international treaty), then so be it.

The other one is … walks through the old city of Damascus in late spring when the vine leaves turn the streets into green tunnels, cherry kebab in Aleppo, home-made Araq in the mountains, Munir Bashir playing in the car, the smell of the suq, and pics of the holy trinity (Father, Son, and Holy Ghost) everywhere.

–MSK

http://www.aqoul.com

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January 17th, 2007, 6:19 pm

 

21. MSK said:

Dear all,

I obviously forgot to close an html tag. Yet another reason why I miss a “preview comment” function on this blog …

–MSK

http://www.aqoul.com

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January 17th, 2007, 6:20 pm

 

22. John Kilian said:

The peace plan laid out might fair better under the next Israeli govt. Olmert has two feet in his political grave, and nails are being hammered in his coffin at a torrid pace.

Can anyone say who might lead the next Israeli govt?

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January 17th, 2007, 7:03 pm

 

23. MSK said:

Dear John,

as I said it before, my money is on Tzipi Livni.

But then, maybe it’s wishful thinking: She’s the one pushing the peace talks with Syria & is otherwise also more reality-based than Olmert, Lieberman, etc.

–MSK

http://www.aqoul.com

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January 17th, 2007, 7:19 pm

 

24. Ash Dave said:

Could the appointment of General Moshe Kaplinsky to replace General Dan Halutz indicate a shift in priorties for the Israeli government? Appointing a Golani Brigade member initially appeared politically motivated. A move to appease Chief Likud Hawk Ben Netanyahu, his brother Yoni (who led the Raid on Entebbe and was killed)was also a member of the Golani Brigades.
After a little more consideration and with rumours of ‘secret’ negotiations with the Syrians beginning to surface. Can we possibily infer that Israel is preparing for a ground war in Lebanon to eliminate Hizbollah? Who better to lead the army than a Golani Brigade veteran in those circumstances.
The wild card is Syria’s response. The Syrians may be willing to let go of Lebanon and Hizbollah. The price would be high, perhaps even the return of the Golan and unrestricted access to Lebanon’s ports, and the lifting of all International sanctions. But this may be a strategic oppurtunity for the Syrians to get out from under their current “pariah-state” status. Syria’s relationship with Iran may not be as strong as the Syrian Leadership’s instincts’ for survival. The only protection the Iranians can provide Syria is a place under an Iranian Nuclear umbrella. This reality appears a few years away if news reports of problems within the Iranian Nuclear program are true. After all, the Syrian relationship with Hizbollah is contradictory to the nature of a Baathist State. Therefore, the relationship may largely be one of being a logistical middle-man to the interests of Iran. With the Sunni/Shitte civil wage threatining in Iraq. The time might be right for the Syrians to re-think it’s strategic interests in the region.

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January 17th, 2007, 7:31 pm

 

25. Jad said:

Reinoud Leenders: “Instead, disarmament [of Hizbullah] is more likely to be achieved when the international community helps to address the structural causes of this organization’s armed ‘resistance’ agenda..”

Can somebody explain what are “the structural causes” please? Thanks

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January 17th, 2007, 8:19 pm

 

26. Rancher said:

Jad

“[T]he structural causes of this organization’s armed ‘resistance’ agenda” can be deduced from its manifesto which calls for:
• Eradication of Western imperialism in Lebanon,
• Transformation of Lebanon’s multi-confessional state into an Islamic state,
• Complete destruction of the state of Israel

The structural causes would therefore be the existence of Israel and the Confessional system of government that Lebanon has. Get rid of those and Hezbollah will disappear.
The ISG recommendation that we negotiate with Iran fell on deaf ears in my case. Talks with Syria however…maybe. I’ve not made up my mind although what I’m learning on this site makes me lean towards giving it a try. Not my call however, but I don’t think any US administration would want to publicly hinder any Israeli peace efforts. If Israel and Syria could reach some agreement that stops Hezbollah’s attacks that would be fine. What I fear the result would actually be is a new Gaza in the Golan, but if Israel thinks it is worth the risk it’s their country. Others like Amarji lead me to believe Assad is not sincere but call his bluff anyway. Maybe if Assad does as Professor Lesch believes and “implement[s] real and much-needed economic reform” then maybe that will give him a little credibility. It seems to me to be a bit late to go back to the hopes we first had when son replaced father but hope springs eternal. I wonder though if Syrians will accept any restrictions on what they see as their land and if not what guarantees can they give Israel that the Golan won’t just become another launching pad for Iranian rockets.

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January 17th, 2007, 9:48 pm

 

27. majedkhaldoun said:

the alleged negotiations between Syria and Isreal,first I do not believe it,second if it is true ,it will hasten the collapse of the regime,it is not something acceptable to us ,some may approve it,but it equivalent to treason,Iskandarone is different, Turkey is just like syria,but Isreal is our eternal enemy,history tells us,that those who cooperate with the zionist,evil,devil driven entity,will be defeated,just like those who worked with the crusaders,in the past,they were defeated,I am trying to be polite,but in my heart, are words , I better not say them.

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January 17th, 2007, 10:07 pm

 

28. Jad said:

Rancher, dear neocon, thank you very much, but no thank you. Any other (not sectarian) explanation?

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January 17th, 2007, 10:17 pm

 

29. Rancher said:

Majedkhaldoun reinforces what I said in the last thread, should Assad negotiate a peace deal, even if it meant getting the Golan back, he would probably suffer the same fate as Sadat.

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January 17th, 2007, 10:43 pm

 

30. Ehsani2 said:

majedkhaldoun,

“Turkey is just like syria,but Isreal is our eternal enemy,history tells us,that those who cooperate with the zionist,evil,devil driven entity,will be defeated,just like those who worked with the crusaders,in the past,they were defeated.”

These were your words. Explain this to me:

Is Turkey different because they are fellow Moslem?

Is it therefore more acceptable to have your land taken by other Moslems than by Jews or Christians?

Why are you using the word crusaders rather than referring to them as Christians and westerners?

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January 17th, 2007, 11:13 pm

 

31. Joe M. said:

JAD,
Here is an extended quote from Nasrallah’s victory speech. Translated by the BBC.

I tell you, while we are in the resistance festival, that this is the natural key to tackling the issue of the resistance. Here we come to the issue of the weapons and to those who are dying to resolve this issue. I tell them: Don’t tackle the results. Come and let us tackle the causes. I am not after slogans, but logic. Argue with us on the basis of logic.

The resistance is the result of several causes – the occupation, the arrest of prisoners, the plunder of waters, the threat to Lebanon, and the attack on Lebanese sovereignty. These are the causes. Tackle the causes and the results will be tackled easily.

When we build a strong, capable, and just state that protects Lebanon and the Lebanese, it will be easy to find an honourable solution to the question of the resistance and its weapons. I would like the Lebanese to hear clearly. I and my brothers get excited sometimes and say all kinds of things. Let us speak with some responsibility. We do not say that these weapons will remain forever. And, it is not logical for these weapons to remain forever. There is bound to be an end to them. The natural key is to tackle the causes and the results will disappear.

Come and build a strong and just state, protecting the country and the citizens and their livelihoods, waters, and dignity, and you will find that the resolution of the resistance issue will not need even a negotiation table. It is a great deal easier than that.

But, what is happening now? Instead of the Israeli leaving Shab’a Farms, he is extending the strip northward. Instead of the Israeli resolving the problem of the border points, he moves forward to Al-Khiyam and Marwahin. Instead of our benefiting from our legal right to the Al-Wazzani River, the Israeli builds pipes to steal the water. Is this how to protect the country and its resources?

Therefore, any talk about disarming the Resistance – to some people the word “disarming” is a bit heavy; fine, how about surrendering the resistance weapons? Any talk about surrendering the resistance weapons under this state, this authority, this regime, and the existing situation means keeping Lebanon exposed to Israel so it can kill as it wants, arrest as it wants, bomb as it wants, and plunder our land and waters. We certainly cannot accept that.

We did not fight since 1982 so that … [change of thought] You know the youth in the Resistance. They spent their entire youthful years in the Resistance. They did not live a life of prosperity, ease, extravagance, or calm. Some of them spent 24 to 25 years in the Resistance. The Resistance will not end while Israel is still occupying our land, violating our honour, undermining our security, and plundering our waters and resources. Never! I swear to God.

This is the only natural, logical, reasonable, responsible, and patriotic option. As for the other options, I want this big rally, which is attended by these good and kind faces, and this public that comes from all of Lebanon’s communities and areas and many political trends and parties; I want to tell them: Wagering on ending the resistance through pressure, threats, and siege is a losing wager. Wagering on ending the resistance by dragging the Resistance into sedition with the Lebanese army, as some people think, is a losing wager. The army and the Resistance are two dear, loving brothers that no one can separate. Those who wager – and I am not talking about the inside; it can be the outside or the inside, take it as you like, whoever is behind the wager – on disarming the resistance through a new war, Israeli or otherwise, I refer them to Livni, [addressing the
audience] you know Livni, right, and Peretz. I refer them to these two persons; the foreign minister and the war minister, to hear from them,
as well as from former Defence Minister Moshe Arens, the strategist, a clear sentence, and I repeat it for them to hear. They say: We wanted
to dismantle Hezbollah as a whole, but we have found out that there is no army in the world that can dismantle such an organization. [Cheers]

I tell them: No army in the world can make us lay down our arms. No one can do that, so long as these loyal and brave people believe in this Resistance. I am not threatening with arms. I am wagering on this people who embrace the Resistance. I am wagering on that old, noble
woman, who stood among the debris and said: My house in Beirut was destroyed and my house in the south was destroyed, but we are for the Resistance and the Resistance weapons. Several others said: if Al-Sayyid Hasan surrendered the weapons, he would be a traitor. I tell you: I pledge you, O our brave, loyal, and great people, I do not
aspire to end my life with treason, but with martyrdom. [Cheers]

Therefore, all these wagers are losers, because there are people in Lebanon and a resistance in Lebanon that reject occupation, humiliation, and despotism and are ready to sacrifice themselves and their beloved sons for the sake of their country. Yes, today, Lebanon, and without exaggeration, is no longer small in the Middle East. It is a great power with your support. The West and Israel take it seriously and the oppressed in the world view it with respect, appreciation, and pride.

Therefore, let me end this point by saying – so that no one will continue to worry – we do not want to keep the weapons forever. I reiterate, as in the past 25 years, these weapons are not for the interior. They were not used in the interior and they will not be used in the interior. This is not a Shi’i weapon… [words indistinct] and the Christians. This weapon is for the Sunni, Druze, and Shi’i. This weapon is for all the Lebanese. It seeks to protect Lebanon, its sovereignty and independence. I pledge you that the identity and endowment of this weapon shall remain as it is. This is a pledge before God, the nation, and the martyrs.

Therefore, the key is, come and let us build a just, strong, resisting, proud, honourable, and clean state. If this objective is too big, and so that we will not remain in theory, let us go straight to the subject. We will not stand today and say: Whoever has failed in the test has failed and whoever has succeeded has succeeded. We will not speak this way. I will say: Come all, no matter how we differed, competed, and matters were difficult between us on the psychological and political level. We are in a real impasse in Lebanon now. No one can say, we are a majority, nothing has changed, the country is proceeding well, and everything is fine. This is not correct.

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January 17th, 2007, 11:39 pm

 

32. norman said:

Ehsani, I think Turky is diffrent from Israel in few simple facts ,one is that turky is sixty milion and Israel is six milion second the people of Iskandarone do not seem to care to belong in Syria , Turky has been around for hundreds of years while Israel has been here less that a hundred year ,Turky can fight a long war Israel can not and yes for Syrians it is easier to fight an non moslem state than to fight a muslem one it is just reality and it clever for Syria to chose it’s wars, The crusades did not come to the midleast to save the christians or the jews , they came to occupy the land , The Moslems recocnised that and that what kept many christian Arabs in the Midleast untill Israel forced the christian Palestinians out ,thanks to America it is making the rest of the Christian Arabs hated by their fellow Moslems.

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January 18th, 2007, 2:21 am

 

33. norman said:

Syria has to decide between peace with condition that will give Israel the water it needs and with peace that will give back the Golan to 1967 border the jenoerous Syria will give the water that Israel needs without hesitation as Syria never bombed Israeli cities even when Israel attacked Damascus during the 1973 war and Syria will always help others as it did to the Iraqies ,the Palestinians and the Lebanese ,The option for Syria is to prepare for a long term war ,If Syria does not show Israel that it is ready to fight for the Golan and act on that notion then Syria is better of making a deal and keeping the future for the next generation ,we should remember that the crusaders stayed in the midleast for more than a 100 year and had many peace treaties with Arabs but when the the Arabs and Moslems became strong they pushed the Crusades to where they came from the west.

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January 18th, 2007, 3:15 am

 

34. majedkhaldoun said:

Ehsani;
I have visited Itanbule,Ankara,and Adana,seven times,I discussed politics with many turkish people, I felt that they are similar to us in many ways,their religion(mosslems),their habits,and their food,I walked in their cities, I felt I was in Damascus,we in Syria and turkey has a long common history,I am sure you noticed names in Syria of Turkish origin, the same many syrian are in turkey,when Bush decided to invade Iraq, the turkish people demostrated in the streets,against the invasion,they refused to use turkey to invade Iraq,the goverment refused.
the crusaders invaded the middle east,it is true that Saladin liberated Jerusalem,but it Started with Imad ad dean Zengi Whos father Sanqar Hajeb was ottoman,(his mother was Ida from Austria).yes being Mosslems is a major plus.
Me just like you ,have no problems with our dear friends the christian or jews,we coexist with them for centuries,but when they come as invaders from afar,kick us out,kill us,wanting to dominate us,and tell us lies,such as their civilization is better than us,it hurt our dignity,they killed a lot of us,look what the zionist did in Dair yassin,or Sabra and Shatilla,only to mention few example,Qana is not far from us,the crusaders and the zionist are murderers,their civilization is inferior to us,I feel very strongly that Isreal is the cause of all evil in the Arab world,they are the one that cause miserable life to the palastinian,they cospire to push Bush to invade Iraq and cause the death of hundreds of thousands of Iraqi,they destroyd Lebanon they even have nuclear weapons,why do they need it,none of the arab countries has it.
Alex is a christian, we love him, we are not against christians or jews we are against invaders.

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January 18th, 2007, 4:09 am

 

35. Alex said:

Thank you Majed. Very kind of you.

I share with you the opinion that Syria should have free trade with Turkey and should be in an alliance similar to, or stronger than, the one it has with Iran.

I am glad that trade with Turkey is growing at a very fast pace. Aleppo will surely benefit.

But Majed, I have two hypothetical questions:

1) If tomorrow, Muslim Jordan (with its American/Israeli Allied King) took part of southern Syria … would you still be tolerant to that scenario the way you are to Turkey’s annexation of Eskandarun?

2) If Turkey’s current Islamic government lost the next elections (it will one day) and a new much more secular government (maybe even led by a Jewish or Alevi prime minister) would you still be blindly comfortable with the country?

What I am leading to is … not all “Muslim” countries are “good” or are “really, 100% Muslim” or are trustworthy allies … for example, you know how many of them today are American puppets.

Again, today’s Turkey, led by an Islamic party, is one of my favorite friends of Syria. Btu there is no guarantee that automatically comes with the general “M” label.

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January 18th, 2007, 6:58 am

 

36. simohurtta said:

Is term Western / Christian better as Crusader? There is no western or Christian widespread support for USA’s and Israel’s actions in Middle East. Those nations which sent troops to Iraq did it against the public opinion in their countries. The East European countries did it for money and promised US military aid. The right wing governments + one leftist of Europe which sent troops, did it to show their “spiritual” alliance with USA. Many of those right wing governments have since lost in the elections, mainly because of Iraq. Anyway the coalition was collected by lies, bulling, diplomatic pressure and money.

Now when the USA’s democracy teaching, originally WMD “hunting” in Middle East is extremely unpopular also in USA, the Crusader term is even better describing than Westerns / Christians.

Israel’s policy is not supported by the West or Christians. Only a small part of the Westerns and Christians supports it. We can see it in the UN voting. Europe’s especially Central Europe’s possibilities in condemning Israel’s policy are limited because of the past history. It is morally rather astonishing, that Israel is able to use past bad treatment against them to be able to conduct in present times bad treatment against others. Especially when the “others” had nothing to do with the past events.

As a summary my opinion is that Crusader or in the maximum Anglo-American is the right “term”, but not Western and Christian. Western and Christian people want Israel to make fast a justified peace and USA to stop its aggressive policy in Middle East.

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January 18th, 2007, 7:08 am

 

37. 3antar said:

Pressure on Olmert grows after general quits

http://news.independent.co.uk/world/middle_east/article2162863.ece

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January 18th, 2007, 8:47 am

 

38. aussamaa said:

One helluva of a Secret Document !

Akiva Eldar is a very vocal critic of Iareali ploicies. A respected anti-establishment columnist. Could some one have set Akiva Eldar up for a nasty fall with such a “leaked document” that has been on the back burner for years. Years that witnessed the disintgration of Iraq, the Syrian pullout from Lebanon, the Harriri assasination, the Hamas victory and the July war in Lebanon(notice there was a meeting during the July war!). The Syrian and Israeli leaderships must be coooool fellows to keep taking to each other during such rough times. And Did the US Administration know or not. And did anyone else know or not?

The whole thing, apart from being contradictory, one-sided, and an Israeli wish list- smells fishy. Especially as it had attracted “local” attention only. Fruits of the efforts of the newly inagurated ISSG, or simply a Lone Ranger prospecting and exploring new horizens. Or is Israel telling every one: See, we are trying and the Syrians are responding positively. Despite all.

Very clever, inconsequential and fishy.

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January 18th, 2007, 12:06 pm

 

39. ugarit said:

The big difference between Turkey and Israel, mostly is that Israel follows an exclusivist and non-assimilationist doctrine. In other words, there is no proactive movement to assimilate non-jews as part of Israel. While Turkey is assimilationist. One has the opportunity to be a full fledged “Turk” if you are willing to fully assimilate into the “Turkic” way of life. That’s why it’s easier to tolerate and be more peaceful with Turkey.

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January 18th, 2007, 12:18 pm

 

40. Ehsani2 said:

majedkhaldoun

“Alex is a christian, we love him, we are not against christians or jews we are against invaders.”

Let us suppose that Alex was not against who you call the “invaders”. Let us assume that he favored close ties to the west. As you know, some (if not many) Christians do. Would you also have liked him?

Do you only, therefore, like Alex-type Christains who demonstrate their affinity to Moslem and Arab causes against those of the west?

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January 18th, 2007, 12:35 pm

 

41. Gibran said:

Umm… Jordan occupying Southern Syria. I admit you never fail to inspire me with your great strategic scenarios for the ME, Alex. Not a bad idea, I’d say Majed. Weren’t the Hashemites responsible for liberating Damascus from the Turkish Yoke a century ago? Considering the current circumstances let’s get rid of the new Iranian Yoke by handing Southern Syria to the Hashemites. On the other hand this could be another means for liberating al-Golan. Israel would have little problems negotiating with a Jordan/Syrian regime compared with the problems it has now with the one currently in place in Damascus. Congratulations, Alex, you are a true visionary and I really mean it! Economically speaking speaking, it would be a great relief to the southern Syrians who will be so lucky to become Jordanian/Syrian(s). Many, Many more benefits remain to be reaped, I’m sure!

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January 18th, 2007, 2:01 pm

 

42. Ehsani2 said:

U.S. President George W. Bush has
“lost control of the situation” and should have committed more
troops to Iraq and sooner, Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki
told Corriere della Sera.
Bush’s criticism of the Iraqi government’s handling of
Saddam Hussein’s execution shows “he’s buckling under the
pressure at home” and that his position in Washington is
“weak,” al-Maliki told the Italian newspaper in an interview
yesterday in Baghdad.
In a national address on Jan. 10, Bush announced he would
deploy 21,500 more soldiers and Marines to Iraq. He said this
week that 2006 was a “lousy year” for Iraq and the U.S.
involvement there. Bush also said he takes responsibility for not
moving more troops into Baghdad after the February bombing of the
al-Askari mosque in Samarra, one of the holiest Shiite shrines.
“The situation would be much better if the U.S. had sent
more troops right away,” Maliki told the newspaper.

(AP)–Syrian President Basher Assad is “very interested” in
reopening peace talks with Israel, according to a former Israeli Foreign
Ministry official who had contacts with Syrians for more than two years.
The official, Alon Liel, said the Israeli government was aware of his
activity, which involved eight meetings with Syrian envoys abroad. The final
session occurred during last summer’s Lebanon war, he said.
“It’s very clear to us that Assad wants to talk,” said Liel. “This doesn’t
guarantee in any way an agreement. But for several reasons, not all of them
clear to us, he is very interested to launch negotiations.”

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January 18th, 2007, 2:13 pm

 

43. simohurtta said:

One could ask you Ehsan2

Do you only, therefore, like Ehsani2-type Muslims who demonstrate their affinity to Western causes against those of the Moslem and Arab?

I personally, like hundreds of millions other Westerners and Christians, consider it insulting when the US and Israeli leaders in their speeches and comments refer to West, western and Judeo Christian values. Like the whole Western world would stand united behind them. It doesn’t and it never had.

George Bush,Ariel Sharon and their sole-mates do not represent western and Christian values. If they would the Palestine problem had been solved long ago and USA would send peace corps and no trigger happy soldiers to help underdeveloped countries instead of waging wars, building walls and running concentration camps.

Let us also remember that the late Pope and all other major Christian leaders were against Iraq invasion. Also the polls in the West show that USA and Israel are seen by Christians and Westerners a bigger danger to world peace as for example North Korea
http://www.guardian.co.uk/usa/story/0,,1938434,00.html
http://www.guardian.co.uk/israel/Story/0,,1076084,00.html
http://www.csmonitor.com/2006/0615/dailyUpdate.html

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January 18th, 2007, 2:27 pm

 

44. 3antar said:

I second that suggestion of Jordan Southern Syrian union. in fact, i dont see why norther Syria should be excluded.
I say all of Syria should be part of this.
but then technically, this would be the beginning of “Greater Syria”

Although, i don’t see how that would make Israeli negotiations any different. The only reason Israel had no problems with Jordan was because the Hashimite bent over for them (Tobazu). so the Hashimite would have to go im afraid.

I like it… Jordan/Syria… something totally unexpected.:-) no one would ever see this coming. Soon Lebanon wouldn’t resist. Don’t you agree Gibran? its all to benefit of Israeli negotiations after all.

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January 18th, 2007, 2:29 pm

 

45. Ehsani2 said:

SimoHurtta prefers the word crusaders to western/christians. Towards the end, he introduces the Anglo/Americans as the real problem. Somewhere between crusaders and Anglo/American is the best way to define our region’s main problem area according to him.

I take it that the French are now okay?

Let us go back to Majedkhaldun:

“but when they come as invaders from afar,kick us out,kill us,wanting to dominate us,and tell us lies,such as their civilization is better than us,it hurt our dignity,they killed a lot of us……..the crusaders and the zionist are murderers,their civilization is inferior to us”

If this is not a clash of civilizations, I don’t know what is.

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January 18th, 2007, 2:39 pm

 

46. Gibran said:

Let’s stick to Southern Syria for the moment 3Antar. It is easy to negotiate the Golan after that. It won’t be much different than the Shaba’a farm scenario on the Southern Lebanese border.

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January 18th, 2007, 3:15 pm

 

47. John Kilian said:


George Bush,Ariel Sharon and their sole-mates do not represent western and Christian values. If they would the Palestine problem had been solved long ago and USA would send peace corps and no trigger happy soldiers to help underdeveloped countries

When former Republican Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich went on national TV a few weeks ago he derided the incompetence of the the State Department in the rebuilding effort in Iraq. There does seem to be a misguided reliance on military might on the part of the US in its dealings with the MidEast. Part of this stems from a devolution to a culture of immediate gratification versus long term endeavors. You can send in the troops to Baghdad and in a month hoist the “Mission Accomplished” sign. But if you want to build a stable, long lasting relationship with countries with whom you are not currently on unfriendly terms it takes quite a bit more patience and finesse.
I am sure a lot of American policy makers are quick to dismiss the Peace Corps as a feel-good operation, but the effectiveness of military operations in Iraq has realized no benefit just because the follow-up to the 2003 invasion left the Iraqis unemployed and lacking basic necessities.

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January 18th, 2007, 3:29 pm

 

48. majedkhaldoun said:

Ehsani;
it is not a clash of civilizations,civilizations do not clash,but they interact,the clash is between people who intend to dominate others,and spread their will,and hegemony,and the people who are dominated,napoleon wars,WWI,WWII,are not civilizations clash.
Islam(quran)never advocated war to spread Islam,it was the desire of the kings (Khalifa)of the Islamic empire,to have more real estate,it was contrary to the teaching of Islam,which teaches convictions and believes,not the use of force.
I do not know Alex personally,but from what I read in Syria comment,and even if he was pro west,I would still admire him and love him.
Christians are not enemies,do you remember Faris al Khouri,he was good man.
Alex;
as for your first question,I do not think that the syrian mind if jordan take over syria,but they mind the use of american or british troops,and they will resist them,I want to remind you with Sharif Hussein children,took over the Levant 1n 1918.
One important point,I believe that the ottoman empire,protected the levant from another crusaders war, and as the ottoman empire collapsed,now we see, france, british ,and now american colonialization of the Levant and the creation of Isreal,so Turkey is a natural leader of the middle east.

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January 18th, 2007, 4:17 pm

 

49. Alex said:

Yoav Stern, In Haaretz

Alon Liel: Israel rejected Syrian bid for wartime talks

By Yoav Stern, Haaretz Correspondent and The Associated Press

Syria is serious about resuming peace talks with Israel and even proposed holding secret high-level talks during the war in Lebanon last summer, which Israel rejected, retired diplomat Alon Liel said Thursday.

Israel’s leaders quickly distanced themselves from reports leaked by Haaretz earlier this week that former Foreign Ministry director general Liel held unofficial talks with a Syrian.

Liel, going public for the first time Thursday, said he briefed government officials every step of the way. He said he believed his counterpart, Syrian-American businessman Ibrahim Suleiman, also had channels to the Syrian government.

“Our testimony is that it is very clear to us that Assad wants to talk,” said Liel, referring to Syrian President Bashar Assad.

Liel and Suleiman were brought together by Geoffrey Aronson, head of the Foundation for Middle East Peace in Washington. Eight meetings were held, Liel said, including several reportedly under the auspices of the Swiss.

Liel would not say who his hosts were, but said he believed they used their own diplomatic contacts to check whether the messages coming out of the talks were reaching the Syrian government.

The last meeting took place in late July, during the Israel-Lebanon war, Liel said. On that day, several Israelis were killed by rockets fired by the Lebanese Hezbollah militia, which Israel says is backed and funded by Syria and Iran.

“It was a very difficult day, and the Syrian party suggested that since it’s a war and an emergency situation, let’s have a very quick track one meeting, high-level meeting, on the level of deputy ministers … with an American in the room,” Liel told a conference at the Netanya Academic College.

Liel said he told government officials of the offer, and pleaded with them to accept.

“And the answer was ‘no, no we don’t want to meet them’,” he said.

He said he believes Israel is reluctant to resume peace talks with Syria because the idea of giving up the Golan is unpopular and because it would counter Washington’s policy of trying to isolate Syria.

Liel said he made it very clear at the beginning of each meeting that he did not represent the government, but that he routinely updated Israeli officials, as well as the Turkish government, after each round. The Turkish government had initially been approached by the participants as a possible sponsor, but turned them down.

Aronson said the time is ripe for a resumption of peace talks, though he acknowledged that Syria could just be feigning interest in resuming talks to get into Washington’s good graces.

“There is a reasonable basis to assume that well-intentioned official representatives have something to talk about when they sit down,” he said.

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January 18th, 2007, 7:27 pm

 

50. youngSyria said:

I mind Syria joining Gordan….what the hell!!!what economic benefit are you talking about?? aren’t they taking water and electricity from us? would you call that place a country unless its -so called- king goes on a tour around gulf states each year? inst our society backward enough? do we need those shawaya?

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January 18th, 2007, 8:01 pm

 

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