“SYRIA: Regime survival depends on Hariri outcome,” by Oxford Analytica

The Oxford Analytica report copied below is sound. The title is unfortunate. No one I have talked to in or out of the government actually believes that the International Court endangers the Syrian regime. The analyst who wrote this must have howled with embarrassment when he read the title.

My only other quibbles with the analysis is that the opposition in Syria never presented a threat to the regime. There were hopes in the West that it could form the basis for gaining some leverage in Syria, but these hopes were not based on anything but unsound speculation. No opposition leader has had a mass following in Syria or institutional organization that can deliver political or military action on the ground since the Muslim Brotherhood in the early 1980s.

Equally, analysts that claimed the Syrian regime was weak following its withdrawal from Lebanon in 2005 were fantasizing. Weakness is relative. Both the US and Israeli armies can destroy the Syrian state in short order. No one would deny this. But to suggest that there was an internal enemy of the regime that stood a chance of destabilizing it was fantasy and irresponsible reporting. The surest proof of this is that no one ever offered to name the person or organization that could have brought down the regime.

Why was such reporting irresponsible? Surely the Syrian regime must have calculated that so long as western governments, publics, and analysts persisted in their silly speculation that the Syrian state was weak and could be transformed by the opposition, foreign ministers in western capitals would persist in their futile policy of isolating Syria. Because of West's false analysis, the Syrian regime had to concluded that it needed to throw the opposition leaders into jail — not because they posed any real threat to the government, which they did not — but because the unrealistic perception that they did pose a real threat and could be used as leverage against the regime was generating bad policy in the West.

Now that the Syrian government has placed the top opposition leaders in jail and thoroughly intimidated their ranks, western analysts have changed their tune. They no longer write that the Syrian regime is weak and on the verge of collapse. They no longer propose isolation or suggest that increasing pressure on the Syrian regime will have positive results. In effect, they have rewarded the Syrian government for its needless display of power. By crushing the harmless intellectuals who struggled to create a modicum of civil society in Syria, Syrian authorities have finally convinced western governments to climb down from their transformational delusions and conclude that only engagement with the Syrian government, the single power on the ground in Syria, can produce anything positive.

Here is the Oxford Analytica report:

SYRIA: Regime survival depends on Hariri outcome
Monday, July 16 2007
© Oxford Analytica 2007

EVENT: The UN Security Council is this week considering the latest report of the commission investigating the assassination of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik al-Hariri.

SIGNIFICANCE: President Bashar al-Assad in late May won an unopposed rubber stamp plebiscite approving a second seven-year term, thus completing the consolidation of his power. Having survived colossal external pressures during the past few years, his regime is now rounding up the remaining domestic opponents to its rule. The Hariri investigation remains the major outstanding challenge.

ANALYSIS: Before last summer's Lebanon war, the Assad regime was so cornered by domestic and international pressures that many were thinking in terms of when, not whether, it would collapse:

·       Domestic calls for reform following Bashar's promises of political openness soon turned into demands for change.

·       Rising external pressures, from Washington over accusations of facilitating the infiltration of jihadists into Iraq, and then from France following the assassination of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik al-Hariri in February 2005, culminated in the withdrawal of Syrian forces from Lebanon that year.

Isolation lifted. However, since then the Bush administration's Middle East travails have limited its influence further, while the regime has managed to wriggle out of international isolation 

·       Foreign dignitaries, including several foreign ministers from EU member states, as well as US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, have recently visited Damascus.

·       Bashar has been able to secure Arab approval for his bid to host the next Arab summit meeting in Damascus.

The key external challenge remains the possibility of a guilty verdict in the Hariri assassination tribunal implicating Bashar or family members. Averting such an outcome remains the regime's top priority (

Opposition vanquished. The regime has also surmounted the challenge that Syria's opposition movement posed. In addition to the power of the regime's vast repressive apparatus, several factors account for this, mostly notably the fact that the opposition is fragmented and lacks credibility:

1.      Damascus Declaration. One of the earliest movements to challenge the Assad regime, the signatories of the 'Damascus Declaration' comprised liberal politicians, writers, artists, and academics. They called for an end to the Ba'ath Party monopoly on power. However, they were unable to harness mass support. Moreover, they were united only in their opposition to the regime. Beyond vague calls for democracy, they had no programme or strategy. It was only a question of time before the regime intervened forcefully, putting an end to their activities.

2.      NSF. The most vocal element of the expatriate opposition is the National Salvation Front (NSF), an alliance between the Paris-based Abdul Halim Khaddam, Syria's former vice-president and senior party figure, who defected in December 2005, and the Muslim Brotherhood — Syria's largest and best organised underground political movement (see SYRIA: Regime interests dictate regional policies – December 1, 2006). That odd alliance (the Brotherhood attempted on several occasions to assassinate Khaddam) is derived from opportunism: while the Brotherhood sought to capitalise on Khaddam's important foreign connections, Khaddam sought to exploit the Brotherhood's political party organisation to topple Bashar and take over.

      However, instead of winning over large numbers of new recruits, as Khaddam expected, the NSF was quickly discredited:

o       Khaddam had been the driving force behind Bashar's crackdown against the 'Damascus Spring' in 2001.

o       Along with his children, Khaddam was heavily tainted by corruption allegations.

o       His sudden conversion to democracy and good government persuaded no one, at least not in Syria.

o       Indeed, the Saudi government, despite its ire at Bashar following the Hariri assassination, tempered its initial support to him.

      Despite their repeated efforts, the leaders of the 'Damascus Declaration' and those of the NSF were unable to work together effectively. The former resented the NSF's attempts to lead the Syrian opposition movement, and they were also being hounded by the regime's secret police.

3.      Reform Party of Syria. This Washington-based group is led by Farid Ghadri. Not unlike Iraq's Ahmed Chalabi, Ghadri bet on a US military intervention in Syria to bring down the Assad regime. Indeed, the perception in Syria that Ghadri is a tool in the hands of Washington neo-conservatives is not entirely misguided. Moreover, to endear himself and his movement to US policymakers, Ghadri spoke openly about his membership of the America Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) and later said he would establish the first Holocaust museum in the Arab world if he took power in Damascus.

4.      Rifaat. The flamboyant brother of the late President Hafez al-Assad who has been living in exile since the 1980s, Rifaat al-Assad is very unpopular in Syria, in large part because of his well-deserved reputation for ruthlessness and corruption when in power. Hafez made sure before he died in 2000 to eliminate what remained of Rifaat's power base.

Fear of the unknown. The regime has also played on the sense of fear which has long gripped most Syrians that the outcome for Syria of the democracy Washington is promoting in the Middle East would be similar to that in Iraq, Lebanon, and Palestine: civil war, chaos, and the breakdown of society, respectively. In light of this, the influx of Iraqi refugees to Syria, now numbering 1.5 million, serves regime purposes well as it vividly illustrates the plight that awaits Syrians should the regime collapse and civil war follow (

These scare tactics work well with Syrians, in particular as many among them recall the political turbulence of the 1950s and 1960s in which military coups and counter-coups made Syria a classic example of third-world instability. The fear of the unknown and a preference for the status quo — major factors in contemporary Syrian political culture — account for Syrian society's acquiescence in authoritarian rule.

Improved economy. The recent improvement in economic conditions has also helped the regime (

·       According to a recent IMF report, the economic recovery that started in 2004 remained on track last year, with non-oil GDP growing at an estimated 6-7%, job creation picking up, and exports (to Arab markets) making strong gains.

·       Private investment has gathered momentum — the volume of investment approvals has surged as companies, especially from Gulf states, jockeyed to position themselves in the fledgling Syrian market

·       CONCLUSION: In the absence of external assistance, Syria's disunited opposition movement no longer poses a threat to the regime. Its fragmentation, together with US regional travails, a popular longing for stability and an improved economy, have saved the Assad regime. Barring a guilty verdict by the Hariri tribunal against Bashar or his family members, which would render him a domestic and international pariah, he should complete his second term of office.

Comments (48)


1. ausamaa said:

In other words; forget it for now,.. try something else maybe.

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July 17th, 2007, 6:41 am

 

2. Alex said:

There will be no guilty verdict against bashar.

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July 17th, 2007, 6:46 am

 

3. Ghassan said:

Kama takuno youwalla 3allikum. My regards to the Syrian people who are trying to taste freedom!

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July 17th, 2007, 9:59 am

 

4. K said:

> Now that the Syrian government has placed the top opposition leaders
> in jail and thoroughly intimidated their ranks, western analysts
> have changed their tune. They no longer propose isolation or suggest
> that increasing pressure on the Syrian regime will have positive
> results. In effect, they have rewarded the Syrian government for its
> needless display of power.

Is the accurate order of events? Or did the regime feel emboldened by ‘engagement’ and celebrate by clamping down on decent Syrians and attacking Lebanon?

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July 17th, 2007, 12:18 pm

 

5. Michael said:

The US is insane to hope for a collapse of the Syrian regime. Syria is at least as divided ethnically and religiously as either Lebanon or Iraq and there’s every reason to think that without a strong central government the same sort of civil conflict would engulf the nation. What the ME does not need is one more failed state.

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July 17th, 2007, 12:23 pm

 

6. Offended said:

Cheer up K, Bashar didn’t speak one word about Lebanon in his second term inaugural speech…..

Thank you Mr. President, you made my day!

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July 17th, 2007, 12:27 pm

 

7. lirun said:

struggling to identify the foundations of the syrian economy.. can you help?

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July 17th, 2007, 1:04 pm

 

8. ausamaa said:

K and many others should really cheer up and prepare themselvs for the “better” news coming out from Paris and Lebanon nowadays.It seems the deal is done (with the least amount of embbarasment to many).

Feb 14 front crumbling faster than you can blink..Hizbullah is still there, with full accreditation and endosrment by all, and Lebanon has escaped an Iraq-like fate.

It seems Syria’s not so subtle message of “you show us your goodwill first,then we will see how we can help you” has worked. In Lebanon at least, for the time being.

Very fine diplomacy by “most” sides.

Bravo!!!

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July 17th, 2007, 1:31 pm

 

9. Bilal said:

Prof. Josh,

To know for sure how much does Bashar feel if the International Tribunal is a danger to his regime or not you should look how much he opposes it. He has tried his best and then some to stop this investigation & tribunal. We see and hear all statements by him and his followers that this tribunal will destroy Lebanon and they have actually started. Please Prof. Josh after all that do not tell me that the tribunal is NOT a direct threat to Bashar. Even Bashar does not agree with you.
As for the opposition do not expect any Syrian would dare back them up for now but when the time come you would be surprised. Actually the regime knows that so he is doing whatever they can in keeping the pressure high on any Syrian daring to think democratically.
The latest Bremertz report was very clear in pointing the finger to Bashar. He clearly said that the UNSCR 1559 was the main motive behind Hariri’s assassination where we all heard Bashar & Co. when they said that Hariri was totally behind 1559. Actually the regime did not publish his remarks on this report yet as they usually do after each report. They know that things are getting worse. Even Bashar today in his speech tried to pass the message that we should start preparing for the worse by saying that 2007 will be very bad and it could change a lot of things. I was surprised that he has started admitting what is going to happen to his falling regime.
Despite all this and you still things that Bashar is in good shape? I am almost sure that you are preparing an interview that you will be conducting with Bashar, as your remarks will definitely win you an audience with him. When you do please ask him on my behalf what is the target number he and his family has set for their fortune? It was estimated a month ago at 40 Billion Dollars and maybe by today a couple of hundred millions more. What is the target number where after that the people of Syria can expect to see the benefit of the Syrian wealth? I couldn’t help laughing today when he said that to eliminate corruption it should start at the house. The family should teach their kids not to be corrupt. At the same time today one Syrian family has committed 90% of all corruption in Syria where by accident he happen to be from that same family????????

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July 17th, 2007, 2:17 pm

 

10. why-discuss said:

Bilal said “The latest Bremertz report was very clear in pointing the finger to Bashar. He clearly said that the UNSCR 1559 was the main motive behind Hariri’s assassination where we all heard Bashar & Co. when they said that Hariri was totally behind 1559.”

HERE WHAT THE REPORT SAYS:
50. While some events surrounding the adoption of resolution 1559 need to be further investigated, the Commission’s working hypothesis is that it is likely that these events played an important role in shaping the environment in which the motives to assassinate Rafik Hariri emerged.

It is not “clear” at all that Bashar was pointed at. While the syrians were furious about the 1559, the killing may also have been done by other ennemies of the multi-millionaire Hariri and he surely had a lot of political ennemies. It is premature to jump to the conclusions that fit your purpose

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July 17th, 2007, 3:00 pm

 

11. Bilal said:

to WHY-DISCUSS,
I do not know about you but when Bremertz say: “the Commission’s working hypothesis is that it is likely that these events played an important role in shaping the environment in which the motives to assassinate Rafik Hariri emerged” that is very clear to me.
Please do not tell me that some competition to Hariri’s business is behind the killing of Hariri. If the competition is involved we all know that Hariri spent his last 10 years entirely in politics and as Bashar has said that Hariri is grouping the Sunnis around him and that is a threat to the Syrian regime that will put him in direct competition with him. So here again as you suggested Bashar is responsible.
Anyway lets not prejudge and the truth will be known very soon but we have started to see some indications by Bashar’s behavior as he knows what we do not know.

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July 17th, 2007, 3:19 pm

 

12. Ford Prefect said:

Hello Bilal,
I was tied up yesterday and couldn’t respond to you regarding serving alcohol in Damascus close to the Ommayyad Mosque. I did read your reply and, as always, I appreciate your intellect, knowledge, and genuine feelings. For some reasons that posts has disappeared and I can’t see it anymore. So I will leave it for another time and will stick to the current subject above.

I am not sure why I always observe a tone of “us Sunnis vs them” (and the “them” is anyone) in your discussions. If my feelings are correct, I am afraid we have a huge and oceanic divide between us that the dialogue becomes as useless as the one I used to have with Akbar Palace.

Additionally, it seems to me that you selectively select corruption related to Syrian rulers. Yes, the family of the regime is wealthy: $4B, $40B, $400B who knows. I am yet to see an audited financial statement in that regard. We all know the fact that they are wealthy and we all know the fact that their hand has been in the cookie jar repeatedly.

We also know that ALL rulers of the Middle East have their hand in the cookie jar as well. If you agree with the ruler (e.g. Hariri), you’d say he earned his money “fair and square.” He built his relationship with the King and the Royal Family, earn loads of tax-free money, and you are one heck of a smart business man.

This fact did not seem to bother you or the MBs enough to not strike a deal with one of the most corrupt figures in the Middle East: Khaddam. Maybe he was struck with lightning and became a pure Salafi all of the sudden. But a month or two in jail for him and his children will go a long way in convincing Syrians of his repent. Since he has not done so, his reemergence on the Syrian government would be considered a laughing matter.

Now for the tough part. I hear all the complaints including my own by I rarely see a process proposal. If true (there must be a due process here, right?), there are two ways of dealing with that corrupt Syrian ruling family. The first one would be through the armed and forceful removal from power (call Ghadry and his AEI/neocon/Likud friends collect from anywhere in the world), and subsequently install an “elected (Ghadry)” government that will work on building the country’s institutions – hopefully without bloodshed.

The second way would be through the evolutionary process of building viable political and economical institutions that will transition Syria from an authoritarian corrupt regime (Portugal, Chile,Philippines, Spain, etc.) to a liberal democracy where power is divided and checked, the judiciary is independent, and people are represented.

Which is the better option in your opinion?

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July 17th, 2007, 4:42 pm

 

13. Alex said:

Who else wanted to prevent 1559 from being implemented? it was not only Syria (which withdrew from Lebanon anyway), 1559 called for the disarming of all armed militias in Lebanon … that includes the fanatics in Tripoly. Do you think they will accept to be disarmed? they had their holy plans for Lebanon and for their own role in it.

And they are the ones who seem to be behind Pierre Gemayel’s murder and some of the other bombings in the Christian areas in Lebanon (According to Lebanese police investigation), and Brammertz said that there seems to be a link between all the political assassinations … so what should we conclude?

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July 17th, 2007, 5:00 pm

 

14. majedkhaldoun said:

I think the analysis is correct,and that Bashar has overcome several hurdles,this qualified him to be a strong leader,however the three problems that face Bashar has not been resolved.
first Hariri murder, Alex expects that there will not be verdict against Bashar, my expectatation is that there will be a verdict against syrian officials and leaders that include his family,this will be indirect verdict against Bashar,that later will be direct verdict against Bashar, this will have serious consequences against the regime.
second the corruption issue,his family and his loyalist has taken huge amount of money,but what is worse,is that they took this money to foreign contries,where the syrian people will not benefit from,for example Jamil Asad and Rifaat Asad has several billions of dollars in europe,how could the poor syrian benefit from it?
the third is freedom and democracy issue.
I expect the syrian will forgive the third issue,and the hariri murder,and even the corruption issue,if ALL the GOLAN HEIGHT is returned to Syria, or if Syria achieved progress on unity with another arabic country,these has not materialized,and do not look possible in the forseeable future.
No one will feel bad if corrupted person,like Abdulhalim Khaddam go to jail.
we should not forget that Isreal want to divide Syria to five small states.
second the arab people, all over, they hate to see Syria,as a resistant state against Isreal and USA, they hate to see it collapse.

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July 17th, 2007, 5:19 pm

 

15. Observer said:

The threats to the regime come from external and internal sources. The external sources would be the US or Israeli military alone or in combination and would require not only defeating the armed forces but possibly occupying Damascus. This is not likely to happen any time soon. A reduced version of this is the threat of an international tribunal and limitation on movement of persons and goods to and from Syria. In the worst case scenario it would be a sanctions regime that would push the regime into the full lap of Iran and leave it no choice but to hold on to its cards in the region more than ever. Having seen that the only way to remove an entrenched regime like that of Saddam is by brute force and occupation the regime has clearly room to breathe on this front.
The internal threat comes from an organized military coup or from an insurrection. The military coup will have to come from one or several of the units that guard the regime and they are under the control of one sect. The ruling sect has solidified around the ruling family for two main reasons: there is a rotation of people that are allowed to put their hands in the cookie jar; and the second reason is the fear of a fundamentalist attack similar to the one waged in the 80’s that left the community very traumatized psychologically. The military units are not connected to each other horizontally and are all dependent on a centralized command and control center that has insulated the units from mounting a coordinated effort against the central authority.
The insurrection inside is still possible and would rely on the ever increasing alienation of the lower social and economic strata of the society that are becoming more zealous in religious interpretation. The MB have lost credibility and support as they were not able to mobilize the people around a coherent social and economic program and had no answer to the place of minorities that combined are substantial in the country. Their alliance with Khaddam is a disaster for he has no credibility at all.
The great challenge for the young president is how to emulate what Juan Carlos of Spain did after the death of Franco. He took an oath from the armed services to make sure that they will have allegiance to the civilians and to the throne; he moved the country to full integration with the EU. In that he had the following assets: educated population, substantial middle class, Judeo-Christian heritage, and an embrace with money and help from the EU. Barring similar conditions I see no way for the reform to take root in the country anytime soon.
The first step is establishing a social contract with the population is an independent judiciary system. To do that a constitutional reform is in order. I wrote a college paper back when the constitution was proposed comparing the writings and ideas of John Lock and John Hume to the Syrian constitution. The document shows that: there is no separation of powers as the President is the head of the executive, the legislative branch can be dismissed any time, and laws are proposed by the president and approved by the legislative and barring that, they can be implemented by decree, and finally the president is also the head of the Supreme Court. The representation in parliament is pre set by professional associations all of which have one party rule that of the ruling Baath party. Therefore, the late president had locked up the system for his complete control of all branches of the government and the final sealing of the box is that he is also the head of the armed forces. How to undo this is the major question of the day. In my opinion this will come to pass in one of two ways; either the president is secure enough and liberal enough to propose it, or it will happen when the society has had two generations of literacy of 80% or more among its women as Emmanuel Todd has shown in his studies of economic anthropology. Once the threshold is reached participatory rule is the norm and this usually happens peacefully as the protagonists are educated enough to know that violence will not solve the problem.
Now the tribunal will not affect any of these structures at all and the country has been isolated numerous times in the past and survived various boycotts. The chaos in Iraq has permitted a huge leverage for the regime, they can shut down the emigration of the Iraqis and they can deport them back any minute making it incredibly hard for the US back there. They have an irrelevant Egypt and a weak Jordan, and a Saudi Arabia paralyzed with fear and mired with incompetence. Lebanon is extremely fragile and the Europeans have concluded that one Iraq in chaos is enough for them. The wild cards in this scenario are the US administration and the French foreign minister on the one hand the fundamentalists on the other. I remind readers of what Soljenistin said (spelling?): the greatest evil comes from people who are absolutely convinced that what they are doing is for the good.

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July 17th, 2007, 6:12 pm

 

16. Alex said:

Majed you are right, getting the Golan Heights back will do. Syria will be close to Egypt again I think. They don’t compete much. It is KSA that continues to be Syria’s competitor in Lebanon and maybe in Iraq. We’ll see if the Kingdom decides to drop some of its ambitions.

Observer, excellent analysis.

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July 17th, 2007, 7:03 pm

 

17. majedkhaldoun said:

President Bashar speech;
the political promises,were mentioned several times before,after seven years there was no progress.
he mentioned that the court could not proved that there is corruption,I think even he himself knows that there is a lot of corruption,as the court is not free,how can he depend on such statement.
I think we will know very soon why he did not mention Lebanon,what about Iraq,or the refugee?
his comment that the next few month,will determine the condition of the middle east,for years to come,he even mentioned,it may effect the whole world, obviously he expect big thing soon,I think he is implying major attack against Iran,and the whole ME will explode,with a major war.I expect his children and his wife to visit her family in London soon.
I was expecting Josh to be among the attendee in the audience,if he was I missed him.

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July 17th, 2007, 9:52 pm

 

18. Ford Prefect said:

Observer and Majed,

Interesting analyses from both of you. Thanks! I am not sure about any attack from the hobbled US or the severely bruised Israel. But having said so, never underestimate the stupidity of either the US or the Israeli governments to embark on such a mischievous adventure. Why? Well, I am reminded the Thucydide’s Melian Debate of ancient Greece. Read and enjoy this timeless masterpiece dialogue.

The Melian, from the small island of Melos, decided to remain neutral in the Peloponnesian war and did not lend support to anyone. The Athenians arrived at the shores of Melos and asked for the Melian to surrender and submit to their power – just because the Athenians are powerful and they can. Here is the best part of a very interesting dialogue:

Melians: But must we be your enemies? Will you not receive us as friends if we are neutral and remain at peace with you?

Athenians: NO! Your enmity is not half so mischievous to us as your friendship; for the one is in the eyes of our subjects an argument of our power, the other of our weakness.

Melians: But are your subjects really unable to distinguish between states in which you have no concern, and those which are chiefly your own colonies, and in some cases have revolted and been subdued by you?

Athenians: Why, they do not doubt that both of them have a good deal to say for themselves on the score of justice, but our subjects think that states like yours are left free because they are able to defend themselves, and that we do not attack them because we dare not. So that your subjection will give us an increase of security, as well as an extension of our empire. For we are the masters of the sea, and you who are islanders, and insignificant islanders, must not be allowed to escape us.

The Melians refused to subject. The Athenians attacked.

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July 17th, 2007, 10:26 pm

 

19. ausamaa said:

Ford_PREFECT,

Nice. Where the heck did you dig up that one from?

“For we are the masters of the sea”…

Master of what are nowadays “Athenians”? The Baghdad Green Zone??? Kabul??? The West Bank road blocks???

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July 17th, 2007, 10:45 pm

 

20. Ford Prefect said:

Ausamaa,
LOL!! Ancient Greece and Rome are fantastic examples for what is happening today. I had to take Greek and Roman history classes in college because most babes were there and not in my geophysics and computer science classes. Turned out it was not a bad experience after all – but I almost flunked and had to drop them at the last minute. (Lack of focus I guess, but I still have the books!)

If you get a chance, check out the whole debate; but I am not sure what to recommend about the babes!

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July 17th, 2007, 10:59 pm

 

21. Alex said:

Majed,

I was on the phone with Joshua just before the speech. He was not there.

But regime agents Ausamaa and Ford Prefect were there! 🙂

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July 17th, 2007, 11:59 pm

 

22. Enlightened said:

Ford you must have dusted off that old Thucydides book, good quote! However more apt is the implosion of Athenian democracy as a result of the war and the rise of the demagogues, Thucydides also relates the decline of Athenian power due to ineffectual leadership after the death of their leading statesman and general in the plague, I cant recall his name but he had a head that looked like an onion! But you are correct the similarities between then and now are remarkably similar.

The regimes survival will not depend on the Harriri tribunal, this has now become a rather facecous argument, the regimes survival long term will mainly depend upon the will of the Syrian people, reform mainly economic is now being used by the regime to follow on from the chinese and singapore models. Their ability to drive this reform and lift living standards to ordinary citizens will be the main barometer of their survival in the next five years.

Significantly due to the ineffectual performance of THE NSF/KHADDAM alliance, and its inability to provide a coherent political platform this has provided the regime with the breathing space it needs.

I still dont feel that there is one iota of evidence against Bashar, this would have been used by now if Brammertz had found a link, howver those generals in the lebanese jails along with some minor intelligence officers in the Syrian arena will be the ones who will ultimately be sacrificed. ( I would also bet that Rustom Ghazale will be the only high level person sacrificed, I am going out on a limb here, but this is my hunch).

I still dont see a major conflagaration, diplomacy has not been exhausted yet, and all reports regarding the Iranian progress on the nuclear issue suggests they are still five years away from reaching the point of no return.

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July 18th, 2007, 1:15 am

 

23. majedkhaldoun said:

where is Ehsani,and t-desco

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July 18th, 2007, 3:41 am

 

24. Alex said:

معنى زيارة كوسران إلى دمشق
رندة تقي الدين الحياة – 18/07/07//

تشكل زيارة الموفد الفرنسي جان كلود كوسران الى دمشق تطوراً مهماً ومنعطفاً أساسياً في السياسة الفرنسية الجديدة منذ تولي الرئاسة من قبل نيكولا ساركوزي، الذي التزم بـ «القطيعة» حيال عهد سلفه الرئيس جاك شيراك.

ورغم ان أكثر من مسؤول أكد لـ «الحياة» انه كان مقرراً ان يزور كوسران دمشق قبل اجتماع سان كلو، فإن الزيارة كانت مبرمجة بعد اجتماع الأطراف اللبنانية، وجميع الحلفاء، بما فيهم الولايات المتحدة، احيطوا علماً بهذه النية من جانب فرنسا.

إلا أن زيارة كوسران، ورغم كل ما يقال من قبل المسؤولين الفرنسيين هي بمثابة فتح صفحة جديدة مع سورية، وقلب صفحة سياسة شيراك، حتى ولو أنها زيارة ديبلوماسية وليست سياسية. ويقول أكثر من مصدر في باريس ان قرار ارسال كوسران الى دمشق، ليحيط المسؤولين علماً بما جرى في سان كلو وليس قبل هذا الاجتماع، سببه ان باريس لا تريد ان تظهر وكأنها تستأذن دمشق لعقد المؤتمر أو أنها تطلب موافقتها. ويقول المسؤولون الفرنسيون ان زيارة كوسران دمشق هي مجرد بادرة لوضع السوريين في صورة ما جرى.

والواقع انه منذ تولي ساركوزي الرئاسة وبرنار كوشنير وزارة الخارجية، هناك تقويم لما إذا كان ينبغي على فرنسا ان تعاود الحوار مع سورية، وهذا ما صرح به الرئيس الفرنسي علناً أكثر من مرة.

وخلال اجتماع سان كلو ميّز كوشنير بين التأثير الإيراني والتأثير السوري في لبنان، وقال للمؤتمرين إن أمامهم فرصة، لأن ايران لا تريد زعزعة استقرار لبنان، فيما سورية تعمل على ذلك.

واستراتيجية هذا الفريق من الديبلوماسيين تنطلق من التخوف على المصالح الفرنسية في لبنان وايضاً من زعزعة وضعه الداخلي. وهذا المنعطف الأساسي هو بلا شك انتصار لسورية ولسياستها في المنطقة.

ورغم ما يقوله المسؤولون الفرنسيون من ان باريس لن تتحاور مع دمشق حول اسم الرئيس اللبناني المقبل، فإنهم يقرون بأن لسورية رأياً في شخصية الرئيس الجديد عبر حلفائها على الأرض. كما ان باريس أقرت ضمناً ان استقلال لبنان وسيادته غير ممكنين عملياً لأن قدرة سورية على خلق حالة من عدم الاستقرار فيه هي أقوى من قدرة الديموقراطيات الغربية على حمايته.

لكن الاستراتيجية الفرنسية الجديدة هي ايضاً استجابة لدعوات أصدقاء عرب لفرنسا وفي طليعتهم أمير قطر الذي كان المسؤول العربي الوحيد إلى جانب الرئيس الفرنسي خلال العرض العسكري الذي اقيم لمناسبة العيد الوطني الفرنسي. فنجل أمير قطر تخرج من كلية سان سير العسكرية الفرنسية وكان مشاركاً في العرض، لكن سبقت ذلك هدية قيمتها بلايين الدولارات حصلت عليها فرنسا من قطر في بداية عهد ساركوزي، من خلال عقود لشراء طائرات ومعدات فرنسية. وهذا أمر بالغ الأهمية للرئيس الفرنسي الجديد ولشركات بلاده. إضافة إلى ذلك، كانت دعوة الرئيس اليمني لزيارة فرنسا وكذلك وزير خارجية المغرب، وهو زميل وزير الخارجية السوري منذ عملا سفيرين في واشنطن، وأيضاً زيارة رئيس دولة الإمارات الذي يصل إلى باريس غداً. وكل هؤلاء من دعاة عدم عزل دمشق.

وكوسران الذي يزور دمشق ليس ديبلوماسياً عادياً، فهو أحد أذكى وأبرز السفراء الفرنسيين، الذين تعاطوا مع ملف الشرق الأوسط. وعمل سفيراً في دمشق في عهد الرئيس الراحل حافظ الأسد، وربطته به معرفة جيدة،
ولكن من حق كل إدارة القيام بمحاولات، مع انها ستكون على حساب حياة رفيق الحريري وجبران تويني وسمير قصير وجورج حاوي وبيار امين الجميل ووليد عيدو ونجله! فهذه صفقات الدول.

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July 18th, 2007, 7:05 am

 

25. Alex said:

Zvi Bar’el seems to believe that President Assad’s new terms are carefully selected to overcome the old language that posed some obstacles on the road to peace negotiations.

This contradicts the way most observers perceived Bashar’s new tone on this issue.

The Syrian channel / Assad’s road map
By Zvi Bar’el

One of the regular conditions was missing from Syrian President Bashar Assad’s comments yesterday: the caveat that any negotiations with Israel must pick up where they left off. Israel has always seen this statement as an obstacle set up by Syria, since it aims to prevent talks from expanding or from opening the door to new Israeli demands.

From Assad’s perspective, the reference to a “deposit” – the same message that Yitzhak Rabin conveyed to Warren Christopher in 1994, when he apparently committed to withdraw from the Golan Heights in exchange for peace – served as a link in the chain that granted legitimacy to any possible negotiation with Israel. The condition, in Syrian eyes, made continued negotiations legitimate not just for Assad the father, but also for Assad the son. It means that talks with Israel are not a new invention of a young president, but an old diplomatic tradition.

But Bashar Assad suggested a new formula yesterday, one that was free of this customary condition. Instead of calling for a return to the stopping point, he demanded that the purview of negotiations be set with him. He wants an Israeli commitment to a full withdrawal from the Golan Heights, written in a document or conveyed in a way that won’t give rise to doubts, in exchange for negotiations. It appears that this is once more a precondition without which talks cannot begin, but in effect Assad is suggesting a formula similar to the one included in the road map, which suggests a clear and defined diplomatic objective in exchange for Israeli-Palestinian negotiations.

The kind of Israeli declaration Assad is demanding means, for Assad, recognition of the Golan Heights as occupied Syrian territory rather than Israeli territory. In exchange for such a declaration – which does not entail actual withdrawal – there would be the beginning of a political process which, at least at this stage, aims to calm the atmosphere of war.

The other condition that Assad refrained from mentioning was his demand that the United States get involved in the talks. This condition, which was raised recently by Syrian spokesmen, was used by Israel as evidence that all Assad wants is to get Washington off his back, and not to make progress on the diplomatic front. With appropriate caution, Assad said the next phase of negotiations would require the involvement of an impartial mediator, without going into details.

With the neutralization of the first condition and the fact that Assad did not explicitly mention Washington as an essential mediator, it appears that the work of the various mediators, especially the Turks, have born fruit, in the form of public diplomacy that relies on new language.

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July 18th, 2007, 8:10 am

 

26. Akbar Palace said:

Ford Prefect does what he knows best: Apologize for the corrupt Syrian “government” who continues to employ and support Islamic terrorist and jihadists:

Additionally, it seems to me that you selectively select corruption related to Syrian rulers. Yes, the family of the regime is wealthy: $4B, $40B, $400B who knows. I am yet to see an audited financial statement in that regard. We all know the fact that they are wealthy and we all know the fact that their hand has been in the cookie jar repeatedly.

We also know that ALL rulers of the Middle East have their hand in the cookie jar as well. If you agree with the ruler (e.g. Hariri), you’d say he earned his money “fair and square.” He built his relationship with the King and the Royal Family, earn loads of tax-free money, and you are one heck of a smart business man.

No anger, no repulsion; business as usual folks.

And of course, the venom is saved for the 2 usual suspects: the US and Israel, who have been fighting Ford Prefect’s jihadist heroes way before the “occupation” and way before Bush went into Iraq…

I am not sure about any attack from the hobbled US or the severely bruised Israel. But having said so, never underestimate the stupidity of either the US or the Israeli governments to embark on such a mischievous adventure.

We’ll continue to show Ford Prefect’s (and other’s) hypocrisy and bias just as soon as they submit another one of their pro-terror posts q;op

Alex –

How’s Hamas doing these days? When do you think they’ll “crush” the Zionist Regime? And what about Abbas? How dare he shake Olmert’s hand? Isn’t he a good Muslim?

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July 18th, 2007, 10:49 am

 
 

28. Observer said:

I think this would be a good reading for some of the participants on this site; I copied and pasted from counterpuhch.org
About Face at the New York Times
The Long Road … to Nowhere
By TOM JOHNSON

On Sunday, July 8, the New York Times editorial page featured a long piece, “The Road Home,” that seemed to turn the Times former role as chief cheerleader for the Bush Administration’s “Global War on Terror,” into a call to “cut and run.”

“It is time for the United States to leave Iraq, without any more delay than the Pentagon needs to organize an orderly exit,” was the first line. A clear and unequivocal statement, that.

The response was quick, massive and overwhelming, as Colin Powell would say. Editorials across the nation trumpeted the Times turnabout, with many seconding the e-notion. Letters in the July 9 Times uniformly supported the call for withdrawal. Even much of the progressive media and press in the US and elsewhere, grudgingly lifted thumbs from computer keyboards long enough to point them up, while trying not to snicker: This is what we have been trying to tell you all along.

Yet “The Road Home” very much presents a uniquely elite US point-of-view and, at bottom, is both fatally flawed and disingenuous. Not to mention profoundly racist and imperialist.

The editorial nakedly points to core US./Western “interests” which the Times speaks for: “To put it baldly, terrorism and oil make it impossible to ignore.” It being a “mess” created by 12 years of US./UK bombings and UN-supported sanctions leading to the deaths of at least one million Iraqi people, followed by the US.-led invasion and the endless, bloody, gruesome occupation.

What a mess it is: “At first, we believed that after destroying Iraq’s government, army, police and economic structures, the United States was obliged to try to accomplish some of the goals Mr. Bush claimed to be pursuing, chiefly building a stable, unified Iraq.”

It is good of the Times to finally acknowledge that the reality of the US invasion and occupation of Iraq has been the total destruction of the Iraqi state, its military and police forces and its economy — not to mention the misery brought down upon the Iraqi people, the implosion of the US military machine, the bloodshed, the money spent. So yes, we are obliged to do something: what, exactly remains extremely murky.

But a small shaft of light creeps through the fog: “When it became clear that the president had neither the vision nor the means to do that, we argued against setting a withdrawal date while there was still some chance to mitigate the chaos that would most likely follow.” It is good that “it” has finally become clear since chaos certainly does need mitigation from time-to-time. But, a cynic might ask, why now?

“While Mr. Bush scorns deadlines, he kept promising breakthroughs – after elections, after a constitution, after sending in thousands more troops. But those milestones came and went without any progress toward a stable, democratic Iraq or a path for withdrawal. It is frighteningly clear that Mr. Bush’s plan is to stay the course as long as he is president and dump the mess on his successor. Whatever his cause was, it is lost.”

Ah, we begin to get to the crux of it: HIS CAUSE IS LOST. Frighteningly clear, non?

Bush lost the “cause,” therefore he has sinned.

From a military point of view, the latest Western Iraq adventure was lost the day in May 2003 that a former National Guard chicken hawk, sporting a crotch-padded flight suit, declared from the deck of the USS Kitty Hawk that major combat in Iraq had ended.

With “Stars and Stripes Forever,” blaring in the background as a nearly-united nation roared its approval, We’re Number One! We’re Number One! And the New York Times fully revealed itself as Izveztia, publishing the playbook for a “free and democratic” Iraq and Middle East, where cheap oil would flow endlessly into US SUV’s and Hummers and Al Queda would seek out Al Franken to dance the night away

But that was then and this is now.

His cause is lost. His cause is lost. Boy George lost the cause and he can’t seem to find it. Bad, bad boy.

The boy, it seems, committed the greatest sin in the Land of Numbah One. “He” (in the religious-imperial sense) lost the cause. What to do? What to do? The emperor has indeed lost his pants, , shirt, sox, u-trow, the whole shebang — and he never had much of a mind or soul in the first place.

So, the Times and its designated presidential replacements in 2008 (Hillary the Preferred, Barak the Slick, or Edwards the Last Resort) are building a consensus to punt. Using the widely-ignored “bipartisan” Iraq Study Group report as verbal justification, they are scurrying via email, think-tank conferences and I-phones to develop a strategy to convince US voters that re-deployment is actually “withdrawal.” Orwell (or is it Goebbels?) lives.

By-and-large, they are succeeding. The Dems in the House have just pushed through a bill to withdraw the bulk of US forces — of course leaving behind enough troops and air power to train Iraqi security forces (like they need that training ­ they have shown as resistance fighters that they can execute mass violence quite well, thank you), “help” the “democratic” government and protect US assets (i.e. oil fields and the Green Zone).

Warmed-over Bush, presumably without the current level of US casualties.

Meanwhile, the Republicans are fraying around the edges. McCain has totally self-destructed and a few (somewhat) more coherent senators are beginning to hedge their bets, by cautiously holding their venom back in an effort to save their party. It’s my party and I’ll cry if I want to

And of course, there are increasing demands upon an illegitimate Iraqi puppet government that cannot deliver clean water, electricity, sewers, health care, food, transportation, fuel, security ­ or even protect its own corrupt leaders to “step up as we step down,” according to both George and Hillary in lock-step (or is it goose-step?).

By demanding the impossible of our hand-picked Iraqi leaders working under a constitution that was drafted by the US ( extensively by Noah Feldman ­ a US lawyer who writes regularly in the Times as an expert on the Iraqi basic law that he helped to create), our own courageous chiefs have successfully created a permanent bunch of hapless “partners” to beat like scapegoat piñatas until they’re discarded. Apparently, Iraqi premier al-Maliki has never heard of Manuel Noriega, a “partner” of times not-so-long-gone. Or Diem, or the Shah, or Papa/Baby Doc

None of which is the real problem, — as the Times and their bipartisans in DC see it. The real problem is the original problem: oil and terror. How do we control Mideastern oil, gang? How do we control the Mideast? (Because that is what the GWOT is actually about: US/Israeli military, economic and political hegemony over the region).

The answers to those questions are so obvious that we can’t see them, and probably never will.

We don’t. We can’t.

That simple and that unclear.

The best ways to prevent terrorism are to: stop aggressive, murderous, illegal, and immoral pre-emptive attacks on sovereign nations and innocent peoples; stop supporting brutal dictatorships; stop the US-Israeli oppression of the Palestinians; apologize and fund a massive reparations program controlled by Iraqis and the international community; and encourage a proper distribution of oil revenues and water resources in the region to promote healthy economic development for the peoples in the region.

Obviously, Western dependence on an unsustainable petroleum-based economy must quickly cease if humanity is to survive, but first we, especially in the US, must erase the absolutely destructive and self-destructive notion that the Earth’s oil belongs to us.

Which leads to even a greater short-term problem: the solution proposed by the editorial. The proposed withdrawal is not a withdrawal at all. It is simply a game of military musical chairs. Where should we put our bases so we can ostensibly chase terrorists around Iraq, protect our assets and perpetuate endless violence?

How about Kurdistan? Well, Kurdistan is still very much part of Iraq and is engaged in a near civil war between the PUK and PKK parties, as well as suffering on-going invasions from Iranians and Turks. Neither the Kurds (many of whom remain Iraqi patriots) nor the Iraqi resistance will allow US troops to be based there without the massive violent resistance that is now driving US-led forces out of the rest of the country. The “combat theatre” will simply shift north.

As long as US-led forces continue to use any regional bases for attacks in an attempt to control the region’s oil, they (and those who collaborate with them) will be subject to uncontrollable violent resistance in the midst of an ongoing civil war — including terroristic violence, ala Afghanistan. And if we attack — or join with Israel in attacking — Iran, as the Times and all “top-tier” presidential candidates of both parties have suggested (including the threat of using nuclear weapons), a conflagration beyond imagination will follow.

Tom Johnson lives in Austin, Texas. He can be reached at: tjohn1991@aol.com.

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July 18th, 2007, 3:07 pm

 

29. Alex said:

Akbar,

Another Character assassination attempt?

No way to get you to say something useful instead?

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July 18th, 2007, 3:09 pm

 

30. Bilal said:

Hi Ford Perfect,

I agree with you that we should never have this feeling of we Sunnis against the other despite who the other may be but unfortunately this is imposed on us since decades ago whether we like it or not and after such a long time we have to take it into consideration. Look on the high command in the army & security positions. How many Sunni and how many allaouites despite the fact of the Sunni population is at least 80%. Bashar take it into consideration in his every day life. Remember when he attacked Hariri just because he is grouping the Sunnis population around him and how it creates danger to Syria? It actually creates danger to his regime and not Syria. All other politicians in Lebanon are followed by the same sect but never a Sunni is allowed to be followed by Sunnis. Why? So again I feel ashamed by myself that I am thinking that way but it is imposed on all of us and we have to face it and cannot ignore it any longer as THEM (I am sorry again for using this word THEM) take it as their primary policy to run Syria.

I do not care about the corruption of the other rulers and maybe they do not hide it but ours claim to be clean and fighting corruption where his household is the primary corrupt of Syria. When I accuse Bashar & co. of corruption I have proof. Look at Syriatel and this will tell all. But about Khaddam still until today and after more than 18 months of his defection still the regime did not put forward any proof what so ever about any corruption case against him or his family. We all heard rumors but no one case. Don’t you think that the MB has searched this before their alliance with him? Trust me they did and were sure that this is pure allegation from this regime. Can you imagine what khaddam & the MB’s represent to Bashar? His worst nightmare.
As for the change in regime it could happen the same way it did for the dictator of Romania Ceausescu. There were crowd shearing for him where all of a sudden turned against him and executed him in minutes.
As for building viable political & economical institutions in Syria this will never happen while Bashar is around. Did you hear him yesterday when he claimed that the reason for not adopting the government administration reform in Syria to the US sanctions. Can you believe such a cheap lie? I feel ashamed as a Syrian when I hear that one of the most prominent Arab leaders advising the new French president not to deal and trust Bashar, as he is a liar and a criminal as it was reported in the news last week during Sarcusi trip to Tunisia. This is the way Bashar is regarded in the international arena now. A person that you cannot trust and would constantly changes his mind. He does not have any experience in international politics. Did you hear him when he sounded as a little boy when he said that all resolutions and statements by the UN & the G-8 and others ask Syria not to interfere in Lebanon and then they send him envoys asking him to interfere? He does not understand what they are talking about. He does not comprehend.

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July 18th, 2007, 3:33 pm

 

31. Akbar Palace said:

Alex asks:

Another Character assassination attempt?

My quoting of Ford Prefect’s statements and my short commentary are not a “character assassination”. Especially if the crowd here agrees with his views. If you think I “assassinated” Ford Prefect, I would suggest that he has assassinated himself.

I guess that is what pro-jihadists are good at.

Observer –

The US is staying in Iraq. If you cut away the misinformation the Democrats are feeding the MSM, you read recent articles from those in Iraq showing that the “surge” is working.

This isn’t Vietnam where over 50,000 Americans died during the years of mostly democrat-led administrations: Kennedy and Johnson.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vietnam_War_casualties

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July 18th, 2007, 4:21 pm

 

32. Observer said:

Akbar Palace. I want to go this article by Peter Galbraith and read it once silently and then another time aloud so that you do understand that the war is lost.
http://www.atimes.com/atimes/Middle_East/IG19Ak03.html

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July 18th, 2007, 6:40 pm

 

33. ugarit said:

Akbar Palace said: “The US is staying in Iraq. If you cut away the misinformation the Democrats are feeding the MSM, you read recent articles from those in Iraq showing that the “surge” is working.”

You’re probably right about that the US is staying in Iraq. However, that doesn’t mean that the “surge” is or is not working. They want to stay in either case and not for the sake of Iraq but for the sake of US oil and strategic interests and not for “democracy”. That’s was the Iraqi resistance is going to make it more costly for the US to stay.

BTW, does anyone recall the pretext for invading Iraq was for democracy? I don’t. That reasoning was later concocted.

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July 18th, 2007, 9:19 pm

 

34. Atassi said:

========
A minefield ahead for Bernard Kouchner
Michael Young
19 July 2007
Daily Star

Beirut — July 14 was the anniversary of the storming of the Bastille in France. A day later, last Sunday, French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner did a good impersonation by almost storming off the stage in anger at a pushy Lebanese journalist. The Celle-Saint-Cloud gathering was a lot about atmospherics, however its usefulness might be supplanted by its dangers if Kouchner and his boss, Nicolas Sarkozy, are not careful.

No one can deny the short-term advantages of the meeting at La Celle-Saint-Cloud. It was an opportunity for representatives of the divided Lebanese political class to meet, even though those present were not party or movement leaders. It began a process that might be further exploited down the road by all sides. And it handed some form of diplomatic momentum to France, which continues to support United Nations resolutions designed to protect Lebanon’s sovereignty and independence, while also remaining a resolute backer of the Hariri tribunal.

But is that enough? The reason Kouchner was handed his platform was that both Iran and Syria saw an opening to begin breaking France off from the United States in addressing Lebanese issues. The genesis of this proposal came last May, when the head of Iran’s national

security council, Ali Larijani, told the French daily Le Figaro that given the election of Sarkozy, who was “not emotionally implicated with one side” in the Lebanese political spectrum, France and Iran should cooperate in stabilizing Lebanon. That Syria signed off on its allies’ traveling to Paris was a sign that Damascus and Tehran are together in using the French card. Moreover, the invitation to Hizbullah was gratifying from a country whose president has called the party a “terrorist organization.”

The French are no fools. They have seen Syria shooting down all European, Arab, or international initiatives to sponsor reconciliation in Lebanon on terms it disapproves of. Ominously, the visit to Damascus on Wednesday by French envoy Jean-Claude Cousseran suggests Syrian obstructionism may be paying off. In an exchange last April whose minutes were leaked to the French daily Le Monde, President Bashar Assad made it amply clear to the UN secretary general, Ban Ki-moon, that Lebanon was only ever stable when Syria dominated the country. Last week, in the build-up to the conference in France, Syria’s official daily Al-Thawra argued that any resolution to the Lebanese deadlock passed through Damascus. Kouchner knows that Syrian and Iranian acquiescence in Saint-Cloud was a concerted effort to advance their agendas in Lebanon, not a sudden yearning for concord in Beirut.

Still, in a statement once Saint-Cloud had ended, Kouchner hinted that Syria and Iran were on different wavelengths in Lebanon. That may be true in the long term, and the foreign minister may have been sowing some divisiveness of his own, but there are no signs that the two countries have anything but common objectives today: to defend Hizbullah and its weapons; to put the international community on the defensive by eroding UN Security Council resolutions, particularly Resolutions 1559 and 1701; and to guarantee that the next Lebanese president is someone they can trust and who will help them achieve the first two objectives.

Then there is the Hariri tribunal. Hizbullah officials, notably the head of the party’s parliamentary bloc, Mohammad Raad, have said they consider “null and void” the Siniora government’s decisions taken after the resignation of the Shiite ministers. One decision surely to be targeted is the government’s endorsement of the Hariri tribunal, which provoked the resignations in the first place. Hizbullah and Syria’s other allies may no longer be able to cripple the tribunal at the UN, but they can do so as ministers in a government in which they have veto power. The tribunal may be a reality on paper, but it is not a physical reality yet. Lebanon must still approve its share of financing for the institution, and agreement must still be reached on a location for deliberations. That’s not mentioning that Lebanese judges remain vulnerable to political pressure.

The French, like many others, must take all this into consideration when pushing for a government of national reconciliation. Both Syria and Iran are on the same page in wanting to bring about such a government in order to strengthen their hold over the Lebanese system. Reconciliation efforts, by their very nature, whether they are French or Arab, will mean compelling the majority to grant veto power to the opposition. Yet what has the opposition surrendered until now? Virtually nothing. In Saint-Cloud it once again refused to hold presidential elections before the formation of a new government, and it still rejects any formula that would not allow it to bring the government down through mass resignations.

In other words, Kouchner hit up against the same obstacles that Arab League Secretary General Amr Moussa did during his recent visit to Beirut. Hizbullah and Amal have no margin whatsoever to negotiate a solution that the majority might consider minimally acceptable. If Kouchner imagines that his visit to Beirut later this month will help break a deadlock he couldn’t break in Saint-Cloud, then he will be very disappointed. France is being allowed a small space to maneuver, but not one that would allow it to modify fundamental Syrian and Iranian aims.

What can Kouchner do to avoid being hoodwinked? Playing on Syrian and Iranian differences won’t work. The two countries have perfected a good cop-bad cop routine. But France can perhaps position itself in such a way where it has the final word among the Europe countries on Syrian and Iranian intentions in Lebanon. In other words, it can agree to stand or fall by its efforts to determine the seriousness of Damascus and Tehran when it comes to finding a solution acceptable to all the Lebanese parties; with clear recognition in Brussels, particularly from the European Union’s chief foreign policy official, Javier Solana, that France’s judgment will be authoritative. For this to work, Kouchner should set benchmarks for success and a specific timeframe to try achieving a more detailed common agreement over principles. If nothing gives, then he should publicly declare who prevented a resolution to the crisis.

This will be an admission of failure, but if the EU is on board, then at least it could rebuild some of the international consensus on Lebanon that has become shakier in the face of European timorousness in facing Syria and Iran. That inter-Lebanese amity is necessary to this process goes without saying, and Kouchner, rightly, sought to build bridges for precisely that purpose. But up to now there are no signs that Syria’s and Iran’s Lebanese allies have leeway to do anything but restate positions engendering stalemate. Lebanon is heading for a perilous vacuum on the presidency, and Kouchner and the EU should not fear blaming the guilty for this and going back to the Security Council, evidence in hand.

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July 18th, 2007, 9:43 pm

 

35. SimoHurtta said:

BTW, does anyone recall the pretext for invading Iraq was for democracy? I don’t. That reasoning was later concocted.

We certainly remember how USA condemned Vietnam’s actions as illegal when they performed a regime change in Cambodia and kicked out the Khmer Rouge (Pol Pot). Compared to Pol Pot’s regime Saddam was a relative civilized leader. The democracy excuse is a rather laughable reason for USA to stay in Iraq. Also the chaos excuse is unfounded. Can the chaos get any worse and USA has not the tools to reduce the chaos. Only the oil (profit sharing) and permanent military bases excuse makes rational sense for staying, but naturally USA’s regime can’t admit it.

The US is staying in Iraq. If you cut away the misinformation the Democrats are feeding the MSM, you read recent articles from those in Iraq showing that the “surge” is working.

Surge is working and Green Zone is now mortared almost daily, come-on Akbar. Britain and Australia are seeking an opportunity to leave. Afghanistan is getting more uncontrolled. Pakistan is in serious difficulties. “Al Qaida” and the extremists are getting stronger. The present strategy is really not working if the aim is increase stability and tame the (Sunni) extremists. If the US / Israeli strategy is to put Middle East on fire the strategy is working perfectly.

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July 18th, 2007, 10:31 pm

 

36. ausamaa said:

Notwithstanding the usual Michael Young stuff, today he as usual imparts three revealing pieces of his usual wisdom:

1- “They have seen Syria shooting down all European, Arab, or international initiatives to sponsor reconciliation in Lebanon on terms it disapproves of.”

And what the hell do you expect any State to do to anything that is “on terms it disapproves off”? Turn the other cheek? Cheer it up? Shoot it up?

Of course; try “Shooting it down” you genious!

2- And do enlighten us please, why do all those efforts you mentioned regarding a reconciliation in Lebanon have (ALL) been on “terms Syria disapproves off”?

Ooch…!! a slip of the tounge perhaps? Or is this is all what you guys are about?

3- And giving up on any quick Brammertz findings that can be used to bring down the “regime”, he now has something else in mind. He has had his 1559, then 1595, then 1771(did I get the numbers right, there is just too many), and then the UNIFIL in the south, then the Int’l Tribunal, and now he is going for a European-backed new SC resolution: “and Kouchner and the EU should not fear blaming the guilty for this and going back to the Security Council, evidence in hand.”

Come on Mich, it is over now if you have not noticed yet…you will soon have a nice National Unity government, followed by a National Unity President. Then, to top it all off, a nice new Parlimentary Elections. So, khalas, forget it, “your people” want to move on to other things. Dont you see?

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July 18th, 2007, 10:41 pm

 

37. Qifa Nabki said:

Report: Fatah al-Islam linked to Bashar Assad’s Brother in Law

[from Naharnet]

An alleged leader of the Fatah al-Islam terrorist network has testified to interrogators that the group is linked to the head of Syria’s intelligence apparatus Maj. Gen. Asef Shawkat, the brother in law of President Bashar Assad.
Ahmed Merie, a Lebanese citizen arrested late in May at a Beirut hotel, also testified to military examining magistrate Rashid Mezher that four members of Fatah al-Islam gunned down legislator Pierre Gemayel on Nov. 21 in east Beirut’s suburb of Jdaideh, according to the daily al-Moustaqbal.

Another pan Arab daily, al-Sharq al-Awsat, published a similar report.

The report said Merie testified to Mezher during interrogation that he was the “liaison officer” between Fatah al-Islam’s leader Shaker Abssi and Shawkat.

Shawkat, according to Merie’s alleged testimony, provided Fatah al-Islam with a “highly qualified explosives expert who trained members of the group on bob making.”

Shawkat also provided the group with “significant support,” the nature of which was not reported.

Merie was also quoted as telling Mezher that he worked out the explosives expert’s safe exit from the Nahr al-Bared camp in north Lebanon and back to Syria before the clashes broke out between fatah al-Islam and the Lebanese Army on May 20.

The newspaper report quoted unidentified judicial sources as saying Merie identified four members of the Fatah al-Islam network who carried out the Gemayel murder.

The sources, however, refused to disclose names of the suspects.

Nevertheless, the newspaper said the so-called Majd el-Dine Abboud, who also goes by the code name of Abu Yezen, was one of the suspects in the Gemayel murder. He was killed in confrontations with the Lebanese Army.

It couldn’t be determined whether Abboud was a Syrian or Palestinian citizen, the report noted.

Merie and his brother, Mohammed, also testified in separate sessions that Fatah al-Islam had planned to carry out bomb and booby-trapped car attacks against several targets in Lebanon, including two Beirut hotels frequented by personnel of the United Nations Interim, Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) in addition to some embassies and U.N. offices, the report added.

It said Merie testified to playing a role in smuggling Iraqi, Tunisian and Saudi “jihadists” to Lebanon via Syria.

Such Jihadists included Fatah al-Islam Financial backer, a Saudi named Abdul Rahman al-Yahya, who goes by the code name of Abu Talha.

Merie, according to the report, rented an apartment for Yahya in the northern town of Tripoli and “received from him lots of money used to finance members of the group and for the purchase of a highly sophisticated machine used to forge passports … which was confiscated later at one of the squad’s apartments in Tripoli.”

Merie, the report added, moved to the Akkar province after outbreak of clashes at Nahr al-Bared and stayed for a couple of days with a relative. He then moved to the eastern Bekaa valley before settling at the hotel in Beirut’s district of Ashrafiyeh where he was busted by police and arrested.

“He maintained contact throughout that period with Abssi and his gang,” the report concluded.

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July 18th, 2007, 10:50 pm

 

38. Ford Prefect said:

Hello Bilal,
You are speaking some thoughts that I have, but not all. Again, I have not seen an audited financial statement to count the riches of any of the rulers of the Middle East – Israeli Likud/Kadima politicians included.

Now that I mentioned Israeli leaders, let me get it out of the way because it won’t be long before a certain war-monger, genetically-modified neocons on this blog cuts and pastes my comments for irrelevant recycled reasons. So here is a sample regarding Israeli Likud/Kadima and other corrupt Israeli officials and politicians, for the record. Also for the record, I must say that I respect the Israelis for catching crooks and throwing them in jail. That is admirable – thanks for a watchful public eye and Ha’aretz:

1. January 23, 2007. (http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/middle_east/6276071.stm) Olmert faces allegations over the sale of Leumi bank in 2005. Also, the he head of the Israeli Tax Authority, a top aide to Mr. Olmert, and several others were arrested as part of a police investigation into possible bribery.

2. January 2007. Israeli president charged. (http://www.somethingjewish.co.uk/articles/2154_katsav_charged_with_.htm) Israeli President Moshe Kastav charged with sexual harassment, coercion, and rape (Gee, has he been with some Ba’athists lately!).

3. February 2006. Sharon son Jailed for corruption
(http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/middle_east/4712698.stm).

4. Chief Rabbi Amar’s son admits to charges of abduction and abuse, Ha’aretz, 11/23/2005.

5. September 28, 2006. Political Corruption in Israel; Uri Avnery.
(http://www.counterpunch.org/avnery09282006.html)

To list corrupt Washington politicians and high figures in the Bush administration would require a dedicated Web server with terabytes of storage. So I will spare the readers the obvious and carry on. (To spare a cut and paste reply on this point, please do not refer to the Clinton era. It is irrelevant at this point).

Back to Bilal. Maybe you know more than I do about Khaddam, so I yield. However before I emigrated in the late seventies – out of utter disgust of cronyism, corruption, raging religiosity, and the lack of minimal human rights – Abou Jihad (a die hard Ba’athist), Abou Firas (a fake anything), Abou Dureid (a murderer and a mad dog) or any other “abou” degenerated species, meanwhile, were no Mother Theresa. That I do know for a fact.

Also, a fact is that Abou Jihad (did I mention he is a diehard Ba’athist) and his family have Saudi citizenship bestowed upon them – thanks to Abou Baha of Lebanon. Maybe if you are a devout hajji, KSA will give you its esteemed citizenship – I just don’t know.

But we are where we are and I believe we are both in agreement that rabid corruption in Syria was and still is widespread and shameful.

Regarding your further comments on Bashar. I hear you and I have no problem with what you are saying as an opinion on his leadership qualities. I do not follow his speeches, do not read his newspapers, and have no desire of hearing propaganda coming out of a country that is still under Marshal Law. I have not been there in years and I am not planning going there anytime soon. Syria is still too tight for my liberal taste (and my career’s requirement). But I want Syrians to continue their awakening and modernization peacefully to transform Syria into a true liberal democracy state. Protecting our minorities – all of them – from religious bigotry is my duty as a Muslim and as a member of the Sunni majority. That is why you hear me barking about the need to stem religious indoctrination and proliferation to protect every Syrian.

You also mentioned Romania’s Ceausescu as an example of peaceful transition to democracy. I am afraid that Romania is not a good example. If you recall, the Romanian Revolution happened in 1989 when the Soviet Empire was collapsing (the USSR was officially dissolved in February 1990). Romania’s revolution was not peaceful; over 1,000 people lost their lives. This is a high number compared to other Eastern European countries. But I see the point you are making and I understand.

Scientists and scholars have discussed the issue of transition to democracy extensively in the literature. They have compared side-by-side why some countries convert to democracy faster than others and why some countries seem to be democracy-resistant.

For example, Rueschemeyer et al. (1992), Putnam (1993), Inglehart (1999), and Fukuyama (1992) identified several factors that must be ripe before reaching the “tipping” point of democratic transition. These factors include maturity in modernization, industrialization, literacy, urbanization, secularization, citizenship, and nationality among many other factors. The emergence of multiple political actors, supported by solid institutions was also mentioned as an important factor.

Last but not least, scientists have observed that, in general, data shows that religiosity, combined with other factors such as low national identity development and low per capita income do not seem to be conducive to high support for democratic ideals.

One can write a book about the experiences of transition to democracy and compare that transition to associated factors from the Human Development Index (HDI) to the individuality of interpersonal trust (cited by Mark E. Warren; ed. (1999); Democracy and Trust). Many factors must come together and must have the right chemistry for the “rain” of democracy to form and start falling.

I will leave at this point. Apologies if I missed some other points but it is getting late where I am and my clients are very demanding comes morning. But as always, Bilal, thanks for the nice chat and keeping me awake. I even missed dinner and that is a good thing!

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July 18th, 2007, 11:16 pm

 

39. majedkhaldoun said:

the surge is not ,will not succeed,any military power,can repress,but never eradicate resistance,the surge comes from arrogance,which will lead to more losses,if it was intended to gain stratigic advantage,it is late, and it is done in the wrong way.

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July 18th, 2007, 11:24 pm

 

40. Ford Prefect said:

SimoHurtta,
Thanks for the rebuttal above. Cheers. Here is the news from the latest US National Intelligence Estimate.

National Intelligence Estimate: Al Qaeda stronger and a threat to US homeland

Report points to war in Iraq and Pakistan’s tribal areas as allowing Al Qaeda to regroup.

http://www.csmonitor.com/2007/0718/p99s01-duts.html

And they just don’t see it! They rejected so far not only their opponents views, but even their own when it contradicts their belligerence.

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July 18th, 2007, 11:27 pm

 

41. ausamaa said:

Why is everything happening in lebanon is always linked “directly” to Big Names in Syria? Don’t they have capable officers of lower ranks who can handle such “matters anmd contacts” in the vast Syrian Security branches?

Remember back then, when a freak like Al Siddiqe saw things in camps in Zabadani, heard high-level Security Officers conspire in Beirut, and knew about things that happened in the Presidential Palace in Damascus!

Very thin and leaky systems, those “scary” Syrians must be operating! And if Naharnet can find out such secrets like in the above report, then damn those Fitzgerald, Mehlis and Brammertz guys, could not they find and pin “something” on the Syrians after 2 years of “invistigation”? Damn!

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July 18th, 2007, 11:27 pm

 

42. trustquest said:

Dr. Landis,
The Syrian government position on Iraq is a mystery to me, they advocate American troops withdrawal and I do not know why they are asking the American to leave when all experts are predicting chaos if they did. Chaos is not good for Syria and it might spread into their region, so is their position is just a pretense one based on their long standing policy of denials of others without knowing the consequences and without outlining reasoning and plan for their stand. Recent interview with Senator Biden on pbs , who is advocating splitting Iraq into three province under federal republic as a reduce the bloodshed after American withdrawal is also was rejected by Syrian in contrast to 1/3 of Iraq population might agree with this. Can you please elaborate on Syrian position?

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July 19th, 2007, 1:14 am

 
 

44. Alex said:

Majadele seeks post of emissary to Damascus

By Akiva Eldar, Haaretz Correspondent

Science, Sport and Culture Minister Ghaleb Majadele (Labor) on Wednesday asked Prime Minister Ehud Olmert to send him to Damascus as a goodwill emissary.

Majadele told Haaretz that he had urged Olmert to respond favorably to Assad’s calls for peace in his speech Tuesday to the Syrian parliament.

He also asked Olmert to declare his government’s willingness to “make significant and painful territorial concessions, as the late [prime minister] Yitzhak Rabin proposed, for the sake of a diplomatic arrangement that would lead to relations with Syria and to peace and stability in the entire region.”

According to Majadele, “the Syrian president’s speech obligates Israel to respond clearly according to the principle established by Rabin, that the extent of withdrawal would conform to the extent of peace.”

Majadele added that “the price of war is always higher than the price of peace – as high as that can be.” The minister also said that alongside painful territorial concessions, “which would give hope to the Syrian people, the security of the State of Israel must be ensured.”

Majadele said he believes talks with the Syrians, and even more so a diplomatic arrangement with it, would have a positive impact on the Palestinian, Lebanese and Arab channels in general.

An Israeli official said Wednesday that Israel and Syria have been in contact through third parties for a while, but the mediators have been unable to get the two sides to resume peace talks.

Assad said Tuesday that a third country recently offered to serve as a mediator with Israel. The country, which he did not identify, has mediated in the past, he said. Israeli media speculated Assad was referring to Turkey.

UN envoy: Syria interested in peace talks with Israel
The UN’s Mideast envoy said Wednesday that after recent contacts with Syrian officials, he believes Damascus is interested in restarting peace talks with Israel.

Syria’s UN ambassador said his country was prepared to enter a peace process if Israel would acknowledge publicly its willingness to withdraw from all Syrian territory captured in the 1967 Six-Day War.

UN Mideast envoy Michael Williams said he traveled to Syria last month and held talks with at least two senior government officials there – Vice President Farouk al-Sharaa and Foreign Minister Walid Moallem.

“It did seem to me that there was an interest on the Syrian side in looking at the possibilities involved in negotiations with Israel,” Williams told reporters. “I think they are interested in opening negotiations.”

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July 19th, 2007, 4:07 am

 

45. Bilal said:

Hi Ford Perfect,

I am sorry & happy that you missed dinner and then I am to blame or get the credit for your fit shape. I am happy from this chat, which is actually helping me understand some points.
I told you that you know very little if any about Khaddam and this is common to most readers. First he is Abou Jamal and not Abou Jihad. Second only his eldest son Jamal got the KSA citizenship because he is working there. None of the family got it except Jamal. If the regime has any case of corruption against him he would have made it the first news.
Until the next subject, I remain.

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July 19th, 2007, 2:47 pm

 

46. K said:

Khaddam is part of the gang of Syrian Ba’thists who bloodily ruled Lebanon for many years and enriched himself in the process. He is no more and no less corrupt than the rest of the tyrannical Ba’thist clique. It would be difficult for the current regime to expose his crimes without implicating many who are still in power. But his defection makes it convenient to scapegoat him for the ills of that era. For that reason, we will continue to hear him rhetorically derided by the regime for corruption without any proof being provided.

Bilal,

I think an ex-Ba’thist tyrant is better than a current Ba’thist tyrant, in the same way that ex-Syrian puppets (Hariri, Jumblat, and in fact, the entire Lebanese political establishment apart from the FPM and the LF) are better than current Syrian puppets (the Lebanese Opposition). But I would be careful not to romanticize anyone…

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July 19th, 2007, 3:00 pm

 

47. Ford Prefect said:

Cheers Bilal. I stand corrected with the eldest son name.

K, I rarely agree with you, but your last statement is is how I feel too! We are getting somewhere…..

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July 19th, 2007, 4:11 pm

 

48. Qifa Nabki said:

Very well spoken, K.

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July 19th, 2007, 7:42 pm

 

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