Syria Shuts Out Iraqi Refugees. Is Arabism Over?

Syria has turned a major corner on its Iraq policy. Almost two years ago I wrote that the Iraq war and the flood of Iraqi refugees it would produce would spell the end of Syria's pan-Arab laws. The vast number of refugees coming out of Iraq, I conjectured, would force Syria to rescind its open policy of allowing fellow Arab nationals to enter the country without visas. The Baathist philosophy of pan-Arab nationalism has long been under-girded by the refusal to treat Arab visitors to Syria as foreigners on a par with visitors from non-Arab countries. On January 20, Damascus imposed a visa requirement on Iraqis entering the country and those already resident in Syria.

The new visas are good for 15 days, much like visas for non-Arab visitors. Iraqis were previously granted renewable three-month residency permits but Syria now issues two-week permits that can be renewed just once, upon presentation of documents including a rental contract. Otherwise, Iraqis must return home for a month before they can apply again. This change does not extend to non-Iraqi Arab visitors, but it is a first step. Following the withdrawal of the Syrian army from Lebanon, Syria also imposed a visa regime of sorts on visitors to and from Lebanon, who must now pay a fee for crossing the border. Arabism, the central tent poll of the Baathist regime, is now being dismantled as Syria ends the free passage of Arab visitors across its borders.

Official Syrian sources on Sunday said the measures introduced by the Syrian government on the Iraqi newcomers were taken for security and economic purposes, adding that the Iraqis' residency in Syria was still under discussion. Stressing that Syria was "exerting all-out efforts to help the Iraqi people in their ordeal," the officials explained that Syria was overburdened by the exodus of hundreds of thousands of Iraqis.

The cause of this reversal are many. First and foremost, The flood of Iraqi refugees, which is approaching one million, has overburdened the constrained Syrian economy and provoked an anti-Iraqi backlash among the Syrian population. Housing prices in greater Damascus have risen by 300% over the last three years, in part, due to refugee pressure. Food prices have also risen dramatically. Syrians complain about overcrowding at some schools in the Damascus area, which have reportedly admitted up to 28,000 Iraqi children. In areas where Iraqis have settled, residents say some classes have swollen from 30 pupils to 50. Most Syrians blame the rampant inflation in the economy of the Iraqis. Another worry is the dramatic rise in crime rates, which is blamed on Iraqis. Riots in Jaramana and other areas that have have become centers of refugee settlement are only one indication of the social pressures and economic hardship placed on the average Syrian by the influx of Iraqis.

The United States for the last three years has been demanding that Syria impose a visa regime on Arab visitors to the country in order to allow for back-ground checks and heightened security. Washington has asked Syria to build a counterpart to America's Home Land Security regime in order to stanch the flow of Muslim Jihadists headed for Iraq through Syria.  Iraq and Washington have also demanded that Syria expel Iraqi Baathists residing in Syria, who they accuse of directing the Sunni resistance based in Anbar province. In some ways, Syria's crackdown of Iraqis is a perverse response to this pressure. Although it is not uniquely directed against Baathist Iraqis, it will allow Syria to claim that it does not protect them and has taken positive measures to restrict the open access of Iraqis to Syria.

Another reason for the refugee policy reversal is Syrian peevishness at being continually isolated by the US and Saudi Arabia. It is tired of being blamed for the lamentable level of violence in Iraq. Syria does not believe it is responsible for the steady deterioration of Iraq, rather, it sees itself as the victim of others misguided policies. Syrians believe they have been more generous than any other Iraqi neighbor in taking in Iraqi refugees and bearing the burden of Washington's failed policies. There is merit to Syrians' sense of frustration at being punished for their help. Refugees International president Kenneth H. Bacon wrote in a recent op-ed:

Syria is the last country in the Middle East to leave its borders open to Iraqi refugees. The United Nations estimates that 1.8 million Iraqis have sought refuge in the region, and Syria and Jordan host the largest concentration. It can't maintain its open-door policy without international support. Refugees already strain social services. Yet, the international response to the Iraqi refugee crisis has been dismal. Despite numbers that rival the displacement in Darfur, there has been scant media attention and even less political concern. The Office of the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees is doing little.

Unfortunately, the price of this spitting match between Syria, on the one hand, and the US and its allies, on the other, will be paid by the vulnerable refugees who do not deserve more suffering.

Leaders of the Iraqi government are furious at the new Syrian laws, even though they mimic the visa laws Jordan put in place following the hotel bombings in Amman in 2005. Iran, Saudi Arabia and Kuwait have barred Iraqis altogether.

On Friday, Iraqi government spokesman Ali al-Dabbagh told the US- financed al-Hurra television that "thousands of Iraqis are being put in a difficult situation" in western neighbour Syria.

According to al-Dabbagh, Iraqis going to Syria to avoid the violence in their homeland are being given only 15-day entrance visas and some have to leave the country for at least 30 days before being allowed in again.

The UNHCR reported that the number of Iraqis registered with the organization was at more than 46,000 and increasing daily.

Official Syrian sources on Sunday said the measures introduced by the Syrian government on the Iraqi newcomers were taken for security and economic purposes, adding that the Iraqis' residency in Syria was still under discussion.

Stressing that Syria was "exerting all-out efforts to help the Iraqi people in their ordeal," the officials explained that Syria was overburdened by the exodus of hundreds of thousands of Iraqis.

Dabbagh called the situation disastrous for Iraqis in Syria, and added: "There is anger among Iraqis over the Syrian attitude and there is anger from Iraq." He called Syria's attitude harmful and hostile. He also alleged that half the militants who launch bomb attacks in Iraq come from Syria.

Assad Abboud in Baghdad reports: After Saturday's massive truck bomb in a Baghdad market, Iraqi government spokesman Ali al-Dabbagh declared that half of the violence gripping the country was the work of outsiders infiltrating from Syria.

"I confirm that 50 percent of murders and bombings are by Arab extremists coming from Syria," Dabbagh said.

"They come from Syria, we have evidence to prove it. We have already proved it to our brothers in Syria.

"We want to tell all Arabs now that those who call themselves mujahedeen come from Syria, and murder our oppressed population."

Syria reacted angrily to Dabbagh's comments describing them as "contrary to reality and aimed at harming relations between Iraq and Syria that Damascus wants to strengthen and develop."

Syria recalled that Iraqi President Jalal Talabani made a six-day visit just last month, the first by an Iraqi head of state in three decades, during which a series of agreements were signed.

"The deals that were struck have laid the basis for the development of relations," an official source said in Damascus. "The comments made by Ali al-Dabbagh are unjustifiable."

Whether or not Dabbagh's accusations are justifiable or not, it is clear that Syria has made a major reassessment of its Iraq policy. On the occasion of President Talabani's visit to Syria, during which Syria official changed its policy toward militias in Iraq, declaring that the violence there was largely the work of terrorists, Syria changed its course on Iraq.

It would seem that Damascus now believes that Iraq is headed for a meltdown. This is why it has begun to restrict refugees. They will only keep on coming, and the real exodus may looming in the future months. It would explain why Talabani was greeted so warmly in Damascus two weeks ago. Syria has decided that it must try to shore up the present Iraqi government whether the US remains hostile to Syria or not. In some respects, this change of course suggests that Syrian and US differences over Iraq have narrowed. This may be true in the narrow sense. Syria can see that there is no future course but to hope that the American surge can help the Iraqi government to survive. After all, with Washington committed to this course and refusing to bring either Iran or Syria into regional discussions on Iraq, there is very little choice. To undermine the present Iraqi government will only ensure that more Iraqi refugees come streaming into Syria.

All the same, Syria will not cut off its links to the Sunni leadership of the opposition in Iraq. Syria will continue to cover all bets on Iraq's future. It does not believe it can afford to alienate any group so long as the future of the country is in such doubt. If the US government is pessimistic about the outcome of its present policy, as demonstrated in the recent intelligence estimate on Iraq, the Syrian government is doubly pessimistic. This explains why President Bashar al-Assad met in Damascus last week with the head of the influential Sunni Association of Muslim Scholars, Sheik Harith al-Dhari. Iraq's Interior Ministry issued an arrest warrant against him in November, alleging al-Dhari instigated sectarian violence. Asad's meeting with Dhari infuriated the Iraqi government, especially as it came on the heels of Asad's meeting with Talabani, to whom he promised cooperation on security issues. We do not now the subject of their meeting. It may well be that Asad encouraged Dhari to work with the Iraqi government and to calm violence, but the fact that Asad was willing to meet with Dhari at all has become a source of irritation for the Iraqi government.

The  meeting points out that even if Damascus is in the midst of a major policy change toward relations with Iraq, it will not put all its eggs in the Maliki basket.

This point was underlined by Ambassador Imad Mustapha in Washington during a recent interview with Helena Cobban, who has written it up at her site: Just World News

[Imad Mustapha] talked a little about his government's relations with many of the different parties and groups inside today's Iraq.  He started by recalling how many of the politicians who emerged in the immediate post-Saddam era had had long ties with Syria, having spent a good portion of their previous years of exile in Damascus.  "Seventeen of the 25 members of the Interim Governing Council established by Paul Bremer once carried Syrian diplomatic passports!"  After the US invasion of Iraq, many of those Iraqi politicians had turned their back on Damascus to some degree– "But now, even those who disdained us for a while are coming back into a relationship with us."

Moustapha noted that Moqtada al-Sadr had a very good visit to Syria in early 2005, "and later, he became a kingmaker in the political system in Baghdad."  He stressed that in his view, Sadr was very far from being any kind of an Iranian puppet.

He concluded by laying out his proposal for an all-party reconciliation process inside Iraq, to be parallelled by a regional process involving all Iraq's neighbors and the United States.  "This wouldn't solve all the problems," he conceded.  "But it would certainly change the regional dynamics."

Syria will continue to seek improved ties with as many parties as possible in Iraq. It is genuinely fearful of the consequences of a meltdown and the failure of Washington's mission to bolster the present government. It does not like America's presence in Iraq, but for the time being neither does it want the US to fail in keeping the government afloat. As Foreign Minister Muellem declared a few weeks ago, Syria does not want American troops to withdraw precipitously, although, it does want to be included in talks. 

Syria's recent policy shift toward Iraq underlines how futile and self-destructive Washington's policy of excluding Syria has become. US prospects of stabilizing the situation in Iraq are not good, but without cooperating from Syria, they are surely worse than they have to be. Syria shares many of Washington's objectives in Iraq – not all, to be sure, but enough to make cooperation the only wise policy.

addendum:

UNHCR offices in Damascus have been mobbed by Iraqis since the new visa requirement was imposed. The UNHCR registered very few of the Iraqis in Syria prior to the visa requirement because it could offer them no protection or value. Now that they will be forced to return to Iraq every 15 days, they need official refugee status to go elsewhere. Some journalists are beginning to speculate that America will have to welcome many more Iraqis as refugees. Carolyn Lochhead writes this:

When the South Vietnamese government collapsed, the United States initially accepted 130,000 Vietnamese, including 65,000 fearing their lives because of their collaboration with Americans. Many conferences later, 1.4 million Vietnamese, Cambodians and Laotians had been admitted, according to U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services.

Bill Frelick, refugee policy director at Human Rights Watch and author of an extensive report on the situation. "As it turns out, many of the people who are fleeing Iraq are fleeing because of their associations with the United States."  

Newland said Syria and Jordan consider the refugees tourists or illegal immigrants, "which sort of implies that the problem will go away or that they would be perfectly within their rights to kick people out." The fear now is that both may close their borders. Jordan began restricting entry after Iraqis bombed three hotels in Amman in 2005. Iran, Saudi Arabia and Kuwait have barred Iraqis.

"There's just no way a small country like Jordan can, unaided, absorb hundreds of thousands of Iraqi refugees," Newland said.

Despite terrorism concerns, some predict the United States eventually will admit several hundred thousand Iraqi refugees, as it has after most military conflicts.

UNHCR was only able to resettle 1,500 Iraqis in the past three years.

Read this story about Iraqis in Syria:

Iraqi refugees feel hounded by Syria crackdown
New two week permits of stay hurt Iraq’s 600,000 refugees in Syria, add further burden on exile community.
By Roueida Mabardi – Damascus – 2007-02-03

Hussein, like hundreds of thousands of other Iraqis, fled to neighbouring Syria from the violence blighting daily life at home. But now that Damascus has tightened residency rules, he faces an uncertain future. "If I go back I'm dead," Hussein said…..

Here is an add I found on the web as I looked for photos of Iraqi refugees to include in the post. If this doesn't bring a tear to the eye, nothing will. The only surprise was that there were not more. The Iraqi refugees are being ignored by the West that continues to deny that there is a serious refugee problem that will endure long into the future. One must be thankful to the international organizations like the UNHCR, Refugees International, the IOM, and others that are struggling to bring attention and relief to the plight of Iraqi refugees. Unfortunately their warnings find a deaf ear in the major donor countries, whose governments are following Washington in the insistence that all will come right in Iraq in a year or two, even though their intelligence agencies are telling them otherwise.

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Comments (20)


1. Yaman said:

Prof Landis, do you know if the Iraqi refugees in Syria are staying in camps or if they are finding housing to accomodate themselves? Are there any aid agencies assisting them in their daily lives/education, etc? Thanks.

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February 4th, 2007, 11:17 pm

 

2. Enlightened said:

The first massive wave of iraqi immigration, was just after the first Gulf war, much like the Lebanese civil war the first mass migration from the middle east ( civil war induced ), this second wave of mass immigration is just about to begin. ( I am not including the mass movement of people after the creation of israel here )

Up to 1 million people are currently residing in Jordan/Syria. Syria ( has due to its liberal policy of accomadating refugees) been the only country in the middle east to allow refugees to settle in any post conflict that has arisen since 1948. If i remember correctly Josh has written an academic paper on the palestinian refugees in Syria.

What does this turnaround in policy mean? In poitical terms those among you who will start to say that the Syrian regime is abandoning Arabism will be way of the mark. The Baathists are idealogues they will not abandon this cause.

The real reason is the Syrian economy is under pressure! Ehsani may be you can elaborate further on the pressures that this migration has caused, if you have acess to the data. Josh gave some small indications of pressures in the article.

This migration at the moment is a small trickle, when the americans fail in Iraq as many here in this blog expect them to, a massive shift in the population from Iraq to Jordan and Syria will have a more serious and sytematic impact on the respective economies and poilitical ramifications on those countries.

This I feel is inevitable, and will shake the political landscape in the middle east.

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February 4th, 2007, 11:42 pm

 

3. Alex said:

Normally, when a country takes a decsion that has serious implications on a million people (Iraqi refugees in Syria in this case) there is a pres conference to explain everything, to deny rumors, to provide other solutions to those affected ..etc.

Syria loves to keep its intentions secret from everyone… joshua’s reasoning makes a lot of sense, but I can imagine a couple more motives (which can be additive).

I see it from another angle: There are serious efforts going on to solve all problems WITHOUT ANY ROLE FOR SYRIA …

– King Abdallah of KSA wants to host the Palestinians on tuesday to show Bashar that Saudi Arabia can do what Syria could not do.

– President Chirac is talking to Iran about Lebanon .. but not to Syria!

– President Bush accepted some Baker reccomendations (about the Israeli Palestinian conflict) .. but not hte ones about involving Syria.

– The “Arab moderates” agreed to play along with the Bush plans … they are all now mentioning “Egypt and Saudi Arabia can, with the help of the United States solve it” .. no Syria.

– Saudi Arabia is talking to Iran about solving Lebanon’s problems .. and refusing to involve Syria in the process, even if that means the process will fail.

Syria which has been genuinely trying hard to mostly (I did not say all the time) do good things might now act the way they always accused it of acting .. like a serious obstructionist … they will make sure at least two of the three (Lebanon, Palestine, Iraq) is a mess.

I see a confrontation for regional influence between Syria and Saudi Arabia/Chirac/Bush/Hariri group

“My sources” from Davos confirm the same.

Of course .. this is the middle East … Joshua’s other hypothesis might also be true.

We’ll see.

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February 5th, 2007, 12:29 am

 

4. majedkhaldoun said:

I feel very sorry for the Iraqi,and I understand Syria position,if Lebanon break into civil war Syria must expect one million lebanese as refugee,as well,may be that Syria did this because they expect civil war in Lebanon.

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February 5th, 2007, 1:27 am

 

5. norman said:

Syria is the only real Arab country ,Syria takes refugees from Iraq, and did from Lebanon and Palestine ,Still Syria is looked on as a peria , now the Iraqi goverment is blaming Syria , They should be gratfull to what Syria did for the Iraqies in the last 4 years without any assistance from the US who caused the problems or from the rich Gulf states who enjoyed the massive oil wealth without thinking of what Syria is doing to their fellow Arab who are refugees because of their support to the American invasion of Iraq , Looking at what Syria is doing for the Plaestinians ,Iraqies and the Lebanese ,I think people should kiss the land that is called Syria and be gratfull to it’s hospitable people

Hafez Asad moved into Lebanon to stop the civlewar anfter the Lebanes flodded Syria ,Does anybody think that Bashar is planing a move into Iraq to solve the Iraqi refugees pronlem.?.

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February 5th, 2007, 2:22 am

 

6. Bilal Nawaf said:

I believe that this is just another bluff from Bashar to increase his price as Alex had indirectly suggested. Here I would like to wonder why is every one on the planet is trying to solve all problems WITHOUT ANY ROLE FOR SYRIA? Is it possible that they are all wrong and Syria is an innocent scapegoat? We all know that the only role Syria is and was playing for the past 2 years is obstructing any initiative in the Middle East for the simple reason that the Syrian regime DOES NOT HAVE ANY STRATEGY and accordingly they do not know what they want. Yes at the end and because of this we should expect a confrontation between Syria and all the others including maybe even Iran.

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February 5th, 2007, 7:07 am

 

7. annie said:

I was told there are over three million refugees from Iraq. Any truth to that ?

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February 5th, 2007, 7:34 am

 

8. Kassar Alzabadi said:

Assafir reported today:

دمشق: لا شروط جديدة لإقامة العراقيين

زياد حيدر
دمشق :
انتقدت مصادر سورية مطلعة بشدة التصريحات العراقية الأخيرة بخصوص شروط إقامة النازحين العراقيين في سوريا، مشيرة إلى «معلومات تم تداولها بشكل خاطئ» في وسائل الإعلام بخصوص الشروط الجديدة.
وقالت المصادر لـ«السفير» إن وزارة الداخلية السورية قد تصدر بيانا توضيحيا خلال اليومين المقبلين، مشيرة إلى أن مهلة الـ15 يوما هي لتأمين الأوراق اللازمة لتحصيل الإقامة وليست إقامة بحد ذاتها، وأن المواطن العراقي يمكنه الحصول على إقامة الثلاثة أشهر مباشرة في حال تمكن من تحصيل أوراقه خلال هذه الفترة، ومن بينها عقد للإيجار.
وأضافت المصادر أن سوريا ما زالت على سياستها «الحاضنة والمنفتحة تجاه الأشقاء العرب»، وأنها استقبلت خلال الأعوام الثلاثة الماضية ما يقارب المليون عراقي، وأن ما يقارب الأربعين ألف عراقي يدخلون سوريا شهريا غالبيتهم من الطبقة المتوسطة، وأنها «لا تميز بين الأطياف العراقية» في هذا السياق.
يذكر انه كان بإمكان العراقيين الحصول على أذونات تتيح لهم البقاء ثلاثة أشهر قابلة للتجديد، لكن اللاجئين العراقيين يقولون إن السلطات لم تعد تصدر منذ 20 الشهر الماضي سوى «إجازات إقامة لمدة أسبوعين قابلة للتجديد مرة واحدة شرط تقديم وثائق بينها عقد إيجار».
وقالت المصادر السورية إن «الإجراءات التي اتخذت هي لتنظيم الأغراض الأمنية والاقتصادية ولا داعي للقلق» مشيرة في الوقت ذاته إلى «الضغوط الاقتصادية والاجتماعية الذي يشكلها هذا النزوح الكبير على بلد صغير محدود الموارد».

http://www.assafir.com/Article.aspx?EditionId=556&ChannelId=11977&ArticleId=468

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February 5th, 2007, 9:29 am

 
 

10. MSK said:

Dear Alex,

you seem to be surprised that the French & Saudis talk to Iran about Lebanon, but not Syria.

Well, how much $$$ does Syria give HA and how much does Iran give? Remember, the HA/Aoun-Syria alliance is purely tactical. They don’t depend on Syria as much as they depend on Iran.

As for the refugees and the new visa restrictions, it doesn’t surprise me in the least, and not because I think the Syrian regime has lost it’s Arabism but because it’s simple pragmatism. Syrians (particularly in Damascus) are becoming increasingly anti-Iraqi, to the point that they think & speak of Iraqis the way that Lebanese thought & spoke of Syrians. Actually, Iraqis are said to do even things in Syria that Syrians never did in Lebanon: prostitution, causing housing prices to go up, conspicuous consumption (flashy cars, parties, etc.). [My sources are from Damascus.] Of course, on the other hand they haven’t engaged in violence against the local population, so there is one (major) difference …

My question now is: just how does the Syrian gov’t think this policy will be playing out in practical terms? Will there be a mass movement of Iraqis back to Iraq, where they wait out on the other side of the border for a month & then come back to Syria? What will happen to the children in schools? How could Iraqis working in Syria ensure to keep their jobs/occupations? Will it drive more of them into the “shadow market” or crime?

Are there going to be big refugee mukhayyamaat built on the Iraqi side of the Syrian-Iraqi border?

One last question (although I don’t expect it to be answered here): What about those 200-something Palestinian refugees we’d talked about a while ago? Will they be taken in or not? Does anyone have information on whether they’re still stranded at the border?

–MSK

http://www.aqoul.com

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February 5th, 2007, 9:46 am

 

11. ausamaa said:

In light of Assafeer article posted above, is Syria restricting the entry of Iraqies or just regulating it??

And I think the title of this post ” IS ARABISEM OVER” is too dramatic. Arabisem was not declared over during the last fifty years when all Arab countries severly restrict and deny Palestinan travel document holders from entering thier countries. Niether was Arabisem over when Lebanon’s Harriri government prohibited Palestinans residing in Lebanon from taking up jobs and from even renovating their houses in the refugee camps. For more than fifty years!!

For God’s sake, and considering that Syria is the only Arab country that permits all Arabs entry without prior visa, again, the title of the article is way too melodramatic. More suitable to a London tabloid than to Syria Comment.

Incidently, is Syria still providing drinking water and Electricity to Jordan and Lebanon at the expense of Syrian consumption, or has that stopped too???

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February 5th, 2007, 10:32 am

 

12. MSK said:

Ausamaa,

so you’re saying that the Hariri gov’t has ruled Lebanon for 50 years?

While I agree that the treatment of Palestinians in Lebanon (incl. the regulation that a long list of occupations can only be done by Lebanese – which, btw, excludes EVERY non-Lebanese, not just Palestinians) is abysmal, the regulations for refugee camps has mainly to do with U.N. rules, and applies as much to Gaza as to Saida.

Refugee camps have to be constructed in such a way as to not attain “permanent” status because then the inhabitants can be seen as “settled” and no longer refugees. (I am not making this up – this is UN regulation.) Therefore, no multi-storey buildings, only basic sanitation, etc.pp.

It’s a political decision as well as an organizational one. The logic behind it is “if refugees are settling, then they no longer need our help & protection & then they no longer are refugees & lose the right of return etc.”

–MSK

http://www.aqoul.com

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February 5th, 2007, 11:55 am

 

13. youngSyria said:

“if refugees are settling, then they no longer need our help & protection & then they no longer are refugees & lose the right of return etc.”

I wonder if they want to return…funny… most of them died ..now we are talking about their sons, grandsons and grand grand sons….

our mentality never fail to amaze me…..

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February 5th, 2007, 1:54 pm

 

14. t_desco said:

Things you always wanted to know about Syria:

Bashar al- Assad: What’s on His iPod?

😉

To be fair, Diane Sawyer asked many more interesting questions in this exclusive interview on “Good Morning America”.

Transcript here:

Exclusive: Syrian President Says He Can Help Broker Peace If U.S. Will Talk
ABC News

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February 5th, 2007, 6:06 pm

 

15. ausamaa said:

MSK

Some “logic”!! and the logic behind not allowing Palestinan refugees in Lebanon to take up jobs is called..???

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February 5th, 2007, 6:10 pm

 

16. Marc Kennedy said:

Since the American invasion of Iraq, the US has admitted only 466 refugees while Syria has admitted over a million refugees. in a country that has a population of 18 million.
The US and international agencies should help solve this humanitarian crisis caused by the aftermath of the American invasion and sectarian violence in Iraq.

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February 5th, 2007, 6:36 pm

 

17. qunfuz said:

My mother-in-law thinks there are four million Iraqis in Syria. You hear such stories, but they surely arent true. About a million is a very visible number in a city the size of Damascus. Yes, there’s lots of Iraqi prostitution, including child prostitution. A sign of the desperation of often very conservative families who’ve run out of cash. Of course the visa moves don’t mean that Arabism is dead. It means there’s a crisis, and one which could soon become much worse. Iraq seems to be heading for total collapse. Syria urgently needs international help with the refugee crisis. It is appalling that the rich nations which triggered the whole disaster are not talking about it. I think the Americans should be talking to the Syrians about the region anyway. And given the refugee crisis, even if Bashaar were Hitler the US should be dealing with him.

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February 5th, 2007, 7:52 pm

 

18. MSK said:

Ausamaa,

take it up with Lebanese politicians, of all parties, btw. None of them ever argued for the abolition of that rule, not even HA. And I don’t represent any of them. I just explained the situation. You seemed to want to blame everything on Hariri …

However, when it comes to Palestinians in Lebanon, there seems to be unanimity across the board.

And as I said, this regulation applies to ALL non-Lebanese, i.e. a Canadian doctor can’t practice in Lebanon, a French lawyer cannot work in Lebanon either, etc.pp.

And, the regulation is not on ALL occupations but “only” (and please not the sarcasm quotation marks) a few dozen of high-skill ones, like doctors, lawyers, etc.

There is NO general prohibition on Palestinians to work. Palestinians aren’t living off UNRWA handouts.

Dear all,

the interview can be watched here (in 3 parts, the last one an interview with young Syrians in Damascus):

http://abcnews.go.com/Video/playerIndex?id=2849523
http://abcnews.go.com/Video/playerIndex?id=2849576
http://abcnews.go.com/Video/playerIndex?id=2849603

I thought that Diane Sawyer did a truly bad job and that Bashar al-Assad came across as a little boy.

But maybe that’s just me …

–MSK

http://www.aqoul.com

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February 5th, 2007, 8:05 pm

 

19. Saad Shamoon Yousif said:

I wonder why the US and western world would not get all Chritians out of this misrable region and end their suffering. After all, I still yet to hear or see an Iraqi Christian blowing up him self in the name of our savior the Lord Jesus Christ.

Have mercy on the Christian community who has no dog in this ugly non-sense fight.

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February 7th, 2007, 1:10 am

 

20. Jwan said:

I think this’ a war between different parts of Islamic extremists and Iraqi Christians are stuck in the middle. If a child say’s a curse word, you would suspect he learned it form somewhere. All I know is that these terrorists aren’t making up these ideas of suicide and murder being a way for salvation. They get the idea from somewhere and if people used their brains, they would know from where. “…God is love” 1 John 4:8

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March 12th, 2007, 6:44 am

 

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