Syria’s Response to the Russian-Georgian Conflict

For Syria, Russian Revenge Can Taste – Oh So Sweet
By Tarek Barakat
For Syria Comment, 20 Aug 2008

While the full ramifications of the Russian-Georgian war might be months or years away before they are fully identified.  We can take one very key and undeniable fact from it already. Russia is back!!!

Moscow has utilized a foolish gamble by Georgian president Mikheil Saakashvili to its advantage by moving quickly and unequivocally in protecting its strategic assets in the Caucuses.  Sending a strong message to the US and EU to keep NATO off its backyard or else.  Washington and Brussels were unwilling to risk angering Russia over a disposable non-NATO member, especially when considering that Russia is Europe’s primary oil and gas supplier.

This essay is not about the Missile Shield or the strategic struggle between the US and Russia, it is about how Russia’s invasion of Georgia may change the power balance in the region, in particular for Israel, Iran and Syria. Israel is risking Russian revenge over its alleged support of the Georgian army and Syria may gain from rising Russian international influence and will to punish those who opposed it.

Yesterday, General Anatoly Nogovitsyn, deputy chief of staff of the Russian Military, accused Israel of arming Georgian troops with “eight types of military vehicles, explosives, landmines and special explosives for the clearing minefields."  More technicl details on some of the equipment can be found here.

General Nogavistyn comments come a day before Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's visit to Moscow, which starts today. While Moscow’s peace conference planned in October is a key agenda point, you can rest assured that Mr. Assad is keen on leveraging Russian anger at Israel to pave the way for Syria to acquire modern Russian arms. Although some Russians may want to punish Israel by arming Syria, we shouldn’t expect a dramatic shift in regional power any time soon. Just as the US & EU know where the red lines are drawn, Russia too understands that it can only go so far in assisting Iran & Syria before enraging the US & Israel. Syria too has much to lose if it puts all of its eggs in the Russian basket. Syria's main foreign policy goal over the last several months has been to re-engratiate itself with Europe and to prepare the way for mending its relationship with the US once the new administration occupies the White House.

In order not to anger the West, Syria is likely to restricted its Russian purchases to defensive weapons systems, as it has done for some time. Russia might also use its grudge against Israel to pressure the latter not to torpedo the Moscow Peace Conference (which is yet to be confirmed).  But overall, Syria will most certainly benefit from Russia’s new assertiveness. Only Damascus’s next moves will show how it decides to exploit the new US – Russian struggle.

[End]

Nur al-Cubicle sends this quote on Assad's support for Russia's invasion of Georgia:

Syrian President Bashar al-Assad denounced the “attempts” on the part of Western countries to “isolate Russia”. “We completely support Russia. Georgia sparked the crisis yet the West accuses Russia”, said Assad in an interview with the Russian daily, Kommersant. “The war initiated by Georgia was a extreme attempt to encircle and isolate Russia […] as the Americans continue their Cold War policies.”

Via La Repubblica

Reuters:

Assad, whose army is largely equipped with Russian-designed military hardware, said Israel’s role would only encourage countries like Syria — a U.S. foe and ally of Iran — to step up cooperation with Russia.

“I think that in Russia and in the world everyone is now aware of Israel’s role and its military consultants in the Georgian crisis,” Assad told Kommersant.

“And if before in Russia there were people who thought these forces can be friendly then now I think no one thinks that way.”

Syria-Russia deal threatens Mid East 'Cold War'
The Times (GB)
2008-08-20

A New Cold War Would Threaten Israel's Security By: Frida Ghitis | World Politics Review
The new global strategic landscape reflected by the Russia-Georgia conflict could mean a more challenging environment for Israeli security.

Russia weighs increasing military aid to Arab world

Syrian President Bashar Assad is scheduled to leave for Russia on Thursday for a two-day visit that has been described by analysts as important at a time when Moscow may be considering closer ties with the Arab world.

Syrian media have described Assad’s visit to Moscow as “a working visit” to discuss closer ties in a variety of unspecified areas.

A number of reports in recent months have mentioned large arms deals between Russia and Syria, including advanced anti-aircraft missile systems.

Russian and Syrian analysts have said that Israel’s military assistance to Georgia has paved the way for a particularly successful visit for the Syrian president, whose country has taken a clear stance on the side of Moscow in the recent conflict in the Caucasus.

“The significant military assistance provided by Israel to Georgia in its war against Russia will affect in the future – and probably in the near future – ties between Russia and Israel, and Russia’s attitude toward Arab states,” a Russian analyst said in an interview to Syrian television. “Russia will re-examine its ties with Israel, and it is not unlikely that Moscow will now decide to increase its military assistance to Arab countries in conflict with Israel, including Syria.”

Russia has held up the transfer of certain weapons systems to Syria and Iran as a result of U.S. and Israeli pressure, but now there is hope in Damascus that the situation will change in their favor, and Russia will authorize the arms sales.

What Did We Expect? By: Thomas L. Friedman | The New York Times
President Mikheil Saakashvili of Georgia gave Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin an excuse to exercise his iron fist.

Russia Never Wanted a War By: Mikhail Gorbachev | The New York Times
The planners of the crisis in Georgia clearly wanted to make sure that Russia would be blamed for worsening the situation.

Another Boost for Syria The Economist

The Syrian president, Bashar al-Assad, has been on a diplomatic roll since his triumphant appearance in Paris on Bastille Day. He has had further opportunities to display his statesmanship this month with visits to Iran and Turkey, and a visit by Lebanon's new president, Michel Suleiman, on August 13th and 14th was crowned with the announcement of a widely applauded agreement to establish diplomatic relations.

Comments (121)


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101. Lysander said:

AIG, Syrian ‘aid to terrorism’ has been a part of its policy since like forever. It invaded Lebanon with an American green light in 1976. It aided Hizbullah throughout the 80s and 90s. And yet, Syria and the U.S. have been on speaking terms until recently. It’s only been in recent years that for America it has become such an issue. Indeed, until a few years ago, Syria risked attack by the U.S. This despite almost every effort to ingratiate itself (as did Iran) with the west in the post 9/11 era.

As did Putin’s Russia, btw, during the initial invasion of Afghanistan. His reward was American withdrawal from the ABM treaty. If the U.S. isn’t ready to compromise with Russia, what kind of deal do you think Syria will get by not sending a few ancient rockets to Hizb?

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August 22nd, 2008, 5:30 am

 

102. Shai said:

AIG,

As in any dictatorship, the people know they cannot do much to change the system. They, therefore, depend on outside “intervention”, though normally they prefer it not to be a violent one (so that they don’t suffer). They want the world to press Israel to end its Occupation of Palestine and the Golan, so that Syria would have no more “excuses” for sloth-like reform. No more emergency-laws, no more endless funding for defense purposes, etc. I believe that makes some sense, doesn’t it?

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August 22nd, 2008, 5:30 am

 

103. Alex said:

AIG:

“The Georgians by and large want to be part of the West. What right has Russia to deny them that?”

What right does Israel have forcing the Palestinians to be part of Israel? … you are keeping them by force, more or less like Russia is relying on some force lately.

You were arguing few months ago here that international laws do not matter … it is force that matters.

———

Today i was thinking: Why is the United States not Syria’s friend?

1) AIPAC and its friends distorting Syria’s image.
2) Syrian refusal to be anyone’s puppets
3) Israel’s refusal to return the Golan Heights through peaceful means (Syria tried many times since 1991).. forcing Syria to support popular Arab resistance groups (which you call “terrorists”)
4) Saudi Arabia (and maybe Egypt) pressuring US administrations to not make serious deals with Syria … deals that will often be at the expense of Egyptian and Saudi roles in the Middle East.
5) Syria is too complicated to understand.
6) Syria is not a democracy … although this is not a real reason, but it provides AIPAC with a convincing anti-Syria argument sometimes… not many people notice that Egypt, Jordan, And Saudi Arabia are not democracies either.

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August 22nd, 2008, 6:10 am

 

104. Zenobia said:

“So keep mocking the hard earned democracy of Poland, Hungary, Slovakia, Lithuainia, Estonia etc. To you this is all a joke.”

I really don’t know where you come up with such crap. yeah… i was mocking eastern europe…???
I think my point was not that democracy and sovereignty were not positive developments. My point was that historically and currently the American spread of “democracy” is disingenuous in that, its goal is not democracy but the privilege of capital and the free movement and monopoly of markets open to american corporations.

And the reason I bring this up, is that most of the time this central goal is obscured by all kinds of lofty talk about ‘freedom’ and ‘democracy’ and standing up to tyranny, etc so on and so forth. However, it is 95% bullshit and blatantly hypocritical.

On the subject of Syria, I hate to break the news, but ninety percent of the population of Syria would likely fall into the category of ‘supporting terrorism’ in their sentiments and opinions according to your standard.
You just don’t want to get it through your thick head that these people do not consider the people you are calling terrorists (Hamas or HA) to be so. They are in the eyes of most of the ME legitimate entities of resistance.
So, you ask ridiculous questions about why Syrians could think that America should change but not themselves.
It is very simple. They are mystified as to how americans could not understand their perspective and how americans can be so very misinformed and uncomprehending of the realities in middle east from their vantage point, and why americans do not see the reasons for resistance by Palestinians or by Hezbollah.

They think you are stupid and blind.

and ironically, they think YOU are the one being duped by your government.

And because they view the situation the way they do and very differently than you, they see no reason to change their sentiments or object to the foreign policies of their government. And if that means losing the good opinion of the American gov’t or americans in general (which is not so true actually, as most people would have no opinion) then so be it.
At least they have integrity and are not double talking anyone or being hypocritical.

Now that we have that settled… let me say, you -AIG- are under some illusion that I am now interested in talking to you again. I am not. I have not given up the IGNORE AIG stance. And feel free to talk to those masochistic fans of yours who welcomed you back.
But leave me out of it.

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August 22nd, 2008, 6:57 am

 

105. Karim said:

Bashar is playing with fire.

Syria: Wives of Islamist Suspects Detained, Whereabouts Unknown

(New York, August 18, 2008) – The Syrian government should immediately release three women detained by state authorities since July 31, 2008, unless they have evidence that these women have committed criminal offenses and intend to try them for these, Human Rights Watch said today.

The women live in al-`Otayba, a village approximately 20 km east of Damascus, and are the wives of men currently detained on charges of belonging to Islamist groups that were planning violent acts.

So far, the authorities have not said why the women were detained, whether or not they intend to bring any charges against them, or where they are being held. While in the past officials have questioned and harassed wives and relatives of suspected Islamists, this is the first instance documented by Human Rights Watch where wives of Islamists have been held for more than a day.

“Being married to an Islamist or to a criminal suspect is not a crime,” said Joe Stork, Middle East deputy director at Human Rights Watch. “The Syrian authorities should immediately release these women unless they have evidence that they have committed crimes.”

On July 31, State Security, one of Syria’s numerous security agencies, seized Yusra al-Husayn at her house and took her into detention. She is the wife of Jihad Diab, a detainee at the US military base at Guantanamo Bay. Four days later, State Security detained Raw`a al-Kilani from her house. Raw`a is married to Ziad al-Kilani, who was detained by Syrian Air Force Intelligence in April 2004 and is currently facing trial before the Supreme State Security Court (SSSC), a special court that is exempt from standard rules of criminal procedure and evidence, on charges of membership in an association “created to change the economic or social structure of the state” through terrorist acts. Ziad is currently detained in Sednaya prison.

Around the time Raw`a was arrested, State Security also detained Bayan, the wife of Ahmad Saleh `Ali, from her house. Security services arrested Ahmad in June 2005. Authorities are presently holding him in Sednaya prison, and he is currently on trial before the SSSC on charges of membership in an association “created to change the economic or social structure of the state” through terrorist acts and for “issuing calls that weaken national sentiment or awaken racial or sectarian tensions.”

Syrian security services regularly arrest men suspected of Islamist affiliation or sympathies. Officers often subject them to torture during interrogation before referring them to trial before the SSSC, where their coerced confessions are used against them.

A major prison riot broke out on July 5, 2008 in Sednaya prison, where two of the detained women’s husbands are being held, Military police responded by opening fire on the detainees, killing an undetermined number of them (http://www.hrw.org/english/docs/2008/07/22/syria19411.htm). To date, the families of inmates in Sednaya have been unable to obtain any information about their relatives.

For more of Human Rights Watch’s work on Syria, please visit:

http://hrw.org/doc/?t=mideast&c=syria

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August 22nd, 2008, 12:03 pm

 

106. trustquest said:

Syria suggestion to have Russian missiles on its land and the enthusiastic reaction of its president to play into the international game is not only foolish but it is a sitting for the opposite scenario of the Georgian game. Which are in this case only two nations left, Russia and Venezuela!. Israel and US will be happy to play the opposite game and watch Russia not delivering or risk delivering in the midst of unsafe territories. If we imagine the Cuba crisis in Damascus as a scenario for the future, it is a dooms day dream for the US neocon. Russia now with Putin is wiser than Khrushchev, and the president remarks will be appreciated for his enthusiastic support, but no. This is 180 degrees from negotiation and from market economy which usually based on cooperation with neighbors and flow of capital from friendly nations.

Syrian president not only jumped the gun, but I think he does not fully comprehend the consequences of his announcement. Anyway, we can say good try and a smart message to the enemies and all we hope that the enemies are not going to it seriously and seek revenge in the future as they did to Saddam.
And as observer’s said, the money will be better spent on education and on economy. But, sadly we learnt from QN and Wikipedia that they have already spent 1 billion dollars on those missiles.

Wouldn’t he loose Turkey in this case? Wouldn’t the whole Arab world despise him for that? Wouldn’t the Saudi find a reason to trash him more? Wouldn’t the Gulf countries desert him and leave him without assistance. I think it is a dangerous suggestion. Also, this offer could benefit Russia the good friendship of Syria and loose all other Arab States.

I would add such a thought in the past, even during the father’s rule, used to be adopted after the party in power made a strategic decision regarding such change, what has happened to good old days? His dad used to meet with them and look at them in the eye, and dare them to speak up, but at least he checked with them.

I can see most comments here on SC, either ignoring it or not taking the president of Syria words seriously, it is considered double talk and at most it is considered wishful thinking or indirect message. I think a real supporter should tell him that this is too much too soon to jump the gun.

This volunteering to install missiles on Syria land curiously begs for a lot of unanswered questions: 1- did he signal the cut off relation with the west?. 2-is he doing this because he has nothing to loose?. 3- or is he taking revenge of the humiliation he subjected to in the past?.

But do not worry it was a jib jab,; the whole drama ended by the third day when the same State agency news who published the news came out and denied that Syria suggested. And in the language of confusion, the regime news did not use suggest but used denied acceptance. What a confusing world for me at least.
For me, thanks God, we still have choices:
http://www.funnyordie.com/videos/64ad536a6d

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August 22nd, 2008, 12:25 pm

 

107. norman said:

Zenobia,

(( norman said:
Shai,

But she is pretty and we need that in the Mideast .

WHY? Why do “we need” this? ))

Looking at a garden with flowers is better than looking at one with weeds ,

If you were there we do not need anybody els .

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August 22nd, 2008, 12:40 pm

 

108. norman said:

Look at this , Trustquest ,

Syria denies accepting Russian missile deployment

Reuters
Friday, August 22, 2008
DAMASCUS: Syria denied on Friday that it was considering hosting an advanced Russian missile system, a day after President Bashar al-Assad held talks with Russian officials about upgrading his country’s military.

Syria’s state news agency (SANA) said deployment of Iskander missiles, which Moscow says are capable of defying any missile defence, was not on the agenda of talks between Assad and Russian President Dmitry Medvedev at a Black Sea resort on Thursday.

“There is no truth to media reports that Syria had agreed to deploy Iskander missiles on its territory,” SANA said.

Russian media had quoted Assad as saying that Syria was ready to negotiate deployment of the surface-to-surface mid range missiles, which are also capable of reaching Israel.

Israel on Thursday said it opposes any Russian sale of long-range missiles to its arch-foe, Syria.

Syria, which has been largely isolated by the West, sees a potential for improved ties with Moscow as relations between Russia and the West worsen.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said on Thursday that Russia was prepared to sell Syria “defensive weapons which are not breaking the regional balance of power”.

Lavrov was referring to Israel, which occupies the Golan Heights, has a superior military force and is widely believed to possess nuclear weapons.

Among hardware Syria is interested in are Russia’s Pantsyr-S1 air defence missile system, the BUK-M1 surface-to-air medium-range missile system and aircraft, the Russian agency Interfax quoted a diplomat as saying.

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August 22nd, 2008, 12:43 pm

 

109. Akbar Palace said:

But more about power balance. They aren’t wanting american power to extend across Europe all the way to the middle east, damn straight.

Zenobia,

With your comment above, I believe we are saying nearly the same thing. And yes, Amercian influence in the ME is a fact that irks not only the Russians, but also many in the ME.

Of course, I have to agree with AIG, that democracy and freedom “sells”, and it sold beautifully to the states that once made up the USSR. Of course, for those that are anti-American (and I am sensing from your comments Zenobia that you may have some of these sentiments), it can be difficult to “fault” the US with such an attractive “product line”: namely democracy and freedom.

This is bottom line: the US and the world bodies will support the people and the governments that promote freedom, democracy and peace. That is why Russia, Syria and Iran are fighting losing battles.

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August 22nd, 2008, 12:44 pm

 

110. norman said:

With Syria obtaining new weapon system the Israeli government has a reason to fast track a deal with Syria ,

Israel to continue indirect talks with Syria

JERUSALEM, Aug. 22 (Xinhua) — Israel is determined to continue the indirect peace negotiations with Syria despite its possible arms deals with Russia, local news service Ynet on Friday quoted an Israeli official as saying.

“Israel will continue with the talks, and the fifth round of negotiations is scheduled to begin soon,” said an unnamed official, when commenting on the recent trip by Syrian President Bashar Assad to Russia.

Israeli media reported that Assad used this trip to explore the possibility of purchasing advanced weaponry from Russia and offered Moscow to deploy missiles on Syrian soil to counter Washington’s plan to place part of a missile defense system in Poland.

“We strongly oppose such a move, and Prime Minister Ehud Olmertmade this abundantly clear during his phone conversation with Russian President Dmitry Medvedev Wednesday,” the official was quoted as saying, adding that Olmert told Medvedev that selling advanced weapons to Syria would disrupt the security balance in the Middle East.

Meanwhile, noting Syria’s request for weapons is nothing new, the official said that Israel believes that Syria has not changed its strategic outlook, and that Assad still stands behind his plan to see the peace process with Israel through.

The official added that Israel does not hold specific information on the type or number of weapons Assad is asking to acquire, yet stressed that Israel particularly objects to selling Damascus S-300 missiles, “a deal the PM was able to thwart during his meeting last October with then Russian President Vladimir Putin.”

Israeli President Shimon Peres, Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni and some other officials have also expressed their concern over Russia ‘s possible arms deals with Syria, a neighbor Israel currently lists as an enemy state.

On Thursday, Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak said that the Israeli security establishment is analyzing the ramifications of Assad’s visit to Russia, with an emphasis on Damascus’ intentions to “purchase advanced weaponry and upgrade its army.”

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August 22nd, 2008, 1:07 pm

 

111. Qifa Nabki said:

Several interesting news items:

Andrew Tabler on the Russian aircraft carrier story

After Syria’s warm welcome in France at the Mediterranean Summit in July and its subsequent warm welcome to Lebanese President Michel Sleiman on a landmark visit in August, Damascus has turned its cooperative efforts on Russia.

Syrian President Bashar al-Assad arrived in Moscow on Wednesday, where he is scheduled to meet with his Russian counterpart, Dmitry Medvedev. Talks are expected to revolve around strengthening military cooperation between the two countries.

The first step in this cooperation is perhaps Russia’s decision to send an aircraft carrier to dock in the Tartous port.

According to a BarentsObserver.com report, the Russian aircraft carrier Admiral Kuznetsov, Russia’s sole aircraft carrier, is “ready to head from Murmansk towards … a navy mission in the area.”

“The mission comes after Syrian President Bashar Assad said he is open for a Russian base in the area,” the report read.

The mission will also include the missile cruiser “Moskva” and several submarines, according to a Newsru.com report.

Against the backdrop formed by Syria’s long-time alliance with Iran and Turkey-mediated negotiations with Israel, in addition to Assad’s ostensibly healthy ties with his French counterpart, Nicolas Sarkozy, and his outreach to President Michel Sleiman, NOW Lebanon talked to Andrew Tabler, a consulting editor for Syria Today magazine and former fellow at the Washington-based Institute of Current World Affairs, on what the expansion of Syrian relations – in seemingly opposite directions – means.

“There has been talk about establishing a Russian naval base in Tartous for some time, but this is the first tangible sign that that agreement could go through,” Tabler said.

While Syria’s multiple political maneuvers may be an attempt to keep all its options open, Tabler believes that the timing of Assad’s visit to Moscow– right after the Israeli military had expressed support for Georgia – was an indication that talks with Israel may go more slowly than initially anticipated.

“Even President Assad himself said that these talks could take up to two years or even more. So, in the meantime, I’m not surprised that Syria is keeping its options open.”

Yet, despite the decision to allow the aircraft carrier to dock right outside the city in which Syria’s top liaison was assassinated in August, Russia has not expressed any interest in selling ballistic missiles or establishing a Russian missile air defense base in Syria, which Assad has suggested.

The decision, however, “certainly sends messages to the US, who is not happy about what happened in Georgia,” Tabler said in reference to Russia’s attack on South Ossetia and Abkhazia.

“At the same time, I think what’s interesting is how this all will play out in the US presidential campaign. Barak Obama has said that he would like to engage Syria and Iran directly, for example,” Tabler added, noting that the news of the Russian aircraft carrier, then, may only place Obama’s foreign policy credentials are under scrutiny.

Even if the Admiral Kuznetsov is no more than Syria flexing its muscles, the message Syria is sending out to the West may have repercussions on its decision to establish diplomatic ties with Lebanon.

“Any kind of Syrian relations with Russia would make improvement in ties [with the West] more difficult. It would be another hurdle to overcome,” Tabler noted.

While it remains unclear where this Russian-Syrian collaboration may lead, Tabler noted that ties between the West and Syria have always run through France. “Lebanon is an important issue to France.” And if Syria intends on maintaining its relations with France, the international community has made it clear that it awaits diplomatic ties between the country and its smaller southern neighbor.

What happens after the Admiral Kuznetsov docks and how the docking will affect Syria’s relations with Israel, the US, Iran, Russia, France and Lebanon is as yet unclear, Tabler said. “Because everything is in the freezer until US elections… it’s better to stick to the facts.”

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August 22nd, 2008, 1:14 pm

 

112. Qifa Nabki said:

Hizbullah to Israel: Expect Huge Surprises Soon

Hizbullah threatened “earth shattering” retaliation against Israel which the group accuses of killing its top commander Imad Mughniyeh in a car bombing in Damascus last February.
“Retaliation is coming soon,” Hizbullah official in south Lebanon Sheikh Ahmad Mrad said in remarks published by the daily Al Akhbar on Friday.

“Retaliation is going to be earth shattering and there will be huge surprises,” he vowed.

“Resistance weapons will stay in the hands of Hizbullah until Palestine is liberated,” Mrad pledged.

He declared that Hizbullah would go deep into Palestine and vowed that “Israel will no longer exist on the map.”

Beirut, 22 Aug 08, 10:09

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August 22nd, 2008, 1:14 pm

 

113. Qifa Nabki said:

New Air Defense Systems Supplied to Hizbullah by Russia, Report
(Naharnet)

Hizbullah had struck a deal with Russia on new air defense systems and anti-tank missiles, the Italian newspaper Corriere Della Sera reported Friday.
It said the deal was completed in July when three Hizbullah representatives headed to Russia with Iranian passports and visited the Sixth International Fair for selling weapons and ammunition.

Hizbullah representatives expressed great interest in buying Russian arms “which proved effective” in the latest war between the Shiite group and Lebanon, the paper added.

The Italian journalist, who carried the report, told the daily Israeli Maariv that Hizbullah representatives were “careful not to attract any attention.”

“This is why they (Hizbullah) signed deals to buy air defense systems and anti-tank missiles after the end of the fair July 12,” said the Italian journalist.

Beirut, 22 Aug 08, 12:00

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August 22nd, 2008, 1:15 pm

 

114. AnotherIsraeliGuy said:

Alex,
I leave for a while and you are back to the “two wrongs make a right” routine. So what the Russians did is right because Israel still occupies the West Bank? Now I understand.

As for your list, you do not acknowledge even once that some of the blame lies with Syria. It seems to me you are in strong denial.

Let’s go over the list:

1) AIPAC and its friends distorting Syria’s image.
Really? So the US congress and media are dumb and can easily be manipulated by a bunch of lobbyists? Syria has been shown to be behind terrorism time and time again. From a British court ruling that the Syrians planned to blow up an El-Al flight to the fact that Mugniyeh a wanted terrorist in 120 countries was living in Syria under the blessing of the regime. And in between there were many other incidents including all the murders in Lebanon.

2) Syrian refusal to be anyone’s puppets
Are the Baltic states and Poland and Hungary etc. US puppets? Is Qatar a US puppet? Your definition of a puppet is very strange. And in any case, it seems Syria is willing to be a Russian puppet or an Iranian one.

3) Israel’s refusal to return the Golan Heights through peaceful means (Syria tried many times since 1991).. forcing Syria to support popular Arab resistance groups (which you call “terrorists”)

Right, Syria was “forced” to accept suicide bombing of civillians in Israel as a means to free the Golan. It was “forced” to destablize Lebanon in order to free the Golan. Syria was not forced to do any of those things. It choose to do so and in this way showed its true colors to the West. Syria had many other alternatives to get the Golan back. These alternatives were not compatible with the regime staying in power and were therefore not chosen.

4) Saudi Arabia (and maybe Egypt) pressuring US administrations to not make serious deals with Syria … deals that will often be at the expense of Egyptian and Saudi roles in the Middle East.

The Saudi’s were the first to propose and the support a comprehensive peace deal.

5) Syria is too complicated to understand.

How about: Syria does not explain itself well? What is so special about Syria that it can’t explain itself relative to other countries? Syria is simple to understand: An Alawite minority has been ruthlessly monopolizing power for over 40 years. The regime has nothing to offer but the ability to spoil for other countries and this is the policy it has been following since it got into power.

6) Syria is not a democracy … although this is not a real reason, but it provides AIPAC with a convincing anti-Syria argument sometimes… not many people notice that Egypt, Jordan, And Saudi Arabia are not democracies either.

Of course it is a real reason. Egypt and Jordan are not democracies but one of the main reasons Israel is a much better friend of the US than any Arab country is because these countries are not democracies.

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August 22nd, 2008, 1:30 pm

 

115. Karim said:

* في ظروف غامضة
وفاة فلسطيني في سجن بسوريا بعد عام على اختفائه

صحيفة الجزيرة السعودية – الجمعة 22 آب/ أغسطس 2008

جنين – رندة أحمد:

أكدت عائلة فلسطينية تسكن في بلدة قباطية جنوب مدينة جنين نبأ وفاة أحد أفرادها في السجون السورية، قبل شهرين تقريباً، وذلك بعد أن اختفت آثاره منذ عام تقريباً.

وبحسب مصادر عائلة الحنايشة فإن آثار ابنهم جميل عبد الله أحمد حنايشة، قد اختفت قبل عام تقريباً وطال غيابه أكثر من المتوقع، وبدأوا بالبحث عنه منذ سنة تقريباً ليتم معرفة أنه معتقل في أحد السجون السورية، وأنه متوفى منذ شهرين تقريباً.. وهو من مواليد الكويت، واستقر في الأردن في عام 1990، مع عائلته، وبدأ في العمل في تجارة السيارات وكان يغيب خلال عمله، ما بين الشهر إلى الشهرين. وتقول مصادر في عائلة الحنايشة: (إن هناك تضارباً في المعلومات عن سبب الوفاة، فمنهم – من أقاربه في الأردن – قالوا، إنه توفي بسبب تماس كهربائي في السجن، وقيل إنه توفي بسبب الإضراب عن الطعام، خلال وجوده في السجن السوري، إلى الآن لم تعرف أسباب الوفاة).

أعلى الصفحة

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August 22nd, 2008, 2:36 pm

 

116. Joshua said:

Lysander, I have copied your comment to the new post.

Thanks for the clear analysis and welcome aboard.

Joshua

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August 22nd, 2008, 3:34 pm

 

117. why-discuss said:

The Role of Israel in the Georgian War
http://www.tbrnews.org/Archives/a2867.htm
August 17, 2008
by Brian Harring
Georgia became a huge source of income, and military advantage, for the Israeli government and Israeli arms dealers.. Israel began selling arms to Georgia about seven years ago, following an initiative by Georgian citizens who immigrated to Israel and became weapons hustlers.
They contacted Israeli defense industry officials and arms dealers and told them that Georgia had relatively large budgets, mostly American grants, and could be interested in purchasing Israeli weapons.
The military cooperation between the countries developed swiftly. The fact that Georgia’s defense minister, Davit Kezerashvili, is a former Israeli who is fluent in Hebrew contributed to this cooperation. “We are now in a fight against the great Russia,” he said, “and our hope is to receive assistance from the White House, because Georgia cannot survive on its own. “

Kezerashvili’s door was always open to the Israelis who came and offered his country arms systems made in Israel. Compared to countries in Eastern Europe, the deals in this country were conducted fast, mainly due to the pro-Israeli defense minister’s personal involvement.

The Jerusalem Post on August 12, 2008 reported: “Georgian Prime Minister Vladimer (Lado) Gurgenidze(Jewish) made a special call to Israel Tuesday morning to receive a blessing from one of the Haredi community’s most important rabbis and spiritual leaders, Rabbi Aharon Leib Steinman.” The Prime Minister of Georgia, principally a nation of Orthodox Christians called Rabbi Steinman saying ‘I’ve heard he is a holy man. I want him to pray for us and our state.’

Among the Israelis who took advantage of the opportunity and began doing business in Georgia were former Minister Roni Milo and his brother Shlomo, former director-general of the Military Industries, Brigadier-General (Res.) Gal Hirsch and Major-General (Res.) Yisrael Ziv.
Roni Milo conducted business in Georgia for Elbit Systems and the Military Industries, and with his help Israel’s defense industries managed to sell to Georgia remote-piloted vehicles (RPVs), automatic turrets for armored vehicles, antiaircraft systems, communication systems, shells and rockets.
The Ministry of Defense of Israel had supplied the Georgian government their Hermes 450 UAV spy drones, made by Elbit Maarahot Systems Ltd, for use, under the strict control of Israeli intelligence units, to conduct intelligence-gathering flights over southern Russia and, most especially into a Iran, targeted for Israeli Air Force attacks in the near future……. see article

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August 24th, 2008, 11:20 am

 

118. Charles Coutinho said:

Amici,

Once every so often, against my better judgment, I take the time to post a comment on this site. The issue being while Joshua Landis’ journal itself, is a veritable storehouse of solid information about Syria, both the regime and society and people, the comment section has always had the ‘bloggers are nasty people’, aspect to it.

And, yet again, notwithstanding some welcoming responses by some of the regulars here, once more, an inevitable idiocy from another one of the same reared its ugly head. I refer specifically, to the comments by the fellow who goes by the name of ‘Alex’. I will not stoop so low as to respond to the stupidity of what he accused me of. All I will endeavor to say is that if and when he has climbed up the academic ladder, will he be in a position, to comment on his betters. Until then, he is just whistling Dixie…

Addio Amici.

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August 24th, 2008, 11:40 pm

 

119. Qifa Nabki said:

Dear Charles

If I may say so, there is no need for haughtiness. Your original post made some nice points, as I said, but it did so in a rather supercillious fashion. As Alex pointed out, plenty of Syria Comment’s regulars have climbed up academic and other professional ladders and are deserving of respect. No one is whistling Dixie.

Join the debate. You’ll be glad you did.

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August 25th, 2008, 12:13 am

 

120. Joshua said:

Dear Charles,

Perhaps there has been a misunderstanding? You argue that my article on SC and commentators argued that Russia wanted a new Cold War.

On the contrary, I argued that Syria’s search for more weapons was tactical. Its eyes remained firmly fixed on the peace process, i.e. rapprochement with the West and peace with Israel, not a return to Cold War conflict.

Most commentators shared this analysis. Lysander wrote at length about the fact that Russia would not sell offensive weapons to Syria for precisely the reasons you outline – Syria is not of great importance to Russia; it does not want a real fight with the West.

Perhaps your peek is misplaced? I don’t think we have a fight; rather, I would suggest that we are in accord that this is not the beginning of a new cold war if the provocations and heightened rhetoric are not misread by both sides.

It is always a pleasure getting your perspective and insite on Syria Comment.

Best, Joshua

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August 25th, 2008, 1:29 am

 

121. Shai said:

Charles,

Unlike others here, who are taking the diplomatic “Dear Charles” approach (which I condone), I would like to point out that, as someone that has neither read your comments here before nor knows anything about you, I was somewhat dismayed by your expressions. Indeed arrogance did seem to shine through your words, not to mention outright accusations. Being the Blog-underdog (Israeli) on SC, I can tell you that I’ve received my fair share of nasty comments. But one thing I’ve always tried doing, is to check myself first. Why is it that a particular commentator is reacting to me in such fashion? And sometimes I found the way to get off my “high horse”. When I did, I was even able to apologize.

Again, I do not know you. But it is clear to me that your delivery method was not received well by at least a few readers, if not many. I don’t need to tell you that so often it is not about the “what” as it is about the “how”. And I certainly hope you can accept that from someone a little less “up the academic ladder”…

And yet, that someone who calls himself “Alex”, creator of Creative Syria (creativesyria.com), and moderator of Syria Comment, has invited you to remain on the site.

Addio.

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August 25th, 2008, 3:57 am

 

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