Syria’s Stand on Lebanon: Saudi Arabia Withdraws Ambassador From Damascus

Commentary by Joshua Landis 

The situation in Lebanon becomes ever more dire as word circulates that Saudi Arabia is withdrawing its ambassador from Syria. The stalemate in Lebanon over the presidency threatens Lebanon's economy. Lebanese authorities are asking Saudi Arabia to plug the holes in the country's economic dike by upping its deposits in Lebanese banks and helping to subsidize the public debt, which cannot be refinanced.

The Syrian government and Lebanese opposition parties insist that for the Presidential crisis to be solved, the Lebanese government must concede an "enabling" third of the cabinet to the opposition.

Syrian authorities argue, "Lebanon is no longer a card that Syria can play in the region. It is a card that is being used against us. We have no choice but to neutralizing it." For this reason Syria believes its allies must have a third share of cabinet seats in the next government. This will ensure that the US cannot use Lebanon to threaten Syrian interests through international tribunals, Security Council resolutions, or by disarming or attacking Hizbullah and its allies in Lebanon.

Syrians claim that the US and its March 14th allies treat Lebanese politics as a zero-sum game. They insist on dominating the political scene. Syria and allies call the third representation that they seek in the cabinet an "enabling third," rather than a "blocking third," as March 14 calls it. This is because they insist that only through power-sharing will the Lebanese enable a new government to come into existence and end the present crisis.

"Syria has no interest in hurting Lebanon or 'burning' it, as some claim," one Syrian official told me. "It is in Syria's interest to have a prosperous Lebanon, as we demonstrated in the 1990s. We want regional growth and prosperity, because then all ships will rise, but we cannot allow Lebanon to be used to undermine us and destabilize Syria. What is so horrifying about allowing the Lebanese opposition one third of the cabinet to protect itself and veto measures meant to hurt it? Why must the US and March 14th insist on a zero-sum game? It is not Syria that is the spoiler in Lebanon, it is March 14th and its allies in Washington who refuse to compromise. They have become stubborn and intransigent."

Syria and its Lebanese allies have no intention of abandoning the Lebanese government to Saad Hariri, Jumblat, and Geagea. They believe that they have the better position from which to wage the economic war that will surely decide the fate of both Lebanese and Syrians.

Saudi Arabia Withdraws Ambassador From Syria, Al Watan Reports
2008-02-27 02:01: By Nadim Issa

Feb. 27 (Bloomberg) — Saudi Arabia withdrew its ambassador from Syria as the two countries clash on how to resolve Lebanon's current political crisis, the Syrian daily Al Watan newspaper reported, citing unidentified diplomats. The kingdom will move its official to Qatar where it hasn't had an ambassador for some 5 years as the two neighboring countries disagreed over content broadcast on Qatar-based al Jazeera television, the report said.

Syria: 'Important results' in Mugniyah murder probe Ynetnews, Israel – 9 hours ago

Sources say probe points to involvement of Arab country in killing Syria has reached "important results" in its investigation of the assassination of …

Egypt's Mubarak says Syria part of Lebanon crisis Reuters South Africa

"The summit will be held in Syria and Syria is linked to the Lebanese problem. Therefore I hope that Syria would solve the problem," Mubarak said in remarks aired on Al Arabiya television on Tuesday. "We should not be (in Damascus) resolving a problem that Syria is a party to," Mubarak said during a visit to Bahrain as part of tour of Gulf Arab countries aimed at unifying positions ahead of the annual Arab League summit.

Arabiya said Mubarak's remarks, among his most explicit comments regarding Syria's role in the crisis over electing a new president in Lebanon, were originally broadcast by Bahraini television.

Lebanese Prime Minister Fouad Siniora said last week the Arab summit would collapse if Lebanon remained without a president because of a power struggle pitting his Western-and Saudi-backed government against an opposition led by the Shi'ite Hezbollah group, supported by Syria and Iran.

 

Lebanon Wants Arab States to Loan Funds, Salameh Says
By Massoud A. Derhally

Feb. 27 (Bloomberg) — Lebanon's government wants Arab states to lend it money to finance the fiscal deficit and help maintain its currency peg as a political crisis prevents it from selling new bonds, central bank Governor Riad Salameh said.

The country has had no president since November and the government is unable to push laws through parliament. Its debt totals more than $41 billion, according to the Economist Intelligence Unit, or 190 percent of gross domestic product.

“The objective of the government was to generate deposits from Saudi Arabia and other friendly countries so that the balance sheet of the bank remains strong,'' Salameh said in an interview in Beirut yesterday. The government “cannot issue new debt and therefore meet foreign currency obligations without recourse to the reserves of the central bank.''

Lebanon needs the money to finance a fiscal deficit that reached 10 percent of GDP last year. It also needs to guarantee a currency peg that ensures confidence in the banking system and enables the country to attract billions of dollars from the Lebanese community living abroad. For the moment, all the government can do is roll over its existing debt.

On Feb. 8, Aref al-Abed, spokesman for Prime Minister Fouad Siniora, said in an interview that Saudi Arabia may deposit $1 billion in Lebanon's central bank to shore up the country's financial system. Salameh said Siniora was also talking to Kuwait and the United Arab Emirates about deposits.

Saudi Arabia deposited $1 billion and Kuwait $500 million in Banque du Liban during the 2006 war with Israel, when the country's exchange-rate peg to the dollar came under pressure.

Political Crisis

Lebanon has been without a head of state since Nov. 23, when Syrian-backed Emile Lahoud left office at the end of his term. Lawmakers have failed to elect a new president on 15 occasions.

“The key factor for the resilience of the Lebanese financial and monetary system is the stability of the Lebanese currency,'' said Nassib Ghobril, head of research at Byblos Bank. “Going to the Gulf countries is a preventive measure in case there is any pressure on the currency and it helps the government meet its financing needs in the absence of privatization and a functioning parliament.''

Lebanon has $12.6 billion in foreign currency reserves, Salameh said, compared with the record $13 billion they had in March of last year.

The currency peg helps ensure that many of the 12 million Lebanese living abroad deposit part of their savings in local banks. Deposits grew last year by more than 10 percent, or about $6 billion, Salameh said.

Economic progress in the country has been hurt by the political stalemate between the ruling pro-Western governing coalition and the Syrian-backed opposition.

Last month Lebanon's government postponed the auction of two mobile-phone companies, which it hopes will raise more than $7 billion, because of a political stalemate.

Comments (206)


Qifa Nabki said:

Here’s a question for those who understand Lebanese/international politics better than I do.

What can the Lebanese opposition do with its “enabling third” vis-a-vis the special tribunal?

Joshua argues:

This will ensure that the US cannot use Lebanon to threaten Syrian interests through international tribunals, Security Council resolutions, or by disarming or attacking Hizbullah and its allies in Lebanon.

This sounds all very well in theory. But in practice, what can a veto-wielding opposition really do about the tribunal? Are there any more Lebanese governmental authorizations pending that it could block, thereby scuttling the tribunal? The same goes for UNSC resolutions against Syria… what does a veto have to do with it?

The only area where it seems to me that the veto has relevance is in the issue of disarmament, but even there I think that everybody understands that Hizbullah is not going to be disarmed by force. It’s simply not going to happen, veto or no veto.

I’ve tried to get a straight answer on this question from quite a few informed people but no one seems to have really thought it through.

Comments?

February 27th, 2008, 6:29 pm

 

Alex said:

QN,

The tribunal is about Lebanon … Lebanese figures (like Nasrallah) can be called to the tribunal … detained for weeks or months. Syrian officials can not be. They are not Lebanese. So when Nasrallah worries that the tribunal will be used to get him, he has reasons to worry.

The enabling third will ensure that the Lebanese government will not turn him in to the tribunal.

It is that serious.

February 27th, 2008, 6:34 pm

 

Qifa Nabki said:

Alex,

I know the Tribunal is about Lebanon, but it’s not clear to me that a veto comes into play here. If Nasrallah is summoned to testify, I don’t understand how this will require a cabinet meeting and resolution which can be vetoed.

Do you see what I mean?

The tribunal is moving… khalas. Most of the damage has been done, in a sense. We don’t know the full results of the huge investigation, but they will begin summoning people this summer. Is Nasrallah any safer with a veto? (OR, for that matter, with no representation in the government, as he is right now?)

My suspicion is that a large part of the hysteria surrounding the veto is actually a piece of deflection. Of course, Hizbullah wants stronger representation, more power, etc. but I don’t think that the veto is as big a deal, with respect to the tribunal. I think it’s probably more useful on the issues of ministerial appointments and governmental projects, anti-corruption, etc.

But I could be wrong. We need someone who understands the procedures and protocols of cabinet politics, and also the status of the Tribunal vis-a-vis Lebanese government authorizations and cooperation.

February 27th, 2008, 6:42 pm

 

Qifa Nabki said:

By the way, do you actually imagine that Nasrallah would allow himself to be summoned to testify???

🙂

He’s probably the most wanted man by the U.S. after OBL.

That’s not the issue.

February 27th, 2008, 6:46 pm

 

Joshua said:

QN, You may be right about the tribunal now that it has been established. I think the important question is whether it could have been established in the first place had there been an opposition veto.

The Lebanese government had to officially ask the UN to authorize the international court.

My understanding is that this is about the future of Lebanon and what might come down the pike next, and not about the water under the bridge – although that water has certainly left a bad taste in Syria’s collective mouth – if you permit me to mix metaphors!?

February 27th, 2008, 6:52 pm

 

Norman said:

most what is happening in Lebanon is comming from the security counsel, the future is bleack for Lebanon.

February 27th, 2008, 7:01 pm

 

G said:

It is not Syria that is the spoiler in Lebanon, it is March 14th and its allies in Washington who refuse to compromise. They have become stubborn and intransigent.

That’s not what all Europeans and all Arabs, and the Russians have said. They have said that you are.

February 27th, 2008, 7:02 pm

 

AnotherIsraeliGuy said:

QN,
The reasons why Hizballah and Syria want veto power:
1) Confirmation of the 49 armstice agreement with Israel by the government and a decision to abide by it
2) Decision by government to obtain Sheba and prisoners only through negotiation
3) Decision by government that Sheba is the only disputed territory and that the “seven villages” and other claims are bogus
4) Decision by the government that any action of “resistance” requires government approval
5) Decision by government to Americanize army completely and allow American technical advisors in Lebanon
6) Government decision regarding setting up borders between Syria and Lebanon and exchanging ambassadors
7) Government decision regarding reaffirmation of 1701
8) Government decisions regarding covenants on bonds
9) Government decisions regarding UN or other agencies monitoring Syrian border

And the list goes on.

February 27th, 2008, 7:08 pm

 

Qifa Nabki said:

Thanks AIG.

Yes, this makes sense.

I always knew you were a Lebanese constitutional expert.

😉

February 27th, 2008, 7:12 pm

 

Alex said:

QN,

http://www.Camera.org has a lot or resources available for AIG.

To asnwer your question, when the tribunal summons Nasralah, and they will, he will refuse to go … then it is up to the Lebanese government to arrest him and send him… or to refuse to send him … when they have “the enabling third” .. Hizbollah will enable the govenrment to refuse to send him … Seniora can always say “what can we do? .. Hizbollah vetoed it”

But if there is no veto power .. then Seniora will “have no choice” but to send Nasrallah or any other opposition member .. Syria’s freinds in Lebanon will all be summoned.

Of course if there is no veto power for the opposition … in the case of Nasrallah, he will “resist the orders of the Lebanese government” when he does not accept to be shipped to the tribunal … then the neocons and friends will (late summer) have a good excuse to do something in Lebanon… for the sake of justice… to support the “democratically elected Seniora government”

February 27th, 2008, 7:20 pm

 

Shai said:

Alex,

See my comments in p.605… wondering what you think.

February 27th, 2008, 7:25 pm

 

Alex said:

Shai .. see my email : )

February 27th, 2008, 7:26 pm

 

AnotherIsraeliGuy said:

Alex,
The 1/3 veto is a mostly Syrian request. Before the 2006 war Hizballah had no problem whatsoever sitting in the government without the 1/3 veto. The war changed everything because it demonstrated to March 14 that “national dialogue” for disarming Hizballah over time is quite dangerous for Lebanon because of what Hizballah and Syria can cause in the meantime.

As for Hizballah, it quickly left the government after the war because it was the government that approved 1701. Hizballah could not be part of the government that approved 1701 since they did not plan to really accept 1701 after the cease fire. They realized they needed the 1/3 veto to make sure that their position would not be even more compromised.

The tribunal is really not the issue here anymore.

February 27th, 2008, 7:29 pm

 

Alex said:

G

You are absolutely right.

But we have a serious split:

1) America, and its allies and friends (European and moderate Arab governments)

2) Syria, Iran, Lebanese opposition forces, half the Palestinian people, and most of the Arab people

You trust the first group, others trust the second group …

February 27th, 2008, 7:30 pm

 

Shai said:

Alex,

“You’ve Got Mail”… (YGM)

February 27th, 2008, 7:37 pm

 

Atassi said:

Joshua
Yes the court would have been established in the first place under chapter 7 if the veto become an issue for passing it..

Alex,
Anyone “ No matter what nationality ” is obligated to show-up for questioning if requested by the court..Keep in mind, the county which that person is residing, MUST assist in transferring of the suspect to the Court !! including Syria

February 27th, 2008, 7:38 pm

 

Alex said:

Atassi,

Syria will not send high officials.

It will be interesting, I know.

Shai,

I just checked … I did not see anything from you.

February 27th, 2008, 7:39 pm

 

ausamaa said:

They just dont want to learn. For Syria, it is now a matter of To Be or Not to Be. There is no going back, Summit or not, Saudi Ambassador or not (the US Ambassodr and here two pet dogs have departed years ago) and Syria has not flinched. Syrian knows; they are trying their best to bring Syria to its knees, but short of an open-ended war or even an invasion -which end results can not be guaranteed or even risked-, Syria will not budge, and will eventually move to the offensive when it estimates that the time had come. You can not bluff and scare a foe is strong, has the upper nationalist-moral ground and who is confident. From the early days of the Iraq-Gulf war, Syria has outdone its foes, the same ones who oppose Syria today, and Syria has stuck to its position. And she was proven right. Syria’s position now can be summed up in: you guys and your big Boss have lost, we survived, and there is no changing this fact.

و يا جبل ما تهزك ريح

February 27th, 2008, 7:41 pm

 

Observer said:

In my opinion the enabling or blocking thrid is essential to insure that the 2006 military victory does not result in a political defeat. what use is the victory over Israel if HA is now bound by a majority that is beholden to entities that are at best sympathetic to Israel and at worst completely subservient to it.

Moreover, the enabling third is a true reflection of the demographic reality on the ground as the Christains refuse to this day to have a new census and still rely on the 1932 census. It would be a betrayal to the base of HA and Amal not to have a proprotional representation.

Maintaining the status quo will result in the economic weakness of the March 14th group. The Shia are already poor and what is keeping the Sunnis and Christians from imploding is the support of KSA and France respectively with the financial burden mainly coming from the Gulf.

The tribunal will not be used until and unless the decision to remove the regime in Syria is taken. I am not sure that this decision has been taken. Clearly the KSA cannot remove the regime in Syria without the US and/or Israel participating militarily.

I said before that the better cards are in the hands of those that can create mischief and at present, the axis of evil has the better cards. Better still, they can sit and watch and simply do nothing and the situation will fester fully.

Now, the US treasury would like to put the Iranian Central Bank under sanctions and they are in discussion with Asian and European partners to see if it is feasible. The WSJ reported that the discussions are still in their infancy. I would say that it is a declaration of financial war and therefore expect mischief to occur if it happens.
This smacks of a desperate attempt to provoke a response.

Finally, the Arab summit does not mean a thing, there will be some that will and others that will not attend and the isolation of Syria is already broken.

I always wondered whether the King had not maintained a deep grudge for being called a half man by the young President in 2006 and has driven his kingdome into a corner just as another President in Mesopotamia cornered himself into invading another Prinicipality for the insult that its Prince threw at the women of the land of two rivers.

February 27th, 2008, 7:45 pm

 

Shai said:

Alex,

It was sent at 2:35:57 pm EST (10 minutes ago)… with a copy. Check now/later?

February 27th, 2008, 7:45 pm

 

Atassi said:

Alex,
I agree with you,on the surface the Syrians would not be sending any high officials..But I would think the other side MUST be counting on this type of conduct form the Syrians!!..“ one more trap “
…….

February 27th, 2008, 7:59 pm

 

Innocent_Criminal said:

I am surprised no one is talking about the Saudi ambassador’s move. it seems like they are sending him to Doha where saudi hadn’t had a diplomatic mission since 2002 (due to an al jazeera debate)

things are getting really messy between Riyadh and Damascus. its a shame, because Damascus cannot get back into the arab realm without Riyadh and the later cant get its way in Lebanon without Syria. its the current situation is a lose-lose scenario for both. backdoor channel diplomacy must have been pretty dirty for it to reach this level.

February 27th, 2008, 8:12 pm

 

Shai said:

Alex,

I think a joint US/M14/KSA hacker-squad is blocking your mail… 🙂

February 27th, 2008, 8:32 pm

 

Shai said:

What is it, “schlafstunde” in N. America?

February 27th, 2008, 8:40 pm

 

Alex said:

SYRIA: Regime confident of its indispensability

Wednesday, February 27 2008

Oxford Analytica 2008

EVENT: Riyadh and Cairo are considering boycotting next month’s Arab summit in Damascus if Syria does not by then unblock the election of a new Lebanese president.
SIGNIFICANCE: The continuing deadlock in Lebanon reinforces the Syrian perception that it is indispensable to the solution of regional problems. President Bashar al-Assad is confident of his internal and external strength and believes that he can hold out for what he sees as Syria’s vital interests. There is a striking difference in perception of Syria from inside the country and outside.

ANALYSIS: Viewed from Washington, Paris and even Cairo and Riyadh, the Syrian regime seems isolated in the Arab region with only Qatar visibly trying to keep lines open:

It is criticised for its suppression of the opposition and dissent.
President Bashar al-Assad may be in control but is hemmed in by the vested interests of his family, close allies, the Ba’ath Party and the bureaucrats.

Syria is subject to sanctions from Washington and criticism from France, and relies too much on an alliance with Iran, which Arab moderates see as a major threat to their interests.

Regime confidence. It all looks different from Damascus:

Bashar’s authority is not under serious challenge. The old guard inherited from his father has been replaced by Bashar’s own choices (There may be too many from his family, clan and the Allawi community, but there are also Sunnis in highly sensitive posts. The Sunni business community has long learned that it needs to work with the regime.
The Syrian elite has not suffered unduly from isolation or sanctions.
Syria calls the shots in Lebanon and this means that the Arab world — and France and the United States — will need its support for any solution. Damascus still believes in the adage that there can be no war without Egypt and no peace without Syria. Arab capitals may oppose Syrian polices but Syria believes that popular opinion is on its side

The economy is doing well: GDP grew by 6% last year and the Syrian middle classes, at least, benefit from the prosperity in the region. Syria has coped well with the burden of having to handle more than 1 million refugees from Iraq.

Bashar in control. Bashar is in firm control of the regime and has grown greatly in confidence after his seven and a half years in office. The large Soviet-style posters of the president with his father have been replaced by more discreet slogans — such as “Bashar we are with you” — said to be influenced by advice from an international PR consultancy.

His brother Maher and brother-in-law Assef Shawkat command key elements in the security and intelligence structure surrounding him. The regime is stable and the internal opposition has been crushed. The external opposition (an unlikely alliance between former Vice-President Abdul Halim Khaddam and the Muslin Brotherhood) has no base in Syria.

However, Bashar’s room for manoeuvre is limited by the vested interests of those around him:

There are too many crony capitalists — and all in Damascus know who they are. Their activities and a lack of transparency in decision-making on projects and in the courts deter Western investors — as do the US sanctions.
There may be young reform-minded ministers in the cabinet but their power is limited and they sit on top of large bureaucracies which have little interest in change that will reduce their numbers and influence.
The Ba’ath Party, which controls the tame parliament, is a vehicle for patronage in exchange for loyalty and concessions to the local and regional interests its members represent.
Threats. In the longer term, the regime will encounter major difficulties:

The top 5-10% of Syrian society is enjoying the prosperity, but the subsidies that insulate the poor are now costing as much as 15% of GDP according to some estimates.
There are problems with the overcrowded and under-resourced education system (Damascus University has 120,000 students) and the official figure of 9% unemployment is clearly an understatement.
There are power shortages and Syria is now a net importer of oil.
There have been moves to reform the banking system and open up the economy There are people close to the president urging him to do much more, and they have support from Gulf funds that would like to invest more in Syria. The pace of change should increase, but few in the heart of the regime seem to grasp that other countries have moved and continue to move much faster and further. Syria can seem like a mid-20th century East European anachronism.

Lebanon interests. Syria was forced to pull its troops out of Lebanon in humiliating fashion in 2006. Yet it remains a key influence that is able to frustrate the March 14 coalition that is the backbone of Prime Minister Fouad Siniora’s embattled cabinet, and which is supported by the regional the Arab moderates

Neither Syria nor Iran controls Hizbollah and its allies but they can prevent any compromise in Lebanon that does not address Syria’s interests.

Syria does not want a Lebanese government that might do a deal with Israel.
It is also blocking the establishment of a UN tribunal into the assassination of Rafik al-Hariri, the former Lebanese prime minister, that could implicate people in key parts of Bashar’s security and intelligence apparatus. Even though it will be difficult to find any proof of Syria’s involvement — if there is any — the process will be lengthy, with witnesses hostile to the Syrian regime giving their versions of the facts. This will tarnish its reputation.
Syria thus has no incentive to help the UN or the Arab League.

The view from Damascus. US President George Bush’s warning in his January tour of the Middle East that Syria and Iran should stop meddling in Lebanon feeds Damascus’s perception that Washington will eventually have to do a deal with it. Syria can also play a useful role in Iraq through its links to the Sunni groups in Anbar. It has influence in Tehran. It also believes that it is indispensable to the Middle East process and that this will be understood sooner or later.

The next Arab summit meeting is scheduled to be held in Damascus on March 29-30. Although there are doubts that it will go ahead, Syria is preparing for it. There is thus no sense of regional isolation in Damascus — rather the regime is waiting for the world and region to wake up to reality and deal with it. This perception may not accord with reality, but as long as it exists, the West and the moderate Arab states will find it very difficult to deal with Syria — unless they are prepared to enter into the grand bargain it wants.

CONCLUSION: The regime is not under domestic challenge. It is doing enough to keep the vested interests content even if this is at the cost of the majority of the population. Economic reform is cautiously proceeding. Damascus thinks that the world will need to do a deal with it over Lebanon. The facts on the ground suggest that it may be right despite the opinions of some international and regional governments.

February 27th, 2008, 9:14 pm

 

Shai said:

There is no doubt that the bottleneck to peace, as Alon Liel called it, is in Washington. Now, it is becoming evident that other capitals may be adding to it as well. Syria feels confident it can “ride this out”. That time is on its side, as was proven the past few years. But is it? And what if any of the extremists on any of the sides really control the time-bomb? What if Hamas, or Hezbollah, or Israel, miscalculate, and lead us quickly into a regional war? If Israel has to battle on multiple fronts, with militias it desperately wants to punish, and with an Iran whose nuclear program it is only waiting to harm, can’t we see how the next war will likely be unlike any we’ve seen in this century, or the last, in this region?

And if the extremists are in control, then is time truly on our side? And if not, then can any of us take the chance, and wait for or gamble on a new American Messiah to come rescue us? Or should Syria and Israel now search for another honest broker (Turkey, Russia?) who might be able to get things started for us, already now? If there’s an Armada of anti-Syria neocons and their supporters, heading on a collision course with Syria and others in our region, can’t we take the wind out of their sails? Can’t we do what they certainly wouldn’t expect us to do right now, which is declare publicly our true intentions? And, better yet, prove by action those same intentions?

February 27th, 2008, 9:57 pm

 

qunfuz said:

I agree absolutely, Shai, with the need to search for another broker. I think history will judge the US to have been as disastrous for Israeli Jews as it is for Arabs. Tonight I fear an escalation is upon us – the Hamas men killed in Gaza, and the Israeli in Sderot, and the children, and now a baby, in Gaza. There’s even a report of an explostion in South Lebanon. I presume that’s a hapless villager blown up by a mine or cluster munition .. and not an Israeli ‘retaliation’ against Hizbullah as well as in Gaza. On such a night as this the conflagration may begin. And the Saudi rat has scuttled just in time..

February 27th, 2008, 10:17 pm

 

AnotherIsraeliGuy said:

Shai,
You are now looking to replace the US as the broker of any deal? You are really in la-la land. Only the US can give Israel the security guarnatees it requires and to Syria the recognition it needs. Would the Syrians make peace if they remain on the US terror list? Highly unlikely.

And do you really think it is a good idea for Israel to defy the US? Finally, we have a US president who is willing to go toe to toe with Asad. We should let this play out and see what happens. The chances of war are very slim. Neither Hizballah nor Syria reacted to the September bombing and neither is interested in a war. Not one katyusha was shot after the Mugniyeh assasination. If this were 2003 or 2004 we would have had days of katyushas.

I am not saying there is zero chance of war, but I do think that the very small risk of war is worth the reward. We have Bush and most of the Arab leaders pushing against Syria. Let’s see what happens.

February 27th, 2008, 10:54 pm

 

Enlightened said:

QN ASKS:

“What can the Lebanese opposition do with its “enabling third” vis-a-vis the special tribunal?”

Alex says:

“The tribunal is about Lebanon … Lebanese figures (like Nasrallah) can be called to the tribunal … detained for weeks or months. Syrian officials can not be. They are not Lebanese. So when Nasrallah worries that the tribunal will be used to get him, he has reasons to worry.”

QN:

The opposition can really do nothing about the Tribunal, it has been ratified by the Security Council, and only a Security council resolution can dissolve it. The opposition even with its blocking third, can only reject government policies and try to hamper any attempts at extradition etc, but in essence they have no over riding effects on anything that the Security Council passes.

Hence , you are correct the blocking third is only bluster, and is only one part of the demands to increase the pressure on the Government. There’s not much anybody can do anymore whether its M14 or M8, although as Josh remarks its a bitter taste that has been left in Syria, only a healthy dose of Listerine can cure this, nothing more.

Alex:

I dont think that Nasrallah has anything to fear from the tribunal, nor will it be used against him, I just simply cant see it. Of more relevance to Nasrallah, is the Disarmament clause that will neuter his movement and ability to carry weapons outside the Jurisdiction of a legitimate political government entity. This is the key issue here. The Government would have a major Rebellion on its hands internally, if it moved against him in this way and would lose in public opinion on the Arab street. While I have no love for the divine Hezb weapons, if any political resolution within Lebanon is reached and emancipates the organization politically and socially within an existing or future framework, these weapons have to go. Given the zeal of the organization I think this is a red line that Nasrallah will not be compromise. For his organization it will simply want power and the weapons, no more and no less.

February 27th, 2008, 11:12 pm

 

Qifa Nabki said:

You know, I’m still not so sure I buy the efficacy of Bashar’s strategy in Lebanon. Observer said that the people who can create the most mischief hold the best cards, currently held by the axis of evil.

Fine, that may be true in the short run. But let’s put this in its proper perspective. The U.S. and the Arabs may not be able to bend Syria forcibly to their will, but who is really going ot suffer as a result of a prolonged conflict? Lebanon will go under… and you can bet that this will further enrage all the Gulfis who’ve sunk billions into that little stretch of territory. If we expand the frame to include the past five years or so, I don’t see where Syria comes out on top.

Alienating the Americans, the Europeans, most of the Arab regimes, and half the Lebanese doesn’t seem so worth it, realistically speaking. And I don’t buy the Arab nationalist pride line either, as Hafez was happy to cut deals with the Americans in his time.

It’s a question of vision and long-term strategy, and I’m not sure Bashar’s got the right one. We can blame it on the neo-cons and the Saudis, etc. but come on: Bashar should understand that a cold war in the region pitting Syria and Iran against the rest is not in Syria’s long-term interests. New administration or not, Bashar has to play like he’s going to get another Dubya, and start thinking of alternative strategies.

Alex, no need for you to repeat yourself…. I know what you think!

February 28th, 2008, 1:05 am

 

Qifa Nabki said:

Missing the point in Lebanon’s stalemate
By Michael Young
Daily Star staff
Thursday, February 28, 2008

Rarely a day goes by without someone writing an article protesting against the incapacity of Lebanese politicians to come to an agreement on the future of their country. Why can’t they just all get along? That’s the lament running through these principled and naive pleas. But the continued failure of the Arab League plan suggests there is more to the deadlock than leaders perpetuating a status quo for self-seeking reasons.

There is still great incomprehension about what is sinking Arab League Secretary General Amr Moussa’s apparently impossible mission. There is incomprehension, too, about what Syria’s true intentions in Lebanon are. One line of argument is that the Assad regime accepted the end of its Lebanese presence in 2005 and today seeks only to “influence” affairs in Beirut, to “protect its interests.” Syria has no intention of driving its tanks back into Lebanese territory, controlling all aspects of the state, placing senior Syrian officials in lucrative business and smuggling networks, crushing all latent challenges to its domination, and so forth.

But reading that list, you can only conclude that that is precisely what the Syrians want, because Lebanon is of no value to them unless those aims are satisfied, unless the Assad regime has a tight grip over the country’s political power centers, has its army and security forces in place to back this up, can distribute patronage to Syrian officers to ensure their long-term loyalty, and can extract billions of dollars from the Lebanese economy to cushion trying times ahead for a Syrian economy that will soon have to dispense with oil revenues and lift vital subsidies.

That’s not to mention that for Syria to be regarded as relevant by Israel and the United States, its soldiers need to be present inside Lebanon. Why? To protect Hizbullah’s military autonomy against an international community that backs Security Council resolutions 1559 and 1701 and a Lebanese public increasingly critical of the party’s unwillingness to disarm; and to leverage the promise of managing or liquidating Hizbullah in any forthcoming negotiations with the Israelis and Americans.

That’s the real backdrop to negotiations over the Arab League plan. The breakdown is occurring because the opposition is relaying the Syrian position on the distribution of Cabinet portfolios, therefore on the political balance of power in Lebanon. The focal point of disputation is the so-called “sovereign” ministries: defense, interior, justice, finance and foreign affairs. The opposition’s “softest” proposal, a three-way division of portfolios in a 10-10-10 ratio, would effectively hand the parliamentary majority at most two of those key ministries; and, even then, the opposition has prepared a list of conditions to deny the March 14 coalition the means to control them. The Syrians are especially seeking to block the majority’s sway over the defense and interior ministries, because these can provide it with security instruments; and it wants someone friendly at the Justice Ministry to impede progress in the Hariri tribunal. The Assad regime is organizing a creeping coup in Lebanon, and will hinder all progress until March 14 and the Arab states raise their hands in surrender.

But it’s not as if Damascus were hiding its game. Syria’s allies in Lebanon will readily acknowledge its ambitions, both in public and in private. Former parliamentarian Nasser Qandil, a habitual Syrian megaphone, has twice declared that the Syrian Army will return to Lebanon. In his meetings with Arab and European officials, Syrian President Bashar Assad regularly brings up the Hariri tribunal and indicates how central it is to Syria’s playing a more helpful role in Lebanon. Assad meant what he said in March 2005, when he told his Parliament: “A Syrian withdrawal from Lebanon will not mean a disappearance of Syria’s role in Lebanon.”

In the coming month, Assad will have to address growing Arab resentment of his regime in order to salvage the Arab League summit scheduled for the end of March in Damascus. It would be a mistake to assume the Syrians will languidly accept the humiliation of a failed conference, and much of their intimidation directed against the Gulf states in Lebanon is an effort to coerce them into attending. But that tactic won’t succeed, which is why March 14 is worried about a possible Plan B: Syria facilitates the election of Michel Suleiman as president, but then subsequently blocks the formation of a new government.

What would the advantages be? By authorizing Suleiman’s election, the Syrians would oblige Arab leaders to go to Damascus, saving their summit. Once a president is chosen, however, the Siniora government would automatically become a caretaker body, with limited constitutional prerogatives. As for the army, it would no longer have a commander. This would leave Lebanon without an effective executive authority, with its armed forces leaderless, and in a dangerous state of limbo.

The beauty of the scheme is that it might trap the parliamentary majority in its own exigencies. The Syrians and the opposition have for months demanded a package deal that includes agreement on the presidency and Cabinet. March 14 has rejected this. The opposition could turn around and accept the conditions of March 14, thereby electing Suleiman without an accord over a new ministry. The practical result might be a situation far worse than what we have today. Suleiman would be in, the government would be out, Syria would have partly broken out of its isolation, and the opposition would have won more pull to impose a favorable government, since any rejection of its demands could only prolong a debilitating vacuum.

Fortunately, there are ways around this plan. Arab states must set as a prerequisite for their participation in the Damascus summit prior agreement in Lebanon on Suleiman’s election and the formation of a new government. Yes, this would confirm Syria’s and the opposition’s package deal requirement imposed on Moussa, but that debate is now largely irrelevant: Negotiations over the Arab League plan are at a deadlock. The point of the Arab move would be not to push for a breakthrough in Lebanon, since that is presently impossible; but to block a Syrian plan to leave Lebanon without any effective leadership.

That is where the parliamentary majority has to be careful. In insisting so loudly that Suleiman must be elected now, it is ignoring the fact that the election could be disastrous if handled improperly. But then why didn’t the Syrians support the army commander’s election sooner, and block the formation of a new government? On the one hand they fear that constitutional procedures would be implemented, so that the president and majority, following consultations, might agree on a prime minister Syria disapproves of. Damascus also realizes that, even in a caretaker role, the Siniora government would still hold all the key ministries. A prolonged stalemate would still leave Suleiman working with a Cabinet dominated by March 14, something the Assad regime cannot stomach.

That only shows Syria’s rationale in Lebanon. But it doesn’t alter the fact that there are dangerous unknowns in allowing Suleiman to be elected minus a government. As the situation stands today, it is the opposition that is, plainly, blocking everything. Better for things to stay that way and for the Siniora government to remain in place. Political maneuvering may create instability that only plays to Syria’s advantage.

February 28th, 2008, 1:27 am

 

AnotherIsraeliGuy said:

QN,
What do you mean “not worth it”? As long as Asad stays in power it is worth it.

If I were in your place I would be frustrated and angry as all this is mostly at Lebanon’s expense. But hey, if the Syrian brothers do not care about Lebanon, why should anybody else care? Why aren’t you willing to make sacrifices for the Arab cause?

Alex does not like the neo-cons. But he has no problem with Asad who is willing to sacrifice the well being of his own people and all of Lebanon for his narrow interests. For some reason, Asad is not “selfish” but the neocons are.

February 28th, 2008, 2:07 am

 

Enlightened said:

QN:

“Did you read my response, about Ziggy?”

I read M Youngs article this morning, Il take off my dusted Tarboosh to him. I Thought that Syria allowing the election of the President might be one tactic, prior to the summit but hamper the election of the Government.

However two points, I agree with him that these are trying times for The Syrian Government,

“But reading that list, you can only conclude that that is precisely what the Syrians want, because Lebanon is of no value to them unless those aims are satisfied, unless the Assad regime has a tight grip over the country’s political power centers, has its army and security forces in place to back this up, can distribute patronage to Syrian officers to ensure their long-term loyalty, and can extract billions of dollars from the Lebanese economy to cushion trying times ahead for a Syrian economy that will soon have to dispense with oil revenues and lift vital subsidies.”

All political grand standing aside, ( The economic argument has been done to death in many analysts positions while the Syrians were in Lebanon, CC Gary Gambill articles on this issue). I think this point in Michaels article is a bit overstated, that Syria needs Lebanon economically as a Cash Cow, I don’t buy this argument anymore. The patronage system (by having its own military in Lebanon) has been superseded by wanting to install its own political surrogates in Lebanon, it needs this more out of political necessity than any economic argument that Michael puts forth. This argument has no more relevance, today other than the political/idealogical necessity of its Lebanese surrogates to gain power. (Syrian Political and Military planners since the 50;s have seen the necessity to have a friendly compliant government next door, its only a 1hour drive to the Syrian plains through the North corridor, and as Alex has reminded us so may times most plots against Syria have been hatched through Lebanon, sorry Alex lol)

The second point ” Lebanon is no value to them unless these points are satisfied” Here Michael is hinting that The Syrians will not back down, it is an existential as well as a economic threat to The Syrian regime ( ie hence if it cannot dominate Lebanon militarily or economically, The Regimes days will be numbered).

So its better to have this uncertainty than elect a president he concludes. The jury is out on this one. If Arab attendance at the summit does not materialize then the dangers of this argument might materialize. Its better to have an authority figure than none.

February 28th, 2008, 2:19 am

 

Qifa Nabki said:

AIG,

Who told you I’m not angry? I’m furious…

But I’m also wary of any Iraq type solutions.

We need a compromise. It’s the only way, at this point.

By “not worth it”, I meant not worth the danger to his own hold on power.

February 28th, 2008, 2:21 am

 

Qifa Nabki said:

Enlightened… yes I did see your response. Nice to see that everyone still thinks I’m 17.

😉

February 28th, 2008, 2:26 am

 

Enlightened said:

PS:

“Waiting for the expected Michael Young backlash”

February 28th, 2008, 2:33 am

 

trustquest said:

Moving the KSA ambassador is gigantic move and dangerous one. The Syrians are getting squeezed more and more by day. They do not want to admit that they do not hold good cards in their hands and they keep bluffing. The KSA is sending a message to Syrians to stop playing with bad cards. There are 17 millions Syrians outside the country, how many ones in the KSA and the Gulf States, what could happen if the gulf and KSA send those people back home? Or what if they stop given visas renewal. Does the Syrian worry about their people and the effect on the economy? So far it was always the last thing they would think of?

February 28th, 2008, 2:35 am

 

MNA said:

QN said: Alex, no need for you to repeat yourself…. I know what you think!

Actually I would like to hear what Alex thinks!

But really QN let’s also put this in th right prespective, but from the other point of view. I’m not sure about the efficacy of Mar14, Saudia Arabia and the moderate arab states, and US’s strategy and who is really going to suffer from a prolonged conflict in Lebanon and the region. For a starter such a prolonged conflict would bring Syria, Iran, Hamas, and HA much closer, the vey thing that the US and its allies are working hard to stop. Lebanon will go under and so is Mar14. If we agree that Mar14 has the support of 50% of the population in lebanon, it means that the opposition has the other 50%, but only much more powerful militarly, and in any militarly confrontation, it looks like Mar14 stands no chance. For Egypt, it could face a more magnified situation in Gaza than the one that took place recently. Jordan could face a similar situation from the West Bank. The US Could loose Iraq once and for all and so on and so forth. The Gulfis particularly would be very enraged b/c of all the money they sunk, not only in lebanon, but in Syria as well. And Syria can get away with it because no one would want to even imagine what a regime change in Syria would unleash in the whole region.

February 28th, 2008, 3:04 am

 

Enlightened said:

QN:

One from the history pages for you: Albeit with a certain bent to it

http://www.meforum.org/article/730

February 28th, 2008, 3:07 am

 

MNA said:

TrustQuest said: There are 17 millions Syrians outside the country, how many ones in the KSA and the Gulf States, what could happen if the gulf and KSA send those people back home? Or what if they stop given visas renewal. Does the Syrian worry about their people and the effect on the economy? So far it was always the last thing they would think of?

Something to think about indeed!!! But I can’t help to remind you that many people wondered about the detrimental effect on the Syrian economy by the military withdrawal and the return of Syrian workers from Lebanon, It turned out that it was the best thing that happened to Syria in a long time.

February 28th, 2008, 3:18 am

 

majedkhaldoun said:

Is there a connection between an attempt to assassinate king Abdullah of KSA in London,and KSA plan to withdraw the ambassador, and Egypt want to withdraw the ambassador , too.

February 28th, 2008, 3:42 am

 

Enlightened said:

Majed Said:

“Is there a connection between an attempt to assassinate king Abdullah of KSA in London,and KSA plan to withdraw the ambassador, and Egypt want to withdraw the ambassador , too.”

Where did this piece of news come from???????

February 28th, 2008, 3:46 am

 

Qifa Nabki said:

MNA,

Everything you say is correct, but I take it for granted.

The failures of American policy have already been debated on this blog and in other sources. The other parties (M14, KSA, etc.) are not steering this policy; they’re enabling it and are along for the ride. We’ve already discussed the pitfalls of this strategy ad nauseum; I’m trying to shift the debate back to the Syrian side.

Just because Syria has been successful in thwarting an isolationist policy in the short term doesn’t mean that Bashar’s strategy has been sound, in the long term. To argue that it has, merely on the basis that it has succeeded in avoiding losing Lebanon is fatalistic and anti-rational. There are other ways of dealing with threats than pure intransigence.

Let me put it another way. If March 14 were to elect a president according to a majority plus one arrangement, this would signal to some that they had “won”, but I would be strongly against it. This strategy would cause more problems in the long term than it would immediately solve, and I’d disagree with it even though it would appear to temporarily thwart Syria’s efforts to regain control over Lebanon.

Do you see what I mean?

Just because the American policy has not succeeded, doesn’t mean that the Syrian policy has! I’m talking about chess, not checkers. I’m asking my colleagues and friends on this blog to honestly and rationally debate this strategy, vis-a-vis Syria’s long term interests.

February 28th, 2008, 3:46 am

 

majedkhaldoun said:

from AlArabiyeh
مسؤول بالشرطة البريطانية اتهم منشقين سعوديين بتدبيرها

February 28th, 2008, 4:06 am

 

Enlightened said:

OK Majed

I want you to take a deep breath, sigh, go to the Kitchen,take out your utensils, Take out The Mlukhieh recipe and cook it. ( I suggest with chicken) When you have finished , let me know, I will give you some rice recipes, then we can cook something together!

February 28th, 2008, 4:15 am

 

majedkhaldoun said:

I love mlukhieh,never like to eat chicken, I suggest you eat fool(fava bean)

February 28th, 2008, 4:24 am

 

Syrian said:

QN:

While you pose an interesting question of short-term .v. long-term policy implications, your question seems to be too generic and needs to be narrowed to satisfying specific long-term goals of Syrian policymakers. If we try to mix economic interest, political stability, national security, internal security and regime security then any policy will have downs and ups. The question then has to be what value is placed on the different aspects of long-term interests and how do we go about getting some sort of a consensus on these values. As you probably have figured out, Ehsani places a high relative value on economic advancement whereas Alex might feel that regional power and influence carry a higher value. I guess a pre-question evaluation of the relative values Syrians place on the different possible long-term goals would be in order before we can address this question in any meaningful fashion.

February 28th, 2008, 5:08 am

 

Nur al-Cubicle said:

This is interesting…

A few hours after the KSA ambassador was transferred from Damascus to Doha, Qatar’s Prime Minister Hamad ben Jassem al-Thani, making a visit to Tehran, declared that Qatar’s position concerning Lebanon is in agreement with that of Iran.

February 28th, 2008, 5:18 am

 

offended said:

In his article “Missing the Point in the Lebanese Stalemate” Michael Young had actually missed the point himself.

My grandfather, who’s one of the founders of the Ba’ath party (his membership number is of two digits), once told me that it is impossible for any Syrian president to have peace of mind unless Beirut is neutralized. He cited the era of ‘inqilabat’ (coups de ‘etate) in the 50s and the 60s as an example; where every other day you’d have a break in the usual Damascus radiobroadcast, to hear rolls of drum beating, and then a statement by a new president, bragging about a successful coup. All these coups and conspiracies have come through Beirut (sounds familiar?). Syria today isn’t asking for too much when it talks about neutralizing. According to Young, it is still imperative for the Syrian army officers to get drunk and solicit hookers in Beirut’s brothels. I beg to disagree…because Damascus has been modernized enough you know.

Michael Young needs to take some lessons from my grandpa, he’s still ‘young’ after all….

February 28th, 2008, 5:32 am

 

Qifa Nabki said:

Syrian,

Thank you; excellent sharpening of my query. I had in mind Syrian foreign policy, but I think that your “pre-question” evaluation is a better way to approach it.

Why don’t you start?

In the meantime, though, let me make my point a bit clearer, on the foreign policy front.

I feel that, too often, our treatment of Syria’s foreign policy strategy is simply not critical enough. It’s as though we are picturing Bashar perched on the top of a telephone pole, with the leaders of America, France, the UK, Israel, KSA, Kuwait, etc. standing around, taking turns hurling volleyballs at him, trying to knock him off the top. Over the past three years, Bashar’s managed to avoid the volleyballs, and everytime he does, we praise him for the marvelous backflips and dodges that he executed, while simultaneously cursing the volleyball hurlers for their stupid and short-sighted strategy. We don’t really ask him to do anything besides avoid the volleyballs, nor do we expect him to be capable of doing anything else anyway.

This is to mischaracterize Bashar’s position. As many people have pointed out, Bashar is not in any danger of losing his perch; he’s popular in Syria, which gives him a fair amount of room to maneuver. He’s not going to risk much by choosing different methods with which to engage his adversaries. This is why I believe it is reasonable to ask what these different (and more productive) methods might be.

Lebanon is far more susceptible than Syria to the “volleyballs” (i.e. predatory whims) of foreign nations. For God’s sake, it seems that when Cheney comes down with a cold, Jumblatt gets a runny nose; when Ahmadinejad gets hay fever, Berri breaks out in a rash. Our leaders have far more precarious positions than Bashar. They depend on outside powers and as such they are constantly dodging attacks left and right from their allies’ enemies, and yet we still feel justified in questioning their strategies when they don’t make sense. Go on the Aounist blogs: you’ll find criticisms of Nasrallah (and Aoun, less often) when their supporters don’t agree with them. The same goes for March 14: I read criticisms of Hariri & Jumblatt all the time (they’re too weak, they’re too inflexible, they are ignoring the Christians, blah blah blah.)

Why can’t we expect the same sort of criticism about Bashar? This is an anonymous forum after all. Either you believe he’s doing a stellar job, or you believe he doesn’t have any choices. I find it difficult to believe either.

Ok, enough from me.

February 28th, 2008, 5:36 am

 

Honest Patriot said:

The Assad regime assassinated Rafiq Hariri and is destroying Lebanon to protect itself. AIG is right, dead-on! QN has the right to be furious; I join him. Supporters of the Syrian regime who dismiss the assassination of Hariri as simply another blip on the radar screen that soon will be forgotten have compromised their personal ethics and principles and are siding with a murderous regime. Enough already! Syria will only learn by the language of force. The Arabs are unceasingly feeding the excuse machine of the Israelis to justify the horrors they perpetrate with the excuse of “no other choice for self-defense.” It’s a sick Middle East governed by bumbling incompetents who are personally corrupt and who hire assassins for a never-ending sequence of hit-jobs. They know how to destroy and have no idea how to build. It’s disastrous that the ME I escaped from 27 years ago is no better today than it was then. This is my last post. And let’s just forget the SC conference. Zenobia was right, it was a looney idea (and the looney was HP). Adieu! This is my last post.

February 28th, 2008, 6:22 am

 

Shai said:

QN,

Given that Syria is quite isolated, that its only true allies are Iran, Hezbollah, and Hamas, and that its stance on Lebanon is not winning much sympathy or understanding, why doesn’t Assad change strategy? After all, while it is true that he’s dodged these “volleyballs” as you called them, there’s no reason to think he can do so forever. As waves of violence are heading our way (last night, with 50 rockets lobbed at Israel by Hamas, is a prelude to what might come), and as a huge Armada is building up against Assad, certainly he cannot think the future is full of just “volleyballs”, right? As I’ve said before, now is the time to take the “wind” out of this Armada’s sails. Assad can, by publicly declaring that as he sees that the current US administration, as well as a number of other nations, are insisting on isolating and undermining Syria, he will not invite any of these to participate in peace talks with Israel. But, instead, he will be asking another potential honest broker (Turkey, Russia?) to host such talks, so that these can restart. He can declare that no promises are made. No alliances are broken. No resistance is halted. But out of a real concern for the future of our region, Syria does not wish to wait for another war, and instead is here to push forward, with all those parties who are interested.

By so doing, Assad will shock quite a few people. No one will be expecting this. He will suddenly take form of a hero in the pursuit of peace, and not a potential-crook dodging volleyballs. And this is precisely how papers around the world will hail him. Instead of waiting for a new American Messiah (by demanding American participation in such talks), and instead of playing according to others’ agenda, Assad can and should now take the initiative, and lead the peace camp. He will, in essence, force Israel, the Europeans, and the rest of the Arab world, to call his bluff. No one will be able to speak about him as a terrorist, or a criminal, when he’s doing more than anyone else to achieve peace. The criticism on Syria vis-a-vis Lebanon, Iran, Iraq, will subside naturally, because those who continue will be deemed interest-driven now, and pure spoilers. And no one, not even the Americans, want to be depicted as such. That kind of image has long lasting effects, well into the future Administration, which let’s not forget, George W. does not know that it will not be a Republican one – it still might.

February 28th, 2008, 6:28 am

 

Shai said:

HP,

You can’t give up. If people like you give up, then what hope is there? You must fight it. You and I have no other choice. For otherwise we’re leaving the dirty work for our children, except they’ll have to suffer much more than we did.

February 28th, 2008, 6:31 am

 

Qifa Nabki said:

Who kidnapped HP?! What happened to Mr. Optimism?!

😉

Shai,

I’ll respond to you tomorrow… nearing 2AM here.

February 28th, 2008, 6:37 am

 

Syrian said:

QN

On the surface it appears that Bashar has made lots of foreign policy mistakes since 2001. There are those who would argue that his policies (opposing the Americans in Iraq and extending the Lahoud presidency) invited those volleyballs he’s been dodging since. However, we are casual commentators and he is the President of a nation with intelligence services and advisers. This is to say, we do not have access to much of the information that is available to him.

Given the apparent lack of ideological zeal on this blog, combined with the acknowledged lack of information as to what is the driving long-term goal of the Syrian policy, it seems to me that you will be hard pressed to find an answer to your question. We, like most academics, like to state the obvious and make it sound original; so our remarks concentrate on the ability of the regime to dodge the volleyballs thrown at it because that is what we see and that is what we know.

However, I will say this quickly, if the current policies are directed at maximizing the expected future welfare of Syrian citizens (assuming that is the only goal that guides foreign policy) then we have to ask in what respect is this working or in what respects is it failing?

Must go to sleep now. However, I will dream about your question and see if I have anything in the morning.

February 28th, 2008, 6:40 am

 

Syrian said:

Shai,

An arbiter must have some sort of authority to enforce any agreement the parties reach. My guess is that both the Israelis and the Syrians see only the US as capable of being such an arbiter.

February 28th, 2008, 6:49 am

 

Shai said:

A clarification is due on the point of searching for another broker:

Israel’s best ally is the United States. Israel cannot, even if it wants to, undermine U.S. interests or strategy in the region. But when it comes to Syria, Israel has already been given a green-light by George W., in fact in public, only saying that the U.S. will not participate. If Israel receives further “guarantees” from Washington, saying that by restarting talks with Syria it will not be damaging any of its interests vis-a-vis the U.S., I believe Olmert can easily approach Syrian negotiators (Farouq al-Sharaa?) at a table in Ankara, or Moscow, or Beijing, and feel he is not risking Israel’s security. In fact, if we really want to conspire here, why not have Syria and Israel agree (in private) to begin talks, create a very positive and optimistic atmosphere in the region again, and, around 8-9 months from, suddenly reach a deadlock on some pertinent issue. And guess who’s going to be “invited” to come save the day? That’s right, Obama, or McCain, or Hillary.

But in the meantime, when it becomes more and more evident with each day that passes, that time is NOT on our side, but on the extremists’, by waiting-it-out, we’re endangering ourselves further, and risking a serious regional war. Like I’ve said time and again, it doesn’t take much to make that war happen. Enough that someone in Hamas, or Hezbollah, or Israel, push that trigger, and we’re at war. And like I’ve said before, if we’ll have a regional war, it will not look like anything we’ve seen before. It will be FAR FAR more costly, with perhaps tens of thousands dead, and many more injured, and this region will indeed be sent backwards decades into the past. We’ll find ourselves back in this spot, around the year 2030, but after so much pain and suffering taking place. Is this what we want? Are we so comfortable in our arm-chairs, waiting it out? Is this like a show on TV, where it’s only imaginary characters that are playing it out, and not real human beings, men, women, and children, that are going to die, because we had “patience”?

February 28th, 2008, 6:55 am

 

offended said:

Honest Patriot has managed to sum up the 14th march BS all in one piece. Congrats.

February 28th, 2008, 6:57 am

 

Shai said:

Syrian,

You’re right, and it probably will be the US. But I claim we mustn’t wait for that so-called American Messiah to show up. It’ll take some time, perhaps longer than we hope for. Obama might be too “fresh” to already start changing policy in the region, embrace instead of isolate Syria, pressure all sides to return to the table, etc. McCain might find himself at a contradiction by pledging to stay in Iraq (until it is a “democracy”), while reversing policy vis-a-vis Syria, at least to the Republicans. Hillary may not know what to do, and take her time. So we may be in for another 2 years, perhaps more, without major breakthroughs (I hope I’m wrong, of course). What I mean, when I suggest another honest broker in the meantime, is that we cannot wait for Washington. We have to get started, and mainly because now is not 1999. The situation is far less stable, and war is looming on our horizon. Any small spark, by Hamas, Hezbollah, Israel, etc. and we’re at a very dangerous and costly regional war.

Even if we begin talking in Anakara, or Moscow, or wherever, I still see the Americans coming in at some point, and doing the real guaranteeing you correctly speak of. I agree, peace is unlikely to be achieved without the Americans. But let’s not wait, and in fact, let’s start creating facts on the ground which will de facto pull the Americans in – it would be that much easier for the new Administration, if we reached a “deadlock” soon after its inauguration, and needed their help, than if we haven’t even begun talking. Don’t you agree?

February 28th, 2008, 7:25 am

 

Shai said:

Offended,

I think HP is fed up. But we must convince people like him to stay the course. We can’t give up, even when things are deteriorating on a daily basis. That is a luxury we just cannot afford.

February 28th, 2008, 7:51 am

 

offended said:

Shai,
I hope HP is only fed up. Because that can be remedied somehow. But to insinuate that all the miseries of the world are the make of the Syrian regime alone is the utmost stupidity. Shall I link the article of Al Seyassa which have found Syria responsible for Darfour?

Have you listened to the complete recording of Alon’s speech? Have you heard that Lebanese lady protesting that Israel shouldn’t engage in negotiations with Syria until Samir Kaseer assassination is investigated? I mean what kind of a retarded mentality is that? But Alex is right; she’s merely there as a spoiler…I hope HP is not a spoiler as well…

Btw, I found it ironic that that lady journalist was concerned about Samir Kaseer, while the relevant Lebanese person to the discussion was Samir Kuntar, the dean of Lebanese POW who’s been languishing in the Israeli prisons for more than 20 years…and of course, in the 14th march standards, he doesn’t deserve a mention…

February 28th, 2008, 8:15 am

 

Alex said:

Seriously! … HP?? why?

Yalla turn off your depressing TV news and watch some Adel Imam or something.

QN .. you are telling me that I am boring?!

Baseeta.
Offended,

Aal-Syassa found out about Alon’s talk apparently! .. here is what they wrote today:

النظام السوري يربط الأزمة اللبنانية بنجاح اتصالاته “الجدية” مع إسرائي

http://www.alseyassah.com/news_details.asp?nid=6261&snapt=%C7%E1%CF%E6%E1%ED%C9

واشارت المعلومات الخاصة التي تلقتها “السياسة”, الى ما كان كشفه وزير الخارجية السوري وليد المعلم, عن الاتصالات القائمة بعيدا عن الاضواء بين الجانبين السوري والاسرائيلي, وتعبيره عن رغبة دمشق بتوقيع اتفاقية سلام مع اسرائيل, محورها الانسحاب من منطقة الجولان, وتحويلها الى منطقة منزوعة السلاح وحديقة عامة لمدة 50 سنة, تشمل جبل الشيخ, الجولان, طبريا, ويسمح فيها باقامة مشاريع استثمارية سياحية, من فنادق ومراكز تزلج وكل وسائل اللهو, نظرا لغنى هذه المنطقة بالمياه والمناظر الطبيعية الخلابة, ولوقوعها في المثلث الذي يربط سورية ولبنان باسرائيل.

February 28th, 2008, 8:30 am

 

Shai said:

Offended,

Yes, I heard her speak. And I believe Alon did a good job of answering. People like that don’t understand that we don’t have the luxury of first demanding to see fairness, and principles of right-and-wrong first installed in the region, before engaging and even making peace with nations and their leaders. What does she think, that George W. is more of a saint? That when he presses a button (gives an order), less innocent people are killed? Yet she comfortably resides in that nation, under that leader, and seems to be perfectly okay with it.

February 28th, 2008, 8:33 am

 

wizart said:

It’s ok to be angry. Not ok to lose control over one’s feelings.

Anger is how some people choose to cope with feelings of guilt and frustrations thinking they have nothing positive to contribute.

Lousy feelings about the ME are better channeled positively as in sacrificing time here searching for ways to add/create value, etc.

Millions check in w/out posting. SC conference is not a bad idea because this blog is essentially an ongoing online conference. The physical aspect will simply add to the bonding experience which is very likely to create more opportunities for productive dialogues.

Related News: HP maybe a good stock to own at this level.
It’s a manic depressive stock with high growth potential.
Choosing the right kind of food/drink/stock may help reduce anger.

February 28th, 2008, 8:33 am

 

Shai said:

Alex,

Ditto my comment on email today. And, shouldn’t you be asleep? You’re not that young anymore, you know… (2-2)

February 28th, 2008, 8:34 am

 

The Independent said:

Josh,

It’s me again.

Although your comments are very valid, I would like to pose a few questions. They are based on this statement: Syrian authorities argue, “Lebanon is no longer a card that Syria can play in the region. It is a card that is being used against us. We have no choice but to neutralizing it.”

1) Why hasn’t Syria helped Lebanon resolve the onging prisoner issue (Lebanese in Syrian Jails)?
2) Why hasn’t Syria helped Lebanon draw its border and recognize it?
3) Why hasn’t Syria opened an embassy in Lebanon just like all other Arab nations have?
4) Why hasn’t Syria officially (written document) passed claim of the Shebaa farms to Lebanon in the UN?

Syria can move away from being termed a “spoiler” in Lebanon to being “constructive” and “influencial” by at least starting to help in resolving these issues. That way, March 14 would not have much to say about Syria’s negative role in Lebanon and they would lose their convincing power with the West and the pro-West Arab world.

But there must be more to it than that…………….

Thanks for your web space Josh.

February 28th, 2008, 8:39 am

 

Alex said:

QN

Three things.

1) Bashar himself said he is disappointed with his achievements during his first seven years in office.

2) Jihad el-Khazen changed his mind to a large extent about Bashar’s “mistakes” (such as renewing for Lahhoud) after he spent two hours talking to him in private in Damascus.. Bashar gave him convincing answers apparently.

3) Let me demonstrate to you the different way they see things in Damascus through a couple of quotes:

– Israeli Defense Minister Moshe Dayan told an aide in early 1974, “You need much more patience with the Syrians [than the Egyptians]; you cannot go fast with them.”

– Dr. Kenneth W. Stein, Emory University wrote: “From interviews I have conducted over the last 10 years with participants in the 1974 talks, a consensus arises: Asad used his own timepiece–more often a calendar rather than a clock.”

So … it is too early to start grading Bashar.

February 28th, 2008, 8:51 am

 

offended said:

From Al Seyassa article:
“المناظر الطبيعية الخلابة”
That translates into Arabic as: “exquisite natural scenery”
What a wonderful and creative composition of Al Seyassa.

Alex, Shai,
Yes, I think Al Seyassa has found out about Alon’s lobbying in Washington, and they also found out about the Peace Park plans and the calling out for architect to submit doodles for an ‘exquisite design’ (btw, can I participate?).
Of course, Al Seyassa has chosen to announce this in the midst of the bloody events in Gaza, to smear Syria and stir up the Arab masses’ feelings against her.

If Syria wants to talk peace; she’ll be reprimanded for its treason.
If it talks aggressively, it’ll be accused of rash behavior and trying to drag the region to reckless wars which will only serve its own interests.

Besara7a ya3ni, 7ayrto teezna….

February 28th, 2008, 8:53 am

 

Alex said:

Shai,

I just woke up!

Offended,

This particular story in Al-Syassa is composed by a different person. I know because for the first time he failed to mention an evil role for Asef Shawkat.

February 28th, 2008, 8:55 am

 

Shai said:

Alex,

Oh… so welcome back then 🙂 Here it’s sunny, quite warm, 11:01 am, and preparing for another violent day… how about you?

Offended,

I of course understand the dilemmas Syria’s in. But I still believe Syria should take the lead, and not wait and do exactly what her rivals want her to. Time is not on our side, we must take the initiative back.

February 28th, 2008, 9:03 am

 

Alex said:

Here it is dark and peaceful!

You should immigrate to Canada Shai .. you are too old to keep up with those crazy Middle Easterners!

And I am going back to sleep : )

February 28th, 2008, 9:19 am

 

Shai said:

Good Night, or morning, whatever it is over there… I’ll keep the fire going… (bad ME humor).

February 28th, 2008, 9:23 am

 

why-discuss said:

Hamas’s tenacity and hardline is working: 64% of israelis in a poll reported by CNN want negotiations with Hamas. In 2007 Hamas did propose a temporary cease fire that was flatly rejected by Olmert. Would Olmert listen this time?

JERUSALEM, Feb. 27 (UPI) — Most Israelis asked said they back direct talks with Hamas leaders in Gaza about a cease-fire and the release of a captured soldier, a poll indicated.

The findings indicate Israelis are weary of years of Qassam rockets lobbed at Sderot and communities near Gaza, as well the 18-months-plus captivity of Cpl. Gilad Shalit, the Haaretz-Dialog poll conducted Tuesday reported.

While 64 percent of respondents indicated they favored their government in direct talks with Hamas, about 28 percent said they were opposed.

An growing number of public figures, including senior officers in the Israel military’s reserves, expressed similar positions regarding direct talks with Hamas, the poll indicated.

February 28th, 2008, 9:33 am

 

why-discuss said:

The departure of the Saudi Ambassador seems to be linked to the Mughniyeh investigation where Syria may appear to blackmail KSA and Egypt on their possible involvement in the crime.

…”For the time being, the Syrians are planning not to make any statements, at least until after the Arab summit next week. They are attempting not to deepen the intra-Arab crisis and wait for the leaders of Egypt and Saudi Arabia to attend the meeting, in which Damascus has invested large sums of money.
If these leaders fail to show up, it is assumable that Damascus will openly accuse at least one of them of cooperating with Israel in the Mugniyah assassination.” More…

February 28th, 2008, 9:47 am

 

Enlightened said:

And now i know I am truly addicted, Im logging in at work, and now at home.

HP: Stay the course your voice of reason is needed, IF I have to read AIG comments everyday, then surely you can have empathy with me.

Oh alright what the Heck, I know that Alex might be dissapointed in me, But wel make up ( OK HP SYRIA KILLED HARRIRI )(and Ausamma might want to give me a tongue lashing), if that makes you feel better HP, but let me let you in on a little secret HP.

There is always an unwritten code amongst, thugs,criminals,those in power, and a lack of ethics, its nature, where as almost anything goes there is one bond that is almost unbreakable and that is LOYALTY to those you have a relationship with. Once that Loyalty is broken they revert to the law of the jungle within their relationships. Its kill or be killed. Horriffying , but its that simple, I might sound callous for saying this , But Harirri knew this, he was willing to break this relationship.

Now also while I am a nerd like yourself, hiding behind a computer, and might have ethics and morals, those in power do not, thats how they get there. And they break every part of morality to stay there.

While I am not completely convinced 100% that the Syrian regime was completely behind it, I am willing to reserve my judgement until the tribunal starts, and lets see what evidence they have (if any), I believe that the length of time to bring matters to a head has passed, if there was anything major it would have come out by now.

Anway being the coward that I am I will watch events from far away. The ME is too savage for a soft soul like me. BUT I predicted events would get out hand a few weeks ago.

HP if it is your last post , then the SC brotherhood will surely miss you, but come back , the room will always welcome you back.

February 28th, 2008, 10:07 am

 

offended said:

Enlightened;
Everything aside, do you think it is immoral to suggest that Syrian regime has natural strategic interests in Lebanon and it is her right to try to pursue them using political influence?

February 28th, 2008, 11:25 am

 

Enlightened said:

Offended, no its not immoral for any country to pursue strategic interests. It depends how you Define “political influence” and what means and methods that you employ to achieve them.

So if you care to define what relevant ” natural strategic” interests Syria has in Lebanon (using your own insight and BS aside)
and what you define as “political influence” to pursue them then I can answer your question.

Rank them in order of importance to what you think they are. And be frank in your reply. ( I need to let you know that I have family though marriage in Syria ) So I will be candid in my response. And I do not follow any political affiliation. Although Alex has told me I have a Lebanese sensitivity. I will reply to you tommorrow at 8am Sydney time. Almost 11 here and time to go to bed.

February 28th, 2008, 11:59 am

 

ausamaa said:

Mat suggest that we rephrase the question to include Syria’s statregic interests in Palestine, Jordan, Iraq and its surrounding environment?

And if the Answer is No, then why hs Syria been in the Eye of the Storm for so long???!!

A better question maybe be: Is Syria practicing its natural and expected role in persuing, defending and protecting itself and those strategic interests or is Syria aggresively and hungrily seeking to build an Empire?

Is it normal for a country be it X, Y or Z to a sphere of influence or not? Or is the term National Security reserved for certain nations only?

February 28th, 2008, 12:04 pm

 

offended said:

Enlightened, they are very simple and straightforward (as I see them, BS aside as promised):

1- The first and foremost interest is in a stable and functioning Lebanon: I mean who could benefit from living next to a dysfunctioning body? (sorry for the distasteful example)

2- Syria should make sure that Beirut doesn’t go back to becoming the entry point for conspiracies against Syria, and I cited the 50s and the 60s (the era of inqilabat) as an example. Those were very turbulent times for Syria.

3- There should be continuous economical cooperation between the two countries, and here is the rub my friend. It is all about economics. If both countries could create the synergy that could benefit them both, this could transform the whole of the Levant. And all this time is nothing but wasted opportunities.

As for political means of pursuing such interests; let’s put the Hariri assassination aside as we don’t know yet who had perpetrated the act. I ask you: why certain elements in Lebanon are belligerent toward Syria? Why do they cooperate with the renegade Khaddam to oust the regime and create turbulences?
In the face of such belligerence: isn’t Syria’s right to exert pressure using its allies in Lebanon?
What’s wrong in Aoun stance? He realized that his problem with Syria ceased to exist when the troops were pulled out. He wants to create a real partnership based on mutual interest. He doesn’t pledge allegiance to Syria’s enemies.

Why the rest of 14th march ilk wouldn’t rest unless they see to it that Syria crumbles either under fires of internal bickering, or under the fires of foreign invasion?

Do you think THAT is moral?

February 28th, 2008, 12:29 pm

 

wizart said:

Syria is pursuing its regional strategic interests and achieving a cold peace in the process using all available means of production.

The most significant accomplishment is not going to war since 1973.
The price for this cold peace has been high in terms of economic loss of opportunity. Dynamic stability in Syria has been the net result of this cold peace which is not a bad result given regional realities.

Israel is also pursuing its regional interests and the economic loss for not having active regional peace has been high to her as well.

So this is a lose lose situation that can turn into win win any time there’s more public awareness on both sides of all the interests and options. That’s why dialogue is mutually important.

February 28th, 2008, 12:35 pm

 

Blacksmith Jade said:

Its a “blocking” third because its aim is to prevent the elected majority from exercising its executive duties. If in every election the majority were prevented from pursuing the goals and platforms that got it elected in the first place, what would be the point of elections? Perhaps that is a point lost on the autocratic regime in Syria [and its cheerleaders].

As for the UN resolutions on Lebanon, in every case they are resolutions meant to bolster Lebanese sovereignty and prevent Syria from interfering in our internal affairs. Again, the notion of Lebanese sovereignty might be alien to a regime which views Lebanon as its personal backyard and not as a country in and of itself.

February 28th, 2008, 1:22 pm

 

AnotherIsraeliGuy said:

Alex,
Your double standards are amazing. Seven years is too early to start grading Bashar? Maybe 7 years is too early to start grading Bush also…

Is the average Syrian better of now that he was 7 years ago? Probably not. Has the average Syrian progressed less than most countries in the last 7 years? Yes. Is corruption less in Syria than 7 years ago? No. Is the education better? No. Are science and technology more invested in? No. Is there more freedom? No. And we can continue down this list a long time.

But what does it matter because there is only one RELEVANT question for you: Is Bashar still in power? YES. And since this is the only thing that matters to Asad, he has been successful, just has Bush has been succeesful for not being impeached. To each his own.

This is what is really amazing about this argument. All the ex-pat Syrians that support Asad’s dismal record would in a moment kick out any politician with such a track record in their new countries. Yet for some reason they believe that Syrians should be governed by second rate politicians who can’t deliver. Go figure.

February 28th, 2008, 1:26 pm

 

offended said:

AIG,
Yes….

GO! figure…

February 28th, 2008, 1:43 pm

 

Observer said:

I do regret that HP is leaving us. I had hoped that he is still out there and can read this article as it balances out his one sided view of good and evil:

Here it is and its title is the “world” according to Washington

http://www.atimes.com/atimes/Middle_East/JB28Ak02.html

February 28th, 2008, 1:55 pm

 

Norman said:

موسى: قادة عرب اشترطوا انتخاب رئيس للبنان لحضور القمة العربية

I think they should go to hell , nothing comes out of them at any way.

February 28th, 2008, 2:18 pm

 

Observer said:

In the meantime new pictures of Abu Ghraib surface and here is the article from the Guardian

Horrific new images of abuse at Abu Ghraib have been released by an expert witness in the trial of one of the guards involved, but even more disturbing is his claim that we are all capable of such torture.

A grisly slideshow of the new photographs, alongside previously released images, was put together by the psychologist Philip Zimbardo.

The slideshow has been published by Wired alongside a chilling interview with Zimbardo (warning: you may find the images disturbing).

He was an expert witness in the defence of Sergeant Chip Frederick, one of the most senior guards charged with torturing Iraqi prisoners.

In 1971 Zimbardo conducted a notorious psychological experiment about ordinary people’s capacity for cruelty. The Standford prison study had to be stopped because of the levels of abuse that volunteers, acting as guards, began to mete out against volunteers acting as prisoners.

Zimbardo tells Wired that the guards in Abu Ghraib were under the same kind of extreme pressure. He says:

“The situational forces that were going on in [Abu Ghraib] – the dehumanisation, the lack of personal accountability, the lack of surveillance, the permission to get away with antisocial actions – it was like the Stanford prison study, but in spades.”
Dylan Tweney, a senior editor at Wired, says it was one of the most difficult pieces he has edited.
He says he doesn’t recommend looking at the images, but the interview is a must for its “insight into just how badly people can behave”.

February 28th, 2008, 3:59 pm

 

Alex said:

AIG,

Let me help you with your severely selective attention and selective retention, I know that http://www.camera.org does not help you with POSITIVE arguments for Syria. Their database and expertise is like yours … specialized in negativity.

Remember the chart I linked here? .. the one from the UNDP?

Here it is again

And just a reminder why things are not as bad as your GDP comparison with Israel …becasue I know you do not like to remember, but the Human Development Index of Syria is not bad … surpassing that of South Africa even though the GDP numbers look different.

Besides, AIG … do you want me to quote your friend David Schenker again?

“The Syrian economy is growing — despite a 6.5 percent decline in oil production, its overall growth rate this past year was a respectable 5 percent. “Barring policy missteps or a deterioration in the regional environment,” a recent International Monetary Fund report predicted, “the near-term outlook . . . looks favorable.” Based on this assessment, Syria is not under economic duress.

…With Israeli-Syrian tensions rising and the pro-Western Lebanese government on a precipice, renewed political and economic pressure on Damascus is vital.

In the absence of effective measures, the Asad regime will continue to undermine Washington’s hopes for the region.”

So .. if Schenker needs sanctions on Syria to stop Asad from continuing to deliver better life for Syrians who are making him popular … then, I hope you stop arguing the contrary because who knows if Schenker hears you he might stop lobbying for sanctions on Syria … you don’t want that I’m sure.

February 28th, 2008, 4:01 pm

 

Welcome | Project on Middle East Democracy said:

[…] Joshua Landis reacts to the news that Saudi Arabia is withdrawing its Ambassador from Damascus, citing it as an event that causes the Lebanon crisis to become more “dire.” Touching on how the stalemate is negatively affecting the Lebanese economy, Landis also discusses Syria’s claims of urging a third of the Lebanese cabinet to be ceded to the opposition. […]

February 28th, 2008, 4:05 pm

 

AnotherIsraeliGuy said:

Alex,
Wow! Asad should stay in power because he is a little better than Mbeki. In Canada you would not dare to argue that such a political failure should stay in power, yet in Syria, that is good enough for you. Do you understand how untenable your position is?

Let me add that I can also say something POSITIVE about Asad: I confess that he is better than Mugabe. This is basically the same as your positive talk abut Asad.

As for the growth in Syria, it is becoming clear that the macro numbers are highly mis-leading and probably not real. Just like Syria does not report real inflation and real un-employment, it is distorting the growth statistics. What really matters is whether the average Syrian can consume more and it is clear that because inflation, wage stagnation and subsidy lifting, the average Syrian is consuming LESS, much less. This is something Asad cannot hide.

But even if we take the numbers as true, what Schenker forgets is that the population growth in Syria is 3%. So the real growth, is a paltry 2%. That is basically no growth at all. Perhaps Schenker forgets this because he wants deeper sanctions.

So again, just so you do not accuse me of being always negative:
Asad is better than Mugabe. Yay!

February 28th, 2008, 4:19 pm

 

offended said:

Alex, I wholeheartedly salute your patience and your passion.

God bless you bro!

On a lighter note; what happened to the 5 comments a day rule? ; )

February 28th, 2008, 4:46 pm

 

offended said:

America has been trying to subjugate Syria through economical sanctions; those circumstances don’t tally with those of Mogabe. The analogy is just so foolish; Mogabe had every kind of conceivable backing from the west. And still he bungled things up so badly that even Saddam would look like an angle compared to him.

Yet, do you see American artillery pointing toward the western-educated Mogabe?
Of course not, because the neocon hypocrites couldn’t care less about a god forsaken African country…

Syria is being subjected to all kinds of political and economical hassles; there is a chaotic country next door (thanks to Bush and Cheney). Its flank has been compromised. America and its cheap allies in the region are trying their best to strangle Syria into surrender. The recent of which is a proposal to block the Syrian coasts. Yet Bashar has been able so far to weather all these pressures and forge solid relations with a reliable partner like Turkey. He also funneled those pressures into a nationalistic support.

I was amazed to see the Egyptian stewards in one of the restaurant here in Dubai playing a praising song for Bashar Al Assad and humming the words after George Wassof. I asked them do you really like the man? They said ‘of course we do! He’s the only one that stood by Hezbollah during the war!’….I don’t need to tell you what they think of Husni Mubarak…
A little anecdotal, but it is telling…

And I don’t expect AIG to understand these nuances….

February 28th, 2008, 5:09 pm

 

AnotherIsraeliGuy said:

Offended,
“Nuances” are known in other places which don’t live in denial as excuses. Asad and his father did not manage Syria well on the internal front and you are willing to overlook that because it makes some Egyptian waitresses feel a little happy.

Your hypocrisy is astounding. If you are so sure people like Asad, than why does Asad have to be so oppressive? Why is he afraid of people voicing their own opinions? If people really like him and he has been good for them Asad would not be afraid of free elections. Asad’s actions show that he knows exactly how bad he is for the Syrians and that is why he doesn’t let them voice their opinion.

The facts on the ground dispprove every piece of your pathetic propoganda.

February 28th, 2008, 5:28 pm

 

offended said:

Who said Assad is democratic?
He himself knows that he’s not, and he asked people to give him time to reform….

And please, don’t pontificate to me about propaganda. People in Syria know what’s good for them. They don’t need you to tell them what’s good and what’s bad for them.

Your puppet Al Maliki has many more people incarcerated in his dungeons than the Assad, yet he gets patted on the shoulder for that. Why? Because Bush has ‘looked at him in the eyes and saw through his soul that he’s a man he can work with’

I mean how pathetic is that?

This is exactly the kind of double standards that make the Syrian people attracted to Assad even more….they might as well look at Bashar’s eyes and see promise and innocence your other moderate puppet leaders in the region do not possess…

February 28th, 2008, 5:43 pm

 

AnotherIsraeliGuy said:

If people in Syria know what is good for them, why does not Asad let them voice their opinions? Simple, Asad thinks he knows whats best for them and is afraid to hear their true opinions.

Then you contradict yourself again. If the Syrians are “even more” attracted to Bashar because of double standards then why is Asad becoming more oppressive all the time? It is because what you say is just false. The Syrians do not like Asad and he knows it and that is why the only way for him to rule them is by oppression.

February 28th, 2008, 5:57 pm

 

Naji said:

Alex,
Thanks for the Oxford Analytica report… These guys seem to consistently have a better grasp of things around here than the talkshow hustlers that penned the Carnegie paper…!! With all due respect, of course.

February 28th, 2008, 6:07 pm

 

offended said:

How do you know he’s getting more oppressive all the time?
People inside Syria will tell you that things have improved immensely on the level of individual freedoms. And if you can’t verify that, I can’t help you walla, go kick the highway…

And he’s not getting more oppressive by time. He’s been challenged internally by elements that were aligning themselves with 14th of March and with the American project for the new middle east. How do you suppose he should respond to that?
How do you think he should deal with Fanatic Islamic cells that are popping up here and there because your neo-con agenda has managed to radicalize and antagonize more and more people?

This is the most despicable and disgusting argument: you ask of him to be more firm with the terrorists and borders’ infiltrators, and yet you accuse him of heavy-handedness…

You are the one who’s hypocritical and pathetic…

February 28th, 2008, 6:11 pm

 

Norman said:

Administration imposes new sanctions for alleged movement of weapons and terrorists from SyriaBy MARTIN CRUTSINGER updated 1 hour, 21 minutes agoFont size: WASHINGTON – The Bush administration on Thursday announced it was imposing economic sanctions on four individuals it accused of helping with the flow of money, weapons, terrorists and other resources from Syria into Iraq.

It marked the administration’s latest attempt to block efforts by groups in Syria from undermining the government of Iraq.

The action will freeze any assets the four individuals have under U.S. jurisdiction and prohibit Americans and U.S. firms from engaging in business transactions with the four men.

“Since the fall of Saddam Hussein’s regime, Syria has become a transit station for al-Qaida foreign terrorists on their way to Iraq,” Stuart Levey, the administration’s point person on terrorist financing, said in a statement.

Levey, Treasury’s undersecretary of terrorism and financial intelligence, said that a network in Syria was “going to great lengths to facilitate the flow through Syria of money, weapons, and terrorists intent on killing U.S. and coalition forces and innocent Iraqis.”

A Treasury fact sheet identified the four individuals being targeted for economic sanctions as Badran Turki Hishan al-Mazidih, Ghazy Fezza Hishan al-Mazidih, Akram Turki Hishan al-Mazidih and Saddah Jaylut al-Marsumi. Treasury said each of the four individuals also use other names.

President Bush earlier this month signed an economic order that expanded penalties against senior government officials in Syria and their associates who are judged to have benefited from public corruption.

Last week, Treasury announced that it was freezing any assets held in the United States by Rami Makluf, one of the most powerful and influential businessmen in Syria, who controls the country’s mobile phone network as well as other lucrative enterprises. He is also the first cousin of Syrian President Syrian President Bashar Assad.

Copyright 2008 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.
Tools: Print Email

February 28th, 2008, 6:17 pm

 

Observer said:

Charles de Gaulle once said: ” Powers have interests they have no friends”. I lament the complete lack of morality in human affairs and I lament even more the disguise that is played daily behind the facade of “civilization, democracy, human rights” etc…

Pepe Escobar shows in atimes.com today that the push for the independence of Kosovo is another neo colonial enterprise where the AMBO pipeline bringing oil from the Caspian sea will arrive in the Balkans to be shipped to Rotterdam and to refineries in the US and Europe.

It shows that a subsidiary of Halliburton, KBR of Great Britain is responsible for the maintaining the BondStell base in Kosovo, the largest US base since Vietnam.

It also shows that Bernard Kouchner and others were responsible for organizing the NATO intervention in Kosovo in the 90’s.

Now the Kurds are seeing that their chances of even autonomy are being dashed in the latest Turkish offensive and that Gates visiting today is asking that the work be done swiftly.

This should be a lesson to the allies of the so called “friends” of Lebanon.

Repetition teaches even the donkey; well the Kurds seem not to learn, they were asked to support the British against the Ottomans for a state in the 1920’s and they listened to Kissinger as they rose in the 1970’s only to be left to his tender mercies of Saddam when he and the Shah dealt with them together, then again they listen to GHWB as he asked to rise up and then left them to the Hind 24 gunships of Saddam after the 91 war, and then again, they let the US base its forces in the north and guarantee 75% of the supplies to go through only to have the US intelligence provide information to the Turks.

Which brings us back to the current post: Syrian regime is playing its cards very well indeed and has learned the lesson about trust, verification, positions of negotiations, alliances, in its foreign policy. It is also trying to extricate the country from the disaster of 40 years of utter destruction of the economy.

Here is an excerpt about those that think that UN resolutions not backed by “powers and their interests” mean

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov has characterized Kosovo’s independence as the beginning of the end of contemporary Europe. As British journalist John Laughland, manager of the British Helsinki Human Rights Group stresses, “The current status of the province is established by UN Security Council resolution 1244,” which determines that Kosovo is part of Serbia. Thus the US and the EU have – once again – made minced meat of international law.

Why not us?
Kurds, especially those in Iraq, might be tempted to believe Kosovo is a meaty precedent pointing to the emergence of an independent Iraqi Kurdistan – their dream, and Turkey’s nightmare. Just as in Kosovo, oil is in play (Kirkuk and its pipelines); and Iraqi Kurdistan, since 1991, had been a sort of extended Camp Bondsteel anyway, an American-protected enclave in Saddam’s Iraq and then a haven of stable “democracy” in Bush-devastated Iraq.

But it’s hard to dream about independence when Iraqi Kurdistan has been de facto invaded by 10,000 Turkish troops with the help of US intelligence.

According to Baghdad’s al-Mada daily, the president of the Irbil-based Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG), Massoud Barzani, sent an urgent letter to Bush for him to personally stop the Turkish invasion. Barzani flatly accuses the Turks of destroying his region’s infrastructure. Barzani’s spokesman, Falah Mustafa, has placed all responsibility “on the US government”. Peshmerga (Kurdish militia) General Muhammad Mohsen is also furious (“We think the United States is making a big mistake”). This is as good an intimation of inevitable blowback as any.

Cheers and I wish HP was still there to give me his opinion about civilization.

February 28th, 2008, 6:18 pm

 

EHSANI2 said:

The Syrians do not like Assad?

Show me one single Arab country where the populace “likes” its leaders.

This argument is meaningless and irrelevant. When leaders are not elected at the ballot box, ascertaining whether people like their leaders or not is a waste of time.

Bashar has never run on the platform of “people like me therefore I should stay as leader”. Bashar’s name can be substituted with any other Arab leader and nothing would change.

AIG,

With all due respect, you keep wasting your time and our time stating the obvious. My 6-year old daughter knows all the stuff that you keep writing about.

Arab leaders stay in their seats because they make sure that no one can ever present a threat to their hold on power. They do this because they know that once they lose power, they also will most likely lose their presence on this planet. Bashar is no exception.

Satisfied?

February 28th, 2008, 6:21 pm

 

offended said:

Ehsani, I was initially in favor of limiting AIG’s comments to 5 a day.
But now I totally support his right to post more comments like these and make an utter fool of himself.

February 28th, 2008, 6:30 pm

 

offended said:

Observer,
I think you’ve hit the nail on the head there my friend. What’s happening to the Kurds is a clear example of what could be the likely outcome when you align yourself with the neocons and their dirty schemes in the region. A one night stand, a quick shag, even with a beauty queen can not make up for lost familial and neighborly relations.

February 28th, 2008, 6:43 pm

 

Alex said:

You are welcome Naji, and thank you Offended … yes, the 5 comments rule are on again AIG.

You know why? … because you are back to:

1) playing the silly: I am the Israeli Likudnik champion of democracy and prosperity in my enemy Syria.

2) Alex and offended and everyone who does not buy my argument in its entirety is either a hypocrite or contradicting himself or is in denial …

Enough of your wasting our time with your arrogance. You are

If Schenker says Bachar is very popular, and Oxford says Bachar is popular … then I feel comfortable enough to ask you to …stick to what you know, not what camera.org wants you to criticize at all costs.

Move on to what concerns you .. Israeli/Syrian peace process, or regional relations conflicts.

February 28th, 2008, 6:47 pm

 

Shai said:

Is there anyone here who thinks like me, that Syria must not await a new administration in Washington (which may or may not change policy quickly enough, or at all), and instead should take the initiative once more, and lead the peace camp ahead. Using other honest brokers (Turkey, Russia, etc.), Syria can invite Israel to hold open talks, with no preconditions, no alliance breakups, no promises of a halt to the resistance, etc. But, also not demanding to have the U.S. present in these talks, at least not until the new administration is in place. So why do it, if these other brokers won’t be able to guarantee any side’s security? Because at least we’ll be creating a positive atmosphere once more in the region, and perhaps foil what seems right now to be an almost agenda of some to lead us all to a terrible and costly crash collision. Israel has already been given the green-light, even by the current administration, so it is mainly up to Syria, to put aside (for now) its demand to involve the U.S. A lot of pressure could be taken off Damascus, if Bashar brings himself to Ankara, or Mosocw, or elsewhere, to declare he is not willing to play to the tunes of those who wish to discredit, dismiss, or undermine Syria’s role in the region.

February 28th, 2008, 6:50 pm

 

Norman said:

Syria slow on Saudi invite to summit amid Lebanon row
Syria has yet to invite regional powerhouse Saudi Arabia to an Arab summit in Damascus next month, an official said on Thursday, as Arab League chief Amr Mussa said some member states would only attend if Lebanon’s political crisis was resolved.

Syria and its regional ally Iran are the main backers of the Lebanese opposition which has been at odds with the Saudi-backed Beirut government for months over the election of a new president.

“We haven’t yet delivered invitations to Lebanon or to Saudi Arabia,” a Syrian official told AFP, without giving an explanation.

Syrian Foreign Minister Walid Muallem handed an invitation to Qatari Emir Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa al-Thani in Doha on Thursday to attend the March 29-30 summit.

The previous day he delivered an invitation in Abu Dhabi to United Arab Emirates President Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed al-Nahayan.

It was unclear where the Syrian minister was headed next but Saudi media have made no mention of any planned visit.

The Arab League chief, who just left Lebanon after yet another abortive effort to broker a solution to the deadlock that has left the country without a president for the past three months, said some Arab countries were unwilling to attend the Damascus summit without a breakthrough.

“Some Arab leaders see the election of a president in Lebanon as a condition,” Mussa told the Saudi-owned daily Al-Hayat.

“In other words, many of the leaders consider the election an essential element to the success of the summit,” Mussa told the London-based newspaper.

Arab foreign ministers are to meet in Cairo on March 5-6 to prepare the summit, the League announced at its headquarters in the Egyptian capital.

Mussa said he would be visiting Damascus soon for talks on the summit, but he sided with the Beirut government against the opposition in insisting that it had executive powers amid the presidential vacuum.

The Lebanese constitution stipulates that in the absence of a president, the prime minister assumes his powers, but the Syrian-backed opposition insists Prime Minister Fuad Siniora’s cabinet lost all legitimacy when six pro-opposition ministers quit in November 2006.

Mussa said the region was going through “one of the worst times for Arab relations” but insisted he had not lost hope of a resolution of the Lebanon crisis before next month’s summit.

“It remains possible,” he said.

“I had hoped that the last delay of the vote would not take place as there was no reason for it,” he added, referring to the cancellation of a planned session of the Lebanese parliament on Monday to elect a president, the 15th such deferment since last September.

“Electing a president might have helped in resolving the remaining points of disagreement,” he added, referring to opposition demands for a package deal also including an agreement on electoral reform and the make-up of a government of national unity to replace Siniora’s administration.

The prime minister has received strong backing from the West in his standoff with the opposition.

Washington accuses Damascus and Tehran of trying to undermine the verdict of 2005 parliamentary elections in which Siniora’s coalition won a majority.

But the opposition counters that Siniora has failed to respect the power-sharing arrangements in force since the 1975-1990 civil war, and Iran and Syria insist it is Saudi Arabia and the West, not them, who have been hampering a solution.

©2008 AFP
print story | send story

February 28th, 2008, 6:50 pm

 

Alex said:

Shai,

It sounds like a reasonable idea, and I don’t think Syria is shutting any doors … those who are seeking peace between Syria and Israel are welcomed by Syria one way or another.

But the problem is that Syria does not have any reason to trust that official Israel will want to help Damascus and stab Bush in the back.

And … the situation in Lebanon and with Saudi Arabia and Egypt is probably preoccupying them in Damascus. They are not worried, but fully engaged in that other Middle East “conflict” for now.

February 28th, 2008, 7:15 pm

 

AnotherIsraeliGuy said:

Ehsani,
I agree that everyone knows that. If so, can you explain to me why people keep insisting that some Arab leaders are “popular”? This is not a rhetorical question.

February 28th, 2008, 7:30 pm

 

Naji said:

I don’t know why it is so hard to believe that Bashar is actually genuinely popular at home… For God’s sake, even W. had better than a 93% approval rating at one time… the time when Americans perceived their country to be under attack…!!

February 28th, 2008, 7:56 pm

 

Shai said:

Alex,

Israel will not stab Bush in the back, as he already gave a public “green-light” on the lawn of the White House, right next to Olmert. These are excuses by anyone not interested in peace between our two nations. I also suggested earlier that Israel should of course make sure that the Bush administration understands that we will not finalize anything that is contrary to their interests in the region, and that we are only restarting talks, knowing full well that the next administration will have to get involved as soon as it is ready to do so. We can be in constant “consultation” (reporting) with Washington, so that they do not feel like we’re closing any deal behind their back, which we won’t.

I now understand just how much Lebanon, Egypt, and Saudi Arabia are occupying Syria’s mind nowadays, and in fact engaging her in a type of conflict as well. But I assure you that Syria is not closing its eyes and ears to what’s happening in Gaza as I type these words, nor to Barak’s comments today, suggesting that the massive land operation into Gaza is very very close. He is now vocalizing the last stage of legitimization, preparing our public for what’s to come. If things continue like they have for the past 48 hours, we will be in Gaza very soon, and another “operation” will take place, which may well lead to war. Lebanon 2006 will look like kids-play compared to what will happen in Gaza, to all sides, not just the Palestinians. Who’s to guarantee that Hezbollah won’t join in? Or Iran? Or Syria? And if any of them do, we’re officially at war.

Even Damascus understands that with each death of a Palestinian (or Lebanese), Hamas, Hezbollah, and Iran, get stronger. Morbid statisticians might one day seek a number of new constituents per number of deaths, but clearly all three of these gain real power, political and military power, amongst their people, when the IDF kills civilians (and also militants). Now explain to me why any of these three will or should stop their continued belligerence towards Israel? Isn’t it true that by pushing Israel to order the IDF into Gaza, and possibly war, Hamas will only further its strength amongst the Palestinians? So they’re not likely to stop, and as Barak said, we’re just about there. Hezbollah is probably dying already to see some large amount of Palestinians killed in Gaza, with IDF tanks rolling through the streets, to join in and rain thousands of rockets upon Israel in support. When that happens, what do you think Israel will do? It’ll fight like in war, not like in a so-called operation. And in war, you think even less about civilians, because you’re constantly shooting. And who’s to say that when more innocent Lebanese die, that Iran won’t join in, or Syria, by lobbing their own thousands of rockets at Israel? And what that happens, we’re at total war, and Israel will have no choice but to use all its might. And, I’m afraid, it may do just that.

Don’t you see how this is NOT a Tom Clancey book we’re reading here? It’s the reality on the ground, which could develop into this doomsday scenario I’m depicting in a matter of no time. We’ll be nice and comfortable on our sofas, watching CNN and the BBC, until the missiles start landing on our rooftops, and on our houses, and killing our families and friends, and then we’ll do the same to others, and it will be hell for everyone. I know Damascus is not blind to these possibilities. The question is, what is it doing about it? How does it plan to stop it, or at least attempt to? Assad, in order to survive all this, must turn out looking not only like a regional leader, but indeed a regional visionary, and a courageous one. That is why I’m so convinced that he must act now, and change his U.S.-involvement precondition, at least for the next 9-12 months. We mustn’t wait.

February 28th, 2008, 8:03 pm

 

AnotherIsraeliGuy said:

Naji,
It is hard to believe because if it were true there would be much less opression. It is hard to believe because W. lost all his support because of the economy, why would not this be the case with Asad if inflation is rampant and real wages are going down? Bashar made promises but delivered very little, why would he be popular?

February 28th, 2008, 8:19 pm

 

Seeking the Truth said:

Mr. Camille Al-Iskandar,

Is professor Landis in agreement with your decision to limit a commentator to a set number of comments per day?

February 28th, 2008, 8:20 pm

 

AnotherIsraeliGuy said:

http://www.reuters.com/article/politicsNews/idUSWAT00901020080228

Step by step.

Alex,
I really hope that Asad knows what he is doing. Brinkmanship sometimes backfires.

February 28th, 2008, 8:24 pm

 

Naji said:

The USS Cole has just moved to the coast of Lebanon “in a show of support” (Jazeera)…!!??? What is that about…!?????

February 28th, 2008, 8:30 pm

 

Alex said:

Seeking,

– My name is not Camille Al-Iskandar.

– Dr. Landis who receives an email with each comment we leave here, knows that AIG is upsetting a majority of people commenting on this blog. Even AIG’s countryman Shai who was here for about a week asked me to ban him at the time … at least 10 people asked me to ban him until now…. and not only Syrians. I receive emails asking me to ban me or else they are not interested anymore in participating n the endless discussions he drags us into about anything negative his suppliers send him.

– I did not ban him, but limited his ability to destroy this blog.

– Other blogs would ban you very quickly if you behave like him.

Are you insinuating that I do not allow differences of opinion?

If not then can you explain what is bothering you here? … are you suggesting we should lose many other good commentators in order to keep a professional propagandist?

February 28th, 2008, 8:31 pm

 

Alex said:

Yes Naji … the president is worried about Syrian behavior.

February 28th, 2008, 8:32 pm

 

Observer said:

Gun diplomacy is back as the Cole is deployed off the coast of Lebanon
http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/middle_east/7270102.stm

Ehsani2
My advice is not to engage with AIG, I previously posted a link to the Conflicts Forum article whereby the use of language to set the superiority-inferiority relationship is at the core of the coloniaal orientalist discourse.

The premise is as follows: no democracy means that your goverment is illegitimate, no democracy means that your actions are by definition criminal, likewise, democracy means that whatever a country does it is legitimate.
Second, no democracy means that you are inferior because you have allowed yourself to remain in a dictatorship and therefore any comment you make about the actual political scene is not worthy of consideration on its merit.

Naom Chomsky put it well in the atimes article and Conflicts Forum showed how it is still being used to set the premise of the debate.

I always thought that the aim is provocation a process one uses to justify one’s pre conceived idea of the barabrity and demonization of the other.

Jean Bricmont wrote a book about humanitarian wars as he explained that the latest justification for empire ane colonialism is that use of humanitarian discourse selectively of course to gain access to raw materials on the one hand and to punish non compliant states.

Finally, I think that Assad is quite popular in Syria at the moment.

February 28th, 2008, 8:35 pm

 

Shai said:

Since when has a president’s popularity been a prerequisite to anything? Is George W. Bush popular in the U.S.? Is Sarkozy popular in France? Is Olmert popular in Israel?

February 28th, 2008, 8:48 pm

 

Naji said:

Shai,
The difference is that whereas Bush and Sarkozy earned their legitimacy through a democratic election, and thus can even defy popular will until the next election (if there is one), people like our Bashar have to earn their legitimacy daily…!! How about that…?!

February 28th, 2008, 8:57 pm

 

Shai said:

Yeah, I thought of that irony as I wrote those words… 🙂 Almost a marketing-gig for dictatorships…

February 28th, 2008, 9:09 pm

 

Shai said:

Alex,

Before I head in (my age, and it’s near midnight), please note this latest USS Cole taunting. These are ominous signs, and I sure hope Damascus is readying a number of alternatives, especially surprising and peaceful ones. The only party, almost, who isn’t aiming directly at Assad right now, seems to be Israel!

February 28th, 2008, 9:47 pm

 

offended said:

Oh well, the warships of the fifth American navy are positioned off the Lebanese coast, sounds familiar?

Could this have anything to do with the proposal of blocking the Syrian coast discussed last week between Bush and Olmert?

http://mparent7777-2.blogspot.com/2008/01/act-of-war-busholmert-syrian-coast.html

February 28th, 2008, 9:57 pm

 

Shai said:

Offended,

I seriously doubt Olmert will ever give his hand in blockading Syrian vessels, as that would be outright declaration of war. It’s easy for us to forget sometimes, but when George W. goes back to his Texas ranch, we’re still the ones left here to work it out. Olmert knows this, as does any other Israeli PM, so there’s a limit to the cooperation we’ll ever be willing to afford the U.S., when it clearly contradicts our strategic and long-term interests.

February 28th, 2008, 10:02 pm

 

Qifa Nabki said:

No time to respond to all the sub-threads, just to Syrian who said yesterday, about Bashar:

However, we are casual commentators and he is the President of a nation with intelligence services and advisers. This is to say, we do not have access to much of the information that is available to him.

True, but so is George Bush, who has more advisors and intelligence services than Bashar, and yet we still second guess him all the time. Also, since America presumably runs the world and has us all dancing on a string, it would seem that its methods are far more inscrutable, but we document them and pick them apart as though they were plain as day, adding a healthy dose of criticism to boot.

Why not Syria?

I know this sounds naive, and I’m not trying to play the “tell me again that Bashar is a dictator” game. Rather, I’d like to play the “tell me how smart Bashar’s strategies are” game… but I guess the deafening silence says enough. 😉

February 28th, 2008, 10:03 pm

 

Enlightened said:

Offended:

Enlightened, they are very simple and straightforward (as I see them, BS aside as promised):

1- The first and foremost interest is in a stable and functioning Lebanon: I mean who could benefit from living next to a dysfunctioning body? (sorry for the distasteful example)

Offended, the comment is not distasteful, however Lebanon historically has functioned economically post 75 civil war. Its constitution a co confessional (dysfunctional ) arbitrary form of democracy in no way built a nation state. The rule of one community where resources and economic advances were the benefit also for priviledged clans, does not a “democracy build”. However you need to also understand that while Lebanon has had and still continues to have its problems, Syria has been party to those problems ( BS aside).

Now Since 1970 Syria has been stable politically ( albeit the MB insurrection etc ) but this stability has come at a price, I wont bore you offended with what these are you are more than intelligent enough to know what they are.

2- Syria should make sure that Beirut doesn’t go back to becoming the entry point for conspiracies against Syria, and I cited the 50s and the 60s (the era of inqilabat) as an example. Those were very turbulent times for Syria.

Please read one of my earlier posts, I suggested this earlier, before you brought it up.

3- There should be continuous economical cooperation between the two countries, and here is the rub my friend. It is all about economics. If both countries could create the synergy that could benefit them both, this could transform the whole of the Levant. And all this time is nothing but wasted opportunities.

I couldnt agree more, but if this entails a current manifestation of the current status quo, whereby the clans and corruption ( In Both countries) ensues at the expense of the common people, what is the point? ( The first great war between Carthage and Rome were about these issues, nothing has changed in History)

As for political means of pursuing such interests; let’s put the Hariri assassination aside as we don’t know yet who had perpetrated the act. I ask you: why certain elements in Lebanon are belligerent toward Syria? Why do they cooperate with the renegade Khaddam to oust the regime and create turbulences?

You are being too simplistic here Offended, Khaddam has far bigger backers than M14, ad it is convenient for them this alliance, much the same way the Iranian alliance is for Syria. ( Hafez long ago sought this alliance, because he knew that the Arab world would never accept his rule, and would work to undermine it) It is only natural to what they perceive as wanting to break from Syrian domination (politically,economically and strategically)

In the face of such belligerence: isn’t Syria’s right to exert pressure using its allies in Lebanon?

Its natural, for Syria to respond, because the dangers and perils that the Syrians face are a matter of life and death to them, thats how they view it. (BS aside again), They cannot have a free and independent Lebanon next door, otherwise the Syrian populace will demand more.

What’s wrong in Aoun stance? He realized that his problem with Syria ceased to exist when the troops were pulled out. He wants to create a real partnership based on mutual interest. He doesn’t pledge allegiance to Syria’s enemies.

That is a matter of perspective. There is a lot to like about what Aoun talks about (reform and governance mainly), but like all the others on M14 side I dont trust him any more than I do them. Neither does Syria, he is too dangerous and unpredictable.

Why the rest of 14th march ilk wouldn’t rest unless they see to it that Syria crumbles either under fires of internal bickering, or under the fires of foreign invasion?

The need for revenge is ingrained in a lot of people offended, rightly or wrongly (I dont believe in it) it drives and is a motivator. Jumblatt is motivated by it, GeaGea is motivated by it, Harrirri is motivated by it, The common man in Lebanon is motivated by it. Why? Its simple when you look at how the civil war is taught in classroom in Lebanon and how they have approached it its simple, lets scapegoat the Palestinians , and the Syrians. No figure in Lebanon has come out and said, hey we were to blame, we had a major hand in our country’s destruction and current predicament, because we couldnt get along. We didnt want to share power, we didnt want to build a country that every citizen had an equal stake in.

Yes offended some in Lebanon would like Syria to burn, not I believe for a hatred of the Syrian people, but more out of revenge towards their government, and this drives them to ensure that those that rule in Syria do not come back to haunt them. This line of thinking amazes me however, logic tells you that you don’t pick a fight with some one who’s punch can literally floor you. But they have and they should be prepared for a long fight.

Do you think THAT is moral?

A persons morality is relative. There are some on this site that think violence is moral and term it self defence. I personally believe that it should have never got to this. Cooler heads could have prevailed on both sides of the fence, but when egos are involved and when power is at stake morality comes a poor last in any decision. I think when you utter the word morality in the middle east, no sane person can use it in the same sentence when discussing politics. That is unfortunate but very true.

February 28th, 2008, 10:04 pm

 

offended said:

Shai,
You are probably right. And I agree with you on Gaza, the situation is very bleak…

Rice will tour the region next week…. Expect another round of useless head-nodding talks…

February 28th, 2008, 10:13 pm

 

Naji said:

The General (Aoun) on LBC (live) says that, in addition to the Cole (by the way, wasn’t it the Cole that got hit by alQaida in Yemen…??!), several other US warships are moving into position at the moment, to reach a total of half a dozen ships eventually, …and he is making light of the whole display….!!

February 28th, 2008, 10:14 pm

 

Enlightened said:

QN:

I will be honest enough to tell you that Bashar made one very grave mistake ( whether on bad advice or his won decision ) The Lahoud extension.

February 28th, 2008, 10:17 pm

 

Qifa Nabki said:

Warship diplomacy is idiotic, when there is no real intention to use force.

February 28th, 2008, 10:18 pm

 

offended said:

Thanks for replying Enlightened, I enjoyed reading it really…
I will repost it below highlighting my questions and your answers seperately, so that others could distinguish them.

February 28th, 2008, 10:27 pm

 

AnotherIsraeliGuy said:

QN,
1) People may need evacuation (perhaps the Saniora government even)
2) Sometimes forces deter others from using force
3) The ships may be use to supply other non-American forces should the need arise
3) Let’s wait and see how big the Marines contingent is on the ships sent.

February 28th, 2008, 10:27 pm

 

offended said:

(A posted comment by enlightened)
Offended:
Enlightened, they are very simple and straightforward (as I see them, BS aside as promised):
1- The first and foremost interest is in a stable and functioning Lebanon: I mean who could benefit from living next to a dysfunctioning body? (sorry for the distasteful example)

Offended, the comment is not distasteful, however Lebanon historically has functioned economically post 75 civil war. Its constitution a co confessional (dysfunctional ) arbitrary form of democracy in no way built a nation state. The rule of one community where resources and economic advances were the benefit also for priviledged clans, does not a “democracy build”. However you need to also understand that while Lebanon has had and still continues to have its problems, Syria has been party to those problems ( BS aside).
Now Since 1970 Syria has been stable politically ( albeit the MB insurrection etc ) but this stability has come at a price, I wont bore you offended with what these are you are more than intelligent enough to know what they are.
2- Syria should make sure that Beirut doesn’t go back to becoming the entry point for conspiracies against Syria, and I cited the 50s and the 60s (the era of inqilabat) as an example. Those were very turbulent times for Syria.
Please read one of my earlier posts, I suggested this earlier, before you brought it up.
3- There should be continuous economical cooperation between the two countries, and here is the rub my friend. It is all about economics. If both countries could create the synergy that could benefit them both, this could transform the whole of the Levant. And all this time is nothing but wasted opportunities.
I couldnt agree more, but if this entails a current manifestation of the current status quo, whereby the clans and corruption ( In Both countries) ensues at the expense of the common people, what is the point? ( The first great war between Carthage and Rome were about these issues, nothing has changed in History)
As for political means of pursuing such interests; let’s put the Hariri assassination aside as we don’t know yet who had perpetrated the act. I ask you: why certain elements in Lebanon are belligerent toward Syria? Why do they cooperate with the renegade Khaddam to oust the regime and create turbulences?
You are being too simplistic here Offended, Khaddam has far bigger backers than M14, ad it is convenient for them this alliance, much the same way the Iranian alliance is for Syria. ( Hafez long ago sought this alliance, because he knew that the Arab world would never accept his rule, and would work to undermine it) It is only natural to what they perceive as wanting to break from Syrian domination (politically,economically and strategically)
In the face of such belligerence: isn’t Syria’s right to exert pressure using its allies in Lebanon?
Its natural, for Syria to respond, because the dangers and perils that the Syrians face are a matter of life and death to them, thats how they view it. (BS aside again), They cannot have a free and independent Lebanon next door, otherwise the Syrian populace will demand more.
What’s wrong in Aoun stance? He realized that his problem with Syria ceased to exist when the troops were pulled out. He wants to create a real partnership based on mutual interest. He doesn’t pledge allegiance to Syria’s enemies.
That is a matter of perspective. There is a lot to like about what Aoun talks about (reform and governance mainly), but like all the others on M14 side I dont trust him any more than I do them. Neither does Syria, he is too dangerous and unpredictable.
Why the rest of 14th march ilk wouldn’t rest unless they see to it that Syria crumbles either under fires of internal bickering, or under the fires of foreign invasion?
The need for revenge is ingrained in a lot of people offended, rightly or wrongly (I dont believe in it) it drives and is a motivator. Jumblatt is motivated by it, GeaGea is motivated by it, Harrirri is motivated by it, The common man in Lebanon is motivated by it. Why? Its simple when you look at how the civil war is taught in classroom in Lebanon and how they have approached it its simple, lets scapegoat the Palestinians , and the Syrians. No figure in Lebanon has come out and said, hey we were to blame, we had a major hand in our country’s destruction and current predicament, because we couldnt get along. We didnt want to share power, we didnt want to build a country that every citizen had an equal stake in.
Yes offended some in Lebanon would like Syria to burn, not I believe for a hatred of the Syrian people, but more out of revenge towards their government, and this drives them to ensure that those that rule in Syria do not come back to haunt them. This line of thinking amazes me however, logic tells you that you don’t pick a fight with some one who’s punch can literally floor you. But they have and they should be prepared for a long fight.
Do you think THAT is moral?
A persons morality is relative. There are some on this site that think violence is moral and term it self defence. I personally believe that it should have never got to this. Cooler heads could have prevailed on both sides of the fence, but when egos are involved and when power is at stake morality comes a poor last in any decision. I think when you utter the word morality in the middle east, no sane person can use it in the same sentence when discussing politics. That is unfortunate but very true.

February 28th, 2008, 10:27 pm

 

offended said:

AIG, as far as your military experience is concerned, what are the rules of engagement for these warships?

Cole, as I know, is not only a warship, it is an aircraft carrier, right?

February 28th, 2008, 10:31 pm

 

Enlightened said:

Offended you don’t get away that easy’ what is your retort?

Dont be weak!

February 28th, 2008, 10:36 pm

 

Alex said:

QN

“but I guess the deafening silence says enough”

I gave you a good answer.

Shai,

Israel gave Syria assurances that it won’t attack, then few days later .. attacked.

then the week after, prime minister Olmert said that he respect Syrian policies and he respects Bashar.

So … everything is possible.

If what Naji reported is true (quoting Aoun) then there are two ways those destroyers can make a difference

1) Intimidate Syria.

2) They can look like a very attractive target to an infuriated Nasrallah … almost inviting him to try to retaliate to some future Israeli provocation by trying to hit the US navy ships nearby.

3) If necessary … war.

February 28th, 2008, 10:36 pm

 

offended said:

Enlightened; contrary to the public belief, I find myself in relative agreement with you on most of the issues; I am still trying to locate your earlier post as a reply to the third point. Do you have a direct link?

Because this is the most important …

February 28th, 2008, 10:46 pm

 

AnotherIsraeliGuy said:

The ships are not there to intimidate the Syrians. They are there for the reasons I mentioned above and to make it clear that in case of civil war only one side will get supplies by sea. That means, that the supplies for the other side have to come from Syria if they do. Not by Iranian or North Korean ships. This will force Syria to go against UN resolutions to supply HA.

February 28th, 2008, 10:48 pm

 

Naji said:

I wonder if this AIG finally has a point…??!

February 28th, 2008, 10:53 pm

 

Enlightened said:

Offended: Repasted for you read middle section date of posting at bottom:

Enlightened said:

QN:

“Did you read my response, about Ziggy?”

I read M Youngs article this morning, Il take off my dusted Tarboosh to him. I Thought that Syria allowing the election of the President might be one tactic, prior to the summit but hamper the election of the Government.

However two points, I agree with him that these are trying times for The Syrian Government,

“But reading that list, you can only conclude that that is precisely what the Syrians want, because Lebanon is of no value to them unless those aims are satisfied, unless the Assad regime has a tight grip over the country’s political power centers, has its army and security forces in place to back this up, can distribute patronage to Syrian officers to ensure their long-term loyalty, and can extract billions of dollars from the Lebanese economy to cushion trying times ahead for a Syrian economy that will soon have to dispense with oil revenues and lift vital subsidies.”

All political grand standing aside, ( The economic argument has been done to death in many analysts positions while the Syrians were in Lebanon, CC Gary Gambill articles on this issue). I think this point in Michaels article is a bit overstated, that Syria needs Lebanon economically as a Cash Cow, I don’t buy this argument anymore. The patronage system (by having its own military in Lebanon) has been superseded by wanting to install its own political surrogates in Lebanon, it needs this more out of political necessity than any economic argument that Michael puts forth. This argument has no more relevance, today other than the political/idealogical necessity of its Lebanese surrogates to gain power. (Syrian Political and Military planners since the 50;s have seen the necessity to have a friendly compliant government next door, its only a 1hour drive to the Syrian plains through the North corridor, and as Alex has reminded us so may times most plots against Syria have been hatched through Lebanon, sorry Alex lol)

The second point ” Lebanon is no value to them unless these points are satisfied” Here Michael is hinting that The Syrians will not back down, it is an existential as well as a economic threat to The Syrian regime ( ie hence if it cannot dominate Lebanon militarily or economically, The Regimes days will be numbered).

So its better to have this uncertainty than elect a president he concludes. The jury is out on this one. If Arab attendance at the summit does not materialize then the dangers of this argument might materialize. Its better to have an authority figure than none.

February 28th, 2008, 2:19 am

February 28th, 2008, 10:55 pm

 

Nur al-Cubicle said:

In a shocking return to gunboat diplomacy reminiscent of the New Jersey (refurbished WWII gunboat deployed to Lebanese waters during the Reagan years) the US deploys the Cole to support the 14 March boys.. Geez, what a provocation! I wonder if it will harass the German naval units?

February 28th, 2008, 11:01 pm

 

offended said:

Enlightened, I agree with you again. A ‘friendly government next door’ is exactly what the Syrians are looking for in the long run (or so I believe).
Here was my own reply to M Young:
http://joshualandis.com/blog/?p=606#comment-119865

February 28th, 2008, 11:05 pm

 

AnotherIsraeliGuy said:

Ok, the USS Nassau is also going. This is a floating hospital, helicopter carrier ship, supply ship, that can also have many Marines on board. There is clearly an evacuation and support aspect to the force.

I must say I didn’t expect this. Bush is moving faster than I thought. I am pleasantly surprised.

February 28th, 2008, 11:07 pm

 

Nur al-Cubicle said:

The Nassau is an amphibious assault ship.

February 28th, 2008, 11:09 pm

 

Qifa Nabki said:

Alex,

Yes you did… you weren’t included. 😉

But, as I said, I already know what you think about this, and you probably already know that I disagree with you.

Just because Bashar byimshi 3ala mahlo doesn’t mean that we can’t grade him. When are we going to start grading him? You started grading the Saudis the minute things started looking ugly.

Anyway, Syrian is probably right: this is far too broadly construed. I suppose I was making a point about method, rather than substance. I simply find it a bit deflating to subscribe to the “2ul Allah” school of political analysis, if you know what I mean. (Do they say that in Syria, or is that a Beiruti thing?)

February 28th, 2008, 11:14 pm

 

AnotherIsraeliGuy said:

http://www.nassau.navy.mil/site%20pages/facts.aspx

If it has no Marines on it it can assault nothing. It is just a helicopter carrier, hospital and supply ship. As I said above, we shall have to wait and see how many Marines are sent.

February 28th, 2008, 11:14 pm

 

Naji said:

…”pleasantly surprised” …at the prospect of war …any war …?!! Sick…??!

February 28th, 2008, 11:15 pm

 

offended said:

Amphibious?
Hmmm, those guys might be going onshore then. Let’s see!

I am willing to bet my bottom greenback that the Saudis and 14th March are already aware of all of this. Just remember the quotes of Khair Al Dain Haseeb after the 2006 war….
It’s ironic how king Abdullah plays Mr. Sanctimonious all the time…

February 28th, 2008, 11:17 pm

 

AnotherIsraeliGuy said:

Naji,
Take a deep breath. There will not be war. This is the paradox. The more force the US displays, the less likely Asad is to make a mistake. Always remember: “He who wants peace, must prepare for war”.

February 28th, 2008, 11:22 pm

 

Naji said:

Offended,
…”aware of this” …!?? For crying out loud, they PAID for this…!! However, if that is all that money (a LOT of money) can buy these days, then we are in good shape…!!

February 28th, 2008, 11:22 pm

 

Syrian said:

QN

Can you propose an alternative policy the Syrians can follow that you believe would be superior in the long run.

I will retort in more details later. Much later…

February 28th, 2008, 11:23 pm

 

Enlightened said:

Enlightened Recommends: ( After consultation with our resident SC Doctor Norman) That those suffering the current disease below, should seek remedy. A link is provided below.

“Warmongering Proneness” is a psychological trait and a measure of an individual’s susceptibility to warmongering rhetoric and posturing. Dr. McConochie, a pioneer in the field of Political Psychology, has studied this and other psychological traits related to individual and collective acts of violence. His research can be found at

http://www.politicalpsychologyresearch.com

February 28th, 2008, 11:25 pm

 

Naji said:

AIG,
“He who wants peace, must prepare for war”.
You may be right, but it goes both ways… no…?!!

“As ususal the Lebanese will get shafted. But what else is new?”
If there is war, it does not look like it will be limited to the Lebanon this time…!!

February 28th, 2008, 11:27 pm

 

AnotherIsraeliGuy said:

Enlightened,
I would recommend you send them a donation right away. It is money down the drain but it is better than sending it to Hamas.

February 28th, 2008, 11:29 pm

 

AnotherIsraeliGuy said:

Naji,
How can it not be limited to Lebanon? Have you not seen the Syrian reaction to the bombing in September and the Hizballah reaction to the Mugniyeh assasination? Neither have I. The Syrians are going out of their way not to get sucked into a war. It would be suicide for them, literally.

Therefore, in this case it does not go both ways. The Syrians cannot even bluff that they are willing to fight a war.

February 28th, 2008, 11:32 pm

 

Enlightened said:

Thanks for the tip AIG, but i will save my pennies and dollars to donate to the innocent victims (Of this impending war), you know those people that inevitably get caught up in it through no fault of their own. (ie Red Cross, Red Crescent)

Make sure your shekels go to providing more body armour and ammunition, which I am sure you will happily donate for a good cause.

Ps make sure you don’t wear your Tarboosh, you don’t want to get mistaken for an Arab now would you?

February 28th, 2008, 11:34 pm

 

Naji said:

As president Asad once said, it is death either way: “suicide”, as you put it, or murder at the hands of a ruthless monster… so what the hell, “3alei wa 3ala a3da2i ya rab”…!

February 28th, 2008, 11:44 pm

 

AnotherIsraeliGuy said:

Naji,
Take another deep breath. What part of their will not be fighting in Syria do you not understand? What is Lebanon for after all?

February 28th, 2008, 11:47 pm

 

Qifa Nabki said:

Enlightened,

AIG has no tarboosh anymore. He took it off too many times while praising me, and I’ve since confiscated it so he can’t praise me anymore.

February 28th, 2008, 11:52 pm

 

Naji said:

AIG,
“There will not be fighting in Syria” was only one side of an equation that continued on to say that “there will not be fighting in Israel”… an equation that will no longer hold… have fun…!

February 28th, 2008, 11:54 pm

 

Qifa Nabki said:

Syrian, I’ll get back to you on that one.

AIG,

What kind of “mistake” do you imagine the Americans think Asad might make, that would require Marine boots on the ground in Beirut?

Come on.

Unless Hizbullah is planning an all-out coup, which seems highly unlikely seeing as how everybody here has confidently determined that prolonging the stalemate is Asad’s winning strategy, then there is nothing that a Marine can achieve in Lebanon.

This is sabre-rattling, pure and simple. This is Bush playing the “I’m still the prez and so I can still move my pieces around the board when it’s my turn!” game.

February 28th, 2008, 11:57 pm

 

Alex said:

QN

I agree that there is only a small chance that a miscalculation from HA or Syria will give an excuse to those who would love to see a proper US/Israeli invasion.

But … what if some desperate Jumblatt or a or daring Geagea arranged for bombing some western or US target (embassy?) in Beirut? … they can give the prez the perfect excuse to order the marines to do something.

February 29th, 2008, 12:05 am

 

AnotherIsraeliGuy said:

QN,
I think Marines are out of the question. But lets say March 14 elect a president without a 2/3 majority, the American presence may avert a civil war. It is a good move because it assures that the path of violence in Lebanon is even less attractive for hizballah and syria. I am thinking that electing Sleiman without the 2/3 majority is going to be the next move. I am not sure, but the required elements will be in place soon. What may happen is that Syria may back down just so it doesn’t have to react in the former case. This will also save face for everyone and allow the summit to proceed.

February 29th, 2008, 12:24 am

 

Enlightened said:

This deployment is not co incidental!

QN: can I have the Tarboosh, I never wore one! and it is a fashion accessory only in Morocco these days?

I promise to give it back to you when you start your Harvard classes, so you can make a statement!

February 29th, 2008, 12:24 am

 

AnotherIsraeliGuy said:

Naji,
Thanks, we will. Hizballah will not make the mistake of firing missiles at Israel while fighting a civil war so I am not very worried. It will be a good excuse for Israel to enter the war against Hizballah.

February 29th, 2008, 12:29 am

 

Enlightened said:

AIG:

I have to call a spade a spade, I think that is precisely the intention; but the $2 question is will Suleiman accept this?

February 29th, 2008, 12:30 am

 

EHSANI2 said:

AIG,

This is smart analysis, and certainly a possibility.

February 29th, 2008, 12:42 am

 

Qifa Nabki said:

Alex,

The scenario you describe is theoretically possible but it sounds like False Flag 101 to me, and I have to imagine that warlords are smarter about such matters.

If you’re going to arrange a false flag operation, you don’t wait until the view of the lovely Mediterranean from your balcony is obstructed by a huge American warship that just happens to be ‘innocently’ going by.

Come on, these are the guys who assassinated Hariri and framed Syria, right? Give them some more credit than that. 😉

AIG,

Did you read Michael Young’s piece this week? I know that he’s Public Enemy #1 here on SC, but the guy has been right on many things. (Or, he’s got very good contacts among the M14ers, and thus is just relaying bits of high-level strategy to us punters).

Anyway, his analysis seems to make sense. March 14’s rhetoric has been backing off the 1/2 plus one recently. They don’t want to ram Suleiman through only to see Syria block the formation of a new government. They’ll lose the moral high ground, and still be stuck without a government.

Also, an American warship hardly lessens the likelihood of a civil war.

It’s just another example of hamfisted Bushian diplomacy. He thinks that he can somehow make his allies look tough and frighten his enemies with a big symbol of American power, when actually the opposite will happen. Just like when Condoleeza came to Beirut, and just like everytime Bush says the words “I support” and “Fouad Siniora” in the same sentence.

He’s too radioactive. He should get the message and keep his words (and ships) to himself.

February 29th, 2008, 12:51 am

 

Qifa Nabki said:

PS: AIG, alternatively, we could read it in the most obvious way, which is that Bush is worried about a war, sparked by a street conflict. Plain and simple.

February 29th, 2008, 12:56 am

 

AnotherIsraeliGuy said:

QN,
I usually agree with Young but there is one thing he missed in his analysis: If Sleiman gets elected the FPM-Hizballah block is over. Aoun does not care about the government. He cares about the presidency. Then, the battle for the government becomes easier. Not a slam dunk, but without Christian cover, Hizballah’s actions will be severly limited.

February 29th, 2008, 1:00 am

 

Qifa Nabki said:

AIG

If that were true, M14 would have rammed this thing through ages ago, when the tensions were not nearly so high.

I actually think that Aoun is a very complex figure. Some people think he’s a megalomaniac who just wants to be president (which is true), but he also has some actual ideas about how to reform the political system, make a dent in sectarianism, etc. I don’t see his alliance with Hizbullah to be one purely motivated by wanton greed. He never clicked with the Hariri bunch… always resented Rafiq’s power and status as the new “father” of Lebanon, always resented the rise of the Sunnis and the fragmentation of the Christians.

He doesn’t really have a political future in the near term without Hizbullah. So, even if Sleiman is installed, I think Aoun sticks around.

February 29th, 2008, 1:17 am

 

EHSANI2 said:

AIG,

Your analytic skills are far superior to your Bashar-is-not-democratic proclamations.

February 29th, 2008, 1:18 am

 

norman said:

The US and Israel are planing a war this summer,God help us all ,

US sending 3 ships to eastern Mediterranean as regional tensions mount
By ANNE GEARAN and ROBERT BURNS , Associated Press

February 28, 2008

WASHINGTON – The U.S. Navy is sending three ships to the eastern Mediterranean Sea in a show of strength during a period of tensions with Syria and political uncertainty in Lebanon.

Adm. Michael Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, told reporters the deployment should not be viewed as threatening or in response to events in any single country in that volatile region.

“This is an area that is important to us, the eastern Med,” he said when asked about news reports of the ship movements. “It’s a group of ships that will operate in the vicinity there for a while,” adding that “it isn’t meant to send any stronger signals than that. But it does signal that we’re engaged, we’re going to be in the vicinity and that’s a very, very important part of the world.”

Another military officer, speaking on condition of anonymity because full details about the ship movements are not yet public, said a Navy guided missile destroyer, the USS Cole, was headed for patrol in the eastern Mediterranean and that it is accompanied by two refueling ships. The Cole is equipped to engage in a variety of offensive actions, including anti-aircraft and land attack missions.

Another group led by the USS Nassau, an amphibious warship, is headed in that direction on a normally scheduled deployment and some or all six ships in the Nassau group might operate in the eastern Mediterranean also, the official said.

The U.S. Sixth Fleet, whose area of operations includes the entire Mediterranean, is based at Naples, Italy.

The decision to send the ships appeared to be a not-too-subtle show of U.S. force in the region as international frustration mounts over a long political deadlock in tiny, weak Lebanon. The U.S. blames Syria for the impasse, saying Syria has never given up its ambitions to control its smaller neighbor.

The presidential election in Lebanon has been delayed 15 times. Just this week the date was pushed back to March 11.

Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice is due to visit the Middle East next week.

Michel Aoun, a major opposition leader to the U.S.-backed government in Beirut, said the ship movements looked like a calculated show of force by the United States.

“There is no need for it,” Aoun was quoted as saying by the Al-Manar television of his Hezbollah allies.

Mustafa Alloush, a member of the Lebanese Parliament from the U.S.-backed majority, told the majority’s Future television that neither the government nor the anti-Syrian majority had any links to the dispatching of the Cole.

“But we remind what caused the situation to bring the American equation into the arena,” he said, blaming Syria indirectly for inviting such American intervention. “It (the deployment) could be aimed directly at Syria or a declaration by the United States of America that it could be part of this equation that could develop if conditions remain the way they are,” Alloush said.

Mullen was asked whether the deployment of the ships was linked to the timing of the Lebanese election.

“To say it’s absolutely directly tied would be incorrect, but we are certainly aware that elections out there are both important and they are due at some point in time,” he replied.

And when asked whether Syria is the reason for the deployment, he said, “It’s not specifically sent to any one country, as much as it is to the region itself.”

The Cole was rebuilt after nearly being sunk in a terrorist attack in Aden, Yemen, in October 2000 that killed 17 sailors aboard. It was recommissioned in April 2002 and went on its first post-attack deployment in November 2003.

National Security Council spokesman Gordon Johndroe said the deployment of the Cole is meant as “a show of support for regional stability.” He added that President Bush is concerned about the situation in Lebanon.

The Cole, whose homeport is Norfolk, Va., is sailing to the region from Malta.

___

Associated Press writers Sam F. Ghattas in Beirut, Lebanon, and Deb Riechmann in Washington contributed to this report.

© 2008 Star Tribune. All rights reserved.

February 29th, 2008, 1:29 am

 

Ford Prefect said:

Almost all of the analysis of why the USS Cole is parked outside Lebanon is wrong. My sources tell me that the USS Cole was headed to Gaza to prevent a terrible humanitarian tragedy from happening and to provide some badly needed medicine and food.

Instead, it turned out that the GPS of the USS Cole lost its satellite uplink – causing the Cole it to veer off course and anchor outside Lebanon. The Navy called the GPS Helpdesk and they are waiting for the technician to show up.

That is all. Bush and Cheney are asking all Gaza residents to be patient. Help is on the way.

February 29th, 2008, 1:30 am

 

norman said:

I think The US is stabelizing Iraq enough to seek another adventure in Lebanon , Iran or even Syria ,

February 29th, 2008, 1:31 am

 

Enlightened said:

HP:

Thanks for the relief, can you ask “The Source” if any More Relief ships are coming, that might make the situation a little clearer!

February 29th, 2008, 1:37 am

 

AnotherIsraeliGuy said:

QN,
I agree with you about the characterization of Aoun. But without the carrot of the presidency many of his supporters will be repelled by the stick of Hizballah and its rhteroic and he will lose votes. You know the agreement with Hizballah is not that popular among his voters and it was seen as a price to pay for the presidency. But without the presidency, why pay the price? There is really zero in common otherwise between FPM and Hizballah.

Ehsani,
Thanks. I will try to limit my proclamations to the minimum…:)

February 29th, 2008, 1:38 am

 

Ford Prefect said:

Enlightened,
“The Source” is telling me to stop inquiring and just watch the On Demand show that Bush arranged during his last visit to the Middle East.

February 29th, 2008, 1:42 am

 

norman said:

The question is wether Syria will break or fight back ,

I think she will fight back,Any thoughts?.any body,

Skip to main content, accesskey ‘s’
Homepage, accesskey ‘1’
Financial Times FT.com
WorldCloseArab leaders press Syria over Beirut impasse
By Roula Khalaf in London and Andrew England in Cairo

Published: February 29 2008 01:17 | Last updated: February 29 2008 01:17

Arab leaders are stepping up pressure on Syria to resolve the Lebanese presidential stand-off by threatening to stay away from the Arab League summit in Damascus next month, a move that would deepen Syria’s regional isolation.

Arab officials say the ­Syrian regime’s failure to influence its Lebanese allies is the main obstacle to the election of a Lebanese president, and that the summit at the end of March will fail unless Damascus pushes for compromise.

In a flurry of diplomacy, Egypt, Saudi Arabia and Jordan have been trying to co-ordinate policy, hinting at either a boycott or a lowering of representation at a meeting that Damascus hoped would signal the end of its isolation. “All indications are that the summit is pending on the issue of Lebanon,” said one Arab official. “If there’s no agreement in Lebanon the summit has lost its importance.”

Lebanon’s presidency has been vacant since November and its parliament paralysed by a dispute between Lebanon’s pro-Syrian opposition, led by the Hizbollah group, and the pro-western parliamentary majority.

Travel warning angers Beirut
Travel advisories issued by Saudi Arabia and two other Gulf countries warning their citizens not to visit Lebanon could have a serious impact on the Lebanese economy, the country’s minister of finance told the Financial Times on Thursday, writes Ferry Biedermann in Beirut.

The minister implied that there had been a threat to Gulf citizens. “Targeting them is not an innocent action. Targeting them is not only because of political differences,” Jihad Azour said. “I suspect that this could also be to increase the pressure on the Lebanese economy.”

The minister said he had requested information on the nature of the threat. “I didn’t get hard facts showing that those threats are real threats,” he said.

Other political sources have said that the Gulf governments may in fact be worried about a new confrontation between Hizbollah and Israel.

The two sides fought a devastating war in 2006 and Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah, Hizbollah’s leader, has sworn revenge against Israel after the killing of a top commander, Imad Moughniyeh, in Damascus two weeks ago. Israel denies involvement.
In a power struggle that reflects the broader stand-off in the region between ­pro-western Arab states on one hand and Syria and Iran on the other, the opposition has insisted on a consensus president and on winning a blocking minority in a new government.

Several rounds of mediation by the Arab League have failed to break the stalemate. Amr Moussa, the League’s secretary general, who is planning a trip to Damascus in the coming days, told Lebanon’s al-Safir newspaper this week that the crisis was becoming more complicated and foreign influence had reached unprecedented levels.

Egypt and Saudi Arabia in particular appear convinced that Syria, which was forced to end its control over Lebanon in 2005, holds the key to a resolution of the crisis.

“The summit will be held in Syria and Syria has a role in Lebanon’s problem, that’s why I hope that Syria would solve the problem,” Hosni Mubarak, the Egyptian president, said recently. Syrian officials say they are doing all they can to help Lebanon but that it was up to political factions in Beirut to reach a compromise.

“The Syrian argument is ‘We are trying’ but they ask ‘Why are you focusing on the fact that it is only us who has to put pressure on our allies? Why aren’t other parties who have influence … in Lebanon being asked to do the same?’” said a League official.

Lebanese and other Arab officials doubt Syria will be swayed by the pressure from its neighbours. The League official said a successful summit could help Syria improve its relations with the Arab world but Damascus was not desperate to do that on any terms.

Since being ousted from Lebanon following the killing of Rafiq Hariri, former Lebanese prime minister and opponent of Syria, Syria’s relations with other regional states have deteriorated.

Copyright The Financial Times Limited 2008

“FT” and “Financial Times” are trademarks of the Financial Times. Privacy policy | Terms
© Copyright The Financial Times Ltd 2008.

February 29th, 2008, 1:52 am

 

AnotherIsraeliGuy said:

FP,
I actually heard that the Cole is going to rebuild naher el bared and to give Palestinians rights in Lebanon. I could be wrong though.

February 29th, 2008, 1:54 am

 

norman said:

FP,
can we hope tha the US will use the same GPS to attack Iran , they might hit Demona by mistake.

February 29th, 2008, 1:58 am

 

Qifa Nabki said:

Ford Prefect

I love getting your dispatches. Keep them coming. (Since the helpdesk is tending to the GPS problem on the USS Cole, maybe they could send some techs over to my mother’s apartment to fix her internet connection. Could you arrange that? 😉 )

AIG,

Someone should write a book about the FPM phenomenon. It’s totally fascinating to me to read their blogs. On the one hand, you’ve got the dyed-in-the-wool old school Aounis who still can’t help but curse Syria every time a Lebanese shepherd is detained on the border (you should have heard the sailor language during the two days in a row last week when people were shot by border police near Tripoli).

On the other hand, though, there is the younger generation that actually is very reform-oriented, open-minded, non-sectarian, etc.

Still though, you’re right about the holy grail motivation. One wonders what all these people would do in six years if Aoun did get elected prez. They’d have nothing to pine for!

Recently, there was a lot of wishy washy hopefulness on the FPM forums that Nasrallah would give up HA’s weapons in exchange for Aoun to become president.

That was good for a snicker or two.

February 29th, 2008, 1:58 am

 

Ford Prefect said:

AIG,
They are telling me that the thought of rebuilding Nahr al bared never crossed their mind. The assumption was that this was a purely Lebanese matter and the Cheney White House never intervened in the internal politics of Lebanon. But, personally, I do like the way you are thinking.

QN, to get the Internet connection working again, your mother needs to cede 1/3 of her bandwidth to her next door neighbor. Otherwise, her connection will remain down, unfortunately. I wish I can help further.

P.S. Are you not watching General Aon on LBC now? Fascinating.

February 29th, 2008, 2:29 am

 

Qifa Nabki said:

Ford Prefect

I think AIG was probably being a bit cynical about the whole rebuilt Nahr al-Bared and give the Palestinians their rights thing.

I’ll take your 1/3 bandwidth sharing formula to my mother, but my suspicion is that she will refuse to allow her sovereignty to be compromised so flagrantly.

I don’t have Middle East satellite. (I’m just a lowly high school student).

February 29th, 2008, 2:42 am

 

Honest Patriot said:

— Apology and Farewell —

Dear SC contributors,

I want to first apologize for the terseness of my last post ( http://joshualandis.com/blog/?p=606#comment-119871 ) in this thread, and take a final opportunity to express appreciation to all and to present my farewell. I was indeed suddenly snapped to the reality of the sad situation in the ME, and in my native Lebanon in particular and, without being an analyst nor a political expert in any way, concluded that I had pretty much expressed all opinions that I could contribute and any further contributions would just be repetition. At the same time, whether right or wrong, I do hold strongly the views I have shared, in particular my lamentation of how Lebanon is being manipulated to the detriment of its citizen. So, without further wanting to engage in back-and-forth volleys in which I would simply be repeating myself, and with the depressing latest developments in Lebanon and Syria further perpetuating the crisis, I simply snapped.

After reflection, I do think that I do not have more to contribute and wish to be once again only an occasional reader of SC. My earlier proposal of a conference/workshop was quite sincere and I was prepared to not only participate but to also pitch in financial support to ensure that folks who otherwise couldn’t attend would indeed join, but it is likely that this was a far fetched concept that would be difficult to implement and whose benefits would be unclear – given that none of us (I believe) is really in a position to make a change unless we change radically our life’s mission, an unlikely eventuality at best.

I do have a few parting thougths:
– To Enlightened and Shai go my most heartfelt thanks for your kind words of appreciation, your sincerity, and the ether-bound friendship you have made me feel for you
– To QN my unqualified admiration and enjoyment of what is to me a superbly resonant common sense, poise, eloquence, and knowledge
– To MSK a ditto as to QN although for some reason I don’t feel I know you as much, perhaps because you haven’t posted as much
– To Alex my greatest appreciation for your tremendous efforts and dedication, and in particular my greatest respect for your passion for the cultural aspects of Syrian society and history
– To AIG and AP my respect and appreciation for your engagement in this forum, an engagement that – notwithstanding your positions – is truly indicative of a genuine desire for peace and coexistence
– To Offended and Observer my admiration of your analytic abilities and my respect for your positions
– To Ausammaa and Majed my brotherly salutations, respect of your sincerity, and understanding of the frustrations you feel at the misery endured by many Palestinians and other Arabs
– To those I have not listed, I beg you not to feel “left out” and understand that my faulty memory is the only one to blame for often forgetting important people in my life (and in my brief jumping into the blogosphere)
– To Ehsani and others who correctly felt that this blog was being hijacked away from what they wanted it to focus on – Syrian culture and life – my apologies for having contributed to this tangential drive. You are right: this is Syria Comment and should probably remain focused on that topic
– Finally, last but not least, to my esteemed Joshua with whom I have shared exquisite conversations and experiences when we were both much younger and somewhat idealistic in our spirit of teaching and service, my greatest appreciation and admiration of all your accomplishments but particularly of what you have created through this blog.

I like to tell myself that I was true to my promise that the last message I posted was my “last post” by thinking of this message here as a “farewell” and not as a “post” but that’s probably just self-serving rationalization through nitpicking. I do however sincerely feel that over the few months that I participated I have pretty much enunciated all ideas I had. I believe that I have not contributed any original stories, but simply a point of view of one person based on how things seem to me.

In the end, for my Lebanese compatriots, I can think of no better fitting message to end with than the following from Gibran Tueini:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZVjnyOenIRg&feature=related
I mean nothing by it more than just the words it says and its emotional message that there is such a thing as nationalism for an independent, separate, Lebanon, a country for which its citizen feel belonging before they feel belonging to any other human group. That’s the “Patriot” in my moniker. I have intended and tried to be “Honest” about telling it like I see it. I hope I have succeeded.

Farewell — I’ll be reading…

February 29th, 2008, 2:53 am

 
 

norman said:

Aoun Is amazing on LBC.

February 29th, 2008, 3:16 am

 

Enlightened said:

Norman Im at work whats he saying?

February 29th, 2008, 3:27 am

 

norman said:

Enlighted one ,

He is explaining the position of the opposition in Lebanon and how politics in Lebanon is a collective rule not a majority rule and if the Harreri people want anything to move forward they should share power and the decision making .

February 29th, 2008, 3:31 am

 

Qifa Nabki said:

Honest Patriot,

Thank you for your kind words and sincerity.

Let me tell you that I don’t quite believe that you’ll be able to remain on the sidelines as you follow along! Your combination of thoughtful optimism and criticism will be missed on these pages, if you do decide to abstain from participating. (And without your support, I’ll no doubt be overrun by the rest of them!)

On the point of the ultimate futility of our exchanges, I’ve often felt this, but I think that there is in the end a redeeming aspect to these discussions. Even if we succeed in changing each other’s minds on a rare occasion, it still seems worth it! I know that I’ve learned an immense amount from listening to other folks’ viewpoints, and I hope to keep learning.

Keep your chin up, and let’s hear from you from time to time.

February 29th, 2008, 3:33 am

 

norman said:

I do not want to be cold but for HP to blame Syria of killing anybody in Lebanon without proof is just wrong and irresponsible no matter who is saying it , as for the Mideast , I agree things are frustrating but for you to blame everything on Syria is just wrong , The problem in Lebanon is Lebanese , it is a problem of people who think that they should always have special privileges , until all people in Lebanon are equal they will fight each other forever.

February 29th, 2008, 3:41 am

 

Qifa Nabki said:

This is funny.

You’ll need your speakers on.

February 29th, 2008, 3:50 am

 

Enlightened said:

HP:

I am temped to tell you about a life experience, here but il be corny instead: Just repeat these words that Arnie made famous in Terminator”Il be Back”, every night as you put your head on that pillow!

And what did Khalil Gibran say “What is friendship, but a deepening of the Spirit?

Anyway I need to tell you also that ” One of the biggest character defects I think we As Arabs have, is a genetic disorder , not to listen, and learn ”

Clearly HP you do not suffer from this and you should be thankfull!

February 29th, 2008, 3:57 am

 

Joshua said:

HP
You must write me an email. I still haven’t figured out who you are from our days at International College in Beirut? Like QN, We will be expecting you back. Joshua

February 29th, 2008, 4:08 am

 

offended said:

Thanx for the kind words HP…..
Although I might disagree with you, I will welcome you back anytime…

February 29th, 2008, 4:22 am

 

Alex said:

HP,

I don’t know how to say it, especially after your kind words to me… I hate to tell you that there is a hidden clause in your contract with Syria Comment … basically … you can not leave until end of 2008 at least.

What we do in these cases is that we can give you a one week off if you can supply a convincing medical report from a reputable doctor.

But that’s it, really. Sorry.

February 29th, 2008, 5:30 am

 

wizart said:

Thanks to SC contributors and special thanks to Joshua Landis.

When we love someone we need to care enough to confront them- but in ways that have positive energy and show respect. Many people have shown that here. The deepest hunger of the human heart is to be understood. Each person needs to be loved his or her own way.

Charactor defects of Arabs as someone suggested here are not genetic disorders. More likely reasons are environmental factors such as the lack of appropriate role models in schools, parents and friends. Listening is actually hard work. It requires a lot of effort and good ability to concentrate and control human impulse for automatic thinking and jumping to conclusions, etc.

Anyway, always good to see such a diverse group of people getting along here despite huge differences in interests and affiliations.

On a side note, I think awareness is a process of deepening self acceptance. There’s nothing unworthy of acceptance. Acceptance is not agreement. Acceptance is a more basic fundamental need and a right of every human being and it’s the basis for agreements.

This is in my opinion what’s really needed to keep in our human operating system as we plunge into the challenging life of the ME.

Developing concentration is a good way to cultivate positive thinking and calmness of mind. We can’t not be models. It’s impossible. People will see our example-positive or negative-as pattern for the way life is to be lived. The audience is listening.

When we’re problem minded we want to eliminate something or somebody (many people can site a few names here as an example!)

When we’re opportunity or vision minded, we want to bring something into existance. (i.e: peace.)

We need a brand new religion we can all practice.

Let’s call this religion love.

Just a thought.

WE MUST BE ABLE TO SAY SINCERELY, the fact that we see things differently is a strength- not a weakness- in our relationship.

What we learn from history is that people don’t learn from history.

The fact that people are full of greed and fear is predictable.

This is my objective vision statement for peace in the Middle East.

What’s yours? Where do you think it’ll take us?

Cheers! 🙂

February 29th, 2008, 6:15 am

 

why-discuss said:

Shai

Your idea of Bashar making the first move toward Israel is not realistic at all. Israel has bombed a site in Syria claiming indirecty it was nuclear to get the international community against Syria. Israel’s Mossad has presumably murdered Mughnyeh in Damascus to humuliate even more Syria.
The current US administration is frustrated, furious at Syria for the accumulation of political defeats in the middle east. They are trying to salvage the republican party to boost their candidate and God knows what they are capable to do in their madness!
These are not signs that would encourage any positive move from Syria. I believe the other way around. Israelis are tired, as you mentionned, but this does not reflect in your governement belligerant attitude. ONE positive move from Israel may launch a new dynamic but instead they threaten more wars and the US moribund admnistration flexs its deflated military power on the sea. It is pathetic how politically impotent the US have become, as one of the only country who still obey their orders is Israel.
A new US admnistration may become less arrogant in admitting defeats and going forward. In the mean time, God know how many deaths they have in mind in our region.

February 29th, 2008, 10:00 am

 

Enlightened said:

Wizart

Are these your own words? If they are you made a very dim day seem very bright! ( I was listening), the words I used were also out of frustration.

February 29th, 2008, 10:23 am

 

wizart said:

Enlightened,

It’s possible you’ve read similar ideas somewhere else. There’s no single source I can credit to the integrated insight developed there. I was not accusing anyone in particular of not listening.

This was in my opinion a custom made insight made possible through lifelong learning courtesy of integrated knowledge. Credit is for sure also due to the hundreds of books and websites that I’ve studied and thought about. Nobody has a copy right on healthy productive thinking which is the goal of education. what’s needed is developing and building on our various experiences. I remember a lot of what I read and I forget a lot of the rest. One thing I don’t bother remembering is where I read what, when or why.

Cheerios! (minus all the sugar)

February 29th, 2008, 11:46 am

 

Shai said:

Why-Discuss,

You may well be right, and I’m not suggesting that Israel cannot make some moves here also (privately), but as Alex has pointed out, Syria seems to be very “preoccupied” right now, being attacked from just about every angle possible… except from Israel. I may sound cynical, and if so please forgive me, but the attacks in Deir ez-Zur, and if Israel did assassinate Mughniyah, these were not declarations of war, no were they “hints” that Israel does not respect Assad. It was, of course, disrespecting Syrian sovereignty, but for about 30 minutes, not much more. And there is a reason why Peres sent a message just before, saying Israel will not attack. What he meant, and Assad understood this well, is that Israel is not interested in an escalation. It wanted to send a “private” message to Assad, by suggesting it knows what level of nuclear program is/isn’t being developed, and that it can, if and when it chooses to, destroy it. Of course there were many messages here, also to the Iranians, also to others, also to Israelis who still suffered from the humiliation of summer 2006, etc. But I’m sure Assad understood the message well. The Mughniyah hit was of course not against Syria, because if it had been, a few tens of Syrians, or maybe even high-level ones that were with Imad at the time, would have also lost their lives. The fact that this operation was so carefully orchestrated attests to this, I believe.

But finally, and again, you may be right, I cannot but hope that Assad is indeed a courageous leader, and a visionary, and that he reads the map no less well than you and I do, and that he may decide to take a certain leading role here, which will surprise many. After all, I do believe he has the ability to take the “wind” out of all of that growing Armada’s sails. Everyone’s depicting him now as a terrorist, extremist, etc. – now’s the time to show everyone they’re wrong. If indeed they are…

February 29th, 2008, 12:31 pm

 

Shai said:

Honest Patriot,

I hope you get to read these words soon.

My friend, I must tell you that ordinarily I am not a very emotional guy. But as I read your parting words, a part of me suddenly felt great sadness. I’ve “known” you for a month or so, through this wonderful forum which Joshua and Alex have created. From the first instant I read your words, I could tell you’re exactly the kind of person I was hoping to meet here. Your wisdom, openness, and patience, came through in every single line you wrote. Every time I’d see “Honest Patriot”, I’d quickly adjust my brain to “high concentration” mode, because I knew it was something I could and should learn from. When we started tossing around the idea of an SC conference/get-together, and I saw how you responded, I was becoming truly enthusiastic. I realized, that I may well get to meet these wonderful people I so much respect, and wish to have known under far better circumstances. And I really very much looked forward to finally meeting you in person. As someone said, perhaps the greatest achievement would be to reach that very-personal, three-dimensional state of familiarity with one another, which would further our dedication to our common quest, and via this particular channel. I’m still hoping it’ll happen and, like you, I’m ready to do much toward that goal.

I cannot explain to you just how much I understand your frustration. It so happened that my parents left to study in the U.S. just before Israel invaded Lebanon, and most of my childhood/early adulthood was spent observing the Arab-Israeli conflict from a distance. Incidentally, though I was only 4 years old at the time, I still remember the sirens in the streets of Ramat Gan, in those early days of October, 1973. My father was fighting in the Sinai, and there was of course no guarantee he would come back alive. Fortunately, he did. He also fought in 1967, and he too, like many Israelis, got fed up with war. When the first Gulf War started, I went back to Israel. It was the first time Israelis felt so helpless, seeing scuds landing in the center of the country, right in the middle of our largest cities, and yet Israel did not respond. We know of course that it was asked not to, by the U.S. But as we all knew that Israel CAN respond, and even harshly, it made us all very puzzled, and frustrated. The first and second Intifadas only furthered that frustration, because once more we saw how insecure we can all be made to feel, at the whim and will of another people. And, for the past 20 years, I’ve been thinking a lot about all of this. And never have I felt anything but frustration.

To find hope, or optimism, wasn’t easy. It came mostly through contact with Arabs in the U.S. and in Europe, and even some here in Israel. I had to see and feel that my so-called enemies were real human beings, just like me. I had to be close to them to finally develop the empathy that most of us so unfortunately lack. I too was raised with the hatred, distrust, and suspicion of Arabs. And I too had to shed it all, and start anew. The Christians would surely call it “being born again”, and in a way, I felt I did just that. But, from the moment I decided to change my natural instincts towards Arabs, I was determined to never, ever, go back. I was able to see suicide bombers murder innocent women and children on buses 5 minutes from me, yet not feel hatred towards Arabs. I was able to see (and even feel) Hezbollah rockets lobbed at Israel, yet maintain a rational understanding of the conflict, and not return to its emotional one.

I am convinced, more than about much in life, that Jews and Arabs can live not only side-by-side, but in fact with one another. As I’ve said before, we are much more alike than not. Those who think Israelis are so “Western”, and so different from the “Oriental” Arabs, have never known either side too well. We truly can live in peace together, and we will. But in order for that to happen, we need positive energy. Real, in-the-flesh, human beings who know the region, who can speak about the issues, and who are courageous enough to let the world know that we can change. It is precisely people like yourself, Honest Patriot, who are able with one or two lines on a virtual forum, to persuade others that there is hope. The statistics here show that between one and two thousand people visit this site daily. That means that your words are read by many thousands of people each year. Doesn’t that mean everything? Doesn’t that mean that we CAN influence people, and we CAN contribute something substantial towards our goals?

Personally, I joined this forum not because I’ve got nothing better to do in my early mornings, or late evenings. But because I felt this was such a wonderful opportunity to meet respectful, well-educated, open-minded people from all sides of the conflict, who can teach me so much, and help me better understand them and myself. I’m much less here to preach, than I am to listen. I come here almost daily, with an open ear, and an open heart, hoping to change somehow that day. I’m not afraid of change, if it’ll make me a smarter, kinder, better human being. I’m therefore not afraid of criticism, neither receiving, nor giving it. And this wonderful forum can make that happen for me, and it is. Will it have an effect on peace in our region? I don’t know. Do the leaders of our respective nations read SC? I don’t know. But maybe their friends do? And maybe ideas that are brought forth on this forum can trickle down (or up), and reach some important people? We already see how excited people like Alon Liel were about the willingness of SC to “host” them online, enabling the exact kind of engagement we are seeking so desperately with one another. And I know there are others, who are also in high places, who are aware of this forum.

So Honest Patriot, while I have much more to say to you, and am still hoping to do so in person sometime soon, I’m afraid I cannot bid you farewell yet. No, you are much too needed now, and you must recognize your contribution to this important forum, to its members, readers, and commentators. You may find yourself repeating your thoughts on many occasions, but that’s ok. We sometimes need to say and hear things more than once to think about them differently. But don’t worry, you’ve got plenty to tell us, to teach us, and to hear from us. You and I won’t change the world tomorrow morning. But we may do so, in a different kind of way, over time. The internet has finally enabled us to come together at the click of a button, from every corner of the earth. Joshua and Alex have enabled us to talk and share and experience through this great medium. Can we really miss out on this opportunity? I believe, and hope, that you’ll say “NO”.

I very much look forward to seeing “Honest Patriot” up above a great comment, or two, or twenty, each and every day you can. I know, that many here share the same feelings towards you. Please allow all of us the honor and benefit of reading and hearing you out. If you need a break, take a week off, on me… And then, crack your knuckles, get those snacks ready, and sit back at your laptop, and rejoin us! We’ll be waiting.

February 29th, 2008, 1:31 pm

 

Shai said:

Alex,

Read my comments above to Why-Discuss regarding the guarantees Israel gave Syria about not attacking. I really think Assad understood the message we meant, and not the one many think they see. You know I’m not afraid to admit to duplicity. I just don’t think there was one in either case (Deir ez-Zur and Damascus).

February 29th, 2008, 1:46 pm

 

wizart said:

War sucks. I remember a missile landing a few hundred yards from me and was still able to go to class a couple weeks later. I remember seeing war planes chasing after each other in residential areas doing some acrobats until it dawned on me they could actually bury us alive if they screwed up with their payloads or if there was an accident.

February 29th, 2008, 2:21 pm

 

wizart said:

War veterans are passionate about peace because they’ve seen war. Kids are often excited about wars because they think it’s more exciting 🙂

February 29th, 2008, 2:25 pm

 

wizart said:

Kids make wars.
Adult children make wars.
Peace is the work of real adults.

copy right: Wiz Art 2008 🙂

February 29th, 2008, 2:29 pm

 

wizart said:

Syria could be heaven and it could be hell as well depending on one’s mindset. It’s kind of like California because you can check out anytime you like but you can never leave. Saudis in Syria, Lebanon, Qatar, London & California are welcome to stay, revisit or plan to visit Damascus this summer. It’s a place like no other 🙂

The new Eagles stationed off the coast in Lebanon are terrific cooks and may have experienced the art of peace making as well as war making because increasingly they train in maintaining peace.

March 2nd, 2008, 11:33 am

 

wizart said:

For Every action…tune

http://www.nytimes.com/2008/03/02/world/middleeast/02mideast.html?_r=1&hp&oref=slogin

…………………….there’s a reaction

NewTune (Jewish phycist)

March 2nd, 2008, 1:42 pm

 

Kooki said:

HP,
We’d all be sorry to see you “go.” But what about making the proposed SC event your leaving party? I can’t believe that Joshua really doesn’tknow your identity. So just get together and have some fun. Maybe you’ll be tempted to re-join under another moniker.

March 3rd, 2008, 9:21 am

 

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