“The Case For Engaging Syria,” by Joshua Landis

Should The United States Engage Syria?
A Saban Center Policy Forum Debate
with Joshua Landis, Univ. of Oklahoma and Ammar Abdulhamid, Nonresident Fellow, Saban Center for Middle East Policy
Saban Center Middle East Memo #10, November 17, 2006
Brookings Institute

Should the United States engage with Syria? The renewed interest in this question derives from concerns about Syria's alliance with Iran and Hizballah following the recent war between Israel and Hizballah, and a widespread view that the Arab-Israeli peace process needs to be revived. Hints from Syrian President Bashar al-Asad that he might be open to talks with the United States and Israel, and reports of Syrian assistance in foiling an attack on the U.S. embassy in Damascus, have encouraged consideration of the engagement option. In recent weeks, retired officials, such as former Secretary of State James Baker III and former Israeli Foreign Minister Shlomo Ben-Ami have urged engagement and dialogue with Syria. At the same time, senior officials in the Bush administration, notably outgoing Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, have expressed firm opposition.

The debate at the Saban Center's Policy Forum considered the following questions: What gains might the United States reasonably expect from engagement with Syria? Can the United States engage with the Syrian regime without compromising its goals in the war against terrorism? Is President Bashar al-Asad of Syria a viable partner for engagement and, if so, what lessons from previous attempts at dialogue might the United States employ in talking with him?

Joshua Landis: The Case For Engaging Syria

Syria's obstructionist behavior derives largely from the fact that the United States has historically allied itself with Syria's enemies. Rapprochement with Syria would change this context. Moreover, Syria's undefined international borders, as opposed to the Ba'thist state's ideology, is what fuels radicalism in Syria. An intrinsic component of a United States-Syrian rapprochement, then, would be a concerted US effort to press Israel to conclude a peace agreement with Syria and end the Israeli occupation of the Golan Heights.

Syria's support for Hizballah in Lebanon and Hamas in the Palestinian territories will remain unwavering until it regains the Golan Heights and there is a lasting Israeli-Syrian peace. Syria's continued support for groups such as Hizballah and Hamas has been a necessity for Syria, a weak power attempting to bolster its influence. However, Syria would no longer be able to justify its interference in Lebanese affairs or its support for Hamas and Hizballah following the return of the Golan Heights. Moreover, there is no reason why Israel cannot have a stable peace with Syria, in the same way as it has stable peace with Egypt and Jordan. Israeli-Syrian peace, brokered by the United States, would ultimately goad Syria to exercise positive influence over Hizballah and to act as a mediator for talks between Israel and the Palestinians. That would also deprive Hizballah of its main justification for maintaining a military wing and refusing complete incorporation into the Lebanese government. Syria could then be instrumental in pressuring Hizballah to integrate better into the Lebanese state.

Second, the United States should engage with the Ba'thist government in Syria because any hope of uprooting it is futile. Those who argue that President Bashar al-Asad is weak or foolish in his political calculations, need to explain Asad's insistence on maintaining close ties with and support for Hizballah and Hamas which look like quite shrewd calculations. This consistent support has given Damascus influence in Lebanon and the Palestinian territories. Asad rightly predicted the Iraqi reaction to the 2003 U.S. invasion. Given positive Syrian economic indicators, the United States would not succeed in pressuring Syria into changing its policies through economic means. Asad can comfortably wait out the final two years of President George W. Bush's term in office and wait to see what the attitude of the next U.S. president will be. Consequently, continued U.S. isolation of Syria, will not produce another Libya-style reversal, but only a continued, painful stalemate for the Levant.

The greatest contribution the United States could make to the future of the Middle East would be to facilitate the establishment of recognized international borders by pressing for a comprehensive Israeli-Arab peace. Resolving this conflict would contribute to Syria's democratization more effectively than anything the Bush Administration had yet attempted. With the Arab-Israeli dispute over, the basic ideology of the Ba'th Party will be redundant and "a real debate" between Syrians regarding the future of the country could then begin. The return of the Golan Heights would translate into more pressure on President Bashar al-Asad to end the system of one-party rule in particular and to renounce Ba'thism generally. Also, the return of the Golan Heights would help Syrian reformers and democrats because it will allow them to win back some of the credibility they have lost from their close alliance—real or perceived—with the United States. Ultimately, the return of the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights to Syria is the key to de-radicalizing the Middle East and depriving the current Syrian regime of an issue it has thus far successfully exploited to fend off calls for reform and democratization.

Ammar Abdulhamid's argument is here for why the US will be unable to engage "the policies taken by the al-Asad "clique," a corrupt group whose core motivation is simply to retain power," in a meaningful way.

Comments (41)


1. G said:

Landis says:

Syria’s obstructionist behavior derives largely from the fact that the United States has historically allied itself with Syria’s enemies. Rapprochement with Syria would change this context. Moreover, Syria’s undefined international borders, as opposed to the Ba’thist state’s ideology, is what fuels radicalism in Syria. An intrinsic component of a United States-Syrian rapprochement, then, would be a concerted US effort to press Israel to conclude a peace agreement with Syria and end the Israeli occupation of the Golan Heights.

Yet Landis said:

First, Syria will not give up being friends with Iran, Hizb and Hamas, in exchange for the Golan

and Landis said:

I think it will be difficult for Syria and the US to have warm relations because of the nature of the Syrian regime and their different interests.

Syria’s regime has made “Arabism” key to its legitimacy. The US and Israel are extremely unlikely to satisfy Syria’s definition of Palestinian rights. This, of course, was also true of Egypt, but Egypt has never complained much about Israel’s continued expropriation of Palestinian land. It is possible that Syria will become like Egypt and forget about the Palestinian issue once it gets back its occupied land. I suspect it will be to a great extent, but not all the way, because of ideology. I do think peace would lead to Bashar’s de-baathifying to a large degree, but not all the way. Saddat dumped Nasserism completely. I don’t think Bashar can do that.

In other words, Landis says contradictory things, depending on the audience.

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December 10th, 2006, 7:55 pm

 

2. ivanka said:

Josh I agree that a peace deal would greately accelerate democracy in Syria. Sometimes I think we can only become a democracy if we can make a peace deal with Israel.

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December 10th, 2006, 9:42 pm

 

3. Joshua said:

Dear G,
Great scholarship here in tracking down theses statements. I am not sure what is contradictory, however. All argue for solving the Golan issue according to international law. I believe there is nothing the US can accomplish that would serve the object of attenuating the present conflict between Israel, Syria, Lebanon and even, ultimately, the Palestinian situation than getting the borders agreed upon using international law as a basis.

Will Syria and Israel start hugging immediately? I don’t think so. I don’t know why this seems odd. It will take time for both sides to undo the deep distrust that has grown up over the years.

I suspect that once there is peace, the average Syrian who gets out and about will get over dealing with Israel fairly quickly, particularly if there is a resolution to the Palestinian problem. As for the Baath Party, that will take longer. But nothing is more likely to lead to the de-Baathification of the Syrian political process than peace between Israel and Syria.

I am not sure what is controversial about this view.

Most anti-Syrians say that if Israel rewards Syria by giving back the Golan, the Baath will rule to eternity because it will win. At the same time they claim the Baath cannot accept the Golan back because it will destroy the ideology and undo the rational for emergency rule and Syria’s war footing.

I don’t think either of these arguments is true.

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December 11th, 2006, 12:26 am

 

4. Dubai Jazz said:

Is it true that Abu Khaled Al Omla (Fatah Al Intifada leader) was arrested in Damascus recently?

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December 11th, 2006, 6:01 am

 

5. Akbar Palace said:

“Sometimes I think we can only become a democracy if we can make a peace deal with Israel.”

Ivanka,

Glad to see you’re interested in a Syrian democracy. Now we can say at least 1 person advocates this noble idea.

However, you won’t meet a Baathist who would agree with you, certanly not an Assad.

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December 11th, 2006, 11:53 am

 

6. Ford Prefect said:

The discussion between G and Dr. Landis seems to be focusing solely on Syria’s offering to or accepting from a peace inititiave from Israel. Have you considered that any peace in the region is contingent upon Israel and the US (regime change) and not Syria? In fact, when it comes to lasting peace in the Middle East, Syria is irrelevant. It is the Israelis, not the Baathists, who will need to change first.

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December 11th, 2006, 12:45 pm

 

7. ivanka said:

AKBAR don’t speak to me.

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December 11th, 2006, 12:47 pm

 

8. ivanka said:

Dubai Jazz, details on Aljazeera.

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December 11th, 2006, 1:13 pm

 

9. Dubai Jazz said:

oh yes Ivanka, I can see that now thank you.

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December 11th, 2006, 1:27 pm

 

10. John Kilian said:

I would think a shift towards a democratic process in Damascus and a demilitarization of Hezbollah in Lebanon would be valuable to the US, Israel and Europeans. How a return of the Golan Heights can be achieved without undermining Israeli security concerns is a big obstacle.

The trauma of the missile attacks of this summer makes the idea of handing over high ground to a potential enemy difficult. I doubt an outright handover is in the cards. An interim period where a security regime guaranteeing Israel security in this area might be able to coincide with Syria attaining administrative jurisdiction of the area.

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December 11th, 2006, 4:38 pm

 

11. Akbar Palace said:

“How a return of the Golan Heights can be achieved without undermining Israeli security concerns is a big obstacle.”

John Kilian,

Not really. If the right leader were in place, another Sadat for example, the Golan would be Syrian. Sadat, like a true statesman, realized endless war just wasn’t in the best interest of Eygpt and that winning back the Sinai was even better.

Certainly, loads of rejectionists would prefer war to land. But who cares about the “Arab Street” when you’re a dictator-for-life? Right?

But there is a LONG way to go, and naturally, the Oslo facade made us Zionists a little more sceptical about the possibility of peace.

Real peace is all so “warm and fuzzy” and makes rejectionists weak in the stomach, even nervous.

“AKBAR don’t speak to me.”

Why not? Speaking is a great way to overcome prejudice!

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December 11th, 2006, 5:14 pm

 

12. Akbar Palace said:

“It is the Israelis, not the Baathists, who will need to change first.”

Dear Ford Prefect,

Can you enumerate for us how the Israelis need to change first? Let’s get specific!;)

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December 11th, 2006, 5:17 pm

 

13. Atassi said:

Akbar Palace
Real peace require That Israel get out of the real-estate business and seek peaceful solution ..

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December 11th, 2006, 5:31 pm

 

14. MSK said:

Dear ALL,

the Golan issue had been clarified already by Assad Sr. and Rabin/Barak. Israel ends its occupation of the Golan and returns it back to Syria, the area will be demilitarized and there will be early-warning stations manned by int’l forces (most likely U.S.) and even have Israeli personnel there. (Yes, Assad Sr. actually agreed to that!)

That way there won’t be any Katyushas smuggled in that could threaten Israel.

Case closed.

The only issue that – back then – Barak couldn’t “do” was to agree to Syria regaining its pre-1967 access to the North-Eastern shore of the Sea of Galilee.

You can read all about it in the Josh’s post from 12 November 2006 “‘Why the Barak-Asad, Golan Deal Failed’ by Swisher” (http://joshualandis.com/blog/?p=90).

Now that this is settled (AGAIN), y’all can return to discussing the actual topic.

BTW, would it be at all possible to NOT post full articles in the comment section but instead just, say, the first 2 paragraphs and then a link to the rest?

Or else just start a blog of your own …

–MSK

http://www.aqoul.com

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December 11th, 2006, 6:42 pm

 

15. ivanka said:

Interesting article here. Al Akhbar says the Bush administration is asking the pope the press Cardinal Sfeir to press Awn to leave Hezbolla. How rich really. Why is this administration so fond of conspiring? Here is the article:

دخلت المواجهة بين الغالبية الحاكمة والمعارضة أيامَ الحسم من دون أن يبدي أي من الطرفين استعداداً للتراجع أو اللين. وإذا صحّ أن انتصار المعارضة سيؤول إلى أكثر من استقالة حكومة الرئيس فؤاد السنيورة، وإلى أكثر من حصولها على الثلث زائداً واحداً في الحكومة الجديدة، بل إلى انقلاب يجعل هذا الفريق يتسلّم السلطة، فإن انتصار الغالبية سيفضي بدوره إلى انقلابها على نفسها ومضيها في ما تردّدت في القيام به حتى الآن من أجل اكتمال الانقلاب السياسي منذ 14 آذار 2005، وهو تدحرج الرأس الأخير الذي لا يزال يشكل عقبة في طريقها، أي إسقاط الرئيس إميل لحود. ولذا تبدو مواجهة الأيام المقبلة معركة دحرجة رؤوس كبيرة وتصفية حسابات محلية وإقليمية قديمة وجديدة، لكون حسمها سيكون في الشارع على الأرجح.
ومع أن طموح كل من الفريقين إلى تحقيق أهدافه قد يبدو أقرب إلى أوهام ويدفع بالبلاد إلى فتنة داخلية حقيقية، فإن استمرار تبادلهما عرض العضلات في الشارع وفي السياسة، وتبادل الاتهامات والإهانات وشتى النعوت، يذهب بهما وبالبلاد إلى الانهيار. كل ذلك من غير أن تتوافر مرجعية أخرى أقوى منهما، عربية أو دولية، قادرة على فرض الحل عليهما معاً. لا الجهود الدبلوماسية العربية قدمت التسوية التي ترغم الطرفين على القبول بها، ولا الدعم الدولي حافظ على حماسته حيال وضع داخلي متفجّر وبدأ يصير مغلقاً وعاصياً على الحل للخارج أو يريد الخارج أن يكون عاصياً على الحل.
تعكس هذا الانطباع معلومات وصلت إلى جهات لبنانية رفيعة المستوى على اتصال دائم بواشنطن، منسوبة إلى مسؤولين بارزين في الإدارة الأميركية تشير إلى المواقف الستة، الدقيقة، الآتية:
1 ــــــ لم تعد نظرة الإدارة إلى لبنان تتسم باهتمام كبير بما يحصل فيه، وخصوصاً منذ اليوم الأول لاعتصام المعارضة في الأول من كانون الأول. ليس هذا فحسب، بل يُنسب إلى المسؤولين البارزين في الإدارة «تشاؤمهم» بمصير حكومة السنيورة وما قد تواجهه في الأيام المقبلة، وقدرتها على الصمود في وجه الضغوط الشعبية والسياسية التي يقودها «حزب الله» وتيار العماد ميشال عون وحلفاؤهما.
2 ــــــ لم تكن الإدارة راضية عن جانب من المبادرة التي تولاها قبل أسبوعين في بيروت الأمين العام للجامعة العربية عمرو موسى. ومن غير أن يكشف المسؤولون الأميركيون البارزون ما انطوى عليه هذا الجانب، فإن معارضتهم للمبادرة كانت بالتنسيق مع رئيس الوزراء اللبناني الذي لم يكن هو الآخر راضياً عن بعض الأفكار التي طرحها موسى. وبحسب ما يُبرِزه المسؤولون الأميركيون، فإن وزيرة الخارجية كوندوليزا رايس اتصلت بموسى بعد مغادرته لبنان وأبلغته أن الخطة التي يقترحها للحل تشكّل «فخاً» لحكومة السنيورة، وواشنطن لا تشجّع منحى كهذا، الأمر الذي يعني ضمناً أن التحرّك المرتقب للأمين العام أضحى غير ذي جدوى، وقد لا يكون الرجل في صدد استئناف هذا التحرّك وزيارة بيروت ما لم يطرأ تطور خطير يقلب الأوضاع، أو يعيد هو طرح أفكار مختلفة.
3 ـــ ترغب الإدارة الأميركية رغبة شديدة بأن يقوم البرلمان اللبناني بالمصادقة على خطة الأمم المتحدة المتعلقة بمشروع المحكمة الدولية في اغتيال الرئيس رفيق الحريري والوثائق القانونية الملحقة بها. ويعزو المسؤولون الأميركيون هذا الموقف إلى ما كان قد بلغهم من نظرائهم الروس، في اتصالات جانبية، وهو أن موسكو ستستخدم حق النقض في مجلس الأمن إذا طُرِح مشروع المحكمة الدولية من دون اقترانه بمصادقة مجلس النواب اللبناني عليه. ويتسلّح الروس بحجة يقول المسؤولون الأميركيون إنهم لم يصدّقوها تماماً، هي أن إقرار المشروع في معزل عن موافقة كل السلطات الدستورية اللبنانية المعنية (أي مجلس الوزراء والبرلمان ومن ثم توقيع رئيس الجمهورية) يتعارض مع السيادة الوطنية للبنان. إلا أن واشنطن تعزو هذا الموقف إلى أسباب محض روسية تتذرّع ظاهراً بالسيادة اللبنانية لإخفاء معارضتها المبدئية لإنشاء محكمة دولية لأسباب تتصل بانعكاس مثل هذه السابقة على مشاكل موسكو مع جمهورياتها السابقة. مع أن المسؤولين الأميركيين باتوا متيقّنين من تعذّر مصادقة مجلس النواب على المشروع في المدى القريب بعدما أضحى جزءاً من تسوية سياسية مستحيلة بسبب الانقسام الداخلي، الأمر الذي يجمّد المشروع ويعطله.
4 ــ طلبت الإدارة من دوائر رفيعة في الفاتيكان التوسّط لدى البطريركية المارونية في لبنان، لحملها على ممارسة ضغوط على عون بغية فك تحالفه مع «حزب الله»، وتجريد الأخير من الغطاء المسيحي السياسي والشعبي الذي يوفّره له. لكن المسؤولين الأميركيين البارزين، نظراً إلى إلمامهم بطباع الزعيم المسيحي وطريقة مقاربته السياسة واستقلاله في اتخاذ خياراته وقراراته، يبدون متشائمين بإمكان التأثير عليه، ويعتقدون أن الأحكام التي كوّنوها عنه سابقاً وتجربة علاقتهم به ماضياً وحاضراً لا تشجّع على الرهان على الاعتقاد بإمكان تخليه عن الحزب.
5 ـــــــ كان ثمة جهد دبلوماسي يرمي إلى إصدار بيان أميركي ــ فرنسي مشترك يؤكد الدعم غير المشروط لحكومة السنيورة ورفض إسقاطها في الشارع وتعريضها لأي تهديد، ما لبثت واشنطن وباريس أن صرفتا النظر عنه اعتقاداً منهما بأنه ـــــــ كبيان مشترك يصدر عن الدولتين الكبريين ــــــــ من شأنه أن يضاعف ضغوط المعارضة على الحكومة اللبنانية وإرباكها، وسيُنظَر إليه بوصفه تدخّلاً في الشؤون اللبنانية. فاتفقتا على الاكتفاء، كل على حدة، بإصدار مواقف دورية تعبّر عن “الدعم غير المشروط” للحكومة.
6 ـــــــ تلاحظ الإدارة أن دمشق تتصرّف اليوم، في حمأة نزول المعارضة إلى الشارع وتقييد قدرة حكومة السنيورة على التصرّف، على أساس أن الوقت ربما حان لعودتها السياسية الصريحة إلى لبنان من خلال حلفائها، وقد استعاد هؤلاء بفضل «حزب الله» المبادرة ونشاطهم، وكذلك فاعلية تأثيرهم على الاستقرارين السياسي والأمني في لبنان. واستناداً إلى تقويم المسؤولين الأميركيين البارزين، فإن نظام الرئيس بشار الأسد يبني حسابات سياسية جديدة في تحقيق عودته السياسية هذه، آخذاً في الاعتبار الإنهاك الذي أصاب الرئيس الأميركي جورج بوش بعدما استنزفته تجربة تدخّله في العراق على مرّ الأعوام الثلاثة المنصرمة وبعدما انتقلت سلطة الكونغرس إلى الحزب الديموقراطي، وتهيؤ الرئيس الفرنسي جاك شيراك للخروج من الإليزيه بعد أقل من ستة أشهر، وكذلك هي حال الحليف الغربي الثاني رئيس الوزراء البريطاني طوني بلير.
أما الأكثر لفتاً في ملاحظات المسؤولين الأميركيين المذكورين، فهو شعورهم بأن الروس «ليسوا غير سعيدين بنجاح» الخطة السورية، إذا نجحت دمشق فعلاً في استعادة نفوذها السياسي في لبنان عبر مكاسب سياسية مهمة ــ وقد تكون خطيرة ــ ينتزعها حلفاؤها المعارضون اللبنانيون في المعركة التي يخوضونها ضد حكومة السنيورة والغالبية الديموقراطية التي تدعمها.

عدد الاثنين ١١ كانون الأول

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December 11th, 2006, 9:27 pm

 

16. ivanka said:

Last time Israel and Syria held peace talks, these talks were very successful. Even though no deal was made but the talks showed that an agreenment could be reached quickly. In a way only the signatures are missing now. I think a new round of peace talks has great chances of success.

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December 11th, 2006, 9:28 pm

 

17. ivanka said:

Sorry MSK, I have just done what you asked us not to do. I hadn’t seen your comment.

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December 11th, 2006, 9:30 pm

 

18. t_desco said:

New twist in the Fatah-Intifada/Fatah-Islam story:

Al-Qaeda-linked militants have arrived – Fatah chief

TYRE: A newly formed Palestinian faction calling itself Fatah-Islam, which allegedly has ties to Al-Qaeda, has sent 150 Arab fighters from Iraq into Lebanon, the head of Fatah in Lebanon said Monday. The militants entered Lebanon without the knowledge of Syrian authorities, which have since arrested a Palestinian leader on suspicion of organizing the new faction’s movements, said Sultan Abu al-Aynayn.

“These 150 fighters have infiltrated from Iraq into Palestinian refugee camps in Lebanon,” added Abu al-Aynayn.

Abu Khaled al-Amli, the head of Fatah-Intifada, a separate group based in Damascus that broke away from Fatah in 1983, was “arrested along with 10 supporters 48 hours ago by Syrian authorities,” he said.

Abu al-Aynayn described Fatah-Islam as a “fundamentalist movement with an ideology close to Al-Qaeda and financed by [Osama] bin Laden.”
AFP/The Daily Star

“This justified rebellion formed the Fath-Uprising movement. The movement was doomed. It agreed to become a tool of the Syrian regime. A movement that has a potential was stifled from the very beginning. Al-`Amlah lived in Damascus and was subjected to the same restrictions that apply to PLO leaders in Damascus. Today, the Syrian tyrannical government inexplicably arrested Al-`Amlah and his son. Don’t be surprised if some wild accusation follows. This is a Ba`thist regime, after all.”
As’ad AbuKhalil

(my emphasis)

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December 11th, 2006, 9:53 pm

 

19. Akbar Palace said:

“Real peace require That Israel get out of the real-estate business and seek peaceful solution ..”

Atassi –

Israel is not in the real estate business. She is in the security business.

How else do you explain Arab terrorism prior to 1967?

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December 12th, 2006, 1:24 am

 

20. bashmann said:

Joshua, I could not agree with you more. Return of the Golan fully is paramount to any peace deal between Israel and Syria. However, I tend to be more skeptic about the deal leading to a positive change of behaviour of the regiem in Damascus. True Democratic changes can not happen in Syria as long as the country is being run by its security agencies.

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December 12th, 2006, 1:43 am

 

21. Akbar Palace said:

MSK –

I’ve found a slightly different view:

“Ultimately the Syrian-Israeli track had to fail during Hafiz al-Asad’s lifetime because he was petrified of its implications for his rule. Interestingly, the Lauder-Nader round of diplomacy, for all its controversy and confusion, came as close to an agreement as has any other effort.”

BTW – Expand for us (if you’re up to it) what steps the Syrians were going to provide in terms of “peace”?

Would they cease to support terror groups?

Would they cease to incite their public on Syrian controlled TV and in the news?

Would they promote cultural exchanges and business?

What about exchanging embassy personnel, etc?

Maybe professor Josh knows if you’re not sure.

http://www.danielpipes.org/article/2002

http://www.danielpipes.org/article/447

http://www.pbs.org/newshour/bb/middle_east/jan-june00/peace_01-03.html

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December 12th, 2006, 1:49 am

 

22. Enlightened said:

Good grief: someone on this site is citing Daniel Pipe’s articles (The voice of moderation and peace) and one of Israel’s main propganda tools in THE USA!

Spare me the diatribe! The israeli formula for peace, has in the past meant grabbing a piece of Land!
Hence Peace= Piece of Land that they can keep!
Unless they give up on this there can be no step forward

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December 12th, 2006, 2:39 am

 

23. norman said:

I do not think that Syria and Asad will sell the Palestinians or the Lebanese for the Golan Hights ,any deal will have to be complete envolving the Lebanese ,Palestinians and the Syrians ,President Bush will save his legacy if moves toward that goal ,but i do not think going to save his legacy , he is too stbern to do that.

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December 12th, 2006, 3:47 am

 

24. Joshua said:

Dear Bashman, You wrote:
“I tend to be more skeptic about the deal leading to a positive change of behaviour of the regiem in Damascus. True Democratic changes can not happen in Syria as long as the country is being run by its security agencies.”

I do not think that democratic change will occure under the Baath. But if there ever comes a time when Baathists give up on their party as Communists did in Russia, it will be after a peace with Israel is signed and Syrians begin to see that the great enemies of the past — whether Imperialism, the Jews, and most difficult of all all – sectarianism, are things that no longer deeply threaten them. Only then will the party begin to lose its meaning and protective rational. Only then will Syrians have the confidence to trust the uncharted waters of radical political change. It will not be soon, but ending the border wars is the beginning. Most importantly, it is the one thing that the US can actually help with.

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December 12th, 2006, 4:06 am

 

25. Akbar Palace said:

“Good grief: someone on this site is citing Daniel Pipe’s articles (The voice of moderation and peace) and one of Israel’s main propganda tools in THE USA!

Spare me the diatribe! The israeli formula for peace, has in the past meant grabbing a piece of Land!
Hence Peace= Piece of Land that they can keep!
Unless they give up on this there can be no step forward”

Enlightened,

What an interesting web name/handle. Are you really “enlightened”?

I know Daniel Pipes (Benard Lewis, MEMRI, etc) has the “Chutzpah” to tell us what the Arabs are writing today in their media, so why don’t you point out a handful of errors Daniel Pipes has written? Is there a bad translation somewhere?

Meanwhile we have Holocaust deniers (Ahmadinejad) governing the Islamic Republic of Iran while Arab government anti-semitism (based on PURE fiction) permeates the whole Middle East!

And you’re complaining about Daniel Pipes?

What about the “factual book” Mustafa Tlass wrote: “The Matzoh of Zion”, a book that intends to prove the ancient “blood libel” myth, i.e. accusations that Jews use the blood of murdered non-Jews in religious rituals such as baking Matza bread. Tlass has re-printed the book several times, and stands by its conclusions.

Enlightening, isn’t it?

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December 12th, 2006, 4:20 am

 

26. majedkhaldoun said:

“return of the Golan Heights would help Syrian reformers and democrats in Syria”,Josh said.
this means : if Isreal does not give the Golan Back to Syria, we will never see democracy in Syria, since 1973 Syria has not fire a single bullet against Isreal, nor was there any successful diplomatic effort to get the Golan back,so forget about the Golan returns to Syria, and forget about democracy in Syria.
the rumor says that Hafez Asad gave the Golan to Isreal in 1967,and his brother Rifat Asad negotiated that, also the rumor says that Hafez promised Kissinger, in 1973, that 1973 war will be the last war between Syria and Isreal,which what we are seeing up till now,Bashar is not Hafez,and he is under no obligation to fulfil verbal promise from Hafez to Isreal, but that promise,may be the reason why Isreal does not like to see the regime in Syria colapse,in fact that promise reminds me of another one in 1917.

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December 12th, 2006, 4:26 am

 

27. Akbar Palace said:

“the rumor says that Hafez Asad gave the Golan to Isreal in 1967”

majedkhaldoun,

Be careful, some of the people on this site are real sticklers for accuracy (see the Daniel Pipes thread above).

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December 12th, 2006, 4:39 am

 

28. MSK said:

Dear ALL,

I don’t really care much about “mu’ammara kabiira”-type rumors. And I would suggest the people interested in that kind of conversation go to the Al-Siyasa (Kuwait) comments section.

As for “Akbar Palace” & his questions, they have all been answered in that excerpt of Swisher’s book that Josh has linked to in the post I mentioned above (for the lazy: http://joshualandis.com/blog/?p=90)

But since you didn’t feel like going through that trouble (why is that, actually?) let me give you the highlights:

[W]hat steps the Syrians were going to provide in terms of “peace”?

— The same as Egypt. And I’ve already said it: Golan demilitarized with int’l (= U.S.) + Israeli observers.

Would they cease to support terror groups?

— Yes, Assad Sr. had made it clear that they would drop support for the “Resistance Front” (Palis in Damascus) and also HA (after the withdrawal of the Izzies from southern Leb).

Would they cease to incite their public on Syrian controlled TV and in the news?

— Depends what you think “incitement” is. They would not stop talking about Israeli oppression of Palestinians in the Territories and Israel.

Would they promote cultural exchanges and business?

— Business: sure, why not? Cultural exchanges: who cares?

What about exchanging embassy personnel, etc?

— As I said: Like Egypt.

I have to say, for someone who lives in Israel (at least that’s how you come across) and who argues like he (or she?) is an expert on the regional situation(s) … you are woefully uninformed about this issue.

It’s not like it wasn’t/isn’t discussed in the Izzie media.

–MSK

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December 12th, 2006, 10:06 am

 

29. Akbar Palace said:

MSK –

Interesting. I didn’t know Swisher or Seale were present at the negotiations. Dennis Ross was, but I guess what Dennis Ross says isn’t true.

Meanwhile, the “peace” the Syrians offered Israel was ambiguous at best.

I’ll believe the Syrians or the Syrian-apologists when the “Protocols of the Elders of Zion” aren’t for sale anymore in Damascus.

http://www.danielpipes.org/article/447

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December 12th, 2006, 5:14 pm

 

30. MSK said:

AP-

you’re right. What Dennis Ross says isn’t always true.

Ditto for Daniel Pipes.

The “Protocols” are also sold in both Cairo and Amman. Both countries have very stable peace agreements with Israel.

Nobody ever said (or expected) the peace with Syria to be any different. Eventually, and only after a true settlement of the Palestine Issue (you know, 242 & all that), there will be a period of mutual rapproachment. It takes time. Ask the Germans and French/Poles/Czechs/Israelis about that.

Btw, you can buy Hitler’s “Mein Kampf” in Tel Aviv, in Hebrew translation. So what’s your point?

–MSK

PS: “I didn’t know Swisher or Seale were present at the negotiations.” So you only talk about things you’ve personally witnessed?

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December 12th, 2006, 6:21 pm

 

31. Akbar Palace said:

“Btw, you can buy Hitler’s “Mein Kampf” in Tel Aviv, in Hebrew translation. So what’s your point?”

MSK –

How do yo know Mein Kampf is available in Tel Aviv? Have been to Tel Aviv?

If the virulently anti-semitic “Mein Kampf” is available in Tel Aviv, I can assure you it is used as a learning tool.

Anyway, I asked you about the “Protocols”. Did you find that forgery in Tel Aviv as well? How about Tlass’ “The Matzoh of Zion”?

“Nobody ever said (or expected) the peace with Syria to be any different.”

MSK –

To my Zionist way of thinking, the peace between Jordan and Eygpt are quite different and any peace with Syria will be as well. The Sinai has a peacekeeping force and is also demilitarized.

I guess the Jordanians don’t like to create a lot of noise (go figure), but there’s a good bit of cooperation between the two countries on many levels.

Anyway, excuse me, I guess I’m just curious what the peace pie with Syria will look like;)

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December 12th, 2006, 6:35 pm

 

32. MSK said:

AP-

1st of all, yes, I’ve been to Tel Aviv. The Bauhaus part of it (northern Dizengoff all the way to Kikar Ha-Medina) is quite beautiful. For the Hebrew translation of “Mein Kampf” I would suggest you try either TAU’s bookstore or a big Steimatzky’s. Didn’t look for the “Protocols”. But I can give you a list of bookstores in Amman & Cairo where you can get them. But my actual argument was that this is not related to a workable peace treaty between Israel and Syria.

2nd, what exactly is the difference between Syria and Egypt/Jordan when it comes to peace with Israel? Didn’t you read the above comments, where I laid out that a peace deal would involve the Golan be demilitarized and have int’l troops (plus Israeli observers) be stationed there? I can cut/paste it here again for you.

Have you ever been to Syria? Or Jordan? Or Egypt?

–MSK

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December 12th, 2006, 7:06 pm

 

33. Akbar Palace said:

MSK –

Thanks for the reply. How long were you in Israel, and may I ask, what prompts you to participate on this forum?

You stated earlier:

“Yes, Assad Sr. had made it clear that they would drop support for the “Resistance Front” (Palis in Damascus) and also HA (after the withdrawal of the Izzies from southern Leb).”

I never heard Assad Sr. say that, show me the quote or the know-it-all who heard it first hand.

I’m not saying Assad never said that, but it would be nice to see where it came from. Did Dennis Ross or one of the inept American Secretaries of State hear this?

Just giving you my point-of-view here is a small list of pros/cons in signing a peace treaty with the current Syrian regime:

Pros –

– no threat of war in the North (stop laughing)
– will put a dent into Palestinian cause

Cons –

– agreement will not be adhered to (e.g “Oslo”)
– little room for error as no land buffer exists
– there’s already peace on the Syrian border
– Israel can handle Hezbollah
– Long term, continued Assad regime runs counter to democracy and long-term stability
– any positive political movement will be erased by Iran’s nuke program (just like the withdraw from Gaza)

Looks like more “cons”. If I were Olmert, I’d pass. (and he has)

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December 12th, 2006, 8:36 pm

 

34. Enlightened said:

Akbar Palace:

Firstly I am not interested in Mustafas Tlass, literary works, and as a literary piece, it is a work of garbage as most commentators have written about and you have reinforced! If you have read them, i have not, and I pity the wasted mental stimulation that you have obviously got from them!

I am not also interested in the Elders of Zion, as a fabricated piece of literature, it is of no value,
If i wanted to learn the mindset of European attitudes towards the Jewish people , i learnt this at an ealy age 14, to be precise, It was called the Merchant of Venice!!

I stopped there! I can remember Shylocks famous speech about his Jewishness ” If you prick us do we not bleed etc?

You see Akbar us exiled arabs know what Pipes and his ilk stands for! I read his articles I have no problem with them, mereley his demonisation of the arabs!, his racist Islamophobic undertones, and his skew towards (bias in favour of Israel). Well he is Funded by all the right wing jewish groups isnt he?

Yes the Arab media is inherently lacking in civilised standards with the examples you have highlighted so what else is new?

Yes Akbar tell us how great the European Jews are civilised and brought all the great traits from Europe and applied them in the middle east like living with space? ( i forget the german term here!)

As a avid reader in history, i will highlight example of the city state of sparta !
Akbar! read up on it! If you fail to see the similarities , I will enlighten you! ( lol )

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December 13th, 2006, 3:47 am

 

35. Akbar Palace said:

Dear “Enlightened”,

I am sure you don’t care about:

– Mustafas Tlass

– The Elders of Zion

– William Shakespear’s “The Merchant of Venice” and his fictional character Shylock.

– Mahmoud “Hamoud” Ahmadinejad

– Hamas

– Hezbollah

– Hasan Nasrallah

– The Arab media

– Islamic Jihad

– The Taliban

– Ismail Haniya

– Syrian and Iraqi Baathism

– Muqtada al-Sadr

– Osama bin Laden

– Sadam Hussein

or their “ilk”

So you don’t like Daniel Pipes?

“his demonisation of the arabs!, his racist Islamophobic undertones, and his skew towards… Israel”?

Feel free to provide your address and I’ll send you a box of Kleenex.

If YOU are “concerned” about Daniel Pipes, well WE Zionists have a few concerns as well. We understand you.

And so does the rest of the civilized world.

“Yes Akbar tell us how great the European Jews are civilised and brought all the great traits from Europe and applied them in the middle east like living with space?”

Dear “Enlightened”,

MSK has been to Israel, so he can tell you the majority of Israelis aren’t European. In fact, most people can’t tell them apart from Arabs.

No need to feel envious, you only need to get the word out to your Arab friends: Jews have a right to live in peace in their homeland.

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December 13th, 2006, 12:11 pm

 

36. Enlightened said:

Dear Akbar! ( Shalom)

Firstly, everyone has a right to live in peace! Please do not asume, that you understand Arabs! You dont, and unfortunately the Arabs do not understand you either!

This is a debate i have had with my three Jewish friends here in Australia about the situation in the Middle East! It is a constant theme, this lack of understanding! between Israel and the Arabs! We manage to debate and be civilised and still remain friends!

I allude to this because we grew up here with out the culture of violence here in this great country, and are appalled at the vicious state of violence in the middle east! ( from both sides )

I am not envious of anyones right to live in peace and harmony and bring up their children with hope and freedom, my late father made that choice for us , by emigrating, he unfortunately saw no hope for any peaceful resolution in his lifetime, he was proved correct!

Unless Israel and the Arabs can resolve their differences! ( ie the land for peace formula ) or one land two peoples, then you must concede there is no hope but to live in continual violence!
Ps. I am aware of the mass exodus of jewish arabs form the Arab lands after the fromation of Israel, if we are to have true peace then their rights as well as those of the palestinians has to be solved! ( one thing i did learn on the pipes website)

The funny thing that learning, and growing up here in australia, the similarities between our two faiths made me question as to why the two sides are that far apart ? Can you explain this!

It is beacuse both sides are radicalised!!!!!!

Thank you for your offer to send my adress! You are most kind , but we can communicate here on this site! I dont think you can send me enough tissues to be honest every time I see the violence and perpetual hatred on the TV screens every night, it would send you broke!

Take care!

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December 13th, 2006, 11:39 pm

 

37. Enlightened said:

Akbar

http://www.smh.com.au/news/opinion/small/steps/towards a lasting peace

article by Dr Ron Pondak, this is what i believe in, dialogue and humanity, read it its in the ipinion section

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December 14th, 2006, 1:38 am

 

38. bashmann said:

Dear Joshua, You wrote;

“I do not think that democratic change will occure under the Baath. But if there ever comes a time when Baathists give up on their party as Communists did in Russia, it will be after a peace with Israel is signed and Syrians begin to see that the great enemies of the past — whether Imperialism, the Jews, and most difficult of all all – sectarianism, are things that no longer deeply threaten them. Only then will the party begin to lose its meaning and protective rational. Only then will Syrians have the confidence to trust the uncharted waters of radical political change.”

The only part in your statement I agree with is your first sentence. After that you fall into the trab of many other Syria’s avid watchers fall into on regular basis. You seem to be hopeful that Baathists can be reformed. The truth is they can’t.

The assumption that Baathists are still true ideological believers in the principals of the Baath party is a bit naive. True Baathiesm my dear friend has long been a forgotten manifesto in the halls of the Baath party headquarters in Damascus. Today you can hardly find a single Baathist in Syria who is truely a proletariat. Unfortunately, the Baath party has caught a sever infection called materialism coupled with self enrichment which caused sever and irreversible chronic leoparcy in its moral fabric that only death can cure. No true Baathist exist today in Syria. It’s a sad fact but it is the truth.

The other assumption you make about the Baath Party central issue is its war with Israel and by Israel giving back the Golan heights to Syria the Baath Party would lose its ideological motives and losen its grip on power. There are two erroneous folds to this assumptions;

The first is that the Baath Party has taken power with a coup de’tat and then have made it a law of the land that ONLY the Baath Party have the divine right to rule Syria and constitutionally outlawed all other parties. The irony with this is that the Baath Party itself was not authorized to operate in Syria in its nascant beginning. It’s application for operation was under study when the military junta took over. The Baath Party might have used the issue of Israel and the occupied Golan for its own advantage but it is not the sole reason for its survival.

The second is that corruptions in the ranks has infiltrated the highest office and the party has become a vehicle for scoundlers all over Syria to make a living, it’s vital for them that the Party continues for enternity, as many have built their lives from it. The level of “brown nosing” and self promoting among the members of the Baath party have reached unproportional hights. You only have to attend one of their confrences to know this.

My friend, I like your optimism but unfortunatly the only way Democracy can be brought into Syria is by eliminating the Baath Party all together.
But before we can do this, Mr. Bashar Assad must step up to the plate and take charge, which unfortunatly we now know, that will never happen too.

Cheers.

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December 14th, 2006, 1:39 am

 

39. Akbar Palace said:

“Unless Israel and the Arabs can resolve their differences! ( ie the land for peace formula ) or one land two peoples, then you must concede there is no hope but to live in continual violence!”

Dear Enlightened,

Shukran and thank you for your reasonable response. I agree with you and I also hope the Arabs and Israelis can resolve their differences.

Right now, with the Hamas-led government and their “charter”, I don’t think that will be possible.

I know that isn’t good news, but I don’t think you can place the blame on the government of Israel. Israel left Gaza without requiring anything in return. I know this doesn’t seem to be much for those championing the Palestinian cause, but the Hamas-led government has decided to go in the opposite direction.

I hope all is well with you in Australia.

BTW – I agree with Bashmann’s post above. Without term limits and the ability to vote, the political “game” is how to stay in power. This is what we’re seeing in Palestine and all over the ME, including Syria.

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December 14th, 2006, 12:36 pm

 

40. Charles G. Coutinho, Ph. D. said:

The main problem with Professor Landis prognosis about Syria’s possible changes in policy(both internal and external) if it were to be able to regain the Golan Heights in any peace deal with Israel are:

Unlike the examples that he uses, Egypt and Jordan, Damascus is not ‘in the American camp’, in the way that Sadat was by 1975, and, Jordan has been since 1958. In both those cases, the peace deals with Israel, were more ‘natural’, since both countries were already in the ‘Western / American’ camp, as it were. In the case of Syria, if it were to regain say all of the Golan Heights, it will not be seen, as part and parcel of a triumph of being on the American side (the way that Sadat could and did claim back in 1978), but, in fact the reverse: it would be seen as the triumph of the Baathist Regime’s steadfastness in holding against the American-Israeli monolith. The upshot of such a situation both internally and externally is as follows:

a) The regime will probably be less, not more likely to switch alliances, and, wholeheartedly
decided to put all of its eggs in the American-EU basket. Both for reasons of realpolitik: to keep in play Persian ties with American-EU-Saudi alignments. It is difficult to imagine that the current regime will ever really disentangle itself from its ties with Persia.

b) And, for internal reasons as well. These are twofold: one, having secured the great, ‘world-historical’ victory of getting back the Golan, how could the regime justify to its own population a switch in alliances? Second, having in its pocket the Golan, will mean that the regime will be even less likely to see the need to change its policy. Why should it, if it has worked, right? Particularly since it will allow the regime to differentiate itself internally to say the other, pro-Western regimes in the region, id est, Egypt, Jordan, et al.

And, of course the same, Primate der Innenpolitk logic would dictate that, far from being impelled to liberalize and follow a policy of reforms from above, Assad, et al., will much more likely be to hold steadfast to the current domestic regime. Both because, it can claim that it was precisely the current regime and its policies, which allowed it to get back the Golan, without joining the American Camp, the way that say Egypt did. Etc. I am not trying to make the argument that Assad fils, is a true believer in Baathism. What I am saying is that historically speaking, we do know that regimes of the Assad type, id est, Authoritarian ones, only tend to pursue reform (if not losing power alltogether in a revolutionary upheveal) seriously when they have lost or nearly lost wars, and, or other types of military diplomatic confrontations, et cetera. Just look at say the Near East in the 20th Century: Turkey (1908-1923), Persia (1905-1925), Syria (1949, 1967-1970), Egypt (1952, 1967-1978).

On the other hand, examples of regimes who have been successful in either war or diplomacy, then pursuing a policy of reform from above, are few and far between in both the Near East and in fact in World History. Perhaps, as per Professor Landis’ synopsis, Syria will prove to be unique in that case. But, I myself tend to doubt it. The stakes, historically speaking are just way too stacked against it happening.

Which is not to deny that the USA should most definitely pursue a policy, with carrots and sticks, but mostly sticks in coercing Tel Aviv in
agreeing to give up the Golan (no doubt demilitarized of course). And, of course the West Bank and Gaza as well. But, this would be a policy whose logic is not necessarily dependent upon whether the regime in Damascus, will one hundred percent become a member of the American camp. Its logic is based purely on the fact that the resolution of the 1967 war, is (alongside an American withdrawal of some type from Iraq), one of the key means of stabilizing the Near East as a whole. Pur et simple.

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December 15th, 2006, 5:34 am

 

41. bashmann said:

Professor Coutinho, I could not agree with you more. I have little faith in any settlement between Israel and Syria which would produce any liberalization of the Assad regime in Syria.
Bathisim per se is not the problem any more in Syria it’s clan affiliation which seem to be the norm rather than the exception. The Assad clan have built strong alliances with greedy upper class scoundrels in the country that kept them in place. Most of them are members of the current parliment in Damascus. In addition the ruling security agencies have trumpeted almost every governmental institution in the country which contributed to overall decline civil liberties and economics policies. I’m afraid that Syria’s case will be the one to watch in the near uncertain future of the middle east as many observers have agreed that the region is sitting on a explosive powder keg.

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December 20th, 2006, 1:53 am

 

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