The Case for Syria

The Case for Syria
By Alex
February 8, 2010
for Syria comment


“I understood Assad Sr., with whom I conducted negotiations, very well, But unfortunately, I simply don’t understand Assad Jr. I don’t know what he wants.”
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Feb 2010


During the Cold War, the US and USSR used Syria as a pawn with scant regard to its legitimate rights. Israel’s decision in the 1970s under Likud leadership to limit territorial concessions to the return of the Sinai meant that Syria had to be isolated and weakened. Israel’s gamble was that Syria, without Egyptian backing, could be made to give up its demand for the full return of the Golan Heights.

Syria looks at its diplomatic options and strategic situation somewhat differently than do Israeli or American statesmen.

Although it appears from the rhetoric of Israeli and American right wing ideologues that Syria is an evil state determined to spoil all peaceful efforts while sponsoring terror, the reality is that Syria wants a peaceful and secular Middle East where International law is respected by all.

While the American and Israeli critics of Syria speak of extending democracy and capitalism, Syrians also speak of their security, recognition, and the full return of their illegally-occupied land.

It is time to carefully examine the manufactured negative image of Syria and to bring forward the case for Syria.  How does Syria see the world around her?  How does Syria see its history and what lessons can be learned from the futility of the repetitive cycles of different actions and strategies since the sixties?

The following is an overview of relevant events from a Syrian perspective with a particular emphasis on two competing visions for the Middle East: the one Syria and Turkey aspire to, and the one right wing ideologues in Israel and the United States passionately promote.


The 60’s: “Ahh, this Golan is absolutely fantastic. The view is wonderful *”

Golan_Heights

* Israeli Prime Minister Levi Eshkol’s conversation with his wife after his forces took control of the Golan Heights in June 1967.

Initially, many Israeli leaders and army officers did not think that Israel should invade the Golan Heights. But after the quick collapse of the Egyptian and Jordanian armies, and after it was clear that the Soviet Union was not really ready to protect Syria as initially claimed, some senior Israeli officers insisted that they must be allowed to conquer the Golan Heights. Mr. Dayan eventually gave them few more hours to finish the job, before he ended the 1967 war.

In 1997 the New York Times revealed that late Israeli defense minister Moshe Dayan admitted, 21 years earlier, that the Golan was seized from Syria because Israeli farmers wanted those lands.

The frequently cited Israeli security concern that obliged them to seize the Golan Heights, Syrian shelling of Israeli settlers, was not much more than an excuse to justify Israel’s capture that attractive piece of land.

Israel’s easy victory over its Arab neighbors had a lasting impact on the way many Israelis formed their attitudes towards the Arab Israeli conflict and the optimal way it should be settled, or even the need to settle it. Israeli hawks concluded that preemption works best, and it reinforced their conviction that Arabs only understand force. They also realized that the United States will provide Israel with necessary cover when needed. The IDF became the pride of every Israeli citizen.


The 70’s: “No war without Egypt and no peace without Syria”

The difficult experience of the 1973 war led a majority of Israelis to be interested again in exploring different options for settling their conflict with the Arabs.

Syrian President Hafez Assad was firm in his belief that only a comprehensive solution that is based on UN resolutions 242 and 338 will work. He made it clear that he would offer Israel peace and recognition in exchange for withdrawal from all the Arab territories that Israel conquered and continued to occupy since the 1967 war.

President Nixon was the first American President to visit Syria since its independence. He later described Hafez Assad in his memoirs as a “tough negotiator but he has a great deal of mystique, tremendous stamina, and a lot of charm. All-in-all he is a man of substance, and at his age, he will be a leader to be reckoned with in this part of the world… This man really has elements of genius – without any question”.

Unfortunately for Syria, American officials such as former secretary of state Henry Kissinger, who by 1975 had spent a total of 130 difficult hours negotiating with Hafez Al-Assad, realized that Egypt’s Anwar Sadat would be better suited to potential talks with Israel’s new hard line Likud leadership.

With the arrival of Likud to power in May 1977, Israel was not in the mood to offer territorial concessions to the Arabs. Likud’s leaders had their own way of reading Henri Kissinger’s “no war without Egypt and no peace without Syria”. Instead of believing in comprehensive peace that required negotiating with the Egyptians and the Syrians, Israeli leaders at the time decided in effect that their optimal option would be to reach a state of “no war” with their Arab neighbors without the need for full peace. That way, all they had to do was to take Egypt out of the Arab camp. Egypt’s price was manageable. By giving Sadat back his occupied Sinai, Israel got to survive in a state of no-war without having to give back the Golan Heights and the Palestinian territories. The incremental benefits of going from a state of no war to a state of peace were not worth the known price of comprehensive peace.

It was during the seventies that one started to hear Israelis explain why they could not have peace with Syria … “Syria’s price is too high”. Syria wanted its Golan Heights back and wanted Israel to settle with the Palestinians at the same time. Nothing more than what UN resolutions 242 an 338 call for.

Israel and its friends in the United States, often relying on America’s allies in the Arab world, created countless difficulties and obstacles for Syria in order to keep the country too busy and too weak to challenge Israel one day.

The Lebanese Civil war kept the Syrian army busy for decades. The war started in 1975 when Lebanon’s Christians, unhappy with the way the PLO was abusing Lebanon’s hospitality, welcomed Israel’s offer to arm them and train them on the condition that the Christians would fight Israel’s enemy in Lebanon the PLO.

Lebanese Muslim and Druze forces joined PLO fighters in fighting the Christian forces. In 1976, Syria decided that it has no choice but to send its army into Lebanon. First, the civil war in Lebanon had to be stopped. Religious inspired violence in Lebanon could easily spill inside Syria’s borders and from there to the rest of the Middle East. Second, the PLO had to be confronted. Their fighters were behaving in a dangerous manner that was quite similar to the way they behaved in Jordan in 1969. Again, Syria felt that they could eventually do the same inside Syria. Third, if Syria did not step in to protect the Christians of Lebanon, Israel would have taken advantage of the situation by continuing to arm, cooperate, and coordinate with the Christians. This high-risk arrangement would have turned Lebanon’s Christian regions into Israeli protectorates.

Towards the end of the seventies, Lebanon’s Christians moved again to Israel’s camp and the civil war continued to keep Syria’s army busy for at least another decade before the Taef agreement signaled the end of the bloody civil war in Lebanon.

In 1979 a well funded and well armed group of Syrian religious fundamentalists by the name of the Muslim Brotherhood launched a three year long campaign of violence that attempted to overthrow Hafez Al-Assad. The brotherhood was backed by a number of America’s Arab friends who were unhappy with Syria’s army in Lebanon taking the side of the Christians against the Palestinian Lebanese-Muslim alliance. Some of them, such as Iraq’s ambitious new President, Saddam Hussein, were also not happy with the prominent role Syria was playing in the region, and Jordan’s King Hussein was known for his general agreement with American strategies for the region. His kingdom played a direct role supporting Syrian Islamic fundamentalists trying to destabilize and overthrow the regime of Hafez Al-Assad by force.

When President Assad led the Arab world to boycotting Egypt, after it signed a separate peace agreement with Israel in 1978, President Carter’s administration expressed its disappointment by placing Syria on the State Department’s new list of states supporting terrorism. That entry was never removed and it continues to complicate Syria’s efforts to improve its economy and to receive international loans and grants.


The 80’s: Right wing ideologues in power in both Israel and the United States

reagan_years

Israeli Likud leaders (Menachem Begin, Yitzhak Shamir, and Ariel Sharon) who managed to unseat Israel’s labour party from power in the 1970’s at first had to deal with a Carter administration that was not fully in synch with Likud’s goals and vision. In contrast, the Reagan administration that showed up in 1980 was a perfect match for Israel’s Likud leadership. President Reagan was happy to delegate tasks and even decision making to his assistants in areas where he did not feel very knowledgeable. The Middle East was not one of the President’s areas of expertise. Gradually, Israel’s friends among the hawks of the Reagan administration (George Shultz, Alexander Haig, Jeane Kirkpatrick, and Eliott Abrams)  aligned America’s goals with those championed by Likud. The language used by both leaderships was almost identical. The Americans and the Israelis portrayed their enemies as evil entities that had to be confronted until their collapse… “The communists” and “The terrorists”

George Shultz boycotted Hafez Assad for five years (1983 to 1988). Assad successfully acted as a spoiler when George Shultz tried in 1983 to take advantage of the special conditions that existed in Lebanon under Israeli occupation to encourage the Lebanese to sign a hurriedly drafted peace treaty with their Israeli occupiers. An agreement that made it almost certain that Lebanon would move away from Syria’s sphere of influence to Israel’s orbit.

President Reagan’s success in waiting until the collapse of the Soviet Union gave American neoconservatives and Israeli hawks an example that they continue to follow until today. The American British alliance of conservative leaders did not hesitate to send its troops to fight in the Middle East and around the globe. Preemption was considered wise and talking to your enemy was foolish.

Although “Dual containment”, an official United States foreign policy aimed at containing Iraq and Iran, two of Israel’s most formidable adversaries, was first announced in 1994, by Martin Indyk (NSC), The 1980-1988 Iran Iraq war was the first real application of the dual containment policy. Millions died or got injured as a result of that war. The United States sold weapons to both Iran and Iraq during that war but clearly favored Saddam Hussein’s Iraq.

President George W. Bush based his Middle East foreign policy largely on that of his conservative idol Ronald Reagan. His administration tried to use its eight years in office to finish the job that President Reagan’s administration could not finish in the Middle East from 1980 to 1988.


The 90’s a decade of peace negotiations and relative stability in the Middle East.  Netanyahu could not sell Clinton his new “Clean break” strategy.

90s

Following Saddam’s invasion of Kuwait, President Bush Sr. and secretary of State James Baker decided that before they can build a coalition to fight Saddam they needed the blessing of Syria’s Hafez Assad, champion of Arab Nationalism. Assad joined the coalition after he secured promises from the Americans that they will not occupy Iraq and will start working with Syria towards a goal of comprehensive peace in the region. The Madrid conference was the format Syria proposed to the Bush administration for peace negotiations. Israeli Prime Minister at the time, Yitzhak Shamir, tried to boycott the conference but eventually had to attend in order to avoid escalating his conflict with the American administration.

At the peace conference Prime Minister Shamir launched a fierce verbal attack on Syria. Syria’s foreign minister, Farouk Sharaa reciprocated by wanted poster of a young Yitzhak Shamir when he was wanted for his leadership of a terror group in the 1940’s.

By personally attending the conference, Mr. Shamir ensured that it failed. He survived the Bush-Baker administration without being obliged to offer the Arabs any territorial concessions in exchange for peace.

In June 1992 Yitzhak Rabin was elected to replace Yitzhak Shamir as new Prime Minister of Israel. Mr. Rabin and President Clinton continued to be interested in negotiating with Syria and succeeded in reaching a final agreement before Prime minister Rabin was assassinated by an Israeli extremist in November 1995.

After Rabin’s successor, Shimon Peres failed to convince the Israeli people that he has what it takes to protect Israel’s security, Likud, led by Benjamin Netanyahu, returned to power in 1996.

Upon his arrival to power Mr. Netanyahu commissioned a study by a number of his neocon friends at an Israeli/American think tank. The document was titled “a Clean break”. It called for sweeping changes to Israel’s environment. Changes that would weaken or destroy all of Israel’s enemies. The document also suggested that Israel can then avoid having to return the occupied Arab territories to their original owners. Here are some quotes:

“Israel can shape its strategic environment, in cooperation with Turkey and Jordan, by weakening, containing, and even rolling back Syria. This effort can focus on removing Saddam Hussein from power in Iraq ― an important Israeli strategic objective in its own right ― as a means of foiling Syria’s regional ambitions.”[1]

“Since Iraq’s future could affect the strategic balance in the Middle East profoundly, it would be understandable that Israel has an interest in supporting the Hashemites in their efforts to redefine Iraq …  and diverting Syria’s attention by using Lebanese opposition elements to destabilize Syrian control of Lebanon” … “”Syria challenges Israel on Lebanese soil. An effective approach, and one with which American can sympathize, would be if Israel seized the strategic initiative along its northern borders by engaging Hizballah, Syria, and Iran, as the principal agents of aggression in Lebanon”

“While the previous government, and many abroad, may emphasize land for peace― which placed Israel in the position of cultural, economic, political, diplomatic, and military retreat ― the new government can promote Western values and traditions. Such an approach, which will be well received in the United States, includes peace for peace, peace through strength and self reliance: the balance of power.”


Prime minister Netanyahu visited the author of Clean Break, American Neocon Richard Pearle and few days later he delivered a powerful speech at a joint session of the US congress that was largely based on the recommendations outlined in Clean Break. Mr. Netanyahu’s speech was an attempt to rally the troops in Washington DC behind his approach to settling the Middle East conflict.

“The most dangerous of these regimes is Iran, that has wed a cruel despotism to a fanatic militancy. If this regime, or its despotic neighbor Iraq, were to acquire nuclear weapons, this could presage catastrophic consequences, not only for my country, and not only for the Middle East, but for all mankind.

believe the international community must reinvigorate its efforts to isolate these regimes, and prevent them from acquiring atomic power. The United States and Israel have been at the forefront of this effort, but we can and must do much more.
Until this democratization becomes a mainstay of the region, the proper course for the democratic world, led by the United States, is to strengthen the only democracy in the Middle East, Israel … we must make the pursuit of human rights and democracy a cornerstone of our quest.
Deterrence must now be reinforced with prevention — immediate and effective prevention.
There will never be such a re-division of Jerusalem. Never.
The third pillar of lasting peace is democracy and human rights.


Translation: 1) No rush for peace now, let us spread democracy in the Arab world first while we continue to settle the occupied lands, 2) “prevention” means we can decide to hit the bad guys (the way we define them) even before they provide us with an excuse to hit them, 3) No territorial compromises 4) Sanctions and war on Iraq and Iran

But President Clinton, who despite having special affinity towards Israel (source: Aaron David Miller) had an extremely negative opinion of Mr. Netanyahu. It was impossible for Mr. Netanyahu to motivate President Clinton to believe in his ambitious Clean Break vision.

Mr. Netanyahu had to wait until the next American administration arrives hoping that Likud’s friends can make it to powerful positions in that administration and that another President, Like Ronald Reagan, who did not hesitate to use America’s power to confront its enemies would be in charge.

Ehud Barak, a realist, was elected in 1999. A few months later he took part in peace negotiations with Syria that were mediated by President Bill Clinton. Syria insisted that Israel should withdraw to the 1967 line, Prime minister Barak  worried that he won’t be able to sell his people an agreement that included total withdrawal from the Golan Heights and President Assad reiterated his position that Syria will not accept to compromise its lands. Negotiations stopped and Mr. Barak decided that before he sits down again to negotiate peace with the Syrians, he needed to weaken their hand by taking the Hezbollah/Lebanon card away from them. Ehud Barak decided to unilaterally withdraw the Israeli army from Lebanon hoping that by doing so, Hezbollah won’t be relevant anymore.


2000: Eight more years of American Israeli ideologues in power. The great anti-Syria coalition

2000s

Hafez Assad Passed away June 2000. There was hope in the United States, Europe and in Israel that his son and successor will be a Sadat, not an Assad.

Everyone was nice to Bashar Al-Assad for two or three years.The Queen of England received him, President Chirac called him every week, moderate Arab leaders offered to help in anything he needs.

In Israel, Ariel Sharon replaced Ehud Barak. He made it clear  there will be a new approach to dealing with Israel’s Arab neighbors.

The attacks of 9/11, GWB’s wish to punish and finish Saddam Hussein, the role of the defense industry’s lobby, and the presence of a number of leading neocons who occupied senior positions in the Bush/Cheney administration helped Likud hawks (Benjamin Netanyahu and Ariel Sharon) to take advantage of the best chance ever to shape Israel’s environment to its liking. Plans were put in effect to destroy Saddam Hussein’s Iraq and to weaken and, if necessary, invade Syria next. Hezbollah and Iran were also on the list.

Starting in 2003, following Syria’s refusal to support President Bush’s planned war on Iraq, the strongest ever anti Syria coalition was formed. It included, besides Israel and the United States, leading “moderate Arab” regimes hoping to diminish Syria’s major role in Middle Easters politics. After the mysterious murder of Lebanon’s former prime minister Rafiq Hariri in February 2005, French President Jacques Chirac, Hariri’s close friend, was outraged and was convinced that Syria killed his friend. He found it convenient to join the American Israeli anti Syria coalition. Lebanese politicians in addition to various individuals that were described as “Syrian opposition in exile” also joined the coalition. Hundreds of world leaders, politicians, journalists, think tankers, diplomats, and even United Nations figures joined forces in producing on a daily basis pressure elements that were designed to humiliate, weaken, isolate and destabilize Syria. This went on for five years (2003 to 2008)

Syria promptly complied with UN resolution 1559 by withdrawing the last 15,000 troops it had in Lebanon (out of 62,000 peak). Israel continued to occupy a small part of South Lebanon and Hezbollah continued to define itself as the defendant of Lebanon against Israeli occupation and aggressions.

With the invasion of Iraq In 2003, millions of Iraqis were affected. Hundreds of thousands were killed, millions injured, displaced, terrorized, imprisoned or tortured.

In 2005 it seemed that Mr. Netanyahu’s strategy, as outlined in “Clean Break”, was in its final and highly successful stages of application. Baghdad fell to the coalition forces with so much ease that Arab nationalism, as championed by Saddam Hussein and Syria was being perceived by the Arab masses as a huge failure. Syria, the only Arab state that continued to resist American and Israeli right wing ideologues’s aggressive  plans for the region was at the receiving end of words of wisdom expressed in endless “moderate Arab” newspapers’ editorials and opinion pieces that called on the “foolish” and “inexperienced” “Baathist” leaders in Damascus to give up everything and save Damascus from imminent and inescapable Baghdad-style destruction at the hands of American forces who would be heading to Damascus as soon as they are done with Iraq.

The Palestinians were demoralized, Prime minister Sharon was described as a man of peace by President Bush at the time Israeli forces were pounding Palestinian cities in the west bank.

In Jan 2004, Mr. Netanyahu became confident enough to declare his modified offer for any future peace negotiations … No more land for peace, Israel only needs to offer the embattled Syrians peace for peace:

“The world had changed,… [my] offer to cede the Golan in return for peace is no longer valid … After the American war in Iraq, Syria had become an insignificant and isolated backwater, on the verge of expulsion from the international community. Thus, there’s no reason to make a deal that
entails major Israeli concessions”


November 2005. President Assad delivered a speech at Damascus University in which he made it clear that his country will not give up.

“We supported international legitimacy and did not support international disorder. International legitimacy is the UN charter, while international disorder is basing resolutions on the interests and moods of certain officials in this world. Those countries, those forces and everybody in this region and in the world should know that the era of tutelage which existed at the beginning of the last century is over, and now the region is in front of two choices, either resistance and steadfastness or chaos. There is no third choice. Resistance prevents chaos. Resistance has a price and chaos has a price, but the price of resistance is much less than the price of chaos. We need to know these things. But if they believe that they can blackmail Syria, we tell them they got the wrong address.”


It was time for more pressure on Syria. Destroying Hezbollah seemed like a logical next step and just like the sequence of events during the Reagan administration, Israel invaded Lebanon severely damaging the country’s civil infrastructure and killing 1183 Lebanese people (UN children’s fund figures). To everyone’s surprise, Hezbollah’s five thousand fighters performed very well against the much larger and better equipped Israeli army.

Hezbollah emerged much stronger after it managed to keep at bay Israel’s powerful army.

At that time, it was reported that French President Jacque Chirac asked Israel to attack Syria and topple President Assad.

Similarly, leading neocon, Dr. Meyrav Wurmser (Hudson Institute) explained to Yedioth’s ynetnews.com that

“the [US administration’s] anger is over the fact that Israel did not fight against the Syrians. Instead of Israel fighting against Hizbullah, many parts of the American administration believe that Israel should have fought against the real enemy, which is Syria and not Hizbullah”


Israeli, French, and American frustration aside, it was clearly the beginning of Syria’s rise to prominence in the Middle East. The Arab world believed in resistance again. “Hassan” (Nasrallah) became one of the most popular names that parents gave to their male newborns in much of the Arab world.

Next, it was time to try burning Syria’s other “card”, democratically elected Palestinian representatives in Hamas. Near the end of the Bush administration, Israel got the green light to attack Hamas in Gaza. Over a thousand Palestinian people were killed and Gaza was destroyed (est 1314).

Syria and Turkey lost faith in Israeli politicians’ claims that they were genuine in their interest in peace. The timing of the very optional Gaza attack was not easy to justify.

During and after the bloodshed in Gaza, public pressure mounted for America’s main Arab ally, Saudi Arabia. The rich kingdom finally decided to give up on the Bush administration’s five year campaign to isolate Syria. The Saudis recognized Syria’s leading role in Lebanon and in the Arab world in general. Most of their Lebanese allies followed.


2010: … or is it 1938?

Obama US Mideast

Mr. Netanyahu’s prime decade has just ended. By 2005 it seemed that almost everything was going according to his battle plan.

But things changed. The turning point was President Assad’s defiant speech at Damascus University in November 2005. Another turning point was Israel’s failure to achieve its objectives during its 2006 invasion of Lebanon.

By the end of the decade, there was radical change.

Mr. Netanyahu’s focus is now on Iran. It seems that everywhere he spoke he pleaded with his audience to understand why he wants them to find Iran’s attitude and actions alarming. He wants the world to impose a new round of painful sanctions against the Islamic republic and if those sanctions fail to bring Iran to its knees, then war would be the only option… “This is 1938 and Iran is Germany”


ANALYSIS

In the long run, there are two main strategists with lasting power in the Middle East, Israeli/American right wing ideologues, and Syria. Their visions for the Middle East are in most ways diametrically opposed. When one side is winning, the other is usually in retreat.

So where do they stand today?

1/ Around the Globe

BBC-poll

The BBC conducts world-wide opinion polls that attempt to measure positive and negative impressions for a large number of countries. Between 2007 and 2009, Israel hovered around the lowest spot. Israel’s competitors for the highest percentage of negative opinions were Iran, North Korea and the United States under the Bush/Cheney leadership.

BBC polls results are compatible with other polls such as the one conducted in October 2003 after being requested by the European commission. In all Member States of the European Union (with the exception of Italy) the majority of citizens believed that Israel represented a threat to peace in the world … Israel was considered a threat by 59 per cent of those polled. The United States, Iran and North Korea, come only second on this list, each considered a threat by 53 per cent of the EU population.” (“Iraq and Peace in the World,” European Commission, November 2003, p. 81)

2/ In The United States

Israel continues to enjoy nearly unanimous support on Capitol Hill. While most issues debated in congress receive votes that are split 48-52% at most, any vote that seems to interest Israel one way or the other tends to unite America’s elected representatives who always manage to vote Israel’s way with over 90%.

On the other hand, the Obama administration is mostly made of realists who prefer prudence over preemption. It is clearly not a natural or automatic partner for Mr. Netanyahu’s “This is 1938 and Iran is Germany” war project, although there is little doubt the administration will continue to show more sensitivity and understanding to Israel’ needs and desires than it will for the Arabs.

Finally, a poll conducted by the Israel Project, revealed that support for Israel in the United States suffered a 20 point drop in 2009.

Israel poll

Support for Israel among Christian Zionists and some evangelical Christians remains strong. Israeli ambassadors and prominent allies of Israel from Capitol Hill often put in an appearance at Christian Zionist rallies to motivate them and to encourage them to lobby for Israel more actively in Washington.

3/ In the Arab world:

In recent years, Syria’s image in Lebanon suffered heavily from constantly reinforced accusations that it was behind the assassination of Rafiq Hariri in addition to American and Saudi claims that Syria is interfering in Lebanese politics. As it became clear that there is no evidence to link Syria with the Hariri murder, and as Syria demonstrated its ability to help the Lebanese settle their differences peacefully (Qatar agreement) support for Syria in Lebanon skyrocketed. A poll conducted between 11-15 August 2009 reveals that Syria’s support in Lebanon is up by close to 25% (from 47.5% in 2008 to 72.3% in 2009).

lebanon_poll

In comparison, Israel received the support of 1% of the Lebanese people. Positive opinions of the United States significantly dropped in 2009 (from 37.3% in 2008 down to 26.5% in 2009)

Syria’s close political ally, Qatar was the most popular country in Lebanon (86.6%), followed by Syria.

A number of polls suggest that in 2009, President Assad appears to be the most popular leader in the Arab world. A University of Maryland/Zoghby International poll conducted in a number of moderate Arab countries showed that Assad was the most admired foreign leader.

A CNN (Arabic) online poll asked the site’s readers to vote for the “2009 international person of the year” award. President Assad won by a landslide, receiving the votes of 67% of the 30,679 Arabs who voted. Syria’s closest ally Turkish Prime minister Recep Erdogan got 28% of the votes.

CNN

The above polls demonstrate that Syria and its allies (Turkey, Qatar, Iran, and Hezbollah) are the choices of an overwhelming majority of the Arab people.

In 2005 Israel had the respect of many Arab leaders who agreed to secretly cooperate with the Jewish state against their common adversaries: Syria, Hezbollah, Hamas and Iran. By 2010, very few Arab officials wanted anything to do with Israel. Egypt and Jordan remain to two exceptions, but only at the official level. Egyptian leader Hosni Mubarak is growing increasingly unpopular every time he cooperates with Israel against Hamas.

The Saudis made it clear to the Obama administration that they will not normalize with Israel ahead of a final settlement between Israel and its Arab neighbors. Prince Bandar who Aluf Benn claimed was the man “behind the quiet slide [Saudi Arabia] is making towards Israel”, totally disappeared from public life in Saudi Arabia. His fall from grace is perhaps the most vivid example of the collapse of efforts to normalize Israel’s relations with the Arab world based on peace for peace, with no prior land concessions on Israel’s part. Saudi Arabia realized that Syria’s camp is the wiser choice.

4/ in the Periphery (Iran and Turkey)

By 2009 and specifically after Israel terminated Turkish mediated peace talks between Syria and Israel through its surprise war on Gaza, Syria completed a process it started in 1979… to gain the friendship of the two large and important Islamic countries that lie on the periphery of the Middle East, Iran and Turkey. Both countries used to be among Israel’s strongest allies.

Today, over 600,000 Iranian tourists visit Syria every year. Borders with Turkey are open to people from the two countries to Travel and trade as if they are in their own country.

Ben Gurion’s “Alliance of the Periphery” doctrine is not sustainable for Israel anymore.

turkey_iran_Syria-Israel_map

5)    Public Relations, press coverage

Israel continues to enjoy special relations with owners, managers, and editors of media outlets. However, a number of highly unpopular actions (invasions of Lebanon and Gaza, failure to stop the expansion of Israeli settlements) and  a number of controversial Israeli statements (see “voices from Israel”) are generating increasingly negative coverage for Israel.

It seems that even experienced Israeli “doves” are not sensitive anymore to international public opinion. Former Prime Minister Ehud Barak in 2000 told the producers of a PBS documentary (watch it at 2:20 of this clip) about an Israeli cabinet meeting that discussed possible responses to the first Palestinian intifada (1987). Mr. Barak said:

“Some of the ministers made horrifying suggestions … send in the tanks, kill a thousand and it will collapse, order will be restored to Israel. But we knew if we killed a thousand it will get worse, and we will be branded war criminals”



Yet in 2008, the same Ehud Barak led his troops into Gaza, killing in the process over a thousand Palestinians, and as he predicted in 1987, it did get worse and he was branded a war criminal.

The rise of the popularity of online news and other online sources of information contributed to a gradual erosion of Israel’s traditional effectiveness in ensuring press coverage in traditional media outlets that was generally seen as being to its advantage. You Tube is full of clips showing Israeli bombardment of civilians in Gaza. Unflattering news reports and opinion pieces are promptly and widely forwarded or posted on FaceBook profiles. Israel believes it can undo the damage by recruiting an army of bloggers to combat unfriendly websites.

Syria coverage, exceptionally negative during the Bush administration, morphed into a completely different tone.

Saudi opinion writer Hussein Shebokshi wrote last month:

“The situation in the Middle East today can safely be described as having something of a “Syrian flavor.” The most important tourist and travel magazines contain articles that promote Syria as being an excellent tourist destination, praising the Hamidiya market and Mount Qassioun in Damascus, the water-wheels of Hama, the ruins of Palmyra and Apamea, as well as the Aleppo citadel. This is not to mention Syrian music and food, and of course all of this [praise] comes after years of warnings against visiting Syria due to fears of it being unsafe. Syrian soap operas have also invaded Arabic television, achieving great successes… Syrian deserts and [Syrian-style] Halabi Kebab have also become very popular, and many ancient Syrian sayings and proverbs are now being used as everyday terms. There is also the nostalgia of listening to the traditional Aleppo kudood [traditional Arab poetic form accompanied by music] of Sabah Fakhri, or reading the stories of Hanna Mina, or watching the plays of Saadallah Wannous.”


israel_quotes



6/ Legacy / Decision making

syria_decisions2

Syria’s decision making over the past four decades was mostly on the mark. The table below shows that no other player in the Middle East can claim the same.

When everyone was betting on Saddam Hussein, Syria bet against him and warned that he is a dangerous man. His Sunni, Shia and kurdish opponents lived safely in Damascus. among those were Iraq’s current President and current Prime Minister as well as former Iraqi Prime Ministers.

When everyone was involved in arming Afghani Mujahidin to fight the Soviet army in Afghanistan and when they were ignoring the rise of Saudi wahabi financed Arab Islamic fundamentalists, Syria was fighting those same religious extremists.

Syria predicted that the Oslo agreements will be a failure, that the same fate awaited “the road map”, that Egypt’s Camp David Accord will not bring peace to the Middle East, that Ariel Sharon’s unilateral withdrawal from Gaza was not a step towards peace, that George Shultz’ May 17 “peace” (surrender) agreement he proposed for Lebanon was dangerous, that the second Iraq war will be a quagmire for the United States and a disaster for Iraq and the Middle East.

In 2005 Dennis Ross wrote in the Washington Quarterly a paper titled “US policy towards a weak Assad”. Here is how Mr. Ross described Assad’s warning against the grave mistake the Bush administration was about to commit in Iraq:

“When Bashar spoke about the situation in Iraq just prior to the war, his comments bordered on the hysterical”


Being described as hysterical, obstructionist, or a supporter of terror are a few examples of the price Syria had to pay each time it warned against what it strongly believed was a mistake, at times when The United States, Israel and “moderate Arab” countries (US allies) held different views.

Syria made one serious strategic mistake. It waited too long before withdrawing its army from Lebanon and its representatives in Lebanon played a role that was beyond their security role.

But when a very large number of Lebanese were planning to demonstrate against Syria in downtown Beirut, Syria’s army did not close the area and did not prevent them from demonstrating. When UN resolution 1559 asked Syria to withdraw its forces from Lebanon, Syria promptly complied even though Syria was not specifically named in that resolution that only called for the withdrawal of all “foreign armies” from Lebanon.

Israel, on the other hand, proved to be mostly unwilling to learn from past mistakes. Israeli leaders continue to find it difficult to resist sending their army to deliver non-proportional punishment to their Arab neighbors. They still encourage any like-minded American administration to help them rearrange the Middle East, and they still do not want to respect international law.

A good example is Israel’s invasion of Lebanon in 1982 which was initially justified by the need to push the PLO 45 kilometers north of Israel’s borders to prevent them from attacking Israel. Instead, Ariel Sharon motivated his Prime Minister, Menachem Begin, to approve a much more ambitious operation that would send Israeli troops to Beirut and to Syria’s border. Eighteen years later (and 18,000 Lebanese and Syrian casualties later), when Prime minister Ehud Barak withdrew Israeli troops from the south of Lebanon in 2000 Syria was able to claim victory over Israel and a new enemy of Israel was created. Hezbollah (and Lebanon’s Shia population) … a considerably more effective enemy than the PLO in resisting Israel’s occupation.

Israeli hawks sometimes give the impression that they do not think the laws of nature apply to their country.

Every action has an equal and opposite reaction, … it might be the case that routinely threatening Iran with crippling international sanctions and possible preemptive wars (starting in 1996) might have been one of the reasons Iran today adopted a similarly hostile language towards Israel.

Energy can not be destroyed, it can only be transformed from one state to another. Israeli occupation of other people’s land by force led to anger and or determination to resist the occupation. Israel did not destroy this energy when it pounded Beirut in 1982 until it sent the PLO away to Tunisia. That energy was acquired by Hezbollah. When right wing ideologues destroyed Iraq, that energy was not destroyed, it was acquired by Iraq’s neighbor Iran. At the risk of sounding simplistic, the only way Israel can have real peace and security would be for Israel to undo the reasons that led to resistance.

Israel_strategy

(1)

Looking back at the legacy of the various combinations of American/Israeli administrations, it is clear that there was rarely any positive achievement. Saddam Hussein was kicked out of Kuwait in 1991, then he was removed from power in 2003, Egypt signed a peace treaty with Israel but its people today generally have highly negative opinions of Israel. Jordan also signed a peace treaty with Israel, although it was not much more than a formality given the prevailing excellent ties between Israel and the Hashemite King of Jordan.

The list of negative outcomes is much longer. And most of them come from the times when both Israel and the United States were governed by right wing ideologues, eight years of the Reagan administration (Begin and Shamir in Israel) and eight years of the George W. Bush administration (Sharon and Olmert in Israel).

The legacy of the “dual containment” policy is that over a million Iraqis and Iranians died during the 1980-1988 war between the two countries. The legacy of the Bush/Cheney/Netanyahu “shaping of Israel’s environment” Clean Break strategy is that millions of Iraqis were killed, injured, or turned into refugees.

It might be true that as a result of the Iraq invasion Israel’s enemy Iraq was weakened, but it is also true that Israel’s much more serious enemy, Iran, was empowered and was able to extend its influence into Iraq as well as next to Israel’s borders in Lebanon and in Gaza.

realist_ideologue

It is also useful to illustrate the similarities of the strategies, tactics and legacies of the two eight-year periods when right wing ideologues where in power in both Israel and the United States, as outlined in the table below.

Reagan_Bush_Syria

Another similarity: Three years into their term in office, the Secretary of State (George Shultz in 1983, and Colin Powell in 2003) was sent to Damascus with a serious and long list of American/Israeli demands. Both secretaries explained to their Syrian hosts that the American administration had enough talking and now wants results …. capitulation, in other words.

Hafez and Bashar Al-Assad explained that Syria does not accept dictation, and does not sacrifice its national rights no matter how much pressure Washington and Tel Aviv managed to apply.

For the next five years (1983-1988, 2003-2008) American secretary of States boycotted Damascus and communication lines between Damascus and Washington DC ceased to exist . Given the central role that both Syria and the United States play in the Middle East, the decision to boycott Syria had many negative consequences. It is important to realize that decisions to boycott Syria emerge as a result of not only ideological convictions, but also due to personal animosities held by ideologues in Washington towards Syria’s leaders who are not good in taking orders from ideologues who do not understand the Middle East too well.

“Shultz’s crankiness may have serious consequences: when he found Syrian President Hafez Assad personally intractable, Shultz refused to hold further talks with him.” TIME, 27 Feb 1984

“Assad was also nervously watching for any last-minute surprises by a departing George W. Bush, who hated the Syrian regime with a passion” Jerusalem Post 05 Feb 2010


Mr. Jeffrey D. Feltman, who as ambassador to Lebanon for the Bush administration used to wake up everyday thinking of how he can contribute to isolating Syria, recently concluded that isolating Syria does not work:

“consequently, the United States, not Syria, seems to be isolated.”


WHAT SYRIA REALLY WANTS (“SYRIA’S PRICE”) IS A DIFFERENT CLEAN BREAK

Prime Minister Netanyahu is surely aware that the original “Clean Break”  was a speech by Mahatma Gandhi in which he called for

“Complete and immediate orderly withdrawal of the British from India [which will] at once put the Allied cause on a completely moral basis”


Mahatma Gandhi’s original calls on occupiers to accept the futility of fighting to maintain control over lands occupied by force … a clean break with their occupied lands, a clean break with all the time, energy, and high hopes associated with their long battle to retain those territories forever.

Mr. Netanyahu’s version calls for using force to secure the realm, or to favorably shape the occupier’s environment by assembling more potent coalitions in order to discredit, weaken, destroy and break the will of all those who might resist the occupier’s wish to maintain control over his occupied lands forever.

Israel and its friends and allies in the United States need to make a clear and decisive choice. A choice between the two diametrically different versions of clean break.

If Mr. Netanyahu continues to believe in his own doctrine, then we can already predict a bleak future for the region.

If Israel’s leadership is ready for a lasting paradigm shift, if it is ready to abandon its quest to reshape Israel’s strategic environment by force, it might find Syria ready to articulate a vision for the Middle East where an Israel that is willing to act like an ordinary state, despite its many impressive achievements, can play one of the leading roles in the development of a new harmonious, prosperous and highly connected Middle East.

Former Israeli foreign minister Abba Eban said “History teaches us that men and nations behave wisely once they have exhausted all other alternatives”

One hopes that fifteen eventful years after late Prime Minister Rabin’s transformation into a genuine peace maker earned him the respect and trust of his enemies, Mr. Netanyahu is finally ready for a serious and constructive dialogue with his neighbors about a common vision for the future of the wider Middle East and not about the parts of their occupied lands that Israel refuses to give back.

Comments (155)


EHSANI2 said:

Alex,

This is a masterpiece. Your tenacity and ability to portray such a wealth of information on display and in this form is extraordinary.

I, for one, would only want you on my team.

February 9th, 2010, 11:09 pm

 

Qifa Nabki said:

Alex!

It’s your Sistine Chapel. 😉

Now I’ll have to find time to read it.

February 9th, 2010, 11:33 pm

 

Avi Salam said:

An amazing compilation of historical statistics and analysis by Alex, as usual! My only comment, being an optimist, is that just like the other countries in the Middle East have evolved different strategies after the era of the Bush-Cheney ideologues, Israel is also a dynamic arena, and that similar evolution of strategies will commence in Israel. I sincerely hope that the administration of President Obama will re-enact the success story of the Sadat-Begin peace treaty, but with Assad-Netanyahu this time.

February 9th, 2010, 11:48 pm

 

Akbar Palace said:

Dear Alex,

Before reading, I scrolled all the way down your beautiful article and, amazingly, I didn’t get carpal tunnel syndrome!

http://www.ninds.nih.gov/disorders/carpal_tunnel/detail_carpal_tunnel.htm#115103049

But, unfortunately, after reading your first sentence,

During the Cold War, the US and USSR used Syria as a pawn with scant regard to its legitimate rights.

and seeing all those picutures of Israelis and Americans, I somehow knew this article was going to be more about other people than Syrians.

In the meantime, I would definately put this is a nice colored booklet/brochure so that visitors to the Syrian Embassy have reading material before their important meetings.

Obama to push for “Significant Regime of Sanctions” against Iran

http://www.foxnews.com/politics/2010/02/09/white-house-disappointed-irans-response-overtures/

February 10th, 2010, 12:06 am

 

jad said:

Dear Alex,
Excellent work.
It’s an obvious huge effort both literally and visually.
I second QN it’s a Sistine Chapel indeed!! and it was a pleasant reading.

February 10th, 2010, 12:34 am

 

GadgetsJoe said:

Excellent Article. I wish an american publication would be bold enough to offer such analysis.

February 10th, 2010, 2:30 am

 

majedkhaldoun said:

Alex;
You have made good effort,congratulation.

February 10th, 2010, 3:13 am

 

jo6pac said:

GadgetsJoe said:
This very true but I’m sorry it won’t happen.

Alex, thanks for the great time line, this something I’ve watched for a long time I only wish more Amerikans would take the time to learn about others in the world. Sad but this only a few seconds in the time line of the region that the US and other nations before us have tried have control nations. Sad but nothing seems to have changed in my nation, change I can believe in. Sad

February 10th, 2010, 4:02 am

 

s. farah said:

A comprehensive review of Syria’s geopolitical contemporary history. Move over Patrick Seal, there is a new master in town!!

February 10th, 2010, 5:00 am

 

ADandachi said:

Excellent article, enough information in it to last the rest of the year.

February 10th, 2010, 5:02 am

 

Positive said:

Article lumineux, rigoureux et bien documenté. Devrait être enseigné dans les facultés de sciences politiques et lu par les stratèges de la politique du Moyen Orient aux États Unis et dans le monde.
Mérite un prix pour la profondeur et le souci des détails. Un vrai pas pour la compréhension des véritables enjeux et pour une solution pragmatique à ce conflit qui s’étend maintenant sur deux siècles et qui a volé la jeunesse de plusieurs générations au Moyen-Orient. Continuer de nous éclairer. Merci..

February 10th, 2010, 5:14 am

 

Anas Qtiesh said:

Dear Alex,

This was monumental. I literally held my breath as I read throw paragraph after paragraph. This will be treasured, and I’ll definitely find ways to put it to good use.

@Akbar Palace
Don’t they teach you how to spell at Troll School? I mean “definitely” being literate must count for something in your part of the world. Also, I’m not surprised by your animosity to reading anything longer than a tweet. May I suggest reading a book? It won’t give you carpal tunnel but you won’t be able to troll the author, publisher, and other readers as effectively.

@the rest of thy guys:
Sorry for feeding the trolls, some just beg for it.

February 10th, 2010, 5:22 am

 

Somar said:

Mr.Alex
It`s just excellent work…
thanks for your great efforts you made here…

good luck..

February 10th, 2010, 5:31 am

 

Off the Wall said:

Outstanding. May the lessons be learned.

February 10th, 2010, 5:39 am

 

Stephen said:

Excellent article on Syrian policy over 40 years. Very compelling argument. It should be published to a even larger audience.

February 10th, 2010, 6:15 am

 

uberVU - social comments said:

Social comments and analytics for this post…

This post was mentioned on Twitter by qifanabki: Monumental post on “The Case for Syria” by my friend Alex @ Syria Comment: http://joshualandis.com/blog/?p=5327

February 10th, 2010, 6:43 am

 

epppie said:

Very nice work!! Comprehensive and complex, and yet a very engaging read.

February 10th, 2010, 7:54 am

 

Yossi said:

Alex,

Very impressive work. Obviously very partisan too, but it makes a case about the neocons that is hard to dismiss. The bias in your essay is in what you chose to omit, those angles that are less flattering to Syria, and may have, to some degree, helped influence or justify the policy against it. But at any rate, the results are hard to dismiss: the neoocn desire to coerce the Arabs into submission is not letting the energy of frustration dissipate but rather makes it more focused. Also, whether this policy works or not (it doesn’t), it doesn’t let us be part of a world where all people have the dignity and respect their deserve. It makes me think that “neocon” actually better stands for “neo-colonialist” because what’s really behind it is deep contempt to non-European peoples.

About the conclusion, I’d say that if America gives Israel enough rope to hang itself with, then the latter will. That is plainly evident from the data you show. So the question is less about Israel and more about what pressure the “realist” in the White House will put on Bibi, and to what end? If Obama is a realist, then he must first and foremost serve Obama… what would he get out of this? It was discussed at length before, and Joshua has written about this, that Syria doesn’t have too many arrows in its quiver to somehow affect a radical policy change in Washington, towards Syria.

February 10th, 2010, 8:03 am

 

Shai said:

Alex,

Fantastic piece (I say this even as your enemy). It sets the record straight, as seen by the Syrian perspective, and that is crucial in trying to understand Syria. In order for me, your enemy, to be able to understand what motivates your actions and your thinking, I must first put myself in your shoes, and see myself, as you do. This helps both Israeli strategic-thinkers and, hopefully, also American ones.

I wanted to comment on a few points you raised:

1) Preemption: is a key principle in Israel’s Military Doctrine. It is required, by our rationale, for a number of reasons. First, because of our quantitative disadvantage. We must start war on “our terms”, by surprise, or with a series of favorable moves, so as to avoid a lengthy (and therefore costly) period of defensive-fighting. Second, because the way Israel is shaped geographically, we don’t really have any strategic depth. In practical terms, that means an enemy initiating war could penetrate deep into Israel fairly quickly, if unstopped. Therefore, if we do not preempt, a potential-confrontation could turn disastrous for Israel, if we’re caught by surprise. Third, because this is part of our “painful blows” principle, which says that since we can never win a war (in the classical sense), we must always inflict such a heavy and painful blow upon our rival, that he will think many times before considering attacking or even threatening Israel again. There’s no doubt that Lebanon 2006 and Gaza 2008/9 are clear testaments to this principle which, if we take out the inhumanity and criminality aspects, has been proven effective. For all intents and purposes, HA and Hamas are keeping pretty quiet since then.

2) Giving back the Sinai: was extremely painful and, in many ways, much more difficult to do than giving back the Golan. I’ll explain. Again, looking at this from a military-strategic point of view. As mentioned in the point above, Israel lacks strategic depth. The Sinai was Israel’s only exception ever. And this was the main reason why we held on to it as long as we could, and why many in Israel refused to give it back, even in return for Peace. Ehud Olmert was one such Israeli at the time. Quite a few generals have already stated that giving back the Golan will not endanger Israel any more, in the strategic sense, because a few kilometers either way won’t make a big difference, certainly not in today’s world of medium and long-range missiles. But giving back the Sinai meant surrendering over 200 kilometers of strategic depth. And in those days, when Egypt did not have “smart missiles” that could reach major cities in Israel, and wars did take place on the ground and in the air, this territory was crucial.

The Sinai also had oil… Not an easy resource for Israel to give up on either. So in general, I would say the Sinai should not be seen as something that was “easy” or even “easier” to give up on, when compared with any other territory, Golan, Gaza, or the West Bank.

3) Netanyahu: I don’t think one can properly demonstrate that Netanyahu is interested in ongoing war. His attempts to reach an agreement with Assad Sr. (via Ron Lauder in 1998), his handing over control of major Palestinian towns to Yasser Arafat, his support of the Oslo Accords, and his rhetoric today towards the Palestinians and Syria (which is very different than, say, towards Iran), can all be indicative of intentions other than war. Whether they’re peaceful, serious, or intended merely to waste time, will be determined hopefully at the negotiation table. Not by “expert analysts”, or other mind-readers.

February 10th, 2010, 8:31 am

 

bach said:

Wow, so much energy into this piece.

I must command you for the effort. I tend to agree overall, but when you start talking about Lebanon, like most Syrians, you lose it all. It becomes extremely biased and fails to make the case.

– Your sources (when they actually exist) are questionable (el nashra poll? come on)
– Your criteria for evaluating decision making / leadership is at best laughable. There are no hard choices there, sometimes (often?) Assad was the “pompier pyromane”.

Overall, I wish you were as objective with your perspective of Lebanon as you were with that of the other issues adressed.

The bits about your views on Lebanon remind me of a comment from an ex-colleague who took much care in presenting his findings in an extremely sexy way, with nice colors, perfect alignements. He told me “50% of the time you can pass off a load of crap as a brilliant piece of work, if that crap is placed in a nice colourfull box”.

February 10th, 2010, 9:53 am

 

Umm iDriss said:

Dear Mr. Alex,
Thank you for this brilliant analysis!

February 10th, 2010, 10:06 am

 

Amir in Tel Aviv said:

More like the Chinese Wall than the Sistine Chapel 🙂

Now Seriously. Unbalanced, one-sided partisan and even a bit childish.
So many words and lovely presentations, but nothing new ! .. Anyway, worth reading.

The problem, dear Alex, is that this kind of attitude didn’t bring you (Syrians)
any good for tens of years (Israel is the odious conspirator and evil;
Syria is the Pixie and the Mather Teressa ).

162 to 117 of the readers of your blog tell you: concentrate on Syria’s future. The economy, domestic politics, education, infrastructure !
.

February 10th, 2010, 10:18 am

 

Averroes said:

Alex,

Outstanding work! Sets the record straight for anyone who wants to look and understand, but they have to have the courage to make the paradigm shift.

Unfortunately, logic, justice, and fairness were never the overwhelming forces in world politics, especially when it came to Israel.

I think, that if reading an excellent work like this can make more Syrians see the big picture, and encourage them to put their confidence in Dr. Assad, then it would have accomplished a great task.

February 10th, 2010, 1:04 pm

 

Ghat Albird said:

I am downloading “The Case for Syria” for future re-reading/references.

Alex you have provided SC, its readers/commentators a studied tome.

With your permission I would like to refer to it whenever the occasion arises.

Many thanks for authoring it and Josh for making it a permanent part of SC.

NOW, IF ONLY SYRIANS RECEIVED $15/16 MILLION DOLLARS A DAY LIKE ISRAEL. FROM THE USA THEY COULD ALSO BOAST ABOUT THEIR HIGH STANDARD OF LIVING

February 10th, 2010, 1:33 pm

 

norman said:

Alex,
Great job ,
Does anybody knows how much it costs to have a full page in the New York time ,

February 10th, 2010, 1:53 pm

 

Observer said:

Amir in Tel Aviv,

I find it interesting that so many Israelis are concerned about our economy and our standard of living. Just to ease your mind, I assure you we are fine. In fact, we like to be a poor, third (amd fourth) world backwater. Thanks for your concern though!!!

February 10th, 2010, 2:12 pm

 

norman said:

Syria did well because Syria and President Assad have the principles of Arab Nationalism and the collective Arab and Mideastern common future ,

February 10th, 2010, 3:13 pm

 

jad said:

Dear Norman,
Great suggestion.
A full page political on NYT costs $167,157 weekdays edition and $187,443 Sunday edition.
I’m willing to chip in for Alex’s work to be published on a full page on the NY Times if we have enough people to cover the cost.
But I think NYT should pay him to publish his research.

February 10th, 2010, 3:23 pm

 

nafdik said:

Great job Alex,

You should transform this into a website that then becomes a book.

February 10th, 2010, 3:30 pm

 

Akbar Palace said:

It makes me think that “neocon” actually better stands for “neo-colonialist” because what’s really behind it is deep contempt to non-European peoples.

Yossi,

Where do you get this crap?

BTW – Is Obama a “neocon”?

Anas Qtiesh said:

May I suggest reading a book?

I read all the time and every day. I was sort of hoping Alex’s “The Case for Syria” would be about Syria. Of course, it wasn’t.

The article should be renamed, “The Case Against Israel and Western Imperialism”. Ahmadinejad would be proud. An article like this may influence a jewish leftist, but certainly not a mainstream pro-Israeli christian.

February 10th, 2010, 4:02 pm

 

EHSANI2 said:

Alex has single handedly accomplished what the country’s foreign ministry should/ could have done long ago. It is remarkable to witness what one private passionate individual person could do with a keyboard from his living room. Sadly, an entire foreign ministry has consistently failed to come even close.

February 10th, 2010, 4:14 pm

 

norman said:

Nafdik,
Having more websites is like having a house with more rooms , we like the house but we end up in different rooms , the only living room for Syria as i see it is Syria comment and everybody is welcomed , except for specialty websites like charity for Syria or other economic website , i think we should all continue to be here ,
Even charity websites for Syria could be started from here ,
what we need to do is make Syria comment more widely read , i am not sophisticated enough to know how to do that ,
Is there a way to Email articles from SC to other news organization
like having a button to Email an article ,

February 10th, 2010, 4:15 pm

 

norman said:

Ehsani,
I think the Syrian foreign ministry is doing as much as it can , we have to remember that Syria as a country does not have or allowed access to US Media,
Al Shara during his meeting with Barack during the Clinton administration tried to have access but his speech did not make it to the general media ,

private citizens Americans have better chance ,

jad ,
I did not know that it costs that much , they will probably put in an inside page so nobody will read it ,

February 10th, 2010, 4:28 pm

 

Off the Wall said:

Akbar
Yossi’s comment, for which you are obviously irritated is scary to you, isn’t it. It exposes your neocon puppet masters for what they are. Hiding behind democratization (translate to 18th century lingo: civilizing) they espouse nothing but contempt, hate, and greed. You have the right to be irritated by that comment and by the article, it scares you. More of this material will eventually get through. Are you concerned that an Arab can do a glossy, colorful publicity material, not unlike those produced by AIPAC?

Dear Shai
I think that the three pronged doctrine, born out of history may have been effective when resistance was the prerogative of governments with armies. Once that changed and resistance became a task carried out by popular movements (i.e., HA, and Hamas), the doctrine completely lost its effectiveness. Popular non-state actors have much more resilience and flexibility to absorb painful blows. You may argue that it was effective against the PLO, but the PLO was operating in diaspora, HA and Hamas operate on their land and in their environment. Israel’s preemptive encounters with both groups went really bad for Israel. Time to rethink doctrines based on violence.

I want to empathize, but on the Sinai issue, I can not empathize with the pain you said Israel suffered returning Egypt’s land to Egyptians. So what if Sinai had oil, in fact that argument works against Israel because it shows it as a “thief” at worst and as a hostage taker, with the hostage being other people’s land, at best. Any drop of oil taken out of Sinai during occupation was illegally taken under international law since occupiers have no rights what so-ever the the wealth and resources of occupied land.

However, Israel gained much more by giving back Sinai. As Alex aptly showed, taking out Egypt from the war equation, and more recently, converting Egypt’s corrupt government into a “guardian” of Israel’s interests in Gaza was far more beneficial than retaining the land. So in the end, the ransom was worth returning the hostage.

February 10th, 2010, 4:50 pm

 

Akbar Palace said:

Off The Wall Said:

Yossi’s comment, for which you are obviously irritated is scary to you, isn’t it.

No. Yossi’s comments are merely his warped views that most Israelis would find irrelevant.

It exposes your neocon puppet masters for what they are.

OTW,

I have no masters and I’m not stupid enough to believe anyone here isn’t posting what they believe to be true. Also, I’m still not sure what a neocon is. I’m waiting to find out if a neocon includes Barack Hussein Obama, Sharah Palin or anyone who has the “chutzpa” to send American troops to fight Islamic fundamentalism.

Hiding behind democratization (translate to 18th century lingo: civilizing) they espouse nothing but contempt, hate, and greed.

I “hide behind” self preservation, confronting terrorism, as well as freedom and democracy (which are all human rights). Nothing about this includes “hate” and “greed”.

You have the right to be irritated by that comment and by the article, it scares you.

Reading an anti-Israel and anti-western article that is supposed to be “The Case for Syria” does not scare me. I read such articles every day. If I had a nickel for every such article I’d be rich.

More of this material will eventually get through.

How do you know? It hasn’t gotten through yet. Do you have a time frame?

Are you concerned that an Arab can do a glossy, colorful publicity material, not unlike those produced by AIPAC?

The Arab media including Hamas, Hezbollah, the PA and every ME country has had the internet to espouse their views for the last couple of decades, and I’m not sure it has helped the Palestinians and the Arab despots like Assad very much.

How do you explain that? I explain it with the phrase “lipstick on a pig is still a pig”

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

February 10th, 2010, 5:24 pm

 

Yossi said:

Akbar,

I think you are mistaken, I believe most Israelis have a very cynical view of the US, they are aware of its imperialism, but they are happy that there is an alignment of interests between the governments. This is true especially for your settler buddies who view the US as the new Rome, a despised empire that you need to get along with and if you can abuse for your goals, so much better. But the moment that US and Israeli interests diverge, they come out of their holes and start talking about American imperialism.

February 10th, 2010, 5:36 pm

 

Ghat Albird said:

AKBAR PALACE said:

How do you explain that? I explain it with the phrase “lipstick on a pig is still a pig”.

A friend who says he is well versed in the Talmud tells me that reads a lot like the following passage from the Talmud.

Baba Mezia 24a . If a Jew finds an object lost by a gentile or heathen it does not have to be returned. (Affirmed also in Baba Kamma 113b).

February 10th, 2010, 5:45 pm

 

Alex said:

Thank you so much! … Starting with my Friends Ehsani and Qifa Nabki, and ending with Akbar Palace Amir for their smart humor (carpal tunnel syndrome, and Chinese wall:)

I wish I could properly thank each one of you, but my comment would be as long and boring as my original article! so I will just say:

Thank you Avi salam, Jad, Gadgetjoe, Majed, jo6pac, S. Farah (I love Patrick Seale though:), Adandachi, Pocitive, Anas Qteish, Somar, Stephen, Eppie, Shai, Umm Idriss, Averroes, Ghat Albird, Norman, and Nafdik (by the way, yes, there will be a site).

I definitely want to thank you all for caring enough to read 7500 words. And special thanks to OTW who spoke to me for three hours on the weekend and gave me a few good tips that helped me fine tune it. Then to the wonderful “enemy” Yossi who also helped me fix about 15 grammar mistakes, even though as he said “I might not agree with everything you wrote”. And finally, Ford Prefect (who is busy coping with another snow storm where he lives) for helping.

Next comment, I will try to answer points raised by Yossi, Shai, Amir, Bach, and Akbar.

February 10th, 2010, 6:10 pm

 

Ausama said:

Another marketing piece that can only be considered in favour the Syrian dictatorship regime. A lot of biased analysis and one-direction view that could be easily exposed and disputed.

Yes, it contains a lot of factual info, but it twists the reality to serve the purpose of promoting Assad and his fanatic maniacs in power.

A Syrian citizen living in Damascus.

February 10th, 2010, 6:36 pm

 

majedkhaldoun said:

Jad mentioned in comment # 28 that to post it in NYT will cost $157,167, why dont we get copies of it and posted in every library in our communities, with Alex permission first. it will cost nothing.

February 10th, 2010, 7:02 pm

 

Joshua said:

Alex, a tour de force.

You have brought together the arguments that you have been making for the last five years. A clear and compelling statement that Syria is not the destructive actor that its detractors would have us believe it is. Rather, it has sought to fit to the environment of the Middle East in a much less obtrusive manner than Israel or the US, which have used great force in an attempt to reshape a reality that they do not like and refuse to acknowledge.

One can pick at Syria’s short comings and the government’s faults – and there are many – but in its foreign policy, Syria has done less damage than it is accused of and largely has tried to put out the fires kindled by its neighbors.

February 10th, 2010, 7:06 pm

 

Chris said:

If Egypt hadn’t amassed 100,000 troops and 1,000 tanks at Israel’s border and Syria hadn’t elected to take pot-shots at Israel from the Golan Heights, perhaps Syria and the Arab nations wouldn’t be crying about the 1967 border for the past 43 years. They have only themselves to blame

February 10th, 2010, 7:06 pm

 

Shai said:

OTW,

I fully agree with what you wrote. When I said “painful” (about returning the Sinai), I was speaking of it merely as a strategic asset captured in war, and not as a legal or recognized part of the state of Israel. And of course you’re right about the oil issue. In fact, I use similar reasoning when referring to the West Bank – namely, that even if there wasn’t a single Palestinian soul living there, it still isn’t our territory, and should be returned to its rightful owners (let’s say it was Jordan).

There’s no doubt that Israel would never have returned the Sinai, unless it felt it had much more to gain than lose. Indeed having Egypt (our strongest rival at the time) taken out of the equation was, from our point of view, very much worth it.

As for the Military Doctrine, again you’re right, much of it is irrelevant to HA and Hamas. The IDF has undergone major changes since 2006, precisely because of that. But the “painful blows” principle must still have some deterrence value. I can’t imagine Hamas or HA keeping quiet for so long, merely because it serves their interests, and not because they fear Israel’s “mad dog” response. Forgive me for speaking of this in such dry terms. In practice, this “painful blows” principle has come at the expense of many innocent people’s lives.

February 10th, 2010, 7:41 pm

 

Alex said:

Amir:

This post is not about Syria’s economy. Ehsani wrote a few critical pieces the past month alone, I’m sure you noticed.

For sure, the same Mr. Netanyahu that I am assigning some of the blame for the millions of casualties in Iraq is the smart graduate of MIT who made the wise choices when it came to Israel’s economy. and the same Hafez Assad that I am crediting with having been an exceptional leader, did not pay much attention to the economy and focused instead on foreign policy.

But it helps when you have the US pumping 1.6 trillion dollars from 1973 to 2002 into Israel, while the same US put Syria on the list of states that support terror in 1979 and never removed Syria from that list to ensure that Syria can not get international loans and grants.

http://www.csmonitor.com/2002/1209/p16s01-wmgn.html

But in general, I hope you would not find in Israel’s economic success story justification for ignoring Israel’s grave strategic mistakes… if Israel goes to war against Iran (when the sanctions fail, and they will fail) you will not be talking about the economy, but you will be discussing the issues that today you are not willing to face.

Bach,

I agree that the part about Lebanon’s civil war is too simplistic. To cover it properly would have required 7500 words on its own. I’m sure the article was long enough as it stands.

As for the sources of information I used, I stand by all of them. Let me know which one is not reliable enough in your opinion. For example, you did not approve of “alnahsra poll”. I hope you realzie that alnashra was a site that listed the poll’s results in detail, the poll itself was conducted by a reliable organization called

الشركة الدولية للمعلومات

Google them. They are the company that Zoghbi International contracts to do any polls in Lebanon. They conduct this same poll each year. Last year Syria’s approval was at 47.5% for example. So they are not biased. They were established in 1995.

Here is their “the Monthly” publication
http://www.iimonthly.com/issues.asp?ID=219&State=1

My friend Shai,

1) Preemption is dangerous … What if my local police chief decided to preempt all the citizens who SEEM TO BE dangerous? … My city is also very small in size (smaller than Israel)

The way Israeli right wing politicians assume that whatever they decide to do is moral by default, makes THEM the last people I would trust to decide who to hit next.

Besides, my argument is that they have been excessively empowered by a number of special exceptions … such as the understanding the western world shows to Israel when it decides to rely on preemptive strikes, no matter how foolish they are.

Let us look at the “success” of preemptive strikes in Lebanon for example. If the goal was really to protect Israel, from Hezbollah in this case. Can you remind me of the damage Hezbollah inflicted on Israeli civilians or Israeli cities before the IDF supposedly succeeded in putting a stop to hezbollah’s savage attacks innocent israelis?

How many Israelis died from 2002 to 2006 (four years) and let us assume that this is the number of lives that Israel’s IDF managed to save by hitting Lebanon in 2006 (for the same four years 2006 to 2010 where HA could not kill Israeli civilians at the same rate as 2002-2006)

Then let us compare the number to the number of Israelis who died because of and during the Lebanon invasion … 43 Israeli civilians died … 33 seriously wounded, and 68 moderately wounded. 2773 treated for anxiety. (Wikipedia)

Did Israel save Israeli civilains’ lives by its preemptive invasion of Lebanon?

No .. Israel simply killed over a thousand Lebanese and made the rest of the Lebanese people more sure that they hate Israel…. that is why I stated specifically in that poll that Israel was liked by only 1% of the people of Lebanon…. this will one day lead to more Israelis dead … the 2006 preemptive war generated anger and this anger will somehow lead in the future to violence against Israel.

2) the Sinai: my point was not to trivialize the return of Sinai to Egypt, that was a serious and wise concession to Egypt which, by the way, was not going to take place if President Carter did not make it clear to Menachem Begin that he will not accept Camp David to be a failure.

My point was to simply explain that Israel decided that it does not want to give back all the Arab occupied territories, Menachem Begin barely accepted to give back Egypt’s Sinai and said to the Syrians in effect .. go to hell, without the Egyptians you can not launch another October 73 war … so I am annexing your Golan (which he did in 1981) and I don’t care if you want to sign a peace treaty with us or not … I only want to make sure you are too weak to launch wars.

3) It is clear that Mr. Netanyahu is not trying to demonize Syria anymore. I did not claim that he is as foolish as his foreign minister. Burt he certainly did his share of ridiculing and demonizing Syria between 2003 and 2007 and his statement in 2004 when he could taste victory, … that he changed his mind and does not want to give Syria back the Golan heights … simply because the US destroyed Iraq, makes Mr. Netanyahu not a trustworthy man.

I would like you to consider the implications … 1996 .. two years before 1998 when Mr. Netanyahu was talking to Assad Sr. via Ron Lauder, he was promoting his clean break strategy which said

“Israel can shape its strategic environment, in cooperation with Turkey and Jordan, by weakening, containing, and even rolling back Syria. This effort can focus on removing Saddam Hussein from power in Iraq ― an important Israeli strategic objective in its own right ― as a means of foiling Syria’s regional ambitions.”

So, I am not saying he wants to destroy Syria … he wants to weaken Syria so that he does not have to give back the Golan Height … definitely not the whole thing. And this is as good as going to war … Syria will not compromise a thing when it come to the return of the Golan Heights, because international law says so.

My problem with Mr. Netanyahu is that he is too confident in Israel’s ability to manage somehow … to manage anything. He has big plans and these plans are very destructive to the area.

But I also know that he is a very intelligent man. I sincerely hope he is able to make 180 degree turns when the road ahead is clearly blocked.

There is so much that Israel can gain by giving back the territories to its owners … the Middle East has incredible potential and Israel needs to undo its fortress and start living in the Middle East like strong, but a normal, state.

Yossi,

My article was indeed one sided. This was “the Case for Syria”. but the poll results were not part of my “one sided” opinion .. the stupid and foolish quotes of the different members of the anti-Syria coalitions were not part of my one sided opinion … I only collected them.

And the intention is not to match the one-sided communication style of the right wing analysts, they wanted to weaken Syria. My intention is not to weaken Israel, but to invite Israel to lose the Golan and gain much more in return:

If Israel’s leadership is ready for a lasting paradigm shift, if it is ready to abandon its quest to reshape Israel’s strategic environment by force, it might find Syria ready to articulate a vision for the Middle East where an Israel that is willing to act like an ordinary state, despite its many impressive achievements, can play one of the leading roles in the development of a new harmonious, prosperous and highly connected Middle East.

February 10th, 2010, 7:42 pm

 

Ghat Albird said:

AKBAR PALACE said:

I “hide behind” self preservation, confronting terrorism, as well as freedom and democracy (which are all human rights). Nothing about this includes “hate” and “greed”.

” Mayor of jerusalem proposes razing the homes of 200 Palestinians”

http://www.counterpunch.org/cook02092010.html

February 10th, 2010, 7:46 pm

 

jad said:

AUSAMA or whatever your name is:
I have no idea why you wrote your shortsighted comment and where did you even read anything in this masterpiece that is marketing the dictatorship regime or being biased in favor of it and not in favor of Syria as a country.
Almost everything written in Alex’s or Mr. Camille Alexander Otrakji since he should get the full credit of his real self is historical facts that weren’t twisted in any way.

I’m furious, angry and disappointed about the couple unreasonable comments by some of you who didn’t even read the whole post and who doesn’t even have the courage to write any prove to your points yet you write the most unproductive comments and leave.

If you think that this post is wrong, bias or in support of the dictatorship point that out and prove your case, otherwise, it might be wiser to shut it and let the real debate continue without the cheap destruction you are making.

FYI, Ausama and anybody else new or old on this site, not one of us here is in favor or supporter of the human right abuses by the system, the corruption in the society, the slow development, the bad government derisions, the unhealthy security involvement in every aspect of the Syrian lives or the religious clergy dictating our lifestyles and pulling us centuries back into the darkness, yet we are all still Syrians, we love our country, we want the best future for our people and we are trying to point out the wrong doing every time we could but at the same time we have a stolen land, an occupied land, and we have the right and the duty to have it back by showing our case to the world and if you or any other person doesn’t see that in this particular great work of Mr. Ortakji you are a blind selfish Syrian.

February 10th, 2010, 8:11 pm

 

Shai said:

Alex,

Thank you for responding in such detail. I recognize it is very difficult for the Arab side to hear me trying to “rationalize” (in strategic-military, or any other way) the severe-blows principle Israel applies in wars, limited-confrontation, operations, etc. But as I wrote to OTW, our own strategic thinking had to change following Lebanon 2006. This is precisely why generals point to the Golan today and say it’s not a strategic must. Before the era of Nasrallah’s “beyond-Haifa”, they could have argued it was. No longer.

As for Netanyahu, please remember that he is first and foremost a politician. That his statements are intended first for his own political survival, for rallying his supporters, for embarrassing his opponents, and so on. In that 5 year period you mentioned, Netanyahu was powerless. He was leading a tiny party called the Likud, with barely 10% of the seats in Knesset. He was irrelevant, because Sharon, Olmert, and Livni were running the show. But he wasn’t going to make their life easy. He was going to hit them hard on the unilateral withdrawal from Gaza, on considering giving land in the West Bank, on thinking of peace with Syria (which in any case the Bush administration discouraged). I doubt he was as motivated in truly countering Syria or the Palestinians, as he was in laying the groundwork for his eventual return to the PM’ship. And successful at that he was – from 12 seats, to 27!

Of all the current leaders in Israel, he is still the only one that has even a remote chance to deliver the 1967 borders. He is also as you mentioned an intelligent and fairly pragmatic politician. He can switch around. He proved it with the Palestinians (Arafat), and even with Syria. Now it’s time to go all the way.

Alright, enough of my Israeli brobaganda for one day…

February 10th, 2010, 8:22 pm

 

norman said:

Alex,
I did not see anything one sided about this article , It is just the truth which never read in the US or in Israel.and that is why it sounds one sided ,

February 10th, 2010, 8:23 pm

 

idaf said:

Alex,

Finally, we’ve been anticipating this masterpiece for a while. Ehsani’s comment#31 beat me to the same conclusion.

I’m sure many global think tanks will reference/cite your meticulous analysis.

On a personal level, you have here the core of an impressive PhD thesis. Joshua, any ideas? 🙂

February 10th, 2010, 8:48 pm

 

Alex said:

Thanks jad : )

And thanks Joshua and IDAF Beik!

Ph.D.? .. hmmm … like .. I will become Dr. Alex?! : )

Chris,

This article started with a quote by Israel’s defense minister admitting that Syria’s “pot-shots” were nothing serious, and that Israel was trying intentionally to provoke the Syrians in most cases … because some in Israel (not all) decided they want to own Syria’s Golan Heights.

Capturing the Golan was a decision finalized at the last moment, if you read books written by Israeli generals about the subject. Dayan was against it, Rabin was no interested either.

Bach earlier suggested that my use of professional looking colorful graphics was perhaps a way of pesenting lies in convincing packages. In fact, I used colorful graphics to highlight some of the more important quotes and figures that I was hoping that hopelessly blind ideologues like Chris would not be able to continue to avoid reading. But it seems nothing works with them.

Shai,

The door is not closed… but the old Benjamin Netanyahu the politician who can flip and reverse his opinions and understandings with a country he wants to make peace with is not the man who can take the region to where it should go.

Imagine if Bashar Assad, after he convinced you that he is willing to recognize Israel’s right to exist, flipped when he felt that Ahmadinejad is going to do a “clean Break” style war against Israel … then imagine Ahmadinejad failed to reach his objective then a year later Bashar tried again tto tell the Israeli people that he willing again to recognize Israel’s right to exist.

Will you give him the Golan Heights? … I doubt it. You will hear everyone in Israel reminding him of how two years ago he supported Ahmadinejad’s war that was aiming to destroy Israel.

One last thing .. even with 12 seats, Mr. Netanyahu is never insignificant. Just like Mr. Peres is not insignificant despite his largely ceremonial office. Both of them have international ties … individuals and organizations that are quite influential.

When Likud only had 12 seats, AIPAC was still very influential in Washington.

February 10th, 2010, 9:30 pm

 

Amir in Tel Aviv said:

Dearest Alex,

I’m fully aware of the discussion about the economic situation in Syria,
by Ehsani and the rest. It’s positive indeed, and I’m exited every time
this issue is raised here on SC.

Unlike OBSERVER who enjoys being poor (or just likes to be disputatious), I strongly believe that poverty is dangerous. And that a poverty of a nation, is a matter of national security. A Poor Syria is more dangerous (to us and to herself) than a wealthy Syria.

If I “read” you correctly, then what I understand from your point of view is that: Israel’s situation in the region and globally is deteriorating, and so Israel should hurry and make peace, before the train of (Israel’s) good luck leaves the station.

I don’t share your pessimistic view. The Arabs didn’t have their wars of independence (from Juntas) yet, and didn’t have their civil wars, yet. Arabs will have those wars sooner than later, and long before Israel will wage a war on Iran. After those wars (independence plus civil), our Middle East will look different. Lets wait until after those wars, and make peace between the peoples. Or not, If the Islamists win.
Any way, it will be irresponsible to do anything, before we know if the Islamists won or lost.

About the US financial assistance. It is a matter of choice. Syria could have enjoyed assistance, or at least, lifting of US sanctions if she wanted to. But it is the choice of the Syrian leadership to stick to it’s policies, and therefor not enjoying the benefits of joining the “west”.
.

February 10th, 2010, 9:32 pm

 

offended said:

I can only salute Alex for this monumental effort and the great recap of history. As Ehsani said, Alex single-handedly volunteered and managed to do what dozens of salaried officials should have done long long time ago, and he’d done it superbly.

I’d happily contribute to taking up a full page in the NY-Times. (although like my friend Jad, i think Alex should be paid handsomely for his efforts)

Syrian President Hafez Assad was firm in his belief that only a comprehensive solution that is based on UN resolutions 242 and 338 will work. He made it clear that he would offer Israel peace and recognition in exchange for withdrawal from all the Arab territories that Israel conquered and continued to occupy since the 1967 war.

And his beliefs remain true four decades later.

February 10th, 2010, 9:37 pm

 

Ford Prefect said:

We are lucky to have Alex who, single-handedly, has researched, analyzed, and put together such a great chronology of Syria’s case that comes from a genuine Syrian patriot.

Is Alex biased for Syria? Sure. Is this bad? Not at all. Has Alex twisted the facts? Hardly. Alex’s bias is coming from his devotion to propel Syria forward and his unwavering conviction that Syria, after all, is a state inhabited by peaceful and well-intentioned people.

It is time someone began to dispel the hysteria and the bad press that was cast upon Syria by many of its enemies. As my dear friend Shai keeps reminding us, Israelis today know very little about Syrians – and what they know is mainly negative and mostly untrue. (Hi Shai – sorry I was gone for a while – you know my job.) Alex has taken a bold step towards articulating the case for Syria – all of Syria.

Many, upon reading Alex’s brilliant piece above, will immediately jump to over-analyzing Alex’s intentions: is he a regime sympathizer? Is he a paid agent? Is his family in power? Is he related to the high-ranking officials? Is he trying to send a message to someone back in Syria?

My advice is to ignore the urge to over-analyze Alex the person and instead focus on using the above facts above to put things in perspective. Syria today – government and people – is ready and has been ready to take bold steps towards peace. But “bold” does not mean stupid, as Syria will never surrender its soul in exchange for peace.

Bravo Alex for an incredible job – I am proud to have known you in person and in print.

February 10th, 2010, 11:58 pm

 

norman said:

F P ,

That was poetic and so true,

February 11th, 2010, 2:58 am

 

steve said:

you might want to read this for an alternative perspective on Syria and her development from a native son

May the blogger live in peace….but since he has not been heard from in a couple of years we doubt it.

http://syriaexposed.blogspot.com/

February 11th, 2010, 3:31 am

 

Shai said:

Dear Ford Prefect,

We are all busy nowadays (and some under snowstorms), but thank god Alex and Joshua are still nurturing this ongoing masterpiece, through thick and thin.

I wanted to address the point you brought up – that of bias – which some might read in Alex’s amazing study. While many may regularly seek and find comfort in “objective reporting” or neutral-sounding authors and analysts, “bias” merely means the subjective representation and interpretation of facts, as viewed by a particular side. I think this “bias” is crucial, because UNLIKE so-called “unbiased reporting”, this is the only way for us to understand the other side.

If we only heard things that we were comfortable hearing, criticism that wouldn’t challenge our own perceptions and misperceptions too much, how could we develop empathy? How could we finally understand others as they see themselves and, even more importantly, ourselves, as seen through the eyes of the other side?

One can engage in labeling, calling things “biased”, “unfair”, even “brobaganda”, and in so doing, free himself of the laborious task of listening, of thinking, and of self-introspection. But those who truly see themselves as restless explorers seeking not the truth, but understanding and empathy, will find the courage and patience required in their quest.

I find Alex’s study, just like all of his writing and contributions, extremely important and beneficial, not only to Syrians, but indeed to us Israelis. Americans and Europeans who wish to truly understand the regional perspectives, must find reference in this work.

February 11th, 2010, 7:03 am

 

Majhool said:

Great Presentation Alex, It is Newsweek-like… However, i have few remarks

Not sure if i would reduce 20,000 syrian dead in Hama to a check mark against “islamic extremeism” it sounds too Fox-news-like.

Also, don’t you think that its far more important to sell “Syria’s case” to syrians first? I mean, the era you outlined was the shitist era ever for syrians.

Again, nice work

February 11th, 2010, 8:09 am

 

qunfuz said:

Interesting reading, Alex. Just a few quibbles. Do you really think that those Americans and Zionists who talk about democracy promotion actually mean it? Hamas was democratically elected. Turkey is the most democratic country in the region, followed by Iran. Democracy in Egypt would make the environment much, much more challenging for Israel.

Then I do wish we would stop repeating the nonsensical line ‘moderate Arab countries’ – that’s even worse than the absurd ‘moderate Arab regimes’. (I note with pleasure that at one point you put the expression inside commas).

Do you really think Rabin, the breaker of children’s bones, became a ‘genuine peace maker’? Perhaps, to a limited extent, with regards to Syria. The Oslo agreements, however, were a disaster for the Palestinian liberation project, and they were intended to be.

With regards to the US congress and media (and therefore people), why do you think the apartheid state is so popular? This requires analysis. It requires talking about the lobby (Mearsheimer and Walt), Christian Zionism, etc. Support for Israel (and therefore Egypt, etc) is certainly not good for America economically or geostrategically.

On Lebanon, I can’t agree with your analysis of how the war started – this was not the first civil war in Lebanon, a country racked by sectarianism, in which different groups have often allied with foreign powers in order to have leverage over their opponents – blaming the Palestinians is far too easy. Nor do I agree with this: “the PLO had to be confronted. Their fighters were behaving in a dangerous manner that was quite similar to the way they behaved in Jordan in 1969. Again, Syria felt that they could eventually do the same inside Syria.” But Syria, including al-Asad (although he had reservations on Jadid’s wildly enthusiastic support for the PLO in Jordan, and didn’t like Arafat), supported the PLO in Jordan in 1969. Syria felt (rightly, in my opinion) that the Jordanian regime was a treacherous creation of Britain which needed a strong Israel in order to survive, and so Asad shed no tears over its destabilisation. Asad may have worried that he didn’t want such disruption in Lebanon, in his own neighbourhood, true. But there was no chance whatsoever that Palestinians would do the same in Syria, where they had a smaller presence, and where the state was stronger.

Of course, I pick the quibbles to talk about, and remain quiet on the great work you’ve done. Except to say, well done!

February 11th, 2010, 2:07 pm

 

Akbar Palace said:

Qunfuz said to Alex:

Do you really think that those Americans and Zionists who talk about democracy promotion actually mean it?

Qunfuz,

Is there any reason you don’t ask “those Americans and Zionists” directly?

February 11th, 2010, 2:29 pm

 

norman said:

There will be no peace as long as Israel does not have to ,

http://news.yahoo.com/s/afp/20100211/wl_mideast_afp/mideastsyriaisrael

February 11th, 2010, 4:22 pm

 

Innocent_Criminal said:

my god man, why didn’t you add 2 more paragraphs and made a book out of it. excellent dedication, i can’t think of a single post on any blog i have read that required that much research, passion and work to create. And while i think you’ve been too kind to the Syrians on economic and human rights issues, i support your main argument

February 11th, 2010, 7:30 pm

 

Zman said:

Very good work and effort.

Also good feedback.

In honor of this article:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UyeW4bXDWRc

Not to change the subject, but the newest trend on US campuses is great:
http://blogs.aljazeera.net/americas/2010/02/11/israeli-diplomats-hazed-campus

article below:
By Clayton Swisher in AmericasMiddle East on February 11th, 2010
.Share Pro-Palestinian university students appear to be growing more vocal and organized with their frustrations. And it’s a phenomena that seems to have caught the Israelis off guard.

The Israelis have a lot of experience dealing with asymmetrical warfare. But they’re not exactly used to its latest manifestation, which could be coming to a college campus near you.

Committed activists let their frustrations be heard on Monday in two separate lectures delivered by senior Israeli diplomats.

While the videos go viral among students, its watching the tactics used at these events that must be leaving Israel unnerved.

Consider the way in which a mockery was made of Israel’s Ambassador to the U.S. Michael Oren, who presented at the University of California at Irvine.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OcaryZbL3gE&feature=player_embedded

The New York-born former academic had nary a minute to get into his talking points when he himself was taken to school by angry students, at least one of whom shouted “propagating murder is not an expression of free speech!”

The heckling made it impossible for Oren to carry on, and persisted in spite of pleas and threats by audience members and promises of arrest by the rattled college rector.

Most of the Oren’s detractors made reference to Israel’s actions during the 2009 Gaza War.

Israel is under heavy strain by UN officials and international rights organizations to be held accountable for crimes of war during the 17-day Israeli assault on Gaza. Some from academia have defended Israel from the charges, including Harvard’s Alan Dershowitz, who went so far as to attack UN Investigator Richard Goldstone with a provocative Hebrew word that translates as “traitor to the Jewish people”.

Off guard?

But by in large, what is making me take notice is how pro-Palestinian students seem to be growing more vocal and organized with their frustrations.

It’s a phenomena that seems to have caught the Israelis off guard. When Oren’s appeal for Middle East-like hospitality failed, Oren jousted: “This is not London or Tehran!”

He must have been clairvoyant. Across the Pond at Oxford Union on that same day, it was not exactly going swimmingly for Deputy Foreign Minister Dann Ayalon, trying also to lay down a rote defense of Israel.

Students there also used timed interruptions, and apparently racist invectives, to upset their Israeli guest.

Unlike Saudi Arabia’s Prince Turki, these students were more interested in shaking fists at Ayalon than afterwards shaking hands.

The implications of this week’s Israeli diplo-heckling are uncertain. Aside from threatened legal action by Ayalon, stiffer heckling penalties will likely be imposed, but can only go so far. These guys are professional and, in Ayalon’s case, should know from experience how to handle themselves.

Much as some might hope, campus gumshoes are unlikely to bar students from attending based on their affiliations, religion, or appearance, lest they abandon the pluralistic values which underpin most institutions and set themselves up for lawsuits.

Instead organizers will have to find other ways to keep this youthful equalizer at bay, which will probably mean skipping universities with large pro-Palestinian activist bodies. And that seems to be a widening community.

NOTE: Middle East passions also reached my Alma Mater last month where the same exact tactics were used to frustrate a presentation by U.S. CENTCOM Commander General David Petraeus.

Last October, Ehud Olmert, the former Israeli prime minister, also faced a tough crowd despite steps taken by the university.

February 11th, 2010, 8:52 pm

 

ATASSI said:

Excellent article with facts put together with great efforts and made as a remedy to cure some awkward minds …

February 11th, 2010, 9:02 pm

 

jad said:

I apologize to distract the dialog but this is important yet scary piece of news. It shows how conservative the Syrian Government and huge portion of our society become in regrade of understanding and promoting secularism, how sad:

الغاء مؤتمر للعلمانية بعد اعتذار جامعة دمشق عن استضافته بحجة العطل الفني!
كلنا شركاء
11/ 02/ 2010

أعلن منظمو مؤتمر العلمانية في المشرق العربي (2) إلغائه قبل يومين من موعده المحدد، بعد أن اعتذرت رئاسة جامعة دمشق من استضافته، وبعد أن رفضت وزارة الثقافة كافة اقتراحات المنظمين لأمكنة بديلة كانت متاحة في ذات التاريخ.
وقال بيان وزعته دار أطلس، إحدى الجهات المنظمة للمؤتمر، أن رئاسة الجامعة اعتذرت قبل أربعة أيام تماماً من موعد المؤتمر “بسبب عطل تقني بأجهزة الصوت، بعد أن كانت قد وافقت على استضافته بكتاب خطي”.
وكان المؤتمر الذي تحمل دورته الثانية عنوان “الدولة العلمانية ومسألة الدين” من المفترض أن ينعقد بتاريخ 12 – 13 شباط 2010 في جامعة دمشق – مركز رضا سعيد للمؤتمرات – القاعة الرئيسية.

وتنظم دارا نشر سوريتان هما “بترا” و”أطلس” النسخة الجديدة من المؤتمر الذي عقد للمرة الأولى أواسط العام 2007 وفي تصريح سابق لـ”كلنا شركاء” قال مدير دار بترا، لؤي حسين إنه يهدف من خلال هذا المؤتمر إلى طرح سؤال حول “قلق بعضهم، وخاصة العلمانيين، من سيطرة النخب الإسلامية على السلطات خشية انقلابها على قيم العدالة والمساواة وتحولها إلى قوى دينية وإيقاع الجور بحق الأقليات والعلمانيين. لكن التجربة التركية الراهنة كان مؤداها غير ذلك: فهل هذا القلق غير صائب، أم النخب الإسلامية التركية تختلف عن مثيلاتها العربية، أم أن الثقافة العلمانية تجذرت في أعماق المجتمع التركي، رغم أنه يدين بالإسلام؟”.

ويشكك اعتذار الجامعة المتأخر، ورفض وزارة الثقافة على الأمكنة البديلة، بكون السبب “عطل فني” حقاً في قاعة تعتبر الأحدث والأفخم في جامعة دمشق. بل ويرفع التوقعات بوجود رغبة مبيتة لدى البعض لعدم انعقاد مثل هذا المؤتمر.
http://all4syria.info/content/view/21351/113/

العلمانية التركية في مؤتمر سوري… هل نخشى سيطرة الاسلاميين على السلطة؟
خاص – كلنا شركاء
08/ 02/ 2010
http://all4syria.info/content/view/21219/113/

سورية تتجه أصوليا
لمحة عن توجه المجتمع السوري نحو الأصولية والابتعاد عن الاعتدال
وائل السواح – الأوان
08/ 02/ 2010

“على أن أخطر ما في الأمر هو أن تلعب الحكومة دورا مساعدا في التوجه الأصولي في البلاد. وسأركز ههنا على دور وزارة الثقافة في سورية التي سحبت في العام الماضي كتابا من إصداراتها، لينضم كتاب “سورية في رحلات روسية خلال القرن التاسع عشر” إلى قوائم الكتب الممنوعة التي تزدادا طردا مع ازدياد التوجه الأصولي في البلاد والمنطقة، في سابقة خطيرة ستفتح الباب واسعا أمام حركة جارفة من مصادرة الكتب المطبوعة ومنع الكتب الجديدة من النشر في سورية أو من التوزيع فيها.

ولا يتردد السيد وزير الثقافة في سورية في تأكيد أن مهمة وزارته الآن هي الدفاع عن العروبة والإسلام. يقول السيد الوزير في حوار أجرته معه صحيفة “بلدنا” الدمشقية الخاصة: “بعد 11 سبتمبر اكتشفت الأمة الإسلامية كلها دفعة واحدة أنها متهمة دون أية أدلة، وظهرت معاداة الإسلام وصارت المشكلة عالمية. وسورية معنية تاريخياً بالدفاع عن المسيحية والإسلام معاً، لأن المسيحية انتشرت من دمشق، ودمشق هي التي شهدت ظهور أول دولة عربية إسلامية بعد الخلافة الراشدة (…) وهكذا باتت سورية مسؤولة عن دعامتين كبيرتين هما: العروبة والإسلام.” ويضيف، “عندما ندافع عن الإسلام، فنحن ندافع عن مفهوم عام لحضارة سميت عبر التاريخ الحضارة الإسلامية، وهي نتاج ما قدمته شعوب وأمم وأقوام وأديان. فأنت في الإسلام أمام تفاعلية مدهشة: الأديان كلها سلسلة مع الإسلام، بمعنى أن اليهودية المؤمنة والمسيحية المؤمنة والإسلامية المؤمنة كلها دين واحد (التوحيد)، وهذا الفهم المترسخ في مجتمعنا يقدم لك ما تراه من العيش المشترك، ونحن بوعينا في الدفاع عن العروبة والإسلام نجسد رسالة فكرية للأمة. وقرارنا في نشر الكتب ينسجم مع هذه الرسالة، فإن جاء كتاب ضدها . لا ننشره باسمنا وإن نشر، فإننا نحاور صاحبه لكننا لا نسجنه.” (2)

لا يتردد وزير الثقافة في الإقرار بأنه لا ينشر الكتب التي لا تدافع عن الإسلام ورؤيته هو للعيش المشترك. وهو بذلك إنما يحوِّل وزارته عن مسارها التاريخي الذي اتسمت به منذ تأسيسها، وهو مسار عقلاني تنويري نقدي. وهو يحول الوزارة من مهمة التنوير إلى مهمة الدفاع عن الإسلام. وأنا أدعي ههنا أن مهمة الدفاع عن الإسلام هي مهمة الأئمة ورجال الدين والدعاة، ولدينا منهم في العالم العربي ما يفيض عن حاجتنا، فما الذي يجعل وزير الثقافة إذن يضيف نفسه ووزارته وكادرها إلى هذه المهمة؟ إن هذه الرؤية هي التي تؤدي – فيما تؤدي إليه – إلى أن الوزارة التي نشرت أعمال تولستوي ودوستوييفسكي وبلزاك وهايدغر ورفاعة الطهطاوي ومحمد كامل الخطيب صارت تنشر كتبا مهمتها الدفاع عن الأديان.

أضف إلى ذلك أن الوزير يتبرع بالحديث باسم الأديان الأخرى. وهو ببساطة يرى أن اليهودية المؤمنة والمسيحية المؤمنة والإسلامية المؤمنة كلها دين واحد. هذه رؤية إسلامية للأديان الثلاثة، ولكن ماذا عن رؤية الدينين الآخرين الذين لا يتفقان بالضرورة مع هذه الرؤية؟ وماذا عن أتباع الديانات الهامشية الأخرى المتواجدين منذ آلاف السنين في سورية؟ وماذا عن اللادينيين الذين لا يريدون إدراج أنفسهم في أي من الخانات المذكورة أعلاه؟ أليس من واجب وزارة الثقافة الدفاع عنهم جميعا؟”

http://all4syria.info/content/view/21244/104/

February 11th, 2010, 9:03 pm

 

qunfuz said:

http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b00qtp9x

brilliant bbc programme on schools in damascus

February 11th, 2010, 9:41 pm

 

Abu Omar said:

Hi Alex

This is an amazing piece of analysis

Thank You Alex.

February 11th, 2010, 10:57 pm

 

norman said:

Qunfuz,

We can not open it in the US ,any advice ,?

February 11th, 2010, 11:25 pm

 

qunfuz said:

Hmmm, Norman. I remember now that the bbc doesnt allow iplayer access outside the uk – to all you foreign non-licence payers. perhaps you have a friend who knows how to fiddle it very illegally?

in the meantime, here’s me on extreme nationalism and other middle eastern myths : http://qunfuz.com/2010/02/11/myth-making-2/

February 12th, 2010, 12:32 am

 

Amir in Tel Aviv said:

QUNFUZ,

“…Hamas was democratically elected”…(me adding: but the vote of the Palestinians wasn’t respected. Right? This what you meant?)

So lets refute the “Palestinian democratic vote not respected” thing, once and for all.

In 2000, Mr. Jörg Haider, the head of the Austrian Freedom Party, and the People’s Party formed a coalition government. Haider was believed to be a Neo-Nazi.
In response, Israeli FM called the Israeli ambassador, and lowered the status of the relationship with Austria to ‘office of interests’ (or something similar in the diplomatic jargon).

Does that mean that Israel didn’t respect the vote of the Austrian people?? No.
The Austrians went to the polls, and should have expected harsh reaction, because they voted for a Neo-Nazi.

The Palestinians, when they went to the first democratic elections (and democratic the elections were indeed), didn’t have much experience with such. Some say it was a kind of protest voting against the PLO or the Sulta. But for sure, it was emotional voting instead of practical. Does Israel have to respect a party that calls for it’s destruction ?? I don’t think so.

The Next time the Palestinians go to vote, I’m more than sure, that they will vote after a long and thorough considerations. And then we can respect them and their voting.
.

February 12th, 2010, 1:40 am

 

norman said:

Qunfuz,

That was an interesting writing ,

Most people who speak of their ancestors and their achievement have nothing to show for their own ,

February 12th, 2010, 2:18 am

 

meee said:

Amir in Tel Aviv said: “The Next time the Palestinians go to vote, I’m more than sure, that they will vote after a long and thorough considerations. ”

You should’ve finished the sentence, but we know what you mean. If Israel does not like their vote, Israel will starve them. I love Soviet style democracy (LOL)

February 12th, 2010, 3:37 am

 

Ford Prefect said:

Dear Shai,
Indeed – we spoke my mind again and thank you for underscoring a very important point – a point being each side must hear the other with its interpretation of the “facts”.

Facts are the enemy of the truth. Israelis and Syrian must hear one another directly – no need for a third party to get in between. I happen to be a strong believer in your approach.

What Alex did was to honestly represent the Syrians as they see themselves – people who have an inalienable rights and aspiration. No Syrian is fool enough to say that they have never made a mistake – but any objective reviewers of the modern Syrian history will find that we are not the evil we are painted to be. Additionally, when it comes to the nation-state Syria, it is very important for the Israelis to know that Syrians cannot be different from their government at the time their national identity or pride is threatened.

Dear Norman, I am still planning one day to come up the Turnpike to say hello! I am dying to have a drink with you.

February 12th, 2010, 3:59 am

 

norman said:

F P,

Promises , promises !,

I can’t believe how good Alex is , don’t you , I don’t know how to show my gratitude to all what he does ,

February 12th, 2010, 4:39 am

 

Alex said:

Lek yeslamouli Offended and Ford Prefect! : )

Thanks to all of you again. And especially to Dektore Norman and to my friend Atassi .. nice to see you here again.

Shai, FP

I’ll be honest about what this piece was supposed to sound like: I was planning to introduce it this way:

“since Mr. Netanyahu was able to understand Hafez Al-Assad best, then this post will follow the same communication style of the late Syrian President … imagine you are a new American secretary of State visiting him in Damascus for the first time. You will spend few hours there and you will have to go through a history lesson before you hear his analysis”

“Steve”,

You sound very worried about Karfan”. He probably ran out of creative fuel. He was brilliant …. Not many people can keep writing humor for years.

As for his story on how the Golan was lost and how “king Lion I” was to blame, … he is missing the part about the Russians and Egyptians who were supposed to be doing the real fighting and defending of Syria.

Instead, at first Egypt’s army was destroyed, then the Soviets decided to not challenge President Johnston’s escalation in favor of Israel… so Syria heard at the last minute that the Soviets, who urged everyone to go to war, decided to not show up after all.

At that point “King Lion I” decided to pull his troops back to defend Damascus, instead of seeing them slaughtered on Golan at the hands of the clearly superior Israeli army, like 15,000 Egyptian soldiers were slaughtered earlier… for nothing.

Try to watch this 5 minute clip, it will be less entertaining that Karfan’s post, but it is a bit more credible I’m sure you’ll agree. It will show you that the war was supposed to be between Israel, Egypt, and the Soviets who wanted an arena to show off their military superiority.

February 12th, 2010, 6:49 am

 

Alex said:

Majhool, Innocent Criminal

Thank you.

Again, the reason why Hama was not the main focus of this article is that Hama happened once (never repeated again) … 30 years ago, and that it was an output, not an input.

I was more interested in repetitive mistakes … 1) repetitive, and 2) mistakes.

Why focus on repetitive mistakes? … because when you see Sarah Palin this week starting to wear the Israeli flag pin at public events you can start seeing the next million dead in Iraq/Iran three years from now when she wins the next elections and proceed to sit with her neocon advisers to make smart plans that end up destroying the Middle East like George W. Bush and Ronald Reagan did before her.

Sarah_for_Israel

The real mistakes are the initial decisions that eventually lead to bloodshed. Hama, on the other hand, was the end result of the original mistake of those who decided to encourage and use the Brotherhood to try to remove Assad from power….

George Bush and Dick Cheney and Benjamin Netanyahu planned in advance their “new Middle East” initiative… we now know plans to invade Iraq were ready before 9/11 … “the New Middle East” was not a reaction .. it was a strategic initiative that was well planned over a number of years.

Hafez Al-Assad did not sit down calmly one day to decide “let us send the army to bomb Hama”! … he was forced to do it after a dangerous escalation at the end of three years of the start of an intensive brotherhood campaign of terror.

Needless to say, the Syrian regime probably over reacted there and Hama, despite the necessity of firm action at that stage, was much more bloody than what was necessary (not that I know how to estimate what was necessary).

And by the way, 12,000 is more like it, no need to use Thomas Friedman’s rounded number of 20,000 … 12,000 is already a sad number of innocent casualties.

Qunfuz,

Myth-making was a pleasure to read!

To answer your comments earlier:

I steered away from the Israel lobby argument because that argument was made a thousand times elsewhere and this post already looked like the China wall.

And I thought I always used “Moderate Arabs” … if I failed to put it that way then It was a mistake. I think some of the polls I posted made it clear “moderate Arabs” were in fact insignificant.

As for Assad’s true opinion of what happened in Jordan … He was very disappointed in King Hussein but he also couldn’t stand Yasser Arafat’s dangerous blunders.

Assad knew that Jordan will rush to ask for Israeli American
protection and that Syria will not be allowed, by the US, to cross the line there, so he hated how Syria was forced into such an awkward position by Arafat’s foolish mistake. The net result is that Syria had to put a limited show of “support” but knew that there will be no use going any further.

And by the way, during the seventies, the Palestinians did indeed cross the line in Syria too … remember?

February 12th, 2010, 7:27 am

 

qunfuz said:

Amir in occupied Tel Abib – I wasn’t talking about your apartheid regime’s response to Hamas’s democratic victory. I have never expected the practitioners of ethnic cleansing and apartheid to respect democracy. (Does Palestine have to respect a state that has destroyed it? Of course not). I was talking about the West.

I have written before about my problems with Hamas. http://qunfuz.com/2008/03/20/what-hamas-should-do/ (although my first feelings are admiration for what they have been able to achieve when the Zionist military, the US, the EU, and the client Arab dictators are against them. But your talk about ‘long consideration’ is grotesque. We know what you mean. One day your crimes of starving and massacring a refugee population will revisit you.

But I don’t visit this blog to communincate with sick Zionists.

Alex – all your points taken, although I still don’t agree with your reasoning behind Asad’s original intervention in Lebanon, and I don’t think the Palestinians could ever have destabilised Syria in the way they did Hussein’s Jordan, where Palestinians constituted a majority. The lobby, yes, probably doesn’t fit in your piece. And it was an excellent piece.

February 12th, 2010, 12:05 pm

 

Shai said:

Dear FP,

I’m willing to pay your ticket, to be there to be interviewed by Israeli journalists, when they come to Damascus for the first time ever, to learn about Syria and about Syrians! You prove time and again how patriotism, wisdom, and peace, are not contradictory, and can indeed exist within each and every one of us.

Alex,

I’m willing to spend an hour reading your analysis carefully. But forgive me for closing the window, the minute I saw that Palin face on the screen. To maintain the quality of this site, I beg the management to consider the prompt removal of this image. Although I can see her, right up there with our very own Danny Ayalon. She can teach him how to mow down deer with an Uzi… 🙂

February 12th, 2010, 12:20 pm

 

AKbar Palace said:

But I don’t visit this blog to communincate with sick Zionists.

Amir in occupied Tel Abib;)

This is the kind of post the “moderate” Arab particpants write on this blog. So naturally, if the “moderate” Arab poster has a question about the enenmy, they ask their chief propagandist Alex first:

Do you really think that those Americans and Zionists who talk about democracy promotion actually mean it?

And then the chief propagandist and editor has to ban an articulate Israeli poster (who, BTW, never engages in ad hominem attacksor even derogatory statements) to make sure everyone on this website feels good.

Anyway, with a few minutes available to respond to Alex’s pro-Syria “brochure” a few questions come to mind:

1.) What “legitimate rights” did the US and USSR take away from Syria?

2.) Alex, your description of how Israel captured the Golan Heights is simplistic (and that’s a nice way of describing it):

Mr. Dayan eventually gave them few more hours to finish the job, before he ended the 1967 war.

In 1997 the New York Times revealed that late Israeli defense minister Moshe Dayan admitted, 21 years earlier, that the Golan was seized from Syria because Israeli farmers wanted those lands.

The frequently cited Israeli security concern that obliged them to seize the Golan Heights, Syrian shelling of Israeli settlers, was not much more than an excuse to justify Israel’s capture that attractive piece of land.

Actually, the full-scale fight on the Golan started on the first day of the Six Day War, and Syria was busy conducting air raids on Northern Israel:

False Egyptian reports of a crushing victory against the Israeli army[70] and forecasts that Egyptian artillery would soon be in Tel-Aviv influenced Syria’s willingness to enter the war. Syrian leadership, however, adopted a more cautious approach, and instead began shelling and conducting air raids on northern Israel. When the Israeli Air Force had completed its mission in Egypt, and turned around to destroy the surprised Syrian Air Force, Syria understood that the news it had heard from Egypt of the near-total destruction of the Israeli military could not have been true.[143] During the evening of June 5, Israeli air strikes destroyed two-thirds of the Syrian Air Force, and forced the remaining third to retreat to distant bases, without playing any further role in the ensuing warfare. A minor Syrian force tried to capture the water plant at Tel Dan (the subject of a fierce escalation two years earlier), Kibbutz Dan, and She’ar Yashuv. But a broader Syrian offensive quickly failed.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Six-Day_War

OK, that’s enough for right now. We’ll continue this later.

February 12th, 2010, 12:45 pm

 

Shai said:

Akbar,

A few ways to read Alex’s quote from the New York Times:

1) Attempt to prove that Alex is fooling us, by purposefully withholding facts about Syrian shelling of Israeli settlements in Northern Israel.

2) Attempt to understand the message, that Moshe Dayan revealed, in an interview conducted 34 years ago, that Israel’s motivation for capturing and holding on to the Golan went far beyond “defensive reasoning” (protecting Israeli settlements from Syrian shelling), and indeed included reasons that could be viewed as somewhat less-than-honorable, and that in fact were never taught in any of our “history classes”.

Now which one are you choosing?

The 2nd option should not serve as a vehicle for embarrassment to Israel or Israelis in the present, as much as a wake-up call, to show how even in those days, using the Golan as an excuse for the defense of Israel was, perhaps just that – an excuse. One of the early settlers on the Golan, and still resident, Prof. Yigal Kipnis, has been writing at length about this for years. He recently published a book about it.

February 12th, 2010, 1:10 pm

 

Amir in Tel Aviv said:

Thanks Alex for posting the YouTube’s ’50 years war Israel and the Arabs’. I’m watching the whole thing, and it’s a good stuff.
.

February 12th, 2010, 2:01 pm

 

Akbar Palace said:

…to show how even in those days, using the Golan as an excuse for the defense of Israel was, perhaps just that – an excuse.

Shai,

It’s always an excuse. We can count on you and Syria Comment to “remind us”, that all Arabs including Hamas, Hezbollah, the Syrian Government (Assad), and Iran want/wanted peace and if only the “hardline” Israelis only gave them back all their land and allowed them to import and launch as many missiles as they want.

Of course we aren’t allowed to discuss Jewish claims to the Old City, because the Old City is over the Leftist’s Holy Green Line.

February 12th, 2010, 2:13 pm

 

Shai said:

Akbar,

You know what the difference is between us? That you’re ready to talk all day about how Israel shouldn’t return territories that aren’t ours until the Arabs recognize Israel as the Neighborhood Boss, but you’re unwilling to fight when there’s war. I’m ready to talk all day about how Israel SHOULD return territories that aren’t ours EVEN if there’s no peace, but I AM also ready to go fight if there will be war afterwards.

Don’t give me the crap about the Old City. Before 1967, parts of Jerusalem were ours, and parts weren’t. No reason to feel “Unified Jerusalem” belongs to us in its totality any more than to the residents that inhabited this land for thousands of years, and weren’t Jewish. Jerusalem, I think, belongs to the three monotheistic religions of this world – Christians, Jews, and Muslims. The Old City belongs to them, not to me alone, not to you alone, not to anyone alone.

But the West Bank and the Golan do not belong to me. I would be for returning the Golan even if Syria swore it would never host an Israeli ambassador in Damascus. I would return the territory, and would put on my uniform to fight Syria if it ever went to war against us (from the Golan, from the Air, or from the planet Mars).

How about you, Akbar, what will YOU do if there’s war?…

February 12th, 2010, 2:34 pm

 

norman said:

Shai,
That is a strong statement from a man of principles .Most Jews are but not heard .

February 12th, 2010, 3:23 pm

 

Ghat Albird said:

AKBAR PALACE said:

This is the kind of post the “moderate” Arab participants write on this blog. So naturally, if the “moderate” Arab poster has a question about the enemy, they ask their chief propagandist Alex first:

Do you really think that those Americans and Zionists who talk about democracy promotion actually mean it?

And then the chief propagandist and editor has to ban an articulate Israeli poster (who, BTW, never engages in ad hommenim attacks or even derogatory statements) to make sure everyone on this website feels good.

AP: Your somewhat presumptious comments incline one to ask if there is a complementary SC “blog” on your side of the Golan?

If there isn’t then your “mouthing-off” is a curtesy provided you by SC.

February 12th, 2010, 4:56 pm

 

Ford Prefect said:

Shai,
Your description of the difference between you and the war monger is priceless! I bow in respect to your courage, patriotism, and respect for the human life.

February 12th, 2010, 4:57 pm

 

Joshua said:

Alex, Just read this over again. What a great article. Very powerful.

February 12th, 2010, 10:17 pm

 

Akbar Palace said:

Shai’s Fight for Peace: Give it Back

You know what the difference is between us? That you’re ready to talk all day about how Israel shouldn’t return territories that aren’t ours until the Arabs recognize Israel as the Neighborhood Boss, but you’re unwilling to fight when there’s war.

Shai,

I do NOT “talk all day about how Israel shouldn’t return territories”. Enough of your exaggerations. I have stated NUMEROUS times that Israel should cede land for peace. You and the participants here on SC may call that “hardline”; that’s fine. Meanwhile, there are those on this website who consider King Hussein and Sadat “traitors” for concluding land-for-peace deals with Israel. So I’m not really sure who is “hardline” and who isn’t.

I’m ready to talk all day about how Israel SHOULD return territories that aren’t ours EVEN if there’s no peace…

The lessons learned from Lebanon and Gaza show that to be a really stupid idea.

Don’t give me the crap about the Old City. Before 1967, parts of Jerusalem were ours, and parts weren’t.

You’re factually wrong. NO part of the Old City including the Western Wall were “yours”. That may be fine for you or perhaps you would give symbols of the Jewish People like that back for “no peace”, but the vast majority of Israelis would not. You are a teeny-weeny minority in your opinions.

Jerusalem, I think, belongs to the three monotheistic religions of this world – Christians, Jews, and Muslims.

No. The closest we’ve come to a peace treaty, the land was governed by 2 proposed sovereign countries: Israel and Palestine.

No other proposed nation held any sovereignty or was responsible for the security of the land inside and outside of the Old City.

The Old City belongs to them, not to me alone, not to you alone, not to anyone alone.

Right now, Israel is the lone sovereign power to control and police Jerusalem. Final status depends on a peace treaty. No one is giving up any land without peace. We don’t need Gaza on the West Bank or Jerusalem.

But the West Bank and the Golan do not belong to me. I would be for returning the Golan even if Syria swore it would never host an Israeli ambassador in Damascus.

No surprise. You an uncanny way of making friends here on SC;)

I would return the territory, and would put on my uniform to fight Syria if it ever went to war against us (from the Golan, from the Air, or from the planet Mars).

Did you fight in Gaza Shai? Didn’t Israel return that land too? How long has it been since you did basic training?

How about you, Akbar, what will YOU do if there’s war?

Help Israel any way I can.

February 12th, 2010, 10:49 pm

 

jad said:

STOP DETAINING INNOCENT AND FREE PEOPLE IN SYRIA, ENOUGH! ENOUGH! ENOUGH!

Are we living in a country or in a big prison that almost everybody who dares to open their mouths today, tomorrow or 20 years ago about any freaking subject will be either kidnapped by the uneducated security service mafia to be thrown in jail or have their names on the black list banning them from traveling in or out of this country called Syria??? It’s getting too annoying to live in a country like this!
Let Touhama Ma3rouf, Haytham Almale7, Mouhannad Al7saeen and every one in the political prison out today, what is the point of this tragedy to continue?

معارض سوري يناشد الاسد التدخل للإفراج عن ناشطة سياسية سابقة

خدمة قدس برس
11/ 02/ 2010
ناشد قيادي سياسي سوري معارض الرئيس بشار الأسد التدخل للإفراج عن طبيبة أسنان اعتقلت على ذمة حكم صادر بحقها عام 1995 بتهمة انتمائها لحزب العمال الشيوعي في سورية، ودعا إلى تكريس دعامات التعايش بين السوريين في بعدها الإنساني بعيدا عن أي حسابات سياسية في الوقت الراهن.

http://all4syria.info/content/view/21346/113/

منظمة حقوقية:تضاعف أعداد الممنوعين من السفر في سورية
المرصد السوري لحقوق الانسان
09/ 02/ 2010
قالت منظمة حقوقية سورية ان عدد الممنوعين من السفر في بلادها في ازدياد مضطرد وخاصة خلال الأشهر الأخيرة ،”حيث يشاع بأن عدد الممنوعين من السفر في سورية قد أصبح عشرات الآلاف”واضافت المنظمة انها تتلقى اتصالات يومية من منخرطين جدد في هذا المضمار

http://all4syria.info/content/view/21250/113/

February 12th, 2010, 11:30 pm

 

norman said:

Alex,

Do you think that they read your article and acted on it that fast,

S. official: We want to boost Syria ties

By Natasha Mozgovaya, Haaretz Correspondent

Assistant Secretary of State for Public Affairs in the United States, Philip J. Crowley, said Saturday that the decision to send an envoy to Syria reflects a growing interest in strengthening bilateral ties with the country.

“The decision reflects our growing interest in working constructively with Syria and the leaders of that country,” Crowley said regarding the recent announcement that Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs Bill Burns will travel to the Middle Eastern country next week.

Burns is due to travel to Lebanon, Syria, Turkey and Azerbaijan and will meet with both Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri and Syrian President Bashar Assad.
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“While there,” said Crowley, “I think he [Burns] will reflect on a number of issues in terms of regional issues and obviously, how Syria continues to view the situation with respect to Middle East peace.”

The U.S. is soon expected to announce the appointment of a new
ambassador to Syria. The US withdrew its ambassador in 2005 following
the assassination of former Lebanese

Crowley went on to answer questions regarding other Middle East ties and stressed the financial motivations which will also be discussed in Burns’ visit.

“You have to deal with political leaders to make sure that you are building the economy in those countries,” Crowley said, adding that “we want to intensify our cooperation and see in which ways in which the region can continue to invest in a Palestinian state, in the West Bank in particular, where there have been encouraging economic news.”

“George Mitchell is working hard on getting the parties to negotiation,” Crowley said regarding questions regarding the special Middle East envoy’s role in developing regional ties.

February 13th, 2010, 3:08 am

 

Alex said:

Thanks Dr. Landis!

Norman, probably not, but it is good to hear this new tone.

By the way, I hope this gentleman did now read “the case for Syria” : )

http://online.wsj.com/article/SB20001424052748703382904575059270257639534.html#mod=todays_us_opinion

Akbar,

“SYRIA” Comment is full of Israelis from the left, center and right of Israeli politics, but that is not good enough to convince you to retire your accusations.

I have an idea that might help you change your mind, at least partially. Please tell AIG (your favorite right wing Israeli blogger) to communicate with me by email. I will try to see if we can invite him to write a main post to present “The Case for Israel” and to debate all our readers in the comments section below his post.

Let me know if that makes you a bit happier.

February 13th, 2010, 4:03 am

 

Shai said:

Akbar,

You, hardline? Never. You’re for equality, human rights, international law, historic justice, and many other little liberal principles, aren’t you?

Let me remind you of a phrase Menachem Begin once coined, called “Wars of Choice”. He described Lebanon as a “War of Choice”, as opposed to the 1973 War as a “War of No-Choice”. When Israel goes into Gaza to blast away 1,300 Palestinians, most of whom are innocent, that is not a “War of No-Choice”. There are other ways, far more proportional, to fight Qassam rockets that land in empty fields. You’ll note (begrudgingly I’m sure) that I didn’t suggest NOT fighting those who throw rockets into Israel.

If we return the Golan back to Syria, and Syria attacks Israel, it will not be like Gaza. I would fight to defend Israel, if the enemy that attacks us has no legitimate claims against us. You cannot claim the Palestinians in Gaza have no claim against us, because we pulled out our troops and our settlers from the Gaza strip. We still control their fate, and you know it. If and when a Palestine will be formed, I will fight the Palestinians if a single rocket is launched from Palestine into my country.

Read carefully what I wrote. I said parts of JERUSALEM were ours before 1967, not the Old City. Also, I never said I’d give BACK the Old City, I said the Old City belonged not to me, not to you, not to anyone alone. It should belong to all three monotheistic religions. You’ll be wise to note that the three religions do not constitute a particular nation or even a people, so we’re not talking about making it belong to Israel and/or Palestine. I believe it should be a special-status area, that belongs to Christians in Bethlehem, Jaffa, or Bogota, as much as to Jews from NYC, or Muslims from Karachi. It will, quite likely, be governed by Israelis and Palestinians. No nation would hold sovereignty over the Old City. Hence, its special-status.

Please don’t give me lessons about “fighting in Gaza”. I was playing Apartheid policeman, patrolling streets in some of the filthiest and poorest parts of that open-air prison, as well as serving my country throughout the West Bank, Southern Lebanon, and the Golan, long before your little “help Israel any way I can” conscience knew anything about what was going on there.

February 13th, 2010, 12:04 pm

 

Akbar Palace said:

The Case for Replying to Israeli Leftists

I have an idea that might help you change your mind, at least partially. Please tell AIG (your favorite right wing Israeli blogger) to communicate with me by email. I will try to see if we can invite him to write a main post to present “The Case for Israel” and to debate all our readers in the comments section below his post.

Alex,

Your article was VERY long and arranged nicely (I especially liked the pictures and the layout). However, it will take me a long time to point out all your inaccuracies. It would help if AIG were around because it is difficult for me to respond to long articles like yours as well as respond to Shai.

I don’t think it’s fair to have him post x times/day where others (like myself) can post as much as they want. I consider it a “demotion” not to be censored!

You, hardline? Never.

Excuse me for supporting “Land for Peace”.

You’re for equality, human rights, international law, historic justice, and many other little liberal principles, aren’t you?

I am for all of the above. I don’t know what “historic justice” is. Maybe you can explain that to me.

Let me remind you of a phrase Menachem Begin once coined, called “Wars of Choice”. He described Lebanon as a “War of Choice”, as opposed to the 1973 War as a “War of No-Choice”.

The Yom Kippur War was not only a “war of no-choice”, it was an aggregious mistake by the Israeli (Labor) leadership. Many of the “heoroes” of the Six Day War ruined their careers. Moshe Dayan was one of them.

Perhaps if the Israelis would have “pre-empted”, Israel would not have been in such grave danger. Yet, we still have liberals and leftists who still refuse to be pro-active and would rather wait until the next surprise attack.

When Israel goes into Gaza to blast away 1,300 Palestinians, most of whom are innocent, that is not a “War of No-Choice”.

Without the daily barrage of rocket and mortar fire I would agree. However, no normal country would have waited as long as the Israelis did. Also, I don’t know how many innocent civilians were killed. Moreover, Hamas committed war crimes from firing among the civilian population. Innocent civilians, unfortunately get killed in war, especially when the enemy is fighting among them.

There are other ways, far more proportional, to fight Qassam rockets that land in empty fields. You’ll note (begrudgingly I’m sure) that I didn’t suggest NOT fighting those who throw rockets into Israel.

Good. Why don’t we discuss this?

If we return the Golan back to Syria, and Syria attacks Israel, it will not be like Gaza.

If it is a good agreement, Syria would not attack Israel after returning the Golan. That is why Israel should wait until a good agreement is signed. That is why your idea of returning the GOlan to Syria without a peace agreement is ridiculous (if it weren’t so sad and stupid). Yet, I remember people commenting that if Israel returned Gaza, Israel would also not be attacked. And, if by some chance, Gaza DID attack Israel, Israel could take control of Gaza again. Sure!

Funny how stupid some ideas are in retrospect.

I would fight to defend Israel, if the enemy that attacks us has no legitimate claims against us.

What would be a “legitimate claim”? What wouldn’t be?

You cannot claim the Palestinians in Gaza have no claim against us, because we pulled out our troops and our settlers from the Gaza strip. We still control their fate, and you know it.

How about a peace agreement? Would that be the best way for Israel and the Gazans to stay our of each other’s hair? Better yet, to reach agreements where they can grow in peace with each other? Right now, you want Israel to let Hamas arm with whatever Iranian arms they want.

If and when a Palestine will be formed, I will fight the Palestinians if a single rocket is launched from Palestine into my country.

OK. So that means the Palestinians can fight with whatever means they want and because they have no formal boundaries on the West Bank and only observer status at the UN, you’ll never fight the Palestinians?

Read carefully what I wrote. I said parts of JERUSALEM were ours before 1967, not the Old City. Also, I never said I’d give BACK the Old City, I said the Old City belonged not to me, not to you, not to anyone alone. It should belong to all three monotheistic religions.

I don’t agree. I believe the Old City should remain under Israeli sovereignty. It is our captial. I would discuss spliting/sharing Jerusalem with the Palestinians if it led to real peace (sorry for the “hardline”).

Please don’t give me lessons about “fighting in Gaza”. I was playing Apartheid policeman, patrolling streets in some of the filthiest and poorest parts of that open-air prison, as well as serving my country throughout the West Bank, Southern Lebanon, and the Golan, long before your little “help Israel any way I can” conscience knew anything about what was going on there.

Gaza is now part of Palestine. The only Apartheid I’m familiar with is that Jews are not allowed to live under Palestinian-controlled governments. Jews are not “afforded” protection like Arabs are in Israel. But if you think Israel is an “Apartheid State” like ex-president Jimmy Carter does, how do you make peace with yourself for living in such a racist state?

February 13th, 2010, 3:54 pm

 

Shai said:

Akbar,

You support Land-for-Capitulation, not Land-for-Peace.

Of course you “don’t know” what historic justice is. Why should you? It would mean having to recognize the Palestinians as the real and sole owners of the land inhabited by your friends and relatives in the West Bank settlement of Efrat.

I’m not going to reply to every single sentence you write (apparently your favorite style). But I will say this – you seem to have adopted the American neocon style of blaming the “other side” for everything possible, in the past, present and future. Now the Yom Kipur War is the fault of “The Left”. You don’t mention Begin’s successful Lebanon War that lasted 18 miserable years.

But that’s ok, because you see Akbar, if you think “The Left” has actually done more damage to Israel than good, I’d like you to have a closer look in the mirror. Who has given back more land to the Arabs – the Left or the Right? (Begin – Sinai, Sharon – Sinai and Gaza, Netanyahu – major Palestinian towns to Arafat, under agreement to Oslo.) Who has built more settlements on the Palestinian Territories – the Left or the Right? Who has gone to more wars against the Arabs – the Left or the Right? Who barks anti-Peace rhetoric every election campaign, then shakes the hands of every “terrorist” and dictator and their grandma?

The Left in Israel has always done the “dirty job” for the Right, and you dare blame it? Your own Bibi is comparing the situation with Iran to 1938, and yet doesn’t attack! Why? What’s he afraid of, this grand Protectorate of Israel? Heck, the Left ran both Lebanon 2006 and Gaza 2008/9, and you’re against it??? The Left, dear Akbar, is your best friend! The Right has always done what it swore it wouldn’t do. Bibi said he’d never shake “that terrorist” Arafat’s hand. He not only kissed the man on the cheek multiple times, but even referred to him as “a friend”. Your Bibi also supported Oslo, for your information. Didn’t hear you bashing him for that… oh well (did anyone here?) Bibi also said he wouldn’t get off the Golan. What do you think he had Ron Lauder tell Assad Sr. on his visit? That he wants to talk about joint-skiing projects on the Syrian Hermon?

The Left in Israel, dearest Akbar, is the ONLY thing you can trust, year after year after year. Because “we” are the only ones who keep Peace away. We initiate and run all wars and operations, we build settlements, and refuse to dismantle them, we reject peaceful overtures, always, and when the Right taunts us with “you’re too soft”, we go killing.

Give me a fricken break. You know nothing about “The Left”.

February 13th, 2010, 6:45 pm

 

Innocent Criminal said:

Alex,

I didnt mean Hama in my comment, i really dont think its relevent to talk about things that happened 30 years ago.

but today’s challenges are certainly of interest to me; the poor education system and the lack of will to do anything serious to tackle it because better education will mean democracy in the long term. Or the delay in opening up new technologies such as cell phones, internet, censorship of the latter for the stupidest reasons (explain facebook to me) or that even non dangerous dissedents like Bunni are still jailed etc. the point is your article paints a 100% pure picture of Syria when in reality no country, especially Syria is immune to criticism. I feel your lack of criticism might hurt the good work you’ve done on the rest of the piece.

February 13th, 2010, 7:11 pm

 

MEEE said:

I am Syrian and will defend Shai’s version of peace with all I got if it were to happen. I happened to agree with it totally.

The other guy says “”Yet, I remember people commenting that if Israel returned Gaza, Israel would also not be attacked. And, if by some chance, Gaza DID attack Israel, Israel could take control of Gaza again. Sure!”

I don’t know how one can explain the obvious to someone who behaves like those Holocaust deniers. There is really no difference between you and them. You either purposely or naively dismiss that YOU force those GAZANS to live like animals. It is a well known fact how long Hamas maintained a ceasefire and how often Israel violated it.
All I could say is that I wish you the same living conditions you wish upon other people. I am someone who used to really believe Israel’s BS that Israel wanted peace more than the Arabs until The 2002 Arab proposal. You have been exposed for who you are. People like Shai are decent human beings who I would love to have as my neighbors. Believe it or not, there are a lot of people that think like me. People like you don’t give us one reason to trust you. Call our bluff. You are still the strongest in the area. If we don’t live up to a peace agreement, you can always kick our ass. You own the US.
Giving others their freedom does not take 15 years of talking about it. If you decide to do the decent and right thing, there are many ways to enforce a peace agreement. But, first, all you need is to be sincere about peace.

February 13th, 2010, 7:58 pm

 

norman said:

MEEE,
Shai , Yossi,

I buy Shai,s version of peace , I will even add that for a comprehensive peace and an economic assistant , Israel does not have to worry about the Palestinians in Syria .Arab Syria will never through out other Arabs .

February 13th, 2010, 8:10 pm

 

almasri said:

I find the main article very childish. The deliberate use of visual effects was only meant to attract attention, a method used mostly by sales people for well known reasons.

I do not see in the article any plan to liberate Palestine. On the contrary, the writer is simply begging for Syria to be allowed to do what Sadat did, i.e. succumb to treason while Syria has nothing to offer in order to become a traitor.

The few comments made by so-called leftist Jews only add insult to injury. I’m surprised that Syrians would even allow themselves to discuss anything with them or even worse with those so-called rightist Jews.

February 13th, 2010, 8:14 pm

 

nafdik said:

Almasri,

Do you have any plan to liberate Palestine? What do you mean by liberate? and what do you mean by Palestine?

February 13th, 2010, 8:20 pm

 

jo6pac said:

Thanks Alex and most of the commentors.

February 13th, 2010, 8:26 pm

 

majedkhaldoun said:

Akpar Palace;
Put the followung statement in your mind,all the time see it in your dreams, wake up with headache thinking about it
Jerusalem is christian moslem city, it is not for the jews
Mosses did not included it when he delineate the land of jews he drew a line north of the dead sea and to the west. God forbade David to build the temple there, and Soloman knew that forbidance, he did not build the temple there, God promised us that if the jews enter it again they will be forced to abandon it again.

February 13th, 2010, 8:32 pm

 

Alex said:

Innocent Criminal

1) No article, even if it was 7500 words long, can cover everything.
2) This article is clearly titled “The case FOR Syria” …I was playing Syria’s lawyer at the end of a decade where Syria had no shortage of prosecutors, but no lawyer.

If you want my personal opinion re education reform, two parties are to blame:

1) Reform is not going fast enough because of legendary risk aversion in Syria…. we can, and absolutely must, take risks and do better.

2) The United States is not helping … Ambassador Mustapha tried hard to convince American Universities (Yale, Harvard, and MIT among others) to cooperate with Syria to set up fine institutions for higher learning in Syria, but … political factors made sure nothing took place.

Dear Akbar,

write to me if you want.

Almasri,

The use of color had two objectives:

1) To break the monotony of the 7500 words.
2) To help those who refuse to read the facts … by putting an important quote up there in large text on red background it is not easy to avoid it.

Graphics were mostly, if not completely, comprised of facts, polls (popular opinions), and real quotes. I did not elevate my personal opinion to the prominent display within those graphics … so I find it difficult to agree with your claim that I was doing some cheap “sales” pitch through the listing of facts and polls.

Finally … I did not write a 7500 word bible on how to liberate Palestine … forgive me for failing to do so. If I had a magic formula I would have shared it with our readers I assure you.

But I did conclude with a message for the Israelis … If you want to have any success in shaping the Middle East, then have your clean break with the occupied territories (not only the Golan) and become an ordinary state (not an elitist society living inside a supremely fortified citadel on a high hill). That will be the only way you can live in true peace and become a major player in molding the future of the region … you can help shape the region when you do it constructively and from the inside, not when you are the destructive outsider that you are now.

Shai,

You are good : )

February 13th, 2010, 8:47 pm

 

jad said:

Is it only me to have no doubt not even 1% that Almasri is NOT even an Egyptian?
I’m convinced that he is someone else pretending being an Egyptian for some reasons.
He’s been writing lots of primitive comments (with deliberate broken English) to make a strange case against Egypt showing that Egyptians are not trust worthy in keeping their peace treaty with Israel even after 30 years.
Today, he came back again (in perfect written English) with nothing but the usual BS asking Syrians to do like any ignorant,uneducated and uncivilized person in the street (him) would do, which is not having any fruitful discussion with their enemies in a way to understand each other better and avoid the disastrous results.
Almasri, Be courage enough and write under your own self and your own nationality instead of this disgusting behaviors. You are so obvious.

February 13th, 2010, 9:03 pm

 

Majhool said:

Hi Alex,

I understand you view point, you feel that the regime had many persecutors but few lawyers. That’s fair. And I say regime, because Assad Sr. did not embody Syria, he was too radical for Syria and Syrians. A clip of him applauding teen girls eating snakes is enough to demonstrate that reality. I believe Bashar and his charming wife are doing a far better job.

For me, fixing our internal shortfalls is the path to success in our rapprochement with the world.

All said, I like your work; you should start/help a Syrian embassy/ foreign ministry quarterly magazine.

February 13th, 2010, 10:02 pm

 

Yossi said:

Majed @100,

Look at us foolish Jews, God himself said that we aren’t allowed to live in Jerusalem and we didn’t even know that! Thanks for the heads-up and keep us posted with the word of God, just in case you hear from him again!

February 13th, 2010, 11:31 pm

 

majedkhaldoun said:

Yossi ;
Read The Torah

February 13th, 2010, 11:55 pm

 

norman said:

Majid,

Don’t you think that the Jewish people have the same right to return to Palestine as the people who have been living there for ages and the same right that your children and my children have to return to Syria one day and claim their citizenship,

The problem is not their right to return and be equal , the problem is to return and deny the people who have lived there for ages and changed their religion during their stay to survive or for conviction , deny these people their right to be equal ,

February 14th, 2010, 12:02 am

 

Yossi said:

Majed,

I’m not a religious Jew, the Torah doesn’t contain any recipes for life that I feel I need to adhere to. But anyway, what you were told about the Torah is false.

February 14th, 2010, 12:11 am

 

Akbar Palace said:

Alex,

In your brochure, you stated:

Syria wanted its Golan Heights back and wanted Israel to settle with the Palestinians at the same time.

Would Syria sign a peace agreement with Israel without the Palestinians?

Also, if the answer to the above is no, what is Syria’s position about the Right of Return?

Lastly, and in the spirit of “A Case for Syria”, we bring you the latest government-controlled anti-semitism from highly esteemed Syrian “professors” dressed in suit and tie…

http://www.memritv.org/clip/en/0/0/0/0/0/0/2370.htm

February 14th, 2010, 12:37 am

 

norman said:

AP,
I know that you did not ask me , but to make it clear that neither Alex nor i or anybody else on this blog speak for the Syrian government (( Even DR Landis))i believe that Syria will not abandon the Palestinians but will seek a comprehensive peace agreement that will produce peace for Israel on all it’s borders and will be part of solving the Right of return of the Palestinians for Israel by accepting the Palestinians in Syria and convince them to accept compensations that will help Syria and the Palestinians .
after all , Syria never pushed anybody away who seek ed refuge ,
The future is a lot brighter for Israel if it seeks a just peace , Syria will be there to help her .

February 14th, 2010, 1:06 am

 

norman said:

It is rumored that the US will decrease the sanctions on Syria, soon ,

February 14th, 2010, 1:52 am

 

majedkhaldoun said:

Norman
after 3000 year my descendants have no right to claim syria as their himeland

February 14th, 2010, 5:36 am

 

Shai said:

Re: Akbar’s clip from 108.

The problem is, that often “the obvious” isn’t obvious at all. To me, it is obvious that most people on the face of this planet (Syrians included) do not believe that “The Jew” steals human organs. Most Earthlings do not subscribe to any version of The Protocols of the Elders of Zion, including televised ones.

But if there is no public outcry, of any sort whatsoever, to such blatant antisemitism (even by Arab Semites), then it becomes very difficult even for “liberals” such as myself to refute a claim by some Akbar that says “look at the Syrians “you” want to make peace with…” While it is clear that most Syrians in Syria cannot go out on the streets in demonstration against such claims, it is not clear why some Syrians, even abroad, don’t post condemnations of such shows.

Having said that I do understand those in Syria who, upon watching such idiotic claims, will hold themselves back from criticism, precisely because the crimes that ARE committed by Israeli Occupation are bad enough. Can we expect moral people to defend any claim against a criminal, as long as they see him as a criminal? In theory, absolutely. In practice, that’s far more difficult to expect.

But whether the moral dilemmas here are legitimate or not, there is no doubt whatsoever that such horrific accusations, and the stage official TV gives its initiators, only serve to further the hatred and distrust between our peoples. It creates and supports precisely the kind of Racism and Criminality it supposedly “uncovers” before its audience. Especially where the media is government-controlled, this could easily be interpreted as intentional sabotage of future peace initiatives. The “pressure” it supposedly aims to create, is counterproductive, and dangerous.

Btw, Akbar, since I’m sure you agree with what I write up above, remind me when was the last time YOU condemned any of the crimes of the Occupation?

February 14th, 2010, 9:00 am

 

idaf said:

Good advice to Robert Ford, the new US ambassador to Syria:

Syria delighted with new US envoy
By Sami Moubayed
http://www.atimes.com/atimes/Middle_East/LB13Ak02.html

DAMASCUS – United States President Barack Obama’s decision to name Robert Ford as the new ambassador to Syria to fill a post that has been vacant since 2005 has been warmly received by the Syrians.

Although his appointment still needs senate approval, Ford is considered a strong Arabist at the State Department, having previously represented his government in Algeria in 2006-2008 and more recently in Iraq.

Once he arrives in Damascus, probably by mid-2010, the Johns Hopkins-educated diplomat will have a multitude of issues piled on his desk, all related to improving bilateral relations between his country and Syria. The Syrians want to return to the pre-January

20, 2001, relations with Washington; the day before George W Bush was sworn in as the 43rd president of the United States. This means engagement on critical issues related to the Middle East, serious efforts to restore the Golan Heights to Syria, no sanctions, and no media campaign against Damascus.

One thing that will make Ford’s mission to Syria somewhat easier is that unlike Bush, Obama is no longer interested in severing Syria’s relations with Hezbollah in Lebanon, Hamas in Palestine and Iran. On the contrary, he sees them as a blessing in disguise, given Syria’s heavyweight influence with these groups, meaning that it can, when the need arises, influence their behavior.

That has already been evident on a number of occasions: when Damascus secured the release of a French national under arrest in Iran last summer; and when it talked Hamas into accepting the Arab peace initiative and allow US mediation in the Palestinian-Israeli peace process once the siege on Gaza is lifted. Syrian cooperation in the provincial elections of 2009 led to an impressive turnout for Iraqi Sunni voters, even in the hotbed of the Sunni insurgency, and Washington hopes for similar engagement during the elections next March.

Many expect Ford to jumpstart Syrian-Israeli peace talks, though this seems increasingly unlikely from a Syrian perspective due to the hardline policies of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and the war rhetoric that has been fired back and forth between top Syrian and Israeli officials over the past week.

Syrian-Israeli peace talks are not impossible, however, if Ford channels all the right messages and Obama manages to pull the right strings with Netanyahu by applying needed pressure for him to accept Turkish mediation and return to talks, either directly or indirectly, with the Syrians. The Syrians have been saying that peace is close to impossible with this current Israeli government, but if any breakthrough were to emerge, it would need to be a collective Arab one, under the auspices of the US and the international community.

A history of rights and wrongs in Syria
Robert Ford will be the 16th US ambassador to Syria since diplomatic relations were exchanged in 1942. His immediate predecessor Margaret Scobey went to Damascus in December 2003 but had her tenure terminated by the Bush White House in 2005, right after the assassination of Lebanon’s former prime minister Rafik al-Hariri.

If he were to dig into the archives of the US Embassy and the Department of State, he would find piles of documents dating to the 1940s that undoubtedly would help him better understand the country and its inhabitants, where his country went wrong, and where it succeeded in moving bilateral relations forward.

One notable US diplomat who served in Syria was the first envoy, George Wadsworth, from New York, who supported the Syrians when they achieved independence from the French in 1946, lobbying with his government to back Syrian claims for independence or face the danger of transforming Syria into a “vehicle for Nazi penetration”. Like Wadsworth, Ford knows the region well, speaks the language and understands Arab grievances vis-a-vis the Arab-Israeli conflict.

Wadsworth was brilliant at hearing out Syrian worries, not only dictating American concerns, a trait shared by some of his notable successors. These included Richard Murphy (1974-1978), Edward Djerejian (1988-1991) and Christopher (1991-1998). These men are still remembered with fond words by Syrian officials and the public alike, and today all of them are still welcome to Damascus.

They oversaw Syrian-US relations during the difficult Lebanese civil war, the 1991 Gulf War, the Madrid peace process and all peace talks throughout the 1990s. During this time they developed a sincere affection for the country, along with respect for its leadership and citizens, and this was clearly reciprocated by both the Syrian government and the public alike.

Ford should read well into the careers of two diplomats in particular to learn from their mistakes – James Keeley (1947-1950) and James S Moose (1952-1957), under whom relations hit rock bottom.

Keeley famously meddled in Syria’s domestic affairs, telling politicians what to do and not to do, supporting a military coup that led to the toppling of Syria’s democratic and civilian government for the sake of passing American oil pipelines from Saudi Arabia through Syrian territory and signing an armistice agreement with Israel.

Moose did a poor job; when trying to curb communist influence in Syria he went along with a plan to topple the Syrian government, which led to the expulsion of three US diplomats from the embassy in Damascus in the summer of 1957. That in turn led to the withdrawal of the Syrian ambassador to the US, Farid Zayn al-Din.

Under Moose, a scenario took place that was very similar to the one of 2005-2008. Fearing the rise of communist influence in Syria and given the fact that both the British and French embassies were already closed (due to the Suez War of 1956), the US began to support ambitious officers in the Syrian army, encouraging them to seize power by force. When that failed, although the Central Intelligence Agency’s top man Kermit Roosevelt was in charge of what came to be known as the Stone Affair (named after the US diplomat Howard Stone), the US accused Syria of supporting terrorist acts in Lebanon, which was strongly denied by Damascus.

A series of explosions rocked Beirut and the US accused Syria of all the mayhem in its tiny neighbor. It began encouraging neighboring states into meddling in Syrian domestics, under Article 51 of the United Nations charter: self-defense. Under the Dwight Eisenhower administration the two countries verged on war. The Sixth Fleet was brought to the Mediterranean, Turkish troops were amassed on the border with Syria and two Russian warships, the cruiser Zhdanov and destroyer Svobodny, were brought into the port of Latakia to serve as a deterrent to the US Army. During this time, because of US policies, then-Syrian president Shukri al-Quwatli – for the first time ever in bilateral relations – described the US as an “enemy”.

In reading of that difficult period of Syrian-US relations, ambassador Ford will realize that, generally, success for any US ambassador depends on two things. One is the amount of engagement over the occupied Golan Heights, which was, and remains, the highest priority for Syria. Another is the degree of respect shown towards the host country, its people, systems and national aspirations.

The fact that Ford represents a president who wants to engage with Damascus and use Syria’s influence to help solve issues in the region will certainly help Ford. Although Ford will surely be well briefed and given plenty of instructions by his superiors at the State Department, it would be wise for him to read the papers and memos of men like Murphy, Djerejian and Ross, and follow in their footsteps, given that they are still around to give professional and friendly advice and tell their stories of how it was on the road between Damascus and Washington in their times.

February 14th, 2010, 10:22 am

 

offended said:

Somebody should break it to Mrs. Secretary of State: sanctions do NOT work. They just don’t. Period.

http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/middle_east/8514772.stm

February 14th, 2010, 10:45 am

 

norman said:

Shai,

I understand your frustration , you should take some comfort that these Syrians did not start the rumors it started from the Netherlands , I believe ,

It also indicate the frustration that Syria has toward the continuous misinformation about Syria , at one time on TV an American official claimed that President Hafiz Assad used chemical weapon in Hama , that time was in 2003 when they wanted to invade Syria , beside calling Syria as state supporting terrorism and the sanction which are felt to be the work of Israel and the Israeli lobby in the US ,

At any way it was in bad taste and uncalled for , and yes anti semitic if it is not from reliable sources ,

February 14th, 2010, 2:34 pm

 

Alex said:

Ahmadinejad when he called Assad for help,
By Abdel Bari Atwan, editor of London-based al-Quds al-Arabi

I don’t have time to translate it but in brief he is convinced that the last war in the region is coming this year and it will bring total destruction and will lead to a very different Middle East.

نجاد عندما يستنجد بالأسد

عبد الباري عطوان : القدس العربي 13/2/2010
ربما يكون اعلان السيد احمدي نجاد بلاده ‘أمة نووية’ هو أهم ما ورد في خطابه الجماهيري الذي القاه يوم امس الاول بمناسبة مرور الذكرى الحادية والثلاثين للثورة الايرانية، حيث كشف عن قدرات بلاده لتخصيب اليورانيوم بنسبة تزيد عن الثمانين في المئة، مما يكشف عن الهدف الحقيقي لبرامجها النووية النشطة، اي انتاج رؤوس حربية نووية.
لكن مطالبته الرئيس السوري بشار الاسد بأنه يجب التصدي لاسرائيل، والقضاء عليها، اذا شنت هجوماً في المنطقة (ضد ايران) في اتصال هاتفي اجراه معه، هو التطور الاخطر والأهم في رأينا، خاصة ان هذه المطالبة تزامنت مع تصاعد الاستعدادات للحرب، ورصد عبور سفن وغواصات اسرائيلية نووية مضيق باب المندب وتوجهها الى منطقة الخليج العربي للانضمام الى الاسطول الخامس الامريكي.
الرئيس الايراني في المكالمة نفسها قال ‘لدينا معلومات يُعتمد عليها بأن النظام الصهيوني يبحث عن طريقة لتعويض هزائمه المخزية على يد ابناء غزة وحزب الله اللبناني.. فإذا كرر هذا النظام اخطاءه وبدأ عملية عسكرية، فيجب التصدي له بكل قوة لوضع نهاية له الى الابد’.
لا نعرف ماذا كان جواب الرئيس الاسد على طلبات نظيره وحليفة الايراني، ولكن ما نعرفه، ومن خلال تصريحات وزير خارجيته السيد وليد المعلم، انه بات يشعر بقرب حدوث الانفجار، فقد وصف الاخير اسرائيل بـ’الازعر’ الذي يتصرف بشكل اهوج في المنطقة، وحذرها من مغبة اي هجوم تشنه على بلاده، لما يعنيه ذلك من إشعال فتيل حرب شاملة ستكون المدن الاسرائيلية، فيها مستهدفة.
من الواضح ان الجهود العربية والامريكية، بل والاسرائيلية التي بُذلت طوال العامين الماضيين لفك التحالف الاستراتيجي بين سورية وايران من خلال استخدام ورقة هضبة الجولان كطعم قد توقفت، او بالاحرى تجمدت، وتحول الوسيط التركي راعي المفاوضات غير المباشرة بين الطرفين السوري والاسرائيلي الى عدو شرس للاسرائيليين والمدافع الاقوى عن الشعب الفلسطيني والمحاصرين من ابنائه في قطاع غزة.
الاسرائيليون يقرعون الآن طبول الحرب بقوة ضد سورية وايران معاً، ولم تكن تهديدات افيغدور ليبرمان وزير الخارجية الاسرائيلي التي هدد فيها باسقاط ‘نظام الاسد وعائلته’ في سورية زلة لسان، كما ان تصريحات سارة بيلين مرشحة الحزب الجمهوري السابقة للرئاسة الامريكية عن تأييدها لضرب ايران لم تكن ايضا مجرد صدفة عابرة، فقد كشفت استطلاعات الرأي ان 71′ من الجمهوريين، و66′ من المستقلين، و51′ من الديمقراطيين يؤيدون موقفها هذا.
‘ ‘ ‘
تقارير صحافية غير مؤكدة تتحدث عن حدوث نزوح اسرائيلي في المستوطنات الشمالية المحاذية للبنان نحو الجنوب، تخوفاً من ضربات صاروخية، وكشفت صحف اسرائيلية عن اصابة طفلين كانا يتزلجان على الجليد في هضبة الجولان الاسبوع الماضي بجروح خطيرة، من جراء انفجار لغمين في المنطقة قرب الحدود السورية، وعندما جرى الاستفسار عن هذه الالغام قال بيان لوزارة الدفاع الاسرائيلية انها الغام حديثة جرى زرعها لمنع اي هجوم سوري متوقع.
هناك نظريتان تجاه كيفية تصرف الحكومة السورية في حال حدوث هجوم اسرائيلي منفرد، او اسرائيلي امريكي مشترك ضد ايران:
الاولى: ان الحكومة السورية، بما هو معروف عنها من دهاء، لن تحرك ساكناً، وستفضل التريث، تماماً مثلما حدث اثناء العدوان الاسرائيلي على لبنان اثناء حرب تموز (يوليو) عام 2006.
الثانية: تؤكد ان هناك اتفاقاً يحتم على سورية الاشتراك في الحرب، واطلاق عشرات الآلاف من الصواريخ المتراكمة في ترسانتها باتجاه المدن والاهداف الاسرائيلية، بما في ذلك الصواريخ التي تحمل رؤوساً كيماوية وبيولوجية، وهذا ما يفسر اقدام اسرائيل على توزيع الاقنعة على مواطنيها.
من الصعب الانحياز الى خيار دون آخر، لكن ما نعرفه ان الاحتمال الثاني ربما يكون الاكثر ترجيحاً، لان الحرب المقبلة اذا اندلعت قد تكون الاخيرة فعلاً، من حيث تغيير وجه المنطقة جذرياً، تماماً مثلما فعلت الحرب العالمية الثانية، انظمة تمحى بالكامل عن الخريطة، واخرى جديدة تحل مكانها، ولعل اسرائيل ستكون الدولة الاكثر تأثراً، ولن يكون مستبعداً ان يواجه احتلالها مصيراً مشابها لمصير النظام النازي الالماني، فقد كان مصدر جميع المشاكل والتوتر والحروب في اوروبا، وهو كذلك في منطقة الشرق الاوسط.
الادارة الامريكية الحالية قد تمهد للحرب الجديدة بحصار خانق ضد ايران لاستفزازها وابتزازها في الوقت نفسه، فهي تريد أمرين اساسيين من ايران: الاول حدوث تغيير سياسي داخلي، والثاني وقف البرنامج النووي، وبالاحرى تخصيب اليورانيوم.
التغيير السياسي لن يحدث قريباً، فالمعارضة التي عوّل عليها الغرب كثيراً جرى سحقها واحتواؤها، واحمدي نجاد صعّد من طموحاته النووية وكشف عن انجاز اول كمية من اليورانيوم المخصب بعشرين درجة.
‘ ‘ ‘
الضغوط تنصبّ حالياً على الصين لعدم عرقلة قرار دولي في مجلس الامن لفرض الحصار، وهذه الضغوط تستخدم فيها سياسة العصا والجزرة، العصا من خلال تسليح تايوان، وتهديدات اقتصادية، والجزرة تتمثل في جولة السيدة هيلاري كلينتون وزيرة الخارجية الامريكية الى كل من قطر والمملكة العربية السعودية (والتي كانت مقررة الاثنين) لاقناع البلدين ببيع غاز ونفط بأسعار مخفضة لبكين، لتعويضها عن اي خسائر يمكن ان تلحق بها من جراء فرض اي عقوبات على طهران.
طموحات الصين في ايران ليست اقتصادية فقط، وانما استراتيجية ايضاً، صحيح ان استثماراتها وعقودها مع طهران تزيد عن تسعين مليار دولار، نسبة كبيرة منها في قطاعات النفط والغاز، ولكنها تتطلع الى دور سياسي وموطئ قدم في منطقة الخليج، حيث ثلثا احتياطات النفط في العالم.
في الماضي كانت الصين تصوت مثل موسكو في مجلس الامن، فإذا اعترضت اعترضت، واذا امتنعت امتنعت. الآن تغيرت الصورة، فموسكو تؤيد الحصار على ايران، الامر الذي جعل الصين في موقع قوي للمساومة، ولكن من الصعب التنبؤ بخطوتها القادمة. وهناك حكمة صينية تقول ‘عندما لا يكون لك كلب في الصراع عليك باللامبالاة’، ولكن هناك كلاب كثيرة للصين في صراعات المنطقة والعالم حالياً، الامر الذي قد يجعلها تتصرف في المسألة الايرانية بطريقة مختلفة عن تعاملها مع المسألة العراقية.
اذا كانت الحرب حتمية مثلما يعتقد كثيرون فإن السؤال هو كيفية اشعال فتيلها. وهناك عدة احتمالات في هذا الصدد:
الاول: ان تفتعل اسرائيل او امريكا، او الاثنتان، ذريعة تبرر استخدام القوة، فقد فكرت ادارة بوش بطلاء طائرة امريكية بلون الامم المتحدة وعلمها واطلاقها فوق بغداد لاستفزاز نظام صدام حسين ودفعه لاسقاطها في ذروة ازمة المفتشين، بعد ان تم التيقن من عدم وجود اسلحة الدمار الشامل، وكشفت الوثائق الامريكية عن هذه الحقيقة بجلاء
الثاني: ان تلجأ ايران للرد على اي حصار خانق بالاقدام على ضربة استباقية ضد اسرائيل من خلال الايعاز لحزب الله باطلاق صواريخ على المستوطنات الشمالية.
الثالث: ان تستخدم اسرائيل عنصري المفاجأة والتوريط، اي ترسل طائراتها لضرب المنشآت النووية الايرانية لجر الغرب الى حرب شاملة في المنطقة.
المنطقة العربية تشهد صمتاً مميتاً على صعيد تحركات السلام، وحراكا غير عادي على صعيد الحشود العسكرية والمناورات البحرية في مياه الخليج العربي الدافئة، ونحن الآن امام مرحلة قديمة متجددة من الاصطفاف والتحالفات، مماثلة لتلك التي سبقت الحرب على العراق في آذار/مارس عام 2003.
ومن المفارقة ان هناك من يتحدث عن جدول زمني عمره ستة أشهر، وهي الفترة نفسها التي يقال انها تكفي لانتاج ايران اسلحة نووية.

February 14th, 2010, 3:58 pm

 

Ghat Albird said:

ALEX said:

I don’t have time to translate it but in brief he is convinced that the last war in the region is coming this year and it will bring total destruction and will lead to a very different Middle East.

A prophetic comment and the reason for:

U.S. Admiral Mike Mullen is scheduled to meet with IDF Chief of Staff Gabi Ashkenazi as well as Minister of Defense, Ehud Barak, and other senior IDF commanders to discuss joint defense issues between Israel and the U.S. and mutual security concerns.

http://www.haaretz.com/hasen/spages/1149454.html

February 14th, 2010, 6:27 pm

 

norman said:

Alex,
What do you think of that , I was watching Richard Haas today on CNN calling for an attack on Iran sooner than later by the US and yes claiming to defend the Arab Regimes who do not seem to express any concern over Israel nuclear weapons ,

Do you think that Syria is ready for a long war and do you think that the rapprochement of the Saudis to Syria is just to have more leverage over Syria in case of a war ,

Shai,

it looks like the Syrians were not the first to talk about Organ trafficking in Haiti,

http://www.presstv.ir/detail.aspx?id=118562&sectionid=351020601

February 14th, 2010, 7:22 pm

 

norman said:

XXXX
Alex,
What do you think of that , I was watching Richard Haas today on CNN calling for an attack on Iran sooner than later by the US and yes claiming to defend the Arab Regimes who do not seem to express any concern over Israel nuclear weapons ,

Do you think that Syria is ready for a long war and do you think that the rapprochement of the Saudis to Syria is just to have more leverage over Syria in case of a war ,

Shai,

it looks like the Syrians were not the first to talk about Organ trafficking in Haiti,

http://www.presstv.ir/detail.aspx?id=118562&sectionid=351020601

February 14th, 2010, 7:28 pm

 

Ghat Albird said:

Norman you might find this interesting too.

In my opinion it looks like someone(s) is “suckering” the US.

According to Haaretz desicions are due momentarily.

“S. Admiral Mike Mullen is scheduled to meet with IDF Chief of Staff Gabi Ashkenazi as well as Minister of Defense, Ehud Barak, and other senior IDF commanders to discuss joint defense issues between Israel and the U.S. and mutual security concerns.

Admiral Mullen’s meetings follow remarks made by the U.S. last week when they called Iran’s nuclear intentions “anything but peaceful.”

Iran has rebuffed diplomatic overtures to resolve the issue and is in defiance of UN Security Council demands that it suspend uranium enrichment.

In addition to meetings with IDF personnel, Admiral Mullen also requested to meet with members from the IDF rescue delegation to Haiti and hear about their experience with rescue operations and field medical treatment”

http://www.haaretz.com/hasen/spages/1149454.html

February 14th, 2010, 8:44 pm

 

Shai said:

Norman,

Thank you for saying that. And you’re right, Syria was not the first to suggest Israel was stealing organs. I personally don’t believe the Syrian leadership has anything to do with that TV interview. I imagine there are quite a few “initiatives” taken by various parties with interests, in attempt to demonstrate “loyalty” to the country and to the leadership. Bashing Israel, even Jews, must at times seem like the most “loyal” act. This is, unfortunately, still part of the ammunition the Arab world uses against Israel.

February 14th, 2010, 9:22 pm

 

Shai said:

Alex,

I doubt either Israel or Syria want an all-out war. Syria has already announced in the past that if Iran is attacked, it will not join in. I can’t imagine that strategic decision has changed. Iran is not really a party to any of the Arab-Israeli conflict, and I would dare say most of the parties involved aren’t particularly interested in having Iran participating (e.g. launching missiles against Israel should another incursion into Gaza or Lebanon occur).

February 14th, 2010, 9:27 pm

 

Alex said:

Norman,

I has no idea what anyone could possibly be thinking when he or she advocates “hitting” Iran … Hitting? …. like you deliver one punch and Iran’s nose bleeds and then Iran gets scared and then it retreats from everything?

And poor Iraq … it would be a Lebanon-like playing field for the Iran and US/Israel fight … only bigger and bloodier.

Shai

I agree. Syria is genuinely planning for its future as if nothing will happen.

But I worry about Israel and Iran … both are too macho for me to feel totally at ease.

And … it will spread to Iraq in a massive way … and most likely Israel will preempt Hezbollah just in case … so Lebanon will be in it too.

So I find it difficult that Syria will be able to sit out of such a widespread conflict on its east and west.

And if Israeli fighters flew over Syria, then Syria will have to try to shoot them down … and if they flew over Jordan … then Iran will hit Jordan …

Too many reasons to worry that it won’t be a clean XBOX360 war game type of strike.

February 14th, 2010, 9:36 pm

 

norman said:

Shai, Alex,

Do you think that something is changing ?,

Photo by: AP Syria must be a top priority
By ALON BEN-MEIR
14/02/2010 21:08

An Israeli-Syrian peace will fundamentally change the geopolitical condition in the Middle East.
Talkbacks (6) Recently, Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman caused yet another blunder for Israel’s image in a series of hawkish comments and threats toward Syria. Following the diplomatic breech with Turkey by Deputy Foreign Minister Danny Ayalon, Israel has allowed its foreign policy to be poorly misrepresented by ideologues that differ greatly from the majority of Israelis who want peace.

As the US finally announced that it is reinstating an ambassador to Syria, Israel needs to consider some gestures to ease the negative attention it has received and start looking to the North to resolve its own disputes with its neighbor.

Turkey has recently reiterated its interest in resuming its mediating role between Israel and Syria. Israel should embrace the Turkish efforts and commit itself to a negotiated peace agreement with Syria, as the effects of this would reverberate throughout the region, especially as Iran continues to strengthen its ties to proxies Hizbullah and Hamas. Though the recent rift between Turkey and Israel over Israel’s handling of Gaza has put a strain on the countries’ bilateral relations, Turkey remains Israel’s most important strategic ally in the region and is still in the best position to mediate between the two. Israeli concerns over Turkey’s ability to remain neutral in its mediating efforts do not take into account the progress that Turkish mediators were able to achieve in the last round of negotiations that collapsed with Operation Cast Lead.

Israel can benefit from a Turkish ally who is close to the Arab world. Turkey seeks Israeli-Syrian peace not merely for self-aggrandizement, but because regional peace would have a tremendous effect on its national security and economic developments and will certainly have even greater impact on Israel’s national security and economic interests.

LOOMING BEYOND the benefits of direct Israeli-Syrian land-for-peace negotiations are the long-term implications for Syria’s ties with Iran and its proxies. If Syria feels it is within reach of getting the Golan Heights and normal relations with the US, it takes no special acumen to understand that an Israeli-Syrian peace will fundamentally change Damascus’ strategic interests and the geopolitical condition in the Middle East. Changing Syria’s strategic interests will have a direct impact on Iran, Hamas and Hizbullah’s behavior. Syria has served as the linchpin between the three and by removing Syria’s logistical and political backing, which will inadvertently result from an Israeli-Syrian peace, Hamas and Hizbullah will be critically weakened. Both are direct by-products of the Israeli occupation, and only by ending its hold on the Golan will Israel be in a position to begin effectively dealing with Arab extremism.

Whereas Israel’s concerns over Iran’s nuclear program may not be completely mitigated by an Israeli-Syrian peace, it will certainly force Teheran to rethink its strategy toward Israel. The irony is that while Israel continues to hype up the Iranian nuclear threat, and perhaps for good reason, it has lost focus on how to change the regional geopolitical dynamic and weaken Iran’s influence in the region. Peace with Syria will reduce the prospect of using force against Iran to resolve its nuclear threat, but, under any violent scenario between Israel and Iran, Teheran will no longer be able to count on the almost automatic support of Hamas and Hizbullah because the national interests of these two groups will now be at odds with Syria’s strategic interest.

Israel must seize the opportunity to enter into negotiations with Syria not only because it can now negotiate from a position of strength but also because of the collective Arab will to make peace as enunciated time and again by the Arab Peace Initiative. Israel cannot make the claim that it seeks peace but then fail to seize the opportunity when one is presented.

President Bashar al-Assad, like his father, has prioritized peace with Israel as a strategic option. He has expressed his desire to conclude a deal in exchange for the Golan Heights and a healthy relationship with the US. Israel must make a choice. It cannot continue trying to justify the occupation in the name of security when the whole Arab world is extending its hand to achieve a genuine peace.

Israel must choose between territory and real security; as long as Syria has territorial claims against Israel, Israel will never be secure on its northern borders. If Syria offers peace, normalization of relations, and meets Israel’s legitimate security concerns and Israel still refuses, the Golan will become a national liability rather than national security asset.

INTERNATIONAL OPPOSITION to Israel’s continued occupation is growing because occupation of Arab land and the settlements are seen as the single source of continued regional strife and instability. Linking the occupation to national security concerns is viewed as nothing more than a pretext to maintaining the occupation and as a recipe not only for self-isolation but a precursor for renewed violence.

It is time for Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu to put an end to Lieberman’s reckless statements about Syria and lack of any diplomatic savoir-faire. If Israel is truly focused on national security then it must relinquish the Golan Heights.

The fact that Syria chose a negotiating venue through Turkey to regain the Golan, and may not be in a position to regain it by force, should not be taken by Israel to mean that it can indefinitely maintain the status quo without serious consequences. Syria has shown tremendous capacity to deny Israel peace with Lebanon and the Palestinians and can continue to do so.

The appointment of Robert Ford as the new American ambassador to Syria has potential to open a new chapter in US-Syrian relations. Whereas the Obama administration is fully keen on trying to advance the peace process, it has no illusion that the real game changer in the Middle East in connection with Iran, Iraq, Lebanon and the Palestinians is an Israeli-Syrian peace. The improved relations between the United States and Syria will inadvertently shift Syria’s strategic calculus as the normalization of relations with the US and the prospect of regaining the Golan Heights will assume national priority over other tactical ties that Syria currently has with Iran, Hizbullah and Hamas.

The United States will have to remain relentless in its efforts to advance the Israeli-Syrian peace and may find Turkey to be the best interlocutor between the two nations.

The writer is a professor of international relations at the Center for Global Affairs at NYU. He teaches international negotiation and Middle Eastern studies. http://www.alonben-meir.com

February 15th, 2010, 1:53 am

 

Shai said:

Alex,

Israel’s nuclear “ambiguity” (the policy of not saying we have it, but not saying we don’t), is countered by Syria’s own ambiguity when it comes to Lebanon and Iran. Israel has seen Syria not react in 2006, but it could have, certainly if any of its own targets were hit (even as a “small lesson”). Her seemingly-growing alliance with Iran certainly adds to that ambiguity because as you say, Israel cannot be certain that if she hits Iran and Lebanon, Syria won’t join in. It might “have to”. Or it might not.

I’m not worried right now. Bibi’s not going to take chances while he’s in power. I’ll get worried if we don’t see any major developments, and re-election comes up in Israel (which could actually happen at any time, as coalition governments tend to be quite unstable here). Peres always claimed that Begin timed his attack of Osirak in 1981 in order to get re-elected.

February 15th, 2010, 5:43 am

 

Alex said:

Alright .. since we are all enjoying this guessing exercise, let’s get organized.

I added a new poll … please vote!

Will Israel and / or the United States attack Iran this year?

February 15th, 2010, 8:09 am

 

Alex said:

The author of this opinion piece in Haaretz today heads the military research program at the Institute for National Security Studies.

However, it seems he is unable to remember that Israel bombarded Arab civilian centers few times recently.

Syria is no different from Hamas or Hezbollah

http://www.haaretz.com/hasen/spages/1149836.html

Syrian Foreign Minister Walid Moallem recently told Israelis that “you know that war at this time will reach your cities.” The statement bolsters the recognition that the Syrian strategy in a future war will be based on targeting population centers in Israel. It seems that after the enemy’s attempts to act through conventional military means and terrorism failed, it tried to locate Israel’s weak point. Damascus sees our cities as a weak point.

The Syrian minister’s comments show the extent to which Damascus has adopted a terrorist modus operandi that is no different from that of Hezbollah or Hamas. Even though, unlike those groups, it has still not moved its rocket launchers into population centers whose residents are meant to serve as human shields, Israel is obliged to immediately issue a warning, in every important venue in the world, that Syria is acting in contravention of the laws of war. The kind of threat Syria issued requires a response that will ensure that the enemy will continue being deterred from carrying it out. Israel must also counter the ethical and legal implications of the Syrian threat.

February 15th, 2010, 9:41 am

 

Shai said:

Alex,

A quote from the same “author” (if he deserves even this much credit):
“The Syrian minister’s comments show the extent to which Damascus has adopted a terrorist modus operandi that is no different from that of Hezbollah or Hamas.” (Referring to the threat of attacking Israel’s cities).

What the “author” (Christ, I’m starting to delegitimize using quotes, like someone else on SC) seems to forget, is that no major world power in the past 150 years at least hasn’t, as part of fighting a war, hit population centers deep inside its enemies territory. Ever since the invention of the modern rockets, certainly, civilian populations were targeted by the likes of Germany, Britain, France, Russia, United States, Italy, and quite a few others.

What’s the point of calling this a “terrorist modus operandi”, if all our major allies have used this endlessly in war?

This always reminds me of those powerful words Robert McNamara repeated on his famous documentary (Fog of War): “What makes it moral if you win, but immoral if you don’t?” (General Curtis Lemay told McNamara right after WWII that had the Japanese won, there’s a good chance the two of them would be tried as war criminals…)

On a separate note, forgive me Alex, but I cannot take part in that recent poll you’re running. There’s something innately wrong about “gambling” on such things as war. The consequences are simply too horrific to even consider in exercise. But I will admit that causing us to think about it, is an important part of (hopefully) avoiding it.

February 15th, 2010, 6:33 pm

 

Alex said:

Shai

This is a good example of why I warned about Israel’s preemption and Mr. Netanyahu’s asking American representatives to understand and support his demand for more freedom to decide as early as he wants that there is danger looming in the horizon that requires firm Israeli actions … what he called “prevention”

Israeli leaders, political and military, find it difficult to understand that they are not as moral as they would like to imagine they are.

Look at the assumptions made by the head of the military research program at the Institute for National Security Studies! … the guy is dangerous is his simplification of reality in a way that makes him conclude what he wants to conclude. He truncated Mouallem’s statement, in which Mouallem was basically saying:

IF ISRAEL decides to attack Lebanon again, this time it will have to involve Syria which promised to defend Lebanon. And if Israel will again bombard Beirut and other civilian centers in south Lebanon, Israel will have to experience a similar level of pain that it insists on periodically inflicting on the civilian population of its Arab neighbors. And if Israel thinks that it will perform so well that after the war ends, Syria will come to the negotiating table begging for any deal, Israel is wrong

Mouallem, who was increasingly convinced that Israel is indeed considering a war on Lebanon option seriously, was trying his best to convince the Israelis to think twice about starting another bloody conflict in our area… His intention was to do what he can to prevent that war.

But the brilliant Israeli head of the military research program at the Institute for National Security Studies decided to zoom on one sentence in Mouallem’s remarks and to write an opinion piece advocating an escalation with Syria based on Syria’s terrorist conduct.

And these delusional people want to be the sole exception on our planet to be trusted with the power (and the moral cover provided by their friends in the west) of deciding to START more wars at their own discretion? .. when THEY feel it is necessary?

Shai .. there is a reason why most Europeans in those polls consistently thought that Israel posed the greatest threat to world peace.

And Gandhi’s words are very relevant today …. “Complete and immediate orderly withdrawal of the British from India [which will] at once put the Allied cause on a completely moral basis”

The only way Israel can put its cause on a moral basis is for Israel to do what is right … respect UN resolutions and give back the occupied territories. THEN Israel will have the right to defend itself and will probably be able to count on many of its neighbors’ support.

February 15th, 2010, 8:43 pm

 

Shai said:

Alex,

I agree. What actually upsets me most in that man’s article, is that he chose Mouallem’s words as if they existed in a vacuum, or were the beginning of a new period of tension. But in reality, it was Barak that started this whole chain of unfortunate verbal confrontation. Even though, from everything I could understand, his own words were ALSO intended to send the message (“War is NOT a good option. Peace is.”)

But Alex, I must also tell you, that I think this whole “you first” game is idiotic, it is dangerous, and it may cost us heavily. Why on earth must the Israeli public read today, for the first time, from Olmert’s mouth, that he was within hours of meeting with Mouallem (I guess in Turkey)? If everyone knows everyone, if Barak already met with Al-Sharaa, if Netanyahu feels he knows Assad Sr. better than Assad Jr., why can’t a meeting take place immediately?

Leave the pride, and the justice, and the “no preconditions, but yes preconditions”, all aside. Let bold and courageous leaders meet, to start developing an understanding, an open ear, and trust. These are the must-ingredients to any deal, and they could turn everything upside down (for the better), almost in an instant. Do you know what kind of support Bibi would have, if tomorrow morning Assad invited him to Damascus, or even Vienna, for a direct meeting?

It has never been tried before, not at the highest level. Maybe it’s time? Assad and Bibi don’t need Obama between them. Let them jumpstart the process and, as Assad himself said, the two countries are probably 80% there. There’s not much left. We don’t want to be held hostage by the Lieberman’s here or there. It’s time to show courage, for the sake of the future of this region, and of our children.

February 15th, 2010, 9:11 pm

 

Alex said:

Shai

Mouallem was not reacting to Barak’s words. He was reacting after a number of reports and signals indicated that Israel is considering a number of options, including another war on Lebanon or another attack on Gaza.

But I agree with you that Barak’s statement sounded more like a message to the warmongers in Israel .. that a war with Syria will be not so much the one-sided fun trip they imagine it to be.

As for the poll, I was sarcastic above, but I definitely do not take it lightly … my article is warning against this kind of decision … reminding of the millions who died in 1980-1988 (Iran Iraq war) and in 2003-now in Iraq, and reminding them that nothing gets under control as a result of these wars … different players will assume the leadership of “resistance”, that’s all.

February 15th, 2010, 9:25 pm

 

norman said:

Shai ,Alex
Whay Israel is doing to Abbas makes it clear that the conflict is not psycological as you think , you are the first one to think that Abbas is a lap dog for Israel and can not deliver , why do you thaink that a meeting between President Assad and Natanyahou will cause a signuficat change , Syria is learning about the reaction of Israel from the Israeli deeds that they see,

Alex ,

This one for you , you will like it ,

Synergy in Syria Ishtiaq Ali Mehkri (Middle East)

16 February 2010 There is no escape from history and politics in Syria. On a visit to the shrine of Syeda Zainab bint-e-Ali, the courageous sister of Hazrat Imam Hussain — who upheld the banner of Islam after the tragedy of Karbala, I couldn’t stop short of experiencing a new world of geopolitics around me.

The country, dubbed by the United States as an axis of evil, has an altogether different perspective to boast.

Unlike many other Muslim countries, it has a fairly rich and tolerant culture, and one can see great religious diversity and co-existence. Syria’s mark is its pride in maintaining and protecting an identity of its own, which is purely Arab in essence, and yet makes room for divergent influences—especially Persian and European—to flourish in harmony and compassion. Predominantly a Muslim country, Syria views itself as a secular country ensuring equality for members of other religions—Christians, Jews, Druzes — who apart from their historical existence share a history of political rise and fall of their own.

Yet, Damascus doesn’t seem to be oblivious to the pressing issues of peace and security, and thereby is apt to accommodate the inevitable leverage of pro-Hezbollah and Hamas sentiments in its midst. With a sizeable tract of its territory, the Golan Heights, under Israeli occupation, it would be naïve to believe that the political influence of these organisations is a mere coincidence. Moreover, one cannot ignore the visible influence of Iran, a major ally and long time friend.

There is enough room for Tehran to flaunt its brand of politics and beliefs in Syria, especially in the Shia community. Post Revolution, Iran has funneled in men, material and money and has been instrumental in building infrastructure for religious associations and political parties. Many of the historical monuments and shrines of notable religious figures, including Ahl-e-Bait (family of Prophet Muhammad, peace be upon him) and his Companions have been preserved by Iran diligently. This is no small contribution as it puts Syria in a small club of nations that have preserved ancient heritage. No wonder Syria is a favourite destination for pilgrims from all schools of Islamic thought as well as tourists.

Syria’s geostrategic importance is hard to ignore. Bordering Lebanon, Israel, Jordan, Iraq, Turkey and the Mediterranean Sea, Syria is at the crossroads of the Arab-Islamic world. Given Syria’s uneasy ties with many Arab countries, especially Saudi Arabia, by the virtue of it being the only Arab ally of Iran, whatever Damascus does is of importance to the entire region. This is why Syrian reconciliation with Iraq, Jordan and Saudi Arabia, and its hands-off role from Lebanon, have not only won it laurels but also paved the way for its unhindered access to many of the European capitals.

Ironically, Syria remains a dark and unfamiliar place for the Americans despite Damascus opening itself to London and Paris, and its repeated peace overtures with Washington. The bad blood is owing to Syria’s ties with Soviet Union during the Cold war and half a century of confrontation and antagonism with the US. This is why the latest thaw between Damascus and Washington is still clouded by mistrust.

Syria’s Iranian tilt and its tensions with Israel will keep the US at bay for now. Damascus holds the key to US policies in the region. Which is why it is of utmost importance for decision makers on the Capitol Hill to not only make peace with it, but also engage all US adversaries. Notwithstanding the uneasiness in their ties, Syria is eager for a breakthrough with its Arab neighbours and the West.

The Baathist-run country has come a long way as it celebrates President Bashar Al-Asad’s ten years in power in July this year. Learning from his illustrious father, Hafiz Al-Asad, who established a stable system of governance in a country notorious for political instability and prone to foreign intrusions, Bashar has the potential to 
make history.

A cursory look at Syria’s foreign policy approach suggests that it is open to engagement on critical issues related to the Middle East. This is why there seems to be euphoria over the nomination of Robert Ford as Washington’s envoy to Damascus, a position that has been vacant since 2005.

It is believed that President Barack Obama, unlike his predecessor, looks at Syria from an altogether different prism, and is not adamant on Damascus severing relations with Hamas, Hezbollah and Tehran.

For its part, Syria seems to have already made up its mind to keep its hands off Lebanon and patch up with Arab neighbours, hinting at an approach independent of Iran.

This quid pro quo in the making is of immense importance and is likely to herald a change without resorting to brinkmanship in the region.

Syria’s module of reconciliation at home can be emulated on the international stage provided the country’s security and sovereignty concerns 
are addressed.

Damascus will be under tremendous domestic pressure to tread a cautious path in dealing with Iran, US and its Arab allies until it strikes a settlement 
with Tel Aviv.

As former US Secretary of State Henry Kissinger once quipped, “Damascus is at one and the same time the fount of Arab nationalism and the exhibit of its frustrations”.

This stands true even to this day. Syria can neither be cowed down nor ignored for long. Its strength lies in accommodation with adversaries but not at the cost of its national pride 
and interest.

Ishtiaq Ali Mehkri is Khaleej Times’ 
Assistant Editor (Opinion). Write to
him at mehkri@khaleejtimes.com
Print this story Send to a friend ShareThis

February 16th, 2010, 2:22 am

 

Shai said:

Norman,

With all due respect, President Bashar Assad is not Mahmoud Abbas. The Palestinian president has allowed Israel to supply him with money, security, and arms. He depends on Israel and, through his own actions and decisions, has become de facto “puppet” of Israel and the U.S. I very much doubt Assad could or would become anyone’s puppet.

Plus, Israel isn’t afraid of the Palestinians like it is of Syria. Syria is still a formidable enemy, and I imagine Netanyahu will have look at Assad at eye-level. The Israeli-Palestinian relationship has always been unequal, perhaps even patronizing.

Our own media doesn’t get “excited” when Abbas meets an Israeli PM. It certainly will when Assad will. Again, I doubt you’ll find anyone on the political spectrum in Israel that will think otherwise. Even Lieberman will beg to shake Assad’s hand… (but I hope he won’t). 🙂

February 16th, 2010, 6:38 am

 

Akbar Palace said:

Norman,

You can rest assured, the Golan will not be returned until a tangible comprehensive peace treaty is signed by both parties.

(Sorry for the “Hardline”.)

February 16th, 2010, 11:53 am

 

norman said:

AP
Syria wants a tangible comprehensive peace that you like , Surprise !.
She does not want only the Golan ,

February 16th, 2010, 1:17 pm

 

Akbar Palace said:

Syria wants a tangible comprehensive peace that you like…

Norman,

I hope you’re right. Feel free to post a link describing what “Syria wants” in terms of a “tangible comprehensive peace”. I would like to learn more about this. Alex’s brochure didn’t touch on this topic.

Anyway, Daniel Pipes has a short article recommending the following book: The Strong Horse: Power, Politics, and the Clash of Arab Civilizations (Doubleday, $26), an entertaining yet deep and important analysis by Lee Smith, Middle East correspondent for the Weekly Standard.

I’m thinking it may explain why the Assad’s have been in power for over 40 years…

http://www.danielpipes.org/7964/mideast-bet-on-strong-horse

February 16th, 2010, 1:29 pm

 

Shai said:

Akbar,

Something in the “rational-thinking process” of American neocons and certain people who support “The Right” in Israel (without truly understanding the differences between Right and Left, as I explained in a previous comment), continues to puzzle me – maybe you can clarify it for us.

Alon Liel, former Director General of the Foreign Ministry, and former Ambassador to South Africa and Turkey, said once that back in his days as a cadet, they used to tell them every day that if ANY Arab country wants to talk peace with Israel, “we must jump on it…” Fortunately, in the late 70’s, Israel took up Anwar Sadat on it. And, lo and behold, we got Peace. Not “Warm Peace”, not “True Peace”, but at least a cold-Peace that replaced War, in any of its forms. To remind ourselves, Egypt fought Israel not only in direct all-out wars, but also behind the scenes, via Fedayeen, and support of Palestinian factions. Egypt was responsible for more Israeli deaths than any other nation, organization, real and would-be terrorists.

I wonder if Ehud Olmert, back in 1977, rejected the return of Sinai to Egypt because he wasn’t clear about “what Egypt wants”. I wonder if he distrusted Egypt’s motives. The Sinai was, after all, the only strategic depth Israel ever acquired for herself. Returning it was, after all, truly a huge risk. Maybe Anwar Sadat didn’t promise enough. Maybe he only said “Peace”, without spelling out exactly what he meant. Maybe he didn’t promise to break off all relations with Israel’s remaining enemies, who still swore to destroy us. So Olmert was ready to risk more wars (even after 1973), more bloodshed, and not make Peace with an Egypt that didn’t prove itself or, worse, simply didn’t deserve the Sinai. In retrospect, we know he was wrong. In retrospect, he knows he was wrong, which is precisely why he changed his mind about Syria (way too late, unfortunately), and was trying to close a deal before his term in office came to an end.

So if the Foreign Ministry once taught its diplomats to “jump at the opportunity” each time an Arab state wanted to talk peace, I wonder what’s changed. The years 1967-1973 are known in Israel today as perhaps the most crucial years in our short history. It was in this time that the Occupation was established as a strategic concept, it was in this period that Israel rejected a number of peaceful initiatives by the Arabs, and it was then that the famous “Conceptzia” was borne (of Israeli superiority and arrogance). No doubt the 1973 war was a consequence of these, and we paid heavily for it (we, meaning the families of thousands of dead and injured.)

And look at what’s happening today. Every single Arab nation confirms its readiness to make Peace with Israel (without “really explaining” what they mean by Peace… like their predecessors Egypt and Jordan), and they do it in three separate Arab Summits since 2002. Their request, very clear. Israel must return to the 1967 borders. Not the 1947 borders, not the 1923 borders, not the 6 A.D. borders. As for Right of Return, they all confirm that a just solution must be found, that is acceptable to ALL parties (including Israel).

And what does Israel do? It doesn’t “jump” at the opportunity, it doesn’t even “slowly get up” to see what’s there. It does, however, send a very clear signal to everyone, which says “We’re in no hurry.” And to the tougher of the enemies in that pan-Arab crowd, we send a clear signal that says “Peace in return for Peace…” What that means, no one knows. What do WE give with that “Peace”, no Arab knows. In fact, no non-Arab knows. Do YOU Akbar know? In return for Peace with Syria, is Israel ready to accept all its 400,000 Palestinians back? (We know the answer to that one.) Is Israel going to give the Palestinians all of the West Bank back? (We know the answer to that one also.) Will Israel ask its American lobby to stop pushing anti-Syrian legislation? (Maybe. Did someone on the Israeli side confirm this ever?) Will Israel return the Golan? Maybe. Maybe not.

But “We” want to know in advance what Syria is ready to give US. For instance, we’ve decided that if they’re serious, they must leave their best-friend Iran. They must dump their only true strategic partner, because Israel and the U.S. don’t like her. They must endanger their own relations with that nation, their own future in the neighborhood, just to get “Peace with Israel”. That sounds fair. In simple terms, the United States certainly kills more innocent earthlings each and every year (not to mention executes quite a few), so I wonder if Syria asked Israel to give up its relationship with the United States (a “terrorist state”) in return for Peace, how would we react? Ridiculous notion.

Why is it, that when an Arab leader in the form of one Bashar Assad has, for the past half-decade at least, come as close to “begging” Israel for Peace, we don’t jump on it? We find good reasons not to hurry. We need “clarifications”, as if the concept is so vague in itself, that one should be careful not to just grab it too quickly, lest he may find himself with nothing in his hands. Because we have already experience with nations that offer peace, but later renege on it. Because we truly fear that Syria will take back the Golan, and give no security to Israel in return. Because until we hear Syria publicly spell-out the “terms” of that Peace (we’ll stop all arms shipments to Hezbollah, we’ll change our defence-strategic alliance with Iran, we’ll stop supporting anti-Israeli groups, etc.), we’re just not sure Syria will offer, or deliver, any of these.

You see, Akbar, I can also come up with reasons not to make Peace. I can always claim the other side’s not “clear enough”. I can always ask for “a link”. But when is it, that we can start using our head also for courageous decisions, not only for cowardly ones?

February 16th, 2010, 3:54 pm

 

Ghat Albird said:

I was tempted to vote on Alex’s poll for just a minute. And after much deliberation (16 seconds I believe) decided not to commit.

The simple and most evident one is that from an Israeli point of view would be the question of “whats in it for us?”.

This posit concurs with the premise that Israel benefits more from a “peace” posture that never leads to “real peace”. Once peace becomes a fact its dependence and/directions over US policies is lessened.

IMO “a peace” must be imposed on Israel. The method[s] of imposition then become a matter of choosing the most effective one to accomplish the ends.

The only meaningful difference between the talking and the doing is the doing.

Happy Chinese New Year to all.

February 16th, 2010, 5:45 pm

 

Akbar Palace said:

IMO “a peace” must be imposed on Israel.

Ghat,

After the peace is “imposed on Israel”, do you think Hamas will cease firing missiles into Israeli population centers? Will Syria and Iran continue to arm Hezbollah with missiles?

Just wondering if you know whether the “imposed” peace will run both ways.

February 16th, 2010, 5:52 pm

 

Alex said:

136. Akbar Palace said:

Syria wants a tangible comprehensive peace that you like…

Norman,

I hope you’re right. Feel free to post a link describing what “Syria wants” in terms of a “tangible comprehensive peace”. I would like to learn more about this. Alex’s brochure didn’t touch on this topic.

Dear Akbar,

The conclusion of my “brochure” is mainly about one thing:

Here it is again:

If Israel’s leadership is ready for a lasting paradigm shift, if it is ready to abandon its quest to reshape Israel’s strategic environment by force, it might find Syria ready to articulate a vision for the Middle East where an Israel that is willing to act like an ordinary state, despite its many impressive achievements, can play one of the leading roles in the development of a new harmonious, prosperous and highly connected Middle East.

Former Israeli foreign minister Abba Eban said “History teaches us that men and nations behave wisely once they have exhausted all other alternatives”

One hopes that fifteen eventful years after late Prime Minister Rabin’s transformation into a genuine peace maker earned him the respect and trust of his enemies, Mr. Netanyahu is finally ready for a serious and constructive dialogue with his neighbors about a common vision for the future of the wider Middle East and not about the parts of their occupied lands that Israel refuses to give back.

1) “lasting” paradigm shift means … no superficial outward interest in peace … no wasting time waiting for the next window of opportunity to rearrange the Middle East to Israel’s liking.

2) An ordinary state … a state that respects its neighbors as equals … a state that cares about its neighbors just like it cared about Haiti.

If Israel wants to live as a natural part of the Middle East, and not a foreign occupier, then Israel needs to “tear down this wall”

THAT Israel will have all the peace, security and warm friendship of its current enemies.

Did you see how Syria hosted its former bitter enemy Michel Aoun? … the man who launched a furious six-month rebellion against Syria in 1989

http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/middle_east/7762508.stm

To start that new page, Syria had to withdraw completely from Lebanon … and it did … and today Syria enjoys three times the popularity of the United States in Lebanon.

http://joshualandis.com/blog/wp-content/uploads/lebanon_poll.jpg

When Israel is ready to turn the page, like Syria did in Lebanon (even though Syria was not occupying and annexing Lebanon), everything will be possible.

February 16th, 2010, 7:12 pm

 

Shai said:

Alex,

You put it so well. Thank you!

Akbar,

Put aside the pride issue (when Israel becomes an ‘ordinary nation’), and you’ll see that Alex is right. If we’re serious about living as equals in this region, not as a bully, not as an occupier, not as a nation or a people with more rights, then there’s a partner by the name of Syria that is waiting for us.

February 16th, 2010, 7:34 pm

 

Akbar Palace said:

The conclusion of my “brochure” is mainly about one thing:

Here it is again:

Alex,

Thanks for reiterating your conclusion. Do YOU speak for the Syrian government? If you DO speak for the Syrian government, I will take your words seriously. If you DON’T speak for the Syrian government, then you only represent the opinion of one person living in Canada.

If Israel’s leadership is ready for a lasting paradigm shift, if it is ready to abandon its quest to reshape Israel’s strategic environment by force, it might find Syria ready to articulate a vision for the Middle East where an Israel that is willing to act like an ordinary state, despite its many impressive achievements, can play one of the leading roles in the development of a new harmonious, prosperous and highly connected Middle East.

Alex,

Peace IS the paradigm shift. Peace means Israel doesn’t need to ensure its survival by force. Under the current circumstances, namely a state of war between 3 neighboring countries, I believe Israel is not only acting “like an ordinary state”, but is acting beyond an ordinary state.

One hopes that fifteen eventful years after late Prime Minister Rabin’s transformation into a genuine peace maker earned him the respect and trust of his enemies, Mr. Netanyahu is finally ready for a serious and constructive dialogue with his neighbors about a common vision for the future of the wider Middle East and not about the parts of their occupied lands that Israel refuses to give back.

I find it interesting that you see Rabin as a “genuine peace maker”. Oslo did not really work while he was alive. Actually, Sharon did more to make peace by unilaterally leaving Gaza and by building the separation wall.

1) “lasting” paradigm shift means … 2) An ordinary state … If Israel wants to live as a natural part of the Middle East, and not a foreign occupier, then Israel needs to “tear down this wall”

You needn’t worry yourself about the definitions of peace, etc. Israel has already signed 2 peace treaties with Egypt and Jordan. They have worked quite well for the past few decades.

THAT Israel will have all the peace, security and warm friendship of its current enemies.

Currently Iran, Hamas and Hezbollah are enemies of Israel. They have threatened the existence of Israel on numerous occassions. Are you saying that a peace treaty with Syria will also be a peace treaty with these 3 countries/organizations?

Did you see how Syria hosted its former bitter enemy Michel Aoun? … the man who launched a furious six-month rebellion against Syria in 1989

http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/middle_east/7762508.stm

How do we know the Syrians didn’t threaten the life and limb of the Aoun family?

When Israel is ready to turn the page, like Syria did in Lebanon (even though Syria was not occupying and annexing Lebanon), everything will be possible.

It all sounds to good to be true. Are you sure? Does this include unlimited baklava under market prices?

February 16th, 2010, 8:13 pm

 

Ford Prefect said:

Also for the record, during the last official peace talks with Israel in Shepherds Town, Syria met every single demand from Israel. This is a documented fact. In return, Syria wanted the return of ALL the Golan Heights. Israel was less than willing to meet that demand.

The fact of the matter is that Israel can talk about peace with Syria all it wants. At the end of the day, the Golan price is too high to pay in return for a peace with Syria. Syria is not a threat to Israel (so most Israelis think) and therefore, Israel will not return the Golan because it does not have to.

Syria will only get the Golan back when Israelis think that they must and that peace with Syria is better than the status quo.

Peace with Egypt was well worth the Sinai. Taking Egypt out of the “enemy” picture was well worth a full withdrawal from Sinai.

Peace with Jordan was easy and did not include “giving up” anything. The cost of it was the paper and ink used to finalize the treaty.

Syria will get stronger, gain more momentum through its expanding economy, trade, and strategic positioning in the Middle East. When Israel starts looking eastward and wants to finally belong to a thriving neighborhood and have trading partners, Israelis will start thinking peace with Syria.

By the way, every nation ensures its survival by force and Israel is not an exception. What is an exception for Israel is that it uses this force irrationally.

Peace with Syria will eventually happen because it is a determined eventuality, but how many people must die before it happens?

February 17th, 2010, 2:42 am

 

Akbar Palace said:

Every Single Neighborhood

Syria met every single demand from Israel

Ford Prefect,

What were the demands that Syria “met”? I didn’t know they signed an agreement. I thought one of the demands was to halt diplomatic relations with Iran.

When Israel starts looking eastward and wants to finally belong to a thriving neighborhood and have trading partners, Israelis will start thinking peace with Syria.

What “thriving neighborhood” are you talking about? Beverly Hills?

February 17th, 2010, 3:22 am

 

Ford Prefect said:

AP,
Without going into too much details, I am pretty sure that you have read the Israel-Syria Draft Peace Agreement of 2000. If you have not, maybe you should – just for some historical perspectives.

The demands that Syria met were what Israel wanted:

1. Establishment of Peace and Security within Recognized Boundaries

2. Normal Peaceful Relations with full diplomatic exchange, economic, trade, (even fax lines!), and free movement of people and goods.

3. Early warning monitoring station on Mount Hermon – WITH AN EFFECTIVE ISRAELI PRESENCE as part of an overall security arrangements.

4. Water rights

There were also several other provisions that the two parties have agreed to.

In summary, it is impossible to deny the fact that Syria and Israel did come to a final agreement on the conditions that were laid out by both parties.

In 2000, Israel lost a golden opportunity to sign that peace treaty with “so ready for peace” Syria. No matter who you believe telling of what happened back then, the fact remains clear: Syria and Assad Sr were ready to sign on the dotted line had Barak lived up to his end of the deal of full withdrawal.

Maybe the timing was not right. Maybe Barak was not ready. Maybe Syria’s Assad should have accepted the “less than full withdrawal” deal from Barak. But what the 2000 negotiations have proven was that the Israeli Syrian conflict is NOT an existential one – it is a conflict over borders – as Martin Indyk once said.

Again, the reason of this history recitation is not to find who to blame, but rather to underscore that indisputable fact that Syria did meet all the terms and conditions laid out in front of her. There was not a single item that was left in dispute between Israel and Syria – except the June 4 border lines.

So, Syrians can wait and time is what they have and have plenty of. The day will come when full peace for full land return will take place. Israel, Syria, Lebanon, Turkey, Iraq, Palestine, and Jordan will be one of strongest economic powers in the region.

That is the thriving neghborhood I am talking about.

February 17th, 2010, 4:00 pm

 

Alex said:

Akbar,

Wall street executives are finding Syria the next hot market”, but you DO NOT WANT TO … you are only looking for excuses to not promote immediate efforts to reach a peaceful settlement. And “you” in this case (to answer your previous question) refers to all of “Israel’s friends” in the United States who are so quick to understand why their country should go to war, but they are all alarmed when they hear “peace”

Are you happy with Israel’s leadership today?

U.S. lawmakers in Israel ‘puzzled’ by Ayalon boycott

A delegation of U.S. Congress members on Wednesday harshly criticized Deputy Foreign Minister Danny Ayalon for boycotting a meeting with them due to the fact that they arrived in Israel with members of the left-leaning pro-Israel lobby J Street.

“It was with real surprise and disappointment that we read a headline in this morning’s paper saying, ‘Foreign Ministry Boycotts Members of Congress,'” said Rep. William Delahunt (D-Massachusetts), who is heading the group of Democratic Congress members visiting Israel.

We were puzzled that the Deputy Foreign Minister has apparently attempted to block our meetings with senior officials in the Prime Minister’s office and Foreign Ministry – questioning either our own support of Israel or that we would even consider traveling to the region with groups that the Deputy Foreign Minister has so inaccurately described as ‘anti-Israel,'” Delahunt continued.

“In our opinion this is an inappropriate way to treat elected representatives of Israel’s closest ally who are visiting the country – and who through the years have been staunch supporters of the U.S.-Israeli special relationship.”

February 17th, 2010, 4:16 pm

 

Shai said:

FP,

“Israel, Syria, Lebanon, Turkey, Iraq, Palestine, and Jordan will be one of strongest economic powers in the region.”

In’shalla. Amen. There are enough of us that want it, and we will make it happen!

February 17th, 2010, 7:26 pm

 

Ford Prefect said:

Indeed Shai!! After all, we all live in OneMideast, dont’ we? 😉

February 17th, 2010, 7:43 pm

 

Alex said:

FP said

“Israel, Syria, Lebanon, Turkey, Iraq, Palestine, and Jordan will be one of strongest economic powers in the region.”

Ford Prefect 7abibi …when you group Israel, Syria, Lebanon, Turkey, Iraq, Palestine, and Jordan” .. there is not much left in our region outside this group (besides the Gulf states group).

Do let’s hope that Israel, Syria, Lebanon, Turkey, Iraq, Palestine, and Jordan in 5 to 10 years will be one of the strongest economic powers IN THE WORLD.

February 17th, 2010, 10:33 pm

 

jad said:

AHLEEN!!! 😉

February 17th, 2010, 10:56 pm

 

norman said:

Look at this and be proud of Syria ,and president Assad ,

Syria’s Assad: pariah to power-brokerIt’s a remarkable recovery in political and economic fortune that sees Syria and Assad being courted by the west and Arabs alike

Chris Phillips guardian.co.uk, Wednesday 17 February 2010 17.00 GMT larger | smaller Article historyWashington’s decision to send a new ambassador and top diplomat to Damascus this week represents a remarkable turnaround for Syria’s Bashar al-Assad. Five years ago, President Assad appeared weak and isolated as he stood before parliament to announce his army’s withdrawal from Lebanon. Greeted by rapturous applause in Beirut and nervous surprise in Damascus, the optometrist who had inherited power barely five years before undid in one speech what had taken his father 24 years to secure: domination over Syria’s western neighbour.

Western, UN, Arab and popular Lebanese pressure had proved too much for the young president and within six weeks of the car bomb that killed Rafiq Hariri and prompted the crisis, Syrian troops were gone and Assad looked vulnerable. Some even questioned how long he could hold on to power.

As Beirutis last weekend commemorated the fifth anniversary of Hariri’s death, much has changed. In Lebanon, Syria’s allies dominate, giving Damascus compliance without the need for troops. In the Arab world, the various leaders have one by one ended their cold war with Damascus, notably Saudi Arabia who effectively endorsed Syria’s renewed dominance in Lebanon last October.

Internationally, the EU have finally offered Syria the association agreement that it suspended in 2005, and Obama’s new ambassador and diplomatic mission this week represents a renewed engagement from the White House, which many hope will end the mistrust and sanctions of the Bush era.

Far from being a pariah, Assad is now courted by the west and Arabs alike as potential power-broker in their disputes with Iran, Hezbollah and Hamas. Fuelled by Syria’s surprising recent economic resurgence, its flourishing new alliance with Turkey, Assad’s regime security and Arab-wide popularity, the younger Assad is swiftly earning a reputation for diplomacy and prudent exercise of power that eclipses even that of his revered father, Hafez. How has Assad achieved this sudden turnaround in fortunes?

On the one hand, even at the height of crisis in 2005, the threat to Assad’s internal power in Syria was exaggerated. While neocon commentators wanted the US army to march from Baghdad on to Damascus, Iraq’s insurgency was already bogging down American hopes of militarily transforming the Middle East. Such hopes were finally scuppered by Israel’s failure to defeat Hezbollah in 2006.

Similarly, though congressmen passed sanctions on the Ba’ath regime, they lacked the teeth to topple the government. At the same time, the domestic opposition in Syria remained weak and, though a government in exile was formed by an unlikely alliance of the defecting former vice president Abdel Halim Khaddam and the Muslim Brotherhood in 2006, they lacked any significant internal support.

That said, Assad took no chances and demonstrated unexpected political fortitude within months of the Lebanon withdrawal to consolidate his rule. Most of his father’s cronies, the “Old Guard” who helped engineer Bashar into power, found themselves honourably retired and replaced by a “New Guard” of technocrats and loyalists after the June 2005 Ba’ath congress. Many of these new figures, such as foreign minister Walid al-Muallim and deputy prime minister for economic affairs Ali al-Dardari, have been instrumental in the diplomatic and economic successes that have enabled Syria’s swift recovery.

More challenging than maintaining power at home was ending Syria’s international isolation, and Assad again surprised sceptics with his diplomatic skill. He drew closer to fellow outcast Iran, while opportunistically wooing other regional players. He rapidly endorsed Turkey’s 2007 incursion of Iraq to consolidate a burgeoning alliance with Ankara and was quick to visit Moscow to back Russia’s 2008 invasion of Georgia, securing much-needed defence supplies in the process.

Vital support and investment was also sought from Qatar, culminating in its mediating the 2008 Lebanese peace agreement that paved the way for a return to Syrian dominance. Assad’s successful cultivation of these allies ensured the failure of the Washington-led diplomatic boycott and, alongside Bush’s failures in Iraq and instability in Lebanon, prompted the gradual realisation by Europe, the “moderate” Arabs and finally the US that Syria could not be sidelined.

Assad’s liberalising economic policies have also reaped rewards, with Syria’s unexpected growth enhancing Damascus’s emerging international confidence. New trade from Turkey, Iraq and the EU has eased fears that economic demands would force Syria to compromise with the US and Israel. Instead, western investors are flocking to Syria, and even the tourist industry is expanding, with Damascus recently named by the New York Times as seventh top destination for 2010. Not surprisingly, Assad’s domestic popularity is enhanced by the developing middle class, who credit their president for this economic success.

This popularity is mirrored in the wider Arab world, where Assad was voted most popular Arab leader in a 2009 Zogby poll. This further boosts Damascus’s regional clout, already vying with Egypt and Lebanon for cultural dominance over the Arab world following the widespread popularity of the Syrian drama and soap-opera industry which further projects a positive view of Syria into Arab living rooms.

While sharing his father’s unwillingness to bend to US pressure and, perhaps less ruthlessly, stifling of opposition at home, Assad has shown himself to be a different kind of leader. Since the Lebanon withdrawal he has demonstrated opportunism when backed into a corner and a sound reading of the international climate. After the initial disaster of 2005, Assad was quick to adapt the hard power exercised over Beirut by Hafez into the soft power and indirect influence that has seen Syrian dominance in Lebanon return.

As the US ambassador’s residence in Damascus is once again inhabited, its occupier will find himself dealing with a more confident and influential Syrian president than the one his predecessor left behind in 2005.

February 18th, 2010, 2:02 am

 

norman said:

Are US sanctions against Syria working?

As the US names its first ambassador to Syria in five years, the BBC’s Lina Sinjab, in Damascus, examines the effect of US sanctions against the country.

Syria’s national air carrier, Syrianair, now has just three aircraft that are safe to fly.

It is banned under US sanctions from importing spare parts to service its planes, which are made by the American company Boeing.

Sixteen aircraft have been taken out of service since the 1990s.

And Syrianair cannot even buy new planes from Airbus – which, although a European company, uses American components and so, too, is barred from selling to Syria.

‘Hit hard’

The sanctions also affect the hi-tech sector.

Abdul Ghani Attar imports IBM computers into Syria and says the sanctions have hit his business “very hard”.

“The sanctions affect laptops, software – technically none of these are allowed to be directly imported… we have to get all these products through a third country,” he says.

The banking sector has also been affected by restrictions on some bank transfers and a specific bar on transactions with the country’s commercial bank.

No breakthrough

But Sami Mubayyed, editor-in-chief of Forward Magazine, a publication that tends to toe the government line, believes that the restrictions have succeeded only in damaging the image of the US in Syria.

“These sanctions have failed politically to change Syria’s behaviour or alliances, but have succeeded in other ways. They are very damaging to perceptions of America here.”

There is no real shortage of small consumer goods, which are easily bought in third countries and brought back to Syria, but not everyone can afford them.

Some models of mobile phone can cost more than three times the price they would in the US, for example.

They are brought in from – or made by – countries other than the US.

The Obama administration, which has made efforts to engage diplomatically with Syria in contrast to the isolationist stance of President Bush, says it is trying to be more flexible by waiving the rules on the purchase of certain goods.

However, the bulk of the sanctions are enshrined in US law.

The current Congress is unlikely to lift them unless there is a breakthrough in relations between the two countries on the biggest issues that divide them – and that seems as far away as ever.

‘Building bridges’

The US wants Syria to shift its alliances, especially with Iran, and its support of the Islamic militant groups Hezbollah and Hamas, whose leader Khaled Meshaal lives freely in Syria.

US SANCTIONS AGAINST SYRIA

Exports of goods containing more than 10% US-produced components banned (except food and medicines)
Obama administration working to increase exemptions for some IT, telecoms and civil aviation items
Syrian airlines blocked from operating in US
Ban on all US transactions with Commercial Bank of Syria
Specific individuals and organisations suspected of weapons dealing or associations with militant groups denied access to US financial system
The Syrian government sees Hamas and the Lebanese militant group Hezbollah as legitimate resistance movements against Israel.

The US labels them terrorists.

A chasm still exists between the two countries, but bridges are slowly being built after the isolation of the Bush years.

On Wednesday, the US named diplomat Robert Ford its first ambassador to Syria for five years.

And President Obama’s Middle East envoy George Mitchell has visited three times in the past year.

But Peter Harling, regional director for the International Crisis Group, believes change will be slow to come.

“What I think needs to happen is continual engagement until they have a strong enough relationship to be able to cope with the crises that inevitably happen in this region,” he says.

There is a deeply felt bitterness here towards the US over its support for Israel, resulting in an unwillingness to shift alliances and drop support for militant groups without guarantees of real progress towards the creation of a Palestinian state in return.

Story from BBC NEWS:
http://news.bbc.co.uk/go/pr/fr/-/2/hi/middle_east/8519511.stm

Published: 2010/02/17 12:53:24 GMT

© BBC MMX

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February 18th, 2010, 2:13 am

 

Hind Aboud Kabawat said:

Dear Alex,

Sorry I have been so late getting back to you about your terrific article that I think makes a very positive contribution to the political conversation about Syria and its future. But I do have a few points I’d like to make. They’re not criticisms so much as observations.

From my perspective one of the chief reasons why Syria has weathered many of the geopolitical tensions in the region—the boycotts, sanctions, conspiracies and the pernicious influence of Islamic fundamentalism on so many aspects of daily life—is because of the strong traditions of secularism and the constructive form of (Syrian) nationalism that animates public life in our country. While many of us disagree with many aspects of the present regime, most of believe that working in solidarity with our leaders for the greater good of the Syrian people is vitally important, most especially in our relationship with the rest of the world.

Putting the importance of the Syrian community as a whole, first, helps explain why we have been able to give refuge to hundreds of thousands of refugees from Iraq, Palestine, Lebanon—instead of being refugees, ourselves. That does not mean we have to agree with everything the government does, and it does not mean we should not actively work for political reform within the country, but the well being of the Syrian people must come first.

My other concern is your singling out people like Messieurs Khaddam, Ghadri, etc. as the true leaders of the Syrian opposition, instead of the thousands of people working at the grass roots level who actively work to fight corruption and promote political reform without believing they need to ally themselves with “foreign” interest to succeed in these endeavours. And let it be underscored, they perform this necessary political work without causing violent disruptions in the life of our country.

Among the people I believe are due special recognition for their work advocating reform and change are Michel Kilo, Aref Dalia and Feda Horani. And let it also be noted that they advocate for peaceful change despite the fact that Aref spent time in jail and Feda is still in prison. Like Nelson Mandela, in our time, and Ghandi, decades earlier, they do not believe their own suffering is a legitimate reason to encourage violent insurrection. (I also believe their strong support for the Palestinian people during the Gaza crisis were especially important.)

The important point I want to make is this: I think it is vitally important that you and other influential commentators on the Syrian scene give credit to the Syrian people for their strength of purpose and courage in the face of much social, economic and geopolitical turmoil.

All the best my dear friend,

Hind

April 1st, 2010, 4:31 pm

 

jad said:

Dear Hind,
GREAT CONTRIBUTION!
Thank you very very much to point that out. I agree with you that without the average Syrian citizens Men and Women support, sacrifices and unity, Syria as a country wouldn’t stand tall and strong all these decades in the face of all kind of attacks from every power our world seen so far.
God/Allah/any power up there, blesses all SYRIANS and keep our Syria the way it is, united, free and proud.

April 1st, 2010, 5:18 pm

 

Off the Wall said:

Dear Hind
While many of us disagree with many aspects of the present regime, most of believe that working in solidarity with our leaders for the greater good of the Syrian people is vitally important, most especially in our relationship with the rest of the world.

when I read the above segment, I was about to stop reading the rest of your comment because until recently, I had the same ambiguous notion about standing with the leaders on foreign policy issues. However, i decided to continue reading, and I was somehow relieved when your post clearly recognized a few of the very conscientious voices that are being silenced by agents of the leaders in what seems to be a revisit of the much despised 80 and 90s of a century past.

Many bright Syrians are starting to feel the blunt instruments of state security. Granted, the style is now more “open” in the sense that trials are being conducted. The fact, however, is that these trials continue to be conducted in security courts and are held on pitiful charges that would have been laughable if they were not insulting to the intellect of the Syrian people and to their patriotism.

The Syrian people will eventually recognize that while they were standing with the leadership on important national issues, the leadership had no intention of reciprocating on the internal front, and perhaps is now using the strength it gained, primarily through the sacrifices of the Syrian people to cement its power base against progress on the political and human rights fronts. To many, it seems that new wave of arrests, laughable courts, subversion of professional unions (especially lawyers guild) are serious breaches of the implicit contract the Syrians signed with their leadership during Bush’s criminal mad-dog years. And Syrians do not like broken contracts.

April 2nd, 2010, 1:04 am

 

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