The US and Syria: Is Dialogue Coming?

Is the US contemplating a broader dialogue with Syria?

Not at this time. I explain the reasons why in an interview with Abdullah Ghadwi, published in al-Seyassah, Febrary 1, 2007.

All the same, a number of analysts believe that the administration is torn over dialogue with Syria and may be more open to such a dialogue than at any time in the past two years. Here are the arguments they put forward.

1. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said she has given the U.S. embassy in Syria authorization to discuss Iraqi refugees with Damascus.

Rice told the Senate Foreign Relations Committee U.S. diplomats were given authorization to discuss the flow of refugees with the Syrian government, but the talks are not to be part of a larger discussion with the country about Iraq, CNN reported Friday.

The secretary of state said talks with the country on the subject of closing its borders to insurgents would likely lead to Damascus demanding U.S. concessions on Lebanon, where Syrian troops were removed amid international pressure in 2005.

"I am concerned that given the circumstances of Syrian behavior in Lebanon … talking with Syria now about Iraq would have downsides for us in terms of Lebanon, in terms of what Syria would be looking for, in terms of how it would be perceived," Rice said.

This permission to Michael Corbin, the very capable US charge' d'affaires in Damascus, to carry out a dialogue on Iraqi refugees is a very narrow brief. The US is under immense pressure to help the Iraqi refugees fleeing its failed experiment in Iraq. Syria, until recently, has been willing to take in the poorest Iraqis, something no other state has been willing to do. Beginning in January new restrictions may exclude the most vulnerable and poorest refugees. (Iraqis must now prove that they have a legal rental contract for an apartment or rooms before they are issued three month, renewable residency permits.) The UN High Commissioner for Refugees announced that "Syria has assured the United Nations it would keep hosting one million Iraqi refugees despite new rules imposed on residency. There was a clear statement from the government members I met that no Iraqis will be sent back to Iraq against their will in the present dramatic circumstances," Guterres said after meeting senior Syrian officials. Syria insists that the benefit of the new measure will be to force Iraqis in Syria to get proper papers, register with authorities, and to maintain security. Iraqi refugees say Syrian authorities have been deporting Iraqis accused of fomenting sectarian tensions at home.

Guterres's visit to Damascus, during which he praised Syria for being generous to Iraqis, was motivated by fear that Syria could take away the welcome mat, creating a crisis among the refugees. "Syria … needs to be effectively supported by the international community, because the generosity Syria has shown needs to be assumed at the same level by the international community," he said. International pressure and pressure from home have forced Rice to open up a refugee dialogue with Syria, despite US desire to maintain its strict boycott on dialogue. Amnesty International has turned up the heat of the US, claiming:

The US bears a particular responsibility to protect those who have been displaced as a result of the ongoing conflict in Iraq. In addition, the US needs to make a proactive effort to resettle more Iraqis quickly and safely than it has up to this point.

"US policy and military action helped create the dreadful situation that now prevails in Iraq, yet up until now very few Iraqis displaced as a result of war have been allowed to take refuge in the US," said Malcolm Smart. "The US authorities must stand up their obligations on this issue and help lead the effort to provide long term durable solutions for Iraqi refugees."

A few American congress members have begun putting pressure on the US to do more. It is not certain that this will translate into action, however. Exactly 466 Iraqi refugees have been admitted to the United States in four years, even though one out of every seven Iraqis has fled his home. The State Department devoted less than $14 million in 2006 to programs aimed at shoring up the resources within host communities across Iraq. That works out to less than 4$ for each of the 3.7 million displaced Iraqis. Syria got no funds. On Feb. 5, the State Department set up a new "senior task force" to deal with refugees, but signs are not good that it will increase US help dramatically. Warren Strobel reports:

In his just-released budget, President Bush asked for $35 million to help Iraq's refugees in fiscal year 2008, plus $15 million in supplemental funding for this year.

The U.S. Committee for Refugees and Immigrants, a private nonprofit group, had urged Bush to seek $250 million as part of a supplemental war funding request.

The Bush administration "has been slow to react to a worsening situation, amid ample warnings," Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., said in a statement. Rice's task force, he said, "is a hopeful sign, and it can move us forward as long as it doesn't waste time pondering the obvious."

Senior U.S. officials would not accept any special US responsibility for Iraqis fleeing the violence created by the US invasion. "It's a shared global responsibility," State Department spokesman Sean McCormack told reporters in response to questions of whether the US had any special moral obligation to assist Iraqi refugees. The amounts of money allocated for refugees in the next two years and official administration statements suggest that President Bush will hold the line against helping Iraqi refugees or admitting the US must take special action.

"In six months, it will be too late," said Kristele Younes of Refugees International, an advocacy group. "We're not seeing the U.S. do much, frankly."

All the same, the new avenue for refugee dialogue is a toe in the door for Damascus. By compartmentalizing and allowing limited dialogue, Washington proves that separating the many issues it has with Damascus is possible. Right now, the differences between Washington and Damascus over Lebanon are the main sticking points, according to Rice. The US does not want to be asked to make concessions on Lebanon.

2. Saudi Arabia may be looking to bring Syria back into the Arab fold and pry it away from Iran. Michael Slackman and Hassan Fattah of the NY Times recently wrote:

Saudia Arabia has decided that it will be the host of the next meeting of the Arab League, in Riyadh.

Officials said they hoped at that meeting to smooth relations with Syria after its president, Bashar al-Assad, insulted the Saudi king and President Hosni Mubarak of Egypt in a speech last summer. Officials believe that Syria had moved closer to Iran because of its isolation, and that that shift has given Iran a bridge to the Arab world.

“Politically speaking, Syria is not in the fold,” said an Egyptian diplomat who spoke on the condition he not be identified. “Maybe the goal is to bring Syria back to the Arab world.” If so, that, too, could antagonize Washington, which wants to isolate Syria further.

3. Sami Moubayed writes in his article, The keys of Beirut:

Currently there is talk of serious Syrian cooperation in Iraq. The Syrians are expected to extradite some former Baathists from the Iraqi regime. They are expected to conduct stronger border control with Iraq. And they are expected to invite senior clerics and tribal leaders from the Shiite and Sunni community of Iraq for reconciliation talks in Damascus and an end to the sectarian killings of Baghdad. The Syrians have their own channels to the Sunni street (at least parts of it) and can do the same in the Shiite street via Hizbullah. They have already welcomed Sheikh Harith al-Dari from the Muslim Scholars Association, who was in Damascus last week. The Iraqi Minister of Interior Jawad al-Boulani came to Syria to discuss security coordination. If the Syrians are able to deliver on Iraq, and thereby show the world that the keys to stability in Baghdad are in Damascus, how will the situation in Lebanon change, and in the favor of whom? The US administration, after all, despite all talk by George W. Bush and Condoleezza Rice, cares more so for Iraq than Lebanon. That is a fact. The keys to stability in the Middle East are in Baghdad, not Beirut. 

I am not convinced Syria has the ability to affect the violence in Iraq very much, even if it were willing to throw its weight behind American plans there. President Asad said in his ABC interview with Diane Sawyer, "we are the main player in this issue." He was speaking about Iraq. Syria is not the main player. To be fair to Asad, he added that "our role is going to be through supporting the dialogue between the different parties inside Iraq with the support from the other parties like the Americans and the other neighboring countries and any other country in the world. So that's how we can stop the violence." This is fair enough. Syria can help, but it cannot make any dramatic difference in Iraq on its own. It can lend its weight through urging various groups to come to the table. Secretary Rice has made it clear that the US does not believe Syria can or will help enough to make dialogue on this front worth the concessions that Washignton would have to make on the Lebanese front or Israeli front.

Conclusion 

All of this suggests that the US will have to review its stand on Syrian isolation eventually, but not in the short term. In 2007, the US will focus on its surge, on advancing Saudi initiatives, and arming the pro-American Lebanese and Palestinian factions. None of this is likely to bear fruit. Only after frustration on this front will Washington begin to come around to trying something new. Bush may hold out to the end of his administration. In the mean time, Lebanon will remain paralysed. The promise of foreign assistance should keep the economy afloat, but only staggering along. The Palestinians will continue to kill each other and witness the steady decay of what institutions and quality of life remain, and the Iraqi situation will deteriorate progressively, building up ever larger refugee populations in the neighboring states.

The problem the US has created with the destruction of the Iraqi state is that the traditional balance of power between the Arab states and Iran has tilted firmly in Iran's favor. The only remedy to this is to build up Arab cooperation and unity to bring the balance back into some equilibrium. Without serious action to address Palestinian grievances, bring Lebanese factions to the table, and, most importantly, to make peace between Syria and the rest of the Arab World through a comprehensive Israel, Syrian, Lebanon peace, there is no hope that the Arabs will arrive at greater unity and common purpose in countering Iran. 

US policy, as presently formulated, is designed to exacerbate Arab divisions, guaranteeing that the region remains fragmented and an open field for Iranian influence.  The US tried to rule the Middle East through Saudi Arabia following the Suez Crisis. It failed. Most likely, Washington's present Saudi gambit will be no more successful. Only by bringing Egypt, Saudi Arabia and Syria together, can the Arabs begin to make up for the loss of an Iraqi deterrent to Iran. Washington will fail to arm-wrestle the Arabs it doesn't like to the mat. Eventually, it will have to turn to diplomacy and making concessions that are difficult in order to bring the various sides together. Saudi Arabia has tried to do that in brokering the Hamas-PLO deal in Mekka. US officials are not listening or learning. They have already begun to decry Saudi accomplishments. Time Magazine headlines – US the Big Loser in the Mecca Deal? even as Syria lauds the deal.

Comments (37)


1. Bilal Nawaf said:

To answer your question: The US and Syria: Is Dialogue Coming? I would say DEFINITELY NOT WITH THIS REGIME.
All close allies to the US in the Arab World: KSA, Egypt, & Jordan have asked the US not to open any dialogue with Bashar. Why would the US stand against its closest allies for a person that has repeatedly lied against them and the whole world and he is untruthfully? What he has to give. All the people know that he is good at creating conflicts & chaos but does not have any power to stop them.
There is no indication what so ever that the US or KSA have any doubt to open any dialogue with Bashar. Secretary Rice was very clear in limiting the discussion with the Syrian regime to the Iraqi refugees and POINT.

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February 10th, 2007, 9:29 pm

 

2. MSK said:

Dear Josh,

can you please tell me why you call the Lebanese government and Fatah “pro-American”?

Also, why do you think that “[i]n the mean time the mean time, Lebanon will remain paralysed. […] The Palestinians will continue to kill each other and witness the steady decay of what institutions and quality of life remain.”?

Thanks,

–MSK

http://www.aqoul.com

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February 10th, 2007, 10:13 pm

 

3. Akbar Palace said:

Professor Josh contradicts himself:

“The Palestinians will continue to kill each other and witness the steady decay of what institutions and quality of life remain…”

and

“Saudi Arabia has tried to do that in brokering the Hamas-PLO deal in Mekka. US officials are not listening or learning. They have already begun to decry Saudi accomplishments.”

Professor Josh,

What “accomplishment” is it when you predict “the Palestinians will continue to kill each other”?

Furthermore, the myth you all continue to sell is that somehow what happens in Palestine and the rest of the ME are related. Please.

MSK –

Good questions. I guess they’re pro-American because they take US arms and money;) Meanwhile, they’ll still kill any American they can get a hold of.

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February 10th, 2007, 10:13 pm

 

4. G said:

Notice too the stealthy, yet all too obvious, advocacy on behalf of Assad for the US to give him Lebanon! This is sold as “difficult concessions” in the ridiculously silly conclusion under: “Eventually, it will have to turn to diplomacy and making concessions that are difficult in order to bring the various sides together.”

Of course, Landis fails to square that with his fantasy about “the Arab front” and how Syria would help Saudi Arabia and Egypt to deter Iran!

Ridiculous and transparent as always.

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February 10th, 2007, 11:36 pm

 

5. Gibran said:

Dear Josh,
I found your recent interview in Al-Seyassah to be interesting to that point that I felt compelled to search for further information on the newspaper site.

I found couple articles that were of equal importance to your interview and may relate to your current posting. The first article seems to reveal that Bashar may have lost the keys to Damascus while searching in vain for the lost keys of Beirut (just quoting Moubayad). It seems the lion of Syria is running out of men to trust including his own brother in law and some key Generals in some key positions. Here is the whole works:

حافظ مخلوف يتجسس على اللواء فؤاد ناصيف
وعلى التجار ورجال الأعمال لصالح شقيقه رامي
الأسد فقد الثقة بضباط مخابراته
ووضع آصف شوكت تحت المراقبة

»السياسة«- خاص:
كشفت مصادر سورية مطلعة عن صراع يدور بين الضباط القياديين في جهاز المخابرات السورية وعن اهتزاز ثقة الرئيس بشار الأسد بصهره رئيس الاستخبارات العسكرية اللواء آصف.
وذكرت المصادر ان الاسد عين نائباً ثانٍ للواء شوكت هو اللواء علي يونس رغم ان العلاقة بين اصف وعلي يونس سيئة جداً بينهما وكان اللواء اصف يريد ان يرسله لخارج المخابرات العسكرية وهدف التعيين هو كي يقوم بمراقبة كل تحركات اللواء آصف خوفاً منه والمشكلة ان الصراع بدأ مباشرة بين اللواء اصف ونائبه المخلص له اللواء سعيد سمور وبين هذا النائب الجديد الذي اعطاه الرئيس صلاحيات الاتصال معه مباشرة اسوة باللواء آصف وابقاه كذلك رئيساً للفرع 293 فرع الضباط وهو اخطر فرع في المخابرات العسكرية.
وحيث ان اللواء آصف كان عين العميد نزيه مسعود كرئيس لفرع المخابرات العسكرية في طرطوس وقام بنقل العميد محمد الشعار رئيس الفرع في طرطوس وذلك في شهر مارس 2006 وعينه رئيساً لفرع دمشق بسبب اثباته الاخلاص والولاء له حيث كان يساعد آخ اللواء اصف مفيد شوكت في كل اعماله التجارية ويحل له كل المشكلات في مختلف المديريات في طرطوس, فقد قام اللواء علي يونس بالاقتراح على الرئيس بنقله الى حلب لابعاده عن دمشق من اجل جلب شخص يكون ولاؤه للرئيس وليس لاصف وفعلاً تم ابعاد العميد الشعار بعد اقل من ثلاثة اشهر وكذلك اقترح اللواء علي يونس نقل اللواء ديب زيتوني »رئيس فرع حلب للمخابرات العسكرية« الذي عينه اصف لخارج المخابرات العسكرية وفعلاً تم نقله كنائب ثان لرئيس ادارة امن الدولة في خلال اقل من شهرين?
اما بالنسبة لامن الدولة فقد تم تعيين العقيد حافظ مخلوف »اخ رجل الاعمال رامي مخلوف – ابن خال الرئيس« كرئيس لقسم دمشق في أمن الدولة الكائن في الجسر الابيض وذلك لمراقبة رئيس امن الدولة اللواء علي مملوك وكذلك لمراقبة رئيس الفرع الداخلي اللواء فؤاد ناصيف وبعض التجار يقولون بأن لرامي يداً في تعيين اخيه لانه يؤمن له مراقبة هواتف واتصالات وتحركات كل التجار ورجال الاعمال كي يعرف الاسعار والمعلومات ويسرق منهم العمل والمناقصات.
وحول جهاز الامن السياسي فقد كشفت المصادر انه تم تسريح العميد وليد اباظة »نائب رئيس الامن السياسي« على خلفية انه شركسي ولا يمكن ان يكون هو شركسي ووزير الداخلية »اللواء بسام عبدالمجيد« شركسي بنفس الوقت وذلك خشية من أي تنسيق بينهما قد يصب في غير مصلحة النظام.
وبالنسبة للامن الجوي فقد قام العميد العلوي اديب سلامة »رئيس فرع التحقيق« بالتحقيق مع العميد السني حسان الشريف »رئيس فرع دمشق« على خلفية ما نسب اليه بانه الاحق ان يكون رئيساً لادارة المخابرات الجوية خلفاً للواء العلوي عز الدين اسماعيل الذي تقاعد في ابريل الفائت وقام الرئيس بتعيين اللواء العلوي عبدالفتاح القدسية بدلاً منه بعد ان نقله من خارج الامن الجوي وذلك بدلاً من تعيين العميد حسان الشريف لسبب بسيط انه سني ولا يمكن الوثوق فيه.
حتى محمد ناصيف »معاون نائب رئيس الجمهورية- رئيس امن الدولة السابق« والاقرب للرئيس والذي كان يعالج كل الملفات السرية للنظام لم يسلم من الرقابة والتدقيق حيث تم الطلب منه بعدم ارسال زوجته »بسمة شحادة خليل« مجدداً لزيارة اختها »هديل« المقيمة في الولايات المتحدة خشية ان تكون تحمل رسائل او معلومات للتنسيق بين محمد ناصيف والادارة الاميركية من دون علم النظام.
كما تم منع سفر جميع المسؤولين السابقين وضباط المخابرات والجيش المسرحين من مثل علي دوبا وعز الدين ناصر وعبدالقادر قدورة, وتم توزيع سيارات جديدة دفع رباعي كهدية من القصر الجمهوري لعدد من المسؤولين السابقين بغية ضمان ولائهم علماً انها تتضمن اجهزة تعقب واقتفاء أثر.

Bashar may have also become more of an international pariah even among his own peers while seeking reprieve from his American jailers. It looks like the issue of talking to the US about Iraqi refugees (the ‘toe’ which you seem to have been its main architect as a US grown Syrian PR) did not sit well with the Iranian grand Mullahs! The lion of Syria was bluntly asked to delay his planned Tehran visit until a more appropriate time becomes available! For God sake Josh, Bashar was not able to make Meshaal and Abbbas get together for a meeting in Damascus! How could he make the Iraqis get together? Do you really think he can make two ordinary Iraqis to meet at his behest? Here is the other Al-Seyassah gem:

طهران ترفض زيارة الرئيس السوري

»السياسة« – خاص:
طلبت طهران من رئيس النظام الحاكم في سورية بشار أسد تأجيل زيارته الى وقت آخر لان الظروف الراهنة التي تشهد توترات في العلاقة مع أميركا, ووساطات سعودية يقودها الامير بندر بن سلطان رئيس مجلس الامن الوطني السعودي حول الازمة الراهنة في لبنان.. لان هذه الظروف لا تسمح باتمام الزيارة والعمل على نجاحها.
وقالت المصادر المطلعة وشديدة الخصوصية ل¯ »السياسة« ان بشار اسد, الذي يشعر بالقلق جراء تقدم التفاهمات السعودية – الايرانية, طلب زيارة طهران لملاحقة التطورات الجديدة فافاده الرئيس الايراني محمود احمدي نجاد بالموافقة, لكن بالعودة الى مرشد الثورة علي خامنئي تبين ان الرجل الاول في ايران طلب تأجيل هذه الزيارة معللاً رفضه لها بأن الوقت غير ملائم لانجازها.
وقد تأجلت زيارة بشار اسد الى طهران من دون تحديد موعد لها.
والاقتصادية والسياسية ايضا.”

By the way Josh, are you familiar with the art of coffee cup reading? I am thinking of posting a brief description of this very exquisite Middle Eastern art.

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February 11th, 2007, 3:23 am

 

6. Joshua said:

MSK

Why will Lebanon remain paralyzed? So long as there is no compromise between Hizbullah and the Hariri people, Lebanon is unlikely to work out its problems. Here is one indication of the future.

Lebanon hit by black market weapons boom
AFP, February 9, 2007

BEIRUT –– The price of a Kalashnikov assault rifle has soared in Lebanon, riding the wave of political crisis, community tension and fears of a new civil war.

It used to be 100 dollars (76 euros). Now it’s more than 700 dollars. “It’s a stampede,” an arms dealer who did not wish to be named told AFP.

“Those who have guns are keeping them or not selling except for a huge profit, and those who don’t have them are buying so they can face any eventuality.”

He said a cartridge clip that used to go for two dollars now costs 20 dollars, and “a Kalashnikov has gone from a hundred dollars to 700 or 750 dollars.”

After the country’s 1975-1990 civil war, militias handed in their weapons, all of them except the Shiite group Hezbollah, whose fighters were fighting Israeli occupation in south Lebanon.

The United Nations—as well as Lebanese officials—have demanded that Hezbollah disarm, but it has not done so.

After the current political crisis sparked deadly Beirut street clashes last month between opposition supporters and those backing the government of Prime Minister Fuad Siniora, “everyone is looking for guns,” said a businessman close to the arms trade.

Requesting anonymity, he added that Syria- and Iran-backed Hezbollah, which heads the opposition movement, is not selling weapons on the local market.

The source of guns now available is twofold, the businessman said. Either they have been passed from hand to hand down the years or they were smuggled into the country, generally from Iraq.

Last December, police in the north seized weapons in a raid on offices of a pro-Syrian party, which said they were left over from the 1980s “from the time of the resistance” against Israel.

But guns that have hit the market recently are brought by road from Iraq via Syria, often hidden in containers, lorries, “and even concealed inside car doors,” the businessman said.

“To ensure they are not found by Syrian customs officers, only small quantities are smuggled at any one time,” he added.

On February 4, Syrian officials said they had impounded an Iraqi truck transporting guns to Lebanon, and on Thursday a lorry loaded with weapons destined for Hezbollah was intercepted by security forces in east Beirut.

A UN report late last year on the implementation of UN Security Council Resolution 1701, which ended the 34-day summer war between Israel and Hezbollah, spoke of “information concerning arms movements on the Syrian-Lebanese border.”

For the arms dealer, who uses intermediaries to buy guns from Iraq, the former Yugoslavia remains an elusive El Dorado.

“If only I could break into the market over there,” he said. “I’d bring over all the Kalashnikovs and sell them in the blink of an eye.”

A client’s motives for buying a gun are unimportant. In Lebanon, when it comes to doing business, politics plays no part—both smugglers and dealers have links with all parties, the businessman said.

Gibran, Thanks for the Seyassah quotes. Interesting.

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February 11th, 2007, 3:35 am

 

7. habib said:

Gibran Says,

“For God sake Josh, Bashar was not able to make Meshaal and Abbbas get together for a meeting in Damascus! How could he make the Iraqis get together?”

I like the exclamation point after Damascus. I think it should have been a question mark…as they did meet. Abbas actually called his talks with Meshal in Damascus “fruitful.” you were wrong. haha.

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February 11th, 2007, 4:01 am

 

8. Gibran said:

Yes Habib, of course. Their Damascus meeting(?) (you see I didn’t forget the question mark this time) was so fruitful that a civil war broke out in Gaza immediately!

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February 11th, 2007, 4:10 am

 

9. Gibran said:

MSK,

It is important to include the full article when quoting and not cut it off in the middle. Here is the rest of your truncated article from the same source:

“A client’s motives for buying a gun are unimportant. In Lebanon, when it comes to doing business, politics plays no part — both smugglers and dealers have links with all parties, the businessman said.

Kalshnikovs and US-made M-16s are most highly sought after, as are handguns. “But not heavy weapons,” said the businessman. “It’s more difficult to bring in a cannon or rocket launcher, and demand is low.”

The black market price of a rocket launcher has not risen — it is still 300 dollars.

Patrick Haenni, an analyst with the International Crisis Group, said the absence of demand for heavy weapons is telling.

“It’s true that there is a general tension that is leading people to arm themselves, but I don’t think this indicates imminent hostilities,” he said.

Haenni believes the current trend to buy guns may give rise to “localized blunders,” as happened in late January when seven people were killed and more than 300 wounded in the Beirut street fighting.

“But for civil war to break out again requires a political decision, and for the moment there has not been one,” he said.” End of article.

Even before the last civil war, people in Lebanon used to keep personal weapons. It is more like a tradition and it is not unique to Lebanon. I am sure the Syrians horde similar weapons at their homes as well as other Middle Easterners. As to the implied suggestion that this is some sign of an impending civil war, I would say Bashar and Co. may continue to dream on.
Defense Minister Mr. Mur was very clear in his last statement following the confiscation of Hezbollah weapons:” not a mouse can cross the Syrian/Lebanese border without us knowing about it”. I tend to believe him. The confiscation of the weapons which were intended to reach the SSNP’s and the Baathists (according to HA spokesman) has given him and the government tremendous credibility and popularity among the vast majority of the Lebanese who are sick and tired of watching their homeland hijacked for the purpose of turning it into a theatre of carrying out foreign conflicts serving agendas of foreign governments (Syria and Iran). There will be no civil conflict inside Lebanon even if there is so-called regional political decision to this effect. This is the impression I receive from talking to various people in Lebanon, and I have a vast network which includes groups from various factions.

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February 11th, 2007, 4:44 am

 

10. Gibran said:

Sorry MSK. My last post was intended to Joshua. But it is all well. It may interest you just the same. So my previous post should look like:

Dear Josh,

It is important to include the full article when quoting and not cut it off in the middle. It makes you look like a selective reporter choosing what suits your desires and discarding the intent of the person witnessing the news. I don’t think it is very academic. Here is the rest of your truncated article from the same source:

“A client’s motives for buying a gun are unimportant. In Lebanon, when it comes to doing business, politics plays no part — both smugglers and dealers have links with all parties, the businessman said.

Kalshnikovs and US-made M-16s are most highly sought after, as are handguns. “But not heavy weapons,” said the businessman. “It’s more difficult to bring in a cannon or rocket launcher, and demand is low.”

The black market price of a rocket launcher has not risen — it is still 300 dollars.

Patrick Haenni, an analyst with the International Crisis Group, said the absence of demand for heavy weapons is telling.

“It’s true that there is a general tension that is leading people to arm themselves, but I don’t think this indicates imminent hostilities,” he said.

Haenni believes the current trend to buy guns may give rise to “localized blunders,” as happened in late January when seven people were killed and more than 300 wounded in the Beirut street fighting.

“But for civil war to break out again requires a political decision, and for the moment there has not been one,” he said.” End of article.

Even before the last civil war, people in Lebanon used to keep personal weapons. It is more like a tradition and it is not unique to Lebanon. I am sure the Syrians horde similar weapons at their homes as well as other Middle Easterners. As to the implied suggestion that this is some sign of an impending civil war, I would say Bashar and Co. may continue to dream on.
Defense Minister Mr. Mur was very clear in his last statement following the confiscation of Hezbollah weapons:” not a mouse can cross the Syrian/Lebanese border without us knowing about it”. I tend to believe him. The confiscation of the weapons which were intended to reach the SSNP’s and the Baathists (according to HA spokesman) has given him and the government tremendous credibility and popularity among the vast majority of the Lebanese who are sick and tired of watching their homeland hijacked for the purpose of turning it into a theatre of carrying out foreign conflicts serving agendas of foreign governments (Syria and Iran). There will be no civil conflict inside Lebanon even if there is so-called regional political decision to this effect. This is the impression I receive from talking to various people in Lebanon, and I have a vast network which includes groups from various factions.

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February 11th, 2007, 5:15 am

 

11. Alex said:

If the Syrians are able to deliver on Iraq, and thereby show the world that the keys to stability in Baghdad are in Damascus, how will the situation in Lebanon change, and in the favor of whom? The US administration, after all, despite all talk by George W. Bush and Condoleezza Rice, cares more so for Iraq than Lebanon. That is a fact. The keys to stability in the Middle East are in Baghdad, not Beirut.

The problemis that the United States in not in it alone … they have partners. Chirac and King Abdullah are president Bush’s partners in the Middle East today.

While Chirac is on his way out, prince Bandar is still very active and he will not allow president Bush to take Lebanon away from him and give it to teh Syrian president who called his King “a half man”.

Basically, Saudi Arabia invested too much in Lebanon to allow Syria to take it back … if it was not a problem for the Saudis, president Bush would have listened to James Baker and started a dialog with Syria.

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February 11th, 2007, 7:05 am

 

12. Gibran said:

I will keep repeating the same advice to every Syrian: Be content with your domain and look no further to others’ domains before you end up losing your own. The problem is within your self and is not with Mr. Bush, Mr. Baker, King Abdullah or Prince Bandar. If you cannot reach this peace with yourself then your State (Syria) becomes the real and only failed state in the world. It is the difference between greed and contentment.
Iraq refugee problem which triggered the Joshua toe would create instability to Bashar himself if he keeps fueling insurgents inside Iraq. In fact, the US has the upper hand when it speaks to the Syrian regime about the problem, and as Mrs. Rice said it does not need to offer Bashar any reward for him to act (if he can) on this problem. In other words, keep fueling Iraqi insurgency and you will get Iraqi refugees in return until they begin to threaten your own stability.
Thus, we go back to my advice. Be content with your own domain before you lose it all!
Now, Mr. Alex if you know the Iraqis intimately enough, then you wouldn’t count on them getting together under Syrian auspices.

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February 11th, 2007, 7:50 am

 

13. Bilal Nawaf said:

Alex,
It is actually the first time that I see I could agree with most of what you have just said. I hope that Bashar realizes this.

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February 11th, 2007, 9:03 am

 

14. majedkhaldoun said:

Iraq solution is not possible with the US is in Iraq,the occupation is the main reason why there is civil war in Iraq,Iraq is an arabic country, and not Persian country, NOW IRAN IS CONTROLLING IRAQ, thru men who feel they belong to Iran,and US and Isreal are supporting them,to keep Iraq away from the arabic camp, the arab league can send troops from arab countries,to provide security in Iraq,but they will not do it until US forces are withdrawn,in Lebanon they sent syrian troops(Ta-ef agreement),here Jordan Egypt and SAK must join.

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February 11th, 2007, 2:50 pm

 

15. Gibran said:

Very good Majed. So the main players in Iraq who can actually stabilize it are Jordan, Egypt and KSA (perhaps with US assistance – well it has the main army right now in Iraq so you cannot overlook that – but eventually its army will withdraw). I second you 100% on this. But the Ta-ef agreement stipulates Syrian troops must withdraw from Lebanon! Of course, the agreement was made in the early 90’s, the Syrian troops overstayed their welcome period, the Syrian regime then began committing crimes of political assassinations in Lebanon, and eventually the troops were forced to withdraw disgracefully. Don’t you think that this is a clear example of the problem that the Syrian regime is facing? Namely, it is not able to gain the trust of any State – even the ones that used to view it as a brotherly State (regime) – as a result of not keeping its word on agreements? Would it not have been better for the regime to fulfill the Ta-ef accord and withdraw voluntarily? Could you imagine how respected the Syrian regime would have been right now among the various Arab States as well as the rest of the world? Instead of learning the lesson, the regime keeps trying to turn the clocks back – how pathetic.

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February 11th, 2007, 4:06 pm

 

16. Akbar Palace said:

Meanwhile, we expect more of the same from the “pro-peace” PA:

“The issue of recognition was not addressed at all (in Mecca),” Ahmed Youssef said. “In the platform of the new government there will be no sign of recognition (of Israel), regardless of the pressures the United States and the Quartet would exert,” he said.

Glad the Mecca Meeting was such a great success…

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February 11th, 2007, 4:20 pm

 

17. Gibran said:

Akbar,
Hamas is required, under the Mecca deal, to respect all the previous peace deals the Palestinians had with Israel. There is enough recognition for Israel in those deals, I believe, to satisfy the quarter and Israel if they consider the deal carefully and objectively. You may hear some voices from within the Palestinian camp contrary of what was agreed upon in Mecca. But now you have to look at the issues from different perspective. Some of this talk would perhaps be for Palestinian public consumption, and I grant you that some would be a result of ideological constraints which may be difficult to overcome overnight. This is a typical Arab way of dealing with such problems. There was a strong statement to this effect from Mubarak today. Basically, he was stressing the fact that what was agreed upon by the Palestinian in Mecca should be fulfilled by them ad verbatim. Again, this is another typical Arab way of dealing with the problem. The crux of the matter is the Palestinians have no other way to go forward and any failure will reflect badly on them alone. So Israel, in particular, and the US should give it a chance by not voicing opposition. They can however, keep insisting on fulfilling certain conditions before a final deal can be reached.

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February 11th, 2007, 5:03 pm

 

18. Alex said:

Akbar,

The Mecca meeting was neither a great success nor a failure. Why does everyone here want things to be Black and White??

As you can read here in the analysis of Zvi Bar’el, my favorite Israeli writer, he Mecca agreement was more of a final presentation to the long process of negotiations between Hamas and Abbas. For example, in Damascus they did manage to agree on the makeup of the government including overcoming the last obstacle regarding their choice for the ministry of the interior.

At the time it was mentioned that the only remaining obstacle to an agreement was Hamas’s refusal to state that they “commit to” signed agreement preferring instead the “to honor” signed agreements.

In Mecca nothing changed. Hamas still got what it wanted (the vague NON committment) and they kept the previously agreed upon government makeup.

So what was is all about?

It was Saudi Arabia and the United States wanting a way out of their total boycott of the Palestinian government. And why did they need to do that?

1) To stop Iran’s rising popularity among the Palestinians who were punished by Israel, the US, Saudi Arabia and others, only Iran was supporting them.

2) To start improving the lives of the Palestinian people in order to show the rest of the Arab world that the US coalition of “Arab moderates” is a better choice than the “Syria/Iran/HA/Hamas” coalition … this is president Bush’s way of not totally rejecting the Baker report …

Basically Israel and the US will now allow Saudi Arabia to send moeny to the hungry Palestinian people BUT Hamas did not regonize Israel … so I am not sure peace negotiations will take place.

And what about Damascus? Why did they allow Mashaal to go to Mecca and give Saudi Arabia all the credit without even mentioning any role for Syria in public? They could have refused to allow this Mecca meeting to take place if they wanted to. Surely they got something in return for losing the P.R. opportunity to announce the Hamas/PA agreement in Damascus the week before.

What they got was a long term gain .. their Hamas allies were slowly losing popular support among those Palesinians who could not take the hunger anymore. Damascus did not want their allies to disappear out of the Palestinian scene because of their failure to govern.

This is also part of the reason why in Lebanon Hizballah (and its opposition coalition) did not simply take over the government by force, which they could have done rather easily. If they did, they would have been boycotted the way Hamas was boycotted and they would also gradually lose popular support as a result of the dire economic conditions in the country. This is why Joshua is probably right for predicting no solution in Lebanon. Syria would rather make the Seniora government a failure rather than allow its allies to take over and be the failed government themselves.

THEREFORE, everyone learns their limits … the Americans and Saudis had to accept to alllow Hamas to continuie to rule, and the Syrians had to accept allowing the Saudis (their rivals) to take the credit of the P.R. part…

The positive way of putting it: Saudi Arabia got something it badly needed (show its leadership potential to manage the Middle East) and the Syrian got to save and probably empower their valuable ally and asset, Hamas.

Short term gain for the Saudis, long term gain for Syria.

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February 11th, 2007, 5:39 pm

 

19. majedkhaldoun said:

The main problem facing the syrian regime,is that it does not respect the freedom of their citizen, the security forces control the people(mukhabarat),history tells us whenever there is dictators,the dictators assasinate their opponant, freedom and democracy leads to unity,dictatorship leads to seperation.

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February 11th, 2007, 5:41 pm

 

20. youngSyria said:

Alex..
good one…I was wondering what happened in Damascus between hamas and fatah.

but why do you think US/S.A wants this PR advantage now?why would they let abbas compromise? didn’t you say that hamas is losing popular support?

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February 11th, 2007, 6:18 pm

 
 

22. Bilal Nawaf said:

Alex,
WOW. Is it true that the Syrian regime is looking as you put it for “long term gain”? That will be a first that I should salute providing of course this is true and I will give them the benefit of the doubt.
But then I do not agree with you that Bashar can afford to at least consider not allowing Mashal to go to Mecca or to encourage Hizballah take over the government by force. Despite how crazy and inexperienced Bashar has proven to be he has stopped short of doing this. It will be an early suicide. It would have speed up his fall that is coming shortly. His fall would have been almost immediate if he had done so.

majedkhaldoun,
You are right. Lets hope this will end very soon. We Syrians should live much better and we will shortly.

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February 11th, 2007, 7:02 pm

 

23. Gibran said:

Dear Alex,
I read the analysis of Zvi Bar’el. I did not find any allusion in his analysis to a Syrian role in the making of the Meccan deal.
Could you please elaborate on how the Syrians could have blocked such gathering of the Palestinian factions? Will they prevent Meshaal from traveling? Can they really do it? Or will they try to kill him? Did he not run to Algiers in the summer in order to avoid Syrian pressure when the conflict in Gaza was taking place over the abducted Israeli soldier? So how much of leverage did the Syrians really have over Meshaal then? And how much more leverage they have left over him after his deal with Abbas? Is it not time for the Syrian regime to just come out in the open with a clear admission of being a manipulator of a ‘just cause’ (the Palestinian tragedy) rather than the true advocates of it? Or should I again pose a question which I previously posed? How long will the Syrian regime continue to live as a parasite feeding on the plight of the dispossessed?

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February 11th, 2007, 7:13 pm

 

24. Alex said:

YoungSyria,

Hamas were slowly losing support. But they were doing the Seniora thing … no matter how much doubt there is about their leadership adn popularity, they were staying in power and they were rejecting early elections.

President Bush can not wait another year or two until Hamas is forced to accept early elections. He needed to announce his “new Iraq policy” that somehow takes into account the Baker recommendations.

The fighting that took place in Gaza the past month was partially a last attempt to convince Hamas that it should accept early elections and that if it continues to govern then it is risking civil war … Hamas said “fine, let’s do violence… we are not quitting”.

So … everyone agreed that there is no other way but to compromise with Hamas.

By the way, Syria is getting some low-key recognition for its role in reaching the deal. Yesterday Foreign Minister Walid al-Mouallem received two “thank you Syria” phone calls from his Spanish and Norwegian counterparts.

Bilal,

Bashar might be different from his father in many ways, but if you see how he chose to not concede to American or Saudis demands and recommendations, knowing very well the highly negative media offensive they can unleash at him with their combined English and Arabic Media control, you can maybe consider that he is not the type who values short term P.R. hype over strategic gains.

Hafez never gave a damn about how they punished him in the American media. The Americans still think until today that through negative publicity they will get the Syrians to come to them asking for forgiveness… luckily, our dictatorship is solid 🙂 … negative press will not affect their numbers in the coming elections.

Gibran,

I think you will be better able to understad the Middle East if you steer away form taking for granted that the Syrian regime is always bad and that they are the only evil party in the Middle East (along with their allies Hamas and HA and Iran).

Zvi analyzed the Saudi Israeli American side of why they accepted to give Hamas what it wanted. I added the Syrian part.

As for what could Syria do to block Mashaal .. no they would not need to stop him from travelling at all. They would just ask him to make it difficult in Mecca to reach a deal. He would go there and insist on more. And that way no one would blame Syria for blocking him from traveling.

But again, because it would not be in Hamas’ best interest not to get this good deal, Syria did the right thing by encouraging the deal… again, in the short term they could have asked Hamas for the favor of helping the Syrians annoy the Saudis even more, but in the long term that would make Hamas angry with Syria when they are eventually forced out of their government a year or two from now.

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February 11th, 2007, 7:41 pm

 

25. Gibran said:

So according to Alex: the Syrians can dictate to Meshaal to make it difficult to reach a deal in Mecca! Very ingenious.
Yet, if the Syrians do that, then they will annoy Hamas and make it angry with the Syrians. What is he talking about?
So you really think that after 60 years of suffering the Palestinians did not learn a lesson or two and they will continue to abide by the wishes and dictates of an inept Syrian regime!? Not to say politically and economically bankrupt dictatorship!
You know what? The more I discourse with you the more I get to ‘understand’ (misunderstand) this Middle East through the eyes of a narrow minded propagandist, who still lives in the past unable to adapt to a continually changing world, which is threatening his last hold to life with a straw, while waves are coming at him with such force that will drive him deep into the abyss at any moment.
The truth, my dear friend, is the Syrians can neither influence nor dictate the outcome of any event in Lebanon, Gaza nor in Iraq. They may soon become incapable of even dictating events within the narrow alleys of Damascus and other Syrian cities. Please read my previous advice: Be content with your domain before you lose it all. That’s when you really know your own limits! And hopefully you learn not to overstep!
No Mr. Alex, Hamas was not losing popularity. Neither was Seniora at any time facing a mortal threat to his government. In fact he is more popular today than he ever was. Keep on dreaming with your delusion. The days of your truly evil regime are numbered. And you know why it is evil? Because it lacks any credibility whasoever with the rest of the world and it seems it is losing credibility on the home front as well.

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February 11th, 2007, 8:19 pm

 

26. Akbar Palace said:

Gibran said:

Hamas is required, under the Mecca deal, to respect all the previous peace deals the Palestinians had with Israel.

Gibran,

Wasn’t the previous deal (the ’93 handshake), recognition of Israel? I’m confused.

“Some of this talk would perhaps be for Palestinian public consumption, and I grant you that some would be a result of ideological constraints which may be difficult to overcome overnight. This is a typical Arab way of dealing with such problems.”

Please teach me about the “Arab way of dealing with such problems”. I’ll forward the information to the Mossad.;)

“So Israel, in particular, and the US should give it a chance by not voicing opposition.”

I know. Israel is “intransigent” for asking their negotiating partner to recognize them.

Which, BTW, is why the Euros and Israel have moved closer together. No one, not even the Leftest of Leftists, can blame Israel for not negotiating with a government still sworn to Israel’s destruction.

Alex said:

“The positive way of putting it: Saudi Arabia got something it badly needed (show its leadership potential to manage the Middle East) and the Syrian got to save and probably empower their valuable ally and asset, Hamas.

Short term gain for the Saudis, long term gain for Syria.”

Well, it seems to me the Mecca negotiations were clearly an inter-Arab, internal issue rather than a simple discussion on how to go forward with “peace negotiations”. I can’t say I understand much about the inner workings of this meeting, and it seems like you and others here understand the concepts a little more than I do.

Nevertheless, from my vantage point, the Saudi/Syrian/Hamas gamesmanship doesn’t mean a whole lot to me. In the end, the people will continue to suffer with those who persist with continued rejectionism and violence.

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February 11th, 2007, 8:53 pm

 

27. Ammad said:

Wait for a moment, its true that a deal has been reached in mecca, but experts will agree that it will not last long, as far as it is concerned about iraq, syria was the first arab country to oppose the war, sent millions of arab figters to it, this encouraged to do the same, now why are people concerned about iraqi refuges. the palestinians living abroad have millinions of dollars in their bank accounts, slowly iraqi refuges will turn rich like the palestinians, so why all this worry is about.

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February 11th, 2007, 9:03 pm

 

28. Alex said:

Akbar,

I agree that the Mecca deal was more of an Arab/Arab issue, in addition to president Bush’s role in the background in helping his Saudi friends.

However, Israel can also expect some movement towards the center… assuming no other inflammatory actions are taken on Israel’s part.

Hamas’ experience in government made them more “mainstream” and more pragmatic .. while they are still not saying the needed words “we recognize Israel”, a few more Israelis will now support talking to the combined Hamas/PA leadership … but not enough of them to make Olmert go that way, in my opinion.

It is again the chicken and egg impasse … must they recognize Israel in advance? What does Israel have to lose by trying peace negotiations? We know by now that boycotting Hamas will not make them go away.

Many do not share my opinion of course, but I am quite confident that involving everyone (Syria, Hamas, HA) in peace negotiations will be the only way out. But, we’ll agree to disagree on this one for now.

Gibran,

It is up to you to isolate yourself from the avalanche of articles and statements from British foreign minister, to Mr. James Baker, to all the Haaretz writers who are convinced that Syria might be, or is, the key to solving the Iraq, Lebanon, and maybe Palestine/Israel conflicts. Sure you can find statements from presidnet Bush and Chirac to your liking, but how do you explain the others? are they all Baathists like Alex?

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February 11th, 2007, 9:15 pm

 

29. Gibran said:

Akbar,
I don’t think the Mossad would need my input to understand Arabs way of dealing with such problems, i.e. moving forward with the peace process. So cool it down and wait for Olmert, Abbas and Rice to meet and clarify things.
Basically, Hamas has its constituency which it has to care for. Besides there may already be some other splinter Palestinian groups ready to sabotage any deal if it is not to their liking. In the end pragmatism will have to rule. We may say that we have at this moment the formation of a Palestinian government which may have a credible claim to Palestinian representation capable of negotiating on their behalf. In addition to the 93 accord, Hamas is also required to recognize (I’m saying recognition not just honor) all Arab initiatives for normalizing relations with Israel. That includes basically all the Arab states as well as the Palestinians. So the question of recognition is already incorporated in the new deal. Now the PA was not able to carry out its 93 ‘handshake’ (as you said) obligations because of its differences with Hamas – basically they were competing for Palestinian legitimacy. With the new agreement there is some credible authority that may be held responsible in front of the world. Don’t think the Saudis will give the Palestinians a blank cheque. They are dead serious that the new government (Hamas/PA combined) must follow the agreement to the letter.

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February 11th, 2007, 9:17 pm

 

30. Gibran said:

Alex,
Rest assured that no Syrian solution in Lebanon is possible. The reason is simple. It is not because of your claim of “the avalanche of articles and statements from British foreign minister, to Mr. James Baker, to all the Haaretz writers who are convinced that Syria might be, or is, the key to solving the Iraq, Lebanon, and maybe Palestine/Israel conflicts.”
It is the will of the vast majority of the people of Lebanon who will reject any so-called Syrian solution in Lebanon whatsoever. Time for you to wake up. And time for Syria to buzz off and get off our backs. Don’t you understand? You guys have no credibility whatsoever in Lebanon! Besides, relations between Lebanon and Syria can never bypass the International investigation in the crimes of political assassination. Which means it is impossible as long as Bashar is in power. Period.

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February 11th, 2007, 9:36 pm

 

31. Akbar Palace said:

Alex said:

“It is again the chicken and egg impasse … must they recognize Israel in advance? What does Israel have to lose by trying peace negotiations? We know by now that boycotting Hamas will not make them go away.”

Yes, they must recognize Israel in advance. Absolute minimun. No question about it. Negotiations in this part of the universe, requires recognition on both sides. Period.

What do they have to lose? Nothing, except self-respect. Negotiating with someone who doesn’t recognize your legitimacy is the type of delusional non-sense that breeds millions of skeptical neocons and right-wing websites;).

Gibran said:

“Hamas has its constituency which it has to care for”

From my observations, the Palestinian constituency, (like most Arab citizens) are rather an afterthought and powerless. Arafat started peace negotiations when he saw fit (he was losing power from his remote Tunis office), put down opposition when he saw it fit, controlled the security apparatus his way and so on and so forth. Now that the Palestinian nation is split between Hamas and Fatah, I don’t see many indications that the Palestinian citizenry have much to say about which way the government should go. Rather, these two leaders are calling the shots and the poor Palestinians follow. Oh sure, the politics of Israel is always a unifying factor as each political party tries to show who’s the best party to “resist” the hated Zionists.

But if any of these leaders said tomorrow, we’re starting a peace process with Israel, the Palestinians would follow without any hesitation. They’d welcome it with a sigh of relief.

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February 11th, 2007, 10:47 pm

 

32. simohurtta said:

Yes, they must recognize Israel in advance. Absolute minimun. No question about it. Negotiations in this part of the universe, requires recognition on both sides. Period.

Akbar what is the Palestine Israel recognizes and how does she that? What is the area, what about Jewish settlements, what about right of return and / or compensation, what about the water? Palestinians (all fragments) should demand a firm opinion from Israel about these fundamental issues and then give a an answer to recognize demand.

If Israel could provide a real answer to these fundamental issues, Israel would have a better moral ground in her demands and the peace talks would be smooth. 1967 borders would be a good start, but if Israel can’t live that, it is obvious that she wants more. The real cards should be on the table on both sides.

If Israel can’t now exactly say what is the future Palestine all the “peace demands” of Israel and “Akbars” are pure lip-service. There is hardly a Palestinian leader who could give Israel more than a solution based on the 1967 borders.

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February 11th, 2007, 11:53 pm

 

33. Alex said:

Gibran,

Rest assured that as long as you do not wake up to the fact that “Lebanon” is not “Gibran” you will never have peace in Lebanon.

A great majority of your friends and your neighbors are as negative to Syria as you are, but you have no way of measuring your group’s proprotion of the overall Lebanese population without introducing your own bias (wishes) into the estimate.

Please don’t come back to me with “we are 80% of Lebanon” …

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February 12th, 2007, 12:41 am

 

34. Enid Houston said:

Gosh Josh, you take on a lot of backwash; are all the ad homenins the major style? Speaking metaphorically ,Bashar could not have the meeting of Hamas’s representative in Damascus Just because they are dealing with the new Realpolitik of the ME. Bashar will talk to anyone, and in prudence allow others to not flower for the time being.

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February 12th, 2007, 1:35 am

 

35. Gibran said:

I suggest that you take Lebanon out of your mind Alex; otherwise you will remain at war with yourself and thus will never find peace within yourself.

Do I need to remind you that I am not obliged to discuss with you internal Lebanese politics due to the fact that you are a foreigner as far as Lebanon is concerned? Now, you gave me another reason to insist on that. You do not even have the capability to comprehend Lebanese politics.

Lebanon is now at peace and it will remain at peace and it is the peace made by the Lebanese. Please take your Baath abomination to the toilet and flush it off.

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February 12th, 2007, 1:51 am

 

36. bilal said:

Yes, Hafez never gave a damn about how the US punished him in the American media that is because he had the political experience and the power to afford do this. The problem with our guy is that he does not have neither the experience nor the power and despite this he does it. This is one of the reason we got to this desperate position.

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February 12th, 2007, 4:37 am

 

37. Akbar Palace said:

simohurtta said:

“Akbar what is the Palestine Israel recognizes and how does she that? What is the area, what about Jewish settlements, what about right of return and / or compensation, what about the water? Palestinians (all fragments) should demand a firm opinion from Israel about these fundamental issues and then give a an answer to recognize demand.”

Simohurtta –

Once the sides agree (again) on mutual recognition, I suppose the negotiations return somewhere where they left off, when Arafat came within a few inches of signing the final peace agreement at Camp David 2000. I wouldn’t dare to say what they would agree to, but I would say they came close to an agreement when Arafat decided conflict was more important to him than peace for his people and for his Israeli neighbors.

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February 12th, 2007, 12:18 pm

 

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