“Ticking Clocks and ‘Accidental’ War,” BY Alastair Crooke

"Policy Brief" by Alistair Crooke, circulated by the U.S./Middle East Project, of which Henry Siegman is the Director

9 October  2007
Editor: Robert Malley

In an article in Salon.com on 19 September, Steven Clemons describes a debate at a recent Washington dinner party attended by eighteen persons at which “Zbigniew Brzezinski and Brent Scowcroft squared off across the table over whether President Bush will bomb Iran.”

Brzezinski, former national security advisor to President Carter, Clemons writes, said he believed Bush’s team had laid a track leading to a single course of action: a military strike against Iran’s nuclear facilities. Scowcroft, who was national security advisor to President Ford and the first President Bush, held out hope that the current President Bush would hold fire, and not make an already disastrous situation for the U.S. in the Middle East even worse.

The 18 people at the party, including former Pakistani Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto, then voted with a show of hands for either Brzezinski’s or Snowcroft’s position. Snowcroft got only two votes, including his own. Everyone else at the table shared Brzezinski’s fear that a U.S. strike against Iran is around the corner.

Clemons, who moderated the debate, argues that the case presented in terms of a ‘binary decision’ – to bomb or not to bomb – is unlikely to lead to the decision to bomb Iran, for various reasons, resting mainly on the U.S. military’s known opposition to conflict with Iran. In his final paragraph, Clemons suggests that “we should also worry about the kind of scenario David Wurmser has floated, meaning an engineered provocation. An ‘accidental war’ would escalate quickly and ‘end run,’ as Wurmser put it, the president’s diplomatic, intelligence and military decision-making apparatus.”
The view from those most likely to be affected by an “accidental” war, Iran, Syria, Hezbollah and Hamas, all share the conclusion both that war is imminent and that any one of a number of “ticking clocks” may be “engineered” as a provocation that would by-pass the Pentagon chiefs of staff arguments against expanded conflict and trigger war. All of these actors have been preparing flat-out for the coming conflict.
They see the circumstances of the Middle East as one of hair-trigger instability and escalating tensions. Equally significantly, there is a heightened inter-linkage between events that suggests that, as in 1912-14 in Europe, some unexpected and relatively insignificant event – a Sarajevo moment – could ignite currents and dynamics over which major states and movements would have little influence.

Iran (from where I have just returned) as well as leaders such as Hassan Nasrallah and Khaled Mesha’al see the signs of preparations for conflict taking place in Israel. These are the signs they see: Israel conducting low level overflights in Lebanon to create sonic booms; Israel, whose prime minister had been volubly warning of the risks of some misunderstanding leading to war between Israel and Syria, then launching an aerial incursion into Syria. And all of this as the international community remained silent.

The Syrians saw on their radars the four fighters that penetrated into Northern Syria from the Mediterranean; but they also saw the much larger numbers of Israeli aircraft that were flying in a holding position close to Cyprus. The Syrians were not about to disclose their anti-aircraft missile capacities to Israel; and the intruders dropped the munitions and their long-range fuel tanks without pressing any attack, but returned to join the larger group still flying a holding pattern off Cyprus before all returned to Israel as a single formation.

The Israeli objective remains a matter of speculation, but the general conclusion is that Israel was only ready to run such a risk against unknown air defenses either as a proving run or, given the size of the numbers of aircraft off Cyprus, to destroy some target that for whatever reason they were unable to engage. Either way, the mission seems related to future conflict……

This is only one among a series of ticking clocks:
(i) Lebanon: ……

(ii) Syria ….

Comments (183)

Pages: « 1 2 3 [4] Show All

151. Alex said:



The withdrawals from Gaza and south LEbanon were mistakes … Israel in both cases decided that there is no need to negotiate with Arabs … Israel wanted to settle conflicts the way it prefered them to be settled.

The 1974 agreement that Kissinger brokered between Israel and Syria, the camp David, the Jordanian peace agreement … were all successful, locally.

Agreements have to be agreed upon by both sides.

Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

October 10th, 2007, 3:47 pm


152. AnotherIsraeliGuy said:


Don’t simplify what I said.
You said:

“All it is in reality “I will not return the Golan, I want to keep it. Israel is always right, the life of an Israeli is worth more than a life of an Arab, Israel is justified in anything it does, it is ok if most Israeli prime ministers said racist comments about Arabs and Palestinians … those comments are justified if you put them in their proper context””

What I said is that I will DEMAND that Israel will return the Golan once there is a liberal democracy in Syria. How can you portray me as against ever giving the Golan back?

And where did I say that racist comments by Israelis are justified? I called the people that made racist remarks loonies.

Alex you have not answered the fundamental question I would like answered:
Why is the Golan or the way Israel treats the Palestinians important for democracy in Syria? Why can’t Syria democratize while the Syrians hate Israelis? What is stopping them?

Until you give a good answer to this question, you are just a mouth piece supporting Bashar with irrational arguments. You are giving Bashar and his despicable regime an excuse to stay in power.

Would you mind just addressing the last question? I read all your replies and you didn’t answer it. I apologize in advance if I missed the response. Please direct me to it.

Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

October 10th, 2007, 4:13 pm


153. Alex said:


I realize that you accept to return the Golan after there is democracy in Syria. But as long as Syria has its open wound (conflict with Israel) constructive change in Syria will be unnecessarily complicated. The country is “at war” with Israel. Syria spent the past couple of years billions on SAM missiles because your IAF loves to show us how dominant it is. Even Syrian opposition would have spent the same money to purchase those weapons.

There are many ways to do good things in the region. Democracy in Syria is one of them. It is not the first and last one. And it is definitely not the easiest one.

Every conflict and every failure complicates everything else. We need to undo them one by one. The more we undo, the easier it is to taclke the next challenge.

President Clinton believes the Syrian Israeli settlement should not take more than 30 minutes. Peace between Syria and Israel (and Lebanon) will be just what the region needs to stop the bloodshed and chaos.

Democracy in Syria has prerequisites. And change requires an environment that is change-friendly. You would not paint the outside of your home in the middle of a snow storm, would you?

I did not answer you because there is no simple answer. If you have the time, I asked our 30 Syrian bloggers to answer the simple and neutral question: “What would you like to change in Syria”

You have 12 articles and over 150 comments that explain what different Syrians have as a priority for change … if you read the whole thing you will see that no Syrian wants to start a revolution for democracy. Syrians are cautious people. Life is complicated and Syria is complicated. You are lucky that Israel started as a democracy. Believe me, if it was not, then trying today to make it a democracy would have been just as challenging as making Syria a democracy. You can’t seem to be able to elect one political party to lead you … there is always a coalition made up from extreme right to extreme left… They waste half their time playing politics at the expense of the good of the country.

Lebanon is another experiment in Middle Eastern democracy … I don’t like that democracy.

Hamas is another one, and so is Ahmadinejad.

Our complex region is in conflict. That makes democracy crippled or severely limited. We need to reduce the conflict first.

THEN I will be happy to see another, smarter and more honest, President Bush who will put pressure on Syria AND EGYPT AND SAUDI ARABIA to move towards democracy.

Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

October 10th, 2007, 5:16 pm


154. AnotherIsraeliGuy said:


Sorry. It still just sounds like a bunch of excuses. So what if Syria is at war? Why does that stop democracy?

Yes, Israel has a democracy based on coalitions. What is the big deal? Is it optimal, no. But so what, it works well enough.

Why does democracy in syria require prerequisites that are related to Israel? If there is no simple answer give me a complex answer. But ignoring the issue the way you have, undermines your whole argument. You need to give some answer.

You have to at least agree with me that this is exactly what Bashar would say when asked to reform: We need time and prerequisites etc. That is what I don’t like about your argument. If you cannot give good reasons, how can I know that your position is really different than Bashar’s? You come out as a mouth piece for the regime.

Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

October 10th, 2007, 5:41 pm


155. Alex said:


War with Israel is only one of the complications. There are many others. I will not be able to write another 20 pages about this topic. If you want please read what we wrote on Creative forum and you have many people who argued the same arguments you made here. So you will have answers to your questions.

I’ll make it easier. Read this article and the 57 comments on it … it is probably the most educational.

And I know I come out as a mouthpiece for Bashar sometimes. My opinion is not going to change if Bashar has the same opinion.

Look, I don’t push for a one state solution in Israel even though it is a good thing, I don’t push for the right of return of ALL Palestinians to Israel even though it is the right thing …. I know your country is not ready for any of that. I did not ask you and if you answered me I would not call you “a mouthpiece for Olmert” even if you gave me the same answer that Olmert would have given.

Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

October 10th, 2007, 6:21 pm


156. SimoHurtta said:


Are you serious? On the page you quote it clearly says that at 12:00 Syrian aircraft attacked Haifa and only at 1:00 Israeli planes attacked Syrian airfields. You bring data that contradicts your own position!

No I did not, my position was that Israel started. As I clearly mentioned that Syria (like Jordan) had a defence treaty with Egypt. The defence treaty was public knowledge, meaning Israel knew the price of attacking Egypt. As an Israeli I suppose you do not know what an defence treaty means, because you seem to have some severe problems in understanding international laws and treaties. So let me explain it to you. Starting a war with one of the treaty members means that you are also declare war with others. Like Poland had with GB and France in September 1939. Understand?

My point was that Israel declared war and Syria was obviously unprepared to the war. One plane over Haifa four hours after the start of the war. It would be interesting to know how many battle ready troops Syria actually had in Golan on morning the 5th of June. Wikipedia only mentions the total force of Syrian army 70 000, but how many were in positions in morning Israel attacked? One thousand or two?

You claimed that Syria started the war by shelling so isn’t the one who was wrong you? Air strike is not artillery shelling.

To your comments about Luther and the Nazis, I consider them as funny. Come-on the Luther guy lived in the 16 century and you can get equal quotes from Catholic and Anglican churches leaders of that time. Actually the whole Christianity did not “like” Jews in those times. Now almost 500 year after Luther your politicians and church men are using equal language about Arabs, Christians and Muslims. In modern times. Understand the difference?

By the way are Jews really chosen people in your mind? If they are how about converts? Can I join the club of modern Übermenschen by converting to Judaism and get a swimming pool on the West Bank hill tops with low rate government loans (well I could pay in cash if it increases my changes)?

Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

October 10th, 2007, 6:36 pm


157. AnotherIsraeliGuy said:

The question was who was the agressor. If Syria sent a plane to bomb Haifa that was a good reason to retaliate. Full stop.

Sure there was an agreement between the Egypt and Syria. So what? What weight do these agreements have in determining who is the agressor? No weight whatsoever. Israel knew that Syria might attack because of the agreement, but the actual first attack was the aggression. So what is your point? Syria was the agressor in the Six day war. That is all.

Perhaps you did not read what I quoted about Luther. In Germany and Austria in the 20th century his writing were used as excuses for discrimination and murder of the Jews. And if the Germans would not have lost the war, you would still be thinking the same. Perhaps you still do, being a Lutheran and all, but are ashamed to say it.

The difference my dear Sim is that your mother’s family murdered most of my family and made them refugees. Understand the difference? And it was 70 years ago, not in the 16th century. And now I am in Israel and you want to kill me again by supporting the one state solution which will surely bring civil war and the trashing of Israel.

And if you are willing to tie your destiny to the destiny of the Jewish people, I would be happy to help you find a rabbi to convert you. And then you can come to Israel and become a citizen. No problem. In fact, many european converts have done that. Just let me know.

Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

October 10th, 2007, 6:53 pm


158. AnotherIsraeliGuy said:


Olmert is in power because at least in the elections he voiced the opinions of many people in Israel. WE elected Olmert because of his opinions and he voices our opinions, not we his.

You did not elect Bashar, but voice his opinion which I am not really sure you believe in reading the link you gave me. See the difference? That is why Olmert is my mouth piece and you are Bashar’s mouth piece.

And feel free to call for whatever solution you like. It is your right and you are not doing me any favors by self restricting your rights. If you want to advocate a one state solution, be my guest.

I read the link and did not see any explanations. Several Syrians there in fact agree with me that the problems are internal and require reform and the issue of Israel and the Palestinians are just excuses. Look, if you cannot convey your reasons in one paragraph, it means that you just have not thought things through.

You just don’t have an argument why Syrian democratization has to wait for peace with Israel or a Palestinian solution. Let me tell you my opinion. You don’t have an argument, because there is no argument. It is all excuses to keep Bashar in power.

Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

October 10th, 2007, 7:19 pm


159. Alex said:


Habibi. Khalas, Don’t worry about it.

I’m sorry I could not convince you of anything.

I enjoyed our interesting discussion.


Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

October 10th, 2007, 8:26 pm


160. IsraeliGuy said:

Alex, I’ve been following your debate with AIG and I admit that his question is a very good one.

Naturally, you’re entitled to ignore or avoid it if you wish, but when you say “I’m sorry I could not convince you of anything”, it’s not like you’ve even tried.

I read many of your comments here.
You’re one of the best posters here, no doubt.
You can deliver your ideas and beliefs coherently all the time and with a lot of clarity.

I just wonder what’s so special with AIG’s question and why is it so hard to answer.

If you don’t want to answer why Syrian democratization has to wait for peace with Israel or a Palestinian solution, no problem, but if you can – why not giving it a shot?

Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

October 10th, 2007, 8:43 pm


161. Alex said:


AIG is arguing that either I don’t understand Syrian politics as well as he does, or that I am a paid Assad P.R. agent.

I have a rule in debating … if after three attempts the other person is not convinced of my argument, then I do not try anymore. Obviously my argument is not good enough or that the other person does not want to understand it and accept it because it is too different from his set of beliefs or values.

Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

October 10th, 2007, 9:22 pm


162. IsraeliGuy said:

Alex, I think that you have a great understanding of Syrian politics and I don’t think you’re a paid Assad PR agent.

I know you’re doing this work pro bono…
Just kidding 😉

Anyway, I’m very curious to learn why you think that Syrian democratization has to wait for peace with Israel or a Palestinian solution.

You managed to express your take on so many interesting issues.
I really think it will be fascinating to read your take on this one.

Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

October 10th, 2007, 10:02 pm


163. Alex said:


I’ll answer, I’ll answer.

Flattery always works.

But seriously, the reason I can not necessarily give you a good answer is that

1) There is no good answer … it is not like I am 100% convinced. It is possible that democracy MIGHT work today … so I seriously doubt it, but I am not SURE …and therefore, I can not argue very forcefully on this one.

2) The answer is honestly very complex. I tried it before when I argued the same opinion against five people … a Syrian opposition supporter, an Israeli, two Americans, and Lebanese … all of them wanted to get rid of Bashar immediately if they could.

Our friend Ehsani was there too for a while .. it was a 90 page long discussion (on Ammar Abdulhamid‘s blog)

So … I know how far I have to go before you start agreeing with my logic. I usually end up convincing my opponents at least partially.

You’ll see from that link that 88 comments in one thread (like the 150 here) gave me a good opportunity to listen to everyone who disagreed with me. I have Syrian friends from every type who I communicate honestly and openly with.. I am lucky to know many open minded and intelligent Syrians … They give me hope that many good things are possible, and they also taught me about all the limitations for now.

Still a vague answer, I know… a non-answer.

When I come back from dinner I will think of a short (one page) proper answer.

Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

October 10th, 2007, 10:20 pm


164. IsraeliGuy said:

That’s great.
I’ll be more than happy to read it.

Enjoy your dinner.

Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

October 10th, 2007, 10:40 pm


165. norman said:

الاسد : سورية لن تشارك في مؤتمر “السلام”

قال الرئيس بشار الاسد في حديث صحفي بإن “سورية لم تتلق الدعوة لمؤتمر الخريف وحتى لو أتت هذه الدعوة فإنها لن تشارك في مؤتمر يفتقد لفرص النجاح”


Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

October 11th, 2007, 3:11 am


166. Bashmann said:

Israeliguy, I can tell you why Alex thinks Democracy would have to wait as Bashar Assad has other priorities on his mind now, such as getting the set up ready for Hafez II to take over 50 years from now. 🙂

The fact is, and Alex knows this well, Alex is simply playing scared. The accolades he seemed to have received from Syrian government officials for his such wonderful work on CreativeSyria online site, which I seriously believe it is, makes him simply reluctant to take the next step in criticizing Bashar’s policies as he risks being blacklisted and arrested upon arrival in Damascus Airport. Bashar’s criticism or the family is the RED LINE in Syria, pure and simple. You can blast the Ba’ath Party today ’till your heart is content, but not the ruling family.

The late Hafez Assad did a wonderful job in terrorizing the psyche of every Syrian who lived throughout his tenure in power. The biggest obstacle for us at Alenfetah Party, have been convincing our members to come out with their true names and identify themselves as true political opposition figures. The mere mention of the words “Political Opposition to the Syrian regime” send tremors through the spines of every Syrian inside or outside the country. You simply risk being arrested by the “Mukhabarat” (Intelligence Service) or simply disappear alltogether by joining such a group.This fact is deeply ingrained into the Syrian mind that it will take years to erase the fear from the subconscious. It might need a generation or two before new blood re-enter the Syrian political arena. Alex knows this and I’ll bet plenty he agrees with lots of points made by AIG on this thread regarding the democratization process in Syria. He simply will never admit to it. At least, that’s my take on it.

Although I agree with Alex point on the Golan issue, I find his logic flawed when it comes to retrieving it from Israel.

Oh, and one more thing, Alex, please forgive me if I took the liberty to psycho-analyze you as my intention was purely to show the Israeliguy the problem from another perspective of a true Syrian Patriot. 🙂


Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

October 11th, 2007, 4:04 am


167. Alex said:

Israeliguy, since you got Bashmann, a Syrian American, to help you here, I called on a wise Jewish American man, Dr. Alon Ben-Meir to help me.

: )

Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

October 11th, 2007, 6:51 am


168. Alex said:


Thank you, I am glad you liked Creative Syria.

When you psycho analyze and come up with a hypothesis, do you usually test it on publicly available data or do you simply adopt it?

Your hypothesis says that I am simply avoiding doing anything to upset the Syrian regime for fear of being arrested when I visit Syria.

Do I really avoid criticizing the Syrian regime all the time?

No. I often criticized many things .. the regime is very corrupt. It is sometimes a total failure in the way it presents Syria’s case to the outside. Many members of “the regime” are mostly interested in prolonging their own personal hold on power.

Good enough?

Now if you want me to criticize the family, I will. I think Rami (Bashar’s billionaire cousin) needs to learn a lesson or two from Bill Gates and other American billionaires who gave away significant parts of their fortune to charity. I have not heard a single story of Rami helping the poor or the sick. Since he is Syria’s Hariri, he needs to be a role model, not only a businessman.

If you want me to criticize Bashar … I will not. Why? because I like his balanced decisions much more than those of the others who confronted him … presidents Bush, Chirac, Kings Abdallah and Abdullah …

Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

October 11th, 2007, 7:26 am


169. Akbar Palace said:

Alex continues his “Freudian” dissertation:

Your humble servant’s response: (please excuse the length)

Your Superego tells you that you are a good person and you do not steal and you do not kill … you are good. Your coutry is a great country, your people are the greatest people.


The vast majority of Israelis and Jews believe that Israel is no different then any other sovereign nation. They believe Israel was created legally and represents the collective yearning for independence for the Jewish Nation. Most Israelis and Jews believe Israel gave the Arabs/Palestinians ample opportunities to make peace with Israel, before and after land was acquired by war.

No Israeli I know believes we are “the greatest people” or that Israel didn’t make mistakes diplomatically or militarily. One particpant on this website, (Observer) wrote:

It is clear that the pro Israel participants have a clear superiority complex that seems to take root in the “chosen people” mind set.

I asked Observer and I’ll ask you, cut and paste comments by the Zionists here to back up your assertion that this is really so.

Yet … facts and numbers show you that you are supporing the theft of other people’s lands (like the golan which was stolen from Syria as Moshe dayan admitted, simply because your farmers desired those lands) … you are also supporting your country even though your country killed over 1000 Lebanese last year, and continues to kill Palestinian children and women …etc.

Israel didn’t attack Syria because of farmers. No normal country would allow a neighboring country to shell one of their villages:

At 15:19 Syrian shells started falling on Kibbutz Gadot; over 300 landed within the kibbutz compound in 40 minutes. UNTSO attempted to arrange a ceasefire, but Syria declined to co-operate unless Israeli agricultural work was halted.

Another snipet:

However, Jordan’s King Hussein got caught up in the wave of pan-Arab nationalism preceding the war; and so, on May 30, Jordan signed a mutual defense treaty with Egypt, thereby joining the military alliance already in place between Egypt and Syria. President Nasser, who had called King Hussein an “imperialist lackey” just days earlier, declared: “Our basic objective will be the destruction of Israel. The Arab people want to fight.”

Be careful what you wish for! No one learns.

your superego and between your id … you id is a big part of the real you … your hidden subconscious …. a selfish, primitive, childish, pleasure-oriented part of the personality with no ability to delay gratification.

As far as “delaying gratification”, I sometimes find the jihadist’s desire to kill Jews a similar mental condition. Whether there is a peace process or not, whether there is a liberal US president or not, Arab terrorism doesn’t stop. I guess it’s like being addicted to the internet!

As far as your comment above, I think you’ve gone mad. Please back up your psychological assessment with some factual analysis, articles or reports. Quoting opinions from the Hamas Ministry of Education is not very reliable.

That’s how Israel often behaves, and that’s what many Israelis support… yet they think they are supporting those actions purely for good reasons … like “I am defending my people” … or “I want to help the Arabs have democracy” …

IMHO, Israel “behaves” no different than any other country faced with a similar military threat, and if anything, they behave less severely.

You need to be honest with yourself and realize something: Israelis who are not supporters of peace with Syria are govened by their primitive psyche … the id .. the selfish, primitive, childish, pleasure-oriented part of the personality with no ability to delay gratification.

Again, you restate the same foolishness as if you were a American or British Professor of Middle East Studies or from a Baathist madrassa somewhere in the slums of Damascus.

Not giving back the extremely important land mass like the Golan for a lousy piece of paper from a long-standing terrorist supporter like the Assads, where there is absolutely no indication that the Baathist regime has prepared his people to make peace has nothing to do with being “selfish”, “primitive”, “childish”, or “pleasure-oriented”.

Alex, with no due respect, go back to your madrassa.

PRIMITIVE, before you complain, is the paranoid part what makes you go out and strike Iran because there is a tiny chance that Iran will commit suicide as a nation and attack Israel (which has 200 nuclear bombs) thuse starting the bloddiest middle East war … simply because you are scared and you see savage Arabs and Muslims that you need to kill before they kill you.

3000 centerfuges is not a “tiny chance”. Taking the words of the highest leader of Iran at their face value is not “paranoid”. Given the fact that Iran is arming Hezbollah to the teeth with more and more sophisticated weaponry and thousands of missiles is not paranoia; it is a clear and present danger.

SELFISH is why you killed 1400 Lebanese people because two of your soldiers were kidmnapped.

How many of these were “freedom-fighters”? And like most countries defending themselves, we don’t take notice which side is killing more and then increase or decrease operations to ensure it is even. I don’t think Hamas or Hezbollah uses this formula, and I don’t think it was used in any other war. Yes, Israel is “selfish” for trying to protect her population centers. I suppose I agree with that. No apology from me.

CHILDISH because you did not learn what it means to pay for your mistakes and to learn that it is not worth it if you make those mistakes again … with your mommy the United states protecting you from punishment at the UN or anywhere else, you have learned to break the law all the time … How many UN resolutions did Israel fail to respect? … you keep taking toys frrom other people and you spit in their faces and … and then you satisfy your superego by believing that you are still “good”! .. why? .. becaue you are “a democracy”

What law was broken? What “mistakes” are you referring to? UNGA resolutions have no legal basis. UNGA resolutions are more common than Iraqi scuds falling on Israeli cities.

Denial. Unconsciously refusing to perceive the more unpleasant aspects of external reality (feelings, events, or both), replacing it with a less threatening but inaccurate one.

If someone could translate this comment, I would be immensely grateful. Denial, to me, is ignoring the much greater Arab-against-Arab violence and human rights violations and instead focusing on those big, bad Jews.

Idealization. Form of denial in which the object of attention is presented as “all good” masking true negative feelings towards the other.

Please indicate what this has to do with Israel. Examples would be good.

Intellectualization (isolation). Concentrating on the intellectual components of the situations as to distance oneself from the anxiety provoking emotions associated with these situations;

Alex, responding to your “assertions” (I’m being nice here) is no more “intellectualization” than your miles of posts. When a Jew or Israeli explains Israel’s actions it is “intellectualization”, but when an Arab explains Arab actions it’s OK?

Sorry, akbar .. but I do not know how else to deal with your denial.

Alex, I do not know how to deal with your BS. But you are free to write what you want (this isn’t Syria). But just remember, what you write should be defendable, and frankly I don’t think you’re doing a great job in this department.

By the way, I am not saying the Arabs are angels … I am not in denial like you. I am only trying to get this good/bad silliness out of the way … AIG, please do not use the “we will give you the Golan when you are a democracy” argument again … Hamas and Ahmadinejad were elected democratically and you hate both of them. The only ones you like are the King Husseins of the arab world … the ones who will go for peace for peace.

I do not think either of us is saying that our “side” are angels. But what I think we ARE saying is that our side has a “right” to do what we are doing. However, as a Hamas supporter such as yourself, I certainly can’t say peace and co-existence with Israel is one of your priorities.

(sorry for the length of this post)

Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

October 11th, 2007, 11:36 am


170. Alex said:


You are welcome to write comments as long as you like.

I have a short comment this time:

Denial is what is behind your comment next post regarding prof Alon Ben Meir who basically supported my way of seeing things. You decided that regardless of all his qualifications, he is clueless.

Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

October 11th, 2007, 2:47 pm


171. Bashmann said:


Appreciate the frankness, however, don’t expect any charitable contribution from Rami any soon. He has moved his offices to UAE to become better acquainted with his partners and escape the high profile negative image he has given his cousin Bashar. I would not be surprise to find out that Bashar might have asked him to do so.

As for your comment on Bashar;

If you want me to criticize Bashar … I will not. Why? because I like his balanced decisions much more than those of the others who confronted him … presidents Bush, Chirac, Kings Abdallah and Abdullah …


Let’s see, how balanced his decisions are;

1- Changing the constitution of the land in a 15 minutes session to accommodate for his accession to power.
2- Arresting members of the Damascus-Beirut Declaration and clamping down on civil organizations such as the Attasi club and others.
3- Allowing Jihadists to freely pass through the Syrian borders on their way to Iraq for Suicide Bombing missions.
4- Allowing radical Palestinian and Hezbollah offices to carry on their subversive activities in Damascus.
5- Allying the country with the most radical regime the world has known, Iran, while in the same time breaking the traditional alliance with the main Arab nations which his father kept open for 30 years.
6- Isolating Syria Internationally by adopting an Anti-American and Anti-Western stand.
6- Interfering in Lebanese affairs continuously for the past 7 years. (I’ll refrain from accusing him of involvement into the Harriri killing and other Parliament members ’till the verdict is out)
7- Continues to rule the country under Emergency Laws.
8- Continues to ban all political activities in the country.
9- Continues to allow his security apparatuses to terrorize the population.
10-Continues to hold Riad Sief in prison knowing his urgent need for medical care for his cancer.

I can go on father if you wish me too, but I think you get the picture as to those great “balanced” decisions you think Bashar is making.


Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

October 11th, 2007, 3:58 pm


172. anotherisraeliguy said:


If the regime is corrupt isn’t Bashar responsible? As we say in Israel: the fish stinks from the head.

The excuse you give for not criticizing Bashar is not serious. Just because you think he is a little better than some other presidents is an excuse not to critize him? Do you really see no reason or issue to criticize Bashar on? Wow! There was never a politician, even those I voted for, that I didn’t criticize.

If you really can’t find any issue to critcize Bashar on then you are either part of the regime or afraid or both. I just can’t see any other option.

Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

October 11th, 2007, 10:44 pm


173. Alex said:


You don’t know me enough to “see other options”

My PERSONAL opinion is not exactly to your liking … do I have the freedom to have an opinion that is different from yours without you calling me a regime agent or a coward?

In my opinion you are subconsciously using Democracy as an excuse for not supporting returning the Golan to Syria now (after a negotiated peace agreement with Israel). But you told me that I am wrong. So I accept your statement. I hope you manage to accept mine to, or to simply let it go. After all .. who cares what motivates some “Alex” for what he writes on some blog called Syria Comment?


The key word is “Balanced” … in the Middle East there are rules for playing politics and not losing or not being replaced by another player.

“Balanced” does not mean he was a saint. It does not mean he made everyone happy … in his job, it is impossible to satisfy everyone.

And it does not mean he never made mistakes.

But the way he was portrayed by the Saudis and Americans and Chirac and Jumblatt and Hariri … as a stupid, evil, corrupt, failed, weak thug is simply making me support him more.

I have some tolerance for politicians trying to insult my intelligence. They all do it, I know. But what happened the past few years, starting with Iraq’s WMD evidence .. followed by the Mehlis investigation which Chirac and Bush and King Abdullah completely adopted without questioning its stupidities … then having to watch President Chirac shake his head in disappointment every time they ask him about Syria while he retired into an appartment that was a gift from Hariri! … just like Assad’s other critic, Mr. Khaddam who also criticizes Bashar’s corruption while he sleeps in his Paris apartment gift from Hariri …

Or reading all the Saudi and Egyptian journalists who expressed their disappointment in Syria’s non-democratic system but continued to worship their Saudi King and Royal family members who pay their salaries.

Or Israelis who killed 1400 Lebanese and Invaded Lebanon who continue to criticize him for “interfering in Lebanon” …

Or the Failed American administration that refused to listen to Bashar who was the only one who told them that they can not win the Iraq war in the long run … when they blame it all on Bashar and ignore that most of the violent fighters in Iraq and elsewher in the Middle East are Saudis …

Or Jumblatt who promised to kill Bashar in public! … but accuses Bashar of being a thug without having a single piece of evidence …

So, no I am not saying he was perfect .. I said that given all the garbage around him, he managed really well.

Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

October 12th, 2007, 12:09 am


174. anotherisraeliguy said:


Bashar managed well? Your standards are very low. I wish you 1000 more years of great Asad family rule.

If it looks like a duck, and sounds like a duck and walks like a duck, it is a duck. You sir are part of the Asad regime. You are a front for the regime in the US. This is the only logical conclusion possible.

Using democracy subconciously? How can I become more clear: I do not support negotiating peace with Asad the dictator and giving him back the Golan because it means rewarding a thug and not getting anything in return.

You have convinced me that Bashar has to go. I am now for regime change in Syria. It will never happen without outside intervention. Because of people like you, there is no hope. Bashar is too strong and uses apologists like you to try manipulate the Syrian opposition and the reactions to it.

Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

October 12th, 2007, 2:45 am


175. Alex said:


Thank you.

My standadrs are high, in my personal life. In Mideast politics of 2000 to 2008 .. my standards are moderate, not low… they are definitely not high… and call them my expectations, not my standards.

I’m sorry. I am an engineer, not a poet… I don’t expect Israel to return the Golan, I don’t expect Syria to become a democracy this year… I don’t expect Saudi Arabia to respect women’s rights, I don’t expect Iran to stop developing their nuclear weapons …

Nothing can be forced … your revolutionary and couraegous solutions translate to many many dead people in the Middle East. If you would like to have democracy in Syria by outside intervention, then your counerpart is a Hamas supporter who wants to take back Jerusalem by force … you are both dangerous… You would love to shape your environment to your liking… and you are both convinced that you are working for a just cause… that makes you very dangerous… just like Presidents Bush (God talks to me) and Ahmadinejad.

When Alon ben Meir, Avi Dichter, Jimmy Carter, james Baker, Bill Clinton, and Germany’s ex foreign minister in addition to Ex American secretary of state Colin Powell all criticize this administration for not talking to Assad … I have to suggest to you again that perhaps you are applying the more primitive defense mechanisms of projection and denial.

Unless all of the above are clueless (as Akbar thinks of anyone who is not an Arab but who supports talking to Syria) or regime front?

Forget Alex .. believe me, my vote is totally not relevant anywhere.

Think of why Colin powell after he left this administration said that this administration is not telling the truth about Syria … that when he met with Bashar in 2003 Bashar offered to help in many ways… but it is this administration that was more interested to start the Iraq war instead.

Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

October 12th, 2007, 3:39 am


176. Bashmann said:


I’m neither confused nor upset. You and I see things differently.
You do not trust the US intentions in the Middle-East which is a justifiable position taking into consideration the history of the US biased role towards Israel in the area. I do and I’ll tell you why.

I believe President Bush, whom I never voted for, original intention and challenge to bring democracy into the ME were genuine. Now, before you scream at the top of your lungs saying I’m delusional, let me be clear and on the record regarding the Iraq invasion, I believe it was a grave mistake, I also believe he did it for a personal reason as well as strategic American interests reasons.
The personal one was that he simply wanted to take out the guy(Saddam) who wanted to whack his father in Kuwait a few years ago.
The strategic reasons, and those what really count as solid American strategy, are for the sole purpose of American troops re-alignment from Cold world spots such as Europe to Hot and Important world spots such as ME in order keep up with the US military supremacy around the globe and guarantee energy sources for years to come.
9/11 with the help of AIPAC and the neocon’s surrounding president Bush, offered the perfect opportunity for the taking and the rest is history.

Now this does not mean President Bush had other ideological intentions on his mind. He might have found the time and the place to be perfect for taking on Saddam, but I would not for a minute believe that he planed to re-map the area as many have suggested or worked to guarantee Israel hegemony over the whole ME as Nour suggested. The former has been done a while back after WW1 in a messy fashion that we are still suffering the effects of it today and the US would not risk getting into such a plan to lose an already solid and long relationships with its traditional Arab allies, while the latter is a fact on the ground, Israel already have the upper hand militarily speaking in any conflict that might arise within the next few decades.

With this said, we go back to your “balanced decisions” statement about him. If Bashar was so “reasonable” with Colin Powell, and I do not doubt he was, why would he take the next risky step to form an alliance with Iran? What benefits he expected to reap from allying Syria with an outcast state that is already in isolation internationally and could be the target of the next war? Wouldn’t have been WISER for him to involve the traditional methods of diplomacy by engaging Egypt, Saudia Arabia, and Jordan into working the American Administration to his benefits? He was talking to wrong side of the administration on the impending war but due to his lack of foresight and novice political vision he could not see it. In fact, he did the exact opposite to anger and frustrate the American administration at the time when the rest of the world was getting ready to face another war in the ME.

The US is the sole superpower left in the world, weather you and I like it or not, and in my book I would rather be on its good side in every aspect when it comes to politics.

Therefore, you and I, will never meet when it comes to Bashar’s present and past decisions.


Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

October 13th, 2007, 12:15 am


177. AnotherIsraeliGuy said:


Well, if you are an engineer, what is your plan to make Syria a democracy in 10 years, and why do you think it will work?

My plan is foreign intervention. Please suggest a better one.

Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

October 13th, 2007, 1:44 am


178. Alex said:


Alliance with Iran started in 1979. Bashar did not invent that alliance… he maintained it and reinforced it.

The alliance that he worked hard to build is Syria’s alliance with Turkey… those who want to portray Bashar as a failed reckless novice are focused on his not very popular Iran friends but they conveniently ignore Turkey.

And Qatar! … Before Bashar, Syria was quite unhappy with Qatar’s decisions to establish contacts with the Israelis, and to “host” an American military base. But Bashar gained the friendship of the Emir of Qatar.

So it is not that Bashar was too much of a Baathist. His close friendships to Qatar and Turkey prove that he accepted to respect what is not under his control … Turkey and Qatar who continue to talk to the Israelis.

So the question is, not why did Bashar become Iran’s ally … but why did Bashar not terminate Syria’s 20+ years long alliance with Iran to make the United States happy.


Because by 2004 Bashar realized that there is nothing he can do to please this administration. They were planning to visit Syria next.

This administration has a spiritual Mideast guide … his name is Prince Bandar… Prince Bandar wants Saudi Arabia to handle everything in the area … even Egypt got sidelined.

But the Saudis failed big time so far. When Gamal Mubarak takes over in a year or two, this administration will be out … the next administration will likely learn from the mistakes and go back to the Egypt + Syria + Saudi Arabia formula.

So the answer to your question is: There was nothing Bashar could have done to please them … not before and not after the Powell visit .. they wanted him out or weak. Turkey and Iran and Qatar and Dubai compensated for the loss of Saudi Arabia.

Do you notice how the Egyptians did not go as far as Saudi Arabia in confronting Syria? … the Egyptians know that they will need to work with Syria again when this madness is over… so they decided to sit on the side and let this administration try its luck .. exclusively with its Saudi allies.

Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

October 13th, 2007, 7:22 am


179. Alex said:


My plan is to take it a step at a time … start with the least complex challenges … start with reforms that carry the highest probability of success. Reforms which have the least number of powerful enemies who will oppose those reforms that are not in their best interest.

Before you hope to move in a specific direction, you need to estimate your forces and you need to estimate the forces working against you … if those that you expect to push you back are stronger than you, then you have to find a way to take them out of the “opponents to change” set of forces.

I would identify the prerequisites for the success of each reform objective … make sure they are all achieved before we attempt that change.

Those who work on large complex projects know that you can not simply decide to go for it. You need to use project management tools.

You need to study each reform project and identify its CSF’s

So if you look at “democracy in Syria” as a project, I can tell you that we need to finish the prerequisites (things under our control), we need to wait until the regional environment provide us with favorable states for our critical success variables.

An example of a prerequisite: we need to reform education in Syria … teach our people to respect points of views that they do not agree with … now we simply do not have it…. our history books teach us that Arabs are always right .. they are always the winners of all wars … they are always fair and just and honorable … basically we graduate learning that we are always right and anyone who opposes us is wither an idiot or he is a suspect (traitor …etc)

CSF’s include prerequisites (predecessors) but they also include other critical environmental factors … things that are not directly under our control … for example, in the case of Project Democracy in Syria, one CSF would be a bit of peace and calm in the Middle East… it is like deciding to wait for good weather to paint your driveway… except if you like to paint it under a rainstorm.


That’s my boring, but structured approach … it does not minimize the implementation time, it minimizes risk.

Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

October 13th, 2007, 7:44 am


180. AnotherIsraeliGuy said:


What you suggest is a 50 year plan that involves deep cultural changes in Syria. You plan maximizes risk because it will mean Syria will not develop in the next 50 years. Can you imagine how far behind it will be then?

Also becareful with your argument. You are arguing that it will take decades until the Syrians or Arabs are ready for democracy. If I would have said it, it would have been racist.

Your only chance is a revolution. The current generation in Syria needs to sacrifice in order for there to be a future for your kids. In 50 years, if it remains under Bashar, Syria will be an awful place on par with Congo.

Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

October 13th, 2007, 2:05 pm


181. Alex said:

It is actually a 200-year plan. “Democracy” as you know, is not something you can cook in a microwave.

You want a democratic revolution today, but most Syrians want peace and stability for now. You want to enlighten them about the benefits of democracy, wait until there is a better ambassador for democracy in the white house. Mr. Cheney is an ambassador for evil, for most Syrians. “democracy” today is a dirty word.

I am not saying that it is impossible to have democracy in Syria, I am saying it is difficult (like it would be anywhere) and it takes time. My guess is that if there is no interference from outside, the new generation of Syrians who are now using the internet everyday, are very compatible with and affected by global habits, values, and ways of life. They are much more fluent in English and they know how to find answers to everything on Google.

We will have democracy … gradually.

And Syria will not be Congo! … remember the China that you were proud that Israel is friendly with?

There are many things to be unhappy about for sure, but the mood in Damascus is much more positive than you imagine. Read what Alix says, and read what the Washington Post reporter who lives in Damascus (not just visiting for a day) said:

I am reminded nonstop that I live among devout Muslims, many of whom were taught to distrust Westerners. Yet the reminders are increasingly drowned out by the boisterous transformation this city is undergoing. Despite American sanctions imposed four years ago, the Syrian economy is booming. Even alcohol is easy to find. A restaurant overlooking the Great Mosque, among the holiest places in Islam, just started serving drinks. This is no Iran or Iraq (even if my worried dad keeps mixing up Damascus and Baghdad on the phone).

According to President Bush’s original plan, Baghdad was to be the next Prague. Once Saddam Hussein was deposed, free enterprise and Bohemianism would sweep away the ghosts of the past. Four years after the arrival of U.S. troops, neither enterprise nor Bohemianism is much in evidence in the Iraqi capital. But next door in Damascus, newfound hedonism is facing Arab hopelessness head-on.

The Syrian capital is enjoying something of a return to historical rank. In the 7th century A.D., it was the capital of the Muslim world, the seat of the first caliphate. Then, in A.D. 750, the capital moved to Baghdad and a rivalry was born, continuing into the 20th century and the establishment of rival Baath parties. With the seat of the second caliphate now brought low, the first is resurgent. Unemployment is still high and oil is in short supply, but Syria is calm. In the Middle East, that counts as good news.

The Syrian government is still following the authoritarian Baathist ideology. And it has built an alliance with Iran that’s straining relations with the United States. But Syria’s shackled stability is a sign of hope to some in a time of vastly downsized expectations.

Syria’s neighbors are paying attention. They see that President Bashar al-Assad is the only leader in the region who’s feeling more secure about his position now than he did a few years back, when analysts predicted his downfall after the U.S. invasion of Iraq. Then, Syria was next on the neocon hit list.

How different things look now. Regime change is less likely than at any time since President Bill Clinton left the White House. Assad began his second seven-year term on June 17 (Enrique Iglesias crooned at a post-inauguration party). Television images of Iraq’s mayhem have made many Syrians cautious about swift political change. Rather than feeling emboldened by Hussein’s fall, they’re frightened. Stick with what works, even poorly, seems to be the popular sentiment.

Assad has shrewdly capitalized on this by paying more attention to popular aspirations. He has eased restrictions on free enterprise and on international trade. One of the most isolated places in the Middle East until recently, Syria is importing consumer goods, exporting workers and hosting any cash-laden foreigner who wants in.

There are Saudis — hedonists in the extreme under their white robes. Less welcome in the West after the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, they come to the Four Seasons Hotel to find female company. There are also Iraqis, more than 1 million of whom have taken refuge in Damascus, a city of 3 million. Many are poor and uprooted by war, but others have brought in vast amounts of oil money.

And then there are Westerners like me — language students, escape artists, volcano dancers, “Lawrence of Arabia” dreamers. We saw “Syriana.” Perhaps we misunderstood the movie. Everything is connected, the poster said, intimating a conspiracy involving Gulf region princes, CIA operatives, corporate raiders and oil companies.

Everything is connected, just not in that way.

Outside my front door in the Old City, where humans have lived continuously for the past 5,000 years, the giddiness is palpable.

A couple of months ago, I went to a concert in the new Damascus opera house. It’s named after Assad, though he didn’t show up to see the Algerian singer and her Gypsy King ensemble. But in front of me, a Syrian woman in short sleeves jumped up and started dancing in the aisle. The Chinese ambassador to Syria cheered her on as most of the 1,200 people in the audience followed suit.

Pleasure-seeking is not only surviving the mayhem in the region, it’s thriving. At Beit Jabri, a large courtyard restaurant, Saudis, Iraqis, Syrians and Americans are escaping the already oppressive summer heat. Beit Jabri was one of the first private manors to be turned into a business. Now a new boutique hotel, novelty restaurant or Internet cafe is opening every week.

Syrians are rediscovering the Old City, and it’s giving them what they have long lacked: a genuine spiritual but secular center. After decades of neglecting it, they are returning in droves. Here among square miles of bustling souks and car-free colonnades, it’s easy to feel proud, and perhaps to forget impending doom. On evenings and weekends, the narrow alleys are choked with girls in skirts and men carrying cellphones with the latest ringtones. At Mar Mar, a new nightspot near the chapel where Saint Paul was baptized, the proprietor leaves the keys behind for die-hard revelers when he goes to bed at 5 a.m. “Lock up when you leave,” he says and disappears.

The rekindled interest in the Old City has doubled housing prices in the past year. Wealthy Syrians are restoring ancient houses to rent them to nostalgic aesthetes, many of them foreigners. The first moved in around the fall of Baghdad. Today, staff from most Western embassies live in Ottoman splendor, surrounded by stainless steel kitchens and 500-year-old vines.

For centuries, Westerners have played the game: Which city is the Paris of the East? Beirut held the title once; so did Shanghai. But the game has changed. Now you ask: Which city is the Beijing of the (Middle) East?

One might list Dubai and other emirates such as Abu Dhabi, or neighboring island states such as Qatar and Bahrain. But they don’t have the hinterland, the historical roots or the diversity to be anything other than second Hong Kongs. Cairo is equally joyless, and Tehran is in a funk.

Damascus, however, makes frequent public reference to booming Beijing.

The Syrian government likes to invoke the Chinese Model: economic reform first. That may be spin for the benefit of Western investors. But it’s also true — in many mud-brick alleys, there is a sense of possibility similar to what I saw in China, where I lived before moving to Syria.

Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

October 13th, 2007, 4:32 pm


182. AnotherIsraeliGuy said:


For “some reason” you didn’t provide the next sentence:
How long will it last? A monster meltdown of the region could still happen, with sectarian strife spilling over from Iraq. In the Old City, where Christians, Druze, Sunnis and Shiites live side by side, kidnappers, fanatics and throat-cutters are well-known staples of history.

If you want to be serious, be objective and do not quote unfairly. This reporter provides a very partial view of Syria from within the city of Damascus.

Let’s wait 5 years and see if Syria will become China or Congo. My bet is Congo. A country that cannot supply electricity to its people, is not on the right track.

Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

October 15th, 2007, 11:32 am


183. Blues for Levantium Lost · Ticking Clocks and “Accidental” War said:

[…]  http://joshualandis.com/blog/?p=418 […]

Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

June 25th, 2010, 6:27 pm


Pages: « 1 2 3 [4] Show All

Post a comment