US Arms Surrogates

More disturbing signs that Eliot Abrams and company at the NSA are pushing ahead with a new policy to build up surrogate allies to combat the surrogates of Iran and Syria, such as Hizballah and Hamas. Perhaps 2007 will bring us little proxy wars across the region? Here are two articles explaining how may work. For more on this see previous posts, here and here.

US unit works quietly to counter Iran’s sway: Backs dissidents, nearby nations
By Farah Stockman, January 2, 2007 (Thanks t_desco)

WASHINGTON — For nearly a year, a select group of US officials has been quietly coordinating actions to counter the looming threat of a nuclear-armed Iran, including increasing the military capabilities of Arab allies such as Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, and Bahrain.

The group, known as the Iran Syria Policy and Operations Group, or ISOG, is also coordinating a host of other actions, which include covert assistance to Iranian dissidents and building international outrage toward Iran by publicizing its alleged role in a 1994 terrorist attack in Argentina, according to interviews with half a dozen White House, Pentagon, and State Department officials who are involved in the group’s work.

Pentagon officials involved with the group intend to ask Congress as early as February to increase funding for transfers of military hardware to allies in the Persian Gulf and to accelerate plans for joint military activities. The request, which is still being formulated, is expected to include but not be limited to more advanced-missile defense systems and early-warning radar to detect and prevent Iranian missile strikes.

The existence of ISOG reflects an intensification of the Bush administration’s planning on Iran. Syria, which has linked itself to Iran through military pacts, is a lesser focus for the group. Its workings have been so secretive that several officials in the State Department’s Near Eastern Affairs bureau said they were unaware it existed.

The United States has repeatedly said its policy is not to overthrow the Iranian regime, but one former US official who attended a meeting during ISOG’s initial phase eight months ago said in an interview that he got the impression that regime change was a key goal of many of the meetings’ participants. James Jeffrey

ISOG is led by a steering committee with two leading hawks on Middle East policy as chairmen: James F. Jeffrey, prinicipal deputy assistant secretary of state for Near Eastern Affairs, who once headed Iraq policy, and Elliott Abrams, deputy national security adviser for “Global Democracy Strategy.” Michael Doran, a Middle East specialist at the White House, steps in when Abrams is away. Elizabeth Cheney, the vice president’s daughter, who was the former deputy assistant secretary of state for Near Eastern Affairs, served as cochairwoman before she took a maternity leave earlier this year.

ISOG is made of five main “pillars,” or working groups. The military group explores ways to bolster Arab defenses and create more military cooperation between the Persian Gulf states. …

A second working group deals with “democracy outreach,” focusing on the State Department’s effort to provide secret financial assistance to dissidents and reformist organizations inside Iran and Syria. It also seeks ways to use scientific exchanges and human rights conferences to learn more about what is happening inside Iran, officials said.

A third working group focuses on finances and the Treasury Department’s efforts to beef up bilateral restrictions on money transfers to and from Iranian banks. A fourth group focuses on Iran’s “special relationships” with Iraq, Lebanon, Afghanistan, and terrorist organizations. That group has closely followed Iran’s alleged role in a 1994 bombing of a Jewish center in Argentina.

A fifth working group coordinates media outreach to the people of Iran, Syria, and the region.
Boston Globe

Related news:

– Bataan Expeditionary Strike Group soon to deploy to the Gulf

– new Expeditionary Strike Group 2 command to move from Little Creek to Bahrain in February.

Rifaat al-Asad is in Egypt to meet with officials with America's blessing, writes Bahiya Mardini, the reporter who covers the Syrian opposition most closely. How he knows it is with America's blessing, he does not say.

بهية مارديني من دمشق: أكدت مصادر سورية أن رفعت الأسد نائب الرئيس السوري السابق وعم الرئيس الحالي بشار الأسد زارالقاهرة مع نجله سوار ، وأشارت المصادر الى ان رفعت التقى مسؤولين مصريين بمباركة أميركية،وأفادت مصادر لـ "ايلاف"في دمشق فضلت عدم الكشف عن اسمها،
 أن زيارة رفعت أثمرت على الموافقة على بث قناة ال ANN التي يملكها رفعت على قمر النيل سات،   فيما لم تستطع المصادر معرفة ما دار في اجتماع رفعت مع المسؤولين المصريين الذين تم التكتم عن هويتهم ومناصبهم 

The US is trying to beaf up the PLO and Abbas. Some time ago, Journalists explained that the Jordanians had resupplied the PLO with arms with the approval of the US as part of its effort to undo the Hamas government. The rearming of the PLO is not direct US assistance, in contrast to the training programs discribed below.

U.S. Eyes Support for Abbas' Forces
By BARRY SCHWEID, AP

The Bush administration is holding talks with Congress about providing training and other support to security forces loyal to Mahmoud Abbas, the president of the Palestinian Authority.

"Those consultations are ongoing," deputy State Department spokesman Tom Casey said Friday. "I'm not sure that there is any specific end result of them."

Casey said the talks would continue next week, when Congress officially returns from a holiday adjournment.

The issue is touchy. Under U.S. law and Bush administration policy, any form of assistance to the Palestinians must sidetrack Hamas, the militia that won control of the Palestinian government nearly a year ago.

"We need to be very careful in how we do it," Casey said.

The State Department has designated Hamas as a terrorist organization and barred its participation in any peacemaking process until it accepts Israel's existence and abandons violence against the Jewish state. Abbas' security forces are obligated to stop Palestinian attacks on Israel.

The administration is trying to fan hopes for peacemaking between Abbas and Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, who have held high-level talks and are committed to a peaceful settlement. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice is expected to go the area next month to gauge peacemaking prospects.

There have been reports that Egypt, with Israel's approval, has shipped arms to forces loyal to Abbas. Abbas denied the reports.

On possible U.S. assistance, Casey said, "My understanding is that none of this would be what is referred to as lethal assistance. … So, it would basically be, as I understand it, in the form of training and other kinds of support."

The Bush administration is holding talks with Congress about providing training and other support to security forces loyal to Mahmoud Abbas, the president of the Palestinian Authority.

"Those consultations are ongoing," deputy State Department spokesman Tom Casey said Friday. "I'm not sure that there is any specific end result of them."

Casey said the talks would continue next week, when Congress officially returns from a holiday adjournment.

The issue is touchy. Under U.S. law and Bush administration policy, any form of assistance to the Palestinians must sidetrack Hamas, the militia that won control of the Palestinian government nearly a year ago.

"We need to be very careful in how we do it," Casey said.

The State Department has designated Hamas as a terrorist organization and barred its participation in any peacemaking process until it accepts Israel's existence and abandons violence against the Jewish state. Abbas' security forces are obligated to stop Palestinian attacks on Israel.

The administration is trying to fan hopes for peacemaking between Abbas and Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, who have held high-level talks and are committed to a peaceful settlement. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice is expected to go the area next month to gauge peacemaking prospects.

There have been reports that Egypt, with Israel's approval, has shipped arms to forces loyal to Abbas. Abbas denied the reports.

On possible U.S. assistance, Casey said, "My understanding is that none of this would be what is referred to as lethal assistance. … So, it would basically be, as I understand it, in the form of training and other kinds of support.

NPR interviews State Department figures about arming the PLO to fight Hamas. They say it is all about balance and helping legal officials. Listen to the story: Rice Will Likely Head to Mideast in Early 2007 by , January 2, 2007. "Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, who has promised to get more deeply involved in promoting Arab-Israeli peace, is expected to go to the region in January. Part of the administration's goals seems to be to boost Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas."

Comments (24)


1. Akbar Palace said:

Professor Josh comments:

“US Arms Surrogates”??? Perhaps 2007 will bring us little proxy wars across the region???”

Funny Dr. Josh, but the article you linked to didn’t say anything about “proxies” or even “surrogates”. Sorry, as the article states, the US arms “allies” aka “governments”, none of which export terrorism like the Iranians and Syrians do.

Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, and Bahrain are not “proxies” or “surrogates”.

“Pentagon officials involved with the group intend to ask Congress as early as February to increase funding for transfers of military hardware to allies in the Persian Gulf and to accelerate plans for joint military activities.”

Nice try. The Baathist Boy Wonder is lucky to have you.

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January 3rd, 2007, 5:08 am

 

2. Mike said:

One has to wonder if promoting democracy in Iran and Syria is really what these people want. Because by draining Syria and Iran of funds through sanctions on a nuclear weapons program that doesn’t exist while overlooking Israel’s huge arsenal, constantly threatening regime change, using every chance to publicly demonize Iran and Syria even when the evidence isn’t there (like with Iran’s non-existent role in the bombing of the Khobar towards, for instance), and refusing to even talk to Iran or Syria, what the US is doing in effect is giving a HUGE boost to the hardliners in the Iranian and Syrian governments and proving by their policies that yes, Iran and Syria are right, they are targets of extensive policies aimed at destabilizing and controlling the affairs of their countries.

It’s really unfortunate, because especially in Iran, there is a pretty significant student movement for more freedom, but the US, by pursuing these idiotic policies, is making it that much harder for these students and other Iranians to actually achieve this.

The bottom line is that coercion as foreign policy simply does not work. Ruling by force does not work. Demonization as foreign policy is dangerous for all parties concerned, and will not get anyone anywhere, quite the contrary.

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January 3rd, 2007, 5:46 am

 

3. Ahamd said:

I hope Bashar leaves Syria alone

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January 3rd, 2007, 5:49 am

 

4. Frank al Irlandi said:

Joshua

Happy New Year

You missed this piece of news. It is all gettin a bit Guns of August.

January 2, 2007
Lebanonwire

Russia anti-aircraft weapons sales to Syria, Iran on schedule
MOSCOW – Controversial Russian contracts to sell anti-aircraft weapons to Syria and Iran are being fulfilled on schedule Russian officials said.

At least half of the 29 Tor-M1 missile systems bought by Iran for 1.4 billion dollars (1.06 billion euros) had been delivered, state-run ITAR-TASS quoted an unnamed source at the defence ministry as saying Tuesday.

“We are actively carrying out deliveries of the system to Iran. At least 50 percent of the contract has been delivered,” the official was quoted as saying.

The air defence systems are being stationed around Iran’s civilian nuclear sites, according to ITAR-TASS.

The United States, which is leading international pressure against Iran’s nuclear programme, strongly resisted the contract and imposed sanctions against Russian jetmaker Sukhoi and arms exporter Rosoboronexport.

Meanwhile, Interfax news agency quoted Valery Kashin, head of weapons maker Engineering Design Bureau, as saying that Russia met all its commitments in 2006 under the contract to supply Syria with the Strelets anti-aircraft system. He gave no details.

Israel spoke out against the 2005 deal, claiming that Syria would pass on the system, which fires Igla ground-to-air rockets, to Hezbollah guerrillas in Lebanon.

Details about the quantity and cost of the Strelets contract have not been made public. -AFP

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January 3rd, 2007, 6:52 am

 
 

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

Attached are the official biographies of two of the individuals mentioned by Professor Landis as heading up the ISOG: Messers Doran and Jeffrey.
The first is actually quite interesting inasmuch as it would appear that Professor Landis must be personally acquainted with him, since they were both in the doctoral program at Princeton at the same time. I doubt that the number of people who were in the program was that large, so even if they did not meet, I would assume that Professor Landis, must at the very least know of him, et cetera. Especially since he was on the faculty at Princeton a few years after Professor Landis was there. As per Jeffrey, he appears to be a typical, mid-level State Department ‘generalist’, with no real area of specialization. I doubt for
example that he speaks Arabic. On the other hand, it would appear that he has been dealing with the Iraq mess, since 2003. Ideally this mixture of experience and knowledge should serve to formulate a good policy mixture. But, as per Professor Landis’ posting the opposite is true. Which just goes to prove the intelligence, experience and knowledge are no bulletproof shield against folly. Afterall, Sir Anthony Eden, prior to the Suez Crisis has upwards of twenty-five year of experience of diplomacy and dealing with the Near East. In addition to which he received a First (Magna Cum Laude) degree at Oxford in Arabic and Persian languages. And, apparently spoke the former pretty much for his entire life. Notwithstanding which, at Suez (and prior to it actually) he went completely off the deep end in his approach to Nasser. So, while it is all nice and good to think that ‘experienced’ and ‘intelligent’, even indeed, expert advisors are the best people for policy-making roles, that is always not the case. Still, they are nine times out of ten, better than completely ignorant ideologues like Elliott Abrams….

Michael Doran
Senior Director for Near East and North African Affairs
National Security Council

In August 2005, Mike Doran was appointed to the National Security Council as Senior Director for Near East and North African Affairs. His portfolio covers all of the countries in the region except for Iraq.

Prior to coming to the NSC, Dr. Doran was a professor in the Department of Near Eastern Studies at Princeton University, where he taught courses on the international politics of the Middle East. From 2002 to 2004 he also served as an Adjunct Senior Fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations in New York. Prior to arriving at Princeton, Dr. Doran taught in the History Department at the University of Central Florida.

He is the author of, among other things, a study of the first Arab-Israeli war, entitled Pan-Arabism before Nasser, and “Somebody Else’s Civil War,” an influential article on Osama bin Laden, published in the January/February 2002 issue of Foreign Affairs.

Originally from Indiana, Dr. Doran received a BA from Stanford in 1987 and a PhD from Princeton in 1997.

BIOGRAPHY: James F. Jeffrey
Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary, Bureau of Near Eastern Affairs
Term of Appointment: 08/21/2006 to present

James F. Jeffrey assumed the position of Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary in the Bureau of Near Eastern Affairs on August 21, 2006.

Ambassador Jeffrey, in collaboration with the Assistant Secretary for Near Eastern Affairs, will lead the Bureau’s Iran Policy Team and coordinate Bureau public diplomacy and internal management, serving as Acting Assistant Secretary when the Assistant Secretary is traveling.

A career member of the U.S. Foreign Service, James Jeffrey served as He served as Senior Advisor to the Secretary of State for Iraq from August 2005 to August 2006. Amb. Jeffrey served as Deputy Chief of Mission in Baghdad from June 2004 to March 2005. From March to June 2005 Ambassador Jeffrey was U.S. Charge d’affairs to Iraq. He served as Ambassador to Albania from 2002-2004. Previously he was Deputy Chief of Mission in Turkey and Kuwait. Other assignments have included Deputy Special Representative for Bosnian Implementation, postings in the Department’s European and Near Eastern Bureaus, and overseas service in Turkey, Bulgaria, Germany and Tunisia.

Ambassador Jeffrey received a B.A. in history from Northern Eastern University and a M.S. in business from Boston University. He served in the U.S. Army from 1969-1976, with postings to Germany and Vietnam.

Released on November 21, 2006

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January 3rd, 2007, 7:41 am

 

7. Ahmad said:

I can’t find Bahia Almardini’s Article about Rifaat Alasad in Elaph……why?
But I found this article and I thought it’s an important one…..
http://www.elaph.com/ElaphWeb/Politics/2006/12/199921.htm

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January 3rd, 2007, 8:06 am

 

8. Dubai Jazz said:

So Condi. is coming? I am impressed!
Who’s she going to meet that she hasn’t met before?
WAKE UP MRS. RICE, THE SAME OLD FACES ARE NOT WORKING ANYMROE, TRY TALKING TO THE REAL PEOPLE!

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January 3rd, 2007, 8:53 am

 
 

10. Kudman said:

When he died in summer 2000, Hafez al-Assad’s arrangements for his succession were carefully planned. Once it was clear that his will would be respected, the power structure after his death was not in danger of disintegrating abruptly. But acceptance of Bashar al-Assad by the orphaned ruling elite implied guarantees to several parties: that the old guard would not be dismissed, and that the Assad family at large would have a say in decision-making.

After the death of Hafez’s elder son and chosen successor Basil, there was no compelling reason why Bashar should rule as opposed to Hafez’s other children Maher or Bushra, other than the fact that Maher is younger and Bushra a woman. Skills, or indeed the ambition to exercise power, were not a decisive factor; Bashar was faced with the choice of either relying on the old guard, and becoming captive to it, or relying on his family circle and becoming hostage to it. He chose not to choose and ended up under dual control. Hafez’s successor is not Bashar alone. It is the Assad extended family and an entourage of ambitious or greedy individuals.

Bashar has been running on the steam of his father’s policies for five years without making any strategic choices of his own. Does he want to engage in economic reforms? After he called on senior Syrian experts from the World Bank and the Diaspora to initiate the process, it soon became clear that no serious economic changes could be engaged without affecting the private interests of powerful individuals, and the process came to a halt. Did he envisage meaningful political reforms at any stage? On a dozen different occasions he ordered the release of political prisoners and allowed civil society groups to hold meetings in major Syrian cities. But he also ordered the closure of those same political forums and the arrest or re-arrest of hundreds of activists.

Bashar runs to Cairo or Riyadh to talk to Washington’s closest allies every time he is concerned, but doesn’t say he is choosing to be one of them. Does he want to build a strategic partnership with the EU? Negotiations were interrupted on the association agreement, which remains suspended. Does he want to see the Palestinian Hamas and Jihad movements succeed in thwarting an Israeli-Palestinian peace agreement (if there is any chance for one)? Is he seeking to re-engage Syria in a bilateral peace process with Israel? What type of relations does Syria want with the US? Is Syria’s support for the Iraqi resistance an ideological choice based on Baathist solidarity (since there is no Sunni connection to speculate on)? And did Syria think through the implications of meddling in the Iraqi situation and whether it could afford to defy the Bush administration on such a vital issue for the US as the pacification of Iraq? On all of these issues, we have seen a choice, then its reversal soon after.

Hafez al-Assad had carefully chosen the members of his inner circle and he trusted them to guarantee domestic stability. But strategic thinking about Syria’s regional role, choice of allies, support for political and military factions, and relations with the US, Europe and Russia was a solitary exercise, and the men involved in foreign policy were mere implementers of his decisions. He left them some leeway in Lebanon, but all was done under close monitoring and constant fine-tuning by him personally. He managed to prevent unity of the Lebanese against Syria every time the risk emerged. He resorted to assassinations when he could not do otherwise, but manipulation and political tactics were the basis of his approach. From an Arab nationalist perspective, this policy was evil but smart. Bashar has maintained the evil methods but lacks the political skills of his father. The cynical equilibrium tactics of Hafez have turned into sheer inconsistency.

In the course of three years after his accession to power, Bashar succeeded in uniting the Lebanese against Syrian occupation. Now he is denouncing a united international front against his country. Following Detlev Mehlis’ request to interrogate senior figures from the Syrian regime for their suspected involvement in the assassination of Rafiq Hariri, Bashar declared in a recent speech–the tone of which was a mix of provocation, paranoia and suicidal behavior–that Syria was offered the choice between “killing itself or being killed”.

While it is true that the international consensus on the need to punish Syria if it is proven guilty is strong, there are important nuances between the approaches of the United States and Europe, particularly France, on the appropriate strategy. Paris is opposed to a strategy of isolation leading to a countdown for the overthrow of the Assad regime; whether by military means or slow suffocation through sanctions. The Syrian domestic situation is no less complex than the Iraqi one, no outside force has a recipe for successful regime change, and most importantly, there are opposition forces inside Syria who are able to make their voices heard.

The Syrian opposition is diverse and fragmented but has chosen a mature and cautious strategy. It engaged a large array of political forces in an inclusive coalition, including the Muslim Brothers, and produced a joint “Damascus Declaration” calling for dialogue with the government. While it is certainly emboldened by outside attacks on the regime, it explicitly rejects foreign support and presents itself as a patriotic force seeking peaceful change through a dialogue with the regime. It is nonetheless calling for reforms that imply transformation of the security-based regime into a political and civil state. Assuming that the present regime is reformable, an open question, it would take a particularly enlightened political leader at its head to carry out the process.

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January 3rd, 2007, 9:39 am

 

11. Louai said:

سلوى الأسطواني من دمشق : استبعدت اللجنة الموقتة لـ”اعلان دمشق”، اسمي الدكتور رفعت الاسد عم الرئيس السوري بشار الاسد والمعارض السوري فريد الغادري رئيس حزب الاصلاح من تشكيل هيئة موسعة ولجنة دائمة للمعارضة الخارجية، واعتبرتهما بين الشخصيات السورية التي تقبل بالتدخل الخارجي لإحداث تغييرات في سورية. واتهمت اللجنة الدكتور رفعت الاسد بتلويث يديه بدماء السوريين ..

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January 3rd, 2007, 9:47 am

 

12. Louai said:

I just read this article

When he died in summer 2000, Hafez al-Assad’s arrangements for his succession were carefully planned. Once it was clear that his will would be respected, the power structure after his death was not in danger of disintegrating abruptly. But acceptance of Bashar al-Assad by the orphaned ruling elite implied guarantees to several parties: that the old guard would not be dismissed, and that the Assad family at large would have a say in decision-making.

After the death of Hafez’s elder son and chosen successor Basil, there was no compelling reason why Bashar should rule as opposed to Hafez’s other children Maher or Bushra, other than the fact that Maher is younger and Bushra a woman. Skills, or indeed the ambition to exercise power, were not a decisive factor; Bashar was faced with the choice of either relying on the old guard, and becoming captive to it, or relying on his family circle and becoming hostage to it. He chose not to choose and ended up under dual control. Hafez’s successor is not Bashar alone. It is the Assad extended family and an entourage of ambitious or greedy individuals.

Bashar has been running on the steam of his father’s policies for five years without making any strategic choices of his own. Does he want to engage in economic reforms? After he called on senior Syrian experts from the World Bank and the Diaspora to initiate the process, it soon became clear that no serious economic changes could be engaged without affecting the private interests of powerful individuals, and the process came to a halt. Did he envisage meaningful political reforms at any stage? On a dozen different occasions he ordered the release of political prisoners and allowed civil society groups to hold meetings in major Syrian cities. But he also ordered the closure of those same political forums and the arrest or re-arrest of hundreds of activists.

Bashar runs to Cairo or Riyadh to talk to Washington’s closest allies every time he is concerned, but doesn’t say he is choosing to be one of them. Does he want to build a strategic partnership with the EU? Negotiations were interrupted on the association agreement, which remains suspended. Does he want to see the Palestinian Hamas and Jihad movements succeed in thwarting an Israeli-Palestinian peace agreement (if there is any chance for one)? Is he seeking to re-engage Syria in a bilateral peace process with Israel? What type of relations does Syria want with the US? Is Syria’s support for the Iraqi resistance an ideological choice based on Baathist solidarity (since there is no Sunni connection to speculate on)? And did Syria think through the implications of meddling in the Iraqi situation and whether it could afford to defy the Bush administration on such a vital issue for the US as the pacification of Iraq? On all of these issues, we have seen a choice, then its reversal soon after.

Hafez al-Assad had carefully chosen the members of his inner circle and he trusted them to guarantee domestic stability. But strategic thinking about Syria’s regional role, choice of allies, support for political and military factions, and relations with the US, Europe and Russia was a solitary exercise, and the men involved in foreign policy were mere implementers of his decisions. He left them some leeway in Lebanon, but all was done under close monitoring and constant fine-tuning by him personally. He managed to prevent unity of the Lebanese against Syria every time the risk emerged. He resorted to assassinations when he could not do otherwise, but manipulation and political tactics were the basis of his approach. From an Arab nationalist perspective, this policy was evil but smart. Bashar has maintained the evil methods but lacks the political skills of his father. The cynical equilibrium tactics of Hafez have turned into sheer inconsistency.

In the course of three years after his accession to power, Bashar succeeded in uniting the Lebanese against Syrian occupation. Now he is denouncing a united international front against his country. Following Detlev Mehlis’ request to interrogate senior figures from the Syrian regime for their suspected involvement in the assassination of Rafiq Hariri, Bashar declared in a recent speech–the tone of which was a mix of provocation, paranoia and suicidal behavior–that Syria was offered the choice between “killing itself or being killed”.

While it is true that the international consensus on the need to punish Syria if it is proven guilty is strong, there are important nuances between the approaches of the United States and Europe, particularly France, on the appropriate strategy. Paris is opposed to a strategy of isolation leading to a countdown for the overthrow of the Assad regime; whether by military means or slow suffocation through sanctions. The Syrian domestic situation is no less complex than the Iraqi one, no outside force has a recipe for successful regime change, and most importantly, there are opposition forces inside Syria who are able to make their voices heard.

The Syrian opposition is diverse and fragmented but has chosen a mature and cautious strategy. It engaged a large array of political forces in an inclusive coalition, including the Muslim Brothers, and produced a joint “Damascus Declaration” calling for dialogue with the government. While it is certainly emboldened by outside attacks on the regime, it explicitly rejects foreign support and presents itself as a patriotic force seeking peaceful change through a dialogue with the regime. It is nonetheless calling for reforms that imply transformation of the security-based regime into a political and civil state. Assuming that the present regime is reformable, an open question, it would take a particularly enlightened political leader at its head to carry out the process.

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January 3rd, 2007, 9:50 am

 

13. Innocent_Criminal said:

Ahmad/Kudman/Louai/Anon (who are the same exact person)

why do you feel the need to post complete articles under different nicknames? can you please stick to just one name and post links or part of the article instead of the whole thing? especially since you never do anything but paste articles and sometimes post them twice. thanks

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January 3rd, 2007, 10:05 am

 

14. Dubai Jazz said:

Thanks for the notification Innocent Criminal. I had a guts feeling that these posts had something in common!.
………
Kudman; your article seems to be outdated, it is at least 1 year old. It has the same old arguments that have been refuted over the course of last year’s events.
You (assuming that you post under the name Ahmad) also quoted some news piece in Arabic stating that Reff’at Al Asad and Fareed Al Ghadri were dispelled from Damascus Declaration, because they “accept foreign influence”.
Allow me to ask you, didn’t Khaddam and the MB also evoke outside help, American in particular?
You may ask Ammar Abdulhamid, he will definitely attest to that (he’s the medium in this business), actually Khaddam himself didn’t deny it in his interview with Future TV, and he considered it ‘legitimate to approach any country (except Israel) for help’
I am telling you Ahmad, National Salvation Front’s popularity in the streets is close to zero. It was doomed by its own faults and flaws. It keep impeding and discrediting the emergence of national and healthy opposition, and I don’t think that a megalomaniac psycho like Ammar Abdulhamid would be of any help to them.

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January 3rd, 2007, 11:54 am

 

15. idaf said:

A new decree on elections in Syria was issued today. The new amendment to the Syrian “elections law” now organizes the funding and management of election campaigns. Candidates are now allowed by law to promote their agendas on state run media as well as raise funds for their campaign.

This is an important amendment to the election law. Earlier, most candidates were only depending on their family names, tribes, sects, bribes etc. for votes. The new law also prohibits candidates from providing “services and financial assistance” prior to elections. This is one of the most important points in the new law IMHO as it will limit the bribes that dominate election campaigns in Syria (the dominating trend in elections in developing countries).

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January 3rd, 2007, 1:30 pm

 

16. t_desco said:

New York Sun: Iran’s Secret Plan For Mayhem
By Eli Lake

Iran is supporting both Sunni and Shiite terrorists in the Iraqi civil war, according to secret Iranian documents captured by Americans in Iraq. …

An American intelligence official said the new material, which has been authenticated within the intelligence community, confirms “that Iran is working closely with both the Shiite militias and Sunni Jihadist groups.” The source was careful to stress that the Iranian plans (sic) do not extend to cooperation with Baathist groups fighting the government in Baghdad, and said the documents rather show how the Quds Force — the arm of Iran’s revolutionary guard that supports Shiite Hezbollah, Sunni Hamas, and Shiite death squads — is working with individuals affiliated with Al Qaeda in Iraq and Ansar al-Sunna.

Another American official who has seen the summaries of the reporting affiliated with the arrests said it comprised a “smoking gun.” “We found plans for attacks, phone numbers affiliated with Sunni bad guys, a lot of things that filled in the blanks on what these guys are up to,” the official said.

Rough (!) translations of the Iranian assessment and strategy, as well as a summary of the intelligence haul, have been widely distributed throughout the policy community and are likely to influence the Iraq speech President Bush is expected to deliver in the coming days regarding the way forward for the war, according to two Bush administration officials.
NY Sun

(my emphasis)

Any similarities to the methods used by the Office of Special Plans are purely coincidental… 😉

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January 3rd, 2007, 1:48 pm

 

17. t_desco said:

Pro-Syrian Parliamentary Deputy Allegedly Involved in Lebanon Terror

A Jailed Syrian Social National Party (SSNP) member was reported Wednesday to have “testified” to interrogators that his party superior and parliament member Assad Hardan ordered him to detonate an explosive charge at a restaurant hosting a rally organized by the rival Phalange party.

The Daily al-Mustaqbal quoted Jailed SSNP member Tony Mansour as saying the bombing operation was to be carried out at a restaurant in the northern Koura province on Jan. 15, 2005, where the Phalange Party was to organize a rally attended by ex-President Amin Gemayel and his son, Pierre, who was killed last Nov. 21 by unidentified gunmen who opened fire at his car in east Beirut’s suburb of New Jdaideh.

Police had confiscated 200 kilograms of T.N.T. paste, detonators and timing equipment from SSNP hideouts in Koura during the December raid. …

The group had said in a statement that all the explosives and related equipment confiscated by police were left over from its resistance activity against Israel in the 1980s.

However, al-Mustaqbal said investigators established that the confiscated T.N.T. paste and detonators were “brought into Lebanon in the year 2000.”
Naharnet

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January 3rd, 2007, 3:11 pm

 

18. Ahmad said:

Innocent_Criminal said: (January 3rd, 2007, 10:05 am / #)

Ahmad/Kudman/Louai/Anon (who are the same exact person
How do you know?
Innocent criminal is Joshua Landis
Because when I started posting I use to be Anon
but ot anymore (Now I am Ahmad).
I never posted under kudman or loui.

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January 3rd, 2007, 3:11 pm

 

19. John Kilian said:

It might be a benefit to the blog if people were willing to put a face with a name(alias).
Maybe some of you could send photoes to J.Landis and ask him to make a page with contributor photoes and brief bios. I sympathize with those who do not feel comfortable with this, but those who are willing to share a little more than a cryptic alias might help us all keep track of who is saying what.

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January 3rd, 2007, 3:39 pm

 

20. Akbar Palace said:

Mike said:

“One has to wonder if promoting democracy in Iran and Syria is really what these people want.”

Why?

“Because by draining Syria and Iran of funds through sanctions on a nuclear weapons program that doesn’t exist while overlooking Israel’s huge arsenal, constantly threatening regime change, using every chance to publicly demonize Iran and Syria even when the evidence isn’t there (like with Iran’s non-existent role in the bombing of the Khobar towards, for instance), and refusing to even talk to Iran or Syria, what the US is doing in effect is giving a HUGE boost to the hardliners in the Iranian and Syrian governments and proving by their policies that yes, Iran and Syria are right, they are targets of extensive policies aimed at destabilizing and controlling the affairs of their countries.”

That’s one loooong sentence. The UN sanctions are weak and meaningless and only have an impact on your mind. Certainly not the Iranians. Israel is not threatening “regime change” in Iran. If they are, please post a link. And BTW, if you want, I’ll post a link showing the Iranians not only want regime change in Israel, they also want to “wipe it off the map”.

The pro-democracy students in Iran are on their own; they’re braver than you and I.

Dr. Charles said:

“So, while it is all nice and good to think that ‘experienced’ and ‘intelligent’, even indeed, expert advisors are the best people for policy-making roles, that is always not the case.”

Dr. Charles,

(cc: Dr. Josh)

Do you think your statement also applies to pro-Syrian apologists? What about “academics” who appear at the Zayed Center?

http://www.memri.org/bin/articles.cgi?Area=sr&ID=SR2103

“why do you feel the need to post complete articles under different nicknames?”

Instead of copying whole articles, why not just paste a link (or is that too difficult for PHDs?)

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January 3rd, 2007, 5:31 pm

 

21. Nur al-Cubicle said:

Um, wasn’t it easier to allow Fatah to rearm itself a few years ago, before Arafat was imprisoned in Ramallah?

I’m not too worried, because the Palestinians want concessions from Israel, not a civil war.

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January 3rd, 2007, 6:03 pm

 

22. simohurtta said:

Akbar are the WorldNetDaily and Memri the only sources from where you gather your “wast” knowledge of World’s and Middle East’s situation and politics?

These both media’s are as reliable,impartial and objective as Al Qaida’s press office.

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January 3rd, 2007, 6:07 pm

 

23. Holiday Roundup « MENA Blog said:

[…] Josh Landis has been covering the possibilities of US involvement in building up “surrogate allies to combat the surrogates of Iran and Syria” in the MENA. He fears a new year of proxy wars in the region; I’m sure he’s not alone there… With the exception of the US Neocon’s. […]

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January 3rd, 2007, 8:02 pm

 

24. Najib Omari said:

Joshua you just admit that innocent criminal is helping you with other 4 people. . I don’t think that it’s fair from you to accuse other being a same person, because they cannot prove that you and the other 5 are also the same. person, why you don’t just think that let say Ahmad also is getting help from other, same as you .who knows.

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January 6th, 2007, 12:07 am

 

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