“U.S.-Syrian Relations” by Amassador Moustapha

U.S.-Syrian Relations: The Untold Story and the Road Ahead

By Ambassador Imad Moustapha
Originally published in Washington Report on Middle Eastern Affairs

It is no secret that Syrian-American relations have been quite strained, to say the least, for some time now. Initial talks of a U.S. invasion of Iraq sparked the first signs of tension with Syria’s fierce opposition to such a plan. While we were Saddam Hussain’s arch-enemies, the notion of infringing on another country’s sovereignty to dispose of its leader based on dubious, or even fabricated, pretexts was unacceptable to us—and should have been for everyone else. Besides, we were absolutely convinced that any foreign occupation is a perilous concept that will create serious problems and yield grave consequences.

Consequently, relations between both countries continued to spiral toward diplomatic stalemate. Nonetheless, while the administration and, for a while, Congress refused to engage or listen to what we had to say, the so-called “rational center” (academia, think tanks, the media, and thoughtful American citizens) were eager to hear from us and advocate engagement with Syria.

Although the paradigm concerning Syria has shifted drastically in the past few months, it is important to review the events that led to the current deadlock and share a side of the story that has yet to be revealed…

Syria’s Untold Side of the Story

Relations between the U.S. and Syria were not always this strained. Syria was one of the first countries to condemn the atrocious terrorist attacks of 9/11 and approached the U.S. with intelligence on al-Qaeda—which, according to Secretary of State Colin Powell in a letter addressed to Congress, was “actionable information” that “helped save American lives.” 

This security coordination faltered after the invasion of Iraq, however, when the U.S. started leveling accusations at Syria claiming that Syria was allowing the infiltration of foreign fighters into Iraq. In March 2004, I was directed by my government to initiate contacts with officials from both the State Department and the Pentagon to address these accusations. The aim was not merely to “refute” these allegations but, more importantly, to formally inform U.S. officials that Syria was willing to cooperate with the U.S. on securing these borders. I conveyed to the U.S. officials Syria’s willingness to do whatever it takes to secure these borders, including exchanging information, sharing intelligence, holding field meetings between Syrian and U.S. military officers, and even participating in trilateral border patrols with the Iraqis and Americans. Needless to say, while my suggestions aroused serious interest in the State Department, they were flatly rejected by the Pentagon.

 

In September 2004, I delivered an official letter from the Syrian leadership to the U.S. administration in which Syria explicitly offered cooperation toward securing and stabilizing Iraq. The U.S. reply was a deafening silence.

In January 2005, when former Undersecretary of State Richard Armitage visited Damascus, Syria agreed to further enhance security and intelligence cooperation with the U.S. to include any terrorists crossing from Syria into Iraq, or those operating from within Syria. Meanwhile, I had strict directives from Damascus to inform high-ranking officials at the National Security Council, the State Department and the Pentagon that if they wanted Syria’s security cooperation to continue, the U.S. administration had to cease its somewhat-daily diatribe against Syria. The underlying message was that Syria is not a charity. If the U.S. wants cooperation with Syria on security issues, political engagement should ensue.

Ostensibly, the U.S. was not interested.  Washington withdrew its ambassador from Damascus and embarked on a vicious political offensive on Syria. Still, the U.S. continued requesting Syria’s security cooperation! Unfortunately, I had to announce in April 2005 that Syria was severing all cooperation between Syrian security agencies and their American counterparts. Damascus would refuse to cooperate behind closed doors and be lambasted in the open.

Where to Go From Here

An interesting pattern is emerging out of Washington regarding U.S. policy toward Syria. While the Bush administration has invested so much into isolating Syria, it seems that the plan has only backfired, resulting in the isolation of the administration itself in regards to various major players in the region. Top congressmen and senators from both sides of the aisle have stressed the importance of re-engaging with Syria. In their response to President Bush’s State of the Union address, the Democrats stressed the role of a “regional diplomatic effort” in order to achieve stability and peace in Iraq. Key Republican figures, such as Senators Richard Lugar, Arlen Specter and Chuck Hagel, have stressed the same notion. Such a “regional diplomatic effort” will ultimately include Syria, among other neighboring countries.

Also, while Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice—who has yet to visit Damascus—downplays engagement with Syria as “fruitless,” former secretaries of state who have actually negotiated with Damascus have all stressed the importance of dialogue with Damascus. Only recently, former Secretary of State Powell told Newsweek that “we got plenty” from talking with Syria. Prior to that, one of the two top figures behind the Iraq Study Group report, former Secretary of State James Baker, who dealt extensively with Syria, recommended that the U.S. talk to Syria. The list of former secretaries of states calling for engagement with Syria also includes Madeleine Albright and Henry Kissinger.

The Bush administration’s isolation is not confined to the political realm. It seems they are in isolation from their own military, as well. Col. William Crowe, in charge of the border area between Syria and Iraq, was asked by reporters at a Jan. 12, 2007 Pentagon briefing about the number of foreign fighters infiltrating Iraq from Syria. The colonel candidly replied, “There is no large influx of foreign fighters that come across the border.” He added, however, that “smuggling has been taking place in this part of the world for thousands of years.” In most cases when his troops had caught an infiltrator moving across the border—a possible average of two per day—Colonel Crowe hastened to add, “it turns out it is someone smuggling sheep, eggs, or cigarettes.”

Moreover, on Feb. 13 Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid declared that, based on the National Intelligence Estimate, “Syria …[is] not causing the strife within Iraq…

The…Syrians have nothing to do with it.” Yet, Washington is still somehow adamant in its accusation of Syria’s involvement in allowing infiltrators into Iraq.

The administration is in isolation from its Iraqi allies, as well, regarding Syria.  In January of this year, to the chagrin of the U.S. administration, Syria and Iraq re-established diplomatic relations after a lapse of 25 years, resulting in a Security Memorandum signed by the two countries. Our foreign minister paid an official visit to Baghdad, and Iraqi President Jalal Talibani concluded a weeklong visit to Damascus. Meanwhile, the U.S. administration continues to blame Syria for its own failed policies in Iraq.

Syria firmly believes that the only way to achieve progress in Iraq is through the political engagement of all parties, without exception or exclusion. This includes all Iraqi factions, regional neighbors of Iraq, and international players with interest in stabilizing the situation in Iraq. A strategy of consensus and dialogue is the only way forward. Syria can play a constructive role if such a path is adopted. Alas, the new strategy formulated by President Bush will only lead to more violence and bloodshed.

In February 2007, the U.S. State Department invited me to a meeting aimed at discussing the status of Iraqi refugees in Syria. I told them that Syria refuses to discuss one consequence of failed U.S. policies in Iraq and opts, instead, to engage with Washington on the very policies that led to the series of disasters—of which the refugee strife is but one example. I also had to remind them that whereas more than one million Iraqis fled what they call “an oasis of democracy” into our “rogue state,” the U.S., which bears the full responsibility for everything taking place today in Iraq, had granted refugee status to only 450 Iraqis. They claimed that the number would be raised to 7,000 by 2008.

Syria’s willingness to sit at the negotiating table arises from two aspects: self-interest and empathy with the Iraqi people.  Syria is not looking for a deal on Iraq. The humanitarian toll paid by the Iraqi people through daily killings, exodus, hunger, and other brutal conditions is unacceptable, based on human and international law. While not comparable to the suffering of the Iraqis, Syria also has shouldered some of the weight of Washington’s failed policies in Iraq. Syria has welcomed around 1,300,000 Iraqi refugees—a tremendous burden on any country.

Whether it is for the benefit of the Iraqis, the Syrians, the neighboring countries, or the young American and British soldiers dying on the ground, the chaos needs to come to an end.

This is not America’s war, nor is it the world’s war—it is President Bush’s war.  Nonetheless, it is the duty of America and the world to put an end to the suffering of Iraqis, primarily, and the suffering of every party shouldering a burden from this administration’s uncalculated failed policies.  The road ahead undoubtedly will be difficult. Yet, if we are to bring this sad chapter in our history to an end, it will inevitably require all of us to take this road together, and work toward a brighter future.

Comments (150)


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101. norman said:

Bremertz is going to submit his report soon , do you think smobody will die to blame Syria and who.?.

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March 14th, 2007, 4:05 pm

 

102. ausamaa said:

Yeh, When anybody had nothing to about a meeting here, they declare support for the Road Map, or for 242 and 338 (remember!), or the Land for Peace song. Now, Is this what is happening with Solana on this visit to Damascus so as to make him say that the EU supports Syria in regaining the Golan Hights. That is either “Nothing” or a “Breakthrough”!

By the way, the Headline reffers to the Syrian “inititive”, the qoute is nothing like that. Anything there?

They seem to be just passing time!

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March 14th, 2007, 4:50 pm

 

103. norman said:

They promised Syria a peace proccess in 1990 so Syria will side with US ,Syria got nothing Israel was armed to the teeth ( make Israel secure so it can give to the Palestinians )and now they want Syria to help in Iraq and Lebnon for a small promise of support from the do nothing Eu ,I think Syria should do nothing untill there is a clear commitment of economic sanctions against Israel if it does not withdrow from the golan Hights ,otherwise SYria would have been fooled twise.what do you think.?.

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March 14th, 2007, 5:03 pm

 

104. Ford Prefect said:

It is amazing what happens when the West needs Syria for something. Statements like what Alex posted become the norm – as if Solana and others have just been born again. Expect more of the same until they get what they want, then they will disengage like they have done for the sorry 14 March Lebanese.

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March 14th, 2007, 5:06 pm

 

105. idaf said:

Syria: Reform Balance Sheet – Carnegie’s Arab Reform Bulletin

Sami Moubayed

As Syrian president Bashar Al Assad approaches the end of his first term in office, there is much debate on whether or not he has succeeded as a reformer. He is credited with establishing private universities, banks, and media. The general lack of public and media interest in parliamentary elections schedule for April, however, reflects the frozen nature of political reforms.

The privatization of education is by far the biggest achievement of the past seven years. Four years after deciding to break the state monopoly on education imposed by the Baath Party in 1963, there are eight private universities and many private schools. According to official figures, 380,000 students are enrolled in Syrian universities: 250,000 at the five state-run universities, 6,000 at private universities, and 2,500 at the Syrian Virtual University (which offers online learning). Al Kalamoun University’s class of 2007 will be the first to graduate from a private university in Syrian history. The university also has the first independent School of International Relations and teaches many courses in English. Despite these successes in undergraduate learning, there are only 15,000 post-graduate students and only 2,100 students receive scholarships to study abroad. Government funds for education have actually been reduced, and now are only $50 million out of Syria ‘s annual budget of $11 billion, while funds for academic research are only $3.8 million.

Since 2000, six private banks have been established in Syria: Bank of Syria and Overseas (BSO), Banque BEMO, Bank Audi, the International Bank of Trade and Finance, Arab Bank, and Bank Byblos. At the time of privatization, their combined deposits were estimated at $30-50 million. By the end of the first year, however, deposits in the private banking sector amounted to an impressive $2 billion and today stand at $3 billion. Encouraging as this may seem, these deposits have not really changed the climate for investment in Syrian society. Red tape and regulations hamper banking; for example, long-term real estate loans were off-limits to Syrian citizens until January 2007 because of restrictions imposed by the Central Bank of Syria. In 2005, private banks lent out only 17 percent of their total deposits, meaning that over 80 billion Syrian pounds remained in the vault. The private banks were not intended to be mere money incubators, as there are plenty of those in the public banking sector.

Media privatization also is a mixed picture. While conditions are much more promising today than they were before 2000, media reform has been extremely sluggish compared to that in other Arab countries such as Lebanon, the UAE, or Qatar. Shortly after coming to power, Bashar Al Assad authorized parties affiliated with the ruling Baath to establish political publications. The result was dogmatic political weeklies that preached thundering Arab nationalism, socialism, and anti-imperialism, which were read only by narrow constituencies. The independent satirical weekly Al Domari (The Lamplighter) by the acclaimed Syrian cartoonist Ali Farzat was a breath of fresh air, but the quality of the publication dropped after the first few issues and readership plummeted. After clashes with the government, Al Domari and Al Mubki (another weekly that criticized government officials) were shut down, leading to speculation that private newspapers would once more be subjected to strict censorship. Other private publications survived, including the political weekly magazine Abyad wa Aswad (Black & White) and the economic monthly Al Iqtissad (The Economy), which run critical, reform-oriented articles.

As for political reform, government officials claim the process has been stalled by regional and international conditions, and that political reform cannot proceed under foreign pressures, namely from the United States. The Syrian leadership has not taken expected steps such as authorizing private political parties and amending article 8 of the Syrian Constitution which states that the Baath is the ruling party of state and society. But it is also true that the emphasis on Baathism has decreased significantly in recent years. In his speeches Assad stands next to Syrian flags, not Baath Party flags, and many non-Baathists have been appointed to senior posts. Dr. Hani Mourtada, an independent, became the first non-Baathist to head Damascus University and the first independent Minister of Higher Education since 1963. Other senior independents include Vice-President of the Republic Dr Najah Al Attar, deputy Prime Minister Abdullah Al Dardari, and Ambassador to the United States Imad Moustapha.

There is now speculation that a non-Baathist might replace Prime Minister Mohammad Naji Al Otari, and that a political party law might be passed after the April parliamentary elections and before the summer presidential referendum. But it is too early to tell whether such predictions will come true or are merely wishful thinking.

Sami Moubayed is a Syrian political analyst and author of Steel & Silk: Men and Women Who Shaped Syria 1900-2000 (Cune Press, 2006).

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March 14th, 2007, 5:38 pm

 

106. Atassi said:

“I would like to confirm that Syria condemns any terrorist act,” Foreign Minister Walid Moallem told reporters in Damascus. “We are a secular country that has no links to terrorist operations.”
What!!
Change of the regime policies! Is it time to burn the Islamite? So invoking God for protection of Syria is no longer needed
It’s I think the first admittance of Syrian official that terrorists are Moslems!!

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March 14th, 2007, 5:38 pm

 

107. Alex said:

Norman, this time there is already an agreement on the Golan. As James Baker said this week, an agreement should be finalized within few months after negotiations start… so there is no bluffing for a decade like the Israelis often (not always)did in the 90s.

Now it seems that contrary to popular belief, Syria is going for the Golan and not for Lebanon

1) Dr. Moustapha said it in his article.
2) American Ambassador to Israel “We are not stopping Israel from talking to Syria”
3) Solana’s statement today.

But I would assume that in case they do decide to start a constructive dialog (still a big assumption in my opinion)

1) Syria will be given a bigger role in Iraq
2) Lebanon will be neutral … Saudi Arabia and the US will have to reduce their current roles as papa and mama of the Lebanese majority. And the clowns and the warlords (Gibran’s heros) will have to slowly disappear from the scene.

AND … something similar to Prince Turki AL-Faisal’s fertile crescent vision would be implemented… economically, not politically.

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March 14th, 2007, 5:48 pm

 

108. Ford Prefect said:

Alex, I think you are right and a deal is in the works. Much to the displeasure of Israel, who would rather see Syria being engulfed in chaos and sectarian violence so it can hold on to the Golan Heights. But the Syrian people turned out to be smarter and more conscientious than neighboring countries. Way to go Syria, persist. Once the Golan is liberated from the racist warmongers, we will turn to the inside and clean house.

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March 14th, 2007, 6:00 pm

 

109. Atassi said:

FP,
“we will turn to the inside and clean house” 🙂
Woow..

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March 14th, 2007, 6:05 pm

 

110. Alex said:

Yes Atassi … but slowly : )

FP, I agree that the Syrian people so far turned out to be quite wise and calm… the way they received the Lebanese refugees for example! … there was not hate or revenge for the tens of Syrian workers killed.

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March 14th, 2007, 6:23 pm

 

111. norman said:

Alex , That is because Syria is still the Heart of the Arab world.now I hope other Arabs will see how much Syria did for Lebanon, Palestine and Iraq.

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March 14th, 2007, 6:26 pm

 

112. Ford Prefect said:

Yes, indeed, Atassi and I dig (and appreciate!) what you are saying. Our house is in desperate need of spring-cleaning and rejuvenation. That can only be accomplished AFTER we clear the warmongers from the Golan. Nothing Israel wants more, in order to keep occupying the Golan (oops, I forgot, they annexed it – just like Saddam did to Kuwait) illegally, than our internal infighting and bickering.

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March 14th, 2007, 6:27 pm

 

113. Gibran said:

Yes of course in your dreams FP. Only clowns there are the clans of Bashar and his alawi group of thugs. They are the most likely to disappear and perhaps to your obvious distatste and displeasure.

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March 14th, 2007, 6:28 pm

 

114. Ford Prefect said:

Alex, you are correct, and thanks for pointing out the “slowly” part – the grassroots, indigenous process of giving birth to democracy. The Syrians, after all the backstabbing and double-crossing from Lebanon, never blinked once on receiving and giving shelter to the thousands of Lebanese refugees who fled the barbarism and savagery of Israel’s “democracy”. I am truly amazed, and proud, by the resiliency of the Syrian people towards the repeated and heavily financed efforts to get them to disintegrate into another Lebanon or Iraq.

Norman, yes indeed and well said. The Syrian people are a shining example of tolerance and cohesiveness. They deal with the “bad apples” in effectively and in a timely manner while preserving their national identity and sanity.

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March 14th, 2007, 6:40 pm

 

115. ausamaa said:

Perhaps.

But whoever are cooking up a deal are supposed to be shrewed. The same can not be said for Dubbya. Definitly not when Elliotte Abrams is rocking his craddle and reading him Red Riding Hood while Chenney is on the look out for both and for Halliburton!

It is still early for that. Unless we ride the conspiracy theory to the end and remeber that foxy Unckel James Baker is pulling the lines from behind, and is still simmering over the Bush 41st.loss of second term elections engineered by AIPAC after the row over the Madrid Conference followed by $10 Billion Loans Guarantees. Was it Bush Sr. who went on TV then and pleaded to the American people: I am this little guy alone with all THOSE ones against me.? Not verbatium, but something to that effect. Does anyone still remember?

Well? Who is known for their long memory??? And who was the Godfather of the Madrid Conference?
who has no love lost for AIPAC? Republicans perhaps?

Has THE deal been struck? Chenney takes the money and run to Dubai, and AIPAC and Israel get an egg in the face? Maybe more than that?

Only problem with this theory is that there is not enough time left befor the Democrats get to White House. Niether time enough to try again to rearrange the Middle East in a favourable manner! Or is there? as Halliburton is relocating to “our” greener pastors?

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March 14th, 2007, 6:40 pm

 

116. Atassi said:

Alex,
Sure the slower the better!! 40 more years should do:-) Really.. what’s hurry for !! ..
By the way, MOST of the Lebanese refugees were unfortunate Shiites form the ill-fated south of Lebanon! I would think “I could be wrong too”. The welcoming party would be less contented, if the refugees were not associated with once triumphant Hezbollah

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March 14th, 2007, 6:41 pm

 

117. Atassi said:

FP,
spring-cleaning !! I hope you are right on this one 🙂 “I know you did not mean it” ..

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March 14th, 2007, 6:49 pm

 

118. ausamaa said:

GIBRAN

Do not start jumping. When they talk about cleaning our house they mean the Syria house, not our joint, brotherly, warm Syria-Lebanon house.

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March 14th, 2007, 7:02 pm

 

119. majedkhaldoun said:

Gibran;
we the syrian have to hide our name and use fake names, because we are afraid as we visit Syria,we are afraid of the security forces, but I do not understand why you are writing under different fake name ,who are you afraid of? all people who are not from Syria they declare their true identity and not afraid, why dont you tell us your real name, and where are you from.
the recent arrest of those murderers is serious news, I do think the timing of it,before Brammertz report, and before the arab summit is deliberate, could someone be arrested during that summit?is it possible that Farooq Shara’ went to Mubarak to have a guarantee not for this to happen, my friends are telling me that this is a real concern to the security forces in Syria.

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March 14th, 2007, 7:09 pm

 

120. ausamaa said:

His Vision keeps hunting him I guess.

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March 14th, 2007, 7:12 pm

 

121. Ford Prefect said:

Atassi, I mean it, I truly do. It is evolutionary and it is a one-way street. There is nothing wrong with that. Remember how we cleaned house in November 2006?

Ausamaa, I love your thoughts man.

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March 14th, 2007, 7:15 pm

 

122. Gibran said:

AUSSAMAA
No one is jumping but you. “Joint, brotherly, warm Syria-Lebanon house”, who would say that in the present circumstances but a jumper? Actually you’re stretching the word ‘brotherly’ to the point where it would break to pieces. Forget about it. Any Syrian that ventures into Lebanon will do so at the risk of playing with his own life; i.e. until we see some real Syrians standing up and doing something about their SCUM (You know, Bashar, Moallem, Sharaa, Shawkat etc…).

Do you want to see the witch hunt in full swing?

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March 14th, 2007, 7:15 pm

 

123. ausamaa said:

If the Brammertz report is Bad this time, we should boycut the Summit, hit Israel, think about rolling back to lebanon, arm the unarmed Iraqies! Wow, it would be fun Gibran. Until there is guarantees for all the Suspects (now and later) of a fair, just and a Jury based trial in the US! Then all will have an assurance of Justice. Libby’s public prosecuter if possible.
Darn, based on the evidence seen so far, even an indictment would be thrown out.

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March 14th, 2007, 7:21 pm

 

124. Atassi said:

Habib Allbi Gibran,
I will be venturing into Lebanon this summer “I do every summer”. I dare you to show your ugly face, I will be posting when and where..Yealla Yea Haboob it’s your bed time

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March 14th, 2007, 7:26 pm

 

125. ausamaa said:

Gibran,

What you just said is punishable under the Patriot Act, the Syrian Law, and the Lebanese Law. But do not worry, we wont press charges against you, only those against Junblat would stand.

And dont get it wrong; Hezbollah is the one who kicked the Israelis, not your bunch.

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March 14th, 2007, 7:26 pm

 

126. ausamaa said:

And Gibran,

What we have seen for the past few years was the Mother Of All Witch Hunts min al Areeb wi el ba’eed sawa

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March 14th, 2007, 7:29 pm

 

127. Gibran said:

AUSSAMAA
Go for it man with or without the Bramertz report. After all, you will be accused by your own SCUM of politicizing the tribunal if you tie your government behavior to the contents of the report. I thought the SCUM of Damascus is fully against politicizing the tribunal. Do you really think Syria has the guts to roooooll back to Lebanon? What else will Syria do? Hit Israel? O’ man lets start building some heavy-duty anti radiation shelters!
Now you want guaranties of fair trial for all the suspects. So you know who they are. Watch out man. If you don’t come forward with their names to the proper authorities assigned to the investigation (you know their location is in the Monte Verdi), you may become a suspect and prosecuted in obstructing justice. Don’t think we don’t have the means to track your IP address and know who you are.

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March 14th, 2007, 7:33 pm

 

128. ausamaa said:

Ok Gibran, but we have to see the report first. My guess you will be saved!

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March 14th, 2007, 7:35 pm

 

129. Gibran said:

Atassi
I dare you post your arrival date. But I know you are a decent man. I will come and show you my “ugly face” and then you’ll know who I’m. I promise you you’ll never set foot again.

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March 14th, 2007, 7:36 pm

 

130. ausamaa said:

If it becomes bad, do not track my IP address, just call Josh and ask. Al Sbaa and Fatafat must be able to help you too….

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March 14th, 2007, 7:38 pm

 

131. Atassi said:

I will POST it..
I love to stay at the hotel next to the LBC HQ in Adma “owned by a French Lebanese family”…
Will be in August timefor sure… And I will POST the exact date for sure. See you then 🙂

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March 14th, 2007, 7:42 pm

 

132. ausamaa said:

Gibran, it has just hit me! Are you a Female? It has never come up. Because your anger and venegence and threats are similar to the blind and silly Fury of a Woman thinking that she was deserted by her Married lover. If so, my appologies, I would understand then.

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March 14th, 2007, 7:42 pm

 

133. ausamaa said:

Hell, Gibran, after this, I personally will try to find a place in Al Dhahiyaa or Zgherta from now on!

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March 14th, 2007, 7:45 pm

 

134. Gibran said:

“Ok Gibran, but we have to see the report first”
AUSSAMAA
Suspects don’t have a say on how investigation should be conducted. It doesn’t make sense.

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March 14th, 2007, 7:54 pm

 

135. ausamaa said:

Good night GIBRAN

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March 14th, 2007, 8:30 pm

 

136. Jawad said:

Two Busted Flushes: The U.S. and Iranian Negotiations
March 13, 2007 19 00 GMT

By George Friedman

U.S., Iranian and Syrian diplomats met in Baghdad on March 10 to discuss the future of Iraq. Shortly afterward, everyone went out of their way to emphasize that the meetings either did not mean anything or that they were not formally one-on-one, which meant that other parties were present. Such protestations are inevitable: All of the governments involved have substantial domestic constituencies that do not want to see these talks take place, and they must be placated by emphasizing the triviality. Plus, all bargainers want to make it appear that such talks mean little to them. No one buys a used car by emphasizing how important the purchase is. He who needs it least wins.

These protestations are, however, total nonsense. That U.S., Iranian and Syrian diplomats would meet at this time and in that place is of enormous importance. It is certainly not routine: It means the shadowy conversations that have been going on between the United States and Iran in particular are now moving into the public sphere. It means not only that negotiations concerning Iraq are under way, but also that all parties find it important to make these negotiations official. That means progress is being made. The question now goes not to whether negotiations are happening, but to what is being discussed, what an agreement might look like and how likely it is to occur.

Let’s begin by considering the framework in which each side is operating.

The United States: Geopolitical Compulsion

Washington needs a settlement in Iraq. Geopolitically, Iraq has soaked up a huge proportion of U.S. fighting power. Though casualties remain low (when compared to those in the Vietnam War), the war-fighting bandwidth committed to Iraq is enormous relative to forces. Should another crisis occur in the world, the U.S. Army would not be in a position to respond. As a result, events elsewhere could suddenly spin out of control.

For example, we have seen substantial changes in Russian behavior of late. Actions that would have been deemed too risky for the Russians two years ago appear to be risk-free now. Moscow is pressuring Europe, using energy supplies for leverage and issuing threatening statements concerning U.S. ballistic missile defense plans in Central Europe — in apparent hopes that the governments in this region and the former Soviet Union, where governments have been inclined to be friendly to the United States, will reappraise their positions.

But the greatest challenge from the Russians comes in the Middle East. The traditional role of Russia (in its Soviet guise) was to create alliances in the region — using arms transfers as a mechanism for securing the power of Arab regimes internally and for resisting U.S. power in the region. The Soviets armed Iraq, Syria, Egypt, Libya and so on, creating powerful networks of client states during much of the Cold War.

The Russians are doing this again. There is a clear pattern of intensifying arms sales to Syria and Iran — a pattern designed to increase the difficulty of U.S. and Israeli airstrikes against either state and to increase the internal security of both regimes. The United States has few levers with which to deter Russian behavior, and Washington’s ongoing threats against Iran and Syria increase the desire of these states to have Russian supplies and patronage.

The fact is that the United States has few viable military options here. Except for the use of airstrikes — which, when applied without other military measures, historically have failed either to bring about regime change or to deter powers from pursuing their national interests — the United States has few military options in the region. Air power might work when an army is standing by to take advantage of the weaknesses created by those strikes, but absent a credible ground threat, airstrikes are merely painful, not decisive.

And, to be frank, the United States simply lacks capability in the Army. In many ways, the U.S. Army is in revolt against the Bush administration. Army officers at all levels (less so the Marines) are using the term “broken” to refer to the condition of the force and are in revolt against the administration — not because of its goals, but because of its failure to provide needed resources nearly six years after 9/11. This revolt is breaking very much into the public domain, and that will further cripple the credibility of the Bush administration.

The “surge” strategy announced late last year was Bush’s last gamble. It demonstrated that the administration has the power and will to defy public opinion — or international perceptions of it — and increase, rather than decrease, forces in Iraq. The Democrats have also provided Bush with a window of opportunity: Their inability to formulate a coherent policy on Iraq has dissipated the sense that they will force imminent changes in U.S. strategy. Bush’s gamble has created a psychological window of opportunity, but if this window is not used, it will close — and, as administration officials have publicly conceded, there is no Plan B. The situation on the ground is as good as it is going to get.

Leaving the question of his own legacy completely aside, Bush knows three things. First, he is not going to impose a military solution on Iraq that suppresses both the Sunni insurgents and the Shiite militias. Second, he has successfully created a fleeting sense of unpredictability, as far as U.S. behavior is concerned. And third, if he does not use this psychological window of opportunity to achieve a political settlement within the context of limited military progress, the moment not only will be lost, but Russia might also emerge as a major factor in the Middle East — eroding a generation of progress toward making the United States the sole major power in that region. Thus, the United States is under geopolitical compulsion to reach a settlement.

Iran: Psychological and Regional Compulsions

The Iranians are also under pressure. They have miscalculated on what Bush would do: They expected military drawdown, and instead they got the surge. This has conjured up memories of the miscalculation on what the 1979 hostage crisis would bring: The revolutionaries had bet on a U.S. capitulation, but in the long run they got an Iraqi invasion and Ronald Reagan.

Expediency Council Chairman Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani already has warned the Iranians not to underestimate the United States, saying it is a “wounded tiger” and therefore much more dangerous than otherwise. In addition, the Iranians know some important things.

The first is that, while the Americans conceivably might forget about Iraq, Iran never can. Uncontrolled chaos next door could spill over into Iran in numerous ways — separatist sentiments among the Kurds, the potential return of a Sunni government if the Shia are too fractured to govern, and so forth. A certain level of security in Iraq is fundamental to Iran’s national interests.

Related to this, there are concerns that Iraq’s Shia are so fractious that they might not be serviceable as a coherent vehicle for Iranian power. A civil war among the Shia of Iraq is not inconceivable, and if that were to happen, Iran’s ability to project power in Iraq would crumble.

Finally, Iran’s ability to threaten terror strikes against U.S. interests depends to a great extent on Hezbollah in Lebanon. And it knows that Hezbollah is far more interested in the power and wealth to be found in Lebanon than in some global — and potentially catastrophic — war against the United States. The Iranian leadership has seen al Qaeda’s leaders being hunted and hiding in Pakistan, and they have little stomach for that. In short, Iranian leaders might not have all the options they would like to pretend they have, and their own weakness could become quite public very quickly.

Still, like the Americans, the Iranians have done well in generating perceptions of their own resolute strength. First, they have used their influence in Iraq to block U.S. ambitions there. Second, they have supported Hezbollah in its war against Israel, creating the impression that Hezbollah is both powerful and pliant to Tehran. In other words, they have signaled a powerful covert capability. Third, they have used their nuclear program to imply capabilities substantially beyond what has actually been achieved, which gives them a powerful bargaining chip. Finally, they have entered into relations with the Russians — implying a strategic evolution that would be disastrous for the United States.

The truth, however, is somewhat different. Iran has sufficient power to block a settlement on Iraq, but it lacks the ability to impose one of its own making. Second, Hezbollah is far from willing to play the role of global suicide bomber to support Iranian ambitions. Third, an Iranian nuclear bomb is far from being a reality. Finally, Iran has, in the long run, much to fear from the Russians: Moscow is far more likely than Washington to reduce Iran to a vassal state, should Tehran grow too incautious in the flirtation. Iran is holding a very good hand. But in the end, its flush is as busted as the Americans’.

Moreover, the Iranians still remember the mistake of 1979. Rather than negotiating a settlement to the hostage crisis with a weak and indecisive President Jimmy Carter, who had been backed into a corner, they opted to sink his chances for re-election and release the hostages after the next president, Reagan, took office. They expected gratitude. But in a breathtaking display of ingratitude, Reagan followed a policy designed to devastate Iran in its war with Iraq. In retrospect, the Iranians should have negotiated with the weak president rather than destroy him and wait for the strong one.

Rafsanjani essentially has reminded the Iranian leadership of this painful fact. Based on that, it is clear that he wants negotiations with Bush, whose strength is crippled, rather than with his successor. Not only has Bush already signaled a willingness to talk, but U.S. intelligence also has publicly downgraded the threat of Iranian nuclear weapons — saying that, in fact, Iran’s program has not progressed as far as it might have. The Iranians have demanded a timetable for withdrawal of U.S. forces from Iraq, but they have been careful not to specify what that timetable should look like. Each side is signaling a re-evaluation of the other and a degree of flexibility in outcomes.

As for Syria, which also shares a border with Iraq and was represented at Saturday’s meetings in Baghdad, it is important but not decisive. The Syrians have little interest in Iraq but great interest in Lebanon. The regime in Damascus wants to be freed from the threat of investigation in the murder of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik al-Hariri, and it wants to have its interests in Lebanon guaranteed. The Israelis, for their part, have no interest in bringing down the al Assad regime: They are far more fearful of what the follow-on Sunni regime might bring than they are of a minority Alawite regime that is more interested in money than in Allah. The latter they can deal with; the former is the threat.

In other words, Syria does not affect fundamental U.S. interests, and the Israelis do not want to see the current regime replaced. The Syrians, therefore, are not the decisive factor when it comes to Iraq. This is about the United States and Iran.

Essential Points

If the current crisis continues, each side might show itself much weaker than it wants to appear. The United States could find itself in a geopolitical spasm, coupled with a domestic political crisis. Iran could find itself something of a toothless tiger — making threats that are known to have little substance behind them. The issue is what sort of settlement there could be.

We see the following points as essential to the two main players:

1. The creation of an Iraqi government that is dominated by Shia, neutral to Iran, hostile to jihadists but accommodating to some Sunni groups.
2. Guarantees for Iran’s commercial interests in southern Iraqi oil fields, with some transfers to the Sunnis (who have no oil in their own territory) from fields in both the northern (Kurdish) and southern (Shiite) regions.
3. Guarantees for U.S. commercial interests in the Kurdish regions.
4. An Iraqi military without offensive capabilities, but substantial domestic power. This means limited armor and air power, but substantial light infantry.
5. An Iraqi army operated on a “confessional” basis — each militia and insurgent group retained as units and controlling its own regions.
6. Guarantee of a multiyear U.S. presence, without security responsibility for Iraq, at about 40,000 troops.
7. A U.S.-Iranian “commission” to manage political conflict in Iraq.
8. U.S. commercial relations with Iran.
9. The definition of the Russian role, without its exclusion.
10. A meaningless but symbolic commitment to a new Israeli-Palestinian peace process.

Such an agreement would not be expected to last very long. It might last, but the primary purpose would be to allow each side to quietly fold its busted flushes in the game for Iraq.

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March 14th, 2007, 8:48 pm

 

137. Fares said:

Alex, do you see what I mean how Josh has been serving the regime in justifying the arrests of prisoners and smearing their reputation!!! I caught that a while ago nad I remember objecting to these unneeded cheap shots

http://www.dailystar.com.lb/article.asp?edition_id=10&categ_id=5&article_id=80467
read the bottom half

which still doesn’t explain how Kilo’s name slipped in; or, knowing the impact of what he was saying, Landis mentioned Kilo intentionally, effectively justifying his arrest, then dishonestly attributed this to Tabler.

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March 14th, 2007, 10:00 pm

 

138. EHSANI2 said:

IDAF’S link to Sami Moubayyed’s article above is worth reading. The piece is factual, direct and fair

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March 14th, 2007, 10:33 pm

 

139. Samir said:

Two Busted Flushes: The U.S. and Iranian Negotiations
March 13, 2007 19 00 GMT

By George Friedman

U.S., Iranian and Syrian diplomats met in Baghdad on March 10 to discuss the future of Iraq. Shortly afterward, everyone went out of their way to emphasize that the meetings either did not mean anything or that they were not formally one-on-one, which meant that other parties were present. Such protestations are inevitable: All of the governments involved have substantial domestic constituencies that do not want to see these talks take place, and they must be placated by emphasizing the triviality. Plus, all bargainers want to make it appear that such talks mean little to them. No one buys a used car by emphasizing how important the purchase is. He who needs it least wins.

These protestations are, however, total nonsense. That U.S., Iranian and Syrian diplomats would meet at this time and in that place is of enormous importance. It is certainly not routine: It means the shadowy conversations that have been going on between the United States and Iran in particular are now moving into the public sphere. It means not only that negotiations concerning Iraq are under way, but also that all parties find it important to make these negotiations official. That means progress is being made. The question now goes not to whether negotiations are happening, but to what is being discussed, what an agreement might look like and how likely it is to occur.

Let’s begin by considering the framework in which each side is operating.

The United States: Geopolitical Compulsion

Washington needs a settlement in Iraq. Geopolitically, Iraq has soaked up a huge proportion of U.S. fighting power. Though casualties remain low (when compared to those in the Vietnam War), the war-fighting bandwidth committed to Iraq is enormous relative to forces. Should another crisis occur in the world, the U.S. Army would not be in a position to respond. As a result, events elsewhere could suddenly spin out of control.

For example, we have seen substantial changes in Russian behavior of late. Actions that would have been deemed too risky for the Russians two years ago appear to be risk-free now. Moscow is pressuring Europe, using energy supplies for leverage and issuing threatening statements concerning U.S. ballistic missile defense plans in Central Europe — in apparent hopes that the governments in this region and the former Soviet Union, where governments have been inclined to be friendly to the United States, will reappraise their positions.

But the greatest challenge from the Russians comes in the Middle East. The traditional role of Russia (in its Soviet guise) was to create alliances in the region — using arms transfers as a mechanism for securing the power of Arab regimes internally and for resisting U.S. power in the region. The Soviets armed Iraq, Syria, Egypt, Libya and so on, creating powerful networks of client states during much of the Cold War.

The Russians are doing this again. There is a clear pattern of intensifying arms sales to Syria and Iran — a pattern designed to increase the difficulty of U.S. and Israeli airstrikes against either state and to increase the internal security of both regimes. The United States has few levers with which to deter Russian behavior, and Washington’s ongoing threats against Iran and Syria increase the desire of these states to have Russian supplies and patronage.

The fact is that the United States has few viable military options here. Except for the use of airstrikes — which, when applied without other military measures, historically have failed either to bring about regime change or to deter powers from pursuing their national interests — the United States has few military options in the region. Air power might work when an army is standing by to take advantage of the weaknesses created by those strikes, but absent a credible ground threat, airstrikes are merely painful, not decisive.

And, to be frank, the United States simply lacks capability in the Army. In many ways, the U.S. Army is in revolt against the Bush administration. Army officers at all levels (less so the Marines) are using the term “broken” to refer to the condition of the force and are in revolt against the administration — not because of its goals, but because of its failure to provide needed resources nearly six years after 9/11. This revolt is breaking very much into the public domain, and that will further cripple the credibility of the Bush administration.

The “surge” strategy announced late last year was Bush’s last gamble. It demonstrated that the administration has the power and will to defy public opinion — or international perceptions of it — and increase, rather than decrease, forces in Iraq. The Democrats have also provided Bush with a window of opportunity: Their inability to formulate a coherent policy on Iraq has dissipated the sense that they will force imminent changes in U.S. strategy. Bush’s gamble has created a psychological window of opportunity, but if this window is not used, it will close — and, as administration officials have publicly conceded, there is no Plan B. The situation on the ground is as good as it is going to get.

Leaving the question of his own legacy completely aside, Bush knows three things. First, he is not going to impose a military solution on Iraq that suppresses both the Sunni insurgents and the Shiite militias. Second, he has successfully created a fleeting sense of unpredictability, as far as U.S. behavior is concerned. And third, if he does not use this psychological window of opportunity to achieve a political settlement within the context of limited military progress, the moment not only will be lost, but Russia might also emerge as a major factor in the Middle East — eroding a generation of progress toward making the United States the sole major power in that region. Thus, the United States is under geopolitical compulsion to reach a settlement.

Iran: Psychological and Regional Compulsions

The Iranians are also under pressure. They have miscalculated on what Bush would do: They expected military drawdown, and instead they got the surge. This has conjured up memories of the miscalculation on what the 1979 hostage crisis would bring: The revolutionaries had bet on a U.S. capitulation, but in the long run they got an Iraqi invasion and Ronald Reagan.

Expediency Council Chairman Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani already has warned the Iranians not to underestimate the United States, saying it is a “wounded tiger” and therefore much more dangerous than otherwise. In addition, the Iranians know some important things.

The first is that, while the Americans conceivably might forget about Iraq, Iran never can. Uncontrolled chaos next door could spill over into Iran in numerous ways — separatist sentiments among the Kurds, the potential return of a Sunni government if the Shia are too fractured to govern, and so forth. A certain level of security in Iraq is fundamental to Iran’s national interests.

Related to this, there are concerns that Iraq’s Shia are so fractious that they might not be serviceable as a coherent vehicle for Iranian power. A civil war among the Shia of Iraq is not inconceivable, and if that were to happen, Iran’s ability to project power in Iraq would crumble.

Finally, Iran’s ability to threaten terror strikes against U.S. interests depends to a great extent on Hezbollah in Lebanon. And it knows that Hezbollah is far more interested in the power and wealth to be found in Lebanon than in some global — and potentially catastrophic — war against the United States. The Iranian leadership has seen al Qaeda’s leaders being hunted and hiding in Pakistan, and they have little stomach for that. In short, Iranian leaders might not have all the options they would like to pretend they have, and their own weakness could become quite public very quickly.

Still, like the Americans, the Iranians have done well in generating perceptions of their own resolute strength. First, they have used their influence in Iraq to block U.S. ambitions there. Second, they have supported Hezbollah in its war against Israel, creating the impression that Hezbollah is both powerful and pliant to Tehran. In other words, they have signaled a powerful covert capability. Third, they have used their nuclear program to imply capabilities substantially beyond what has actually been achieved, which gives them a powerful bargaining chip. Finally, they have entered into relations with the Russians — implying a strategic evolution that would be disastrous for the United States.

The truth, however, is somewhat different. Iran has sufficient power to block a settlement on Iraq, but it lacks the ability to impose one of its own making. Second, Hezbollah is far from willing to play the role of global suicide bomber to support Iranian ambitions. Third, an Iranian nuclear bomb is far from being a reality. Finally, Iran has, in the long run, much to fear from the Russians: Moscow is far more likely than Washington to reduce Iran to a vassal state, should Tehran grow too incautious in the flirtation. Iran is holding a very good hand. But in the end, its flush is as busted as the Americans’.

Moreover, the Iranians still remember the mistake of 1979. Rather than negotiating a settlement to the hostage crisis with a weak and indecisive President Jimmy Carter, who had been backed into a corner, they opted to sink his chances for re-election and release the hostages after the next president, Reagan, took office. They expected gratitude. But in a breathtaking display of ingratitude, Reagan followed a policy designed to devastate Iran in its war with Iraq. In retrospect, the Iranians should have negotiated with the weak president rather than destroy him and wait for the strong one.

Rafsanjani essentially has reminded the Iranian leadership of this painful fact. Based on that, it is clear that he wants negotiations with Bush, whose strength is crippled, rather than with his successor. Not only has Bush already signaled a willingness to talk, but U.S. intelligence also has publicly downgraded the threat of Iranian nuclear weapons — saying that, in fact, Iran’s program has not progressed as far as it might have. The Iranians have demanded a timetable for withdrawal of U.S. forces from Iraq, but they have been careful not to specify what that timetable should look like. Each side is signaling a re-evaluation of the other and a degree of flexibility in outcomes.

As for Syria, which also shares a border with Iraq and was represented at Saturday’s meetings in Baghdad, it is important but not decisive. The Syrians have little interest in Iraq but great interest in Lebanon. The regime in Damascus wants to be freed from the threat of investigation in the murder of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik al-Hariri, and it wants to have its interests in Lebanon guaranteed. The Israelis, for their part, have no interest in bringing down the al Assad regime: They are far more fearful of what the follow-on Sunni regime might bring than they are of a minority Alawite regime that is more interested in money than in Allah. The latter they can deal with; the former is the threat.

In other words, Syria does not affect fundamental U.S. interests, and the Israelis do not want to see the current regime replaced. The Syrians, therefore, are not the decisive factor when it comes to Iraq. This is about the United States and Iran.

Essential Points

If the current crisis continues, each side might show itself much weaker than it wants to appear. The United States could find itself in a geopolitical spasm, coupled with a domestic political crisis. Iran could find itself something of a toothless tiger — making threats that are known to have little substance behind them. The issue is what sort of settlement there could be.

We see the following points as essential to the two main players:

1. The creation of an Iraqi government that is dominated by Shia, neutral to Iran, hostile to jihadists but accommodating to some Sunni groups.
2. Guarantees for Iran’s commercial interests in southern Iraqi oil fields, with some transfers to the Sunnis (who have no oil in their own territory) from fields in both the northern (Kurdish) and southern (Shiite) regions.
3. Guarantees for U.S. commercial interests in the Kurdish regions.
4. An Iraqi military without offensive capabilities, but substantial domestic power. This means limited armor and air power, but substantial light infantry.
5. An Iraqi army operated on a “confessional” basis — each militia and insurgent group retained as units and controlling its own regions.
6. Guarantee of a multiyear U.S. presence, without security responsibility for Iraq, at about 40,000 troops.
7. A U.S.-Iranian “commission” to manage political conflict in Iraq.
8. U.S. commercial relations with Iran.
9. The definition of the Russian role, without its exclusion.
10. A meaningless but symbolic commitment to a new Israeli-Palestinian peace process.

Such an agreement would not be expected to last very long. It might last, but the primary purpose would be to allow each side to quietly fold its busted flushes in the game for Iraq.

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March 14th, 2007, 10:36 pm

 

140. EHSANI2 said:

“a minority Alawite regime that is more interested in money than in Allah.”

The above article is a fine piece

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March 14th, 2007, 11:00 pm

 

141. ugarit said:

““a minority Alawite regime that is more interested in money than in Allah.””

I worry more when someone says they’re more interested in God.

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March 14th, 2007, 11:24 pm

 

142. ugarit said:

Which regime on this planet is not interested in money?

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March 14th, 2007, 11:26 pm

 

143. ugarit said:

“This report (I can’t assess its credibility because I don’t know the publication) contains references to funding of Fath-Al-Islam from Baghiyyah Al-Hariri, and to links between the organization and Al-Qa`idah. This should not be surprising: many Bin Ladenites groups in Lebanon receive funding from Hariri Inc. The Hariri-funded Mufti of Biqa`, Khaldun Al-Mays, has been a Bin Laden advocates for years, and was reportedly one of the most enthusiastic recruiters of fighters for Al-Qa`idah in Iraq. ”

http://angryarab.blogspot.com/2007/03/this-report-i-cant-assess-its.html

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March 14th, 2007, 11:29 pm

 

144. Samir said:

This is a paranoiac reaction from hizbollah(dictation to seymour hersh) because if they lose their alawite allies in syria ,their iranian umberical cord will be cut.
As for the syrian regime’s plots using qaida like groups is a well known fact inside Syria(the abu al qaaqas)…Lebanon and Iraq.
I’m sure that if he receives the green light, brammertz has a lot to say about this syrian regime – qaida like groups connection.
Even the iranian intelligence has a nexus with al qaida in iraq.
Al qaida is a permeable nebula and many parties infiltrated it.

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March 15th, 2007, 12:02 am

 

145. ugarit said:

al-Qaidah is very anti-Shiite so it makes no sense that they would even talk to Hizballah, Iran, and especially Alawites. al-Qaidah is also anti-secular hence they would not be dealing with a secular state such as Syria, but of course they may have close connections to the rulers of Saudi Arabia and the Hariris (Sunni) of Lebanon.

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March 15th, 2007, 12:17 am

 

146. Samir said:

Are u novice in politic ? Politic is not based on logic.
As i know,during the the last decade ,the al qaida groups have launched many attacks against the saudi regime.
And who said that the syrian regime fears a marginal group wich has no popular support as qaida or other small groups….The syrian regime fears the moderate islamists,because the majority of the syrian people share the same belief.
Ugarit ,do u know the story of this syrian mukhabarat agent called abu al qaaqa who promoted al qaida ideology inside Syria and under the syrian regime protection for years ?

Fateh al Islam for example is 100 % syrian regime creation.

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March 15th, 2007, 12:53 am

 

147. Syrian said:

Politics: a random sequence of unrelated events and unforeseen consequences from the Samir dictionary of political thought.

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March 15th, 2007, 1:10 am

 

148. Samir said:

ok syrian,because of my poor english,I have expressed my idea wrongly,what i meant must be placed in the context of intelligence agencies scheming,firstly,the purpose of a plot is to mislead ,as the killers of hariri intended when they fabricated abu adas’s scenario….this is how i see al qaida -syrian regime connection

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March 15th, 2007, 3:58 am

 

149. Gibran said:

الرياض طلبت استرداد مواطنيها وأحدهم مطلوب أستُعين به «لتقديم فتاوى» … لبنان: 12 موقوفا في شبكة «فتح – الاسلام» بينهم 4 سعوديين ضللهم التنظيم ولم يتورّطوا
بيروت – محمد شقير الحياة – 15/03/07//
كشفت مصادر قضائية لبنانية مواكبة للتحقيقات الأمنية مع الموقوفين المنتمين الى تنظيم «فتح – الإسلام» ان عددهم بلغ حتى الآن 12 موقوفاً، بينهم 4 سوريين الذين أوقفتهم شعبة المعلومات في قوى الأمن الداخلي، اعترفوا في التحقيقات الأولية بأنهم فجّروا العبوتين في حافلتين لنقل الركاب في 13 شباط (فبراير) الماضي، في بلدة عين علق (المتن الشمالي)، ما أدى الى مقتل ثلاثة مدنيين وجرح عشرين.
وقالت المصادر لـ «الحياة» ان هناك أربعة موقوفين سعوديين أظهرت التحقيقات ان لا صلة لهم بأي نشاط ذي علاقة بالحوادث التي ارتكبتها «فتح – الإسلام»، وأن بينهم السعودي عبدالله بيشي، وهو مطلوب من السلطات السعودية، كان وصل الى لبنان براً آتياً من إيران عبر العراق وسورية.
ولفتت الى ان بيشي كان مقيماً في إيران وحضر الى لبنان بعدما أوهموه بأن «فتح – الاسلام» حركة جهادية تحتاج الى شخص يقدّم النصائح والفتاوى الى أفرادها. لكن سرعان ما اكتشف عدم صحة هذه الادعاءات عبر رفضه تغطية بعض الاعمال مثل فرض الأتاوات على تهريب البضائع وسلب بعض المصارف، وكذلك امتناعه عن الموافقة على انضمام «فتح – الاسلام» الى لجنة التنسيق الفلسطينية – اللبنانية. وأشارت المصادر ذاتها الى ان بيشي اختلف مع شاكر عبسي قائد تنظيم «فتح – الاسلام»، فما كان من الأخير إلا ان طلب من السوري غسان السنكري ان يرافق بيشي الى خارج الأراضي اللبنانية، عبر الحدود السورية. ولدى وصول بيشي والسنكري قبل ساعات من الانفجارين في عين علق، الى نقطة الأمن العام اللبناني في منطقة العريضة على الحدود اللبنانية الشمالية مع سورية، أوقفا بعدما حامت حولهما الشبهات بناء لإفادة السعوديين الثلاثة الذين أوقفهم الأمن العام في مطار رفيق الحريري قبل أيام.
وتبين من التحقيقات الأولية ان السعوديين الثلاثة غير مطلوبين من السلطات السعودية، وأوقفوا في مطار بيروت لدى محاولتهم العودة الى المملكة بعدما وصلوا الى لبنان في صورة غير شرعية.
وعلمت «الحياة» ان اثنين منهم أوقفا في أول شباط، وان الثالث أوقف في السابع منه، بعدما اتصل احدهم بذويه في ابها، وأبلغهم أنه موجود في لبنان من أجل الجهاد، ما دفع ذويهم الى الحضور الى بيروت وإبلاغ السفارة السعودية التي أبلغت بدورها السلطات اللبنانية، فباشرت البحث عنهم.
وأوضحت المصادر انه خلال توقيف السعوديين الثلاثة، أجريت مواجهات بينهم وبين بيشي، فأفادوا بأن الأخير نصحهم بالعودة فوراً الى ديارهم، وان لا علاقة لـ «فتح – الاسلام» بالجهاد.
وتشير المعلومات الى ان السلطات اللبنانية تدرس من خلال وزارة العدل طلباً سعودياً باستردادهم بناء لكتاب نقله الى الخارجية اللبنانية السفير السعودي في بيروت عبدالعزيز خوجه. وعلم ان الخارجية أحالت الكتاب قبل أسبوع على النيابة العامة التمييزية التي يفترض ان تبته ايجاباً فور انتهاء التحقيقات، خصوصاً ان لا علاقة للموقوفين بأي نشاط لـ «فتح – الاسلام» في لبنان، بل ان احد الموقوفين أفاد بأن عناصر من هذا التنظيم سلبوه 28 ألف ريال سعودي.
أما بقية الموقوفين وعددهم ثلاثة، فإن مخابرات الجيش اللبناني التي لعبت دوراً في التقصي عن نشاط «فتح – الانتفاضة» التي انشق عنها «فتح – الاسلام»، خصوصاً بعد اشتباك عناصر تابعة لها مع فنيين في المساحة في البقاع الغربي، ما أدى الى مقتل أحدهم إضافة الى تزايد تهريب السلاح عبر الحدود اللبنانية – السورية والتسلّل الى داخل لبنان، كانت تسلّمت اثنين من «فتح – الاسلام» أوقفتهما اللجنة الشعبية في مخيم البداوي للاجئين الفلسطينيين في شمال لبنان، في أعقاب اشتباك في الصيف الماضي. واضطرت العناصر التابعة لـ «فتح – الاسلام» الى مغادرة البداوي باتجاه مخيم نهر البارد حيث استقرت هناك ولحقت بها أخرى كانت في مخيم برج البراجنة في ضاحية بيروت، وشاكر عبسي هو فلسطيني – أردني مطلوب من السلطات الأردنية في اغتيال الديبلوماسي الأميركي لورنس فولي في عمان، يتزعم حالياً «فتح – الاسلام» ويتّخذ من مركز «صامد» للخدمات الاجتماعية في نهر البارد مقراً لقيادة تنظيمه، ويعاونه شخص سوري ملقب بـ «أبو مدين».
وأوضحت المصادر ذاتها ان هناك موقوفاً سورياً سيضم ملفه الى هذه المجموعة، علماً انه أوقف اثر ضبط عصابة سلب اعترفت بسرقة فرع «بنك الجمال» في صيدا. وأظهرت التحقيقات ان الاموال المسلوبة من المصرف استخدمت لتمويل «نشاط» تنظيم «فتح – الاسلام» بما في ذلك جريمة تفجير الحافلتين في عين علق.

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March 15th, 2007, 4:11 am

 

150. Oussama said:

Bravo! I am impressed that someone at the University of Oklahoma is making such an effort. Unsurprisingly, the blog seems to be mostly a cut-and-paste job rather than any serious analysis, but it is a useful first step. Keep up the good work, Josh. Someday, you’ll have a serious job.

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March 16th, 2007, 11:43 pm

 

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