Will Engaging Syria deal a “Blow to Iran”? Not Likely.

There goes Andrew Tabler again. This time he claims that the present US engagement with Syria is part of a new grand US strategy to hurt Iran. It is going to roll it back. What? Can someone explain this to me? I must be missing something. Here is what Tabler argues:

Andrew Tabler: The hand extended to Syria is also intended as a blow to Iran. The Independent. Thursday, 18 February 2010

The appointment of Robert Ford as US Ambassador to Syria is part of the Obama administration’s general policy of engagement with America’s foes. Its timing to coincide with Under Secretary of State William Burns’ visit to Damascus, however, has a wider purpose. The move is part of a massive diplomatic push in the Middle East to isolate and roll back Syria’s ally, Iran…..

It is hard to understand how normalizing relations with Syria — returning an ambassador, jump starting intelligence sharing, and slowly rekindling economic relations — is going to separate it from Iran, as Tabler argues. Will America withdraw its ambassador if Syria continues to purchase arms and develop economic relations with Iran? I doubt it. Will the US re-impose travel restrictions on Syria if Syria continues to support Iranian positions? I doubt it. Will Syria vote against Iran in the UN? No. Will Syria shutter the Iranian car factory in Syria? No. Will Syria stop supporting Hizbullah or the Palestinians? No. Even Tabler doubts this. So why claim that the US will pry Syria away from Iran with engagement? Tabler also doesn’t believe that Israel is going to give back the Golan, which would be the only way to induce Syria to reevaluate its regional alliances. Syria needs a powerful Iran and Hizbullah to counterbalance an expansionist Israel. Syria’s alliances make sense given the threat perception it has of Israel and America.

This “blow to Iran” argument is dissembling. So why make it? Can it be a face saver to mollify those who oppose engagement with Syria? Whatever the reason, it is not a convincing argument. One can pretend to be winning something out of engagement, at least something more than intelligence sharing on Iraq and al-Qaida. Syria has always been ready to trade help with Iraq and fundamentalists for normal relations. Syria stopped intelligence sharing with the US initially because of the US’ down-grading of relations. Now that an ambassador is back, Syria is back to intelligence sharing. American isolation of Syria was a big waste of time and effort. It hurt Iraq. It hurt America. And it hurt Syria. Everyone lost. WINEP can try to fool its supporters that somehow they are winning one for Israel out of renewed US-Syria engagement (Cutting Syria-Iran relations is all about Israel) or that WINEP analysts have been right all along about its anti-Syria policy proposals, but who are they really fooling? Isolation and sanctions on Syria were always bad policies. They gained America nothing. As I wrote yesterday, even Jeffery Feltman, the State Department’s leading policy guy on Syria, admitted that the US had isolated itself by its policies, rather than isolating Syria. The US is engaging, he averred, because sanctions and isolation had failed. Washington has no choice but to get back into the diplomacy game and try carrots rather than sticks.

There is no blow to Iran. Clinton’s Iran policy is in a shambles. Pretending that there is some big policy roll out underway of which engaging Syria is a part, is not altogether convincing. The US needs to engage Syria for its own reasons. The Bush administration lost Washington friends and clout in the region through its refusal to engage with adversaries and its bad choices over the last 8 years. The Bush effort to put the squeeze to Syria was a bust. There is no way to dress it up. Syria is back in Lebanon; it has more influence in Iraq than it did under Saddam; it has closer relations with Turkey than it could ever have hoped for (thanks to Washington’s club-footedness). Even Saudi Arabia needs Syria again. The world is not going to buy into a major US squeeze effort designed to bring Iran to its knees. Most countries will pretend to go along because they don’t want to piss off America but they will drag their feet or comply halfheartedly. Impoverishing Iran and cutting relations with it are not in the world’s interests. We don’t need another Iraq. Most people know this. An Iran that continues to develop its nuclear know how is not a disaster. Even a nuclear Iran can be contained.  Ruining Iran is a disaster.

Syria is not going to deliver a blow to Iran.

U.S. reaches out to Syria after 5-year rift
Washington Times

“… At the same time, the State Department removed an official warning discouraging Americans from traveling to Syria, which was previously deemed unsafe.
The U.S. moves followed a series of recent visits to Syria by senior European officials, who have been urging the Obama administration to engage fully with Damascus. But it was the prospect of weakening Syria’s close relationship with Iran that motivated Washington to extend a hand, diplomats and analysts said.

“There are challenges on the road, but my meeting with President Assad leaves me hopeful that we can make progress together in the interest of both our countries,” said William J. Burns, undersecretary of state for political affairs and the highest-ranking U.S. official to visit Syria in more than five years. Mr. Burns described his Wednesday discussions with Mr. Assad as “quite productive and extensive,” covering “areas on which we disagree, but also we found areas of common ground on which we can build.”…

US anti-terror official has ‘productive talks’ in Syria
AFP

Daniel Benjamin, the US State Department’s coordinator for counterterrorism, met with a group of Syrian officials on Thursday for “productive and detailed” talks, the US embassy said.
The two sides discussed “shared counterterrorism concerns and threats,” it said, adding that “we believe Syria can play a constructive role in mitigating these and other threats in cooperation with regional states and the United States.”…… according to Seymour Hersh of New Yorker magazine, cooperation has been restored between the CIA and Syria’s intelligence services. Syrian President Bashar al-Assad said in 2008 that he would not renew security cooperation with the United States until diplomatic relations were restored.

SYRIA: U.S. Starts Normalisation Process in Earnest
By Charles Fromm and Jim Lobe for IPS

Feb 18, 2010 (IPS) – After months of delay, the administration of President Barack Obama is taking major steps engage the government of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad as part of a broader regional strategy designed in major part to isolate Iran, escalate the fight against al Qaeda and other radical Sunni groups, and encourage peace talks with Israel.

Wednesday’s meeting in Damascus between Undersecretary of State for Political Affairs William Burns and Assad marked the highest-ranking official exchange between the two countries since former Secretary of State Colin Powell traveled there almost six years ago.

And the long-awaited nomination of a new U.S. ambassador to Syria, Robert S. Ford, announced by the White House late Tuesday, confirmed the effective end to a diplomatic boycott by Washington that began with the 2005 assassination of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafiq Hariri which former President George W. Bush blamed on Damascus.

While Ford must still be confirmed in his new post by the U.S. Senate, the fact of his nomination, Burns said after his meeting with Assad, “is a clear sign, after five years without an American ambassador in Damascus, of America’s readiness to improve relations, and to cooperate in the pursuit of a just, lasting and comprehensive peace between Arab and Israelis with progress on all tracks of the peace process and in the pursuit of regional peace and stability.”

Burns also announced that the State Department’s top counterterrorism official, Amb. Daniel Benjamin, would stay on in Damascus for additional discussions with top Syrian officials presumably focused on fully restoring intelligence and related cooperation that was halted under Bush.

Limited cooperation, especially relating to Syrian help in preventing its border with Iraq from serving as an infiltration and supply route for Sunni or Baathist fighters, has resumed over the past year, largely at the initiative of the chief of the U.S. Central Command, Gen. David Petraeus, who had been barred by the previous administration from visiting Damascus.

But Washington now hopes to expand that cooperation both with respect to Iraq and to the larger region as well, given the Assad regime’s long experience in combating Sunni extremism.

Most analysts, as well as the Syrian government itself, had expected that the latest steps toward normalising ties would have taken place much earlier in Obama’s tenure, particularly given his criticism of Bush’s refusal to engage diplomatically with Washington’s perceived foes in the region during his election campaign. Indeed, the administration first officially announced its intention to return an ambassador to Damascus last June.

But resistance from hawkish elements of the so-called “Israel Lobby” here; concerns that a premature rapprochement could strengthen Syria’s allies in Lebanon; as well as the administration’s early focus on re-launching a credible peace process between Israel and the Palestinians, delayed action, although Obama’s special envoy for Arab-Israeli peace, former Sen. George Mitchell, has traveled to Damascus three times since last June.

In fact, Burns’s emphasis on the Arab-Israeli peace track in his remarks Wednesday suggested that Washington is putting a high priority on getting a Syrian-Israeli negotiating process underway, particularly in light of the prolonged impasse on the Israeli-Palestinian front.

The prospect of reviving what some have called the “Syria First” option may help persuade Palestine Authority President Mahmoud Abbas to drop his demand that Israel freeze all settlement activity on the occupied West Bank and East Jerusalem as a precondition for Israeli-Palestinian talks, according to some analysts here.

But the fact that the moves of the last two days come amid a major diplomatic campaign directed against Iran suggests that Washington’s top priority is to test the degree to which Damascus may be willing to loosen its alliance with Tehran in the interests of improving ties with Washington which, among other things, is also seen as critical to Syria’s hopes of recovering the Golan Heights from Israel.

In addition to Syria itself, Burns and his delegation visited with Lebanon’s President Michel Suleiman and Prime Minister Saad Hariri in Beirut earlier this week and are now traveling to Turkey and Azerbaijan. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton met with top officials in Qatar and Saudi Arabia earlier this week, while her deputy, James Steinberg, is due in Israel early next week.

Meanwhile, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Adm. Michael Mullen, met with Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak in Cairo and top Israeli military officials in Tel Aviv over the weekend and is scheduled to travel to Jordan, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) this week. He told McClatchy Newspapers that Iran was at the top of his agenda.

It is in this context that “the timing of the (Ford’s) appointment, together with the visit of William Burns to Damascus, is part of a tactical push to show Tehran how isolated they really are,” Andrew Tabler, a Syria specialist at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy (WINEP), told Politico.com Wednesday.

How open Assad will be to Washington’s more earnest courtship – particularly if it requires them to turn on their long-time ally in Iran – remains far from clear, particularly given his earlier expectations of a much faster normalisation process, including the easing of economic sanctions that remain in effect.

The Syria Accountability Act, approved by Congress in 2004, imposes a number of harsh economic sanctions against Syria, including a ban on the sale of U.S. goods to Damascus. Its terms, however, can be waived if the president finds that such a sale was necessary for national security, an authority that Obama has yet to use despite appeals by Boeing Co. to permit it to sell spare parts and technology for Syria’s aging commercial airliner fleet.

Indeed, in a recent interview with the New Yorker’s legendary investigative journalist, Seymour Hersh, Assad expressed great scepticism that about the administration’s ability to accommodate even minimal Syrian requirements.

“Maybe I am optimistic about about Obama, but that does not mean that I am optimistic about other (U.S.) institutions that play negative or paralysing role(s)…,” he said, noting the role of Congress, where pro-Israel forces are especially strong, in particular.

“(T)he whole atmosphere is not positive towards the president in general,” he said. “And that is why I think his envoys cannot succeed.”

He also rejected Washington’s current strategy of seeking greater international support for economic sanctions on Iran to persuade it to curb its nuclear programme.

“Imposing sanctions (on Iran) is a problem because they will not stop the programme and they will accelerate it if you are suspicious,” he told Hersh. “They can make problems to the Americans more than the other way around,” he added.

Moreover, Assad is considered to be in a much stronger position both internally and internationally than even a year ago when Obama took office.

Syria’s economy is attracting record foreign investment due to the implementation of a sweeping reform programme. On the diplomatic front, it has fully normalised ties with France and other European nations and has regained considerable influence in Lebanon since the so-called Cedar Revolution that followed Hariri’s assassination and forced the withdrawal of Syrian troops from the country.

Michele Dunne, the delightful and talented editor of Arab Reform Bulletin writes: I wanted to highlight for you that the ARB has undergone another evolution: we will publish 1-2 articles weekly instead of 5 monthly. Subscribers can now set their preferences to receive an email from us whenever we post new material, once a week, or once a month–whichever way they will get all the material we post.

Robert Fisk accuses Britain of collusion with Israel on the Dubai killings. Britain’s explanation is riddled with inconsistencies. It’s time to come clean

Comments (90)


Pages: « 1 [2] Show All

51. Akbar Palace said:

Place Your Bets

[21.] majedkhaldoun said:

A.P.
I will be glad to take you up on your offer,I will make a wager.
1) president Obama will be elected for second term.
2) US will be out of Iraq by the end of 2011.
3)If Israel loose one war,it will be the end of Israel as it is today.

majedkhaldoun,

Great. Just to be clear, we need a little more detail:

1.) clear: Obama wins second term (November 2012 general election)

2.) Somewhat clear: US will be out of Iraq by the end of 2012.

What if there are still American bases and/or advisors? What if there are still a few thousand troops? Did you want to clarify this or does ANY American military presence count?

3.) Not clear: What constitutes a “war”? Was Israel at “war” with Gaza and Lebanon? How do you know whether or not Israel will “lose” the war? Are you saying that after the next “war” (please define) “it will be the end of Israel”? Also did you have a time frame in mind?

Anyway, I suggest $20 for each wager. Alex will hold the money until each bet becomes due by the date mentioned or the next “war”.

Ghat Albird,

What is the purpose of your list of 30 or so “Jew”, “Black”, “White European”, “Arab” supposed so show?

Are you saying this list of people “controls” US foreign policy?

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February 21st, 2010, 1:25 pm

 

52. Shai said:

Why Discuss,

It is so difficult for us “White folk” to look at the darker natives as equals… All over the world, we quietly know they’re still “slightly” beneath us. Add to that beards, a Kafiah, and the belief in Allah, and you’ve got yourself frantic little Swiss citizens, seeing SCUDS in every minaret. And all the rest, pretending to be shocked.

It used to be that way in Israel, between Ashkenazi Jews and Sepharadic ones (origin in the Middle East). But now, after decades of intermarriage, thank god one’s origin has become meaningless. We haven’t, however, mixed yet with Israeli-Arabs. That is the next step, for Israel to rid itself of its innate Racism.

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February 21st, 2010, 2:09 pm

 

53. Ford Prefect said:

OTW, Yes, I couldn’t have said it better. Iran is an emerging Middle Eastern superpower that threatens to disturb the balance of power – where Israel is the sole proprietor. So, whatever the “disturbed” can do to slow Iran’s ascent , they will do.

OTW is correct in pointing out that Iran is a fundamentally forward-looking nation with a modern and rising population that is difficult to radicalize.

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February 21st, 2010, 2:25 pm

 

54. norman said:

Look at this , The US is playing the Carrot with Syria to pull it away from Iran after the Stick of President Bush did not work ,

Posted: Sunday, Feb 21, 2010 – 08:40:45 am CST

ANALYSIS: US open to Syria as Mideast peace player

By Barry Schweid, Associated Press
WASHINGTON — For five years, the United States has shunned Syria, denying the Arab country the prestige and access that come with having an American ambassador in Damascus.

The instant explanation was to protest the assassination of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri, who was killed in 2005 in a Beirut truck bombing that his supporters blamed on Syria.

Syria denied involvement and has expressed interest from time to time in being involved in U.S. efforts to promote peace between Israel and its Arab neighbors.

By all accounts, Syria now will get the opportunity. Depending on Senate confirmation, a seasoned ambassador, Robert Ford, will be sent to Damascus as U.S. envoy and the door will be open for Syria and Israel to negotiate with U.S. blessing — assuming talks can be arranged.

“It’s a clear sign, after five years without an American ambassador in Damascus, of America’s readiness to improve relations and to cooperate in the pursuit of a just, lasting and comprehensive peace between Arabs and Israelis,” Mark Toner, a State Department spokesman, said Wednesday.

The Syrian Embassy spokesman welcomed the move.

Ahmed Salkini said in an interview, “We face some thorny issues in our region. It is imperative for a regional player like Syria and the world’s superpower to maintain a deep dialogue.”

Since December 1979, Syria has been on the department’s list of countries that support terrorism.

The ongoing accusation includes suspicions Syria collaborates with Iran in supplying munitions to radical Islamist groups for use against Israel. That listing has not been erased. State Department spokesman P.J. Crowley said Thursday “we continue to have concerns about Syria and its ongoing support of terrorist elements in the region.” “There are a variety of actors in Damascus we think should not be there,” he said. Crowley said if Syria makes progress in this area “we will evaluate” the listing. But he said he was not aware of any effort now to consider removing Syria from the list. All the while, though, there has been no denying that Syria is a front-line state in the Arab-Israeli dispute. It wants to regain the strategic Golan Heights, an enclave Israel captured during the 1967 Mideast War. It has offered peace in exchange. Aaron David Miller, a longtime Middle East negotiator and State Department adviser, said in an interview Wednesday that every president since then, with the exception of George W. Bush, has been “fascinated with the possibility of an Israeli-Syrian peace treaty.”

“None has managed to bring it to fruition,” Miller said, “and without an active peace process involving the United States, the chances for an improved U.S.-Syria relationship are very, very slim with or without a new U.S. ambassador.”

The decision to appoint a U.S. ambassador coincides, however, with rising administration disagreement with Iran and a U.S. effort to unite the Arab world in opposition to the regime in Tehran, isolating it if possible.

Syria’s strong ties to Iran work against that kind of union. The Obama administration could be betting the ties could be loosened with some serious coaxing from Washington and a determined effort by the administration to drive home terms for a settlement between Israel and Syria.

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February 21st, 2010, 3:31 pm

 

55. Off the Wall said:

Yossi

Also, there is a feeling that the Arabs, Palestinians in particular, are appealing to the West as some sort of a pure judge, to evaluate their accusations against Israel (e.g., war crimes), but what they are forgetting is that acknowledging Israel’s guilt also implies American and British guilt (in Iraq, Afghanistan,…) so they must dismiss the accuser to maintain the self-image of liberators and freedom fighters.

As offended said, this is a good point. I agree with its premise, but would add that the implication of sharing guilt has less to do with Iraq and Afghanistan and more to do with the role these countries had in creating and sustaining the youngest member of the “exceptional” nations club.

Shai
Absolutely correct, the feeling of exceptionalism is also related to the notion of “liberating” the land from the backward dark skinned natives .

FP
Sorry to be auto-biographical below, but I can only draw scenes from my environment:

The last year has been one of my most productive academically, and I owe that to two brilliant graduate students from Iran. Between the two of them, we managed to get out 6 peer reviewed publications with three more on the way. Two of these publications are already making strong presence on the citation list.

For years now, I have been interacting with young Iranian students, and I am not talking about Iranian-Americans, I am talking about those who until they came to the US, have lived their lives in Iran. Given their ages, most have lived their entire life under the revolution. What pleases me the most is that once they arrive and start their study program, they hit the ground running academically and culturally, even those with strong religious feelings. I find their level of preparedness beyond exceptional and it rivals that of students coming from elite universities in the US. One beautiful thing is that our group get as many applications from female students as we do from male students from Iran. I am afraid to say that the ratio for Americans is far less than that for Iran. Yes, Iran has a forward looking, dynamic, self cognizant and confident young generation. I believe that they will lift Iran, and in the process lift the entire region. Some may say that I am only seeing the elite of Iran, but that also applies to all of the countries from which we receive applications. By the way, working with the meritocratic elite groups from all nations is always rewarding, sometime frustrating, and frequently humbling experience. I am sure most of us “technicals” expats know that rather well. 🙂

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February 21st, 2010, 5:02 pm

 

56. Yossi said:

Hi Offended,

Yes, good point, but the ones who want to persecute Cheney are somewhat like Israeli democrats (supporters of a democracy of all its citizens rather then a “Jewish democracy”), a small minority. They’re working from outside the walls of government and are therefore much less powerful compared to the ones connected straight to the tap… They are not the ones who would lose from admission of guilt…

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February 21st, 2010, 5:20 pm

 

57. Ghat Albird said:

AKBAR PALACE asks
Ghat Albird,

What is the purpose of your list of 30 or so “Jew”, “Black”, “White European”, “Arab” supposed so show?

Answer: General information. Here’s additional information that might interest you AP.

Board of Governors of the US Federal Reserve

Ben S. Bernanke(Jew) – Chairman
Donald L. Kohn(Jew) – Vice Chairman
Kevin M. Warsh(Jew Wife: Jane Lauder)
Elizabeth A. Duke(White European)
Daniel K. Tarullo(White European)

Federal Reserve District Banks:

Eric S. Rosengren(Jew) – President, Federal Reserve Bank of Boston
William C. Dudley(White European) – President, Federal Reserve Bank of New York
Charles I. Plosser(Jew) – President, Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia
Sandra Pianalto(White European) – President, Federal Reserve Bank of Cleveland
Jeffrey M. Lacker(Jew) – President, Federal Reserve Bank of Richmond
Dennis P. Lockhart(White European) – President, Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta
Charles L. Evans(White European) – President, Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago
James B. Bullard(Jew) – President, Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis
Gary H. Stern(Jew) – President, Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis
Thomas M. Hoenig(Jew) – President, Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas City
Richard W. Fisher(Jew) – President, Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas
Janet L. Yellen(Jew) – President, Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco

Of the five(5) members of the Federal Reserve Board of Governors, three(3) are Jews or have Jewish spouses. This is a numerical representation of 60%. Of the twelve(12) Federal Reserve District Bank presidents, eight(8) are Jews. This is a numerical representation of 67%. Jews are approximately 2% of the United States population. This means that Jews are over-represented on the Federal Reserve Board of Governors by a factor of 30 times, or 3,000 percent, and over-represented among the Federal Reserve District Bank presidents by a factor of 33.5 times, or 3,350 percent.

This extreme numerical over-representation of Jews among the members of the Federal Reserve Board of Governors and the Federal Reserve District Bank presidents cannot be explained away as a coincidence or as the result of mere random chance. You must ask yourself how such an incredibly small and extremely unrepresentative minority ethnic group that only represents 2% of the American population could so completely dominate the U.S. Federal Reserve System.

Are you saying this list of people “controls” US foreign policy?

Answer: Your guess is as good as anybody’s.

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February 21st, 2010, 6:27 pm

 

58. Akbar Palace said:

Answer: Your guess is as good as anybody’s.

Ghat Albird,

Of course, I didn’t expect you to answer my question directly. Syria Comment has a great network of Arab conspiracy theorists such as yourself and Alex, who like to roll up American actions into a nice, comfy “Jewish” ball. Again, that’s fine if it makes you feel comfortable, but if you want to change American foreign policy, you’ll need to be a little more clever than that.

American foreign policy is a very complicated combination of the State Department (which has never been terribly pro-Israel), the CIA (which has never been terribly pro-Israel), the US Congress (aka The “People”, which is more pro-Israel because of the 2% Jewish population and a much larger group of pro-Israel Christians), and the US Administration.

George H.W. Bush Administration with James Baker as Secretary of State was the least sympathetic to Israel that I can recall, yet this administration wasn’t about to throw Israel “under the bus”. This administration held up loan guarantees due to building in the West Bank, but alas, this wasn’t enough to phase Yassir Arafat. It will never be enough.

Anyway, just my opinion, but feel free to list names if you think that helps.

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February 21st, 2010, 9:23 pm

 

59. Ghat Albird said:

AKBAR PALACE said:

I’ll need to be a little more clever than that……and I should feel free to list names if I think that helps.

Since I have AP’s permission and according to him I need to be more clever ( than he ?)

Here’s a link of interest.

http://blogs.forbes.com/streettalk/2010/02/18/goldman-sachs-shorted-greek-debt-after-it-arranged-those-shady-swaps/

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February 21st, 2010, 9:40 pm

 

60. norman said:

Ap. Ghat , Alex ,

Look at this ,people are thinking in the US ,

OpEdNews

Original Content at http://www.opednews.com/articles/U-S-Middle-East-Policy–by-Dan-Lieberman-100218-716.html

——————————————————————————–
February 21, 2010

U.S. Middle East Policy – A Road to Disaster

By Dan Lieberman

Isn’t it time for the United States’ State department to prevent additional United States foreign policy debacles? Look at the record. From Vietnam to Angola to Nicaragua, Somalia and on to Iraq and Afghanistan, United States foreign policies degraded into military interventions and proved counterproductive; accomplishing the very results the policies were formulated to prevent. Regimes, which the U.S. intended to replace either became strengthened (Vietnam, Angola), returned in almost equal form (Nicaragua), evolved to a more antagonistic form (Somalia), or remained unresolved (Afghanistan, Iraq). With a trajectory similar to previous, U.S. policies towards the larger Middle East will achieve similar counterproductive results. U.S. policies are on a road to disaster for Middle East nations and the American people. A new road, which averts disaster, can be conveniently chosen.

Although President Barack Obama did not consider Middle East policies in his remarks, he bravely spoke of the reason for U.S. policy makers to act improperly; “Every day is election day in Washington, D.C.” Congressmen approve policies that enable them to be elected by the American people rather than approving policies that advance the American agenda. Representatives support the special interests and lobby groups who furnish them with the funds and publicity that guarantee elections. Similar to fans who overrate film stars, many citizens associate publicity with accomplishment and carelessly re-elect legislators who satisfy their subjective wants but blind them to their objective needs.

Zero in on U.S. interests in the Middle East and we find them primarily confined to assuring sufficient oil supply and combating terrorism from extreme Islamic groups. Research the status of the policies for protecting these interests and we learn of growing failure, misaligned perspectives, and more foreign policy debacles that will prove counterproductive.

The U.S. was the largest importer of Iraqi oil under the UN Oil-for-Food program and the principal recipient of Saudi oil for decades. From having almost a monopoly on Middle East oil production, the U.S. oil industry now receives a diminishing percentage. Reuters, BAGHDAD, Dec 13, 2009 reports there has been no boon for U.S. firms in Iraq oil deal auction.

“Critics said the 2003 U.S. invasion of Iraq was driven by oil, but United States oil majors were largely absent from an Iraqi auction of oil deals snapped up instead by Russian, Chinese and other firms.”

FX Street.com reports that China has probably taken over the US’ status as the world’s largest oil consumer.
“Saudi Aramco, the world’s biggest oil producer, said it is exporting about 1M bpd of crude to China, more than to the US. The CEO, Khalid al-Faith, said the company will focus on China in coming years.”

Failure to reduce dependence on Middle East oil has propelled the U.S. into interference in Middle East nations. Misadventures have caused conflagrations, destruction, armed conflicts and immense numbers of local casualties. The same misadventures and its immense number of local casualties have generated terrorism. How else can the terrorism be explained? After all, China, Japan and a host of other nations who have dealings with Middle East oil producers have not encountered international terrorism. U.S. unwarranted support for the Mujahideen during the Soviet/Afghan war led to Taliban control of Afghanistan and installation of al-Qaeda training camps within the extremist Islamic nation. The severe confrontations between the Sunni civilian population and U.S. troops after the invasion of Iraq propelled foreign militants to Iraq.
If combating terrorism and Radical Islam are the principal objectives of U.S. foreign policy then modifying the nature of nations who incite terrorism will be helpful. Until now, the U.S. has refused to properly engage Saudi Arabia and Israel (two antagonists), both of whom suffer from terrorism, but have internal policies that promote international terrorism and Radical Islam.

U.S. support for the repressive Saudi regime has assisted Saudi’s royal family to exerecise rigid political control and self-serving economic policies. The latter has aroused severe resentment from radicalized Muslims who suspect the U.S. support maintains Saudi power. All American administrations have ignored that Saudi Wahabbism and Sharia law, the most fundamentalist aspects of the Muslim religion, have developed an extreme ideology in Muslim youth. Let us recall that most of the 9/11 conspirators were Saudi and many of the al-Qaeda in Iraq militants proceeded from Saudi Arabia. Imagine if they originated from Syria? Would Syria even exist today?

U.S. support for Israel’s expansionist policies and its oppression of the Palestinian people has provoked Radical Islamic groups. Intention to incorporate all of Jerusalem into its territory has added fuel to fire. Although Israel receives funds, weapons and political support from the U.S., the generosity is rarely returned. Israel proceeds with disputed settlements, seizing of Palestinian lands, constant violent actions across its borders and provocative policies regardless of the wants and effects on its benefactor.

Despite years of a war on terrorism, terrorist actions and elements around the globe have grown.

On the other hand, for no decisive reason, the U.S. has strained relations with several nations who can be helpful in pacifying the Middle East. In these situations, the U.S. should re-evaluate its policies.

U.S. administrations consider Syria as an enemy, but why? The Syrians must answer to its repressive attitude, and its relations with states and groups which the U.S. determines undesirable. Nevertheless, these negative characteristics are not unique. China, Egypt and several other nations with whom the U.S. has close relations share similar attributes.

The U.S. can resolve its differences and clarifying its relations with Syria by understanding Syria’s position. Isn’t it natural for Syria to act hesitatingly with a nation who defends Israel, which has apprehended the Golan Heights? Why would Syria welcome U.S. troops at its borders after the invasion of Iraq? The U.S. exaggerates Syria’s obstinate policies and does not credit Syria with its helpful policies.

After Syrian President Bashar al-Asad denounced the 9/11 attacks, FBI agents traveled to Syria in 2002 and investigated al-Qaeda activists who had been in Syria or had maintained ties with Syrian citizens. Senior American officials were quoted as saying that the information provided by Syria helped prevent attacks on American targets in the Gulf and saved many American lives.

Syria’s most meaningful assistance to the world community and to the United States is its operation as a safety valve for refugee displacements. Syria has housed several hundreds of thousand Palestinian refugees for decades and granted them almost full rights. It has hosted two million Iraq refugees. What would have happened if Syria refused entry to these refugees?

Responding to U.S. and UN demands, Syria has removed its troops and authorities from Lebanon. Has Israel responded to UN requests to leave the West Bank? Unlike Israel, who bombed the U.S. ship USS liberty during the 1967 war, has denied entry to and imprisoned many U.S. citizens, and been complicit in the deaths of several Americans, the Syrian regime has never harmed any American. Doesn’t responsive to UN dictates and behavior to American citizens count in the formulation of foreign policy?

The U.S. regards Hezbollah and Hamas as terrorist and radical. However, Hezbollah has played a significant role in stabilizing Lebanon and has been responsible in its parliamentary duties. Its acceptance as a legitimate expression of a constituency has been echoed in a recent declaration by Lebanese Sunni Prime Minister Hariri, who complained about Israel flights over Lebanese territory and vowed, “There will be no division in Lebanon. We will stand against Israel. We will stand with our own people.”

Hamas was criticized from refraining entering Palestinian politics. After it won the national election, it has been vilified for” for winning the election.

Hamas and Hezbollah are more dedicated to an Islam of social services and political representation rather than to a Radical Islam. They both represent major constituencies. Since their formal formations, neither of these two Islamic organizations engaged in any violent acts against the U.S. government, its citizens, and institutions.

Positive interaction with Syria, Lebanon, Hezbollah and Hamas can diminish terrorism, including in Israel, and can deny support for Radical Islam. This does not imply that the U.S. approves these governments or the Islamic organizations. It signifies the U.S. recognizes it owes a duty to its own citizens to follow all avenues that can assist in the wars against terrorism and Radical Islam.

Then there is the Islamic Republic of Iran. U.S. and the entire world community have issues with Iran especially its failure to meet the aspirations of its own people and its abysmal human rights record. However, these are internal issues that cooperation could resolve and are not issues to be used to undermine a nations’ authority. U.S. strident propaganda against Iran belittles state department efforts to resolve its differences with the Islamic state. After the intervention in Afghanistan, this U.S. adversary was helpful to the NATO action. Iran contributed funds and materials and was instrumental in forming the present Afghanistan government and in combating the Taliban.

U.S. administration rhetoric portrays the Islamic Republic as being responsible for destabilizing Iraq, preparing to attack U.S., being a principal organizer of international terrorism and a nation led by the deranged. Note that antagonistic U.S. troops now border western Iran from Iraq and are also present in the eastern bordering country of Afghanistan. There are no Revolutionary Guards in Mexico or Canada. Iran has legitimate interests in Iraq and the Middle East, which includes a natural relationship with Shia clerics and populations in neighboring nations. Is it possible that Iran senses it must defend itself and the best defense is an offense, and the best offense for a nation that has a weak army, navy and air force is the nuclear bomb? Has a U.S. militant attitude provoked the Ayatollahs to seek the nuclear alternative? Has the U.S. militant attitude achieved anything it desires from Iran? One achievement is lowering Iran’s potential oil and gas production, two scarce resources, which need increased production to lower gasoline costs at the pump and heating costs in the home. .

No definitive proof of any major involvement of Iran with the instability and militancy in Iraq has been provided. No definitive proof of any major involvement of Iran in the last decade of international terrorism has been disclosed. Iran has not harmed any Americans beyond its borders. And while “stable” U.S. leaders attack nations throughout the world, causing massive death and destruction, the U.S. accuses Iran’s leaders of being deranged

Despite its quirky and dismal character, The Islamic Republic can play a decisive role in stabilizing Iraq and pacifying much of the Middle East – an opportunity which awaits U.S. policy makers and an opportunity they will undoubtedly neglect.

The turnaround for a successful Middle East policy starts with the State Department re-evaluating relations with its self-made enemies, removing the blinders that guide its relations with its dubious friends, and proceeding with a foreign policy that guides all and is not driven by the needs of a few.

U.S. foreign policy in the Middle East is linked to Israel’s policies, which are guided by an “all or nothing” solution. Israel no longer indicates it wants peace. It wants surrender. Since Israel’s expansion only leads to collisions with enemies, how will the confrontations end? Will a “push come to shove” propel Israel to use its most powerful weapon, the nuclear alternative? If so, the U.S. will be the godfather to massive destruction of the Middle East. the most severely destructive of all counterproductive U.S. foreign policies.

Quote Lincoln: “I rid myself of enemies by making friends with them.”

Dan Lieberman is editor of Alternative Insight, a monthly web based newsletter.

Author’s Bio: Dan Lieberman is Editor of Alternative Insight, a monthly web based commentary news letter. His articles on politics and foreign affairs have appeared on many web sites.

Back

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February 21st, 2010, 10:52 pm

 

61. Yossi said:

Shai,

>>> It used to be that way in Israel, between Ashkenazi Jews and Sepharadic ones (origin in the Middle East). But now, after decades of intermarriage, thank god one’s origin has become meaningless.

This is probably the thing farthest from truth you’ve ever said, representing your Ashkenazi blind-spot 😉

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February 21st, 2010, 11:15 pm

 

62. Alex said:

‘New US envoy to Syria a mistake’

BY HERB KEINON
22/02/2010

Democratic US Congressman Eliot Engel slams Obama’s Mideast policy.

US President Barack Obama’s decision to re-appoint an ambassador to Syria was a “mistake,” US Congressman Eliot Engel (D-New York) told The Jerusalem Post.

Engel was the sponsor of a 2003 bill calling for sanctions against Syria if it doesn’t end support for terrorism and leave Lebanon.

In reference to the brouhaha over the Foreign Ministry’s decision not to meet with J Street members accompanying a delegation of US congressman, Engel – who was in Israel last week – defended the government’s right to meet with whom it saw fit.

“It’s up to Israeli officials to decide who they will meet with, and who not to meet with,” he said.

He pointed out that a number of the congressmen that J Street brought over vote against Israel on resolutions that generally carry massive support on the House floor.

For instance, two of those congressman – California Democrats Lois Capps and Bob Filner – voted against House Resolution 867 that slammed the Goldstone Report and re-affirmed Israel’s right to self-defense.

Another member of the delegation, Bill Delahunt (D-Massachusetts), voted “present,” while Donald Payne (D-New Jersey) did not vote. The only member of the delegation to back the resolution, deemed in Jerusalem an important pro-Israel resolution, was Mary Jo Kilroy (D-Ohio).

The resolution passed 344-36, with another 22 voting “present,” and 20 not voting.

J Street head Jeremy Ben-Ami, in a post on the organization’s Web site Friday, characterized members of the delegation his organization brought to the country as “key friends of Israel in Congress.”

Engel, a member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee and a staunch supporter of Israel in the House, said J Street takes “positions in Washington I have difficulty with.”

Engel said J Street’s statements “over-emphasize” what the organization feels Israel is not doing, “rather than putting the blame squarely where I think it belongs – the Palestinian attitude of denying Israel the right to exist as a Jewish state.”

He continued, “If you look at some of the votes we had in the US Congress pertaining to Israel and the Middle East, there are some people on that [J Street] trip who the government would be unhappy with regarding their votes – and that would be understandable. They probably feel that if people are going to criticize them, they don’t have to facilitate the criticism.”

Regarding the appointment last week of Robert Ford as Washington’s first envoy to Syria in five years, Engel said he had “reservations” about the move, saying that Damascus has been “obstructionist” and is a huge supporter of Iran, which “right now is the worst player in the region.

“Iran right now is attempting to develop a nuclear bomb, is a major financer of international terrorism, and Syria is right by their side,” Engel said. “Both Iran and Syria, in my opinion, play a destabilizing role in Lebanon, and I just haven’t seen a sign of any moderation on behalf of the Syrians. We have been down this road before.”

Engel said he viewed appointing an ambassador to Damascus as a mistake, “unless Syria has agreed to something I am not privy to behind the scenes, making themselves helpful, ready to take some steps away from Iran, ready to cooperate in the region for peace and stability.

“If there was a wink and a nod and some quid pro quo, then there is some rationale for the move, but short of that, I don’t see any rationale in it at this time.”

Engel said it was pretty clear that a year of Obama’s engagement policy toward Iran has “pretty much failed, and that all the Iranians are doing are playing for time to get more time to build the bomb.”

Engel said the Obama administration understood this now, which is why it was stepping up its call for sanctions against Teheran.

Another way to pressure Iran is to isolate it, which Engel assumed was one of the reasons for the reappointment of an ambassador to Syria, hoping that this would be a way to tear Syria out of the Iranian orbit.

Asked about Obama’s overall Middle East policy, Engel – one of the first Democratic congressmen who broke with Obama’s polices on Israel early on – said that the administration clearly “made some mistakes getting out of the box.”

Engel said Obama erred in publicly pressing the settlement issue, something that made Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas “dig in his heels.”

Likewise, he said, by publicly pressuring Israel, and not simultaneously pressing the Palestinians on any issues, “it just gives the wrong impression.”

This, he said, turned Israeli public opinion against the president, “and it is very hard for the Israeli government to make concessions when the population is feeling beleaguered and kind of betrayed, in a way, by the US.”

However, Engel said, the administration has learned from its mistakes and “has backed off from publicly pressuring Israel.”

And, he added, the administration has been “extremely helpful in terms of helping Israel maintain its qualitative military edge in the region.”

Unwilling to go into details, Engel said that various arms sales to Saudi Arabia and Persian Gulf states that were approved during the last year of the Bush administration had significantly eroded Israel’s military edge.

Although those arms were intended as protection against Iran, he said, they could also be turned against Israel, something that had Jerusalem “nervous and edgy.”
The Obama administration, he said, was providing Israel with what was needed to retain that qualitative edge.

The Wikipedia entry for Engel, whose ethnically diverse district includes part of the Bronx, and parts of Westchester and Rockland counties, stated that he was the co-chair of the Congressional Ad Hoc Committee on Irish Affairs, and a friend of Sinn Fein leader Gerry Adams.

Asked how he reconciled his staunch friendship for Israel with a friendship with Adams and Sinn Fein, who are harsh and caustic critics of Israel, Engel said that he has discussed the issue with Adams and made his position on Israel clear.

“We have in New York multi-ethnic communities, and I have been very supportive of Irish Americans,” he said. “If the litmus test was that I had to agree with every position that different countries and different parties took [on Israel], I wouldn’t talk to anybody.”

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February 21st, 2010, 11:55 pm

 

63. norman said:

I wonder if MR Engel works for the US or Israel , he should be treated the same way that non Jews are treated in Israel , that is only fair,

http://www.votesmart.org/bio.php?can_id=26972

That is the only way to force Israel to change ,

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February 22nd, 2010, 12:27 am

 

64. norman said:

Ehsani , Alex ,

Are there the same treatment for Syrian Investors from Abroad , i have not heard of any help like this ,

——————————————————————————–

Syria’s Assad pledges help for Turkish investors
Syrian President Bashar al-Assad has requested that Turkish businessmen directly get in contact with him to report any issues they face when investing in Syria, assuring them that the difficulties will be resolved.

Assad, speaking at a meeting with Turkish Union of Chambers and Commodity Exchanges (TOBB) President Rifat Hisarcıklıoğlu on Saturday, said, “We want Turkish businessmen to make investments in Syria.” To overcome any difficulties these businessmen face, he requested that they directly get in touch with him so as not to have to deal with bureaucratic obstacles. In regards to the plans of Ziraat Bankası to establish a bank in Syria with Syrian partners, the TOBB head stated that the negotiations were continuing but that there were some obstacles. He said Assad expressed pleasure over the visit of 35 Syrian businessmen to Turkey last week. The Syrian president also stated that he wanted priority to be given to Turkish businessmen and construction companies in tenders in various fields such as highway construction, Hisarcıklıoğlu reported. The TOBB head underlined that “Syria should not be regarded merely as a country with a population of 21 million, but as a gateway to the Arab world.”

He stressed that with the recent visa requirements between the two countries no longer in existence, the largest barrier that had hindered bilateral trade had been removed.

Hisarcıklıoğlu stated that Syrian businessmen want to establish a structure similar to Turkey’s Foreign Economic Relations Board (DEİK) and requested help from TOBB. Recalling that TOBB conducts training activities for the Syria Investment Agency, he continued: “The Economic Policy Research Foundation of Turkey [TEPAV], the think tank of TOBB, will conduct an investment environment analysis of Syria. The project, which will also be supported by the World Bank, will determine the obstacles for investing in Syria.”

Following the completion of the analysis, a conference will be held jointly in Syria by TOBB, the Islamic Development Agency (İKT), the World Bank and the Syria Investment Agency, he said.

22.02.2010
Business
TODAY’S ZAMAN

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February 22nd, 2010, 2:19 am

 

65. Ghat Albird said:

NORMAN.

One has to admit that it is considerate of ALEX to make us aware that not everyone is happy with Mr. Obama’s decision to send a US ambassador to Damascus.

One senses that ALEX feels the same way as Congressman Eliot Engel. US Presidents are obligated to check with and get approval of Mr. Engel and all other Americans that hold dual citizenships and primary loyalty to Israel.

I mean seriously now what the hell was President Obama thinking. He must know by now that he has to have Israeli permission as well the OK of all dual citizenship ( Israeli/Americans ) people living in the US before making any decisions concerning the ME.

One or two more “mistakes” and Mr. Obama will find out who really is the real boss in the U S of A.

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February 22nd, 2010, 2:26 am

 

66. Shai said:

Yossi,

Would it help if I added “… for me”? 🙂 But you know the point I’m making. Today is nothing like 30 years ago. I don’t think I have a single friend that doesn’t have Ashkenazim and Sepharadim in his family one way or another. Intermarriage today isn’t an exception, it’s almost the norm. Few would raise an eyebrow if a Polish Jew married a Moroccan Jew. I’m not talking about 70 and 80 year-olds. I’m talking about the younger generation, and even their parents that are in their 50’s and 60’s.

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February 22nd, 2010, 5:10 am

 

67. Yossi said:

Shai,

Let’s not get into this. Just accept it you live in ignorant bliss about this topic (no disrespect intended, my Ashkenazi wife is the same thing, you just can’t help it).

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February 22nd, 2010, 5:59 am

 

68. Shai said:

Yossi,

Maybe. But perhaps you’re also suffering from some innate inferiority-complex, which makes you less able to see these changes? 😉

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February 22nd, 2010, 7:01 am

 

69. Yossi said:

Shai,

I don’t think so. I have always enjoyed all the privileges of an Ashkenazi person, and I’ve always passed for one, so this type of explanation doesn’t really pertain to me.

I see the changes very well, also the ones you can’t seem to see… To say that origin in Israel doesn’t matter anymore is to add insult to injury really, and I’m not going to write about this anymore, this is not the right venue anyway, and the data is readily available if you’re really interested.

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February 22nd, 2010, 7:39 am

 

70. Akbar Palace said:

Norman asks:

I wonder if MR Engel works for the US or Israel…

Considering he was voted into congress in the State of New York, I’ll say he works for the US.

Ghat Albird said:

US Presidents are obligated to check with and get approval of Mr. Engel and all other Americans that hold dual citizenships and primary loyalty to Israel.

Ghat,

How do you know “US Presidents are obligated to check and get approval of Mr. Engel”? Do US Presidents have to check and get approval from Congressmen Ron Paul as well?

Just testing out your conspiracy theory…

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February 22nd, 2010, 12:16 pm

 

71. Ghat Albird said:

AKBAR PALACE said:

Norman asks:

I wonder if MR Engel works for the US or Israel…

Considering he was voted into congress in the State of New York, I’ll say he works for the US.

Ghat Albird said:

NO. He does not work for either the Stae of New York nor the US.
He works for a district in the State of NY.
Ghat,

How do you know “US Presidents are obligated to check and get approval of Mr. Engel”?

Ghat Albird said.

How do you know that they do not?

Just testing out your non-conspiracy theory…

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February 22nd, 2010, 1:07 pm

 

72. Akbar Palace said:

Ghat said:

He works for a district in the State of NY.

Yes, in the US House of Representatives. Engel does not work for the GOI as Norman implied, and Keith Ellison does not work for the Iraqi Baath Party.

http://www.danielpipes.org/7967/keith-ellison-where-are-you

How do you know that they do not?

Correct, neither you or I know whether “US Presidents are obligated to check and get approval of Mr. Engel”.

Thank you for giving me the opportunity to correct your statement as well as Norman’s statement.

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February 22nd, 2010, 2:04 pm

 

73. Ghat Albird said:

AKBAR PALACE said:

“Thank you for giving me the opportunity to correct your statement as well as Norman’s statement.”

Now thats a prime DP[ipes] chutzpah statement.

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February 22nd, 2010, 2:56 pm

 

74. Ghat Albird said:

Who dat Daniel Pipes ?.

Daniel Pipes is known in most US University campuses as “the chief stifler of academic freedoms” along with the defeated neocon Rick Santorum of Pennsylvania. He heads “Campus Watch” to spy on Americans and prevent any debate or discussion of Israel’s grip on US foreign policy.

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February 22nd, 2010, 5:00 pm

 

75. Alex said:

65. Ghat Albird said:

NORMAN.

One has to admit that it is considerate of ALEX to make us aware that not everyone is happy with Mr. Obama’s decision to send a US ambassador to Damascus.

One senses that ALEX feels the same way as Congressman Eliot Engel. US Presidents are obligated to check with and get approval of Mr. Engel and all other Americans that hold dual citizenships and primary loyalty to Israel.

58. Akbar Palace said:

Ghat Albird,

Of course, I didn’t expect you to answer my question directly. Syria Comment has a great network of Arab conspiracy theorists such as yourself and Alex

I don’t get it … so I am today both an Arab who believes in Jews-control-America conspiracy theories AND I am also a supporter of Israel’s friends?

All I did was to state what Akbar repeated in comment 58 that Israel’s influence over US foreign policy (which was beyond excessive during the past decade) varies by administration.

Then I linked an article in the Jerusalem Post.

Ghat, I link to all kinds of relevant articles, not only the ones I like or respect. For example, I linked the Washington Post’s anti-Syria editorial 2 days ago… and I just left a comment (using the name “Aleppo”) under Ahmed Salkini’s excellent letter to the editors of the Washington Post to express my disappointment with that editorial

http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2010/02/21/AR2010022103136.html

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February 22nd, 2010, 5:20 pm

 

76. norman said:

Alex,
Everybody knows where you stand so i did not think i needed to tell Ghat that , what he wrote was probably a TYPO no more , so the SUN Rises from the East no matter what people say and you do not need to explain yourself my friend ,

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February 22nd, 2010, 5:40 pm

 

77. Akbar Palace said:

He heads “Campus Watch” to spy on Americans and prevent any debate or discussion of Israel’s grip on US foreign policy.

Ghat,

Excuse me, but you don’t know what you’re talking about. Daniel Pipes has no power or authority to “stifle” or “prevent any debate or discussion”. In fact, he welcomes it. For example, he wants to debate Keith Ellison, but he hasn’t gotten a response.

There’s freedom of speech in the US and freedom to publicize what people say. For example, MEMRI makes public what the Arab press says. This doesn’t “prevent” freedom of speech, it just makes it public. Similarly, that is the service that Daniel Pipes provides. There is nothing wrong reiterating what people have written or said in public.

I don’t get it … so I am today both an Arab who believes in Jews-control-America conspiracy theories AND I am also a supporter of Israel’s friends?

No. You’re certainly not a friend of Israel. All I’m saying is unlike your claim, you have no idea whether “US Presidents are obligated to check and get approval of Mr. Engel”.

C’est tout.

US foreign policy is “pro-Israel” to varying degree. Americans recognize Israel as a member state of the UN, and Americans, generally, want the US to support Israel in the Middle East against the tide of Islamic fundamentalism surrounding her.

That’s just the way it is. I would continue supporting Iran if you’re looking for a country that isn’t pro-Israel.

Interesting news: coup plot in Turkey

http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20100222/ap_on_re_eu/eu_turkey_coup_plot

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February 22nd, 2010, 5:40 pm

 

78. Alex said:

Thanks Norman.

Akbar,

I think you still do not understand what I am trying to say. All I want to ask you is to stop calling me a conspiracy theorist. I hope you can understand that part at least. I am not calling you an Arab-hating racist (because you are not), and I would appreciate it if you also do not call me things that I am not.

As for Daniel Pipes and MEMRI … I have no problem at all with MEMRI, it reflects facts as they are without distortion. Arabs need to know when there is racism or extremism in the Arab world and MEMRI, even though it is purely an Israeli propaganda tool, is doing a good job exposing anything that is wrong in the Arab world.

But Daniel Pipes is an angry man who, like Senator Joe Lieberman, is a warmonger who has no value whatsoever for the lives of anyone who is not Israeli in the Middle East.

Pipes is free of course to promote his opinions… and I am free to tell you that he and Lieberman are despicable non-humans who take part of the blame for millions of casualties of unnecessary wars that they both promoted vigorously and continuously.

Ahmadinejad talks and threatens (in a conditional manner, “IF Israel starts another war”) … but his words did not yet kill anyone. Lieberman and Pipes’s words contributed to millions dead and injured already and they will contribute to more probably one day …

If you really care for Israel’s security, you should consider supporting and believing in the very decent and moderate Jews like Aaron David Miller and Daniel Kurtzer and Robert Malley … Not the Jews who advocate for wars against Arabs all the time. If Pipes and Lieberman are the face of American Jews then expect hate back … every action has an equal and opposite reaction.

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February 22nd, 2010, 6:50 pm

 

79. Ghat Albird said:

ALEX.

خالص الاعتذار

From now on I”ll triple check for typos.

Am 100% in agreement with you on Pipes and Lieberman

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February 22nd, 2010, 6:57 pm

 

80. Akbar Palace said:

I want to ask you is to stop calling me a conspiracy theorist.

Alex,

In Post #10 of this thread, you posted a made-up equation that proports calculating the amount of Israeli “influence”:

You stated:

Israel has influence over various power centers in the US … That influence is additive (and multiplicative with the different weights of each power center) … influence over congress, the press, the think tanks, the White House, and sometime the Pentagon (Rumsfeld’s, for example) …

Let’s take the example of the Bush Jr. administration:

I would ESTIMATE (roughly of course) that Israel had:

influence over 80% of the media (biased towards Israel)
influence over 95% on Capitol Hill
100% influence over the White House
90% influence over the Pentagon
75% influence over state department
50% influence over the CIA
90% influence over other national security departments that were empowered by President Bush and VP Cheney to counter the non conforming CIA.

Here is how I would evaluate that Israeli influence function during the Bush/Cheney administration’s time:

II = (0.8 X Mw) + (0.95 X CHw) + … + (0.9 X NSw)

Where is the data supporting this? Where did the numbers come from? If this isn’t “conspiracy theory”, I don’t know what is, however, if you don’t like me mentioning this, I will gladly stop using the term on your behalf. In any case, and unfortunately, this type of conjecture is too much apart of the Arab narrative.

I am not calling you an Arab-hating racist (because you are not)…

Alex,

Thanks, and just FYI, a “conspiracy theorist” has nothing to do with racism or hate. I never considered you an anti-semite.

But Daniel Pipes is an angry man who, like Senator Joe Lieberman, is a warmonger who has no value whatsoever to the lives of anyone who is not Israeli in the Middle East.

Daniel Pipes may be angry, I don’t know. How can you tell? I know he’s very familiar with the Arab and Islamic world. Maybe he’s read too many al-Queda websites. Joe Lieberman seems to me to be a very gentle man. Just because there are politicians who feel the need to confront Iran and terrorism doesn’t make them “angry”. I think they understand the danger and they feel the need to do something about it.

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February 22nd, 2010, 7:21 pm

 

81. Griffith said:

Dear Joshua Landis,

I frequently read your website for your informed and balanced commentary on issues relating to Syria. However, I am disturbed and disappointed to see that the comments section frequently descends into racism, conspiracy mongering and outright anti-Jewish hatred. Do you or your staff police these comments?

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February 22nd, 2010, 8:22 pm

 

82. Alex said:

Thanks Ghat Albird!

Akbar,

A conspiracy theorist is not racist, no, but he or she is someone who is considered to be off center … not realistic, a weirdo.

It is one of the favorite terms that Israel’s supporters use to comment on any criticism from Arabs to Israel’s excessive influence in the US.

I for example do not believe Israel “controls” the US, but I also do not believe its influence is 100% due to a natural sharing of values and beliefs between the Israelis and Americans.

To call me a conspiracy theorist would be unfair.

As for my equation, you are mixing the equation with the one example I used to illustrate it (the Bush Cheney administration case). I made it clear that the numbers I used were “rough estimates”, but if you want to know how I came up with those, I will give you an idea

– 100% influence over the white house because President Bush and VP Cheney never did anything serious that was not to Israel’s liking. And in fact, your own Prime Minister Ehud Olmert was proud to tell you that I am not far from the truth at all when he bragged about the time when he ordered Bush to interrupt his speech and to order in turn Condy Rice to not vote on the resolution she drafted!

http://www.forward.com/articles/14957/

How much more control do you want?

– 95% influence over congress: Again, look at the voting records when it comes to issues of interest to Israel’s right wing government … over 90% of Congressmen voted in favor of Israel. Also, read articles like this one to help you

http://original.antiwar.com/giraldi/2009/09/02/the-best-congress-aipac-can-buy/

I understand that many congressmen are often voting pro Israel because they love Israel, but tell me why it is only Israel that unites them (%95 of them) while most other issues find them divided almost 50/50

– 50% influence over CIA … this a very rough estimate of course, what do I know. But the point there was that Israel does not have decisive influence over the CIA (you see? no conspiracy theory there). This is based on numerous negative leaks from CIA officials that exposed Bush administration lies and inefficiency in its policy in the Middle East, which was identical to Israeli government’s policies. There were many books as well that described in detail the divergent views found at CIA during Bush’s two terms in office.

– If you want an example of how shifting weights (W’s) among the various power centers varies from one administration to the other: Aaron David Miller tells you of an example how Secretary of State Colin Powell’s state department (not pro Israel enough) felt powerless when Vice President Cheney’s office was empowered through the ability to correct Powell’s Middle East decisions when they are not pro Israel enough:

http://www.haaretz.com/hasen/spages/976471.html

“In 2002, then state secretary Colin Powell drafted a declaration that dared to hold Israel, and not just the Palestinians, responsible for bringing an end to the violence in the Middle East. At the very last minute, the National Security Council in the White House and the office of Vice President Richard Cheney vetoed Powell’s initiative. “A senior administration official told me,” relates Miller, “he heard Powell say, ‘They’re fucking telling me which way to take a piss and for how long.'” (p. 345) “

By the way, the various W’s in the equation are not equal and they add up to 1.0 … so the II index is normalized … it varies between 0 (zero percent) and 1.0 (100% percent “control”)

If you estimate it for the Bush Sr. (and James Baker) admin, it would be perhaps closer to 60% … if you estimate it during Bush Jr. time, would be closer to 95%

Here are my other rough estimates: Carter 60%, Clinton 75%, Obama 80% so far (on its way down), Reagan 90%

Finally, the difference between Daniel Pipes and Senator Lieberman is style. They both lobby for any war they can think of.

What kind of poison is Senator Lieberman looking for when he encourages these nuclear-war loving lunatics to lobby Washington harder?

If he smiles when he spends his day motivating a group of pro Israel Christian Zionist lunatics, that does not make him a nice person.

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February 22nd, 2010, 8:28 pm

 

83. Alex said:

Dear Griffith,

Joshua and I do monitor most comments. Sometimes we are both busy and something might slip by.

But in general, facts are allowed, opinions are allowed as long as they do not represent anti Arab racism or anti semitism.

That does not mean that we will censor anyone who dares say that there is excessive Israeli influence over the United States.

Please read my comment above and tell me if you disagree with its general tone. If you do, please explain in what way it is out of line.

And please explain your definition of “conspiracy mongering”.

For example, we always allowed Israeli, American and Lebanese readers to engage in “conspiracy mongering” when they wrote about how SURE they were that Bashar Assad ordered the assassination of Rafiq Hariri.

Should we ban anyone who makes unfounded claims? such as accusations to Syria or to Israel that can not be proven? or is it only Israel that should get that preferential treatment on SYRIA comment?

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February 22nd, 2010, 9:12 pm

 

84. Akbar Palace said:

They both lobby for any war they can think of.

Alex,

Just FYI, Daniel Pipes has ALWAYS been against the war in Iraq that ousted Saddam Hussein.

Surprised?

http://www.danielpipes.org/4782/salvaging-the-iraq-war

That’s what I’m getting at. I would take an opinion much more seriously if it were more nuanced, researched and investigated, than just painting it with a broad stroke of criticism based on a feeling.

It is one of the favorite terms that Israel’s supporters use to comment on any criticism from Arabs to Israel’s excessive influence in the US.

Alex,

Probably the most researched attempt to show that “Israeli influence” was the paper by Walt & Mearshimer (probably misspelled.

And of course, pro-Israel supporters have done their job refuting it. But, at least, these two men did plenty of research to “prove” their thesis.

My gut feeling is (and this is just my opinion), people confuse “Israeli influnce” in American foreign policy with Christian and Jewish-American influence. IOW, American foreign policy is more a function of American influence than ISRAELI influence.

Now if Israelis committed a 9-11 attack or were caught terrorizing Americans, I’m sure that would change things.

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February 22nd, 2010, 9:44 pm

 

85. Alex said:

Akbar,

First, I am delighted to finally learn something new from one of your links. I’m surprised and impressed that Daniel Pipes did not support the Iraq war. Thanks for correcting me.

Now, I wish you will go through my links and learn something new like I did form your link above.

Learn that Lieberman always smiled and often supported bloody wars (Yemen being the latest).

As for Daniel Pipes, and to agree with your point that Israel’s influence is often supported by the influential evangelical Chritian leaders, here is something you might want to read … a Daniel Pipes interview with the lovely Pat Robertson (another one of Israel’s wonderful friends in the United States). See how the two camps are about sanctions, pressure, and wars:

ROBERTSON: Well, assuming that Iraqi scientists have gone over into Syria and weapons of mass destruction have been funneled into Syria from Iraq and they’re existing there, I mean, is this another cause to take action against them, or what should we do?

PIPES:
… What we’ve seen in the last few days from both the Department of Defense and the Department of State is a really startling change, where we are telling the Syrians, “Watch out.” I’m very encouraged by it. I think our policy of accommodation has not worked. And I think a tougher policy – especially at this time when we have the credentials, the bona fides of having virtually destroyed the regime in Iraq – is very welcome and a really important signal for the regime of Bashar al-Assad in Damascus.

… The time has come to say to the Syrian government “No” – “No” about repression of its own people, “No” about its anti-Zionism and fervid antagonism towards Israel, “No” towards its policy of aggression towards Turkey, “No” to its support towards Saddam Hussein. Time to put pressure. I’m not calling for anything military, at least not initially, but a really top-to-bottom reassessment of our relationship with Syria, and signaling to the Syrian regime that it’s no longer business as usual.

So … if Daniel is so knowledgeable about Syria, he would know that Syria does not take orders. So even though he was not joining Pat Robertson in calling for military action against Syria “not initially”, when Syria refuses to “behave” … what comes next? .. America backs down? … no, Daniel would call for action.

http://www.danielpipes.org/1058/taking-a-tougher-approach-to-syria

Finally, I don’t think I need much research when you have Colin Powell complaining the way he did, when You have Aaron David Miller explaining how they were working for Israel, and when you have Prime minister Olmert bragging publicly about how he can order the President of the United States and his secretary of State to take actions to his liking.

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February 22nd, 2010, 10:11 pm

 

86. Ghat Albird said:

GRIFFITH said:

Dear Joshua Landis,

I frequently read your website for your informed and balanced commentary on issues relating to Syria. However, I am disturbed and disappointed to see that the comments section frequently descends into racism, conspiracy mongering and outright anti-Jewish hatred. Do you or your staff police these comments?

Ghat Albird to GRIFFITH.

At the present there are about a million or so Iraqi men, women and children in Syria and close to a million Iraqi men and women and children in Jordan as a result of the Bush administration’s endorsement and application of Zionist pressure to invade Iraq. That number is in addition to over one million Iraqis killed. Would you call referring to such facts as “conspiracy mongering”, or to outright anti-jewish hatred or maybe just plain racism?

Do the dozen or so references to Syria in the extracts from Mr.Nethanyahu’s, Perle’s and Feiths document on having the US complicit in changing the Middle East into Israel’s vassals disturb or disappoint you in any way?

YOU MAY WANT TO READ AND RE-READ Alisa Zinov’yevna Rosenbaum VIEWS ON FREE SPEECH BELOW.

A Clean Break: A New Strategy for Securing the Realm, commonly referred to as the “Clean Break” report, was prepared in 1996 by a study group led by Richard Perle for Benjamin Netanyahu, the then-Prime Minister of Israel.

The report explained a new approach to solving Israel’s security problems in the Middle East with an emphasis on “Western values”. It has since been criticized for advocating an aggressive new policy.

According to the report’s preamble, it was written by the Study Group on a New Israeli Strategy Toward 2000, which was a part of the Institute for Advanced Strategic and Political Studies. Former United States Assistant Secretary of Defense Richard Perle was the “Study Group Leader”, the final report included ideas from James Colbert, Douglas Feith, Charles Fairbanks, Jr., Robert Loewenberg, David Wurmser, and Meyrav Wurmser.

“Securing the Northern Border”

“Syria challenges Israel on Lebanese soil. An effective approach, and one with which American can sympathize, would be if Israel seized the strategic initiative along its northern borders by engaging Hizballah, Syria, and Iran, as the principal agents of aggression in Lebanon.

“Israel also can take this opportunity to remind the world of the nature of the Syrian regime. Syria repeatedly breaks its word. It violated numerous agreements with the Turks, and has betrayed the United States by continuing to occupy Lebanon in violation of the Taef agreement in 1989. Instead, Syria staged a sham election, installed a quisling regime, and forced Lebanon to sign a “Brotherhood Agreement” in 1991, that terminated Lebanese sovereignty.

And Syria has begun colonizing Lebanon with hundreds of thousands of Syrians, while killing tens of thousands of its own citizens at a time, as it did in only three days in 1983 in Hama….Given the nature of the regime in Damascus, it is both natural and moral that Israel abandon the slogan comprehensive peace and move to contain Syria, drawing attention to its weapons of mass destruction programs, and rejecting land for peace deals on the Golan Heights.”

“Moving to a Traditional Balance of Power Strategy”

“Israel can shape its strategic environment, in cooperation with Turkey and Jordan, by weakening, containing, and even rolling back Syria.

This effort can focus on removing Saddam Hussein from power in Iraq — an important Israeli strategic objective in its own right — as a means of foiling Syria’s regional ambitions.

“Since Iraq’s future could affect the strategic balance in the Middle East profoundly, it would be understandable that Israel has an interest in supporting the Hashemites in their efforts to redefine Iraq,including such measures as: visiting Jordan as the first official state visit, even before a visit to the United States, of the new Netanyahu government; supporting King Hussein by providing him with some tangible security measures to protect his regime against Syrian subversion. encouraging — through influence in the U.S. business community investment in Jordan to structurally shift Jordan’s economy away from dependence on Iraq; and diverting Syria’s attention by using Lebanese opposition elements to destabilize Syrian control of Lebanon. ..

Were the Hashemites to control Iraq, they could use their influence over Najf to help Israel wean the south Lebanese Shia away from Hizballah, Iran, and Syria.

‘Once a country accepts censorship of the press and of speech, then nothing
can be won without violence. Therefore, so long as you have free speech,
protect it. This is the life-and-death issue in this country: do not give up the
freedom of the press, of newspapers, books, magazines, radio, movies, and
other forms of presenting ideas.**

** An AYN RAND ( Real name Alisa Zinov’yevna Rosenbaum )

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February 22nd, 2010, 11:08 pm

 

87. Alex said:

Dithering on Damascus

http://www.jpost.com/LandedPages/PrintArticle.aspx?id=169379

By MATTHEW RJ BRODSKY
22/02/2010

The argument made in Washington that aggressive diplomacy with Syria was tried and failed and incentives must be the order of the day, is false.

President Barack Obama’s recent decision to name a new ambassador to Syria is puzzling. White House spokesman Robert Gibbs explained, “Ambassador Ford will engage the Syrian government on how we can enhance relations, while addressing areas of ongoing concern.” But the areas of “concern” with the Assad regime are deep and will not be improved or resolved by the return of an American ambassador.

There were many compelling reasons why the Bush administration withdrew its ambassador to Syria in 2005. The straw that broke the proverbial camel’s back was the brazen murder in Beirut of the pro-West Lebanese politician Rafik Hariri in an operation that bore all the hallmarks of a politically connected, well-funded, Syrian state-sponsored assassination.

But Hariri’s assassination was just the tip of the iceberg. Since the fall of Saddam Hussein’s regime in 2003, Syria has financed, trained, armed, encouraged, and transported foreign jihadists to fight against both coalition forces in Iraq and the fledgling army of the new Iraqi government. The Assad regime has pursued nuclear weapons and continues to support terrorist groups such as Hamas and Hizbullah in Israel and Lebanon, and remains tactically and strategically wedded to Iran.

While the White House says that appointing a new ambassador “represents President Obama’s commitment to use engagement to advance US interests by improving communication with the Syrian government and people,” nothing indicates that this form of engagement will yield positive results. In fact, a year into the Obama administration, it is becoming increasingly clear that the “direct engagement” he envisioned during his presidential campaign with regimes such as Syria and Iran has produced nothing more than an increase in Syrian support for terrorism and the ongoing spinning of centrifuges in Iran.

THAT IS because Obama’s engagement strategy with Syria is based on several misguided assumptions. The first is that it is possible to effectively pry Damascus apart from its alliance with Teheran, which will make engaging with Iran and solving the nuclear issue easier for the United States. But the durable Syrian-Iranian alliance is not a reactive marriage of convenience. They seek to overturn the regional balance of power and undermine Israel, Egypt and Saudi Arabia, as well as the US. Furthermore, Iran’s pursuit of nuclear weapons is not dependent on Syria. Teheran’s problem with Israel is not territorial; it is existential. Moreover, America’s issues with Iran will not improve with a change in Syrian behavior.

The second faulty premise is that Syria is ready to sign a peace agreement with Israel that will be acceptable in Jerusalem and in Washington. But Assad’s concept of peace with Israel was revealed last year in an interview with the Emirati newspaper Al-Khaleej: “A peace agreement,” Assad said, “is a piece of paper you sign. This does not mean trade and normal relations, or borders, or otherwise.” What would a cold peace with Syria look like with Hamas and Islamic Jihad’s headquarters still open for business in Damascus while weapons continue to pass freely to Hizbullah in Lebanon?

The bomb that killed Hariri and brought about the withdrawal of America’s ambassador to Syria weighed 1,000 kilograms and left a crater 10 meters wide in downtown Beirut. In addition to Hariri, the bomb killed 21 people, injured 220 more, knocked down several buildings, and set dozens of cars ablaze. This is Bashar Assad’s preferred method of engagement and he has yet to be held to account. When Syria ended its nearly 30-year military occupation of Lebanon, it did so because of strong and sustained international pressure in the wake of Hariri’s assassination. It was not the result of lengthy hand-holding and endless diplomatic engagement, but the real fear of consequences that could threaten the stability of the Assad regime.

The argument increasingly made in Washington that aggressive diplomacy with Syria was tried and failed and now engagement and incentives must be the order of the day, is false. American policy toward Syria has dithered since 2005 with neither a carrot nor a stick approach fully explored. Syria’s rogue behavior is not the result of Washington’s diplomatic communications skills; it is the result of strategic calculations and decisions made by Damascus. Syria should be presented with difficult choices that will unequivocally and irreversibly demonstrate that it has changed its worldview and behavior. Unfortunately, sending an American ambassador back to Syria will merely embolden the regime and those in the region that are opposed to peace.

The writer is the director of policy at the Jewish Policy Center in Washington, DC, and senior geopolitical analyst at IntelliWhiz LLC.

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February 23rd, 2010, 12:10 am

 

88. norman said:

Alex,

It looks clear that MR Brodsky is more interested in Israel’s interest than that of the US one , does anybody still think that Israel does not have influence even control of the US political system ?, I doubt it ,

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February 23rd, 2010, 2:03 am

 

89. norman said:

From http://www.MichNews.com

ISRAEL SUSPICIOUS: OBAMA’S AMBASSADOR TO TERRORIST-LIST SYRIA
Posted in: J. Grant Swank, Jr.
By J. Grant Swank, Jr.
Monday, February 22, 2010 – 2:33:39 PM

Is there any wonder that Israelis are concerned about Muslim Barack Hussein Obama appointing a U.S. ambassador to a country still on America’s terrorist list, namely, Syria?

Obama continues to lean in the Islamic direction while Islamic heads continue to up the threat against America and Israel.

The U. S. ambassador was called out of Syria in 2005 due to increased threats from Syria against non-Muslim nations. Why is it now that Obama then reinstates an ambassador when Syria has given no indications of being a trusted friend to America?

Obama determines to take such risks at the peril of the American people. Obama persists in siding up to Islamic regimes, giving the message that he overlooks their upfront threats to our very existence.

“Reversing yet another policy of former President George W. Bush, current U.S. President Barack Obama announced this week that he would nominate career diplomat Robert Ford to become Washington’s first ambassador to Syria since 2005, when the former ambassador was removed in the wake of the assassination of Lebanese President Rafik Hariri” per David Lev’s “U.S. Engaging Syria – a Terror State – on Anti-terror Concerns” (IsraelNN.com) at

http://www.israelnationalnews.com/News/News.aspx/136092

Taking such risks with our Republic, not to mention Israel, communicates weakness, not strength.

Why is it that the United States must be the first to show transparency while such regimes as Syria carry on with clandestine plots?

© Copyright 2010 by MichNews.com
Website Note: Views expressed by individual authors and/or sources do not necessarily reflect those of MichNews.com.

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February 23rd, 2010, 2:21 am

 

90. Weekly roundup « Iran in the World said:

[…] “Will engaging Syria deal a ‘blow to Iran’? Not likely” (Syria Comment) Joshua Landis argues against the claim that Washington’s recent diplomatic engagement of Damascus will deprive Tehran of a key ally. […]

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May 26th, 2010, 8:51 am

 

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