Will Saudi Arabia Solve America’s Problems?

Will Saudi Arabia Be Able to Solve America's Problems? Will it split Iran from Syria?

There has been considerable chest beating by supporters of the Bush administration over the prospect of splitting Syria from Iran and forcing it to relinquish, not only its Palestinian and Iraqi cards, but also its Lebanon card. As proof of Syria's impending downfall, they point to the frequent meetings between Saudi and Iranian mediators, which they claim cut Syria out of the picture. They point to the Mecca deal between Hamas and the PLO, brokered by Saudi Arabia, and to the failure of Hizbullah to carry out a coup against the American backed Siniora government, and even the impending downfall of Nabih Berri, the Shiite president of the Parliament. What is more, they point to new European resolve to back US attempts to impose sanctions on Syria and get the international court fully mandated to try Syria for the Hariri murder. Stratfor concludes its most recent report, claiming: "But from all appearances, the rumors of a rift between Iran and Syria may indeed have some merit."

This confidence seems far fetched, largely because it rests on fragile supports. First, it is driven by President Bush's success in pushing through his troop surge for Iraq in the face of democratic success at the polls and the Baker-Hamilton advice to return to diplomacy. This success will be temporary. The US cannot sustain the cost of or concentration on Iraq. Secondly, it is driven by the administration's seeming success in saddling up the Saudis to do the heavy lifting against Iran and Syria. Some argue that putting US eggs in Saudi Arabia's basket is smart and crafty. By playing on Muslim sectarian fears, the US can harness Sunnis to spend their money and political capital to defeat the growing Shi'a crescent.

No only is this unwise because Wahhabism, which under-girds Saudi legitimacy, is neither tolerant nor a force of moderation in the region, but also because Saudi interests diverge from those of the United States on several important points. Saudi Arabia is the spiritual heartland of al-Qaida. We do not need to be reminded that it gave birth to Bin Laden and most of the 9-11 bombers. Even if the Saudi political elite is capable, Wahhabism, on which it depends, constitutes the theological headwaters feeding the Jihadist swamp. In order to take on Iran and marshal Sunnis against Shiites, Saudi Arabia will be forced to put Wahhabi intolerance on steroids. Here are the words of a Syrian opposition member who has been enlisted to raise the banner of the Saudi jihad against Shiism in his article, "Safavid Sassanian Iranian plan to restore the Empire of Cyrus."

"While the Zionist plan targets Jerusalem, which is holy to us, the Safavid plan targets Mecca and Al-Madina. If you go back to their books – which they do not mention in the media, yet these books exist and are accepted by them – they claim that their Hidden Imam will come to Mecca and Al-Madina, destroy the Al-Haram Mosque and the Mosque of the Prophet, and dig in the graves of Abu Bakr and Omar and burn them both, and then he will command the wind to blow them away. He will also dig in the grave of Aisha, the Mother of the Believers, and will execute her. All this is part of their plan."

This sort of bunkum is not what the US wants to promote. Stirring up sectarian hatreds and medieval myths will undercut any attempt to inculcate secular liberalism in the region. Secretary Rice knows this. She recently chided the Arabs for their failure to uphold Arab national bonds in the face of sectarian feuding. “There’s still a tendency to see these things in Sunni-Shia terms,” Ms. Rice said. “But the Middle East is going to have to overcome that.” It is all well and good for the US to preach ecumenicism, but by asking the KSA to ratchet up Sunni fears of Shiism, it is doing the exact opposite. The late grand Mufti of Saudi Arabia, Abd-al-Aziz ibn Abd-Allah ibn Baaz, called Arab nationalism an alien and atheist creed that should have no place in the land of Islam. The neocons insist the War on Terror is at heart a war of ideas. By throwing US weight behind the KSA, Washington is promoting the wrong ideas.

Supporting Saudi Arabian propaganda would be acceptable if the Kingdom were taking concrete measures to reform. But it is not. Central to US demands that Saudi Arabia distance itself from the more objectionable extremes of its Wahhabi ideology, has been the request that the KSA reform its Islamic school curriculum. The monarchy has held numerous conferences on curriculum reform because Saudi school books preach jihad, takfir, and instruct Muslims not to shake the hands of Christians and other kufar lest they be dragged down to hell by emotional proximity to unbelievers. The outcome of these curriculum conferences is invariably the same. Saudi Imams reject the notion that the curriculum advocates anything dangerous or un-Islamic. Reforms are not agreed upon and results are always "inconclusive" and "inoperative."  The Saudis are not changing their spots. Enlisting intolerant Sunni Islam in the war against Iran and Shiite extremism is exactly what the US should not be doing. Surely this strategy will come back to bite the West, as it did in Afghanistan.

But let us look more closely at Saudi interests to see how closely they dovetail with US interests.

Saudi and Palestine

On Palestine, Saudi interests differ from those of the US. The US offered Saudi progress on the Palestinian front in exchange for closer Saudi support in isolating Syria and tackling Iran. Most likely, Saudi authorities told Washington that in order to align more closely with US foreign policy in the region, which would surely alienate their people, they would have to be able to alleviate Palestinian suffering and find a way to take the Palestinian Authority off the "diet" that Israel and the US imposed on it following Hamas' electoral victory last year.

This is how we got to the Mecca deal. Saudi Arabia has no interest in knocking out Hamas, but it does need to provide a happy PLO veil for Hamas in order to reopen the spigot of international funding for the Territories. Having pictures on al-Jazeera and al-Arabiya of Palestinians suffering and cannibalizing each other as they slowly starved like rats is not tolerable for the KSA if it is to embrace US policy in the region. 

Pro-Israeli interests in the US are insisting that Saudi Arabia deal a real blow to Hamas authority rather than merely cobble together a coalition government for Palestine that would lift a convenient PLO veil over Hamas power. Saudi Arabia has failed to do this in its Mecca deal.

This is why the Washington Post writes that the Saudis have actually complicated Secretary of State Rice's task in visiting the Middle East, rather than assisting her. Here are Rice's words:

"Our position toward the Hamas government was very clear: It did not meet the international test," Rice told a group of newspaper reporters on the eve of her departure. "I have to say that we have not yet seen any evidence that this one will."

Rice added, "I don't deny that it's more complicated" now and that before the announcement of the unity government "it was clear, more black and white."

The problem is that Hamas has agreed to "respect [not accept] international resolutions," but not international demands that the new government pledge to "recognize" Israel, renounce violence, and abide by previous agreements signed by the Palestinian Authority. Hamas officials later told reporters that the movement has no intention of ever recognizing Israel. Israeli Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni ended discussion on the issue Saturday by declaring that the unity government deal "did not satisfy the demands of the international community," and President Bush and Prime Minister Olmert agreed to shun the Palestinian unity government unless it meets international conditions.

David Makovsky of WINEP sums up what he calls "the less benign interpretation" of Saudi goals. He writes:

what is driving Saudi Arabia is sectarianism, not pursuit of Arab-Israeli peace. Under this view, Riyadh has no problem supporting Hamas's program, so long as it is a Sunni organization and can keep Iranian money and influence at bay.

Therefore, it would be useful for the United States to explore Saudi objectives and strategies. Moreover, for a political horizon to succeed, one needs to consider whether Riyadh and Cairo are willing to do something that they were not willing to do in 2000 at the time of Camp David (July) and the Clinton parameters (December). Namely, they need to provide the requisite political cover for Abbas to compromise. If they do not, they need to know that unlike 2000 they will be politically exposed for failing to do their share. In short, if the Bush administration is really serious about a political horizon, it needs to have a dialogue not just with Israelis and Palestinians but also with America's Arab friends to discern the depth of their commitment to peacemaking in a very specific way.

The Mecca experience suggests that not everyone is on the same page.

Mohammad Yaghi, a Palestinian fellow at WINEP and writer for the Palestinian newspaper al-Ayyam, explains in his article: "Hamas's Victory: From Gaza to Mecca," that Hamas was the winner in the Mecca deal because it bested PLO forces on the ground in recent fighting and was able to translate that advantage into the terms of the Mecca deal, which retains the prime-ministership for Haniyyah and most cabinet positions for Hamas. The PLO panicked and gave away the store, Yaghi writes.

As it stands, the agreement spells significant gains for Hamas politically, institutionally, bureaucratically, and in its relations with the Arab world. It is likely that Abbas and Hamas together will still attempt to use the Mecca accord as a means of alleviating the Quartet's sanctions by claiming the government has accepted its conditions — even if Hamas as a party retains its core political ideology.

The Mecca accord will not end the struggle between Fatah and Hamas to dominate the Palestinian political system, but it does represent an effort to gain a respite from the violence by dividing the PA according to each faction's current position on the ground.

King Abdullah has promised the PA one billion dollars for their new alliance. Rice must make sure it is not received. The US is going back to the drawing board. Underneath the squabbling, the problem is that the US wants to starve Hamas and force the PA to accept much less than the 1967 borders. The KSA wants to feed Palestinians and get them more land than Israel will offer. So much for the Zionist-Wahhabi alliance on matters Palestinian. The dream of the Israelis is that the mutual Israeli-Saudi fear of Iran can be used to turn the KSA into a hammer against Palestinian demands for land. This will not work unless Israel can put a promising deal on the table, something it refuses to do. So long as the US resists pressuring Israel to uphold international law on the 1967 borders, Saudi Arabia will resist falling in line with Israeli plans.

Syria and the Mecca Deal

The Lebanese neocons don't give a fig about Palestine. What excites them is that Saudi Arabia is doing battle with Syria, or so they insist. They argue that because the Palestinian deal was penned in Mecca and not Damascus, Saudi Arabia has stolen the Palestine card from Damascus. But claim is misguided.

From all reports, the Mecca deal was worked out in Damascus, where Palestinian representatives met to hash out the terms of their new proposed coalition government. The proof of this was made clear when various Palestinian heads thanked Damascus for its help in arriving at the settlement. Al-Hayat reporters have covered the Saudi-Syrian cooperation on the Mecca deal in some depth. They write that the deal was struck in Damascus and announced in Mecca, where the Saudis put up the money that cemented the compact. Far from excluding Syria, the KSA worked with Damascus to broker the deal. In the following quote Muhammad Shuqair محمد شقير of al-Hayat writes that Syria pressured Khalid Mashaal to participate in the meetings and prepared the way for "rebuilding trust between the Saudi leadership and Syria. He also indicates that Syria and Saudi Arabia are quietly cooperating for a Lebanon deal.

يف ان دمشق شجعت رئيس المكتب السياسي لحركة المقاومة الاسلامية «حماس» خالد مشعل على حضور الاجتماع الفلسطيني – الفلسطيني لتمهيد الطريق امام استعادة ثقة القيادة السعودية بالقيادة السورية، لكنها بالنسبة الى لبنان لا تستطيع ان تتعامل بالمثل ما لم تحصل على شيء ما يعيد لها الاعتبار في الخريطة العربية ومن خلال المجتمع الدولي.

وترى المصادر نفسها ايضاً ان دمشق تسعى من خلال إمساكها بالورقة اللبنانية الى تقديم أوراق اعتمادها الى المجتمع الدولي من خلال استعدادها للتعاون مع السعودية ومن ثم ايران لتسوية الازمة في لبنان، مشيرة الى انها لن تتخلى عن هذه الورقة من دون مقابل.

Lebanon and Syria

The Coup

Many Lebanese government figures claim that Hizbullah wants to carry out a "coup" against the Lebanese state but has failed, thanks to stalwart western support. Hizbullah, however, insists that far from wanting to overthrow the government or change Lebanon's consociational form of government, it merely wants better representation for the opposition, commensurate with its numbers. Mohammed Ben Jelloun writes that Hizbullah has this to say:

By demanding a national unity government and a veto power over major decisions, Hezbollah and its allies are sticking to the consociational (multi-confessional) letter and the republican (patriotic) spirit of the Lebanese constitution.

Hariri Turns down the rhetoric

In my last post, I wrote that the February 14 coalition turned up the anti-Syrian rhetoric on the second anniversary of their leader's assassination. But a source that I respect in Damascus wrote me a few days ago that I was mistaken. He explained:

Saad Hariri did not mention Syria at all. Quite possibly, the Saudis have warned him to be careful as they are working with Iranians to cool things down in Lebanon. What Janbulat and Geaga said was expected. They do not want any solution for the crisis. They have much to lose from a deal to solve the crisis. 

On the 17th of February, Ibrahim Hamidi of Al-Hayat wrote that the Syrians are confident Iran is not planning to diverge too much from the Syrian positions on Lebanon and Iraq. Although they admit to some differences with Iran, such as:

1) On Iraq: Syria wants a consensus that includes the Sunnis and the more neutral baathists, Iran is more interested in helping its Shia allies.

2) Lebanon: Iran is more willing than Syria to compromise on Lebanon. Out of all regional conflicts, Syria is probably most concerned with Lebanon.

3) On Palestine there is almost no disagreement.

For those who believed that Iran and Syria could be so easily divided by Saudi Arabia without offering real concessions, Asad's trip to Tehran this weekend should put such speculation to rest. The news was about how Assad and Ahmadinejad vowed to form a stronger alliance against the U.S. and Israel.

Syrian President Bashar Assad said that expansion of Tehran-Damascus ties would help resolve the problems of the Islamic world. He accused the U.S. of trying to attract public opinion within the Islamic world by undermining Iran-Syria relations.

The Syrian leader said Muslims worldwide should be informed about “the evil aims by the U.S. and Zionists” which he said were sowing discord among Muslims.

Sami Moubayed, a smart Syrian analyst, claims that Syria believes it is holding its own quite well against US pressures. Here is what Sami writes of Asad's meeting with Khomenei:

Syrian President Bashar Al Assad went to Tehran last Saturday for a much publicised meeting with Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and the Grand Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. His two-day visit received a lot of media attention, coming in the midst of Saudi-Iranian talks over Lebanon, the situation in Palestine and much speculation on how Syria can help combat the insurgency in Iraq.

By all accounts, Syria's allies seem to be winning throughout the region. In Palestine, despite all the thunder, Hamas has been called in to form another government with Esmail Haniya as prime minister. This is a victory for Syria. Its allies in Iraq, headed by President Jalal Talabani, are putting great effort in normalising relations between Baghdad and Damascus. And in Lebanon, Hezbollah is still struggling to bring down the anti-Syrian cabinet of Prime Minister Fouad Siniora. They have not won in Lebanon, but they certainly are not losing. The situation in each of these three countries is linked, one way or another, to the Syrian-Iranian alliance. If anything, Bashar's visit to Tehran is further proof that to the great displeasure of the United States, this relationship is intact.  

Russia has announced an arms deal for Syria, which will be financed by Iran.

Syria and Saudi Arabia 

So what does this mean for Saudi-Syrian relations? Although many Lebanese journalists and neocons somehow convinced themselves that Saudi Arabia would work to isolate Syria on Washington's behalf, the opposite seems to be the case. There is no doubt that Saudi-Syrian relations have been terrible since Hariri was killed. Lebanon is a big plumb, and both states would like to have preeminence there. Syria can no longer call the shots in Lebanon, as it once did. But it does insist on having a voice, and through Hizbullah and Aoun has the muscle to paralyze Lebanon. Saudi Arabia knows it is pointless to try to eliminate Syrian influence in Lebanon. It has tried and failed. The stand-off in Lebanon between the pro-American and pro-Saudi Lebanese government and the pro-Syrian and pro-Iranian opposition cannot be solved without compromise. Lebanon will run out of money. Oxford business group argues that the Lebanese deficit is so large that it will eat up the 7.5 billion dollars of foreign donations recently promised to Lebanon in a matter of two to three years. The KSA understands that without a political solution and economic growth, Lebanon may not be able to avoid a hard economic crash. To resist Syria altogether will be to kill the goose that lays the golden egg. Neither country is interested in that. Lebanon is too important.

Bahia Mardini writing for Elaph claims that the Saudi monarch is sending a delegation to Damascus to smooth out relations with Asad. King Abdullah wants Asad to come to the Arab League meeting in March and wants to repair relations, strained since the Hariri killing. What is more, Mardini claims that Saudi sources argue that their diplomacy with Iran favors Syria and does not threaten it. Today's Elaph also says that that Salim al-Hoss has traveled to both the KSA and Damascus recently. He will travel to Tehran next week in an attempt to find a solution to the Lebanon crisis. Salim al-Hoss has traditionally been Damascus' choice for PM of Lebanon.


Saudi Arabia is playing a positive role in trying to bring unity to the Palestinians and Lebanon. It is doing this, not by following Washington's policy of confrontation and isolation, but through the sort of intensive diplomacy that President Bush and his team refuse to engage in. In effect, Washington is farming out its diplomacy. In matters of high politics, this may turn out to be a good thing, at least in the short term. All the same, as we have seen with the Palestinian unity government, Washington has refused to recognize or give its blessing to the diplomatic solutions that Saudi Arabian has so far arrived at. If Saudi Arabia can broker a Lebanon compromise by giving the opposition a larger role in the cabinet, will Washington agree to the Saudi brokered terms? There will be many in the White House and in Beirut who will try to torpedo it. Maybe that is the best diplomats in Washington can do at the moment? Better to have some diplomacy rather than none. All the same, the President of the United States should have the vision to carry out his own diplomacy. 

Those who expect Saudi Arabia to isolate Syria and Iran, will be deceived, just as they have been let down by Saudi's Palestine deal. Saudi Arabia has a mind and interests of its own. Its interests are not to follow blindly President Bush's interests. 

In a perverse sense, Washington is using the KSA to do what the Baker-Hamilton report recommended: get Iraq's neighbors together to discuss solutions to regional problems. Hopefully Washington will not spurn the results.

Comments (127)

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101. Samir said:

alex ,if you are a syrian ,it’s not forgivable to be fooled as some western journalists are, who had spoken about the popularity of khamainai,castro or ceasescu.Thanks to 35 years of terror state,Hypocrisy has conditioned the syrian behavior.
if bashar placed only close relatives in key posts ,he knows,that even the top baathists are khaddam like.If today bashar is toppled no one syrian will move to protect him.

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February 22nd, 2007, 6:20 pm


102. Ford Prefect said:

Syria should be moderate like Jordan, Lebanon, and Saudi Arabia. These countries have no hypocrisy, never appoint relatives to key posts, no political prisoners, and have shiny example of tolerance to all religions and political parties. Syria is the only evil in the Middle East.

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February 22nd, 2007, 6:44 pm


103. China Hand said:

Excuse me for interrupting the Alex and Gibran show with a question: has anti-Iran, anti-Shi’a, and anti-Syria agitation reached a sufficient pitch that Saudi Arabia could openly cooperate with non-Muslim powers U.S. and Israel in destabilizing and even attacking Syria and Iran without enraging al Qaeda adherents inside Saudi Arabia? I don’t think so. It seems to me that the “contain Iran” elements inside the Saudi government would have to come up with some pretty good “defender of the faith” credentials in the Palestinian situation before they could risk teaming up with non-Muslim infidels, even to attack countries that AQ Wahabbists detest as Muslim heretics and immoral Arab secularists. Which is why I think Rice and the U.S. is incredibly short-sighted not to give Saudi Arabia a win on the Mecca accord, and instead persists in trying to isolate Hamas. My outsider’s take: Saudi Arabia, a rickety monarchy, is more at risk in an open confrontation than Iran is, especially if Riyadh is seen to be carrying out Washington’s bidding and advancing Israel’s interests. Any comments from the experts?

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February 22nd, 2007, 6:49 pm


104. Samir said:

Ford ,despite that all the arab states are dictatorship…if the syrian regime accept only 30% of the press and political freedom that exist in jordan and egypt…this regime will not be able to remain in power.

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February 22nd, 2007, 6:55 pm


105. Samir said:

Syria is the only evil in the Middle East

not syria ,the regime is.
ford,37 years of asads is not enough ?

let the syrian people choose what they want as they did in the 5O’s and 60’s.

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February 22nd, 2007, 7:04 pm


106. Alex said:


A Friend of mine did a nice test last year. He tried to post two comments on a Syrian opposition (pro-democracy of course, they all are) web site. His first comment was supportive to the opposition. It showed up on the site. His second comment was critical to them … it showed up then got deleted by the site administrators.

If they can not tolerate mild criticism on a website, let them stay where they are playing with nice slogans about democracy.

The above does not apply to all Syrian opposition of course, but it applies to many.

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February 22nd, 2007, 7:09 pm


107. ugarit said:

Saudi Arabia moderate! What’s the matter with some of you. Saudi Arabia is extremely intolerant. I guess women don’t count for some of you.

Egypt has 20,000 political prisoners and Syria has under 1000. Let’s do the per capita calculation and find out which one is more moderate or tolerant.

So it’s ok for Jordan and Saudi Arabia to have monarchies in this day and age and Syria can’t have its own? 😉

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February 22nd, 2007, 7:17 pm


108. Samir said:

alex,there is no perfect world and not all the syrian opposition members are democrats,and you should stop searching left and right an excuse to relativize asad crimes.
knowing the human resources and the cultural heritage of this nation it’s not very difficult to make a better regime than the baath.

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February 22nd, 2007, 7:22 pm


109. Ford Prefect said:

Samir, I think you have a valid point. We are all for change in Syria. I left (pretty much ran away) Syria 30 years ago and swore never to return until it is free. I made the US my home and I know how valuable my freedom is. After all, we are all writing here freely.
However, I am opposed to any radical methods of changing things. Liberal democracy does not come in a box and certainly cannot be dictated by bigots and reckless power brokers. Many opposition groups (and I mean many) are self-appointed Ba’athists who think they know better. Even Jumblatt all of the sudden is now talking about democracy in Syria.

I remember when my grandfather was involved in establishing modern Syria. He was freely elected in the 50’s to represent Syrians in the Parliament. We were not mature enough then to protect democracy, and today, we are much better, but not completely there yet. This current government can only be pushed out of existence when the people of Syria reach the critical mass for change. It happened in the USSR. It happened in Spain. It happened in Chile. And it happened in Indonesia.

Yes, I want change. I want freedom. I want social justice. And I want liberal democracy. I have had enough of single-minded, backward, and authoritarian 40 horrible years. Let’s give the people a chance and let’s protect them from violent and sudden changes.

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February 22nd, 2007, 7:35 pm


110. Alex said:

Samir, here is from today your preferred Egyptian tolerance

Police Brutality in Egypt

Let us stop dreaming … the whole Middle East is not democratic. The Syrian regime is just another example.. so go ahead and start the slow change process in the middle East tat FP talked about and I am with you. But this lack of objectivity in focusing on the Syrian regime as the cause of all problems (just like junblatt and the neocons’ opinions on this matter) is nothing to be proud of.

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February 22nd, 2007, 7:59 pm


111. MSK said:

Dear Site Administrators,

How about starting a new thread? Maybe about Dardari’s BBC HardTalk interview?

Just a thought …



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February 22nd, 2007, 8:01 pm


112. Gibran said:

I second MSK. We’ve heard this regurgitation from Alex over 100 times. I kind of sense a novelty in FP’s thoughts. Does he really want social justice, Democracy, Liberty etc… ? Then go for it full steam. You cann’t have a foot supporting despots and another in ACLU. That’s like fooling yourself. You still think thirty years in exile is not enough? The critical mass is there already.
O’ I forgot you are a special self styled “intelligent” cat which doesn’t bother about Lebanese rats!

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February 22nd, 2007, 8:21 pm


113. Alex said:


I will post a new thread today … a controversial one


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February 22nd, 2007, 8:22 pm


114. youngSyria said:

I wonder why everybody think that the syrian regime is evel, and talking about change..as if they(the regime) came from mars…it doesnt matters if they are alawis or tizy, they are syrians and this is what syria is offering..they will be changed when syrians mind set changes..
and that goes for evey arab country…

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February 22nd, 2007, 8:40 pm


115. Alex said:

Syria can switch camps

Alon Liel

Almost everything has changed since Israel and Syria were last involved in peace negotiations seven years ago. The Israeli-Syrian conflict still exists, but it has become only one of many hot fronts in the global war of cultures and religions. Israel clearly sides with the western/democratic world in this global confrontation, and Syria is an active member of the “axis of evil” coalition, overtly siding with Iran, Hizballah, Hamas and the other Islamic fundamentalist forces.

Seven years ago, Israel and Syria could not work out a bilateral “territories for peace” deal. Even US President Bill Clinton’s personal effort did not help. Today such a deal is no longer on the agenda; a much broader one has to be worked out to fit contemporary circumstances. It can be described as “withdrawal for reorientation”–Israeli withdrawal from the Golan Heights in exchange for a total reorientation of Syria’s regional and global policies. Such a deal might drastically change or even put an end to the ongoing global conflict of cultures.

Here is a possible scenario for how things might develop:

* Israel announces that sovereignty on the Golan Heights will be Syrian. Syria simultaneously announces that it is severing its military contacts with Iran and Hizballah, expelling Khaled Meshaal from Syria and ceasing in any way to assist the insurgents in Iraq. Actual withdrawal from the Golan does not start before these changes in Syria’s policy are fully introduced. A trilateral American-Israeli-Syrian committee is established to monitor Syria’s regional activities and set the withdrawal timetable accordingly.
* Once the trilateral committee acknowledges that Syria has changed its regional orientation, Israel and Syria launch peace negotiations aimed at a full Israeli withdrawal from the Golan Heights within five to ten years.
* The sides agree that most of the Golan becomes a nature reserve. Israelis and Syrians are not allowed to reside there but are able to visit for tourist purposes and to work in those tourism, agriculture or industrial projects that both sides agree upon.
* The entire area of the Golan Heights is fully demilitarized.
* Syria may not alter the flow of water in the region; Israel is not deprived of the quantities of water it draws upon today from sources on the Golan Heights.
* Israel and Syria sign a peace treaty and establish full diplomatic ties aiming at complete normalization of relations between the two countries and peoples.
* Once Israel and Syria have signed their bilateral agreement the United States removes its embargo on Syria and reverses all relevant anti-Syrian congressional and administration decisions.
* Syria agrees to look into the possibility of granting citizenship to its Palestinian refugees; the international community takes upon itself full responsibility for their rehabilitation.

The Syrian window of opportunity is wide open. No less important is the fact that the Palestinian window looks tightly closed. The newly beautified Hamas government still does not show any sign of readiness to recognize the existence of the state of Israel. It looks unlikely that Israel will negotiate peace with a Meshaal-Haniyeh-led government. The capacity of President Mahmoud Abbas (Abu Mazen) to march alone into negotiations with Israel looks even more restricted than before the recent Saudi-sponsored arrangement.

The Syrian-Iranian alliance is not a natural one for Damascus. A “territories for reorientation” agreement with Syria seems possible. It might not be a very popular deal with the relevant publics in Syria, Israel and the US, but it is the task of leaders to lead their peoples toward a better future and a better world. The popular majority in all three countries will end up supporting the agreement once it is a done deal.- Published 22/2/2007 © bitterlemons-international.org

Alon Liel was director general of the Israel Foreign Ministry under the Barak government. He now lectures at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem, Tel Aviv University and the Interdisciplinary Center in Herzlia.

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February 22nd, 2007, 8:43 pm


116. Atassi said:

Ford Prefect,
I commend your thorough knowledge in the last post.you are speaking my mind now 🙂

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February 22nd, 2007, 8:44 pm


117. Alex said:

Washington is obstructing progress on Syria

Ghassan Khatib

The issue of Syria is a uniquely good example of the complexities of Middle East peace making.

On the one hand, Syria is an unavoidable party to the Arab-Israel conflict because of Israel’s occupation of the Golan Heights. Hence, Syria was rightly part of the failed Middle East peace conference in Madrid in 1991.

At the same time the country is located, geographically as well as politically, between Iraq and Lebanon. Damascus is accused, particularly by the US, of playing an unacceptable role in Iraq and in supporting Hizballah in Lebanon.

In addition, the current US administration has placed Damascus in the Iran-Shi’ite Iraq-Hizballah-Hamas axis that has openly challenged Washington’s Middle East policy and some Arab governments.

Hence, while the Syrians and Israelis by themselves seem readier than ever for serious negotiations over the Golan Heights and direct Syrian-Israeli relations, the US is advising Israel against such a move because of the Syrian role in Iraq and Lebanon.

The paradox here is that the Syrian involvement in both Iraq and Lebanon is motivated, at least partly, by the need to maintain a strong negotiating position vis-a-vis Israel. Israel has proven time and again that in negotiations with Arab countries it respects the balance of power more than anything. Thus, Syria is quite rationally equipping itself with the bargaining chips to ensure a fair deal when the time comes.

Yet it is these same bargaining chips that are used by the US, with Israeli acquiescence, to prevent negotiations from starting. In other words, Washington seems to be saying to Damascus that “you are invited to negotiate but only after you give up the bargaining chips you have.”

The US is also placing Damascus in an impossible situation. Iranian-Syrian relations are a source of strength to Syria on all levels, whether military, financial or strategic. Indeed, they are important to Tehran, giving Iran an important regional presence and strengthening ties with Lebanon and the exiled Hamas leadership in Damascus, thereby extending Iranian influence to Hamas in Gaza.

To lessen the importance to Damascus of these relations requires Saudi Arabia to step in and compensate the country financially and assure Damascus of a leading role in the Arab world. Syria also needs assurances that this route creates a real possibility of ending the Israeli occupation of Arab territories, including its Golan Heights.

Syria has always played the Palestinian card. Historically, Damascus has been keen to exercise its influence through one or more of the Palestinian factions. In the 1970s and ’80s this was evident with the Palestinian Baathist faction in the PLO, as well as others, including elements within Fateh. Recently this influence has been leveraged through the exiled Hamas leadership.

At times that Syrian influence was seen as a burden. Palestinians have often perceived Syria to be using its influence for its own ends, to place itself in an Arab leadership role and strengthen its hand vis-a-vis Israel. At the moment, Palestinians are divided regarding their understanding of the Syrian role.

At all times, however, the absolute Syrian insistence on a complete end to the Israeli occupation is supported by all Palestinians. Most Palestinians also oppose US attempts to prevent the inclusion of Syria in any future political process.

This American insistence on excluding Syria because of its role in Iraq and Lebanon is also precluding the possibility of taking advantage of the Arab peace initiative, which is based on comprehensive Arab-Israel peace in return for a comprehensive Israeli withdrawal from all Arab land, including Syrian land.

Washington seems to believe that the Arab initiative gives Damascus an unacceptable veto power and further strengthens its regional position. But in order to solve crises in the region, one needs to adopt a comprehensive approach that takes into consideration their linkages. That is one of the strengths of the Arab initiative.- Published 22/2/2007 © bitterlemons.org

Ghassan Khatib is coeditor of the bitterlemons family of internet publications. He is vice-president of Birzeit University and a former Palestinian Authority minister of planning.

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February 22nd, 2007, 8:45 pm


118. Alex said:

America’s veto on Syrian-Israeli talks is counter-productive

Rime Allaf

For years, unlike the other thorny issues that form the Arab-Israel conflict, the status of the Golan Heights hasn’t triggered a sense of urgency in any party. Strangely, this apparent nonchalance also applies to Syria.

Apart from a brief joint Syrian-Egyptian effort in 1973 to retrieve territories invaded by Israel in 1967, the important battles in the Syrian-Israeli conflict have not been fought on the Golan Heights, but in other arenas and even through proxies. This doesn’t mean that its importance has not been recognized or that resolving the issue has not been attempted; numerous interventions by successive American administrations have come and gone, but breakthroughs were always prevented by the changing agendas of the people who could make them happen.

Forty years on, and 15 years after an unprecedented peace process was launched with the Madrid Peace Conference, we seem to have reached an inexplicable impasse again. While Syria has repeatedly indicated it was willing to restart negotiations unconditionally (implying the progress made with the so-called Rabin deposit and the near-agreement with Barak at Wye River could be scratched), Israel has time and again rejected these advances, fully supported by the US, in an erratic and ambiguous attitude serving no long-term purpose.

More recently, any chance of Israeli dedication to the matter has been completely put to rest by the intransigence of the Bush administration, which instructed all its allies to turn a cold shoulder toward Syria, hoping to impose a new isolation. The present administration, in fact, has engineered the most significant change in American policy toward Syria since the 1980s, a change that predates both the Lebanon file beginning with UNSC Resolution 1559 and the invasion of Iraq, the two main current points of contention between the US and Syria. After 9/11, and after having accepted Syrian intelligence cooperation, Washington was transformed from a sponsor of the Syrian-Israeli peace track into a promoter of the Syria Accountability Act.

America’s unjustified indifference to the issue of the Golan Heights and its shameless selectiveness in applying international law are neither new nor surprising, given its life-long blind support of Israel. In the circumstances surrounding the Middle East today, however, such behavior is foolish and counter-productive, for a peace settlement with Syria is a prerequisite to comprehensive calm.

The Bush administration has accused the Syrian regime of every possible crime and misdemeanor in the region, blaming Damascus for problems in Iraq, Lebanon and Palestine, to mention only the most pressing issues. If Washington is simply looking for a scapegoat, one can only wonder about the benefits of such conduct. But if it really believes that Syrian actions are that powerful, then that is all the more reason to “force” Syria to behave according to American parameters. This could be done in one of two ways: threats, pressure and sanctions (the current modus operandi of the Bush administration), or engagement and promises of mutual benefits. In other words, for the US, Syria can either be beaten into submission, which hasn’t been effective until now, or it can be enticed somewhat into the American sphere of influence.

It has been suggested that “offering” negotiations on the Golan Heights in return for Syrian assistance on other problematic fronts could help achieve several American goals in the region, including a divorce between Syria and Iran, a distancing from Palestinian radical factions, a relaxation of open interference in Lebanon and, most importantly, a pro-active role in the pacification of Iraq. But simultaneously, there are allegations that the Syrian regime is not serious about peace and only wants to escape isolation by negotiating, which is the line that Washington has chosen as its premise.

Such reasoning, such polarization into “us or them”, only serves to perpetuate the deadlock. Syria is being accused of wanting to negotiate for negotiations’ sake, but Israel and the US themselves are only talking peace to achieve other goals.

Furthermore, the long-awaited return of the Golan Heights to Syria should not be marketed as a reward offered to Syria for “good behavior” in other arenas. Unless this conflict is resolved to the letter of the international law that clearly defines its ownership and its borders, the US will only be playing with fire. Turning a national right into a potential fringe benefit is bad politics, especially when the peddler has repeatedly proven its bias in the case.

There never was a bad time to rekindle a peace process, especially in a region where lack of peace doesn’t merely entail frosty relations, but rather ongoing hostilities. Every possible scenario has already passed: active war, quiet non-belligerence and non-peace, rightist and leftist governments in Israel, on and off American involvement, bilateral and multilateral negotiations, resolutions and peace initiatives. The only thing that hasn’t been tried yet is compelling Israel to commit to international law and United Nations resolutions; in the case of Syria, this means UNSC Resolutions 242, 338 and 497, among others.

Sooner or later, Israel must give back the land it has illegally invaded and annexed, an inevitability that the Israeli political class understands full well. Creative solutions to circumvent the obligatory full return of the Golan Heights (such as the dubious non-paper revealed recently by Haaretz) cannot work, and yet Washington seems to object even to that. By needlessly perpetuating the status quo, and by rejecting the sound advice offered by the Iraq Study Group to engage with Syria, isn’t Washington foolishly shooting itself in the foot?- Published 22/2/2007 © bitterlemons-international.org

Rime Allaf is associate fellow at London’s Chatham House.

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February 22nd, 2007, 8:46 pm


119. Alex said:

Include Lebanon

Riad Kahwaji

To talk or not to talk to Syria, that is the question on the minds of many officials in Israel and the United States. Syrian leaders have spared no opportunity in the past few months to reiterate their call for the unconditional resumption of peace talks with Israel. In return, Israeli officials have either bluntly rejected the offers or have played deaf. Israelis who welcome the invitation have blamed the United States for their government’s negative position. Officials in the administration of President George W. Bush have said that as long as Damascus is aiding radical groups branded by the West as terrorists, such as Hizballah, Hamas and Islamic Jihad and is not doing enough to stop the flow of weapons and terrorists into Iraq, the international community should continue to isolate Syria.

However, the growing influence of Tehran in Damascus and Beirut is a new and important factor that ought to be considered. Recent events in the region, especially the war in Lebanon, have revealed Iran’s strength and how deeply it has entrenched itself in Lebanon and Syria. Hence those in the Israeli-American camp who favor engaging Syria are saying that talks would help drive a wedge between Damascus and Tehran and would subsequently weaken Iran’s influence. Skeptics respond that Tehran has taken advantage of the weak Syrian leadership following the death of Hafez Assad and has now got Syria under its thumb, hence talking to Damascus would only buy the Syrian-Iranian axis some precious time to improve its regional position.

Many Lebanese officials have discreetly joined US and Israeli leaders in opposing resumption of Syrian-Israeli talks before first resolving the current conflict between Damascus and Beirut. The main fear in Beirut is that Syria could use the peace talks as an opportunity to strike a deal with Israel that would help Damascus reestablish its dwindling influence in Lebanon. Also, Lebanese government officials are worried that Damascus could take advantage of the peace negotiations to improve relations with Washington and subsequently talk the Americans into halting proceedings for an international tribunal to probe the assassination of former Lebanese Premier Rafiq Hariri. Many observers believe that strong personal relations between Bush and some Lebanese leaders like Prime Minister Fouad Siniora and Saad Hariri have influenced Washington’s position on Syria and peace talks with Israel.

In fact, isolating Syria and not engaging it has not achieved the desired objectives. Rather, it has only pushed Damascus closer to Iran and further complicated the situation in Lebanon and Iraq. Israel has gained nothing; on the contrary, this policy has brought Iran closer to its northern borders via Syria and Hizballah in South Lebanon. This situation, perceived by Israel now as a serious security threat, will become a strategic threat once Iran possesses nuclear weapons.

With the isolation policy failing to achieve its objectives, Israel must seriously consider engaging Syria. Besides, peace talks are the best and only way to test Syria’s true intentions. But first the Israelis must convince the Americans–who in turn must ease the fears of the Lebanese government and at the same time recognize the benefits of engaging Syria.

One good way to do this would be for Israel to restart talks with both Syria and Lebanon simultaneously. Israeli leaders must accept Syria’s invitation to the talks provided that Damascus allows a Lebanese delegation to sit in on the first few meetings to discuss a major shared issue: the disputed Shebaa Farms. Afterwards, Lebanese and Syrian tracks would proceed separately with a pledge from Damascus that it would not use its allies in Lebanon to undermine the Lebanese government. Lebanon, in return, would assure Syria it would not sign a treaty with Israel before Damascus does.

This approach would achieve several major objectives:

* The Lebanese would not be concerned about a Syrian-Israeli deal at their expense, and subsequently there would be no pressure from their side on Washington to block the talks.
* Iran would not be able to use Hizballah to undermine the peace talks because of Syria’s stance and due to the presence of a much stronger UN force in South Lebanon.
* Under successful peace talks that would include the return of the Golan Heights, Syria would not perceive a need to be so close to Iran, hence would distance itself from Tehran and cut off military support to Hizballah, Hamas and Islamic Jihad.
* Hizballah and other opposition forces in Lebanon would not be able to complain significantly about their government talking to Israel at a time Damascus is doing so.
* Successful Syrian-Israeli talks would reflect positively on relations between Damascus and Washington and subsequently lead to better Syrian cooperation in ending the insurgency in parts of Iraq, especially Anbar province.
* The potential Iranian strategic threat to Israel would not be on Israel’s borders but rather thousands of miles away.
* The Palestinian Authority would become more unified and in better control and thus capable of negotiating a lasting settlement with Israel.
* Most important, al-Qaeda would lose ground in Syria, Iraq, Lebanon and the occupied Palestinian territories.

This approach would only work if Israel were willing to give up the Golan Heights. It is far less costly and dangerous than the current policy that leads to more wars, death and destruction and further complicates the Middle East conflict, especially the Arab-Israel rapprochement that ended after a very good start in 1991. With a growing Shi’ite-Sunni rift, the regional conflict is taking on an ethno-sectarian dimension, and if nothing is done to restart the peace process future wars will be on religious grounds rather than based on national interests. It would be only a matter of time before wars reach the borders of Israel and Europe from many directions. Nuclear weapons might deter people pursuing their national interests but would do very little against holy warriors seeking a place in paradise.- Published 22/2/2007 © bitterlemons-international.org

Riad Kahwaji is director general of the Institute for Near East and Gulf Military Analysis (INEGMA) in Dubai, and Middle East bureau chief for Defense News.

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February 22nd, 2007, 8:47 pm


120. Atassi said:

Lebanon fines newsmen for defaming under-fire president

22 February 2007

BEIRUT, Feb 22, 2007 (AFP) –

Lebanon’s press court fined two staunchly anti-Syrian newsmen Thursday for libelling under-fire pro-Syrian President Emile Lahoud, judicial sources said.

Al-Mustaqbal daily director Toufic Khattab and journalist Zahi Wehbeh received fines of 50 million Lebanese pounds (more than 33,000 dollars) each for having “libelled and damaged the reputation of President Lahoud” in a 2005 article, the sources said.

The paper is owned by the family of the late former prime minister Rafiq Hariri, who was killed in a February 2005 bombing widely blamed on Syria and its local allies.

“Of course I’m going to lodge an appeal,” Khattab told AFP, playing down the significance of the press court’s verdict.

The offending article headlined: “His Excellency the Murderer,” was published in June 2005 a few days after the murder of anti-Syrian journalist Samir Kassir.

Wehbeh’s lawyer, Fuad Shbaklo, argued that the headline could not be taken as a reference to the president as an official decree had long since forbidden the use of such terms of respect for the head of state.

The legitimacy of Lahoud’s presidency has been challenged by anti-Syrian politicians ever since it was extended by three years through a controversial Damascus-inspired constitutional amendment in 2004.

Lahoud in turn has refused to recognise the rump anti-Syrian cabinet of Prime Minister Fuad Siniora since six pro-Damascus ministers quit last November.

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February 22nd, 2007, 9:00 pm


121. Ford Prefect said:

Just finished watching Walid Jumblatt on Marcel Ghanem’s Kalam Al Naas. I have never been a fan of Jumblatt (especially when he overwhelmingly supported the Syrian presence during Hafez/Khaddam reign) but tonight and for the most part (he had some very low moments too), I saw him to be reasonable and speaking out of genuine passion and patriotism to Lebanon – right or wrong notwithstanding. If and when he tones down the nonsense rhetoric, he can really present a rational argument. Could there be another person in that body? (But wait, what person would ever want that gorgeous body? It must be him!)

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February 22nd, 2007, 9:44 pm


122. MSK said:

Dear Alex,

I suggest you move the BitterLemons articles into a new thread – that way we can actually debate them.


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February 22nd, 2007, 10:21 pm


123. Atassi said:

Learning nothing and forgetting nothing
Michael Young
22 February 2007
Daily Star

Beirut — Earlier this week, two statements neatly summarized the crisis in Lebanon. The first came from the EU’s representative in Beirut, Patrick Laurent; the second from Syria’s official Al-Thawra daily. Both reaffirmed in their own separate ways that the Syrian regime, since its army was forced out of Lebanon in 2005, has chosen to behave like the exiled Bourbons: learning nothing and forgetting nothing.

In an exchange with journalists, Laurent had this to say about Syrian behavior in Lebanon, and about European efforts to “engage” President Bashar Assad: “We tried everything, as did many others, employing both gentle means and pressure,” but nothing seemed to work. As if confirming Laurent’s doubts, Al-Thawra, in an editorial Tuesday, called for talks between Damascus and the US covering Lebanon, Palestine, the Golan Heights, and Iraq. “Syria insists on a serious and profound dialogue on all subjects without exception,” the newspaper asserted.

Precisely where this extraordinary statement came from was unclear. Syria is a declining power, capable only of spreading instability in its neighborhood to ward off irrelevance. However, this game, which the late President Hafez al-Assad played to perfection, no longer works. By allying itself with an Iran that Saudi Arabia regards as an existential threat, Syria is in no position to make demands of the Arab states, let alone of the United States. The Syrians recently tried to take control of the Iraqi Baath Party, and failed. They tried to midwife a Fatah-Hamas deal in Damascus, and failed again. Assad has even managed to alienate Egypt, by thwarting its peace efforts on the Palestinian front and by ensuring that Arab League Secretary General Amr Moussa’s mediation in Lebanon would go nowhere. And in Lebanon, Assad has so angered the Sunni community that the prospect of a Syrian military return seems fanciful.

Most alarming from a Lebanese perspective, the Al-Thawra article showed that Syria has yet to grasp that the United Nations Security Council passed Resolution 1559 in 2004. In insisting on Syria’s having a say in Lebanon’s future, the newspaper disregarded that the resolution specifically asked Damascus to end its interference in Lebanese affairs.

Assad may have come out of his summit in Tehran last week invigorated by a sense that the Iranians need him in their confrontation with the Bush administration. It was always naive to assume that Iran would pressure Assad on the Hariri tribunal at a time when the nuclear issue was on the verge of reaching a climax at the UN – with more steps possibly coming at the Security Council to impose new sanctions on Tehran.

However, it is precisely because of this that Syria should be careful. Iran’s ultimate guarantee against an American attack isn’t the comradeship of Damascus, but a broad Arab consensus behind the benefits of a dialogue with Iran and the undesirability of an American military response to the nuclear standoff. Iran views its talks with the Saudis as the best means to avoid a war, but also to hinder approval of new UN sanctions and avert a Sunni-Shiite conflict that would cripple Iranian initiatives in the Middle East. In this context, Assad could emerge as a burdensome ally.

The Bush administration is more subtle than it has been given credit for. It authorized the Saudi-Iranian dialogue, realizing that this reflected the central Sunni-Shiite fault line dividing the Middle East. There are some in Washington who would love to bomb Iran, but there is no domestic traction for war, leaving room for diplomacy. This is where the Saudi-Iranian talks fit in. That Bandar bin Sultan, the former ambassador to the US, was named point man on the Saudi side surely reassured the Bush administration, particularly Vice President Dick Cheney.

As the Syrians look on, what is going through their minds? Their agenda can be reduced to a single item: undermining the Hariri tribunal. Neither in Iraq nor in the Palestinian areas is Assad indispensable. In Lebanon, Syria presumably faces Iranian “red lines” limiting the kind of intimidation it can employ, which is why the Syrian-Iranian compromise is for more stalemate, punctuated by controlled Hizbullah escalations. The latest scheme is for a civil-disobedience campaign. Yet this may end up backfiring like other opposition efforts did. Shiites would suffer as much as anyone from obstruction of the country’s public administration.

Iran and Syria can agree over raising the heat in Lebanon to squeeze the Saudis. But beyond that the situation becomes more complicated. The Iranians want an advantageous deal in Lebanon, but not a civil war. They also don’t want to break with the Saudis, because there will be more friction with the US and the Arab world in the coming months. An Arab League summit is to be held in Saudi Arabia in March, and there is nothing Iranian leaders would like less than for the predominantly Sunni Arab states to use that event to warn against the “Persian peril.” This explains why the Syrians are so eager to act now in Lebanon, to ensure they can get something on the tribunal before eventual progress in the Saudi-Iranian relationship pushes their aims to the backburner. A Saudi-Iranian rapprochement would make it much tougher for Assad to kill the tribunal, whose passage the Saudi leadership considers non-negotiable.

Assad senses that the window of opportunity is closing. His last card is a Lebanese civil war, but it’s not one that Iran and Hizbullah seem willing to play. However, the tribunal won’t disappear. At best, if Syria aborts formal Lebanese endorsement of the institution, this will make the move toward Chapter VII of the UN Charter more likely. Only when Assad truly accepts Resolution 1559 and embraces Lebanon’s sovereignty and independence, will he persuade anyone that his regime is worth saving.

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February 22nd, 2007, 10:37 pm


124. Gibran said:

O’ I just got unexpected help from Atassi by reposting the excellent article of Michael Young that I posted last night. Thanks Atassi for highlighting the importance of this analysis. I think the title of article neatly summarizes the situation in the ME.
Need some logical persons to present some feedback. How about Dr. Landis providing some valuable criticism/insight?

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February 22nd, 2007, 11:25 pm


125. Enlightened said:

Any of you read this one?

What are your thoughts?

Al-Hayat Editor in Satirical Piece: Syrian Intelligence Reports Say Rafiq Al-Hariri Must Be Assassinated Again

In a satirical article titled “Reports Say He’s Weeping,” editor of the London daily Al-Hayat, Ghassan Shirbil, writes that Syrian authorities know from “Syrian intelligence reports” that assassinated Lebanese prime minister Rafiq Al-Hariri still lives, and that these reports recommend assassinating him again, this time with two car bombs. The idea conveyed by the article is that Al-Hariri’s spirit – the spirit of free Lebanon – has not been assassinated.

The following are excerpts: [1]

“This is a Man Whose Death Cannot Be Taken for Granted, Even if His Body Has Been Blown to Pieces”

“The security apparatuses must raise [their level] of alert. The number of detectives and spies must be increased, cameras and eavesdropping equipment must be repositioned. Negligence is inconceivable and even dangerous. Those who write reports must be more perceptive and more vigilant. This man cannot be trusted. There must be a central operations room to pick up every snippet of information, to gauge the accuracy of data and rumors, to carry out subtle in-depth analyses, to interpret every murmur and mumble. There is a rumor that he did not [really] die… but was only wounded, that he has only become more obstinate, and that he continues to pursue his dreams as he always did. He refuses to rest and to let others rest. This is a man whose death cannot be taken for granted, even if his body has been blown to pieces. They must place detectives in the [very] veins of his mind, to decode the signs and symbols. They must expose the ambush he is preparing, the conspiracy he is forming and the uprising whose seeds he is sowing. This is a man whose innocence cannot be taken for granted even when he is lying flat surrounded by flower wreaths.

“Report No. 1: He still gets up early in the morning, listens to the news and smiles, and receives morning visitors. A few days ago, he was seen surrounded by advisors, opening maps and examining them in detail. He asked about dates, his face reflecting disapproval. The urge to get things done has not left him. [He believes that] the reconstruction enterprise must not be hindered by the scorn of those who scoff. Rumors say that at night he secretly sets out to patrol the city and beyond it. He is pained by the scenes of destruction and is angered by the delay in repairing roads and bridges…”

“The First Assassination Has Failed to Affect His Abilities…”

“Report No. 2: We suggest intensifying the efforts to bleed and exhaust him. It is a mistake to ease the pressure on him and to imagine that he is gone. The first assassination has failed to affect his ability to prepare surprise [attacks]. He will seize every opportunity to resume his activities. If left alone for even a moment, he may open a highway, repair an entire neighborhood, lay a cornerstone for a school or hospital or establish a clinic or a university. Who knows, he may even reconstruct an entire city, or resume granting scholarships and handing out diplomas to the graduates. This is a man who does not change his habits just because his place of residence has changed.

“Report No. 3: We must make sure that his phone lines are disconnected, that his Internet service is off and that no carrier pigeon dares approach [him]. There are rumors that his telephone never rests, and that it always awakens the decision makers in the capitals where decisions are made. It can be stated with certainty that he has made too many phone calls in the recent weeks, and that the third Paris conference has its fingerprints on it. These fingerprints must be picked up and kept with the other evidence, in preparation for his coming trial.”

“This is a Man Who Refuses to Die, Refuses to Learn… We Recommend Assassinating Him Again…”

“Report No. 4: At night, a scent of weeping wafts through the air. The detectives say that he wept when he met Samir Kassir, George Hawi, Jubran Tweini and Pierre Amin Gemayel. He also wept when Israel sowed death in the Al-Dhahiya neighborhood [in Beirut], in the South [of Lebanon] and in the Beqa [Valley]. He weeps whenever the scent of civil war rises [in the air]…

“Conclusion of the reports: This is a man who refuses to die, refuses to learn. He interferes in the country’s affairs on a daily basis, as though he [still] sits in [his] Qureitem [palace], as though he still sits in the government building. He stole the show as prime minister, he stole the show as an oppositionist and [now] he is stealing the show as a martyr. We recommend assassinating him again, this time using two trucks [full of explosives]…”

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February 23rd, 2007, 2:38 am


126. Gibran said:

Very nice post Enlightened.
You can find more about Mr. Harriri’s life at:


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February 23rd, 2007, 5:31 am


127. Syrian said:

Now posting the same opinion piece from M Young twice is too much. There are plenty of people here who make all kinds of assertions without foundation, do we really need to be quoting the baseless assertion of an external source.

“They tried to midwife a Fatah-Hamas deal in Damascus, and failed again.” Both palestinian parties to the deal stated unequivocally that the deal would not have been made without the Syrian itervention.

“The Syrians recently tried to take control of the Iraqi Baath Party.” According to an Iraqi Baathist residing in Jordan. Pretty sure Syria has plenty of influence with the Iraqi Baathists residing in Syria. Remember the ruthless dictator who scares the shit out of anyone in Syria..

“By allying itself with an Iran that Saudi Arabia regards as an existential threat, Syria is in no position to make demands of the Arab states, let alone of the United States.” When did Saudi Arabia view Iran as an existential threat and when did Iran threaten the existance of Saudi Arabia. What is even more hallarious is that Saudi Arabia and Iran are talking about settling the dispute in Lebanon.

Gibran, why not tell the Saudi’s and the Iranians to BUTT OUT and stop discussing Lebanese problems and proposing solutions for Lebanon.

“Assad has even managed to alienate Egypt, by thwarting its peace efforts on the Palestinian front and by ensuring that Arab League Secretary General Amr Moussa’s mediation in Lebanon would go nowhere.” Again G, why are you not incensed that Mr Young seems to think that the EGYPTIANS should have been allowed to SOLVE lebanese problems and not be thwarted by the Syrians.

“However, it is precisely because of this that Syria should be careful. Iran’s ultimate guarantee against an American attack isn’t the comradeship of Damascus, but a broad Arab consensus behind the benefits of a dialogue with Iran and the undesirability of an American military response to the nuclear standoff. Iran views its talks with the Saudis as the best means to avoid a war, but also to hinder approval of new UN sanctions and avert a Sunni-Shiite conflict that would cripple Iranian initiatives in the Middle East. In this context, Assad could emerge as a burdensome ally.” Are you serious. Like the broad arab consensus that the US should not attack Iraq really helped Saddam Stay in power. He looked pretty good on the news last night.

And when did Saudi Arabia and the Arab nations in general get veto power on the UN security council; was that a bit of news I missed. I have been pretty busy lately…

‘and there is nothing Iranian leaders would like less than for the predominantly Sunni Arab states to use that event to warn against the “Persian peril.”’ Yes Michael, those meetings of the Arab League are really powerful in driving world opinions and perceptions of … wait a minute, no one gives a shit where the arab league meets and what resolutions they pass, remember the comprehensive peace plan from the Beirut summit, what stage of implementation is it now anyway…

You know Iran may accept labels such as a memeber of the “Axis of Evil” and the “Shiite Crescent” but the “Persian Peril” a little too much of a label to handle…

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February 23rd, 2007, 6:26 am


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