Will Syria and Israel talk, fight or wait?

Posted by Camille Alexandre Otrakji 

Anyone following Syria's news lately would get the feeling that something is about to happen in Syria's neighborhood during the following two months, and more specifically around mid-July. President Assad is expected to make a speech on the 17th of July, the official date of his second seven-year term in office. There are speculations that a new government will be announced to be led by a newly appointed prime minister.

UPI International editor Claude Salhani listed a number of other possible events that might take place during the month of July:

The U.N. Security Council is scheduled to discuss the implementation of Security Council Resolution 1701 on July 16. The discussions will center on the Syria-Lebanon border and the possibility of positioning international observers along the border to prevent weapons finding their way from Syria into Lebanon.The London-based al-Hayat newspaper says the United Nations' recommendations will demand the stationing of international experts in the border area to assist Lebanon's security agencies in monitoring the frontier.Also between July 15 and 17 the head of the International Investigation Commission into the murder of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri, Serge Brammertz, is to submit his report to the U.N. Security Council.

The Iranian news agency speculates that the recall of Syrian nationals is due to the ultimatum Lebanese President Emil Lahoud gave the opposition to decide on how to deal with the crisis in Lebanon. Other sources think Syrians are being recalled home as Damascus plans to mobilize reserve units in expectation of an Israeli attack.A contributing factor is a declaration by the Lebanese opposition of plans to establish a second government if no solution to the current political deadlock is reached by mid-July. Members of Hezbollah have joined President Lahoud in threatening to establish a second government in Lebanon. They speak of taking "historical" and "strategic" steps. Such a move would likely re-ignite Lebanon's civil war, or possibly cause the country to fracture.A series of editorials in the Lebanese daily al-Mustaqbal, meanwhile, warns of a planned Syrian-Iranian coup in Lebanon, spearheaded by Hezbollah and backed by Iran and Syria. The paper, which is close to the pro-government March 14 Movement, speaks of Hezbollah's military preparations, including military activity both south and north of the Litani River, in defiance of U.N. Resolution 1701; and the transformation of the Bekaa region into a military zone.With tension in the Middle East at an all-time crux, it would not require very much to set the region ablaze. If the Bush administration ever intended to push for peace in the region, now would be the time to do so.

 

A summer war?

Which brings us to the ongoing debate in Israel about an “accidental” war with Syria this summer. Last week the Israeli conducted an extensive military exercise on the occupied Golan Heights. Israeli prime minister Ehud Olmert stated that he sent a message to Assad letting him know that Israel does not intend to attack Syria. Most, if not all, Israeli experts stated that they do not believe Syria is about to attack them either. They agree that Syria’s army positions are obviously defensive. They explain that Syria is probably worried as a result of witnessing large-scale Israeli exercises on the Golan.

So why is Israel preparing for war?

Apparently, all those Israeli military exercises were meant to increase the IDF's state of preparation in case Syria misunderstood Israel’s intentions behind the military exercises and then decided to launch a pre-emptive war on the Jewish state!

Never mind.

There are more logical ways one can explain the flood of summer war statements from Israel. Either Israel really needs to erase from everyone’s memory its disappointing performance against Hizbollah, or Israel is maneuvering for a better negotiating position against Syria if and when those negotiations do start… reminding Syria of the big Israeli stick before offering her a smaller carrot. Silly, but less foolish than an actual war. Especially an accidental war.

 

ali-farzat.jpg

by Syrian Cartoonist Ali Farzat 

 

 

Peace negotiations?

Akiva Eldar interviewed Maj.-Gen. (res.) Uri Sagi and Syria expert Dr. Eyal Zisser in an article published in Haaretz this week. Here are the more interesting parts of the article

MK Ophir Pines-Paz (Labor) recently learned firsthand about the difficulty of solving the Syrian riddle. In January he asked Assad's legal adviser, Riad Daoudi, who represented Damascus at the second Madrid Peace Conference, whether Syria would agree to sever its ties with terror organizations such as Hezbollah and Hamas and to distance itself from Iran. Daoudi replied that if Israel agreed to return to the negotiating table, those issues would be placed on it.

At a conference this week in Brussels, Pines-Paz received a different response to the same question. This time Daoudi said Syria insists on negotiations without preconditions and that its relations with Hezbollah, Hamas and Iran be discussed only after the conclusion of the negotiations. A diplomatic source says that Daoudi expressed a harder line than the official one. The understanding in Jerusalem is that Syria is linking its relations with Hezbollah and Hamas to the pace of its negotiations with Israel.

Relations with Iran are linked to relations with the United States.

Daoudi was adamant on this point: Without the U.S., there will be no negotiations. The explanation: "The Americans have to pay all the parties for the U.S. responsibility for what is happening now in the Middle East. [They have to pay] Israel as well." He was probably referring to events in Iraq and in the Gaza Strip.

Sagi says that Israel, too, cannot reach an agreement with Syria and Lebanon without the U.S. "Israel cannot permit itself to have a conflict of interest with Washington," he states. He cannot but regret that the U.S. has relinquished its status as honest broker between Israel and Syria, forcing Syria "into an extremist corner, unnecessarily."

According to Sagi, Israel has interests in common with the secular regimes in our neighborhood, or, to be more precise – enemies in common. He is referring to extra-national organizations, such as Al-Qaida, which threaten the existing order. "The talk of democratization is too early and too threatening," Sagi says. "The Syrian regime, even the Jordanian regime, cannot absorb democracy. One makes peace with the existing regime, not with democratization. The Syrians are waging a genuine struggle against extremist Islam, and mainly against the Shi'ites, who are led by non-Arab elements such as Iran."

Syria needs a shrink

The U.S. refusal to promote a peace agreement between Israel and Syria, in the name of democratization – which in light of its successes in Iraq one might assume had disappeared altogether – is viewed by Israeli diplomats as a relatively small problem. The big problem is George W. Bush's obsession with bringing down the regime in Damascus. In talks with senior U.S. officials it became clear that they haven't the vaguest idea of what would take its place. Israeli warnings of the danger that Islamic extremists would do to Syria what they are now doing to Iraq makes no impression on the president. To Bush, death provides the only release from the axis of evil.

Syria expert Prof. Eyal Zisser, of the Department of Middle East and African Studies at Tel Aviv University, says Assad is working on the assumption that the U.S. is determined to bring him down. Zisser says Assad's feelings of persecution are affecting his behavior and that Western visitors to the country report a regression in all areas related to human rights, freedom of expression and other signs of liberalization.

"Assad lacks the experience and the power needed for a Sadat-like move," Zisser says. "If there is no nanny, such as James Baker (secretary of state under President George Bush Sr., who initiated the Madrid Conference – A.E.), nothing will move. Syria needs a psychologist as much as we do. [Egypt's late president, Anwar] Sadat and [Jordan's late king] Hussein were willing to hold our hand and understood how problematic we are. This time we're dealing with a different sort of Arab. Syria is unwilling to extend gestures and make nice while Israel continues to build settlements on the Golan Heights. For them, the demand to disengage from Iran is like asking us to disengage from the U.S."

Zisser emphasizes that Assad does not really want to be stuck with Iran, which cannot fix his country's oil shortage, rising unemployment and a shaky economy. Zisser believes that if there is no change in the situation, such as a diplomatic move based on the Arab peace initiative, these problems will worsen until the whole thing explodes. The failure of the negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians strengthen the hand of those surrounding Assad who seek to persuade him to stop wooing the Americans and the Israelis.

Participants in the Brussels conference witnessed this internal struggle up close. The Syrian-American businessman Ibrahim (Abe) Suleiman, who had represented Syria at the secret talks held under Swiss auspices, sat next to Dr. Alon Liel, his partner in the talks. Suleiman made a point of leaving the room whenever Daoudi opened his mouth, and vice versa. (Since his address to the Knesset in April, Suleiman has become anathema to Syrian conservatives.)

In light of the political weakness in Israel and U.S. intransigence, Sagi recommends we stop whistling in the dark and prepare the army for the next round. To his great satisfaction, Ashkenazi, who was his operations officer in the Golani Brigade, is doing what needs to be done. Nevertheless, Sagi hopes that in the coming months Israel's political leadership will decide what it does want, and not only what it does not want. He believes that if the government decides it wants to move forward and makes a concerted effort to bring the U.S. on board, a peace agreement with Syria would be within reach. Sagi is adamant that the disagreements between Israel and Syria over borders and security arrangement were solved seven years ago, and that Barak backed down at the last moment from signing an agreement with Hafez Assad.

"It's true, Syria is not nice," concludes Sagi, a man who has spent hundreds of hours with Syrians. "But what's better, to talk to countries like Syria about stable agreements or to run around in the alleys after organizations that don't want an agreement with us, like Hezbollah, which is liable to take over the government in Lebanon any day?"

In a rare month-long online discussion between Syrian and Israeli bloggers and experts on Creative Syria’s Creative Forum (40th anniversary of the occupation of the Golan Heights), it was clear that there are two main challenges to starting peace negotiations between the two enemies.

First, many Syrian bloggers showed hesitation about signing a peace treaty with Israel while the Palestinians are still left alone suffering under Israel’s harsh occupation. Apparently, the old solidarity with their Palestinian brothers is not dead. One gets the feeling that it will be difficult for the regime to sign that treaty if there isn’t at least some serious progress on the Palestinian front.

Second, Israeli participants wanted Assad to understand them the way Sadat and King Hussein did. They wanted him to visit Jerusalem or to invite their prime minister to Damascus.

Here is part of Rime Allaf's opinion she expressed in her article:

This is not about relative degrees of compromise, or about confidence-building measures, promises of everlasting love, nor even about dignity (which is certainly not more important than food for the hungry) or the tired Orientalist notions that Arabs are supposed to attach more importance to certain things like land. It is about legality, human and national rights, and all the other rights listed in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, including, of course, the right of return.

That we should convince the Israeli public to give back the Golan, or indeed parts of Palestine, is a laughable concept, as is the notion that the Israeli people would convince their government to wage peace if they knew they stood no danger. The proverbial silent majority has certainly remained true to its name, responding with only deafening silence to its government’s brutality in Lebanon, in Palestine, and anywhere it pleases. The uproar about the army’s performance in Lebanon isn’t because of the massive civilian casualties it inflicted, the senseless destruction of Lebanese infrastructure, or the hundreds of thousands of inhumane cluster bombs left to maim and kill innocent civilians on a daily basis; the uproar is because the army didn’t win. This is what bothers most of the Israelis who supposedly control the fate of the Golan Heights; the others don’t seem to care. If they did, they would revolt against the shooting and killing of a seven-month foetus in his Palestinian mother’s womb, around the anniversary of Israel’s creation; or they would denounce the killing of an unarmed elderly Palestinian man in his own home, and the shooting of his wife and two sons in Hebron in a literal blood bath, on the sad anniversary of the vicious attack they so proudly name the Six Day War.

That it has become the duty of the victim to reassure the aggressor is scandalous. It must be the other way round: it is Israel which must begin to reassure its neighbors that it is worthy of the repeated peace overtures and the ever-increasing concessions made by Arab regimes in the name of the Palestinian and Arab people, without their permission. Israel must return land, pay compensation, and apologize profusely to all its victims, for all the hardship, misery and despair of the last 60 years of dispossession it forced on them. If anyone should be demanding its right to exist now, it is the Palestinian people, and it is up to Israel to prove that it is a worthy partner in peace, and that it deserves to be treated as the civilized equal it pretends to be.

 

And here is an Israeli peace activist's comment to Rime:

…Do you think there’s a chance in the world that ANY person on the other side would even contemplate listening to you, let alone do business with you? What you’re very clearly suggesting, is that there are NO equal parties here, and that we shouldn’t treat each other as such. That the proof of intentions should come from only one side (ours) not from both. That genuine fear and distrust legitimately exists only on one side (yours), and not also on ours. 

What really gets to me, regarding the Syrian-Israeli conflict, is that we already know the price, we already agree on the price, yet neither side wants to be seen as “bowing” to the other. Each side is convinced it is the threatened one, the victim, not the aggressor, and therefore has the right to “sit and wait” for the other, stronger side, to act. Maybe we just don’t want this peace badly enough, because when you want something, and you don’t get it one way, you try another, and another, and another. Until you get it. But in the meantime, the pressure is growing on both sides, and there is some physical tendency of bodies to eventually find a way to release that pressure, and we all know too well how that’s normally done in our part of the world, don’t we? 

I suggested that Syria faces a difficult challenge in deciding how to communicate with Israel. Israelis who oppose returning the Golan Heights fall in two very different camps. Some worry about Syria's intentions after it recovers its Golan Heights. They need to be reassured that Syria is a friendly nation and that the Syrian leaders are not ideologically attached to hard liners such as Hamas, Hizbollah, and Iran. Goodwill gestures from Syria's side might be useful to address some of these concerns. However, they will be counter productive with the other group of Israelis who oppose the return of the Golan Heights because in their view Israel is the strong party and Syria the weak one who is begging for something it can not take by force. They see Assad's repeated calls for peace negotiations with Israel as a sign of Syria's weakness.

I concluded that Syria should take into account the 180 degree variance in Israeli opinions and attitudes which could only be accommodated through an adaptive, continuously variable communication style… different messages must be sent to try to positively influence each type of Israeli citizen who today does not believe that his country should, or needs to, return the Golan to Syria.

 

Today Prime minister Olmert gave an interview to al-Arabiya Satellite TV station in which he said

"Bashar Assad, I'm ready to hold direct negotiations for peace with you. But you know, and you say this all the time, that you are only willing to hold talks through the United States."

"Bashar Assad doesn't want to sit with me, he wants to sit with the Americans, but the Americans don't want to sit with him. I am willing to meet him if he's willing to meet me. If that happens, we will discuss peace, not war. I don't want to fight the Syrians,"

 

I sent Akiva Eldar and Eyal Zisser an email to explain to them why Bashar is not dealing with the same favorable Critical Success Factors that Sadat or King Hussein dealt with when they felt encouraged to make a goodwill gesture to Israel:

Israel is not headed by a decisive and respected leader like the late prime minister Rabin. There is a good chance the current shaky and highly divided Israeli government, headed by a very unpopular prime minister, might collapse before it can conclude a peace agreement with Syria. Assume that the chance of survival for the government is 30% (P1=0.3)

There is no friendly president Clinton in the White house anymore. The current American administration seems to prefer to make life difficult for the Syrians. Assad probably does not expect any positive American supporting role. We can assume that the probability that this administration will eventually sponsor peace negotiations is quite small … perhaps as low as 25% (p2=0.25)

A majority of the Israeli public currently oppose the return of the Golan Heights. Syria already learned its lesson when prime minister Barak “got cold feet” at the last minute and decided to not sign the peace treaty negotiated with the help of president Clinton. Barak at the time did not want to take an unpopular decision of returning the Golan Heights to Syria. Assume that there is only a 50% chance Prime minister Olmert (considered a weak leader by many observers) would eventually be courageous enough to “make the painful concessions” of returning the full Golan Heights. (P3=0.5)

In order for a successful completion of the peace process, the three variables above must take on favorable values. The probability of that desired outcome happening can be calculated as follows:

P(success) = P1 X P2 X P3 = 0.3 X 0.25 X 0.5 = 0.0375 = 3.75%

Why should a sane Syrian president go for such a hopeless option?

 

A Madrid II peace conference might be the simplest solution to deal with the American administration's refusal to sit face to face with the Syrians. Palestinians, as well as the other "moderate" Arab states would also be invited to participate. The participation of Egypt and Saudi Arabia will prevent the Syrians from looking and feeling like "winners" who forced the US administration to sit with them at a summit type of meeting.

Or perhaps it is better to …

 

Wait another year?

George Ajjan in the June issue of Chronicles (a paleo-conservative magazine):

While Bush will be gone in less than 20 months, Syrian President Bashar Assad will be on the ballot this year in a Sham referendum designed to garner him a second seven-year term. So he will be saying "I told you so" to America about Bush's Mesopotamian Misadventure for a long time to come. Given this longevity, coupled with the White House's demonstrated inflexibility, Assad knows that he cannot hope for a full rapprochement with the United States until Washington is remade after 2008. This means that, for the moment, Syria will use any direct diplomatic access to Washington to rehabilitate her image by appearing helpful, while loudly broadcasting her traditional grievances and positioning herself for a variety of post-Bush contingencies.

Logically speaking, nothing should happen this year. Neither war nor peace.

But this is the Middle East.

Comments (26)


1. Leila A. said:

Speaking as a complete amateur and outsider on these matters – re the Israeli training exercises. Look, I dislike the Israeli Army (understatement) but let’s just think of it from their perspective. They got their asses kicked last summer. An American-Israeli friend who has military and diplomatic relatives in Israel told me last summer that the Israeli Army does not have more than 30,000 active, combat-ready troops. As was said often last summer, the IDF has lots of experience shooting civilians trapped in a pen (West Bank, Gaza), but they haven’t had to face real military opponents in quite some time. Their tactic of trying to terrorize the populace by destroying whole neighborhoods and blowing up convoys didn’t really help them gain anything in Lebanon, where they faced a standard light infantry defense conducted by armed irregulars. (Hizbullah).

SO it would seem to me that the Israeli military is trying to get in shape. They would be negligent if they didn’t train. They may in fact have been negligent all these years because they’ve been so busy trying to lock down three million Palestinians into a vast network of concentration camps. This sort of behavior, aside from being morally repugnant, does not prepare a military for more serious combat.

Yes, I am bitter. I am South Lebanese as well as American. I have friends who are Israeli but that doesn’t mean I wish the IDF well. However you must look at how they themselves might be thinking.

We need diplomats, real diplomats, now more than ever.

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July 10th, 2007, 4:43 pm

 

2. why-discuss said:

I think that the increased presence of sunni al-qaeda inspired terrorist groups closer to Israel border may signal a shift in the perception of Hezbollah as ‘the’ threat against Israel. I am convinced that if Hezbollah was not present in the south, we would see a flurry of Al-Qaida inspired attacks against Israel.
Hezbollah is ironically now protecting the Israelis from the sunni terrorist attacks. As the UN is officially controlling the border, it is tempting for Hezbollah to give a blind eye to some minor attacks on Israel (and Unifil) just to assert that the UN cannot operate in the south without the help of Hezbollah?
I am only surprised that the Israelis don’t seem concerned that the sunni terrorism in Lebanon may spill on them?

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July 10th, 2007, 4:43 pm

 

3. Observer said:

Neither the Syrians nor the Israelis wish or want war. The regime has been content to have the situation as is for it permits a lot of latitude to use the state of no peace no war to its advantage. The israeli side likes to have the self sufficiency in water and food provided for by the Golan and likewise to have the spectre of an aggressive enemy to rally the troops locally and around the world. The big question is the current US administration that will become very dangerous and quite vindictive is the enterprise in Iraq fails miserably.

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July 10th, 2007, 4:44 pm

 

4. ausamaa said:

War is an extension of diplomacy by other means. To serve a given Objective, one may add. And since no-one in the area has a clear-cut and practically feasible and achievable OBJECTIVE at this moment, thanks of course to Mr. Bush’s continous rash shuffling of the deck in the manner that he has been doing, then no one in the area is sure of what they really want now. They know what they do not want, but not what they want. They know what they can prevent the others from achieving, but they do not know what they can and want to achieve. Total uncertainity, failure of policies, and no plan B as Dubbbya still insists (but knows otherwise) that plan A has a chance!

So, no objective, no direction for diplomacy, and consequently no extension of such diplomacy by war.

The neo-cons may still try to give their dream another shot, either against Iran or Syria (to save face and not to save the vision which has crumbled so catasrophically). But the wiser minds and the Generals in DC will not fall for or allow an Iran gamble, nor is the IDF and the Olmert/Barak sensless enough or adventerous enough to risk “either” attacking Syria, “or” pushing Syria into a position where it is forced to take serious action against Israel.

So; At Your Ease, until at least a year after the new occupant had moved into the White House!

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July 10th, 2007, 11:15 pm

 

5. Akbar Palace said:

Leila A. whines:

Look, I dislike the Israeli Army (understatement)…

Look, Leila, I dislike the Hezbollah and Hamas terrorists. We have something in common!

… but let’s just think of it from their perspective.

Please don’t go to so much trouble. It may be painful (mentally).

They got their asses kicked last summer.

How did you reach that conclusion? What is your criteria?

An American-Israeli friend who has military and diplomatic relatives in Israel told me last summer that the Israeli Army does not have more than 30,000 active, combat-ready troops.

Really?

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Israel_Defense_Forces

As was said often last summer, the IDF has lots of experience shooting civilians trapped in a pen (West Bank, Gaza), but they haven’t had to face real military opponents in quite some time.

“Civilians” trapped in a pen don’t kidnap soldiers and fire Qassam missiles into Sderot. But if you want to spread propaganda you’re welcome to do so;) Interestingly, the Palestinians “trapped the West Bank Pen” aren’t blowing themselves up into hamburger meat lately.

Perhaps you have an explaination?

BTW – If you REALLY want to see civilians trapped into a pen, take a drive through the main street of any major city. We feel your pain;)

Their tactic of trying to terrorize the populace by destroying whole neighborhoods and blowing up convoys didn’t really help them gain anything in Lebanon, where they faced a standard light infantry defense conducted by armed irregulars. (Hizbullah).

Israel has never tried to “gain” anything in Lebanon. Israel has never claimed any Lebanese terrortory. Rather, Israel is trying to prevent an Iranian-Hezbollah Holocaust whereby thousands of rockets land in Israeli population centers like they did last year.

Of course Leila, you failed to address that issue. That’s right, Hezbollah didn’t use their missiles for any other purpose than to “terrorize” Israel. And Israel only attacked buildings used by Hezbollah, or buildings where Hezbollah missiles were fired from. Moreover, Israel dropped leaflets giving civilians the ability to flee.

SO it would seem to me that the Israeli military is trying to get in shape.

You don’t say?

They would be negligent if they didn’t train.

More interesting observation and analysis.

They may in fact have been negligent all these years because they’ve been so busy trying to lock down three million Palestinians into a vast network of concentration camps.

What are you going to do to help your Holy Palestinian Concentration Camp residents? Let me guess:

1.) Provide them with more Semtex and nails?

2.) Provide them with more steel pipe for Qassam missiles?

3.) Provide them with inspirational tapes of Hassan Nasrallah or Osama bin Laden?

4.) Provide them with food and water?

5.) A copy of “How to Win Friends and Influence People”?

This sort of behavior, aside from being morally repugnant, does not prepare a military for more serious combat.

What prepares a military for more serious combat is survival.

Yes, I am bitter. I am South Lebanese as well as American.

So is Brigitte Gabriel. But she doesn’t blame the Israelis and Americans like most brainwashed Arabs do.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Brigitte_Gabriel

I have friends who are Israeli but that doesn’t mean I wish the IDF well.

I have friends who are Arabs, but that doesn’t mean I wish terrorists like Hamas and Hezbollah well.

However you must look at how they themselves might be thinking.

If we must “look” Leila, we must do more than stare at TV tubes showing al-Jazeera and Syria Comment .

We need diplomats, real diplomats, now more than ever.

No, we don’t need diplomats. We need Arabs to denounce terrorism, plain and simple.

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July 11th, 2007, 12:59 am

 

6. ausamaa said:

I am becoming a little thick some times. I have to admit! I fail to understand why is Ehude Olmert so “occupied” with sitting with Bashar Al Assad who is hundreds of miles away to discuss peace, but is still unable to either discuss or achieve anything resembling peace even with his “Dear Friend” Mahmoud Abbas who is only a ten minute drive away, and who is certainly eager, ready and willing to discuss peace with Ehude Olmert (with the support and encouragement of Bush and birth-bangs Rice?!

Come Ehude Olmert, why not show everyone some good faith by attending to things falling within the realm of the possible before you start attempting more challenging tasks. Unless you have bad intentions, God forbid!

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July 11th, 2007, 1:15 am

 

7. Ghassan said:

I sense that there is something cooking somewhere somehow! I don’t know what!!!

Iran: Condelezza Rice is using the same tactics that was used on the Soviet Union on Iran. By the way, her specialty is the Soviet Union. The US wants to outspend Iran (Iran can barely have enough gas for its cars) and keep Iran on alert until it breaks down! Yes, Iran will have a nuclear bomb (Soviet Union had thousands of them) but will not dare use it because it knows that Iran will be a waste land for a million years!

Syria: My feeling on Syria is that Bashar Asad pretending that he wants to create a front like the one that Hizbullah created in South Lebanon but he is bluffing! He knows that Israel will hit HIS palace and Asad family will be gone for ever!

Israel: Barak is in control of the IDF and its military is itching for a rematch with Hizbullah and are ready to hit Syria if it interferes! Asad will never interfere. He just talks!!!

Lebanon: There are a lot of uncertainty between now and the presidential election. HA is trying to create facts on the ground but making the “other than Shia3a” leave Lebanon so the next election will get them more power. They will never be a majority but may get them more MPs. Unless it will backfire and the “other than Shi3a” are sick of Hizb-Iran and will vote them out!

Summary: ANY thing may ignite a war in the Region but the window will close by end of August! But you never know. The 1973 war started in October!

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July 11th, 2007, 2:05 am

 

8. Nur al-Cubicle said:

Anyone following this new political party in Lebanon, “The Lebanese Option”? It’s a Shi’ite party led Ahmad el-Assaad) and joined by academics and certain political figures.

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July 11th, 2007, 7:21 am

 

9. Antoun said:

An interesting and long read.

It was alluded to in the piece that Syria and Israel may possibly find themselves on the same side of the coin given that the Middle East is taking a turn to religious fanaticism.

However, as it currently stands, the US and Israel form an axis of their own in the Middle East. Peace with one cannot occur without the other. Some analysts have observed that the Americans appear to be more reluctant about peace with Syria than the Israelis themselves.

We often hear of the need for Syria to express willingness for serious negotiations, but why don’t we turn the spotlight on Israel?

Israel needs to reassess its national interests, excluding the American element to their existence. AIPAC and other pro-Israeli lobbies in the US have done a tremendous job at ensuring American foreign interest has a large Israeli portfolio.

They have maintained the US’ advanced military and economic aid to the tiny state. However, AIPAC has gone much further than that. It was a major element in promoting the Iraq invasion, and has made the neocon vision of the Middle East as standard US policy under the Bush Administration.

The Israelis went into war in Lebanon with American assurances, and lost. The Israelis are still engaged with the Americans and Saudis at preventing an inevitable Hizballah take over of the country. Even if civil war is the end result, victory for the American-Israeli axis is far off if the Syrian-Iranian alliance remains intact.

In addition, the Israelis are still shrugging off peace negotiations with Syria. If there has ever been a time for peace, now is definitely it. Israeli conservatives scoff at talks, claiming that Syria is a begging inferior looking for the easy way out.

What they have completely sidetracked is that Israel needs this agreement as much as the Syrians do.

As far as Israel’s short-term interests are concerned, an agreement with Syria will close the nightmare Lebanon chapter once and for all. Regardless of how strong Iran’s ties are to Hizballah, no power has greater influence in Lebanon than Syria. Its natural ties to its smaller neighbour are far too great. The Israeli problem has been that for 30 years it has tried to fight that Syrian influence (as it is doing today and still losing) than try to use it for its own purposes. Make peace with Syria, and there will be no more rockets from South Lebanon.

Israel’s greatest current threat isn’t from Lebanon, it emanates from Tehran. Iran is also another factor Syria can assist with. Syria despises religious fundamentalism and 20,000 dead in Hama is enough evidence of that. Despite the widespread corruption within its government offices, the Baath still adheres to a strictly secular, pan-Arab belief (although I believe it’s been watered down now to pan-Syrian ideals, which still includes the 3 trouble spots of Palestine, Lebanon and Iraq). Their relationship to Iran has its limits. Hizballah have generally been nationalistic in their behaviour and speech. That can be attributed to Syria’s strong distate for Islamism, Shi’ite or Sunni.

Last of all, Israel’s problem with the Palestinians. The Saudis, Jordanians and Egyptians each have tried to act as the Palestinians’ lawyer, but the Israelis (and the Arabs) have come to realise that it doesn’t do much while Hamas’ HQ still sits in Damascus. No peace agreement with the Palestinians will have any credence whilst Hamas falls under the protection of the Syrian umbrella.

Yes, Israeli conservatives will still argue that there are no guarantees the Syrians will change their behaviour. That’s why peace talks are needed, to lay down the guarantees. I doubt Syria will reign in on Hamas, but they will pressure them to sign an agreement. At the end of the day, Hamas can simply walk out of Damascus and move their HQ to Tehran or Mogadishu. They definitely have a lot of sympathisers among Islamists worldwide.

As for Hizballah, they represent the core of Lebanon’s large Shia community. Lebanon will forever remain weak and under the influence of Syria, there is little harm it can do without Syrian backing. If Syria wants to use the Lebanon card against Israel, it will. Equally if it doesn’t, it won’t.

Israel also needs to address its long-term interests. Yes, it is the power of the region at the moment. However, if history has not taught us, the most arrogant powers are generally the quickest to fall. Neocon obsession with American power drove it to a blind war in Iraq which has cost them dearly. Israel cannot afford to walk down a similar path.

Israel is in power in the region, there has not been a Soviet Union propping up its Arab opponents for 17 years. In those 17 years, Israel has had the chance to do what people in power rarely do … invest it in peace. Whilst the Arabs are divided and begging, the Jewish state has the best opportunity to finalise their existence in a world of 250 million angry Arabs.

The Israelis need also to look at the long-term in order to assess the worth of peace treaties. Are they hoping to guarantee their future of the next 20 years, or the next 100 years? The Arabs are crawling on their feet now, but it’s only a matter of time before they get their act together and find enough power to contend with Israel. It has taken only one non-Arab Islamist power to cause Israeli spines to shake. Perhaps the US will contain Iran (and there aren’t any guarantees of that either), but what about the next time? What about the next Islamic or Arab nationalist revolution that takes place? What will happen in 50-100 years time when pro-African and Arab China arises as the world power? Israel has to stop giving excuses to these revolutions. It’s their power that will end up destroying them if it is used unwisely.

The Palestinian population will soon overtake Israel’s Jewish population. The Israelis have to acknowledge the reality. Either by breeding or by the gun, the Arabs will eventually defeat Israel. Best to put an end to the conflict while the Israelis are still riding on top. The funny thing about power is that it never lasts.

Israel cannot survive by the gun, it must make peace and make the necessary concessions now to ensure there remains a Jewish state come the year 2100.

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July 11th, 2007, 8:28 am

 

10. Akbar Palace said:

Lebanese army poised to storm Palestinian camp

I guess the Lebanese have enemies that aren’t Jewish.

Someone may do Leila a favor and tell her about it.

http://news.yahoo.com/s/nm/20070711/ts_nm/lebanon_fighting_dc_1;_ylt=Ai3jQCES2aokPlLv.Qt_jm0E1vAI

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July 11th, 2007, 9:36 am

 

11. SimoHurtta said:

There is no military or political sense that Syria would attack Israel. Syria is military to weak to attack but enough strong to defend for some time and to make a war “expensive” to Israel.

Even in the case that Israel would not have the US guaranties of military aid and Syria’s army would be superior a attack form Syria’s point of view would be excluded. Syrians know that Israel would use its wast nuclear weapon and other WMD arsenal in case the
Israeli defence lines would be in danger to collapse. The only defence against nukes are own nukes.

From Israel’s point of view an attack against Syria would be much more understandable / probable. It would roll back the close neighbourhood’s only military might which doesn’t obey Washington and create most certainly a new “Iraq” (a couple of decades of internal chaos). Israel would also benefit from a war besides getting more lebensraum also making the keeping Golan more certain, also a long delay in the two state solution. An extra bonus would be the money flow continuing from USA in years to come. Peace is a threat to the present days Israel.

The real problem for Israel / USA is to stage the arena so that Syria is seen as an attacker. The problem will be that very few in the world will believe that Syria and Iran would attack the number one and four (or five) military mights of the world. It would be as believable as if Poland and Estonia would now attack Russia.

One Finnish radio reporter, when giving a report some time ago of the discussion of peace talks with Syria in Israel, wondered, why on the same time Israel is showing in television in the prime time a military exercise where IDF was practising invading Syrian villages. Practising invading Syrian villages is hardy a defensive “signal” to Syrians and Israelis. Not to mention us others.

Israel has never tried to “gain” anything in Lebanon. Israel has never claimed any Lebanese terrortory. Rather, Israel is trying to prevent an Iranian-Hezbollah Holocaust whereby thousands of rockets land in Israeli population centers like they did last year.

Really Akbar. No claims but Israelis are still holding Lebanese territory (UN is demanding Shaba Farms under UNIFIL control), not to mention the constant border violations by Israel. By the way why did Israel attack Lebanon the first time when there was no Hizbollah and when Israel was selling weapons to Iran? Do you Akbar ever read any newspapers and books or are like your (US) President?

No, we don’t need diplomats. We need Arabs to denounce terrorism, plain and simple.

Has Israel ever had real diplomats in their leadership? Ariel Sharon and the other overaggressive generals leading the country have been the worst diplomats in modern world history. Well maybe Saddam’s Iraq had equal diplomatic skills, but much less nuclear weapons and other WMD’s. The only Israeli leader who showed some minor diplomatic skills was murdered by a domestic terrorist movement.

How about Akbar Israel gives the Arabs solid promises about the two state solution, 1967 borders and compensation, for example. In return a demand of denouncing violent actions would be understandable and founded. What if Arabs would demand Israel to demolish IDF before even beginning to peace talks? It would be as “constructive” as the present Israeli “diplomacy”.

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July 11th, 2007, 10:41 am

 

12. Thomas said:

Hey, did anybody hear about the exciting new sex clubs just outside Damascus? Was featured on NBC Nightly News. Features Iraqi refugee girls dancing for dirty old Syrian and Saudi men! Proprietor says that he is “helping” the Iraqi refugees by giving them “jobs”. Kind of like Syrian helped Lebanon if you believe in this tortured Syrian logic.

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July 11th, 2007, 1:15 pm

 

13. Atassi said:

Israeli assessment: war with Syria could be “10 times worse than Hezbollah”

11 July 2007

BBC Monitoring Middle East
English
(c) 2007 The British Broadcasting Corporation. All Rights Reserved. No material may be reproduced except with the express permission of The British Broadcasting Corporation.

Text of report in English by Israeli newspaper The Jerusalem Post website on 11 July

[Report by Ya’aqov Katz: “IDF: War With Syria Would be 10 Times Worse Than Hezbollah”]

Predicting that war with Syria could erupt if Prime Minister Ehud Olmert does not begin peace negotiations with Damascus, the latest IDF assessment also states that such a conflict would be “at least 10 times worse” than last summer’s conflict with Hezbollah.

Military Intelligence is also identifying and pinpointing targets for the IDF in the event that a strike is launched against Iran’s nuclear facilities.

MI recently established a new division to translate intelligence into concrete targets and information that can be used by units in the field. The new division is headed by Brig.-Gen. Nitzan Alon, a former commander of the General Staff’s Reconnaissance Unit (Sayeret Matkal.) The Israel Air Force has its own department that is responsible for processing intelligence and identifying targets.

According to IDF assessments Syria is not interested in an armed confrontation, but has stepped up its preparations for war since last year’s Israel-Hezbollah conflict.

Due to the lack of communication between the two countries, the IDF assessment is that a war could erupt sometime in the coming year if a diplomatic resolution is not reached first.

If war breaks out, the IDF believes Syria would fire thousands of long-and short range missiles at Israeli cities.

The assumption is that a war with Syria would erupt due to a “miscalculation” along the border, in the form of a terrorist attack that escalates into a larger conflict.

Syria has come to believe that the United States will attack Iran this summer, and that as a result, Israel will once more go to war with Hezbollah. If that happens, Syria believes Israel will not confine its operations to Lebanon, but will also strike Syrian targets.

Syria has transferred several hundred medium-range missiles to Hezbollah, The Jerusalem Post has learned, which has completely replenished its weapon supplies, exhausted during last summer’s war. The missiles include 220-mm. and 302-mm. Katyusha rockets that have ranges of up to 60 kilometres.

The IDF suspects that Hezbollah may have received more advanced Iranian and Syrian missiles, with the assumption being that any weapon small enough to fit into a standard 12-meter shipping container has been sent to the guerrilla group by the two countries.

Turning to Iran, the assumption is that Teheran will continue to advance with its nuclear programme, in defiance of United Nations-imposed sanctions and resolutions.

According to the most pessimistic estimates in the defence establishment, Iran will obtain a nuclear bomb by mid-2009, although the chances of this happening are seen as slim and it is more likely that the Islamic Republic will only succeed in manufacturing a nuclear device in 2010 or 2011.

The IDF believes that within the next six months, Iran will cross the technological threshold, obtaining independent research and development capabilities and mastering the technology needed to enrich uranium.

According to the IDF assessment, a military strike could cause enough damage to dramatically set back Iran’s nuclear programme.

The Iranian regime is believed to be strong and Israel does not believe that it can currently be toppled.

Concerning Hezbollah, Israel says the IDF killed some 600 gunmen during the war last summer, a tenth of the group’s armed men. The guerrilla group is having trouble recruiting new guerrillas into its ranks, according to the IDF.

The growing assumption in the IDF is that Hezbollah is not currently interested in another round of fighting with Israel and that it is rehabilitating its damaged infrastructure. The assumption is that Hezbollah will recover by mid-2008 and might renew attacks against Israel.

Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah remains a target for the IDF, although the assumption within the defence establishment is that the guerrilla group would respond harshly if he were killed.

Source: The Jerusalem Post website, Jerusalem, in English 11 Jul 07

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July 11th, 2007, 6:43 pm

 
 

15. ausamaa said:

Akkbar Palace,

Do you think you are adressing Alabama’s hillbillies? Even those people have come to know that a lot of your people’s talk is pure BS.
We, at this blog -you included of course- know where all the bodies are buried. AND, who killed them too!

Get serious, or more sane at least!!

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July 12th, 2007, 2:22 am

 

16. ausamaa said:

Attasi,

Is “ten more times worse than with Hizbullah” prohibitive and bad enough for Israel? If it is only as bad as “once” with Hizbullah, that is more than enough to give Syria a sense of real security.

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July 12th, 2007, 2:27 am

 

17. Akbar Palace said:

Do you think you are adressing Alabama’s hillbillies? Even those people have come to know that a lot of your people’s talk is pure BS.

Ausamma –

Alabama’s “Hillbillies”? I see your time at the Madrassa has not been wasted!;o)

http://www.alsde.edu/html/home.asp

http://www.hightechdirectory.alabama.gov/home.asp

http://www.jewishvirtuallibrary.org/jsource/states/AL.html

We, at this blog -you included of course- know where all the bodies are buried. AND, who killed them too!

What we know is one thing. What we admit, is something else.

http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/programmes/correspondent/2785095.stm

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July 12th, 2007, 3:08 am

 

18. swerv21 said:

AP:

All the arabs will get together for a big fat Arab convention tomorrow. In the evening they’ll get dressed in their best clothes, pose for the cameras as they put their hands over their heart and denounce terrorism pure and simple. Then everyone will resolve to hold hands, arab and jew, and sing kumbaya under a lovely pink cloud of togetherness.

And then, magically, all of the bad people, the killers, the terrorists, the hate, the bad faith, the promises broken, the lies, the miserable history of conflict in this misbegotten region will dissolve in a puff of white smoke, because arab finally said to jew ‘ i denounce’ and jew admitted to arab that ‘your are also a victim’.

hey man, sign me up. sounds like a plan to me.

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July 12th, 2007, 3:43 am

 

19. swerv21 said:

ausamma:

i live in alabama.

Alabamians are all hillbillies, all Arabs are terrorists or terrorist sympathizers, and all Jews are neo-con likudniks bent on world domination.

you’d think that being SC readers, we’d try to be a little less sweeping in our bulls$%^% characterizations of people from other parts of the world.

you’d think.

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July 12th, 2007, 3:50 am

 

20. God's Side! said:

God has Israel’s back all the way, and those who goes against her(Israel) are fools are are cursed. God bless Israel!!!

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July 12th, 2007, 5:52 am

 

21. Joshua said:

Dear Swerv21, In Oklahoma, we look up to the Alabamians. Nice to have the East Coast elite writing on SC!

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July 12th, 2007, 6:08 am

 

22. Akbar Palace said:

Swerv21 said:

All the arabs will get together for a big fat Arab convention tomorrow.

I know you and a lot of Israel haters will be trilled. All Arabs? All 1.0 Billion, or just those that can afford the airfare and have a passport?

In the evening they’ll get dressed in their best clothes, pose for the cameras as they put their hands over their heart and denounce terrorism pure and simple.

Only in your mind.

Then everyone will resolve to hold hands, arab and jew, and sing kumbaya under a lovely pink cloud of togetherness.

It couldn’t hurt.

And then, magically, all of the bad people, the killers, the terrorists, the hate, the bad faith, the promises broken, the lies, the miserable history of conflict in this misbegotten region will dissolve in a puff of white smoke…

No, because the despots like Ahmadinejad, Assad, and Saudis will still be in control of the ME terror organizations. The “puff of white smoke” is more indicative of the dream you just woke up from.

Professor Josh states:

Dear Swerv21, In Oklahoma, we look up to the Alabamians. Nice to have the East Coast elite writing on SC!

I look up to every American community, including Alabama.

you’d think that being SC readers, we’d try to be a little less sweeping in our bulls$%^% characterizations of people from other parts of the world.

Yes, you’d think.

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July 12th, 2007, 10:57 am

 

23. ausamaa said:

SEWRVE 21,

I love Alabama, I went to school in Tuscaloosa, and it was my Alabama friends who used to jock about Alabama’s Hillibilies, that is who introduced me to the “term”….

But are you really so sensetive about such things that you are unable to lightheartedly digest the use of such a phrase? Come on.

If you are, then some good would come out of it, because maybe now you can feel how Ayrabs must feel about how most Americans used to portaray them as wealthy camel riders in the good old days, and as monsterous terroirsts nowadays…

Come on…do not read too much into things

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July 12th, 2007, 12:04 pm

 

24. swerv21 said:

AP:

I’m not sure that the internet standards people have come up with the appropriate emoticon for irony. Obviously it would have helped my post. You, on the other hand, don’t seem to need it.

AUSAMAA:

Yes, it might be good to start to understand how the Ayrabs feel. Thanks, I’ll think about that now.

Josh:

I don’t need to tell you that down here, we like to measure a states worth by its relative strength in the BCS rankings. Usually we’re the ones looking up to you all. But thanks.

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July 12th, 2007, 12:35 pm

 

25. ausamaa said:

SWERVE 21

LOL

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July 12th, 2007, 3:56 pm

 

26. K said:

ALEX!

Spammed message alert 🙂

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July 12th, 2007, 4:24 pm

 

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