Saudi Arabia Calls on its nationals to leave Lebanon

The Saudi Arabian embassy in Beirut has called on its nationals to leave Lebanon
a day after a US warship was positioned off the country's coast. 
19:16 MECCA TIME, 16:16 GMT

Kuwait and Bahrain followed with similar calls Sunni Muslim Saudi Arabia is a major supporter of the Sunni-led government in Lebanon which has been locked in a 15-month-old political standoff with an opposition led by Iranian-and-Syrian backed Hezbollah. Fouad Siniora, the Lebanese prime minister, has denied asking the US to deploy the warship USS Cole and two support ships amid the country's continuing political deadlock. Siniora reportedly summoned the US ambassador on Friday for an explanation. Siniora said: "We did not request any warships from any party."

He also stressed the importance of Lebanon's independence and sovereignty "so that it will not become an arena for the conflicts of regional and international powers" Siniora said there are no warships in Lebanese territorial waters, except Lebanon's small navy – made up of patrol boats – and the 12 warships belonging to a UN peacekeeping force.

US position

According to Gordon Johndroe, a White House spokesman, Washington has had "regular consultations" with Siniora and other US allies in the region.

"There's constant communications at various levels," he said.

The US declined to say whether the decision to deploy the USS Cole was a show of force aimed at Syria, which it has accused of interfering in Lebanon.

Lebanon's governing coalition and the Hezbollah-led opposition have failed to reach a deal over the election of a new president.

A senior US official said Washington was "very concerned" about the situation in Lebanon and called the move "support for regional stability".
"The United States believes a show of support is important for regional stability," the official said.
Gaza link

Nabih Berri, the parliament speaker, who is aligned with the opposition, has linked the deployment of the warships to Israel's raids in the Gaza Strip.
"The target [of US warships] is Gaza. It is aimed to allow what must happen in Gaza to happen without anyone moving to support [the Palestinians]," he said.

"This is a real threat, not merely a muscle-flexing."

Berri also said that the US military move was designed to focus attention on Lebanon "in order to cover up the massacres being committed in Gaza".

"This [US] fleet comes to back Israel so that it can complete its plan," he said.

'Gun boat diplomacy'


Earlier, Richard Murphy, a former US ambassador to Syria, told Al Jazeera that the move was a sign that the US did not know what to do about Lebanon.


Earlier, Richard Murphy, a former US ambassador to Syria, told Al Jazeera that the move was a sign that the US did not know what to do about Lebanon.

"It is gunboat diplomacy. I think it would be more useful for the US to find a way to engage with the conflicting parties in Lebanon.
"We have no dialogue with Syria and this is a moment for dialogue." 
Seventeen US sailors were killed in October 2000 when the USS Cole was attacked off the coast of Yemen by al-Qaeda fighters.

Comments (123)

Akbar Palace said:

Richard Murphy…another lost cause.

Why is it, all those that have a penchant for criticising Bush never did any better when they were in office.

Murphy, Brezinski, Baker, Alb1right, Christopher, Clinton, Carter, the list goes on…loser after loser…has-been after has-been.

They all had their chance, and they all failed.

At least Bush threw out a dictator and brought democracy to an Arab country. At least Bush threw out the Taliban and al-Queda in Afghanistan. At least Bush got Libya to stop their nuclear aspirations. Who knows, maybe there will be some new opportunities for peace before Bush leaves…

March 1st, 2008, 11:39 pm


Qifa Nabki said:

Nabih Berri, the parliament speaker, who is aligned with the opposition, has linked the deployment of the warships to Israel’s raids in the Gaza Strip.
“The target [of US warships] is Gaza. It is aimed to allow what must happen in Gaza to happen without anyone moving to support [the Palestinians],” he said.

Berri is completely incoherent, I’m sorry. What does a US warship have to do with preventing the support of the Palestinians? Who is even in a position to support the Palestinians, and how does the warship thwart this potential support? The support for the Palestinians is rhetorical, and if anything, the existence of the warship enables the circulation of meaningless rhetoric.

I’m so sick and tired of the cult of irrationalism. These ridiculous politicians (from Berri to Bush) are tripping over themselves to outdo each other in nonsensical rhetoric.

March 1st, 2008, 11:41 pm


SimoHurtta said:

At least Bush threw out a dictator and brought democracy to an Arab country. At least Bush threw out the Taliban and al-Queda in Afghanistan. At least Bush got Libya to stop their nuclear aspirations. Who knows, maybe there will be some new opportunities for peace before Bush leaves…

Akbar if Bush’s “investments” in Iraq and Afghanistan were really for democracy, then he has done some worst investment decisions in history. The Talebans and Al Qaida seem to be very (=incresingly) active in Afghanistan. US foreign official was just in Finland begging (as the Finnish media described it) for more troops and more money for the Afghanistan’s “democracy”. Iraq is by all measurements even a worse democracy than Israel, if you understand what democracy in the end means.

Bush achievements are the complete collapse of US reputation among the masses, the collapse of US economy and currency, limiting US own rather relative democracy in an unseen speed etc. The real Bush’s achievement has been generating money to his buddies (and relatives) in the Carlyle Group and oil industry. And naturally more “benefits” for Israel.

It is rather amusing that EU is now activating its economical ties (new nuclear power stations etc) with the same dictator who was on the black list before. Do you Akbar really believe that this all is for democracy?

Rather astonishing that the most anti-democratic pro-US Arab leaders are interested in creating a “democracy” in Lebanon, when democracy in their own countries is a joke. Obedience Akbar is the real keyword, democracy in speeches is used only for fools like you. The “democracies” USA created in South East Asia and Latin America have thought to us who know history better than you, that it has been never in US interests to create democracies. Not before nor now.

March 2nd, 2008, 12:41 am


I’m Rethinking That Trip to Lebanon « Moue Magazine said:

[…] I’m Rethinking That Trip to Lebanon Via Joshua Landis — this is not good: The Saudi Arabian embassy in Beirut has called on its nationals to leave Lebanon a day after a US warship was positioned off the country’s coast. Kuwait and Bahrain followed with similar calls. […]

March 2nd, 2008, 12:42 am


Qifa Nabki said:


What then, do you suggest that America do to address all of the failures you mock?

March 2nd, 2008, 12:48 am


Enlightened said:

Lunch club article:

Tuesday, February 26, 2008
Schmidt: Syria – the ’little China’ of the Middle East or an Islamic Revolution Waiting to Happen?

Søren Schmidt

Has the Syrian regime succeeded in plagiarizing the Chinese development model in which economic liberalization and growth goes hand in hand with political dictatorship and oppression of civil rights? In recent years, economic growth has been a good six percent a year, and the regime has apparently succeeded in weakening the democratic opposition and isolating it from the general public. Or is this apparently successful model on the verge of collapse in the face of Islamic resurgence? Does Syria’s future lie with an Iranian model more than a Chinese one?

The economic growth is not only due to increased demand by over a million refugees from Iraq, but is also based on increased investments and sales in both the commercial and tourist sectors and export to the Gulf countries in the wake of the free trade agreement approved by the Arab countries a few years ago.

The Danish architect studio, Henning Larsen Architects, won a competition last year to design a 15,000 m2 discovery centre in Damascus. Just outside the city, another ambitious construction project is underway for 3 billion DKK that contains housing and a gigantic shopping and business centre, including a stock market. These two projects, plus several more, are being constructed while Syria’s oil production is decreasing and the country is beleaguered by a US trade embargo.

At the same time, Damascus has recently imprisoned critics who signed the so-called Damascus declaration of October 2005, demanding a liberalization of the political system.

So it does seem on the surface that Syria has succeeded in copying the Chinese model that is so popular among authoritarian regimes.

However, if we dig just a little deeper, we find some serious problems.

The most serious economic problem in Syria is that productivity of the industrial sector has still not improved in any significant way. As a result, Syrian industrial products are still unable to compete on global markets.

Productivity is dependent on three factors: the labour force’s qualifications, organization of the division of labour, and technology. A country’s long-term economic development depends mainly on its ability to bring these three factors into play.

Many private schools and universities have been established in recent years and contributed to improving the educational level and thus the labour force’s qualifications. However, only a minority can afford to pay tuition at these schools, and also the main areas being taught are political science and the humanities and not the natural sciences or mathematics. As a result, more men are being educated for the commercial sector, and more future housewives are extending their knowledge of English literature etc., while few are being trained to run modern industrial enterprises. The government is satisfied with liberalizing the educational sector, while neglecting to take any constructive and active steps to improve education.

The division of labour is mainly accomplished today by integrating enterprises in global value and marketing chains in order to make mass-production benefits and specialization possible. These benefits cannot be exploited by producing for the limited Syrian market. Rather, in order to realize them, production must be aimed at international markets through cooperation with large international companies.

Syria’s political isolation and high level of economic risk have caused Syria to be the country in the Middle East that continues to be least integrated into the international economy. This isolation in turn has led to high production costs and poor ability to compete.

Authoritarianism continues to be a drawback on the economic side of the ledger. Because of the lack of due process in the country, foreign investments are restricted to the commercial sector and tourism, where earnings are quick and safe. Risk capital and long-term investments, which characterize the industrial sector, are avoided.

An optimal division of labour in the country’s production also requires a financial system that makes it possible for citizens to channel their savings into the most profitable investments. In this area, Syria has actually made progress. Private banks have been established and the activities of the financial sector have been liberalized; however, corruption and inefficiency within the government limit the ability to control the private financial sector effectively. This creates possibilities for swindle and sets a limit for confidence and credibility in the financial sector among economic actors. Government investments in physical and regulatory infrastructure are also decisive for an optimal organization of the division of labour. Although roads and harbours function reasonably well, especially the authorities’ ability to implement and enforce regulations is seriously deficient.

The greatest technological progress in Syria in recent years has been the introduction of cell phones and the internet. These technologies are also used everywhere else, however. The only way to increase Syria’s use of modern technology in the industrial sector is to encourage foreign investments for this purpose.

Thus, state policies are the crucial determinant of the qualifications of the labour force, the division of labour, and the implementation of technology.

Without regular control by the voters (democracy) and freedom of expression it is difficult to prevent corruption and inefficiency within the public sector. In China, a public-service oriented elite still compensates for the lack of democracy, whereas the political elite in Syria does not seem to take such considerations seriously. Therefore, countless examples can be found of government officials acting as a kind of mafia, greedily making themselves rich and using brutal violence when necessary. However, so far President Bashar al-Asad has understood how to distribute benefits among the elite without antagonizing more people than absolutely necessary, while also appropriately punishing those who ’misbehave’ – for example, by expropriating all the property belonging to the former vice-president and present regime critic, Abdul Halim Khaddam, and his family.

One result of the government’s failure is the growing inequality in income distribution and the general population’s increasing dependence on social assistance, such as mutual health insurance arrangements and burial funds.

Some observers have descriptively termed this economic growth as ’Beirutization’, implying that Syria increasingly resembles Lebanon, where the elites are jet-setters while the rest of the population slides into poverty and underdevelopment.

The government’s lack of ability and will to provide public health services and other forms of social welfare has led many Syrians to turn to fundamentalist Islam. Because of the absence of the public sector, the Islamic organizations have grown and created self-help programmes; and increasing numbers of veiled women and bearded men are seen in the streets. Even though the Islamist organizations cooperate with the regime, which also finances large new mosques, it is difficult to imagine that these organizations will not in the long run come to influence the way in which the country is governed. In addition to social solidarity, two of the most important elements in the Islamist ideology are fighting against corruption and enforcing moral virtue. Thus, the elite’s fondness for fast cars and bordellos that attract tourists from the Persian Gulf cannot help offending the virtuous Islamists.

All in all, the Syrian regime has proved to be far more pragmatic than many had imagined. But without some form of democracy, freedom of expression and a certain degree of social justice that can strengthen the country’s democratic opposition, it seems certain that the Islamist opposition will at some point challenge the present regime’s monopoly on political power. Whether the result will be a form of modern ’Turkish’ Islamism or a more radical ’Iranian’ form is still difficult to predict.

Project Researcher
Danish Institute for International Studies
Strandgade 56
1401 København K

Maja Bak-Hansen said…

Interesting article!

It seems that one important factor in “The Chinese Model”, that Syria lacks, is the strong sense of obedience and respect towards the Communist Party and the government that has existed for decades – and still prevails to exist – in most Chinese. The same cannot be said for the Syrians’ feelings towards their government and their underlying political ideology.
Therefore it seems that the Syrian regime will have a much tougher time surviving a social and economic transition-period, than the Chinese has – and that the battle for power therefore in the end will be between Islamic and democratic forces.

March 2nd, 2008, 1:15 am


norman said:

I wonder if the ships are there to evacuate the American when a new war starts, so we are ready and nobody can blame the American government of ab banding our people in war torn Lebanon like we did in 2006 .

March 2nd, 2008, 2:22 am


AnotherIsraeliGuy said:

What, Enlightened is posting neo-con views?
Or is Schmidt really part of AIPAC.
He says clearly:
But without some form of democracy, freedom of expression and a certain degree of social justice that can strengthen the country’s democratic opposition, it seems certain that the Islamist opposition will at some point challenge the present regime’s monopoly on political power. Whether the result will be a form of modern ’Turkish’ Islamism or a more radical ’Iranian’ form is still difficult to predict.

I wonder who else on this blog has been saying this for quite a while…

March 2nd, 2008, 2:30 am


Enlightened said:

QN Said:

” Nabih Berri, the parliament speaker, who is aligned with the opposition, has linked the deployment of the warships to Israel’s raids in the Gaza Strip.
“The target [of US warships] is Gaza. It is aimed to allow what must happen in Gaza to happen without anyone moving to support [the Palestinians],” he said.

Berri is completely incoherent, I’m sorry. What does a US warship have to do with preventing the support of the Palestinians?

QN: ” This is double speak! The mythical support that he is talking about ie; His Hezb allies and his Amal (militia which helped the Hezb in 2006) as a consequence can not initiate anything across the Lebanese border, as they did with the Kidnapping of Shalit in the territories, and the subsequent kidnapping of the two soldiers across the Israeli border.

He is incoherent but that was he is alluding to, that the deployment of the ships is a message to “The Resistance” , not to interfere.

Bloody politicians why cant they say what they mean so we have to constantly decipher , their BS and double speak?

March 2nd, 2008, 2:44 am


Enlightened said:

What’s with the lovefest for Hezbollah?

Michael Young | February 28, 2008

When Hezbollah official Imad Mughniyeh was assassinated earlier this month in Damascus, the collateral damage was felt in academic departments, newsrooms, think tanks, and cafes far and wide. That’s because it quickly became apparent how wrong many of the alleged “experts” writing about the militant Shiite organization had been.

At Mughniyeh’s funeral, Hezbollah leaders placed him in a trinity of party heroes “martyred” at Israeli hands. The secretary general of Hezbollah, Hassan Nasrallah, vowed “open war” against Israel in retaliation. Tens of thousands of people attended the ceremony, and for days Hezbollah received condolences. Iranian officials stepped over each other to condemn the assassination, many of them affirming that Israel’s demise was inevitable. In the midst of all this one thing was plain: Mughniyeh was a highly significant figure in Hezbollah, and the party didn’t hide it.

And yet over the years, an embarrassing number of writers and academics with some access to Hezbollah dutifully relayed what party cadres had told them about Mughniyeh: He was unimportant and may even have been a figment of our imagination. It was understandable that Hezbollah would blur the trail of so vital an official, but how could those writing about the party swallow this line without pursuing the numerous sources that could confirm details of Mughniyeh’s past? Their fault was laziness, and at times tendentiousness.

Hezbollah is adept at turning contacts with the party into valuable favors. Writers and scholars, particularly Westerners, who lay claim to Hezbollah sources, are regarded as special for penetrating so closed a society. That’s why their writing is often edited with minimal rigor. Hezbollah always denied everything that was said about Mughniyeh, and few authors (or editors) showed the curiosity to push further than that. The mere fact of getting such a denial was considered an achievement in itself, a sign of rare access, and no one was about to jeopardize that access by calling Hezbollah liars.

But there was more here than just manipulation. The Mughniyeh affair highlights a deeper problem long obvious to those who follow Hezbollah: The party, though it is religious, autocratic, and armed to the teeth, often elicits approval from secular, liberal Westerners who otherwise share nothing of its values. This reaction, in its more extreme forms, is reflected in the way many on the far left have embraced Hezbollah’s militancy, but also that of other Islamist groups like Hamas or Islamic Jihad—thoroughly undermining their ideological principles in the process.

The primary emotion driving together the far-left and militant Islamists, but also frequently prompting secular liberals to applaud armed Islamic groups as well, is hostility toward the United States, toward Israel for its treatment of the Palestinians, and, more broadly, toward what is seen as Western-dominated, capitalist-driven globalization.

Fred Halliday, himself a man of the left, wrote scathingly of the dangers in the accommodation between Islamists and the left based on a perception of shared anti-imperialism: “All of this is—at least to those with historical awareness, skeptical political intelligence, or merely a long memory—disturbing. This is because its effect is to reinforce one of the most pernicious and inaccurate of all political claims, and one made not by the left but by the imperialist right. It is also one that underlies the U.S.-declared ‘war on terror’ and the policies that have resulted from 9/11: namely, that Islamism is a movement aimed against ‘the west.'”

A bizarre offshoot of this trend has been the left’s elevation of Islamist “resistance” to the level of a fetish. You know something has gone horribly wrong when the writer and academic Norman Finkelstein volunteers to interpret Hezbollah for you, before prefacing his comments with: “I don’t care about Hezbollah as a political organization. I don’t know much about their politics, and anyhow, it’s irrelevant. I don’t live in Lebanon.”

In a recent interview on Lebanese television, Finkelstein made it a point of expressing his “solidarity” with Hezbollah, on the grounds that “there is a fundamental principle. People have the right to defend their country from foreign occupiers, and people have the right to defend their country from invaders who are destroying their country. That to me is a very basic, elementary and uncomplicated question.”

It is indeed uncomplicated if you remain mulishly unwilling to move beyond the narrow parameters you’ve set for discussion. But the reality is that Hezbollah is an immensely complicated question in Lebanon, where a majority of people are at a loss about what to do with a heavily armed organization that has no patience for state authority, that refuses to hand its weapons over to the national army, that is advancing an Iranian and Syrian agenda against the legal Lebanese government, and that functions as a secretive Shiite paramilitary militia in a country where sectarian religious assertiveness often leads to conflict. That many Lebanese should have seen Finkelstein praise what they feel is Hezbollah’s most dangerous attributes was surpassed in its capacity to irritate only by the fact that he lectured them on how armed resistance was the sole option against Israel, regardless of the anticipated destruction, “unless you choose to be [Israeli] slaves—and many people here have chosen that.”

But Finkelstein is no worse than Noam Chomsky, or that clutter of “progressive” academics and intellectuals who, at the height of the carnage during the 2006 Lebanon war, signed on to a petition declaring their “conscious support for the Lebanese national resistance,” described resistance as “an intellectual act par excellence” and condemned the Lebanese government for having distanced itself from Hezbollah, even though the party had unnecessarily provoked a devastating Israeli military onslaught that led to the death of over 1,200 people.

This behavior comes full circle especially for the revolutionary fringe on the left, which seems invariably to find its way back to violence. In the same way that Finkelstein can compare Hezbollah admiringly to the Soviet Red Army and the communist resistance during World War II (“it was brutal, it was ruthless”), he sees in resistance a quasi-religious act that brooks no challenge, even from its likely victims. What is so odd in Finkelstein and those like him is that the universalism and humanism at the heart of the left’s view of itself has evaporated, to be replaced by categorical imperatives usually associated with the extreme right: blood; honor; solidarity; and the defense of near-hallowed land.

Blind faith in the service of total principle is what makes those like Finkelstein and Chomsky so vile. But their posturing is made possible because of the less ardent secular liberal publicists out there who surrender to the narratives that Islamists such as Hezbollah, Hamas, or others peddle to them—lending them legitimacy. That’s because modern scholarship, like liberalism itself, refuses to impose Western cultural standards on non-Westerners. Fine. But as the Mughniyeh case shows, when Islamists dominate the debate affecting them, there are plenty of fools out there dying to be tossed a bone.

reason contributing editor Michael Young is opinion editor of the Daily Star newspaper in Lebanon.

Hey QN were you one of those leftist lunies caught out?

March 2nd, 2008, 2:58 am


norman said:

The Palestinians are dieing ,
look at what the Saudis were doing in Syria last summer , they were helping the Iraqis!.


May 29, 2007
Desperate Iraqi Refugees Turn to Sex Trade in Syria
MARABA, Syria — Back home in Iraq, Umm Hiba’s daughter was a devout schoolgirl, modest in her dress and serious about her studies. Hiba, who is now 16, wore the hijab, or Islamic head scarf, and rose early each day to say the dawn prayer before classes.

But that was before militias began threatening their Baghdad neighborhood and Umm Hiba and her daughter fled to Syria last spring. There were no jobs, and Umm Hiba’s elderly father developed complications related to his diabetes.

Desperate, Umm Hiba followed the advice of an Iraqi acquaintance and took her daughter to work at a nightclub along a highway known for prostitution. “We Iraqis used to be a proud people,” she said over the frantic blare of the club’s speakers. She pointed out her daughter, dancing among about two dozen other girls on the stage, wearing a pink silk dress with spaghetti straps, her frail shoulders bathed in colored light.

As Umm Hiba watched, a middle-aged man climbed onto the platform and began to dance jerkily, arms flailing, among the girls.

“During the war we lost everything,” she said. “We even lost our honor.” She insisted on being identified by only part of her name — Umm Hiba means mother of Hiba.

For anyone living in Damascus these days, the fact that some Iraqi refugees are selling sex or working in sex clubs is difficult to ignore.

Even in central Damascus, men freely talk of being approached by pimps trawling for customers outside juice shops and shawarma sandwich stalls, and of women walking up to passing men, an act unthinkable in Arab culture, and asking in Iraqi-accented Arabic if the men would like to “have a cup of tea.”

By day the road that leads from Damascus to the historic convent at Saidnaya is often choked with Christian and Muslim pilgrims hoping for one of the miracles attributed to a portrait of the Virgin Mary at the convent. But as any Damascene taxi driver can tell you, the Maraba section of this fabled pilgrim road is fast becoming better known for its brisk trade in Iraqi prostitutes.

Many of these women and girls, including some barely in their teens, are recent refugees. Some are tricked or forced into prostitution, but most say they have no other means of supporting their families. As a group they represent one of the most visible symptoms of an Iraqi refugee crisis that has exploded in Syria in recent months.

According to the United Nations high commissioner for refugees, about 1.2 million Iraqi refugees now live in Syria; the Syrian government puts the figure even higher.

Given the deteriorating economic situation of those refugees, a United Nations report found last year, many girls and women in “severe need” turn to prostitution, in secret or even with the knowledge or involvement of family members. In many cases, the report added, “the head of the family brings clients to the house.”

Aid workers say thousands of Iraqi women work as prostitutes in Syria, and point out that as violence in Iraq has increased, the refugee population has come to include more female-headed households and unaccompanied women.

“So many of the Iraqi women arriving now are living on their own with their children because the men in their families were killed or kidnapped,” said Sister Marie-Claude Naddaf, a Syrian nun at the Good Shepherd convent in Damascus, which helps Iraqi refugees.

She said the convent had surveyed Iraqi refugees living in Masaken Barzeh, on the outskirts of Damascus, and found 119 female-headed households in one small neighborhood. Some of the women, seeking work outside the home for the first time and living in a country with high unemployment, find that their only marketable asset is their bodies.

“I met three sisters-in-law recently who were living together and all prostituting themselves,” Sister Marie-Claude said. “They would go out on alternate nights — each woman took her turn — and then divide the money to feed all the children.”

For more than three years after the American-led invasion of Iraq in 2003, Iraqi prostitution in Syria, like any prostitution, was a forbidden topic for Syria’s government. Like drug abuse, the sex trade tends to be referred to in the local news media as acts against public decency. But Dietrun Günther, an official at the United Nations refugee agency’s Damascus office, said the government was finally breaking its silence.

“We’re especially concerned that there are young girls involved, and that they’re being forced, even smuggled into Syria in some cases,” Ms. Günther said. “We’ve had special talks with the Syrian government about prostitution.” She called the officials’ new openness “a great step.”

Mouna Asaad, a Syrian women’s rights lawyer, said the government had been blindsided by the scale of the arriving Iraqi refugee population. Syria does not require visas for citizens of Arab countries, and its government had pledged to assist needy Iraqis. But this country of 19 million was ill equipped to cope with the sudden arrival of hundreds of thousands of them, Ms. Asaad said.

“Sometimes you see whole families living this way, the girls pimped by the mother or aunt,” she said. “But prostitution isn’t the only problem. Our schools are overcrowded, and the prices of services, food and transportation have all risen. We don’t have the proper infrastructure to deal with this. We don’t have shelters or health centers that these women can go to. And because of the situation in Iraq, Syria is careful not to deport these women.”

Most of the semi-organized prostitution takes place on the outskirts of the capital, in nightclubs known as casinos — a local euphemism, because no gambling occurs.

At Al Rawabi, an expensive nightclub in Al Hami, there is even a floor show with an Iraqi theme. One recent evening, waiters brought out trays of snacks: French fries and grilled chicken hearts wrapped in foil folded into diamond shapes. A 10-piece band warmed up, and an M.C. gave the traditionally overwrought introduction in Arabic: “I give you the honey of all stages, the stealer of all hearts, the most golden throat, the glamorous artist: Maria!”

Maria, a buxom young woman, climbed onto the stage and began an anguished-sounding ballad. “After Iraq I have no homeland,” she sang. “I’m ready to go crawling on my knees back to Iraq.” Four other women, all wearing variations on leopard print, gyrated on stage, swinging their hair in wild circles. The stage lights had been fitted with colored gel filters that lent the women’s skin a greenish cast.

Al Rawabi’s customers watched Maria calmly, leaning back in their chairs and drinking Johnnie Walker Black. The large room smelled strongly of sweat mingled with the apple tobacco from scores of water pipes. When Maria finished singing, no one clapped.

She picked up the microphone again and began what she called a salute to Iraq, naming many of the Iraqi women in the club and, indicating one of the women in leopard print who had danced with her, “most especially my best friend, Sahar.”

After the dancers filed offstage and scattered around the room to talk to customers, Sahar told a visitor she was from the Dora district of Baghdad but had left “because of the troubles.” Now, she said she would leave the club with him for $200.

Aid workers say $50 to $70 is considered a good night’s wage for an Iraqi prostitute working in Damascus. And some of the Iraqi dancers in the crowded casinos of Damascus suburbs earn much less.

In Maraba, Umm Hiba would not say how much money her daughter took home at the end of a night. Noticing her reluctance, the club’s manager, who introduced himself as Hassan, broke in proudly.

“We make sure that each girl has a minimum of 500 lira at the end of each night, no matter how bad business is,” he said, mentioning a sum of about $10. “We are sympathetic to the situation of the Iraqi people. And we try to give some extra help to the girls whose families are in special difficulties.”

Umm Hiba shook her head. “It’s true that the managers here are good, that they’re helping us and not stealing the girls’ money,” she said. “But I’m so angry.

“Do you think we’re happy that these men from the gulf are seeing our daughters’ naked bodies?”

Most so-called casinos do not appear to directly broker arrangements between prostitutes and their customers. Zafer, a waiter at the club where Hiba works, said that the club earned money through sales of food and alcohol and that the dancers were encouraged to sit with male customers and order drinks to increase revenues.

Zafer, who spoke on condition that only his first name be used, refused to discuss specific women and girls at the club, but said that most of them did sell sexual favors. “They have an hourly rate,” he said. “And they have regular customers.”

Inexpensive Iraqi prostitutes have helped to make Syria a popular destination for sex tourists from wealthier countries in the Middle East. In the club’s parking lot, nearly half of the cars had Saudi license plates.

From Damascus it is only about six hours by car, passing through Jordan, to the Saudi border. Syria, where it is relatively easy to buy alcohol and dance with women, is popular as a low-cost weekend destination for groups of Saudi men.

And though some women of other nationalities, including Russians and Moroccans, still work as prostitutes in Damascus, Abeer, a 23-year-old from Baghdad working at the same club as Hiba, explained that the arriving Iraqis had pushed many of them out of business.

“From what I’ve seen, 70 percent to 80 percent of the girls working this business in Damascus today are Iraqis,” she said. “The rents here in Syria are too expensive for their families. If they go back to Iraq they’ll be slaughtered, and this is the only work available.”

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March 2nd, 2008, 3:14 am


Enlightened said:

Norman I posted that one when it first came out, Josh then had it in the subsequent post news. Its sad, but what do you expect when people have no choices?

March 2nd, 2008, 3:17 am


norman said:

Enlighted one,
I do not blame the poor Iraqis , I blame the Saudis for helping the US invade Iraq then abuse the Iraqi girls afterward , that is a crime.

March 2nd, 2008, 3:37 am


norman said:

Enlighted one,
When is the best time to visit Australia ,and where are you there.

March 2nd, 2008, 3:39 am


trustquest said:

Thanks Enlighted for the report from the Lunch club. I have known this all along, at the time when Joshua insisted that the economic change in Syria similar to the Chinese model. I like the analysis and I would like to add that the report missed the most important difference from the Chinese model which is the missing of the global companies’ participation and the unwillingness of the regime in Syria, unlike China, to let people get rich without sect or regime affiliation.

March 2nd, 2008, 3:39 am


norman said:

Syria diffidently needs reform in it’s legal and Business practices , It needs lower taxes and algorithms to start businesses which are the same for everybody , without these , people will continue to feel that Syria is not for them and seek unfortunate migration out of the country. That will be a loss for Syria that should not happen.

March 2nd, 2008, 4:01 am


norman said:

NEWS | OPINIONS | SPORTS | ARTS & LIVING | Discussions | Photos & Video | City Guide | CLASSIFIEDS | JOBS | CARS | REAL ESTATE

In Search for Peace, a Shrinking White House Role

By Glenn Kessler
Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, March 2, 2008; A16

When Palestinians broke through the barrier dividing the Gaza Strip and Egypt in January and streamed across the border by the tens of thousands, Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak faced a moment of crisis. His phone soon rang, but the world leader offering help on the other end was not President Bush — it was Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. Mubarak took the call, resulting in the first such contact between leaders of the two nations since relations were severed nearly three decades ago.

The conversation signaled a growing rapprochement between Egypt, which receives nearly $2 billion in annual aid from Washington, and Iran, a country that the Bush administration has tried to isolate as a possible threat to U.S. interests in the region.

As Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice heads back to the Middle East this week, three months after Bush hosted a peace conference bringing together Israelis and Arabs in Annapolis, prospects for peace have shifted dramatically. There has been little clear movement in peace talks between Israelis and Palestinians, while the Iranian-backed militant group Hamas has shown increasingly that it can set the region’s agenda.

Hamas rockets have continued to rain down on Israeli towns, prompting deadly counterattacks by Israel amid increasing speculation that Israel will invade the narrow coastal strip housing 1.5 million Palestinians that it abandoned just two years ago.

Daniel Levy, a former Israeli peace negotiator, said that key players in the region are moving beyond the Bush administration. “The feeling is that if you keep the flash points on a lower or somewhat higher flame, it will give you more cards when a new administration comes in,” he said, speaking in a phone interview from Israel. “Everyone is sucking up to the Iranians,” he added.

The signs of American irrelevance are apparent throughout the region. Even Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, hailed as a potential peacemaker by the Bush administration, mused last week to the Jordanian newspaper al-Dustour that in the future it might be necessary to return to armed struggle against Israel. And Syria, which received an unexpected invitation to Annapolis, believes that the peace summit was “an exercise in public relations” and that Bush has no interest in peace, as Syria’s ambassador to Washington, Imad Moustapha put it last week.

Rice’s first stop, on Tuesday, will be Cairo, where she will consult with Mubarak and other Egyptian officials on Gaza. She then will shuttle between Israeli and Palestinian officials on Tuesday and Wednesday, seeking to head off a deadly confrontation between Israel and Hamas while pushing for progress in the nascent peace talks.

The architecture of Annapolis established by Rice includes four key tracks, all of which are supposed to operate simultaneously: high-level talks on “final status” issues such as the division of Jerusalem; incremental changes in security, Jewish settlements on the West Bank and roadblocks hindering Palestinian movement; jump-starting the Palestinian economy; and greater Arab involvement. The final-status talks have been shrouded in secrecy, while little has happened on the other tracks, participants said. The number of roadblocks has increased, according to U.N. estimates.

“Politically, I have not heard anything that is good,” a senior Arab diplomat said.

Organizers of a Palestinian investment conference scheduled for late May, designed to bring Arab businessmen to Bethlehem, have expressed concern that senior Arab executives will be forced to wait for hours in humiliating checks at roadblocks, potentially spoiling the mood for investment.

The lack of movement has added to the skepticism, even in Israel. A poll published in the Israeli newspaper Yedioth Ahronoth last week showed that 69 percent of Israelis surveyed believed the talks would not bring peace, while 78 percent believed the talks were being held only for political reasons.

During a recent visit to Washington, Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayyad charged that Israel has “not done a thing materially on the ground to help my government.” Israeli officials counter that Israel has taken steps to bolster the Abbas government, but that some efforts — such as new restrictions on settlement growth — cannot be publicized because of the tenuous political situation in Israel.

Ghaith al-Omari, a former adviser to Abbas and now advocacy director for the American Task Force on Palestine, faulted the Bush administration for not nurturing a process that it started. He noted that the administration has appointed three generals to assess various aspects of the issue, but that few people in the region understand their roles. Rice’s two-day visit this week is her first substantive trip since the conference in November.

“There is no push from the Americans,” he said. “We are still waiting to see what they will do. It is surprising how little has happened. If you guys are going to run out of steam, why create all these expectations?”

“It is a big question mark,” said Martin Indyk, director of the Brookings Institution’s Saban Center for Middle East Policy. “The impression one gets is that this administration is out of juice.”

Most observers give the administration six months, until the Democratic and Republican conventions, to show that progress on the peace talks is possible. But the Annapolis conference has been increasingly overshadowed by the conflict over Gaza.

The Annapolis talks were designed to bolster Abbas so he could overcome the challenge from Hamas. In 2006, the militant group unexpectedly won Palestinian elections that the Bush administration had supported, beating Abbas’s Fatah party, and a unity government between the two sides went sour when Hamas seized control of Gaza last June. The administration had hoped that if Abbas could seal a peace deal, it would give him the popular support to oust Hamas, which has called for Israel’s destruction.

Neither Hamas nor Iran was invited to Annapolis but, as Ahmadinejad’s courting of Mubarak suggests, the administration’s effort to divide the region into “moderate” and “extremist” camps has not succeeded. After the phone call between the two men, Iran’s foreign minister declared that diplomatic ties with Cairo would soon be restored.

Meanwhile, Hamas has gained popularity as Israel has attempted an economic blockade of Gaza. Hamas bulldozers burst through the Gaza-Egyptian border in January, while Hamas rockets last week reached Ashkelon, an Israeli city of 120,000 that generally had been safe from Hamas attacks.

Egypt would like to arrange a cease-fire between Israel and Hamas while giving the Palestinian Authority control over border crossings, Arab diplomats said. But those would be difficult negotiations as public pressure increases in Israel for a ground invasion of Gaza. In the best-case scenario for Israel, that would wipe out Hamas’s leadership, but it could also prove as vexing as Israel’s war against Hezbollah in 2006.

Some argue that Hamas’s strength can no longer be ignored. Before the Annapolis conference, a group of U.S. foreign policy specialists — including former national security advisers Zbigniew Brzezinski and Brent Scowcroft and former congressman Lee H. Hamilton — wrote Bush to argue that “a genuine dialogue with the organization is far preferable to its isolation.” But State Department spokesman Tom Casey said Friday, “It’s pretty hard to say that Hamas has a legitimate role to play in this process if their main policy is to promote terror.”

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March 2nd, 2008, 4:15 am


ausamaa said:

BYW, do you see Saudi nationals scrambling to get out of Lebanon?
Did Saudi issue such a warning to its citizens in Afghanistan before the Bush qonquest started there?
I think its too much pep talk and too much liqure (although it is not allowed to drink in Saudi) coupled with some Lebanese charm, add also the effects of old age on some in Riyadh and Cairo!! Playing their peice.Their Hearts bleed for safe Lebanon but not for the hundreds of Dead in GAZA…

I dont buy the whole act, period.

Let us look at Ahmadi NAjad does in Iran today..

March 2nd, 2008, 4:16 am


MNA said:

The Saudi move to evacuate its citizens from Lebanon could be in anticipation of the release by Syria of the investigation into the Mughniyah assassination in which Syria will reveal Saudi intelligence involvement.

March 2nd, 2008, 4:32 am


norman said:

Now that is interesting!.you might be right.

March 2nd, 2008, 4:51 am


Nur al-Cubicle said:

Judging by the news coming out of Gaza, Berri could be right. Israel’s Deputy Defense Minister Matan Vilnai has called for genocide. Nice guy, bloodier than most.

March 2nd, 2008, 5:09 am


ausamaa said:

Israelies have been at it for over sixty years, why should one expect them to succeed in breaking the will of the Palestinians today? They know they can not, but it seems they enjoy trying!

March 2nd, 2008, 5:31 am


sam said:

I think it somewhat of what Norman said, because there is know doubt there will be war this year with HIZB vs IDF but I don’t think there going to play a humanitarian mission. It’s there to launch attacks. To eveacute citizens means to get close to shore, with history looming over the Cole, and especially if AL Queda is in fact in Lebanon covertly, the Cole is there to kick ass, not care about any arab-american! If they cared about the Lebanese-Americans it would have put a choke chain on the Isreali klabe in 06! It’s also trying to flex muscle on Syria, which definately won’t work. It’s pretty pathetic that pro western govts, can’t appreciate the opposition trying to have a say in there own govt, to have a 3rd of the majority to represent there constituents which are a 3rd of the population. How is Syria to blame? That old excuse to blame Syria for all the problems that shitty Libnan.

March 2nd, 2008, 5:37 am


Qifa Nabki said:


“Before this week’s battles, a poll showed that 64 percent of Israelis favored negotiating with Hamas, a group that has refused to recognize Israel’s existence, in an attempt to reach an agreement.”

March 2nd, 2008, 6:18 am


offended said:

It seems that one Saudi diplomat was injured in the jubilant shooting that took place after Berri’s speech. What a stupid coincidence if you ask me!

I saw the video of Kalam Al Nas interview with Aoun. It’s a compilation of different scenes, clearly trying to focus on his lapse in memory and hesitations.
But I don’t see how that makes him less good or unprincipled. He changed his tone with Syria after it has pulled out. He warns that if you keep dragging and dragging Hezbollah into the ring, they might eventually punch (use their weapons to defend themselves). And I don’t know why Marcel Ghanem insisted on pushing the ‘tawteen’ issue with him. Ya3ni in other words Ghanem was saying ‘what else have you got to add to the political scene or to governance?’. This is not a logical question; it is like Bush asking the opponents of war what could they have done better. Because whatever they could, they would have done so having the helm of power in their hands, and representing the constituents that elected them.

March 2nd, 2008, 8:28 am


why-discuss said:

The continuous murders of palestinians fighters and the “colaterals” children and innocent civilians reflects the cynicism of the US and israeli present goverment: Too arrogant and weak to negotiate they prefer to kill.
The indifference of the international community only lamenting the oppression of afghan women under the burka is shocking but predictable. Hypocracy has aways been present in Western governements, no surprise there. If people say the UN and the Security Council are paralyzed except for distributing food and peace-keeping after massacres, who would deny that? But it should spare us from their resolutions that no one seems to follow, in particular Israel: 60 years of occupation.. what happenned to the International resolutions?

March 2nd, 2008, 9:10 am


why-discuss said:


“The Saudi move to evacuate its citizens from Lebanon could be in anticipation of the release by Syria of the investigation into the Mughniyah assassination in which Syria will reveal Saudi intelligence involvement”

This is highly likely, see previous post about it. The Syrian are using this as a stick with Saudi to force then into a compromise. The appearence of “Cole” may also to have been a request from Saudi arabia to their US ally, in order to show some strength as KSA is loosing ground in lebanon and in the arab world by the day.

March 2nd, 2008, 9:19 am


Enlightened said:

norman said:

Enlighted one,
When is the best time to visit Australia ,and where are you there

Norman, anytime is a good time, if you like the heat and the sun summer and autumn is the time to come (Sydney ,Melbourne), The North Quuesnland, Northern Territory, North Western Australia (dry Season) May to October ( Still relatively warm in those parts up to 32 deg F)

I live in Sydney (Northwest Hills area), let me know when you want to come Il put you up at my place on one condition! (You dont call me a traitor) and you look at my bad Knee.

And Sydney got voted today the Best City in the World! ( THe SC Conference should be here boys)
trustquest said:

Thanks Enlighted for the report from the Lunch club. I have known this all along, at the time when Joshua insisted that the economic change in Syria similar to the Chinese model. I like the analysis and I would like to add that the report missed the most important difference from the Chinese model which is the missing of the global companies’ participation and the unwillingness of the regime in Syria, unlike China, to let people get rich without sect or regime affiliation.


Very Good point about the lack of companies with a global presence in Syria. China is a amazing place my company imports products from there, I have seen how some of the european manufacturers(we traditionally bought from) have gone in there first of all with joint ventures , and I am amazed at the ability of the chinese how they can circumvent the traditional learning curve in any manufacturing industry in a short time (competitors within our sector are smashing these joint ventures).

China is a homogonous nation with only a small number of minorities (main race Huan I think but dont quote me) @ 2 major languages Mandarin and Cantonese, yet the ability of the leaders to drag the country into the 21st century is amazing. Syria is very fragmented, while Chinese high level corruption was amazing it is no where near as bad as Syria or any other Arab country, plus the other point (Culture), the Asians are very progressive in their outlook, I wont go into this point it might upset a few people.

March 2nd, 2008, 9:36 am


offended said:

Never knew Norman is an orthopedist, we would certainly like to host you here in Dubai Norman!

March 2nd, 2008, 10:14 am


majedkhaldoun said:

What is going on in Gaza is embarrasssing to the moderate Arab Regimes,who will be behaving against their people wish, by being quiet,or taking a position against Hamas,the term HALF MEN will surface again, it will kill the american policy of elevating the Arab-Persian conflict to the surface, where the Arab will forget about Israel as enemy,infact they will seek Israel assistance to fight Iran, Iran image is not an enemy to the Arab,Arab people are supporting Iran more than ever, and US and Israel image is declining to unrecoverable level, American policy is failing miserably.
USS Cole , Nassau,and the six fleet,will not attack Syria,they have no reason to do it, in 2003, as USA occupied Iraq, that was the time when Syria was extremely afraid, US missed the chance then,Syria may be a little afraid now, but it is nothing compared to the time of 2003,Syria is waiting for the change in USA,following the election, and the good luck of Bashar will probably help him again.
The danger to the Arab leaders , in the future, will be the increase in population, and the decline of the economic conditions, poverty will encourage religious adherance,and the people finally will revolt, with the aging of Arab leaders,the change will be radical.

March 2nd, 2008, 11:43 am


trustquest said:

Thank you Enlightned for the follow up and clarification, although I think no one have made a study on the shapes of corruption and its venues. In short corruption in China keep the country going and work for the people national interest opposite to most other countries. There is special case of corruption vs officials in each country, and I believe Syria is a special hard case. It seems to me that corruption in China goes hand in hand with facilitating the industrial and scientific age not stifling it. The story in Syria goes like there are 50 top people, their fortune between 2 to 10 billion. This fact been supported when a lawyer for one diseased Syrian official in 2005, who was a school teacher, not industrial guru, dies with 5 billion dollars, he did not create any land mark projects and his fortune was 1/6 of the country 2005 budget, or equal to the Syrian budget in 2000. Those people with high accumulated fortune are shy from investing because they can not announce their fortune to the public. There is of course one exception. The other thing, China treats it elites in the industries, science and its intellectuals very highly, they do not put a professor like Dallila in prison for talking about economy. In China they only crack down only on political activists.

March 2nd, 2008, 1:06 pm


EHSANI2 said:


Though I am not an orthopedist, I will be in Dubai from Wednesday till Saturday of next week.

March 2nd, 2008, 1:54 pm


Shai said:


I agree with you. Question is, if the current conflict in Gaza spreads to include Hezbollah, will Syria, or Iran, join in. If either do, then clearly we’ll have a new, and terribly painful, regional war. I’m still hoping Bashar will surprise us all, by announcing his wish to restart peace talks with Israel, in order to save the region. The current administration in Washington cannot and does not want to broker such talks, but a green light exists for Israel and Syria to go back to the table. We should do that as soon as is possible, in Turkey, Moscow, wherever. And when a new administration is in place, they’ll join in as the main broker/guarantor. What do you think?

March 2nd, 2008, 2:29 pm


MNA said:

Shai said: I’m still hoping Bashar will surprise us all, by announcing his wish to restart peace talks with Israel, in order to save the region.

But Shai Bashar has done that repeatedly in the past few years and what he got in return was the bombing in 3in al-sa7eb and Der Alzor. How many times in the past 2-3 years has Bashar claimed that he was ready to start peace negotiations with Israel and what was the Israeli response??? How about the Arab peace initiative that offered Israel full peace in exchange for a return to the 1967 borders. Again what was the Israeli response??? more killing like what we are witnessing now in Gaza, more settlements everywhere including in the Golan etc… Stating that it is up to Bashar to save the region is a bit disingenuous. Bashar can wish and say all he wants, but it will not change a thing; the other side is not interested in peace, or at least a just peace.

March 2nd, 2008, 3:03 pm


wizart said:


A broker gets a fee for services.
Why do you call the US a potential broker without offer her compensation? Why don’t you Shai throw those hungry Eagles some food?

Whyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyy? 🙂

March 2nd, 2008, 3:07 pm


ausamaa said:

Succesful Israeli Policy!!! As usual!

10 days after the start of the recent Israeli military operation against Gaza; 87.5% of Al Jazira Voters support the continuation of Rocket bombardment of Israel by Hamas. Only 12.5% Do not!

مدة التصويت: من2/3/2008 إلى 5/3/2008
موضوع التصويت:
هل تؤيد استمرار حماس بإطلاق الصواريخ على إسرائيل؟
الخيارات النسبة عدد الأصوات
نعم 87.5%

لا 12.5%


إجمالي المصوتين 2500

نتيجة التصويت لا تعبر عن رأي الجزيرة وإنما تعبر عن رأي الأعضاء المشاركين فيه.

March 2nd, 2008, 3:48 pm


Shai said:


I disagree with you. Israel has no policy of not talking to its enemy. Yes, you’re absolutely right – Bashar has certainly stretched out Syria’s hand over the past 2-3 years, and I think my country’s leadership is irresponsible and idiotic (and that’s putting it mildly) for not taking him up on it. But, there is unfortunately a very real reason for this. It is precisely that Washington has basically told Israel not to engage Syria in peace talks. That by so doing, it would interfere with her own self-interests in the region (Iraq, G.W.O.T., etc.) Our PM, Olmert, found himself dragged into and, unilke Rabin, Netanyahu, Barak, and Sharon, could not find the courage to tell Washington to go take a hike when it comes to asking Israel to do something contrary to our OWN strategic interests (like, say, PEACE!)

Therefore, for these past 2-3 years, it is not the case that Israel’s RESPONSE to these peaceful gestures has been violence, attacks, etc. It is the case, that instead of responding at all, we continued running the show as if Syria has NOT shown these gestures, and has not demonstrated in every way possible its willingness to restart talks. So why am I still going on about it now? Because of two main things that have changed in recent days and months. First, a bit ago, when Olmert finally started understanding that Syria is sincere in its wishes, he did manage to get to Dubya about this issue, and a public statement was made at the lawn of the White House, standing next to Olmert, saying that if Israel wanted to speak with Syria, the U.S. would not object, but also would not participate. This was, in essence, a veto at the time, because then, Syria refused to engage in Track I (or formal) talks without U.S. presence in the room. Had Bashar back then (or now) withdrawn his demand to have the U.S. present in the talks, we could have (and can now) restart. The second thing that’s changed, is that we’re now very very close to a what may well lead to regional war, involving probably all the major players. That means the situation is that much more volatile than it was before, and it may well be the time for Bashar to do away with this U.S.-presence demand (which is very logical, by the way, but needs to await the next U.S. administration, not this one), and to announce the need to restart talks in Turkey, etc. in order to save the region from a catastrophe. Syria and Israel will not conclude anything, or even crunch out the toughest issues, without the best guarantor, namely the U.S. But until Obama, or Hillary, or McCain are there to do so, we mustn’t delay restarting talks. If we start talking again, formally, that will provide our region right now the kind of spirit and positive atmosphere that can calm everything down, and set us back on a sane course. Otherwise, we’re heading straight for the Abyss… Don’t you agree? Incidentally, please do not see in any of my suggestions that I think Israel has done “enough”. On the contrary, it is precisely because I know that our own leadership is incapable of taking the lead in the region’s “peace camp”, that I’m hoping (fantasizing perhaps) that Bashar will do so.

March 2nd, 2008, 3:52 pm


Shai said:


I wish Israel HAD any policy in the region. If it did, we might have already had peace. But since it doesn’t, and instead listens to Dubya’s crap about G.W.O.T., and placing “good guys” as leaders of Lebanon, Syria, Iraq, Palestine, you name it, then we’re just bringing everything and everyone closer to the abyss. I can’t say I’m living through a particularly proud moment in my nation’s history…

March 2nd, 2008, 4:00 pm


MNA said:

Shai I appreciate your enthusiasm for peace, but unfortunately I m not bought on the logic because again what came about of the Arab initiative that was initiated by the staunchest ally of the US, Saudi Arabia; Saudi Arabia did not put conditions. What came about of the Annapolis meeting, which by the way, was initiatied by the US? So in case of the Arab initiative, both Israel and the US went along with their common wishes and ignored it and did everything possible to destroy it and the result is more killing and killing. And in case of Syria, Israel went along with US wishes and ignored Syrian gestures for peace and the result is more killing and killing. And finally, in case of Annapolise Israel went along with the US wishes and attended Annapolis and then did everything possible to undermine it and the results is more killing and killing. No matter which way you look at it, it does not look good; it is always against someone’s interest and the result is more killing. Again to pin it on Syria and make it bear the responsibility of saving the region is the same boring scenario that makes Syria responsible for everything that does or does not happen in the region!! Let’s face it, the other side is not interested in and does not want peace.

March 2nd, 2008, 4:39 pm


Observer said:

Just a reminder: the USS cole is a destroyer that is usually deployed with an aircraft carrier to defend against up to 120 flying targets be they cruise missiles or airplanes. Its deployement off the coast of Lebanon may very well be to try to stop HA rockets in the next phase of the conflict with Israel.
However, Gaza needs to be neutralized first.

It sems the current administration is running out time and therefore is more dangerous than ever.

March 2nd, 2008, 4:44 pm


Shai said:


Please don’t misunderstand me – I am certainly NOT pinning anything on Syria. I think Bashar has done more than enough to show his sincerity. The only reason I suggest HE take a leading role, is because I believe HE is probably the only courageous leader in the region at the moment. That’s not pinning responsibility on him, but rather suggesting that maybe only HE can save the day right now.

By the way, Annapolis was a complete joke. Everyone knew it would be, before it took place, and everyone knows it afterwards. I’ve said it on numerous occasions on this forum, that unfortunately, right now Israel cannot conclude any deal with the Palestinians, because Abu Mazen, as great as he is, cannot deliver. The Palestinians have to work out their differences, and once again have a leadership that rules both Gaza and the West Bank. We cannot sign a peace treaty right now, with someone that can barely control Ramallah, and even that with IDF-supplied guns. Syria is the ONLY hope right now, as we are 80% there (as Bashar stated), and have little to go. I agree with you, the way we’re heading now, it is not towards peace, but towards war. Except that if we have regional war, the amount of dead we’re experiencing now, will be multiplied ten fold. I wish that never happens.

March 2nd, 2008, 4:48 pm


offended said:

Ehsani, welcome to Dubai! Have you been here before? The weather is magnificent at this time of the year. Will it be business or pleasure? Will you have some spare time for a coffee or something?
Please feel free to contact me through Alex, he knows my email…

March 2nd, 2008, 5:10 pm


offended said:

Ween Alex ya shabab? haven’t heard from him in couple of days…

March 2nd, 2008, 5:11 pm


majedkhaldoun said:

“Question is, if the current conflict in Gaza spreads to include Hezbollah, will Syria, or Iran, join in. If either do, then clearly we’ll have a new, and terribly painful, regional war.”

HA has very disciplined system, they study their decision very carefully, they will NOT get involved militarily with Israel because of Hamas, Hamas problem will spill over to Egypt, and the majority of Arab will get mad of their current leaders. Israel actions against Gaza people,will fail, resistance will continue.Syria will avoid involvement by all means, the syrian army is in no condition to fight,and IF syria was pushed to fight, treason and deals,will lead to change of regime.
Israel will not be able to annihilate 1.5 million palastinians.

“And when a new administration is in place, they’ll join in as the main broker/guarantor.”
the new adminstration,as before , will push the Arab Israeli conlict to 2011, they also will be busy with Iraq, any Iraq solution will play favorably to Bashar, If McCain wins,he will switch side to talk with the Sunni,where the balance of power is present,this has been the main mistake of president Bush,If Obama or Clinton win, withdrawing some troops will be a priority, this will lead to accelarated withdrawal,and Bashar will win.
there are many factors that will play role,the effect of tribunal, the death of Mubarak,etc. and predictions from now will be incorrect.

March 2nd, 2008, 5:18 pm


wizart said:

Off Ended 🙂

Alex must be listening to the Eagles and can’t be bothered right now.

Let’s make a coup while he’s away and invite some dancers over here.

As the Eagles said.. some dance to remember.. some dance to forget !

March 2nd, 2008, 5:25 pm


offended said:

Anything is fine by me, as long as it’s not the Saudi sword dance.

March 2nd, 2008, 5:30 pm


wizart said:

ya I know vat you mean no I am thinking some Indian Mahrajaaaaas would add some flavour to the Shai after all we can’t live off Shaii alone:)

What happened to AIG is sad. SAAAD. We can not chew anyone anymore.

Look at the blog now it’s dead without him. DEAD.

Ok. Imagine AIG comes back as a beautiful woman with a nice serene Middle Eastern picture. I bet several people here will behave better (ie no name calling rule) and start acting as peace loving as can be 🙂

March 2nd, 2008, 5:37 pm


AnotherIsraeliGuy said:

Back by popular demand…

As usual I couldn’t agree less with Shai or agree more with the Dane from the lunch club. There is nothing much Israel can do against the Islamization of the region. It is a tidal wave that no one can stop. We will just need to ride this wave through. At first the Islamist will be busy fighting their own country men and leave Israel alone. That will buy us 5-10 years. Then they will need to rehabilitate their countries and I am betting they will not want to fight Israel during this period. After that, we will see. In the meantime, Israel needs to keep building its economy and military and fight its low intensity wars in Gaza, South Lebanon or where ever it has to.

March 2nd, 2008, 5:52 pm


wizart said:

what kind of picture did you have in mind if you had a choice?
(we’ll just have to use our imagination and try to be positive!)

If there was peace in the Middle East would we still have seen the rise of radical Islamists as you might want to call them????

What is your definition of responsible leadership?
What’s your part in bringing positive results to fruition?

March 2nd, 2008, 6:08 pm


Shai said:


I do hope you don’t think Israel wants to annihilate 1.5 million Palestinians. I know what Israel is doing is terrible for the Palestinians (and, by the way, for Israelis). But between this cruel, idiotic, and senseless fighting, and outright annihilation, there’s still a lot of space. If you truly believe Israelis are about annihilating the Arabs, then we have very little we could talk about, and that’s a shame. I, at least, am here to try to find ways of bridging our gaps, so that we CAN live in peace one day. Why are you here?

March 2nd, 2008, 6:21 pm


majedkhaldoun said:

I do not believe that Israel wants to kill 1.5 million
Arab,but I do believe that Israel wants to end Gaza as a problem to Israel, and wishs to have Egypt includes Gaza
within its territories.

March 2nd, 2008, 6:51 pm


Shai said:


I tend to agree with you, though I’m not sure anyone here realistically expects Egypt to ever accept responsibility for Gaza. I’ve heard some commentators here bringing up the possibility that should the situation get completely out of hand, and the international community will get involved, then it may be asked of Egypt to lead an international force that would “govern” Gaza for some time. Personally, I don’t see that ever happening, because Hamas will not be destroyed, and the Palestinian people will never allow an outside force to determine who will and will not rule them. This basic right, is something I completely agree with. Israel right now thinks it is only fighting Hamas, but in reality it is fighting the Palestinians, it is killing the Palestinians, and by so doing, it is killing our own future as well.

March 2nd, 2008, 6:58 pm


Naji said:

WiseWiz 🙂

March 2nd, 2008, 7:28 pm


wizart said:

Naji 🙂

Thanks for the compliment. I’m getting ready to go to sleep now. I know I can count on you and all peacemakers here to keep the peace.

Naji is an expert peacemaker as defined by Webster 🙂

Good Night and Good Luck.

March 2nd, 2008, 7:43 pm


AnotherIsraeliGuy said:

Of course peace will not stop the rise of Islam in the middle east. Did peace stop the rise of Islam in Egypt?

The rise of Islam has nothing to do with Israel. It is a result of Arab countries not being able to provide hope and success to their population. War with Israel is just an excuse. It is a fact that Israel was able to develop while also fighting wars.

Islamization is a social process in the middle east that we just have to accept. It is too late to stop it. Mubarak, Asad, Abdallah and others can only stop it temporarily using force. And the worst is ahead of us. The “unemployment” boom in the Arab countries is just beginning.

March 2nd, 2008, 8:40 pm


AnotherIsraeliGuy said:

Here is a great example:

Abdallah allows marches against Israel but not against his failed economic and education policies. No problem, but using Israel as a means to let off steam will only work for a while. You need to improve the economic reality in Jordan. Blaming Israel will not help with this. Excuses are always easy to find, building functioning societies is another matter.

March 2nd, 2008, 8:44 pm


wizart said:


Islam is the fastest growing religion on the face of the planet.

Sure other belief systems are growing fast as well. Not a problem,

Radical Islam gives a bad name to Islam the moderate religion which is in times of peace life preserving and peaceful. Radical Judism gives Jews a bad name too and I don’t thing anybody disagrees with that. If there was no peace in Egypt who knows where Israel would be right now. Radical anything flourishes in times of distress.

Please answer my other two questions at your convenience while I go catch me some sleep. Welcome back and hope all peace you in here:)

March 2nd, 2008, 9:29 pm


Enlightened said:

AnotherIsraeliGuy said:

What, Enlightened is posting neo-con views?
Or is Schmidt really part of AIPAC.
He says clearly:
But without some form of democracy, freedom of expression and a certain degree of social justice that can strengthen the country’s democratic opposition, it seems certain that the Islamist opposition will at some point challenge the present regime’s monopoly on political power. Whether the result will be a form of modern ’Turkish’ Islamism or a more radical ’Iranian’ form is still difficult to predict.

I wonder who else on this blog has been saying this for quite a while…

Firstly welcome back AIG,You are an angel, where have you been (starting the next war I bet). You certainly are popular but not for the reasons that you think. Life at SC is so boring without you, if anything your wisdom and clarity has sadly been lacking here. I missed you, in fact we all missed you especially all of us you labelled, Terrorists, Terrorist supporters,Supporters of violence, Anti-Semites ( My favourite label), Democracy Haters, Sectarian, If I have missed anything please feel free to remind me.

Since you have left I have re gathered my thoughts, and have had a moment of clarity, I want to join your side of the Fence, I want to be anti Assad, anti Syria, Anti Arab, Anti HA, just for the heck of it I will be anti anything. I am going down To the Israeli embassy this afternoon and apply to emigrate so I can be closer to you. Will you welcome me with open arms?

March 2nd, 2008, 9:55 pm


AnotherIsraeliGuy said:

I cannot influence anything that happens inside Arab countries.

A responsible government gives its people freedom, security and the rule of law.

I probably didn’t answer your questions so ask them in a more detailed way.

I am not making any judgement by the way. Islamic regimes can either be good or bad radical or not, Turkish or Taliban or Hamas or the Ayatollahs. I do not know what Islamic regimes will emerge in Arab countries. All I know that they will and that Israel cannot stop this process. The times of distress are problems of Arab societies that neither Israel or the US can solve. Only the Arabs can solve their own problems. These problems spill over to Israel and we have to do the best we can to confront them.

March 2nd, 2008, 9:57 pm


norman said:

Enlighted one, offended,

My wife was very excited to go to Sidney or Dubai, she even added Turkey , This one for Shai,

So we can plan for the next few years , I do not think any of you wants to be my Patient , though i can practice general medicine .

March 2nd, 2008, 10:16 pm


AnotherIsraeliGuy said:

I am only anti-Assad and anti-Hizballah and anti-Hamas. All the rest are your inventions.

If you don’t like it in Austrailia, find a rabbi, convert, and then you will have no problem coming to Israel. If you are sincere about tying your future to that of the Jewish people, we will recieve you with open arms.

So are you really a closet neo-con? 🙂

March 2nd, 2008, 10:17 pm


Enlightened said:

LOL AIG ( IF you got of your high horse) you might actually be a fun person to engage.

No I am a humanist can see the good in all, I dont want to convert to anything!

Tell me is this really you?

March 2nd, 2008, 10:20 pm


AnotherIsraeliGuy said:

No, its my brother. I am a little taller.

I am an humanist also, I see the bad in all.

You know the difference between captialism and communism? Under capitalism man exploits man. Under Communism it is the other way around.

March 2nd, 2008, 10:30 pm


Enlightened said:

AIG: One for YOU:

I am an humanist also, I see the bad in all.
Should read : I am a realist Neo con adherent,I see the bad in all.

Opinion: Why I have new hope for the Mideast
Sunday, 2 March, 2008 @ 4:16 PM

By Robin Wright
Beirut – In 2006, three years after the Iraq invasion, I got so tired of the divisive debate in Washington about the future of the Middle East that I went back to the region I’ve covered since 1973 and listened instead to the people who live there
cedar revolution demo 2.jpg

. After traveling for the better part of a year from Rabat to Tehran, I came away surprisingly buoyed.

Oh sure, the Middle East is more volatile than it was at the beginning of the Bush administration: The Arab-Israeli peace process isn’t going anywhere. Iraq remains mired in ethnic tensions, religious rivalries and Islamic extremism — and still has only limited electricity. Iran is angrily defiant toward the United Nations over its nuclear program. Lebanon teeters again.

Yet in the early 21st century, a budding culture of change is creatively challenging the status quo — and the extremists. New public voices, daring publications and noisy protests across two dozen countries are giving shape to a vigorous, if disjointed, search for alternatives to the autocratic regimes and imperious monarchies that have proved they’re out of sync with their people. Dissident judges in Cairo, rebel clerics in Tehran, satellite television station owners in Dubai, the first female parliamentary candidates in Kuwait, young techies in Jeddah, intrepid journalists in Beirut, and bold businessmen in Damascus are carving out new space for political action.

It’s a hard slog for them all. Obstinate governments are ruthlessly repressing them; extremists are targeting them. Together, those forces cut short the Arab Spring three years ago, when millions of Iraqis voted in free elections, Lebanese protesters ended Syria’s 29-year occupation and democracy movements such as Egypt’s “Enough” challenged autocrats across the region. The Bush administration’s bungling and backtracking on democracy hasn’t helped much, either.

But societies have not gone back to square one. The issue in the Middle East is no longer whether to seek political change. It’s how to make it happen.

“In the Arab world, the status quo is not sustainable,” reflected Marwan Muasher, a former Jordanian foreign minister. “What worked 40 years ago — when the state could decide things and expect people to follow — does not work now. Unless the state is responsive and aware, it is in for major trouble.”

That, I found, is only one of many lessons of the new Middle East.

* * *

Two decades ago when I roamed the region, I sought out clandestine cells as the barometer of opposition. Now I look for computer nerds — the pajamahedeen, or pajama warriors, who wield computers instead of roadside bombs. They personify Lesson 1 in the changing Middle East: The opposition is more open, ambitious, imaginative and stubborn than ever. And the YouTube generation has become a whole new political class.

“Governments have a new kind of opponent,” reflected 33-year-old Egyptian Wael Abbas. His blog has posted cellphone videos of police brutality — including one of a detainee writhing in pain as police sodomized him with a broomstick — to hold President Hosni Mubarak’s government accountable for abuse. Started in 2004, Abbas’s blog was garnering up to 30,000 hits a day, jumping to 45,000 daily during a crisis, by 2007.

“We are not bound by government rules, like political parties. We can use the language of freedom,” he told me. “We offer an alternative voice, especially for the young.” Abbas and his brethren in Iran, Lebanon, Morocco and elsewhere are forcing governments to respond to their complaints, even as they try to silence them. In Egypt, two police officers were prosecuted for abusing the detainee with the broomstick.

* * *

In countries long ruled by a single party or single family, I picked up Lesson 2: There is no longer a single truth, in either ideology or religion, and challenges to the status quo are coming from unlikely quarters.

Hadi Khamenei, a Shiite cleric, campaigned across Iran and in his newspaper against the idea of a supreme leader who has veto power over legislation, presidential decrees and judicial decisions and who can even run for office. “The most important thing we’re looking for today in Iran is the rule of law,” he told me. “And that means no one, whatever his position, is above it.”

Because of his activism, Khamenei has been barred from running for office, his paper has been banned, and he was hospitalized after being attacked by religious vigilantes. “Unfortunately for the rest of us,” he said, “there are still people at the top who don’t accept that basic right.”

Khamenei should know. His older brother just happens to be Iran’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.

* * *

In countries where pro-Western activists were once the most outspoken, I found Lesson 3: Old Cold War enemies have become unexpected allies — and the pluckiest agitators for change.

Decades ago, when the Middle East was a battlefield between U.S. and Soviet interests, the West encouraged Islamic movements to foil Moscow’s influence. But with Islamic parties on the rise, the ultimate irony is that many of the secular activists now taking the biggest risks, organizing the boldest protests and penning the most scathing criticisms are reformed Marxists.

Riad al-Turk is the Nelson Mandela of Syria. He was locked in a windowless underground cell about the length of his body without furniture or a toilet for 18 years. He kept from going mad by using uncooked grains of rice from his evening soup to etch geometric designs on the floor. “You must accept hell as a price to pay for remaining faithful to your convictions,” he later reflected.

After his release in 1998, Turk went at it again, lashing out at the Assad dynasty in Damascus for “relying on terror” and demanding that it move “from despotism to democracy.” In 2001, he was arrested a fourth time. Freed in 2005 at age 75, the reformed Marxist refused to be silent, even while acknowledging that he was only a starting point.

“The regime will eventually collapse on its own, due to isolation internally and internationally,” he told me. “That’s what happened in the Soviet Union and Czechoslovakia. That’s what will happen here.”

* * *

To understand political trends, I once turned to intellectuals and elites. Now I look to ordinary people galvanized out of apathy to fight for change. Lesson 4: Watch out for the soccer moms.

That’s how I’d describe Ghada Shahbender in Egypt. A middle-aged mother of four athletic teenagers who was in the throes of a divorce, Shahbender had never joined a party or voted — until May 2005, when she became infuriated by televised pictures of police watching as thugs beat women, old and young, on referendum day. A week later, she went to her first protest.

“An elderly woman turned to me and said she thought I was new and did I have 100 [Egyptian] pounds,” Shahbender recalled. ” ‘Why 100 pounds?’ I asked. She told me, ‘That’s what you need for bail.’ ”

Shahbender didn’t flinch. With friends, she formed We’re Watching You to monitor elections for president and parliament in 2005. The group chronicled more than 1,000 violations, complete with video of police firing tear gas and live ammunition at voters. With international observers barred, We’re Watching You became the leading source for the media and foreign governments on the fraud in the contests, which were won, again, by Mubarak and his ruling party.

Shahbender has since been invited to monitor elections elsewhere in the region, has sued the government for not complying with an international treaty on corruption, and has started Kid-mocracy, a competition to help teenagers learn about constitutions. Last year she brought the winners to Washington.

* * *

While it’s conventional wisdom to view political Islam as part of the problem in the Middle East, it may actually be part of the solution. Lesson 5: Pay attention to the moderate Islamists; many are seeking compromise.

Saadeddine Othmani, a psychiatrist-turned-politician, heads Morocco’s Justice and Development Party, a movement he compares to Europe’s Christian Democrats. Since it began competing in parliamentary elections in 1997, the party has adopted the earthly challenges of poverty, corruption and constitutional reform as its prime causes. There’s no talk of imposing sharia, or Islamic law, or of overthrowing the government. Indeed, the only picture in its Rabat headquarters is of King Mohammed VI.

“Islam has no fixed form of governance. Instead this has been left for human creativity. . . . The people’s will is the decisive factor,” Othmani told me. “Our approach is to have gradual progress and avoid haste and shortcuts, which is the major mistake committed by many leftists, nationalists and Islamist movements.” In elections last fall, amid a field of 33 parties, the Justice and Development Party officially became Morocco’s second most popular party.

* * *

Not all of the Middle East’s new actors will succeed. For all the signs of promise, the region is still full of shadows.
hope.jpgDemocracy is about differences, which are bound to explode once disparate sides of society are free to speak and make demands. Opening new space also does not guarantee who or what will fill it. And all the factors contributing to change make the region susceptible to greater turmoil.

Yet what I found most inspiring in my travels was not the dreams that the outside world has for the people of the Middle East. It was the lofty goals they have set for themselves, and begun — only begun — to act on.

Picture: The Cedar Revolution demonstration in Beirut Lebanon. The Lebanese protesters ended Syria’s 29-year occupation
Sources: The Washington Post

March 2nd, 2008, 10:35 pm


AnotherIsraeliGuy said:

A realist? Shai is a realist. I advocate shunning dictators and pushing for democracy in the middle east.

Alex is a realist, he accepts Asad as a permanent fixture. I am advocating real change.

March 2nd, 2008, 10:48 pm


Enlightened said:

Good AIG

Read the above post and give us your thoughts! But you have exceeded your 5 comments a day limit, so to play by the rules (censorship only applies to dissenting voices) save it for tomorrow, or make hay while Alex is away! (lol)

March 2nd, 2008, 10:55 pm


Akbar Palace said:

You know the difference between captialism and communism? Under capitalism man exploits man. Under Communism it is the other way around.


I disagree! Capitalism is opportunity and free markets. Communism means no opportunity. Work hard or be lazy – you all reap the same income. Communism means no incentive, no innovation,and government regulation.

I am advocating real change.

I am too. The change would be to take the terrorists out of the equation. Now there’s change!

March 2nd, 2008, 10:59 pm


Enlightened said:

Akbar Palace said:

I am advocating real change.

I am too. The change would be to take the terrorists out of the equation. Now there’s change!

Akbar we are advocating change as well, we want to take the Neo con terrorists out and, symapthisers like yourself and AIG out of the equation as well, and to us that is the best change of all!

March 2nd, 2008, 11:04 pm


AnotherIsraeliGuy said:

I will erase previous posts…
I read what Wright is saying and I hope she is right. It just supports my argument that Arab countries may be more ready for democracy than others on this blog think. I would also to point out that it seems Israel is not a major issue for people pushing for democracy. The Golan is not what is stopping democracy in Syria.

March 2nd, 2008, 11:05 pm


Enlightened said:

AnotherIsraeliGuy said:

I will erase previous posts…
I read what Wright is saying and I hope she is right. It just supports my argument that Arab countries may be more ready for democracy than others on this blog think. I would also to point out that it seems Israel is not a major issue for people pushing for democracy. The Golan is not what is stopping democracy in Syria.

AIG; its good that you have had an enlightened moment, scratch the surface a little deeper, you will find that most of us Arabs are not that bad! And are working for change, change that is a life and death struggle for some. Maybe with more courage we can achieve that change through non violence and respect for the law, that would be the best change of all. A very hard task , but it can be achieved.

March 2nd, 2008, 11:24 pm


offended said:

LOL enlightened; isn’t that what they call a ‘GI Joe’?

March 3rd, 2008, 12:09 am


Enlightened said:

Ya Offended:

You liked that one?

kan hami dahekni khtir!

March 3rd, 2008, 12:15 am


Qifa Nabki said:

Alex & Joshua:

If you would like to still recognize the blog that you left a few days ago, I suggest you return immediately. Enlightened has joined forces with AIG and they’re taking over.

Enlightened said:

Hey QN were you one of those leftist lunies caught out?

Maybe after 2000. But since about 2004, the effects of the Koolaid have worn off.

I agree that the Aoun interview on YouTube is probably not representative of the whole thing. It definitely focused on his less than flattering moments.

But I, unlike you, felt that they did not show Aoun to be good or principled. He criticized M14 for fleeing to America for support, and when Ghanem pointed out that Aoun himself used to visit America, Aoun actually had the audacity to lie on camera and say: “Never”. (Itlaaqan). I mean, who does he think he’s fooling? Aoun, prior to 2003-4, was calling for regime change in Syria. He was going to Washington, meeting Congress, giving interviews, all with the single purpose of getting rid of “terrorist” Hizbullah and the “terrorist” regime that sponsors them.

And he has the nerve to say “I never went to the Americans”, when the record is available to any 12 year old with an Internet connection? This is hardly principled. This is dirty Lebanese style politics, and Aoun is as bad as the rest of them.

If you think that he’s actually “changed”, let me tell you right now to stop fooling yourself. This guy is an old political animal, and he’s proven himself to be the biggest “flipper” in an arena of pretty big flippers. I wouldn’t trust him for a second, and I think that his alliance with Syria shows that both parties were desperate for allies. He’s useful to Syria because he’s helped split the Christians (not very difficult to do) and he’s old enough to cut loose in a few years. A perfect tool.

As for the issue of tawteen, don’t even get me started. Explain to me the logic of this argument, much beloved of Arab nationalist dictators and now parroted unashamedly by Aoun: “We should refuse to give the Palestinians in Lebanon a nationality, as this would relieve Israel of its burden. So let’s keep them in filthy, squalid refugee camps, not allowed to work, educate their children, for generation after generation and maybe we can just forget they exist, all the while feeling good about ourselves for “caring for the Palestinians”.”

Tawteen is sectarian issue, and it is most ironic that Hizbullah stands the most to lose from nationalizing the Palestinians. I can’t tell you how many Shi`i HA members have told me that the Christians and Shi`a in Lebanon are “natural allies” because: (a) the Shi`a revere the Virgin Mary more than the Sunna; (b) because Rafiq Hariri was “going to give the Palestinians Lebanese identity”, thereby raising the numbers of the Sunna, so we should stick together and prevent this from happening. Sorry, you 800,000 noble people living like animals… but don’t worry, we’re fighting for you!

Aoun has joined in with this game, and I find it disgusting, coming from someone who is supposedly agitating for a “new” Lebanon.

March 3rd, 2008, 1:12 am


Qifa Nabki said:

Interview with Paul Salem

Paul Salem talks to NOW Lebanon about the recent release of “The New Middle East,” a report recently published by the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. He agrees, too, that some of the report’s recommendations for Lebanon have sparked controversy.

NOW Lebanon: In your previous interview with NOW Lebanon, you said that the Syrian’s style is: “If you’re offering us this much now, you’ll offer us much more six months from now.” Isn’t that contradictory to the report’s call for compromise when it comes to the Syrian-Lebanese crisis?

Paul Salem: I was saying in the old interview that we are now in a bargaining process. It’s a process and it involves time and going back and forth. It’s not something that would be concluded quickly or immediately. It’s dependent on several factors. In particular, right now, because the US administration is ending, it’s not wise for Syria to make a deal with someone who is leaving in a few months. That’s why things are postponed. To clarify, that point is that things are not going to happen this year, because one of the major parties in the US administration is leaving, and obviously the players are going to wait and see who the new players in the White House are going to be. They would want to see the policy of that administration. Accordingly, Syria and Iran would decide what kind of deal they are going to see. They need stability. It’s hard to make a deal when everything is changing.

Some people are also waiting for the tribunal and its consequences. On both sides, there is a certain openness to make a deal, but many are happy to keep on postponing. As for the Syrians, the bargaining style is different from the Western style. Definitely, it was known that [former Syrian President] Hafez al-Assad was a deal-maker, and he made complex, contradictory deals. So far, this administration of [Syrian President] Bashar al-Assad has not shown that it is that type of deal-maker.

In Lebanon, Syria now has to stay aligned with Iran, but it also has to make a deal including the US and Saudi Arabia. Many of the friends and enemies of Syria have been trying to nudge Syria to make a deal. It already did in Iraq, but the same has not been happening in Lebanon, although everyone is urging Syria to play politics and be more cooperative to reach an agreement that would be acceptable in the new status quo, where Lebanon is independent, not under the control of Syria, but also that it would not be hostile to Syria. The tribunal would have to be addressed, and someone has to be responsible, but there could be ways to stop the confrontation.

The rest of the interview is highly worth reading.

March 3rd, 2008, 1:29 am


norman said:

QN ,

I did not see all of Aoun interview ,

What I like about Aoun that he wanted Syria out of Lebanon, he did everything to achieve that but when Syria was out he stopped attacking her and did not seek revenge for what she did to him and the 15 years he spent in France , He wanted good relation with Syria which is basically what Syria wants.

March 3rd, 2008, 1:56 am


Enlightened said:


With all due respect one of the post sub titles is ” Gun Boat Diplomacy”, and since you have uncovered mine and AIG’s plan to reconstitute “Team America” and take over the SC site we now formaly invite you to join our evil plans:

Please choose what character you want to be:

March 3rd, 2008, 2:26 am


offended said:

First of all I am not an expert on the Lebanese internal affairs. I just judge what I see and hear by simple logic…
I, like Norman, think that Aoun has done the right thing by not demonizing Syria after it pulled out. I am not sure he was asking the Americans to change the regime in Damascus. This is what he referring to by ‘italaqan’ (me thinks).

Syria was in Lebanon. He wanted her out. He struggled against her. When it was out. He stopped struggling and antagonizing.

It really is simple and consistent to me, and maybe I am just being naïve.

Now for the issue of Tawteen, I don’t know where you got the idea that I am against giving the Palestinians in Lebanon their full rights? You know that I come from Syria where Palestinians are treated equally so I don’t need to be lectured about the matter really.

Tawteen or no Tawteen, this has to be part of the greater package for the settlement. People should be given a choice, do you want to go back and become a citizen of the upcoming Palestinian state (or the one state for that matter) or do you want to stay, get naturalized, and get all your civil rights?

Because forcing them to go back is also bad, there should be a choice not a coercive move…

However, if it is in the interest of Lebanon’s stability not to have Tawteen, so be it. You can’t expect the ME to become the secular and non-sectarian wonderland soon enough…

You know the Lebanese government, lead by Saniora (tawal allah 3omro), didn’t mind the absence of the representative ministers of half the Lebanese population for more than a year. I am sure they wouldn’t mind ignoring the Palestinian issue a little bit more…

And by the way, I am curious to know, if the Shia’ and Christians are natural allies in Lebanon, then how come Ga’ga’ and Gemayel are tying themselves in this die-hard alliance with Sa’d Hariri????

March 3rd, 2008, 5:10 am


wizart said:

After Neoconservatism
By Francis Fukuyama, Feb. 19, 2006, The New York Times full

As we approach the third anniversary of the onset of the Iraq war, it seems very unlikely that history will judge either the intervention itself or the ideas animating it kindly. By invading Iraq, the Bush administration created a self-fulfilling prophecy: Iraq has now replaced Afghanistan as a magnet, a training ground and an operational base for jihadist terrorists, with plenty of American targets to shoot at. The United States still has a chance of creating a Shiite-dominated democratic Iraq … There are clear benefits to the Iraqi people from the removal of Saddam Hussein’s dictatorship… But it is very hard to see how these developments in themselves justify the blood and treasure that the United States has spent on the project to this point.

The so-called Bush Doctrine that set the framework for the administration’s first term is now in shambles. The doctrine argued that, in the wake of the Sept. 11 attacks, America would have to launch periodic preventive wars to defend itself against rogue states and terrorists with weapons of mass destruction; that it would do this alone, if necessary. … It is not surprising that in its second term, the administration has been distancing itself from these policies. …

The … soaring rhetoric of Bush’s second Inaugural Address, have borne very problematic fruits. The Islamist Muslim Brotherhood made a strong showing in Egypt’s parliamentary elections in November and December. While … the vote [in Iraq] led to the ascendance of a Shiite bloc with close ties to Iran. But the clincher was the decisive Hamas victory in the Palestinian election last month, which brought to power a movement overtly dedicated to the destruction of Israel. ….

The problem with neoconservatism’s agenda lies not in its ends, which are as American as apple pie, but rather in the overmilitarized means by which it has sought to accomplish them. What American foreign policy needs is not a return to a narrow and cynical realism, but rather the formulation of a “realistic Wilsonianism” that better matches means to ends.

The Neoconservative Legacy

The way the cold war ended shaped the thinking … younger neoconservatives like William Kristol and Robert Kagan, in two ways. First, it seems to have created an expectation that all totalitarian regimes were hollow at the core … once the wicked witch was dead, the munchkins would rise up and start singing joyously about their liberation. As Kristol and Kagan put it … “the idea of America using its power to promote changes of regime in nations ruled by dictators rings of utopianism. But in fact, it is eminently realistic.”

This overoptimism about postwar transitions to democracy helps explain the Bush administration’s incomprehensible failure to plan adequately for the insurgency that subsequently emerged in Iraq. … While they now assert that they knew all along that the democratic transformation of Iraq would be long and hard, they were clearly taken by surprise. According to George Packer’s recent book on Iraq, “The Assassins’ Gate,” the Pentagon planned a drawdown of American forces to some 25,000 troops by the end of the summer following the invasion. …

The neoconservative position articulated by people like Kristol and Kagan was, by contrast, Leninist; they believed that history can be pushed along with the right application of power and will. Leninism was a tragedy in its Bolshevik version, and it has returned as farce when practiced by the United States. Neoconservatism, as both a political symbol and a body of thought, has evolved into something I can no longer support.

The Failure of Benevolent Hegemony

The Bush administration and its neoconservative supporters did not simply underestimate the difficulty of bringing about congenial political outcomes in places like Iraq; they also misunderstood the way the world would react to the use of American power. … Kristol and Kagan considered whether this posture would provoke resistance from the rest of the world, and concluded, “It is precisely because American foreign policy is infused with an unusually high degree of morality that other nations find they have less to fear from its otherwise daunting power.”

It is hard to read these lines without irony in the wake of the global reaction to the Iraq war, which succeeded in uniting much of the world in a frenzy of anti-Americanism….

Finally, benevolent hegemony presumed that the hegemon was … competent. Much of the criticism of the Iraq intervention from Europeans was … that it … didn’t know what it was doing in trying to democratize Iraq. In this, the critics were unfortunately quite prescient. … But the intelligence community never took nearly as alarmist a view of the terrorist/W.M.D. threat as the war’s supporters did.

What to Do

Now that the neoconservative moment appears to have passed, … we need to demilitarize what we have been calling the global war on terrorism, … Meeting the jihadist challenge is more of a “long, twilight struggle” whose core is not a military campaign but a political contest for the hearts and minds of ordinary Muslims around the world. …

The worst legacy that could come from the Iraq war would be … a sharp turn toward isolation with a cynical realist policy aligning the United States with friendly authoritarians. Good governance, … is critical to a host of outcomes we desire, from alleviating poverty to dealing with pandemics to controlling violent conflicts. A Wilsonian policy … needs to be informed by a certain realism that was missing from the thinking of the Bush administration in its first term and of its neoconservative allies. …

We have to shift our focus to the reform, reorganization and proper financing of those institutions of the United States government that actually promote democracy. … The Bush administration has been walking — indeed, sprinting — away from the legacy of its first term, … but the legacy and its neoconservative supporters has been so polarizing that it is going to be hard to have a reasoned debate.

What is needed now are new ideas, neither neoconservative nor realist, ideas that retain the belief in the universality of human rights, but without its illusions about the efficacy of American power and hegemony to bring these ends about.

March 3rd, 2008, 5:54 am


offended said:

Mughneya’s widow denies that she blamed Syria for his killing.

March 3rd, 2008, 7:54 am


why-discuss said:


“I do hope you don’t think Israel wants to annihilate 1.5 million Palestinians”

It is possible but the irresponsible brutality the Israeli goverment has used agaist palestinians, it does look like they wish palestinians would be wiped out, either by killing each other or by weakening them so they renounce to their legitimate right of return and be forced to stay in guest countries. Israelis wants to ‘get rid’ of the palestinians, that is clear. There was a gathering in Damascus today and the palestinians were singing: “We are the refugees, we dont want bread and flour, we want to go back to Palestine”. Jews forced they way back to their ‘historic homeland’ after 2000 years, why would you deny that right to Palestinians. If only Hariri had lived enough to be like the Baron of Rostschild.
What shocks me is less the stupid goverment who lacks imagination and political savyness, where Olmert is trying to save his poltical skin and Livni and Bibi waiting on the side to grab power, but the israeli population who seem to have lost the perspective of Gaza situation:
Gaza is an occupied land and according to the international law, Israelis are the occupiers and must take care of the population by providing all necessary to live. Israel could either leave Gaza totally free, by allowing the population to move freely in the sea and the land or they must provide them with food, energy. medical help etc..
It is so obvious that blockading to death an overpopulated and impoverished stretch of land and hope they inhabitants will become docile sheeps is utterly primitive and stupid. Can’t Israelis see that? Why did Olmert rejected the cease fire Hamas proposed more than a year ago. I am sorry, Shai but your governement is as inefficient and irresponsible as Bush’s and I am dissapointed that the Israelis, like the americans, follow it blindly out of fear. I thought Israelis were more sensitive to human sufferings than the americans. Thank God we will see the end of Bush soon, when can we see the end of your hawks and their followers?

March 3rd, 2008, 9:45 am


Akbar Palace said:

kbar we are advocating change as well, we want to take the Neo con terrorists out and, symapthisers like yourself and AIG out of the equation as well, and to us that is the best change of all!


The “neocon terrorists” have only been in power for 8 years. And before these past 8 years the Middle East was still living in poverty and violence. So we already have data on the “change” you are seeking. It was no better, and I would argue that it was worse.

That is unless you want another Saddam and unless you want the Taliban and al-Queda back in Afghanistan, and unless you want Qadafi’s nuclear program back on-line.

March 3rd, 2008, 10:43 am


Shai said:


I’ll start with your last question. I WISH the government in power was led by hawks, because then we’d be able to blame the Right for this idiotic and irresponsible behavior the past number of years. Problem is, that it isn’t. The center and the Left rule today. Their mistake, in my mind, is that they think they can have the cake and eat it too. They think they can talk to Abu Mazen, and so-called “court” 50% of the Palestinians, while fighting the other 50%. That doesn’t work. Do understand, that Israelis are very upset at their government, precisely BECAUSE it isn’t bringing safety and security to Israel. The problem is, that in the next election, it isn’t sure that the Left would win more votes than those hawks you’re talking about. It may very well be, that Bibi Netanyahu will be the next Prime Minister, and lead a coalition purely from the Right. As much as I don’t like the guy, I’m not at all sure that it isn’t a better solution than we have today. This man loves himself so much, and wants to go down in history not as a total failure like he was last time around (remember, he was PM once already…), but as the leader who finally brought peace to the region (not Democracy, like some advocate…) So he’ll be more ready to talk to Syria, and even Hamas, if the opportunity exists when he’s in power. The same would happen with Barak if he came to power, but I just can’t imagine him winning – his popularity is very low right now.

Israeli politics has always, since 1977, been that of a game of ping-pong. If one party cannot bring peace/prosperity, her opposition party gets voted in next time, by the SAME people! Imagine that. No one would think this could be the case, in any other modern and democratic nation on this planet. But here, things just work backwards in many ways. Whereas in most nations, the Right tend to be the conservative ideologues, and the Left the liberal pragmatics, here in Israel it’s the exact opposite. That may explain why it is precisely Likud leaders (Begin, Netanyahu, Sharon) who were willing to give up on land and control, in return for peace, and managed to do so and not just talk about it, like the Left tends to do. Of course, it’s much tougher for the Left, because when it brings up these ideas, 50% of Israelis (on the Right) turn it down… until the Right achieves power, and does the same thing, but this time, with support from the Left. In a bizarre way, the Arabs almost prefer Israeli leaders from the Right, because they know they can deliver, when it comes time to do so.

Lastly, as for Gaza, I’m sorry to say that the Palestinians have no excuse this time. Ariel Sharon, the “Butcher of Lebanon”, himself ordered his army and police to remove every last settler from every last square millimeter that was occupied, some two years ago. Not a single civilian, or soldier, remained in Gaza. The entire territory of Gaza was ruled by none other than, Palestinians. There was no blockade, not land, not naval. And then, the Palestinian people democratically elected the Hamas to rule them. Obviously, they did so mostly because of the corrupt Fatah, and not because they supported Qassam’s being lobbed at Israel. But, reality is such that those who rule Gaza, the Hamas, continue, and have for the past 7 years, on a daily basis (and this is not an exaggeration), to launch Qassam rockets at Israel. Israel must defend itself somehow against such attacks. Chances are, if it immediately withdrew to the 1967 lines in the West Bank (in Gaza it already has), then Hamas would stop throwing missiles. But to just “suddenly” withdraw takes someone or something to hand this over to. And now, since the Palestinians are split in two, who do we hand this to? And, of course, most Israelis right now are not interested in returning land to anyone, as long as this sort of violence persists. We need a break, and we need it soon. But in the meantime, the IDF must defend its citizens in Sderot, Ashkelon, other Negev settlements, and it has to do so by force. I completely disagree with how it chooses to do so, but that’s what’s taking place on the ground.

Unfortunately, if Hamas, Fatah, and Israel, do not find the way to talk to each other at the table (so far only the first refuses, the other two are doing it already), and instead they speak through violence, then I’m afraid there are only REAL hawks on the horizon, not the impotent politicians we see now, and certainly no doves. We keep talking about the Palestinian-Israeli issue, but I still insist that the Syrian-Israeli one should be addressed right now, and dealt with quickly, because it IS the easiest to conclude, and it can and WILL have a positive influence on the former. We have to be realistic, and see where we can realistically solve problems. If Abu Mazen could deliver, I’d say let’s talk to him first. If he and Hanniye reach an agreement soon, great. If not, then we must talk to Assad, and the sooner the better.

March 3rd, 2008, 11:46 am


Enlightened said:


Terrorism whether Neocon or perpetrated by any idealogy, or organization (I dont care to name them because we will argue incessantly over semantics) is not the way forward, Bush and your heros have failed in 8 years , and will leave a very poor legacy you and I would beg to differ but history will judge them and confine them to the dust bin, whether its state terrorism perpetrated by elected officials hiding behind democracy on the right wing, or Religious extremist whether they be Islamic, Christian or Jewish, they have no place on this earth.

And that means you and the organization you belong to( nudge nudge , wink, wink)

March 3rd, 2008, 12:05 pm


why-discuss said:


Thanks for the clarifications and insights on the governement and on the psychology of the street israelis.
It is true that Israel withdrew from Gaza, but did they do that out of exhaustion of dealing with the violent palestinians attacks, or out of a peace strategy? You know very well that, like South of Lebanon, they withdrew out of exhaustion of 20 years of attacks from Hezbollah. This naturally triggers a logic in radical palestinians and in any normal arab: Israelis withdraw only when they are harassed, so let’s harass them until they withdraw to 1967 borders: Palestinians have nothing to loose, they lost everything after 60 years of exile, humiliation and UNRWA food. This is exactly what is happening and this is the logic prevailing within Hamas and also within most arab psyche. For example, if Israel withdraw willingly from the Shebaa farms in Lebanon or the Golan (that you mention) as a sign of good gesture, not as a result of rockets or international pressure, then they may encourage a dynamic of peace and open a new page with their neighbours. If they don’t Israel will continue to be perceived as reluctant to peace and prone to more violent extermination of their ennemies. Unfortunatly as you say it, it seems that the present governement in Israel is unable to give any land back as they think they can keep these as cards for future (?) negotiations. By doing that, and showing that violence is their only response to stopping rockets they are inciting to more violence and creating a new generations of willing martyrs, a phenomenon that Israel can’t deal forever with.
I know it is inextricable and it is certainly not served by the present US administration that, instead of calling for diplomacy is putting fire on the oil. I just hope 2009 will be a start of realpolitik not of these irresponsible doomed wars.
Building trust is the only way out and the world powers should encourage that instead of coming out with resolutions and sticks that no one believe in anymore.

March 3rd, 2008, 12:16 pm


Akbar Palace said:

Terrorism whether Neocon or perpetrated by any idealogy, or organization (I dont care to name them because we will argue incessantly over semantics) is not the way forward, Bush and your heros have failed in 8 years…


They did not fail to create a democracy in Iraq. Isn’t that what Arabs are complaining about, the inability to influence their government?

… and will leave a very poor legacy you and I would beg to differ but history will judge them and confine them to the dust bin…

Perhaps, but I doubt it. I think history will show that democracy CAN work in Arab countries, the Arabs (more than anyone) deserve it and the Arabs are no different than any other peoples.

… whether its state terrorism perpetrated by elected officials hiding behind democracy on the right wing, or Religious extremist whether they be Islamic, Christian or Jewish, they have no place on this earth.

The Arabs and Muslims not only crave democracy and freedom, they also have to learn to live with others. Part of this new democracy is learning to live with others who have different beliefs. This is being accomplished in Iraq, and hopefully it will rub off into other areas of the Middle East and with the peoples that live there.

This is the real “CHANGE” I’m looking forward to, not the same old stuff we’ve been dealing with for the past century.

March 3rd, 2008, 12:27 pm


why-discuss said:


“This is being accomplished in Iraq, and hopefully it will rub off into other areas of the Middle East and with the peoples that live there.”

Don’t be too sure of that. Who knows what will be Iraq’s policy towards Israel?

March 3rd, 2008, 12:36 pm


Shai said:


I agree with you, my friend, in more ways than you know. We must find a way out of this 60 year cycle of blood and tears. In’shalla, with courageous people who are relentless about the possibility of peace, we’ll succeed.

March 3rd, 2008, 1:00 pm


ausamaa said:

The IDF is pulling out of Gaza, what happened??? So soon???

March 3rd, 2008, 1:16 pm


Shai said:


I’m afraid this is just the beginning. This is probably a “new style” we’re witnessing, to deal with Hamas. Now the question is whether Abu Mazen will be able to talk with Hamas about calming down the area (i.e. stopping the Qassams), or if more are to be expected. It is quite obvious that Barak is not going to let the 7-year long daily Qassam lobbing exercise continue like it has. On the other hand, going in for a few days, killing 110 Palestinians, and pulling out, is not good recipe for success.

March 3rd, 2008, 1:33 pm


Farid said:

There is a great video on You Tube. This is the start of a new uprise that started in Aleppo University. I hope more to come in all of Syria.
Freedom is coming sooner rather than later.

March 3rd, 2008, 2:14 pm


AnotherIsraeliGuy said:

There are no great solutions. A cease fire with Hamas would bring a huge war in a few years. That is the lesson from the July 2006 war with Hizballah. Therefore keeping pressure on Hamas is the only thing possible. Let’s wait a few years and see what happens. My bet is that they will have to get into a confrontation with Egypt because the cutting off from Israel is really hurting them.

Guerilla warfare is successful if it costs the insurgents less than it costs the regular army. Currently both the human and economic costs are much larger for Hamas and the Palestinians. Let’s see how many more years they can keep this up. Israel can certainly keep this low intensity warfare up indefinitely. In the middle east you need patience. Isn’t that what the Asads taught us? And if Hamas care more about hurting Israel than helping Palestinians, that is their choice.

March 3rd, 2008, 2:56 pm


Qifa Nabki said:

Hi Offended,

My frustrated remarks were not directed at you, so sorry if they came across that way. Rather, it is just simple frustration with the situation in Lebanon.

I appreciate your view of Aoun’s relations with Syria, but I don’t think it’s that simple. Let me give you another example. Aoun was arguing very ferociously against Hizbullah’s weapons, especially after 2000. He didn’t see any reason for them to keep their weapons, but now he is silent about them because he is their ally. Nothing has changed about Hizbullah since the time that Aoun used to criticize them — it’s not like the situation with Syria, that he doesn’t criticize them anymore because they left Lebanon. Hizbullah is still exactly the same group, but with even more weapons now, and a heightened sense of pride because of the 2006 war. So, again I would say that his flip-flopping has nothing to do with ideology and is only related to politics.

This is not to say, however, that Aoun’s attitudes about Syria are not healthier, long-term, than Hariri/Jumblatt/etc. Aoun probably does have the better long-term vision, in this respect, but that’s not saying much.

As for tawteen, my view is the following: the Palestinians in Lebanon should not be sacrificed on the altar of the Arab-Israeli conflict. They’re here, khalas. We can’t change history, and we can’t continue to deny them basic human rights just because we’re committed to an ideological struggle with Israel. They should be given some kind of official status that comes with rights to employment, education, etc. If the government wants to keep them from voting, fine, but at the bare minimum they should be allowed to live outside their ghettoes and seek a better life for themselves. They will remain Palestinians, just like those who live in Jordan, Kuwait, Syria, etc. But they must also be given their rights.

As for the natural allies question, that was not my point of view. I was simply relating to you what several Shi`i members of Hizbullah have said in the past. Obviously, not everybody buys it.

March 3rd, 2008, 3:03 pm


Qifa Nabki said:

One more thing: about Berri and his recent spilling of the beans, vis-a-vis the so-called obstructionism of USA/KSA:

The current game that is being played, in my opinion, is the following.

The Americans blinked first, back before Annapolis. They leaned on March 14 to accept the opposition’s presidential candidate, and March 14 followed their orders, feeling like they’d been sold down the river, but were willing to swallow it in exchange for a breakthrough in the stalemate.

As Paul Salem and others (like Prof. Landis) pointed out, the Syrians basically pocketed this concession. They said, “Well, if you’re going to budge on the president now, you’ll give us even more later.” Hence the continued stalemate, the failed Arab initiative, the fruitless “Quartet” meetings, long after Annapolis.

It became clear that Syria was in no rush, and was going to simply keep the pressure on its enemies in Lebanon, and wait for their patrons to give in.

What we are seeing now in the way of American/Saudi pressure and “belligerence” is a sign that they are tired of this humiliation and are now engaging Syria’s obstructionism with some of their own. Hence the warship, the added sanctions, the rejection of the Arab initiative, the boycott of the Damascus summit.

None of this is likely to work in the near term. Syria’s regime has proved that it’s willing to dig in its heels come hell or high water, at least until the deck is reshuffled come November.

But any talk of U.S./KSA obstructing the opposition’s desire to produce a breakthrough is baloney. The Americans and Saudis are now playing the exact same game as the Syrians. The difference is that Syria is much smaller than its oppnents, and its cards — which look pretty good in the short term — will eventually be burned, one by one, if it doesn’t alter its strategy soon, which will mean cooperating in some way.

Damascus obviously believes that the time to alter strategy has not yet arisen. Asad seems to be operating on the assumption that the new deck will contain all kinds of tasty opportunities for Syria. What he doesn’t seem to be considering is the much higher likelihood that the next president will also be beholden to the special interests that are influencing Bush, namely the Israeli and Saudi lobbies. They will be just as (if not far more) successful at competing for the attentions of the U.S. president as Imad Moustapha. I have hope for Obama as well, but he’s not the Messiah. He’s going to be hamstrung in all kinds of ways.

The time to start dealing was yesterday. Asad should not wait any longer. He should start creating facts on the ground, instead of making promises and excuses. The longer he keeps repeating that he does not control Hizbullah, the more likely people will start to believe it, and therefore feel that he actually has litle to offer, when push comes to shove.

March 3rd, 2008, 3:17 pm


Atassi said:

Farid Yea habib,
This looks more like a staged action… This dude in your video don’t even have a clove !!!his finger prints are all over.. so stupid

March 3rd, 2008, 3:42 pm


Nour said:


I know you keep repeating that you are not a M14 supporter, but all your arguments are pure M14 talking points. I really believe that it is quite obtuse and shortsighted to think that Syria is obstructing in Lebanon, when it is clear that the opposition has clear demands that it refuses to give up. Now, does this make Syria happy? Sure it does, as Syria does not want to see an anti-Syrian government arise in Lebanon for very valid security reasons. Syria of course is not an angel, and neither is any other side. You still approach this issue on the assumption that Syria has been the one being belligerent and obstructive all this time, whil the US and KSA are only now responding to Syria’s own harsh positions. Well, in my view, this is the exact opposite of what is happening.

The US has been basically ordering the Lebanese loyalists to remain firm in their positions and not give in to the oppositions, as the US has a clear goal of eliminating the resistance in Lebanon. Moreover, I am completely convinced that the Hariri assassination and the ones that followed were planned and orchestrated not by Syria, but by the US/Israel, with Saudi help. It is quite clear that there is no evidence linking Syria to this assassination, as the existence of any such evidence would have already been used by the US to either launch an attack on Syria or compel the UNSC to impose suffocating sanctions on the country. The international tribunal is nothing but a joke and any objective person can clearly see that.

The current instability in Lebanon is clearly the work of the US/Israel with KSA collaboration. It is not the work of Syria, which wants anything but instability in its next door neighbor’s territory. However, Syria definitely will do all it can to prevent the rise of an anti-Syrian government in Lebanon, which will allow Lebanon to be used as a lauching pad for attacks against Syria.

March 3rd, 2008, 4:07 pm


qunfuz said:

Shai, you don’t need someone to hand the West Bank to, you just need to leave. Just get out. We’ve heard various excuses since 1967. It’s clear that the lack of someone to hand it to is just another excuse. Why do you have settlements on the West Bank, why are you stealing the water, why have you built a wall in the middle of it, if you really want to leave? Just bloody leave. It isn’t yours. Let the Palestinians and the Arabs worry about who will rule it. One thing is certain: it shouldn’t be you. YOU need a break from violence? YOU? My heart bleeds. Just get out, and then negotiations can start on a meaningful basis on recognition, peaceful coexistence, refugees and compensation, etc.

You say that Hamas is refusing to talk: Hamas has repeatedly called for a mutual ceasefire, and has been ignored. It refuses to go along with the ridiculous theatre of the ‘peace process’ – really a cover for the continued dispossession of the Palestinian people. In this it has the support of very many people who do not have an Islamist or anti-Semitic agenda.

The playing field is not level. When somebody like you, the best of Israeli society (after the real best, the brave post-zionists like Ilan Pappe)talks as if it were, it makes me despair. You are the oppresser, the ethnic cleanser, the occupier. Change that, and everything becomes possible.

March 3rd, 2008, 4:08 pm


Norman said:

any cooments,

Syria….and “Shortsightedness”!
Jamil Thiyabi Al-Hayat – 03/03/08//

A few readers may sense bias against Syria in this article. They may lumber my “weak” shoulders with the burden of an unbearable charge, but what I have written is the result of a “pure” analytic reading of Damascus’ “fickle” policies and “contradictory” decisions.

Saudi Arabia is a state whose positions are well-known and respected both at the Arab and international levels. Syria cannot forget the stands that Saudi Arabia took both in good and bad times. Saudi Arabia is a state that shares the pain of any harm suffered by any Arab country as if it were the injured party, and it is no secret that whenever Damascus expressed pain, Riyadh rushed to help as if it were the suffering side.

During the Riyadh Summit last year, Saudi Arabia sent “positive” political messages to express its interest in starting a new era of common Arab action. It “openly” announced that Arab summits are an open platform for all members to express their views and vote for what they believe is beneficial for the Arab citizen and that the time has come to overlook Arab-Arab disputes. At the time, observers saw this as a qualitative leap ahead with respect to earnest work, the end of one era and the beginning of a new Arab era, especially as a meeting was held between the Saudi King and the Syrian President on the sidelines of the summit.

At the Riyadh Summit, things were named as they were to the point that the Saudi King dubbed the American forces in Iraq occupation forces, which provoked an immediate response from the White House.

According to the political dictionary, Saudi Arabia, Egypt and other Arab countries are described as moderate states. More often than not, it is the wise who bear the responsibility of calming and correcting the behavior of the adolescent who suffers emotional attractions and “uncalculated” impulses toward others at the expense of the Arab interest. This demands returning Syria back to the Arab fold and exposing it to a “clinical” treatment to eliminate the “emergent” symptoms and the state of “strategic” love and passion whose “chronic” symptoms it is suffering.

In the past, we were used to Syria adopting positions that serve Arab causes. In recent years, however, it has been ranting and thundering with “blind” positions that have blinded the vision and hearts of Damascus.

So far, Syria has not offered anything that can lead to Arab “consensus.” Nor has it created an atmosphere through which obstacles and hurdles can be overcome in the course of holding a summit that can deliver a “unified” Arab decision.

Syria is straying away from the Arabs. It seems that pride has claimed the best of its leaders despite the fact that the Iraqi scenario and the dangers that brought Saddam’s regime down are still lurking in the entire region. And so similar is tonight to yesterday, especially with the arrival of USS Cole in the region.

The Arabs want Damascus to return to its Arab bases and help resolve the crisis of its Lebanese brother and neighbor who has grown tired of death on a daily basis. Syria is demanded to push its allies to accept the Arab initiative and to elect a consensus Lebanese president, a very “easy” task but only if intentions are honest without resorting to games and exposed elusive political maneuvers.

Syria is the host to the Arab summit, but its efforts are neither complete nor honorable and hence threaten to undermine the summit if it can be still called as such, since it is doomed to fail in advance. In other words, there may be no need to hold or attend this summit, or to expect it to deliver any outcomes since the host is the cause of dissension and disunion.

Undoubtedly, we are nations that have grown accustomed to conflicts, turbulences, wars, terrorists, suicide belts, exclusionary edicts, betrayal by politicians, cheating by economists, and the greed of merchants. We certainly are in no need for more catastrophes and blows! We are nations whose features reveal sorrow and misery inflicted by the actions of those who resemble us and who tempt us with lies and scams.

The Damascus Summit….it will be a tourist trip for the attendants, starting with receptions, handshakes, and fiery speeches before ending with “nothing” which is exactly what Syria and its allies want.

©2003 Media Communications Group مجموعة الاتصالات الإعلامية

March 3rd, 2008, 4:11 pm


qunfuz said:

If, on the other hand, you want a democratic multicultural Israel-Palestine, please stay in the West Bank, bring your civilians back to Gaza (unarmed this time), drink from the River Jordan, welcome the refugees home, and sit down with the Palestinians to work out a constitution which recognises, respects and protects everyone.

There are three solutions.

1. The above.

2. The pull-back from the lands stolen in 67 as described in my former comment.

3. War until Israel is wiped out. This can happen. 60 years is a blip in Middle Eastern history. Your Western backers are on their way down. Hizbullah is the first example of an intelligent Arab fighting force. There’s more to come.

I’m not making threats. I genuinely want to see Arabs and Jews, who I admire and sympathise with, live and prosper together. I understand that if I had been born Jewish, with all the bad history in Europe, I may have become a Zionst. But I think your energies would be best spent not hoping for a Syrian initiative, but talking to yourself and your countrymen in a realistic way about justice and your options for the future. Act now, while you are strong, while you can show magnanimity.

March 3rd, 2008, 4:17 pm


qunfuz said:

Norman – you want a comment on this? Not only is it obviously Saudi propaganda, but it is an example of the weakness of most of the Arab print media: it doesn’t actually say anything at all. There are no arguments or analysis, no support for the non-existent arguments (of course). Just someone who likes the sound of his own voice .. or the sound of the riyals fluttering around his head.

There you are! Now I’ll get back to work.

March 3rd, 2008, 4:23 pm


Norman said:


I am glad you are there. that is what i wanted to read.

March 3rd, 2008, 4:31 pm


offended said:

Farid, (Al Ghadri?)
What uprising are you talking about?
I only saw two guys running in the dark and pasting papers here and there…
They’ve even stuck those propaganda papers on the university printing press, I wonder how politically savvy are those who are working on maintaining the printing machines.

And what’s with the cheap glue? I mean, couldn’t Khaddam do better than that?

What do you expect to achieve through all this drama?

March 3rd, 2008, 5:15 pm


Nour said:

“The Damascus Summit….it will be a tourist trip for the attendants, starting with receptions, handshakes, and fiery speeches before ending with “nothing” which is exactly what Syria and its allies want.”

This is a really funny quote by Jamil Thiyabi because it actually implies that any Arab Summit has ever produced anything but receptions, handshakes, and speeches. Of course the rest of the article is empty of anything really substantive and relies solely on anti-Syria propaganda that repeats the same tired arguments of how Syria is all-evil and KSA is all-good. Of course the writer forgets to mention that KSA actively aided in the occupation and destruction of Iraq while Syria stood firmly against the US invasion. He neglects the fact that KSA does not dare even issue a statement condemning Israel in its onslaught of Palestinians and Lebanese, while Syria has repeatedly and contiously aided and supported the Resistance. He fails to remind the readers that it is the Saudi Wahhabi school that has produced the extremism prevalent in the middle east today. So just what positions in support of Arabs and Arab stability is Jamil alluding to?

March 3rd, 2008, 5:19 pm


offended said:

Re: Farid and his video:
I mean, I feel sorry for you guys…you are putting your lives on the line for what?

Are you sure the NSF represents the right formula of reform for Syria at this moment?

I hope someone is not taking you for a ride…

March 3rd, 2008, 5:22 pm


AnotherIsraeliGuy said:


My view is that you better make peace with Israel while you can before radical islam makes the Arab countries completely obselete. On its way up and on its way down, radical Islam will leave nothing but ashes from the Arab world, especially of Syria and Egypt making Israel the grand winner in the middle east.

Who is right? Only the future will tell.

March 3rd, 2008, 5:52 pm


Qifa Nabki said:

I know you keep repeating that you are not a M14 supporter, but all your arguments are pure M14 talking points.

Nour, you’ve blown my cover! How did you do it? The US/M14 sent me here to eliminate any resistance on this blog, just like they killed al-Hariri to eliminate any resistance in Lebanon.

I really believe that it is quite obtuse and shortsighted to think that Syria is obstructing in Lebanon, when it is clear that the opposition has clear demands that it refuses to give up.

Explain to me how having clear demands is mutually exclusive with obstructionism? How can you prove that the majority’s clear demands amount to obstructionism while the opposition’s don’t?

You still approach this issue on the assumption that Syria has been the one being belligerent and obstructive all this time, whil the US and KSA are only now responding to Syria’s own harsh positions. Well, in my view, this is the exact opposite of what is happening.

Nour, could you provide some evidence to back up your conclusions? Otherwise, they are just personal opinions. That’s the problem with the current standoff in Lebanon. Each side’s position is a mirror of the opposite side’s. Group A and Group B mutually accuse each other of: being the puppets of foreign powers, receiving their aid and marching orders from outside, deepening the sectarian divisions, not acting in the best interests of Lebanon, etc. And both sides can point to a million reasons as evidence, and many of these reasons are true, while others are partly true, and still others are pure propaganda.

Does this make me a March 14 supporter, when I criticize the tactics of both sides? If it does, then I guess you believe anyone who deviates from your own theses by a tiny smidgen is a March 14 supporter. Basita.

The US has been basically ordering the Lebanese loyalists to remain firm in their positions and not give in to the oppositions, as the US has a clear goal of eliminating the resistance in Lebanon.

If that’s the case, then why did the Americans invite Syria to Annapolis? Why did they give in on Suleiman’s candidacy? And explain to me why Nabih Berri, during his speech at the Moussa Sadr commemoration at Baalbek last September, agreed to give up the “clear demand” for a veto in exchange for agreement on the consensus candidate? These demands you cite are obviously not so clear, as the opposition decided to backtrack after March 14 called their bluff.

Moreover, I am completely convinced that the Hariri assassination and the ones that followed were planned and orchestrated not by Syria, but by the US/Israel, with Saudi help.

Wow, you’re even more special than I thought. I think you used the word “twisted” when describing me and HP recently. I can’t think of a better adjective to describe the scenario you are proposing. Habibi Nour, let me ask you one simple question:

If the axis of evil (US-KSA-Israel) was so dead-set on framing Syria by systematically eliminating the leading lights of a pro-Western government (i.e. not just Rafiq al-Hariri, but also such figures as Gibran Tueni, Pierre Gemayel, Samir Kassir, etc.) then what brand of idiocy would possess them to wait for an official and impartial international investigation to incriminate Syria? If they’re going to go to the trouble of liquidating their allies, you’d think that they would have followed through and made sure that they were rewarded for it by toppling Asad by force.

Now you’re going to tell me that this was the plan, and Bashar foiled it. Of course… how could I be so naive?

March 3rd, 2008, 6:49 pm


Shai said:


You made many points, so I’ll try to respond to most, if not all:

1. “Just Get Out”. For the past 20 years, since the first Intifada, I’ve been for unilateral withdrawal from the West Bank. Just like you said, I too believed we should “just leave”. And let the Palestinians do with their territories whatever they like – turn it into a country, a battleground between families or local “warlords”, whatever. It isn’t ours to begin with, and it should be given back to its owners, regardless of how organized or capable they may be in receiving it. And then, this suddenly changed. With the takeover of Gaza by Hamas, the Palestinians were no longer unified, or under one governing body. Now, if it was a different party that took over, even by force, I may still say “let’s still just leave”. But as it happens, it is Hamas, that still calls for the annihilation of Israel. You can tell me that Hamas has offered Israel this and that until you’re blue in the face, but all it has ever offered was a time-out (what you call a “ceasefire”). Clearly, this time out would not be used for peaceful negotiations, as Hamas doesn’t recognize Israel’s right to exist here (regardless of how much you or I would like to think that it does). Instead, this time out would clearly be used for rearming, and getting ready for the next round. This is, in fact, what has always happened during these “recesses” or “ceasefires”. So now I ask you to put yourself in my shoes, and do try to be honest, would you withdraw unilaterally, knowing there’s a very good chance that this same Hamas could force a takeover of the West Bank as well, and now, instead of having its Qassams only south of Israel, would have it facing almost every major city and town, and in very short proximity. We would be enabling a party that in the most clear fashion calls for our annihilation, to control the territory closest to us? Does that make sense to you? Imagine Lebanon was not a country yet. Imagine that Hezbollah was Syria’s sworn enemy and, in fact, called for Syria’s annihilation. Can you imagine Syria pulling its troops out unilaterally, when this is the situation on the ground? Never. Don’t misunderstand me, I’m not suggesting that staying in the West Bank is good for Israel – it’s not. I’m not suggesting we should try to eliminate Hamas, and put in power only someone we like – that would be a mistake. Instead, I am suggesting that we stop discussing anything formally with the PA right now, that we let the Palestinians work out their differences, and decide on one single body that can be in charge of their territories, and then, if that body is willing to recognize Israel (like the PLO did, and Fatah, and others), then of course we should withdraw, even before reaching an agreement.

2. Break from Violence. I referred to “all of us” needing a break, not just Israel. Clearly, those who suffer the most need it even more badly than us Israelis do. If you read any of my many comments, I think you’d find that I tend to see the equation of who is suffering more, quite correctly, despite the difficulty this may have on an average Israeli.

3. Democratic Israel-Palestine. Once upon a time I, like Qadaffi, actually thought that Israelis and Palestinians should live in one state (“Israstine”, as the Libyan colonel called it). I thought it made the most sense geopolitically. But there is one main problem with this. It would mean the end of Israel as a “jewish state”. Now while I think that down the line, once we have peace in the region, there is a good chance that after 10-15 years, Israelis will stop fearing their existence as a Jewish people, and may see the benefits of opening up Israel, as part of what I called a UME (United Middle East), to anyone wishing to live and work here. But we’re nowhere near this yet. Most Israelis still suffer from real fear (very likely as a result of the Holocaust) that there will not be a place for Jews to escape to, should the need ever arise. This is a deep emotional scar that needs to heal, and the Arab-Israeli conflict obviously has not helped in that regard. Again, Israelis need to see themselves living at peace with Arabs for a while, to finally feel safe. And then, I’m still hoping, we’ll be able to help form this so-called UME.

4. Feeling Despair. While I really am truly sorry that my words cause you to feel despair, I would have hoped that mine would cause you to feel some hope. I do understand your legitimate frustration when faced with a “dovish” Israeli telling you that he wants to see more done by the weaker side (the Arabs) than by his own, but I am only voicing this hope (from Assad, as I’ve stated) because at this very moment, our leadership is, quite simply, impotent. They are stuck so high up Washington rear-end, that they cannot do what is necessary for this region’s desperately needed peace. So what shall I do? Run in the streets yelling “Israel, wake up!”? If I thought that could help, I would do so right now, instead of typing these words to you. Instead, I’m here to try to better understand your side, to try to somewhat explain mine, and more importantly, to find a way to bridge our gaps right now. The solution, by the way, is not going to be a just one. It’s not. Hopefully, it’ll be a smart one, that will enable us to finally withdraw to the 1967 line. The two withdrawals that are left are the West Bank, and the Golan. The first is almost impossible to do right now, as I’ve explained above. The second, I believe, is the easiest, which is why we need to resume talks with Syria, immediately. Peace with Syria will create the kind of positive-pressure on both Israelis and Palestinians to finally figure it out. It is perhaps possible that Hamas will recognize Israel, and that we’ll be sitting at the same table 2-3 years from now, just like the same could happen with Hezbollah. Justice, will come a generation or two after we have peace, when forgiveness and reconciliation will begin. That will not occur tomorrow morning, unfortunately.

As a last note, Qunfuz, I want to simply tell you that while I completely understand your feelings, and the legitimacy that follows them, I still implore upon you the strength required to believe in peace, and to push the message to others. If we give up, if we surrender to our emotions (regardless of how justified they may or may not be), then we’re simply allowing the river of pain and suffering this region is experiencing for so long to carry us right down with it. Instead, we must force ourselves out of this river, if need be by swimming against the current, in order to reach the safe shores we all seek. Only strength and courage will enable us to achieve peace. And we mustn’t leave it merely to our “leaders”. It must also begin here, with us.

March 3rd, 2008, 7:07 pm


offended said:


After a lot of thinking and brooding over my options…..

I made up my mind….

And I am not going back on it….

As tragic as this may sound; I found this to be the appropriate character for me in ‘Team America’ (the guy with the beard and turban to the bottom left).

But I will only agree to play if the belly dancer in the photo is as good as shown!

March 3rd, 2008, 8:06 pm


Enlightened said:

Ya Offened:

Thats fine role play is important; QN wanted to be the belly dancer, so you might want to reconsider.

AIG: will play the dictator!


I will concede the democracy bit about Iraq, the planning and aftermath of the war has been a disaster however.

Co existence is a two street, you shouldnt generalize about the Arabs not wanting to live side by side with Israel, there are plenty on your side of the fence that feel the same. Hopefully when these two voices are a minority in the debate, co existence can be assured.

March 3rd, 2008, 9:51 pm


qunfuz said:

Shai – thanks for your reply. I agree with a lot of it, but I think your analysis of point one needs answering. Please come back to this thread this evening, when I’ll have time to respond.

Very best wishes

March 4th, 2008, 5:20 am


Shai said:

Hi Qunfuz,

Sorry, am only back now (07:55 am, Israel time), and I’m not sure what time zone you’re on, so I don’t what “evening” is for you… I’ll continue to check this thread for your response. Thanks.


March 4th, 2008, 5:56 am


why-discuss said:


Do you think a Bibi or Barak governement would withdraw from the Golan to create that positive dynamic we all hope for? I just wish they withdraw peacefully thus allowing the arabs and the international community to claim it as a success of diplomacy. Of course some arab countries (anti-syrian) would be displeased calling Bashar a traitor and the radical palestinians in Damascus would have to review their stance and ultimately be brought in a real peace process. Bashar is strong enough and have shown an amazing empathy to allow Syria to be throughout the years a safe haven for Palestinians, Iraqis and Lebanese fleeing oppression and wars in their countries. No one can blame him for his generosity to the palestinians refugees and the millions of iraqis that the “human right-good-hearted’ Western countries has shamefully refused to save from been exterminated in a war they have have themselves brought upon this population. Arabs and muslims have a good memory and remain faithful to leaders that showed them compassion in time of distress.

March 4th, 2008, 12:25 pm


qunfuz said:

Shai – I’m in Oman, so my evening is two hours earlier than yours.

Hamas has offered two different kinds of ceasefires. It has offered an immediate and mutual ‘time out’, which has been rejected by Israel. This would give both sides the break you rightly say is needed, even if Hamas uses it to reorganise (isn’t the IDF constantly reorganising/ rearming?). It has also offered a long-term ‘hudna’ in the event of an Israeli withdrawal from the 67 lands. Some Hamas leaders have said that the conflict thereafter would become ‘cultural’ rather than military; in other words, they would try to persuade Israelis of the benefits of a unified state, or try to peacefully convert the Jews to Islam (!). It is true that Hamas refuses to accept Israel as a Jewish state on principle, because this implies recognising the ‘justice’ of the ethnic cleansing of 47 and 48. I think I agree with Hamas here on principle, but I also disagree with having a Muslim state in Palestine, or anywhere else, which is their ultimate aim.

Their perspective on the Jewish state is at least understandable, and more importantly, can be worked with even by supporters of the Jewish state. A British/Irish parallel is the IRA, which on principle will not renounce its ultimate aim of a united socialist Ireland, but which has renounced the armed struggle as a way of achieving it and now sits in consultation with its Protestant/ loyalist opponents. Despite its refusal to recognise the partition of Ireland, it is recognised as a partner. It is entirely possible that in the future there will be a unified Ireland, once the communities have learned to like each other. Or there may not be. But people with diametrically opposed hopes for the future are able to work together.

I understand that Israeli Jews who (very unfortunately) want to live in a Jewish state will remain worried by the thinking represented by Hamas, that all of Palestine should be a Muslim state. (They are worried because of memories of the Holocaust, yes, and also because the ‘Muslim’ state is a mirror of the ‘Jewish’ state – I think there’s some unconscious guilt at work). Anyway – what you need to do is remove Hamas’s support base, by leaving the West Bank and east Jerusalem now. Hamas’s victory is a product of the occupation and a product of the failure of the so-called ‘peace process.’ If Israel had left the West Bank after the first intifada it wouldn’t be facing Hamas now. (Today’s Syriacomment suggests that if it weren’t for US-Israeli meddling, there wouldn’t be a breakaway regime in Gaza either). As I’m sure you know, the Palestinians are not natural fundamentalists. In fact they have a history of being far more tolerant and non-sectarian than the Lebanese and Syrians! Of course, there will always be a few angry Islamist Palestinians, as there’ll always be groups of fundamentalist bring-on-the-apocalypse Jews, but these groups are marginal in normal circumstances. A magnanimous withdrawal and conciliatory gestures will quickly bring about a fall in support for violence, and will make Hamas irrelevant. Keep the occupation going, on the other hand, and you guarantee the continued strengthening of Hamas, or perhaps much worse.

best wishes

March 4th, 2008, 1:46 pm


Qifa Nabki said:

Shai: I’m going to post a question to you on the most recent thread.

March 4th, 2008, 2:34 pm


Shai said:


I believe that both Barak and Bibi want to withdraw from the Golan, as part of a peace settlement with Syria. Both have, in fact, tried to negotiate with Syria in the past, and failed (for a variety of reasons, which we won’t go into now). Both men love themselves enough, that they want to be written down in the history books of Israel not as total failures (as they were in their last go round as PM’s), but indeed as the men who brought peace to the region. So there’s good hope on the horizon. As I’ve written before in one of these threads, I’m not at all sure that Barak will get a second chance. Bibi’s popularity has sky-rocketed since his party’s utter failure in the previous elections. People in Israel are fed up with Olmert and Barak, see them as complete failures in bringing peace and security to their people, and may well be ready to give the Likud another chance. I’ve also said before that there are a number of absurds in Israelis politics, which may cause Bibi to be a favorite also for the Arab side. First, in most nations, the Left tend to be liberal pragmatists, and the Right conservative ideologues. In Israel, it’s the opposite. Second, in Israel, a leader of the Right can much more easily give land back to the Arabs, because he knows he has most of the nation behind him (see Begin, Bibi, and Sharon). So while it is the Left that constantly voices its will to make peace, and respect the Arabs, and end our conflict, and the Right continuously voices reasons for not doing so yet, it is in fact the latter than once achieving power can deliver quickly, whereas the first can barely get 50% support of all Israelis (because all those on the Right will reject it).

If we merely listened to the rhetoric of the Right, we’d never in our wildest dreams imagine Begin giving up on the Sinai, or Bibi handing control of major cities to the Palestinians (and negotiating a withdrawal from the Golan with Hafez Assad), or certainly Ariel Sharon, the “Butcher of Lebanon”, ordering the complete withdrawal of all Israelis settlements and IDF troops out of Gaza, as a mere first-stage before the compete withdrawal also from the West Bank. So all-in-all, I’m still optimistic that we can find the next leader very willing to withdraw from the Golan. He won’t seem that way until he’s elected, he’ll make sounds of war and threats, and power, in order to get himself elected, but once in power, he’ll whistle to the tunes of Damascus, or Washington, or anyone who’ll promise him a “good spot” on the History Book of the world… 🙂

March 4th, 2008, 7:28 pm


Shai said:


I completely agree with you! The example you used with the IRA is excellent. So why can’t Hamas follow that example, recognize Israel so that it can discuss peace with it (not a mere “Hudna”, which would never be accepted by Israelis, that’s just the reality of it – we’re not accustomed to that frame of thought – we either have peace, or we don’t, there’s no middle ground). No one would ask Hamas to do away with its dreams of a Muslim Palestine. No one would ask it to stop dreaming of a one-state solution. As I’ve mentioned before, if I had to guess what our region looks like 20-25 years from now, after there’s peace, I’d say we’re a UME (United Middle East), looking something like an in between of the US and the EU. Open borders, citizens of the UME able to work and live wherever they choose, etc. I can’t even blame Hamas for wanted to turn us Jews into Muslims – why not, I’m sure many religious Jews could want nothing better than to convert Muslims to Judaism. At the end of the day, we’re both descendants of the same father Abraham, and personally, I have no problem if most of my friends are from this religion, or the other. If right this instant, I knew that by converting to Islam I could bring about peace in this region, I’d be on my way to Mecca to do the Haj, and you and I could meet there if you like… 🙂 But on a serious note, I really do think that if Hamas wants to play a major role in the future of Palestine, it’ll have to accept Israel, and not merely play with words (“Hudna”, etc.) We’re not asking to be accepted as a Jewish state only, but we do need Hamas to at least sit with us at the table. As I’ve mentioned before, we could, and should withdraw unilaterally from the West Bank (and E. Jerusalem), as soon as there’s a “boss in town that can deliver”. Fatah and Hamas must work out their differences, so that there’s one guy ruling both territories. We cannot reach an agreement with Abu Mazen, because he cannot deliver. He barely controls Ramallah, let alone the rest of the West Bank. How can we withdraw right this second? What if Hamas took over the West Bank by force, and then had its Qassams not aimed merely at a few small towns in Southern Israel, but indeed at most major cities here? No Israeli leader in his right mind would allow that to happen (and I believe no leader anywhere in the world), given that Hamas doesn’t recognize us, and still calls for our annihilation. Once that changes, I’m for an immediate, unilateral withdrawal, even before an agreement is reached. After all, it is very much in Israel’s interest to withdraw, not only in conjunction with the Palestinians. You can read more of that rationale in what I wrote to Qifa Nabki on the newest thread (p=610, I believe). Hope I managed to answer some of your points…

March 4th, 2008, 7:44 pm


Rdj said:

Those who think that the US kind of upper hand in ME affairs is always a good office, are simply leeches or blind and corrupt. If the US can have nice bilaterl relations with any country, it is difficult for everyone to settle large conflictual crises with no unbiased attitude. This needs the good offices of international communities. No, there’s no good in overhrowing other’s regimes, should they be dictatorships, because this is called forced intervention which wipes at democracy with one stick. Th US ship is there- a child could see it- to cool down any Libaneese intention to support Hamas, and as the best example of the many plots against them all in this part of the world. When IDF kills in Gaza, a US ship is next door, and a wind of sanctions blows against the Muslim countries. What a blessed world!

March 5th, 2008, 5:24 am


qunfuz said:

Well, Shai, we’re a little closer to agreement, but at this stage all I can do is reiterate a few points:

1. Hamas is ready to talk, but only after there have been concrete Israeli moves to end the occupation of the West Bank. This is because the ‘peace process’ was revealed as a cover for the continued dispossession of the Palestinians. The elections showed that most Palestinians agree with Hamas’s position here.

2. Hamas won’t give you more than a ‘hudna’ – just as the IRA has refused to recognise the legitimacy of a separate Northern Ireland. There are, however, real signs that Hamas would be willing to see the ‘conflict’ resume in the medium to long term in a non-violent way. Sometimes you have to accustom yourself to an unfamiliar way of thought if you are going to deal productively with someone else.

3. But of course Israeli Jews want more than a hudna and the possibility that the conflict will become cultural. So undercut Hamas support. Make the armed struggle irrelevant. Most Palestinians, like most of any nation, want their children to live in a safe and hopeful environment. If they aren’t driven by despair to armed resistance they will choose peaceful coexistence. As the occupier, Israel is the one in a position to take the initiative here.

4. Continued occupation will strengthen uncompromising resistance movements. The Gaza missiles have slowly but surely extended their range and effectiveness despite numerous IDF incursions, assassinations and bombing raids. Occupation cannot control this threat except sometimes in the short term. Hamas is much more likely to take over the West Bank under occupation than the West Bank free. And in any case I wouldn’t expect the IDF to disarm itself the day after a withdrawal.

March 5th, 2008, 5:45 am


Shai said:


I agree that since Israel is the occupier, it should be in a position to take the initiative. The situation, though, has gotten that much more complicated, with the Gaza takeover by Hamas. I disagree that Hamas wants to talk. I don’t blame it, but all it wants is a time-out in which to regroup, reorganize, and rearm itself. Given Hamas’s recent “record”, why would Israel want to give it this time-out? True, sometimes you need to readjust your ways of thinking, if you want to reach an agreement. But in this case, no Israeli in his right mind would discuss anything with someone still calling for his annihilation. I don’t think that’s too strange, is it? Put yourself in my shoes, would YOU talk to someone like that?

I also disagree that Hamas is less likely to take over the West Bank if the IDF pulled out. Though I’m completely against the IDF continuing to rule the West Bank, there’s no doubt it is helping protect Fatah from another takeover. I agree with you, that continued occupation will only strengthen the resistance, and the extremists. We have a real tough one on our hands. It was so much easier before 2005. We could, and should, have left the territories years ago. We’ll see how we find the formula that will enable us to withdraw this time, but it won’t be easy I’m afraid.

March 5th, 2008, 6:10 am


qunfuz said:

Why would Israel want to give Hamas a time out? And why would the Palestinians want to give Israel even a moment to lick its wounds, such as they are? You say hamas is calling for the annhilation of Israelis, which is not quite true. It is, logically, against the aprtheid state which has been set up on the ruins of Palestine. Meanwhile, the Israeli deputy defence minister calls for a shoah in Gaza. Another official calls for ‘wiping a neighbourhood off the map.’ (same language that got all the rats salivating for war against Iran, except Ahmedinejad was misquoted). One of your MKs today told Arab MKs that one day the Arabs would be kicked out of Israel. Israelis don’t just talk about annhilating Palestine, they’ve already done it. And Arabs should talk to you??

Of course we should, because you’re there. And you should talk to us, whatever threats we use against you.

By the way, an important difference between Northern Ireland and Palestine is this: the conflict in Ireland is the legacy of British colonialism. In Palestine, the colonialism, confiscation, direct occupation, exclusion of refugees, is still continuing.

good article on the present fight in Gaza here:

March 5th, 2008, 3:03 pm


qunfuz said:

From that Seumas Milne article:

“The third, commonsense option, backed by 64% of Israelis, is to take up Hamas’s offer – repeated by its leader Khalid Mish’al at the weekend – and negotiate a truce. It’s a move that now attracts not only left-leaning Israeli politicians such as Yossi Beilin, but also a growing number of rightwing establishment figures, including Ariel Sharon’s former security adviser Giora Eiland, the former Mossad boss Efraim Halevy, and the ex-defence minister Shaul Mofaz.”

Surprisingly Shai, it seems you’re to the right of the 64% of Israelis on this.

March 5th, 2008, 3:06 pm


Shai said:


Ok, I won’t let you get me into this corner… 🙂 If I’m to the right of 64% of Israelis, you and I can go have coffee tomorrow morning in Souq Hamidieh. You’re right, in a recent poll 2/3 of those asked did say they’re willing to talk to Hamas. I am, too, by the way. But such talks will lead nowhere if both sides call for the annihilation of the other. Why is it that we could speak with Arafat, despite the rhetoric by the PLO for years? Precisely because he changed his rhetoric one day. If Hamas is willing to talk about peace, not about a Hudna, then I’ll be the first to await them at the table. I don’t believe in time-outs, in “ceasefires”, or in any such gimmick. Unlike Syria, who is sincere about wanting to have peace with Israel, Hamas does not want to have peace with us, does not want to recognize anything about us, and is so adamant on remaining an extremist, that there’s no reason to expect a change in policy anytime soon. I hope of course that I’m wrong. I’m always willing to be proven wrong. I just fear that in this case I may be right about the unlikelihood of Hamas turning a page. Having said that, I am certainly not for eliminating Hamas, even if theoretically it was possible. Israel has no right to influence the internal affairs of the Palestinian people. That is why I believe it’s a huge mistake to arm Fatah in its battle against Hamas. We may not like the results of the internal conflict the Palestinians are experiencing now, but that’s the right of any people on earth, to choose whoever they want as their government, and as their leaders. For war to occur, it takes only one party. But for peace, it takes two sides. And both have to recognize each other, at least in the most basic way. Let Hamas show it is willing to recognize us, and then I believe you’ll have us waiting at the table.

March 5th, 2008, 7:10 pm


qunfuz said:

OK, Shai, I can only repeat this: talk to them, pull out of the 67 lands, keep your guns pointing at them .. and watch Hamas shrivel into irrelevance.

March 6th, 2008, 7:58 am


Shai said:


Ok, I’m with you. BTW, I just happened to check on this thread… which by now seems ancient, courtesy of Joshua and Alex… So I’m going back to the more recent ones. Hope to see you there!

March 6th, 2008, 8:01 pm


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