Along the Road to Damascus, lessons in conflict resolution.

By Camille Alexandre Otrakji for Syria Comment

In his speech at the Democratic party convention, former President Bill Clinton told the American people that Barack Obama will work for an America "with more partners and fewer adversaries".

One of the main objectives of Syria's long-term regional policy is stability. Syria's approach to achieving stability is identical to President Clinton's simple aspiration for America. Syria seeks to convert current adversaries into new friends, not to "flip" against the existing ones.

Is it doable? Can Syria have its cake and eat it too? Can Syria convince potential future friends like Israel and the United States to understand Syria's desire to maintain close ties to Iran, Hizbollah, and other popular Arab resistance movements?

To answer those questions one needs to first look at two of Syria's closest allies: Qatar and Turkey.

Qatar has an American military base. The emir of Qatar has received Israeli officials in the past, including President Shimon Peres and Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni, and his Aljazeera TV channel reported the news of those meetings to the whole Arab world. The emir, however, is also very friendly with Iran. He is trusted by leaders of Hizbollah, and most of all he is Bashar Assad's closest Arab ally and friend.

Qatar's ability to talk to all parties helped the small Gulf emirate achieve what the Saudis could not achieve: an agreement that ended the complex and bitter standoff between Lebanon's various parties.

Despite considerable European and American support, the Saudis had no chance of reaching such an agreement. They repeated Syria's old line "we stand at an equal distance from all the Lebanese parties," but in reality they stood much closer to their Lebanese allies while heavily criticizing the Shiite movement and Syria's allies. Moreover, the Saudis had no chance of achieving success in Lebanon because they decided to stop talking to Syria.

Turkey is an important member of NATO. The Turkish army conducts joint military exercises with the Israeli army. Turkey wants to be part of Europe. Yet Turkey's leaders meet with the Iranian president whenever there is a need. They support the Palestinian cause, and they, in addition to Qatar, are among Syria's main strategic partners in the Middle East.

Turkey's unique position allowed for the first Syrian Israeli talks to be sponsored by a country other than the United States. Both Syria and Israel expressed their gratitude to Turkey.

Therefore, it is not impossible to be everyone's friend.


Independent foreign policy: 

One of the main reasons that Syria has not yet concluded a peace treaty with Israel and often finds itself at odds with U.S. policy in the Middle East, is Syria's rejection of the narrow scope of the settlement proposed by Israel and the United States as well as Syria's refusal to become an exclusive American client like Egypt, Saudi Arabia and Jordan.

While the so called "moderate Arab states" rely essentially on the United States, Syria prefers to derive its support from several smaller allies: Turkey, Qatar, Iran, and the popular Arab resistance movements are among them. This arrangement allowed for an independent Syrian foreign policy that maintained the country's main objective of stability despite frequent challenges and changes in the Middle East and worldwide.

Syria had to shift its support many times in the past. But long term allies of Syria are the ones who proved to be independent and reliable.


A New Regional Order: 

Tariq Alhomayed, editor of Saudi Arabia's largest newspaper – Asharq Alawsat – today described the Damascus summit as "the summit of contradictions". He can not see what can possibly bring together the unlikely partners attending the Damascus summit.

Two weeks earlier, Israeli Arab affairs analyst Zvi Bar'el explained the link between the four summit participants:

"The two elderly leaders, Abdullah at 84 and Mubarak at 80, are seeing the region they used to lead slipping out of their grip and into that of new players – mavericks over whom they have no sway, bright new stars in the Middle Eastern skies. These include Syrian President Bashar Assad, who is half their age; Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who is repositioning the former Ottoman Empire into power; and Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, who is blazing like a menacing meteor over the Arab Middle East. The cardinal Middle Eastern conflicts – between Israel and the Palestinians, within the Palestinian Authority, between Syria and Lebanon, between Syria and Israel, the Iraqi conflict, the Iranian threat – they have all changed hands and are now under new management.""…But the change in the Middle East goes deeper than a personnel turnover in the ranks of those running the strategic regional game. A new Middle Eastern regional order is in the making."

The attendees of the Damascus summit are the winners that Zvi Bar'el referred to in his article. They won partly because they recognized all the natural, and not so natural, powers on the ground. They talked to everyone and did not try to isolate or destroy anyone.

Lebanese March 14th leaders tried in many ways to convince French President Sarkozy to not talk to Syria. The American administration and the King of Saudi Arabia tried repeatedly to convince the Turkish leaders to boycott Syria. Saudi Prince Bandar traveled to Iran to see what he can do to convince that country to drop its alliance with Syria. Saudi foreign minister Saud Al-Faisal traveled to Europe trying to stop any European Syrian talks.

Those who lost a large part of their ability to influence events in the Middle East (The American administration, Saudi Arabia and Egypt) are precisely the countries that refused to talk to their adversaries and preferred instead to attempt to weaken or destroy them.

Today, President Assad will host the French President, the Turkish prime minister, and the Emir of Qatar and will be holding a four-way summit in Syria.

Nicolas Sarkozy who started by promising Presidents Bush and Chirac to continue boycotting Syria, is by now more of a subscriber to the same problem solving approach of the other three leaders he will meet with in Damascus. He is equally happy working with President Bush, Prime Minister Olmert, and, indeed, President Assad. Sarkozy is slowly reversing his predecessor's failed Middle East policy which focused all its energy on isolating and punishing Syria.

The Damascus summit will extend the following message to those who are not at the summit: once you are ready to share the same vision, there will be many more solutions and far fewer conflicts.

Damascus survived for over seven thousand years to become the world's oldest continuously inhabited city. The Syrians learned enough lessons in stability and conflict resolution.


Camille Alexandre Otrakji is the founder of and

Comments (103)

Averroes said:

Great work. Although the table illustration is a bit run-it-in-your-nose, but it delivers the point. Syria’s foreign policy is not dependent on any single country and it should stay that way. It gives the country more leverage to have its own say, and more stance on the world arena.

Good job.

September 3rd, 2008, 11:42 pm


Wassim said:

“Can Syria convince future friends like Israel and the United States to understand Syria’s desire to maintain close ties to Iran, Hizbollah, and other popular Arab resistance movements?”

What on earth are you thinking putting a sentence like that together?

September 4th, 2008, 12:29 am


love you alex said:

Brilliant and a piercing view into a complex international diplomatic game!


September 4th, 2008, 1:46 am


norman said:


Very good post,

President Assad is acting like a clever Doctor who is nice to all other Doctors and enjoying the referral from many of them instead of getting referral from his cronies only.

September 4th, 2008, 2:32 am


Nour said:

“Israel” can never be a friend to Syria. I can’t understand how an artificial entity the very concept of which is based on the expulsion of our people and their replacement with a particular foreign group could ever be a friend to us. “Israel” would cease to exist if it weren’t based on racism, murder, and theft of land and thus could never develop into a state that we could befriend. I am going to have to join Wassim’s befuddlement here.

September 4th, 2008, 3:35 am


Alex said:

Thank you Averroes , Norman and “love you Alex” : )

Wassim, are you angry at me, or at Syria?

What do you think Syria is negotiating for in Turkey? … a one-state solution?

What do you think Syria is offering Israel in return for the Golan Heights? … security guarantees and … “normal relations”.

September 4th, 2008, 3:40 am


Bashmann said:


A valiant effort, I’m recommending you for Buthina Sha’aban’s job. 🙂

Between Joshua’s article two days ago “Bush’s Policy of No Dialogue with Syria is Costing US Lives “, and this fine piece of slated foreign policy analysis which sounds like an official Syrian view point to me, the spinning have reached unprecedented level on SC. Political Tango of first rate indeed.

Forget democracy and rule of law, keep it corrupt, support terrorism, political assassination and intimidation, unlawful political arrests, torture, detention, exile, and let’s not forget the most important of them all demagoguery, that is how you show your adversaries who the real mafia boss in your neighborhood, and achieve your desired “long-term regional stability”.

Alex, who are you kidding really!


September 4th, 2008, 3:40 am


Alex said:


I believe that you can not FORCE Israel to accept the one-state solution that you and Wassim call for. Do you disagree with me?

Do you think Israel will hesitate to use it s 300 nuclear weapons in case the Arabs reached a position that allows them to potentially pose an existential threat to Israel?

What other option do we have? .. wait forever?

I think Syria has adopted a very good balance between being pragmatic enough and being firm. Going to an extreme, no matter how “good” it is usually does not lead to desired rewards.


I love how you and your friends have perfected the art of selective attention… you really can not see anything that threatens your pre-packaged one-directional one-dimensional conclusions!

You skipped Ehsani’s critical piece! .. I posted that piece for Ehsani and I posted the first supporting comment where I said that I don’t think there is any excuse for the corruption described in Ehsani’s piece.

But I guess there is only one way to satisfy you! …. we have to lineup behind your hero Mr. Khaddam the genius and caring Syrian opposition leader who hired you to be his propagandist!

Can YOU criticize Khaddam like we criticized the regime two days ago?

Bashmann habibi I have a prediction for you: In less than a year you will go back to your old job. Have fun working for Khaddam for now.

I have the same prediction for others like you .. Tony Badran, Ammar AbdelHamid …

September 4th, 2008, 4:00 am


Zenobia said:

Therefore, it is not impossible to be everyone’s friend.

No, actually it is impossible to be everyone’s friend.

You can announce to the world that you are friends with everyone. But the reality is that if one is committed to no one in particular or loyal or preferential to no one in particular but instead committed or uncommitted really, to all equally, then the value of the so called “friendship” goes down and it ceases to have much weight or meaning.

Of course, if we are not talking about “friendship” but rather pragmatic interests and playing a strategic game, essentially using people, then it is possible to have no loyalties at all….and simply to act as the wind blows…changing course to one’s advantage between working with or against any number of persons or nations.

In this case, there is no need to call it friendship. Nor is it appropriate to refer to conflict resolution. I am not sure the writer knows what conflict resolution is. For one thing, it requires keeping in good faith as you negotiate genuine good will and commitment to consider the other side’s needs and interests as legitimate. I think Syria is not there yet when it comes to it’s primary ‘enemy’. And nor is Israel.

September 4th, 2008, 4:18 am


Alex said:


I understand. But “friendship” in politics is not the same “friendship” among people.

Think of Europe … France, England, Germany, Italy, Spain … aren’t they all “friends”?

Why can’t we be allowed to have the same arrangement in the Middle East?? .. after a settlement of course.

September 4th, 2008, 4:26 am


Zenobia said:

I wouldn’t call them “friends” – I would call them allies engaging in alliances. And Europe is bound up by the commonality of being all European. However France is not going to ally with the Congo or Brazil or Kazikstan in the same way it will with Belgium.

And it is not primarily about proximity.

Yes, they are the EU now, but think how many centuries of waring between barbarian tribes and then nation states in Europe it took before this happy peace came about.

September 4th, 2008, 4:38 am


Alex said:

Zenobia said:

Yes, they are the EU now, but think how many centuries of waring between barbarian tribes and then nation states in Europe it took before this happy peace came about.

Well Zenobia, smart Syrians like me want to learn form others’ mistakes. 😉

September 4th, 2008, 4:40 am


AnotherIsraeliGuy said:

“The Syrians learned enough lessons in stability and conflict resolution.”

Come on. Syria is so brittle and so unable to resolve internal conflicts that you and Shai are afraid that Asad will not survive even a little more freedom of speech. Let’s face it. In Syria all resolutions are solved in one way, by force. There is no democratic discourse and no real compromise between camps with different interests. There is just intimidation and fear.

If Syria cannot have peace between its own people, how can it have peace with other countries and how can it be an example of how to solve conflicts?

The Asads have spent 40 years brtually pursuing their opponents. They murdered them or threw them in jail. So, what the Asads do internally is successful, but when the world shuns Syria and behaves to the regime a little like it behaves to its internal opponents, it is the world that is wrong?

Don’t you see the blatant contradiction in what you are saying? Why is it wrong for the West to “punish” Syria but it is ok for the Assads for 40 years to really punish their opponents? The true value of what you are is displayed by how you treat those closest to you.

But forget all the above. There will be no deal unless it is sold to the Israeli public. If Syria does not “flip” and disassociates from Iran, Hizballah and Hamas, the Israeli public is not going to buy it. The right is going to win the next election in Israel and Netanyahu is going to be PM. The raison d’etre of the summit is simple. It is to ask Bashar: Are you willing to forgoe Iran and count on Turkey and Qatar and the EU instead? Asad had better have a good answer.

September 4th, 2008, 4:43 am


Alex said:


Yesterday I had dinner with a very happy couple. They have been married for 27 years, they have four children, three of them are already in Medical school..

They both told me that their successful and happy marriage is the result of continuous hard work .. that their marriage can only work of both of them continue to be sensitive to each other, to understand each other …

Similarly, Syria’s internal peace requires continuous hard work. What you decided to understand from my previous comments is not what I tried to say within those comments … for Syria’s various religions and ethnic backgrounds to live peacefully and (relatively) happily together in Syria (or anywhere in the Middle East), it takes careful planning and it takes vigilance… just like that successful marriage the couple told me about.

If I am extra careful not to mess up Syria’s current formula for religious coexistence, it does not mean that Syria “can not have peace between its own people”

I partially agree with your exaggerated “Syria is so brittle” … but only because the whole Middle East is so brittle … YOU have endless issues among the religious, and the liberal Jews … both Jews…

We learned from history that sectarian conflicts are highly contagious … we have those outside Syria’s borders in Iraq, Lebanon, AND in Palestine (Israel) … of course Syria has to be extra careful.

September 4th, 2008, 4:56 am


AnotherIsraeliGuy said:

We have in Israel tremendous disagreements between secular and religious Jews, between Arabs and Jews etc. etc. but we solve them not by one sector imposing itself on the other, shutting it up and throwing its opponents in jail. Israel is not brittle because it is democratic.

You are careful about democracy in Syria because you are afraid the people in Syria will not live in peace in a democracy. That is what I am saying. You and Shai are even afraid of allowing free dialogue between the different camps in Syria. That is why Syria is so brittle.

What you have in Syria is not marriage. Dictatorship never is marriage which implies a consensual relation. What you have is a minority forcing its will on the majority. The right analogy is that of sex slave and master not husband and wife.

If the Syrians are so adept at peacefully solving problems and living in peace, they would be living at peace with each other. You can provide as many excuses as you want, but facts are facts.

September 4th, 2008, 5:08 am


Alex said:


“but we solve them not by one sector imposing itself on the other, shutting it up and throwing its opponents in jail.”


No comment. I’ll leave it to SimoHurta to reply to that “FACT” of yours.

As for Syria … let’s take YOUR “facts” and ignore all the articles written by ALL those who visited Syria and found out for themselves… like Marc Gopin and Thomas Dine.

September 4th, 2008, 5:17 am


Alex said:


SANA’s headline this morning is …. similar to my post 🙂

“Syrian French summit emphasizes that dialog is the best tool for conflict resolution”

September 4th, 2008, 5:19 am


wizart said:

Political scientists love to talk about “stability.” This obsession seems to mirror economists’ blind devotion to the concept of “equilibrium.” Stability is characterized — as best I can decipher — as a lack of change in the political regime. I am reminded of this as the CSM tell us that Putin provides Russia with stability. Clearly, stability is not an intrinsically positive characteristic, for one could easily imagine a stable equilibrium political situation (Russia) which is not necessarily rooted in the principles of a free society. In that case, the political scientists’ focus on the importance of stability seems an incredibly dumb activity. Please extend this idea to politicians emphasizing the need for stability in Iraq.

“This moment in Iraq is a moment of truth,” Kerry said. “Not just for this administration, the country, the Iraqi people, but for the world. This may be our last chance to get this right. We need to put pride aside to build a stable Iraq. We must reclaim our country’s standing in the world by doing what has kept America safe and made it more secure before — leading in a way that brings others to us so that we are respected, not simply feared, around the globe.”

Just for fun, take note of how many times you see the stability phrase repeated by politicians, intellectuals and the media (bloggers included, of course).

There’s stability and then there’s traction. What good is stability if a car doesn’t go anywhere? If the world is improving rapidly while a country isn’t, it’s getting behind in a stable way.

September 4th, 2008, 5:50 am


Ghimar said:

Love you, Alex!

September 4th, 2008, 6:09 am


offended said:

Ok, I have no choice but to join the chorus of the lovers!

Alex, tremendously good article. I love the optimism!

The unique position Syria was able to develop is one that balances secularism with resistance. That is to emphasize the idea that our conflict with Israel is not definite; it’s just and fair and will cease once justice is satisfied. We don’t need to work up and build up arsenal and nukes and erect walls and dig tunnels to come closer to bringing about a prophecy of a battle that will decide who of the monotheist religions is more divine than the other. (namely Armageddon)

However, I am inclined to agree with Zenobia. Syria can’t be friends with everyone.

Love them or hate them, there will come a time where we will have to engage with Saudi Arabia and Egypt.

September 4th, 2008, 7:00 am


Shai said:


Excellent post! Summarizes Syria’s position and rationale in a very concise and clear fashion. This is very important for Israelis to see, and understand. There is essentially no discourse in Israel about Syria’s motivation, only interpretations by so-called “experts” in how Israel sees Syria (not how Syria sees itself).

Thank you!

(p.s. Zenobia, Offended, when I hear Alex saying “you can be everyone’s friend”, I don’t find that to be either a literal phrase, or one that is separated from real-politique. Alex’s diagram explains this point rather well, I think.)

September 4th, 2008, 9:41 am


Shai said:

Ma’ariv reports this morning (not in English unfortunately), that Assad made a statement saying that Lebanon will join the talks with Israel once these become direct (following the inauguration of the new US administration). He said that this was agreed upon by himself and the Lebanese president in their last meeting together.

Good news, QN!

September 4th, 2008, 9:55 am


Innocent_Criminal said:

Good post, but i will agree with Averros that the table illustration is way over the top. It’s like your trying to talk to morons here 😉

You make good arguments in your post but I would like to play the devil’s advocate before my friend QN will come in and raise even better points.

First of all I would remind you that Syria’s increasing friendship with Qatar & Turkey while positive was only born out of necessity from the growing animosity with KSA & the war in Iraq. So while it shows flexibility from the Syrian leadership, it’s certainly not an ideal scenario.

You also give Qatar and Turkey as examples on how Syria can become influential and a friend to the west as well as the east. But I believe you are overlooking a key issue; and it is that both of these countries had done something Syria has not been willing or unable to do depending on who you ask. And that is to assist the US in a major way (major being the key word here). Turkey is a remnant of a major world power, it’s an economic & military powerhouse because it was instrumental in helping the US in its fight against the Soviet Union during the cold war. Qatar on the other hand was already filthy rich sitting on one the largest gas reserves in the world, to add to its clout it allowed the US to invade Iraq from its turf. Something the Saudi’s didn’t allow and certainly the Syrian’s would never consider. So the message is clear, if you want to become prosper and get warm with the US like these countries you to have to give to receive. And I am not sure you really lay out a case for Syria which she can offer the US much (reigning HA is ok but not major). And we both know Syria has no influence over Iran when it comes to ceasing its nuclear program. So at the end of the day the trick Syria has to pull off is collect all the cards it has and offer one knock out hand. So far though, Syria has been able to only punch over its weight but not tough enough to scare anyone.

So what I would like to understand from you is what are these solutions that Syria can help with? And are they meaty enough to the Americans?

September 4th, 2008, 10:32 am


Nour said:


The attitude you are taking is that we will forever be weak so let’s just accept the cancerous entity to the south and ignore the fact that it is a racist entity that has wrought untold misery on our people and constitutes a threat to our very existence. Basically you want to embrace the criminal because you are afraid of him. Instead of doing that why don’t we focus on building and strengthening our nation so that we are strong enough to confront these threats and impose a condition that serves our interests and brings justice to our people.

“Israel” is an unnatural, dangerous entity that cannot possibly live in peace with us. That is because the very concept of this state is contrary to peace. This is why the “negotiations” with the Palestinians have stalled so much. The very members of the Palestinian Authority who have done everything to prostrate themselves before the “Israelis” have recently admitted how difficult it is to get any results from these “negotiations.” The reason is that “Israel” does not want peace. It wants surrender and submission. This is what it wants from Syria too. I understand that Syria is not willing to surrender and submit to “Israel”, which is why I believe peace will never be achieved.

In any case, accepting the existence of such an entity sets a dangerous precedent, because you are then basically saying that anyone has a right to come and take a portion of our homeland and create an exclusive state for themselves there, as we will be ready to accept and recognize them given the passage of sufficient time. Is that the position you want to take?

September 4th, 2008, 11:00 am


idaf said:


Indeed, both Syria and France are striving to be everyone’s friend. In the brief press conference between Asad and Sarkozy yesterday, both sent this message clearly. Asad said that the 4 way summit today is not intended to create an axis as “both Syria and France do not support the policy of axes and do not think that it would be helpful in conflict resolution”. Answering the same question, Sarkozy emphasized the same message. He also extended his hand to both Egypt and Saudi and saluted Mubarak and Abdullah while standing next to Bashar (while smiling to him!). Bashar smiled and nodded and then said answering the next question, “without a role for the USA as well there would be no progress in the peace process”. He continued, “it coincides that Syria is this year is the head of the Arab League, France is the head of the EU, Qatar is the head of the Gulf Cooperation Council and Turkey is the only mediator in the Arab Israeli negotiations”.

Apparently, both leaders agree on negotiations as conflict resolution measure, rather than threats, blockades and isolation. Asad added in his last answer, “we look forward to more countries joining this our group”.

September 4th, 2008, 12:07 pm


Akbar Palace said:

Between Joshua’s article two days ago “Bush’s Policy of No Dialogue with Syria is Costing US Lives“…


Yes, I found that statement a bit “optimistic” or skewed to say the least.

BTW – How did you like Sarah’s speech?

Be well,


September 4th, 2008, 12:15 pm


Wassim said:

Anybody who tries to normalise injustice in the name of pragmatism is to expect a vicious attack from myself. One of the biggest problems with texts on International Relations, apart from the infuriating banality of it all, is that it is done usually from the perspective of a White, Western European male. In plain terms, the discipline of International Relations is in and of itself the discourse of the occupier, the coloniser and of empire. It uses the flowery language of internationalism, ignores history and culture (in fact it is incapable of recognising these) and perpetuates norms which prop up a system that has been put in place by the old imperialists.

Yourself, most commentators I have read here, and in fact most articles on this blog, are firmly rooted within that discourse – actually it is completely internalised. If we were having this discussion in 1930’s Syria, I have no doubt that you would be telling me France is here to stay. They have bombers and artillery and we must be pragmatic. We must learn to accept this reality and focus instead on the many social and economic problems which we face and which France could help us with if we cooperate. That such problems will in fact never be resolved is never down to the fact that we are not and never will be French (or that we are under occupation), it must surely be down to some fault we have, either in our Arab minds, our genetics or perhaps in the religions and traditions which stifle our development.

To sum up, when I attack what you say, it is because I am crystal clear on my own position on these matters and react to actions and statements according to these principles which I take to be correct and true. Whether it is you, the Syrian government or the Blue Jinn who will start compromising with Israel and America, the condemnation must be harsh and swift to stress the immorality of what is happening. You might as well be striking a bargain with Satan.

September 4th, 2008, 12:23 pm


idaf said:

Few interesting articles that belong in another post!..

Syria Report just launched its 2008 annual report “Oil and Gas Syria 2008”. Despite this surprising positive energy outlook in oil and gas, however, Syria is not taking any chances. The Syrian government started investing more than 6$ billion in solar energy plants

Syria’s production of crude oil in the first half of 2008 has exceeded expectations, according to the annual survey of the industry, Oil and Gas Syria 2008.

Increased E&P activity following the arrival in the last four years of a large number of Independent Oil Companies has helped slow down the decline in production, although Syria’s output has fallen by more than a third from its peak level a decade ago.

The Syrian Oil and Gas industry continues, however, to hold very promising prospects. Gas output is expected to increase following the construction of several new gas processing plants, which should start production in the coming two years.

Also, refining is attracting interest from private investors. Several new projects are under study and could increase the country’s refining capacity by 380,000 bpd in the coming years.

These findings are among a large number of data and information available in this 36-page industry profile released today by The Syria Report.

Oil and Gas Syria 2008 includes also a historical overview of the industry, a review of the main companies active in the market, an update on the major projects under construction or planned, an oil & gas map and a business directory. The report could be found here

Also, an important anti-corruption regulation has been put in place. The ministry of ICT has finalized its electronic signature regulatory and technical infrastructure. This is a good step that will make forgery and malpractice in government-to-government and business-to-government transactions much much harder. This should also facilitate a smoother flow of international transactions in the financial sector and international business deals as it follows UN regulatory standards.

September 4th, 2008, 12:25 pm


norman said:

Syria makes peace proposals to IsraelAP foreign, Thursday September 4 2008 AP


Associated Press Writer

DAMASCUS, Syria (AP) – Syrian President Bashar Assad has disclosed that his country has handed proposals for peace with Israel to Turkish mediators.

He says he’s waiting for Israel’s response before holding any face-to-face negotiations. The talks have so far been indirect, through Turkish mediation.

Assad says the future of negotiations rests on who becomes prime minister in Israel and whether the new leader will be committed to pursuing peace with Syria.

Prime Minister Ehud Olmert’s party will hold elections this month to choose a new party leader, who could become prime minister.

Assad spoke Thursday at a summit with the leaders of France, Turkey and Qatar to discuss Mideast stability and peace. He did not disclose details of the Syrian proposals.

September 4th, 2008, 12:33 pm


Qifa Nabki said:


Very good post ya shaykh. Innocent Criminal and Zenobia have already raised any objections that I could think of.


Very good news indeed. I will keep an eye out for that report in the Arabic and English press. In other news, Salim al-Hoss (a former pro-Syrian stalwart who has been increasingly critical of Assad for the past couple years) has recently made a similar point. I will copy the news item below.

Also, Bashar has informed Sarkozy that Syria has Shaker al-Absi (the leader of the Fatah al-Islam gang) in custody! How convenient and how helpful of Syria to go to the trouble to track down and lock up that mean old terrorist.



Hoss Criticizes Assad

Ex-Premier Salim Hoss on Thursday criticized Syrian President Bashar Assad for allegedly requesting support for direct negotiations with Israel.
“It appears that President Assad is making the same mistake committed by Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas who is involved in futile direct talks with the prime minister of the Zionist entity,” Hoss said in a statement distributed by the state-run National News Agency.

“Any peace with Israel should be concluded by the three Arab parties involved in the conflict, The Palestinian Authority Syria and Lebanon,” Hoss noted.

“Any unilateral peace deal by any of the three Arab sides would be at the expense of the remaining two,” he added.

Hoss recalled that all the Arabs had criticized the late Egyptian President Anwar Sadat for signing a unilateral peace deal with Israel and “now they are following Sadat’s path.”

He accused “those who rush to hold direct talks with Israel” of abandoning commitment to U.N. General Assembly Resolution 194 of 1948 that calls for the return of Palestinian refugees to their home in pre-Israel Palestine.

Beirut, 04 Sep 08, 12:53

September 4th, 2008, 12:49 pm


norman said:

الأسد يختتم القمة الرباعية: إرجاء مفاوضات السلام وعلاقات دبلوماسية مع لبنان نهاية العام الاخبار السياسية

ساركوزي: لست آسفا لأنني فتحت الباب مع سورية وسأعمل مع الاسد لبناء الثقة

أردوغان: من سيخلف أولمرت في رئاسة وزراء إسرائيل سوف يستمر في عملية السلام

قال الرئيس بشار الأسد يوم الخميس إن “المفاوضات غير المباشرة بين سورية وإسرائيل أرجئت بسبب استقالة كبير المفاوضين الإسرائيليين”, مشيرا إلى أن “هذه الجولة كانت حاسمة من حيث تحديد مستقبل هذه المفاوضات”.

وجاء حديث الأسد في قمة رباعية تحت عنوان “حوار من أجل الاستقرار” اختتمت أعمالها اليوم وجمعته مع نظيره الفرنسي نيكولا ساركوزي الذي ينهي اليوم زيارة إلى سورية استمرت يومين والأمير القطري حمد بن خليفة آل ثاني إضافة إلى رئيس الوزراء التركي رجب طيب أردوغان.

وأضاف الأسد أنه “تم إعداد ورقة مبادئ تلخص المواقف والمبادئ السورية حيال عملية السلام كما أن سورية ستودع ردها الإيجابي على المبادئ المطروحة من قبل إسرائيل لدى الجانب التركي ثم ننتقل مباشرة إلى المفاوضات المباشرة”.

وكان من المفترض أن تعقد سورية وإسرائيل الجولة الخامسة من المفاوضات غير المباشرة يوم أمس الأربعاء, إلا أن الموعد أرجئ بسبب عدم الاستقرار في تل أبيب وإعلان رئيس الوزراء الإسرائيلي إيهود أولمرت عزمه الاستقالة على خلفية اتهامه بقضايا فساد, حسبما قال مراقبون.

وجدد الرئيس الأسد ربط سورية الانتقال إلى مرحلة المفاوضات المباشرة بـ”وصول إدارة أمريكية جديدة مقتنعة بعملية السلام”, مشيرا إلى أن “الدور أمريكي ضروري في عملية السلام كما هو الدور الفرنسي ولكن تركيا ستبقى شريك رئيسي في عملية السلام في هذه المرحلة وفي المرحلة المقبلة”.

وفي الملف اللبناني, قال الرئيس الأسد إن “محادثاتي مع الرئيس (اللبناني ميشال) سليمان تناولت ضرورة دخول لبنان في المفاوضات مع إسرائيل لكن في مرحلة المفاوضات المباشرة, والرئيس سليمان متفق معي حول هذه النقطة”.

وكان لبنان أعلن عن رفضه الدخول في مفاوضات مع إسرائيل خلال المفاوضات غير المباشرة بين سورية وإسرائيل مشيرا إلى أنه يراقب هذه المفاوضات غير المباشرة عن كثب.

وأضاف الأسد أن “الوضع في لبنان لا زال هشا على الرغم من أن اتفاق الدوحة أبعد شبح الحرب عن لبنان ونحن قلقون إزاء ما يحصل في طرابلس”, مشيرا إلى أن ” أي شيء إيجابي في لبنان لا قيمة له دون حل مشكلة التطرف والسلفية”.

وشهدت مدينة طرابلس في شمال لبنان مؤخرا اشتباكات وتفجيرات كان آخرها استهداف عبوة ناسفة لحافلة كانت متوقفة راح ضحيتها 11 قتيلا و40 جريحا.

ولفت الأسد في مؤتمر صحفي أعقب القمة الرباعية إلى أن “هناك خطوات مازالت منتظرة من اللبنانيين وفي مقدمتها الحوار الذي يفترض أن يحل المسائل العالقة”.

وحول العلاقات الدبلواسية بين سورية ولبنان قال الأسد في القمة إن “هناك إجراءات قانونية تتم الآن لإعلان علاقات دبلوماسية بين سورية ولبنان”, مشيرا إلى أنه “خلال أشهر سننتهي من هذه الإجراءات القانونية في نهايتها يتم تبادل السفراء بين البلدين وربما يكون في نهاية العام الجاري”

والتقى الرئيس الأسد نظيره اللبناني في دمشق مؤخرا في لقاء قمة أعلن الجانبان بعده اتفاقهما على تبادل التمثيل الدبلوماسي لأول مرة في تاريخ البلدين.

وعن المسار الفلسطيني, قال الرئيس الأسد إن “المسار الفلسطيني حيوي بالنسبة للمسار السوري ولا نريد فقط أن نحقق اتفاقية سلام بل نريد سلام”, مشيرا إلى أن “سورية تريد من كل الدول دعم المسار الفلسطيني حتى يكون داعما للمسار السوري وليس معرقلا له”.

وفي الملف النووي الإيراني, رفض الأسد التوسع في الحديث عنه, مكتفيا بالقول إن “البحث جار عن الحل بطرق سلمية”, مشيرا إلى أن “دمشق ستبلغ طهران بما تم التوصل إليه في المباحثات”.

وتلعب دمشق حاليا دورا بين الغرب وإيران من بناء الثقة بين الجانبين حول الملف النووي الإيراني الذي تقول طهران إنه برنامج سلمي فيما يمتلك الغرب هواجس تجاه احتمال امتلاك إيران قنبلة نووية.

وفي الشأن العراقي, اعتبر الأسد أن هناك “بعض التحسن” في الساحة العراقية, لكنه أشار إلى أنه “يبقى هناك موضوع كركوك وموضوع الفدرالية.

وأوضح الأسد أن “كركوك ستكون القنبلة التي تفجر الوضع بين العرب والأكراد أما الفيدرالية ستفجر الوضع بين السنة والشيعة”, مشيرا إلى أن “اجتماعات دول الجوار بخصوص العراق لم تسفر عن شيء”.

وعبر الأسد عن “قلق” سورية جراء ما يحل بين روسيا وجورجيا, وقال “لا نريد أن نرى حربا باردة جديدة لأننا سنكون الساحة لهذه الحرب الجديدة”, معتبرا أن حربا باردة جديدة “ستكون أسوء من الحرب الباردة التي شهدها القرن الماضي”.

وكانت قوات روسية تدخلت عسكريا في جورجيا في أعقاب هجمات نفذتها القوات الجورجية ضد إقليم أوسيتيا الانفصالي, ما أثار حفيظة الغرب وخاصة الولايات المتحدة الأمريكية وأنذر بحرب باردة جديدة.

وأعرب الأسد عن دعم سورية لجهود تركيا وفرنسا لإعادة السلام إلى منطقة القوقاز بين روسيا وجورجيا.

وعن دارفور كشف الأسد عن اتصالات جارية بشأن الوضع في دارفور, مشيرا إلى أنه “تم التوصل من خلال هذه الاتصالات إلى مجموعة من النقاط قد تكون مفتاح الحل الحقيقي للوضع في دارفور”.

وأضاف الأسد أن “هذه النقاط تتلخص في تأجيل المحكمة لمدة عام من خلال مجلس الأمن وعقد مؤتمر للفصائل في دارفور مع الحكومة السودانية على غرار مؤتمر الدوحة وقطر مرشحة للعب دور في الموضوع”.

وبعد القمة قال الأسد إن “هناك إجماع على رغبتنا في رؤية حل قريب, وهناك نقاط معينة ستتم متابعتها بين وزراء الخارجية لكي يكون هناك حوار مع الحكومة السودانية في شأن دارفور”.

من جهته قال ساركوزي في المؤتمر الصحفي الذي جمع أطراف القمة “نحن بحاجة للدور السوري في لبنان وفي الملف النووي الإيراني” مشيرا إلى أن “هذه القمة الرباعية لا تمنع الآخرين من الانضمام إلينا في الحوار لحل المشاكل العالقة”.

وجوابا على سؤال قال ساركوزي ” لست آسفا لأنني فتحت الباب مع سورية وأنا والرئيس الأسد نسأل نفس الأسئلة وسوف نعمل سويا بناء الثقة بين بلدينا”.

من جانبه قال رئيس الوزراء التركي رجب طيب أردوغان إن “التطورات على الساحة الإسرائيلية أخرت الجولة الخامسة من مفاوضات السلام غير المباشرة بين سورية وإسرائيل, لكن العملية سوف تستمر”.

وأعرب عن ثقته بأن “من سيخلف أيهود أولمرت في رئاسة وزراء إسرائيل سوف يستمر في عملية السلام هذه, ونحن على ثقة بأننا سنحصل على ثمار هذه الجولات من المفاوضات”.


2008-09-04 12:34:35

September 4th, 2008, 1:32 pm


kingcrane jr said:

In my very humble opinion:

1-A new cold war is about to set on the area, the region, and the planet, no matter who the next President (McCain or Obama) will be.

2-The whole concept of democracy has to be revisited.
(A) Who is more democratically elected, the Putin-Medvedev duo or the Bush-Cheney duo? I am unsure. But I did watch the movie “uncounted” twice.
(B) Who is more democratically elected, Bashar Assad or whoever has been PM in the Zionist entity the last 8 years? For Palestinians, the democratically elected Zionist head inquisitor is only there to perpetrate (and perpetuate) the rape of the rightful owners of the land. For Syrians, it is more complex but the current administration in Damascus is capable to deter chaos, and possibly bring Syria forward economically and socially. Others in Syria may be equally capable, but backing by a foreign power of “Syrian opposition” is by definition the kiss of death.
(C) Is Sarkozy democratically elected? Just consider that the only principled major candidate at the last election, Francois Bayrou, could have beaten either Nicolas Sarkozy or Segolene Royal had he reached the second round. Democracy is a winner-takes-all system, and is thus far to be from perfect.

And now, back to Syria:
1-Bashar Assad has had success breaking the embargo on Syria, politically and economically.
2-The support to Hamas and the Hezb is based on old principles in Syrian policy, not on the enemy (Iran) of my enemy (the Zionist entity) being my ally.
3-The rapprochement with various gulf states via Qatar is an illustration that Syria would accept the provisions of the UNSC regarding Palestine and the occupied territories. I am personally unable to understand how a two-state solution will ever work out, but this is only my intuitive thinking.
4-The upcoming cold war will help Syria. A strong Russia will create a milieu that will make neo-imperialists (both neo-cons and neo-libs) look like idiots, or at least show their real core: a bunch of angry men and women who have great colonialist plans on paper WITH no understanding of what would would happen on the terrain, no matter how many agents and paid lackeys (Arab moderate states) they have.
5-Syria can be the “friend” to many states, but only a few are brother states (we all learned that while in school).

To paraphrase Azmi Beshara, Syria has won the waiting game. I would give the current authorities an Olympic Gold Medal in that contest.

September 4th, 2008, 1:59 pm


Shai said:

Innocent Criminal,

If I may, I’d like to also answer the question you asked of Alex. It is the same answer I am trying to give fellow Israelis, when asked what does Syria really have to offer. I agree with you, being friends of Turkey and Qatar is nice but not enough. If the price of supporting Iran/HA/Hamas is being alienated by KSA and Egypt, this is still in the short term a major problem which the U.S. cannot overlook. In the long term, I agree with some here that say that a new order in the region is being created as we speak. What it will look like, I’m not sure anyone knows.

But there is something major, which I think Syria can offer the U.S., and in fact, all of us. And that is, the best chance at ending the Arab-Israeli conflict. If there is something the U.S. is concerned about, it’s the Middle East, and (now) the multiple conflicts going on. I believe that the ONLY player in our region today, which can influence the major sides in the conflict, and help them negotiate a compromise, is Syria. Once Israel withdraws from the Golan, Syria can help us talk to the Palestinians via Fatah AND Hamas, and a year later, a Palestinian state might be born. Certainly it can influence (and relax) tension between Israel and Hezbollah. Perhaps, though certainly unsure, it may also help with the case of Iran.

But if Syria can get Israel to withdraw to the 1967 lines, both on the Golan, and in the West Bank, then according to the entire Arab world (at 3 different Arab Summits), the Arab-Israeli conflict will come to an historic end. I can think of nothing more “major” to the U.S., than this. And though it might be interpreted as somewhat arrogant of Syria to market herself as the “Saviour” of the region, I do believe it could make her case convincingly. Certainly when a different U.S. administration is in place, that understands (as Biden stated) that decisions for the region are made in the region, not in Washington. A different way of viewing Syria, could well be the key to placing us on the road to peace, at long last. I know some here want to see Democracy in Syria first. I also want to see it in Syria. But it is not a prerequisite. If Assad is interested in making peace, we must do our part, and that includes the U.S.

September 4th, 2008, 2:43 pm


Shai said:


It has been a while since I heard the term “cancerous entity to the south”. I imagine you are not referring to Jordan (your neighbor to the south)… 🙂 So if I go along with that depiction, please be aware that cancer doesn’t go away on its own. It must be destroyed. And not partially, one bit at a time, but completely.

You suggested: “why don’t we focus on building and strengthening our nation so that we are strong enough to confront these threats and impose a condition that serves our interests and brings justice to our people.”

This is, in fact, what Syria has been doing. And that is the reason Israel is negotiating with Syria the return of the Golan. I know many Israelis, and while many might be idiots, few are philanthropists. No one will give you back the Golan, if we do not receive something back, namely peace. Since you cannot destroy Israel (the cancer), it will do little good to “confront these threats” forever. You know what Jimmy Carter exposed about Israel’s nuclear capabilities. I don’t know if Israel has 180 nuclear missiles, or 380, or 1000. But if it has at least 10-20, then it cannot be destroyed, at least not before it destroys others. So I think if you haven’t given up on that yet, it’s time you do.

Now you can either continue to resist us (and you would be justified in so doing), or you can take a chance on peace. In fact, if Syria gets the Golan back, I don’t see how allowing an Israeli ambassador to sit in Damascus is taking a chance. I don’t know about your fear of setting a precedent, but Israel is not the only nation on earth to ever occupy someone else’s territory for 40 years. I am not justifying it, I am merely pointing out that this has occurred before. Making peace with such enemy, is also not a first.

I can understand many of Syria’s (and of course the Palestinians’) frustrations with Israel, certainly since 1967. But I don’t see an alternative that is better than peace. What other solution do you propose, which will “cost” your less?

September 4th, 2008, 2:58 pm


kingcrane jr said:

The current flurry of activity on the Syrian side is meant to please the French President. We know that zionist-entity electoral games will force the zionist entity to say no to anything, unless an offer to give up on everything between the Nile and the Euphrates is part of the initial package.

Qifa Nabki: I am inf act in agreement with Selim Hoss, one of the most principled Lebanese politicians, but my interpretation is GI/GO: “garbage in / garbage out” with the GI part being Sarkozy asking Syria to be an “Arab moderate state” (ie a paid lackey, see my previous post) and the GO being the proposal handed to the Turkish PM.

In fact, Hoss is wrong: why is the PA considered as the representative of the Palestinians? Last time I heard, Hamas won the democratically held elections in the occupied territories.

September 4th, 2008, 2:59 pm


AnotherIsraeliGuy said:

Syria is the least well placed to help solve the Arab-Israeli conflict for several reasons.

First, it has very bad relations with Fatah.

Second, in order for there to be peace, with the Palestinians, they have to give up the right of return. If the Syrians, support that, they will weaken considerably their allies in Lebanon.

Third, Syria is not able to provide any economic advantages to parties that work with it (unlike Saudi or the US).

Fourth, Syria will lose all credibility as a “resistance” state and lower its stature in the region, and thus its influence on extremists like Hamas. In any case, if Syria signs a peace treaty with Israel before the Palestinian problem is solved, it will be viewed as a traitor.

Fifth, if freedom of speech is dangerous for the regime in Syria, then imagine where it will stand if it makes peace with the “Satanic Zionist Entity”. The regime will become very vulnerable and will not be in a position to broker peace and ask the Palestinians for an historical compromise.

September 4th, 2008, 3:00 pm


SimoHurtta said:

Damascus survived for over seven thousand years to become the world’s oldest continuously inhabited city. The Syrians learned enough lessons in stability and conflict resolution.

Over seven thousand years Alex? That must be a misunderstanding Alex, the world and universe are something like 5768 years old as the future (well possible) US vice president as a Creationist says/thinks and as Israeli Talmud “scientists” have found out. 🙂

By the way Palin said that that the United States sent troops to fight in the Iraq war on a “task that is from God.” And they critizize other religious extrimists. It would be simply funny, if they would not have the biggest military machine in the world and the desire to use it.

September 4th, 2008, 3:04 pm


AnotherIsraeliGuy said:

Nour is perfectly right to wait. After all you have told him, why wouldn’t he? He does not need to fight Israel on the battlefield. All he has to do is wait for Israel, which has “many idiots” that are also “apathetic” and “exhausted” to disintegrate. If I were an Arab that took what you say seriously, that is exactly the strategy I would pursue.

The reason the Arabs cannot beat Israel is not related to nuclear weapons. It is related to the fact that Israel is a liberal democracy.

September 4th, 2008, 3:11 pm


Shai said:


Alright, you started with Palin this time, not me…

When you rule Alaska, and all you see all day long are a few moose, day after day, year after year, you find God talking to you quite a bit… 🙂 And suddenly starting a war in Iraq seems like the neatest thing on earth.

AIG, (let’s limit ourselves to one comment a day to each other, ok? self-imposed)

I imagine even Nour didn’t take the “idiots” literally, so I’m surprised you did… And, I can think of a few democracies that were defeated in history. How about Nazi Germany, for one? But, if Hitler had nuclear weapons, certainly before the U.S. did (and he almost did), then Simo would probably be speaking some Deutsche right around now, including fellow friends in France, England, heck maybe even Palestine…

September 4th, 2008, 3:13 pm


Qifa Nabki said:

The Maureen Dowd op-ed last week on Palin was hilarious. Highly recommended.

September 4th, 2008, 3:33 pm


ghat Albird said:

As the French are wont of saying, ” a comme ci, comme ca” commentary.

08/08/08 is a date that overwhelmed the incantions of 9/11 changing everything. The present multi-polar world has reduced both the US and by implication its surrogate Israel [or as some call it the tail wagin the dog] to a level actually lower than what the Palestinians and the Arab world in general were during the GWB years.

Looking back the only nation/state in the Middle East that stood steadfast and is the all around winner is Syria/Syrians. The fact of the matter and using an ancient but somewhat quite approriate Middle Eastern adage the time has come for the “Mountain to come to Mohamed”.

Given its track record one can only attest to acknowledging the fact that its Syria’s turn and right to call its own shots in the manner of a winner.

Those who aspire to peace should be encouraged to go to Damascus as Sarkozy did.

September 4th, 2008, 3:34 pm


norman said:

The question that we should answer is ,

Do the Hebrew have the right to return and live in Palestine , Any takers,?.

i personally think they do , like i think that my children should have the right to return to Syria in the future , but i do not think that my children or the Jews have the right to push anybody out,

September 4th, 2008, 3:36 pm


AnotherIsraeliGuy said:

The strength of a nation is mostly based on its economic output and on the internal structures that govern how citizens relate to each other.

So far Israel has not used nuclear weapons and there is no reason that it should. Do you really think you are going to convince someone to make peace because of the implied Israeli nuclear weapons? Imagine Hitler had nuclear weapons. That would never convince me to make peace with him. Basically your position is that Arabs should make peace with us because otherwise we will blow up the middle east usi9ng nuclear weapons. I cannot begin to explain how vehemently I disagree with your approach.

September 4th, 2008, 3:39 pm


Shai said:


As long as there are enough people on both sides that refer to each other as “cancerous entity”, and cannot get rid of their innate hatred and suspicion towards one another, the question of right-of-return is a bit premature, isn’t it? No Israeli will allow hundreds of thousands of Palestinians to return to Jaffa, Haifa, etc. while he believes they want to throw him to the sea. This perception must change, and it will take some time. Some, like Nour, think you can force Israelis to change. I’m afraid you cannot.

September 4th, 2008, 3:46 pm


EHSANI2 said:

Dear Camille,

Where President Clinton invented the conept of “triangulation” in politics, judging by your above diagram, Damascus seems to have opted for “Octagonlation”. I am not an enginner but the face of the table above (Syria) seems to be able to use 8 legs to sit on. I believe it is the “octagon” that has 8 sides.

You also said that “One of the main objectives of Syria’s long-term regional policy is stability.”

I thought that this is precisely what every actor in the region has said they are aspiring for.

September 4th, 2008, 4:22 pm


norman said:


The issue is , do the Jews have the right to return to the Mideast,
apparently some people do not think so, please read my poorly written first note.

September 4th, 2008, 4:24 pm


SimoHurtta said:

then Simo would probably be speaking some Deutsche right around now, including fellow friends in France, England, heck maybe even Palestine…

Shai actually Deutsch was the first language I learned as a baby. My mother is Austrian. And that learning was made long after Hitler was defeated.

Shai would you and AIG speak Polish and pick potatoes now in September in Poland if there had not been A. Hitler? So Palestinians have to blame Hitler and Germans for the Polish + European invasion.

By the way Shai is the universe really 5768 years old? What is the official view in Israel.

September 4th, 2008, 4:29 pm


EHSANI2 said:

Dear Camille,

In the recent interview with Al-Manar Mr. Assad made the following noteworthy remark:

“We are not a state that offers gifts. We are a state that speaks the language of interests. We ask any other state to present its interests to us so we would look for common interests.”

He went on to add:

“We do not see an interest in abandoning the resistence.”

Presumably, it is here where the U.S. and Syria do not see eye to eye. The former has an “interest” in holding on to its resistence credentials as a stand that it can leverage at a future date. The U.S. on the other hand wants her to give up her ace before it decides to join the table. Syria cannot possibly go along a mere “promise” without a substantial guarantee that ensures that she is not out of the game should the “promise” not come through.

September 4th, 2008, 5:57 pm


Akbar Palace said:

The Maureen Dowd op-ed last week on Palin was hilarious. Highly recommended.

QN –

Maureen Dowd is a sourpuss.

September 4th, 2008, 6:02 pm


Alex said:

I’ll respond to some of your comments:

The beautiful Syria table : )

I knew some of you won’t like it, but

– I realized that sometimes one needs to try simple pictures since many people (like Bashman’s opposition, Neocons, M14ers …) developed their skill of selective attention to unprecedented heights. I think the table drawing is too annoying not to look at and understand for those who managed to not understand the article itself.

– There is a serious message in that Table which my friend Ehsani referred to: Syria is genuinely secular and independent … a leg is a leg as long as it looks like it can reliably support the top.

More legs are better than less legs. Legs are replaceable if they prove to be not supportive … Syria always prepares spare legs in case an existing one breaks …

In practice:

1) When the “moderate Arabs” proved many times so far to be anything but supportive, Syria (in 1980) picked a new leg … Iran. The Islamic revolution took place when Saudi Arabia and Jordan were busy sending arms and money to the violent extremists trying to overthrow (and try to assassinate) President Hafez Assad at the time.

Iran leg was added… and it proved to be reliable for almost thirty years now. Syria does not want to remove it… BUT … if the Israel and USA and Europe legs are really too allergic to the Iran leg, Syria will switch military support to Russia leg and make Iran leg purely cultural and economic support…. like any close peacetime reliable friend. Iran knows it and is ready for that change.

2) When new administration’ neocons insisted on breaking Syria’s American backing (after the whole decade of the 90’s) .. Syria repositioned and enforced the Iran leg … in addition to the Hizbollah and Hamas leg.

It was America’s fault … they should know that Syria ALWAYS reacts this way when not enough support is there anymore.

3) Hopefully (the plan is) … after a peaceful settlement .. the Hizbollah and Hamas legs will be weakened … Hizbolla converted to Political party and Hamas will modify its behavior as long as Israel is delivering on its promises to settle the Palestinian problem (Again, a relatively big IF) … that leg by then will gradually be replaced with American and Israeli (yes) legs …

4) Saudi and Egyptian legs? … I don’t know …. it will depend when those two countries are ready again to understand Syria’s role in the Levant … Syria wants them to stop completely interfering or even lecturing. If they go all the way in recognizing their past mistakes with Syria, then Syria might eventually go back to the golden days of cooperation between the leaders of the Arab world.

But for now, there is serious damage.


As for IC’s question … Syria is much more significant than Qatar … money is one thing …. Syria has a lot more valuable “assets”.

I won’t get into the details … but I am convinced that Syria’s value will become more and more apparent to more and more skeptics.



the chicken and egg challenge … true.

But it is America that will have to take a chance on Syria again, without placing impossible pre-conditions … just like Presidents Bush Sr. and President Clinton did.

Syria and the United States can do a lot of good when they cooperate .. the Middle East is guaranteed to go to hell when they don’t … not only 2002 to 2008, but the same thing took place whent the equally arrogant Cowboy administration of President Ronald Reagan decided to boycott Syria from 1982 to 1988 … Check how much they messed up the Middle East… compare it to the pleasant 90’s.

September 4th, 2008, 6:19 pm


Qifa Nabki said:

AP, correction: she is a hilarious sourpuss.

Ehsani, what is notable to me about that quote is how honest it is about the fact that, under the right circumstances, Syria would drop the resistance like a bad habit.

September 4th, 2008, 6:20 pm


Nour said:


“Israel” is a cancerous entity because its very genesis is based on the expulsion of indigenous inhabitants and their replacement with a foreign group. So long as you believe that you have a right to build an exclusively Jewish state on someone else’s land, you cannot possibly be seen as recognizing the injustice wrought on those people. I would have no problem with Jews living on this land if they wished to live as equals with the people of the land under a single, democratic system. But when you say that you should have a right to have your own entity and ignore the way in which this entity arose, then there is a problem. And the major problem for you is that, without the concept of the Jewish state and THE state for the Jews, the justification for the very existence of “Israel” would cease to exist.

So what is it that you want Shai? Do you want to live as an equal with all other people on that land? Or do you hold to your position that there should always be a “Jewish” state on that land? As for “forcing” “Israelis” to change, I am not forcing you to do anything; what you continue to believe is ultimately up to you, but your people who are occupying Haifa and Yafa are in no position to set conditions on the indigenous population, as they came from all four corners of the world to occupy thier land and evict them from it. They have an inalienable right to this land. You have no right to claim this land as yours and then proceed from this concept as if nothing happened in between.

In addition, equating between the position of the Jews on the one hand, and that of the indigenous people, on the other, is ludicrous. The people there did not leave their land and country looking to create problems for someone else. Their only crime was that they lived on land desired by Jewish Zionists. For that they paid an ultimate price and are only asking for justice to be served, just as any victim would. But your state has not only been denying them justice, it has been denying them their very humanity.

September 4th, 2008, 6:24 pm


Alex said:


Forget the 7000 year old Damascus : )

Syrian News Agency TODAY posted a story about archaeological discoveries of layers in Palmyra (Syrian desert) that go back to 800,000 years, then 1,200,000 years.

Here it is in Arabic (if someone can translate?):

العثور في بادية تدمر على آثار نيزك سقط في استراليا منذ 800 ألف عام

الخميس, 04 أيلول , 2008 – 01:35


عثرت بعثت التنقيب الأثرية السورية الفرنسية المشتركة العاملة في حوضة الكوم في البادية التدمرية على طبقة جيولوجية في موقع الميرا تحوي آثار رماد فضائي لنيزك كان قد سقط شمال استراليا منذ نحو 800 ألف سنة.

وأكدت الدكتورة هبا السخل مديرة الجانب السورية والبروفيسور ايريك بويضة رئيس الجانب الفرنسي للبعثة في تصريح لوكالة سانا ان هذا الاكتشاف هام للغاية خاصة أنه لأول مرة يتم العثور على آثار هذا النيزك في منطقة الشرق الأوسط بعد سقوطه على الأرض في تلك الفترة السحيقة من الزمن.

وبينا أن سقوط النيزك أحدث آثارا كبيرة في القشرة الأرضية وتشكلت أثناءها غيوم غبارية وصل مداها إلى عدد كبير من بلدان العالم.

وأشارا إلى ان البعثة عثرت خلال موسم التنقيب هذا العام على طبقات اثرية تعود الى الفترة الاشولية القديمة التي يعود تاريخها إلى مليون و200 الف سنة في موقع ام تلال معتبرين ان اكتشاف الرماد الفضائي للنيزك يعد ثورة في عالم المكتشفات الاثرية ويدل على ان البادية السورية تحوي طبقات جيولوجية موغلة جدا في القدم تعود الى الفترة الاشولية والفترة الهملية والفترة البرودية والفترة الموسيترية وجميعها فترات موغلة في القدم.

September 4th, 2008, 6:27 pm


Alex said:

Qifa Nabki,

Ya 7abibi .. Syria will NOT drop the resistance1.

It will not NEED the resistance after peace, and there will be no justification for “resistance” … but the people who comprise that “resistance” today will still be supported (politically) by Syria… Syria will lobby for more power to the Shiites in Lebanon… YOU won’t mind it because this is what a one-man-one-vote democracy will lead to anyway, given their numbers.

Why do you insist on reading Syria’s intentions under some red, evil mood light?

: )

September 4th, 2008, 6:38 pm


Shai said:


“And that learning was made long after Hitler was defeated.”

Well I’m glad for that. Because had he not been defeated, German might have been not only your mother’s tongue, but also Finland’s…

“Shai would you and AIG speak Polish and pick potatoes now in September in Poland if there had not been A. Hitler?”

I don’t know anything about AIG. Out of a family of about 30-40 people, only my 4 grandparents survived the Holocaust (they were 18 at the time). And, since they were from Poland, then yes, I suppose if it wasn’t for Hitler, I’d probably be a farmer in Poland right now. I imagine you’re not suggesting I should be happy that Nazi Germany exterminated 6 million Jews, for otherwise I personally would be enjoying a far poorer standard of living?

“So Palestinians have to blame Hitler and Germans for the Polish + European invasion.”

Blaming won’t help them much. I think they want the Occupation to end, and their own country at last.

“By the way Shai is the universe really 5768 years old? What is the official view in Israel.”

If you told an average Israeli that the year is 5768, he wouldn’t know what you’re talking about. Religious Jews (who are a minority in my country) believe in God’s Creation, and do place a figure on the “beginning” of time. To them, it might mean something. But the official date in Israel is September 4, 2008. Most Israelis believe in the Big Bang theory (hence the IDF)… 🙂

Last time I met someone in Israel who cared about 5768, it was on a bus ride through the religious town of Bnei-Brak, some 18 years ago.

September 4th, 2008, 6:45 pm


Shai said:


I agree with you in more ways than you know. But you cannot ignore the fact that today, there is a nation called “Israel”, which defines itself (it doesn’t ask you for your definition) as the Jewish State, as a place for all Jews, and as a place that must continue to have a Jewish majority to remain an eternal safe haven for all Jews worldwide. The injustices and crimes committed against the Palestinian people are innumerable. While I am proud to be an Israeli, I am ashamed of how my nation had to come about (at the expense of another people). Many cannot understand how I can feel both. But I do.

In my vision of a futuristic Middle East (30-40 years from now), I do see, and very much hope, for a so-called United Middle East (UME). This UME will be a mixture between the U.S. and the E.U. Open borders, citizens can live and work where they chose to. De facto, this would be the right-of-return to any Palestinian in the world. He or she could come live in Jaffa, just as I could live in Riyadh, or Beirut. But to get there, an almost insurmountable amount of hatred, suspicion, and distrust must be overcome between Jews and Arabs. It’s not only you that has to forgive us, it’s also us that have to begin to trust you. I believe this can only happen when both sides can begin to empathize with the other, in the fullest meaning of the word “empathy”.

I hope more than anything, to see this happen in my lifetime. But much has to occur first, before we can even begin the process of reconciliation. We can call Israel and Israelis names, and label them criminals until we’re blue in the face. But that probably won’t encourage us to empathize, or to change. My point is that sometimes, when you cannot force someone to change, you find other ways to have him want to change. I think that what Syria is doing, is exactly that. It is showing Israel and Israelis that it is serious about peace. The Arab world has offered the 3 Yes’s, instead of Khartoum’s 3 No’s. There is plenty that the Arabs are doing to show Israel that they’re serious. It is mostly our side (as you know by now my views), that has to change our perception of the Arabs, our own criminal behavior (Occupation, etc.), and our willingness to reach a peaceful solution that is accepted, not forced.

But language means everything, Nour. And when Israelis hear you say “cancerous”, no one will give you a chance to clarify. They’ll turn their back on you, and re-check their gun, in preparation for the next anticipated “treatment”. Last thing we want to do, I believe, is feed into our joint (and innate) irrational paranoia. Aside from telling the patient his psychosis, let’s think of the medicine he needs. To Israelis, it’s peace.

September 4th, 2008, 7:03 pm


EHSANI2 said:

Camille Habibi,

Contrary to the way some have felt, I actually liked the picture of that table. Since I am in the midlle of renovating my home and in need of more furniture, having tables with 4 extra spare legs just struck as a brilliant idea especially with three kids in the house. Apparantly, our President figured out the merits of this strategy (having enough spares) long before I did.

September 4th, 2008, 7:17 pm


Qifa Nabki said:

Alex said:

It was America’s fault … they should know that Syria ALWAYS reacts this way when not enough support is there anymore.

Alex effendi, is America supposed to be Syria’s loving and supportive wife? I just don’t understand this comment… what exactly do you mean when you say that Syria’s attitude is America’s fault? It sounds like you are talking about a lovable but somewhat irrational member of the family who needs to be looked after, not irritated too much, not pressured, not prodded…

Aunt USA: “Well darling it really is my own fault. After all, you know how your Uncle Syria ALWAYS reacts this way when there’s not enough apple pie left…”

Or, maybe we’re talking about some kind of natural disaster, like a mudslide or an avalanche?

Distraught villager: “This disaster was our own fault. After all, everyone knows that the earth reacts this way when there’s too much pressure placed upon it…”

Seriously Alex, this is too much.

3) Hopefully (the plan is) … after a peaceful settlement .. the Hizbollah and Hamas legs will be weakened … Hizbolla converted to Political party and Hamas will modify its behavior as long as Israel is delivering on its promises to settle the Palestinian problem (Again, a relatively big IF) … that leg by then will gradually be replaced with American and Israeli (yes) legs …

All this talk of legs under tables is getting kind of gross. Who’s got the best legs? The strongest? The hairiest?

4) Saudi and Egyptian legs? … I don’t know ….

I don’t know either, and let’s not even ask.

it will depend when those two countries are ready again to understand Syria’s role in the Levant … Syria wants them to stop completely interfering or even lecturing. If they go all the way in recognizing their past mistakes with Syria, then Syria might eventually go back to the golden days of cooperation between the leaders of the Arab world.

Walla?!! Who says that they even deserve Syria’s mercy? : ) Alex, what is Syria’s role in the Levant and what were the golden days of cooperation all about? As far as I know, the Arabs have always been vengeful and treacherous towards each other, and Syrians should know this better than anyone else. Up until the late 20th century, there were still feuds taking place in the Jazira between groups that called themselves Qays and Yaman… i.e. going back to Umayyad times!!

The point is that you have a double standard. Syria is allowed to conduct its foreign policy and preserve its interests in any kind of ruthless way that it wants, but if others try to do the same then you call this “past mistakes”. If you are going to absolve Syria’s actions by saying that this is a dog eat dog world, then you should not talk about cooperation or lack of cooperation when it comes to the other regimes in the area.

As for IC’s question … Syria is much more significant than Qatar … money is one thing …. Syria has a lot more valuable “assets”.

Like what?

I would also add to what Innocent_Criminal said: Turkey is not an example that Syria can hope to aspire to anytime soon. Turkey has a GDP that is more than 6 times greater than Syria and Lebanon combined. I agree with you that Syria should be looking for different “legs” under its table, and that it should be a force for stability in the region, but I also think that Zenobia and Offended are right: you can’t have your cake and eat it too.

Finally, to follow up on your point about supporting Shiites politically after the resistance is dismantled, why would Syria NECESSARILY do this? What if this went against its political interest, as it did during the 90’s when Syria rigged political elections in Lebanon to deny Hizbullah parliament seats?

Again, either the resistance is a romantic notion or it’s just another leg that can be kicked away. Can’t have it both ways.

September 4th, 2008, 7:20 pm


Alex said:

Qifa NAbki

Walla for someone who is moving back to Lebanon tomorrow, you surely seem to be motivated enough to answer me : )

I can asnwer you better when we talk next time, but since you posted those comments here, I will have to TYPE a long, yet partial, response.

Wait and see what Syria will do : )

I have been saying that since 2005 when almost every “analyst” was busy analyzing if “Mehlis will get Bashar too or will he stop at Maher and Asef” .. when Chirac and Bolton were giving Syria their last warnings… when Jumblatt was promising that he will cut the head of the Damascus tyrant soon… and when the Israelis were calling Bashar a beggar every time he stated his readiness to make peace with Israel.

Today … you are choosing to forget that it is not anymore Alex alone who is making those claims, but .. Sarkozy! .. he just said that Syria is a highly important country! … that Syria has an important role to play in Lebanon, Iraq, Iran …

And it is not only Sarkozy habibi … it is many many opinion writers …. go up to my post and read Zvi Bar’el in case you missed his quote the first time.

So … for those of are not yet sure what is Syria’s value … I will remind you one more time that for the past five years Syria DEFEATED the following coalition:

The United States of America
Saudi Arabia
M14 Lebanon
Chirac’s France
Europe (including Blair’s England)
Kurdish part of Iraq
Likud’s Israel

You want me to say it more bluntly? … OK:

Syria has the best political brains habibi … brains count more than money and weapons sometimes.

And if you find Syria’s need for many legs to be irrational … it is precisely that irrationality (not) that made Syria survive the coalition.

And it is purely defensive in nature. When did Syria act as an aggressor? .. against Saddam’s Iraq? .. never. Against Saudi Arabia? .. never … against Egypt? .. never. Against pre-1967 Israel? … not under Hafez or Bashar.

Did Syria annex Lebanon? … after 30 years in Lebanon.

And didn’t Syria support and save the lives of millions of refugees from neighboring countries?? … While the United States accepted only 6000 Iraqi refugees, and while Saudi Arabia is spending tens of billions on a wall that will stop Iraqi refugees from entering the kingdom, “insecure” Syria was secure enough to open the border for up to 2 million Iraqi refugees! … and hundreds of thousands of Lebanese refugees .. and Palestinians … and Armenians and Kurds before …

What exactly is your problem with Syria??

September 4th, 2008, 7:42 pm


offended said:

Besides, when you have more legs for the table to rest on, it becomes harder for the hustlers to make deals under the table. : )

Dear Ehsani2:

It’s usually much easier for a table to balance on 3 legs (any three random points in the Euclidean space can exist on certain plane), the more legs are there the harder it is to balance the table; you’d need extra care in measurements and alignments. Otherwise you’d have a shaky table; know what we call that in Aleppo?

طاولة مأرئزة


September 4th, 2008, 7:46 pm


Alex said:

OK Offended (and others),

In that case … Which three legs would you choose for Syria in the future?

September 4th, 2008, 7:55 pm


offended said:

Dear Camille, I tried to limit the analogy to geometry by emphasizing “Euclidian Space”!

In reality and in politics, it’s a bigger risk when the table has only three legs to rest on; the failure of one leg will lead to a total collapse. So I kind of agree with your way of putting it; more legs with less weight evenly or proportionately distributed on them.

Btw, and IMHO, stability of the interior front, albeit an internal issue, should be one of the pillars for a healthy foreign policy.

September 4th, 2008, 8:10 pm


Alex said:

This is really painful to see … After all this talk about tables with 4 and 8 legs

Bashar and the Emir’s meeting today:

: )

September 4th, 2008, 8:46 pm


Qifa Nabki said:

Walla for someone who is moving back to Lebanon tomorrow, you surely seem to be motivated enough to answer me

For you, anything. : )

Alex, Sarkozy is actually not saying the same thing that you are saying, and neither are all the others who have decided to cozy up to Syria. Don’t get me wrong: I’m glad they are cozying up. But they’re not saying what you are saying. Rather, they are sick of trying to use sticks with Syria and are using carrots instead. One of the ways in which you use carrots is by stroking someone’s ego, which is what Sarkozy is doing when he talks about important roles to play, etc. etc.

So … for those of are not yet sure what is Syria’s value … I will remind you one more time that for the past five years Syria DEFEATED the following coalition

Alex, Syria defeated the so-called coalition because it was willing to turn the screw further than its opponents were, simple as that. Does that mean that it is “smarter” than everyone else? I don’t know. I think it means that the regime is more willing to play chicken and they are very good at staying in power, just like all of the other autocrats around the region. Qaddafi has been around for a long time too.

What exactly is your problem with Syria??

Nothing! : ) My problem is with you! I mean… your portrayal of Syrian foreign policy. : )

Alex, I agree with your basic argument about multiple “legs” (even though I think that there is a limit to this). What I DISagree with is your pretending that everything that Syria does to protect its interests is legit while everything that everyone else does is predatory.

You say that Syria never acted as an aggressor. Actually, that’s not true. Was it not acting like an aggressor in Lebanon? You talk all about how Saudi Arabia acted aggressively toward Syria by building up its own allies in Lebanon, but then how did Syria NOT act aggressively by eliminating them? (Even if we discount assassinations, let’s not pretend like Syria did not play hardball in Lebanon).

I am trying to represent Joshua, here. (Joshua, don’t correct me if you disagree). What I’m saying is that this is a ruthless region full of ruthless players and Syria is no different than anyone else. Sure, Bashar may be a politically savvy leader and a very good strategist, but it’s not just white gloves.

September 4th, 2008, 9:43 pm


Alex said:

Qifa Beik,

1) Stroking Syrians’ ego does not go anywhere … Hafez and Bashar are not going to visit Jerusalem in exchange for good publicity.

That would work with the King of Jordan or with Seniora, not with the Assads who preferred to get negative publicity over accepting any unnecessary compromises.

2) Everyone is “agressie sometimes” … but to claim that the Syrians went further thatn … the Israelis who killed 1600 Lebanese in 2006 (after two of their soldiers were killed), and the Americans who devastated Iraq and caused hundreds of thousands or Iraqis to die … is not right.

The Saudis are not courageous .. they are very aggressive within their chicken-ish nature’s limitations … they pay for others to deliver their agression .. like they did with the Muslim Brotherhood in Syria and like they tried to do with the Salafi fighters in Lebanon.

Syria never tried to overthrow them or to support Saudi Shiite violence for example.

September 4th, 2008, 9:58 pm


Alex said:

And … forget what Alex is saying … try TIME magazine:

: )

September 4, 2008 10:41
Bashar Wins a Big One
Posted by Scott MacLeod

Maybe Bashar al-Assad is a chip off the old block, after all, judging from the diplomatic pageant in Damascus today. There he was, despite the Bush administration’s vigorous five-year campaign to isolate Bashar, hosting an international summit on the Middle East being covered live on satellite channels including the BBC.

Not so long ago, the Syrian president and his regime seemed to be hanging by a thread. Trained as an ophthalmologist with little or instinct or stomach for politics, Bashar had come to power upon the death of his father Hafez in 2000 quite by accident, literally–the auto crash that killed his elder brother, the heir apparent in the Assad Dynasty.

The new leader seemed unsteady as he explored domestic reform, cleaned out his father’s Old Guard, maintained Syrian hostility to Israel and friendship with Iran and backed radical groups like Hamas and Hizballah. Suddenly in 2003 he incurred the furious wrath of the Bush administration by backing jihadists and Iraqi Baathists when the U.S. invaded Iraq. For a while it seemed quite possible that the invading American forces might turn left and move on Damascus.

If that wasn’t disaster enough, then came the assassination of former Lebanese prime minister Rafik Hariri. A U.N. investigative panel implicated Syrian officials in the spectacular killing. Syrian denials fell on deaf ears among millions of angry Lebanese, who staged the remarkable Cedar Revolution a month later that forced an end to Syria’s 30-year military presence in the country. In a region where change comes slowly, the speed of the Syrian exit was breathtaking. On a memorable Sunday afternoon we drove through a Syrian military checkpoint on the outskirts of Baalbek as I took my wife and daughter for a visit to the Roman ruins there. A fews hours later when we headed back to Beirut, the Syrians were gone. Three decades and then, poof! Gone!

Bashar, however, was not cowed. In 2006, he threw his enthusiastic support behind Hizballah in the Hizballah-Israel war. He famously denounced the leaders of Egypt and Saudi Arabia as “half men” for failing to follow his lead. Afterwards, he threw his support behind Hizballah’s efforts to oust the U.S.-backed Cedar Revolution government of Fuoad Siniora and essentially succeeded. After Hizballah sent its army on to the streets of Beirut last May, Siniora caved in to a power-sharing deal that gives Hizballah a veto over government decisions.

This week’s Damascus summit is powerful testimony to Bashar’s success in playing the geopolitical game that his late father had mastered. It’s also prestigious international recognition of Bashar’s role in resolving the various disputes in the Middle East–from the Israeli-Arab conflict to the clash over Iran’s nuclear program.

That recognition was palpably provided by the attendance of French President Nicolas Sarkozy, the first Western leader to visit Syria since Hariri’s assassination. Sarkozy’s predecessor Jacques Chirac, a personal Hariri friend, had worked vigorously toward Bashar’s isolation. Also in attendance were Qatari Emir Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa al-Thani, who negotiated the Lebanon accord, and Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, whose country is mediating a noteworthy resumption of indirect talks between Syria and Israel.

Thursday’s scene of the four leaders on global television represents another defeat for the Bush administration’s policies. It’s policy toward Syria has now completely collapsed. If the Cheney strategists had their way, Bashar would have been removed from power, Syria would be a U.S.-friendly democracy, Lebanon would have become another jewel of the Middle East’s democratic crown and the leaders of Hamas and Hizballah would be in Guantanamo Bay or worse. Instead, Bashar has put himself, Syria and its allies back at the center of events, as Washington watches it all from afar.

You can almost hear Hafez saying, “Way to go, kid!”

September 4th, 2008, 9:59 pm


Qifa Nabki said:

Did you read the comment by Natalie?

“If the Cheney strategists had their way, Bashar would have been removed from power, Syria would be a U.S.-friendly democracy, Lebanon would have become another jewel of the Middle East’s democratic crown and the leaders of Hamas and Hizballah would be in Guantanamo Bay or worse.”

Dear god, no!

Not that! Anything but that!


Kind of funny…

September 4th, 2008, 10:02 pm


Qifa Nabki said:

The Saudis are not courageous .. they are very aggressive within their chicken-ish nature’s limitations … they pay for others to deliver their agression .. like they did with the Muslim Brotherhood in Syria and like they tried to do with the Salafi fighters in Lebanon.

There are two competing theories about the Salafi fighters in Lebanon. One says that they are supported by Saudis. One says that they are supported by Syria. If the latter is true, will you then agree that Syria is “very aggressive”? : )

September 4th, 2008, 10:06 pm


trustquest said:

Dear Alex,
I want to comment on your post so in the future you do not tally all who criticize the regime as one-directional when someone does not comment positively on a post. Usually there is implicit agreement or not big disagreement when there are no comments; I hope no one get offended if he does not receive praise for his comment. However, I admire your respond to idealists’ comments which I find these comments are too greasy for pragmatic time and pragmatic regime, however I do disagree with you strongly on using the world STRATEGIC in the post, leaving aside the word “friend” as has been already discussed. You said: Turkey and Qatar are among Syria’s main strategic partner in the Middle East.
Strategic means the willing of the partner to fight with you against enemies, which I do not think relevant to the case at hands

The other point is the unsettling contradiction on Syria foreign policy in accepting Qatar to have relation with Israel while they are adamants in refusing the same for other Arab States (this is pick and choose FP). What I find hypocritical and dangerous in the same time is the literature of the Baath Party and State media who are flying in different space. The endorsement of Syria for Qatar to have relation with Israel, or to have independent decisions and have American Base inside its territories makes Syria a MODERATE Arab State (isn’t it?). So, what is the fuss about those bad moderate Arab States and the merit of Syria higher moral ground? Qatar helped US to attack Iraq, Saudi did not, but Syria is friend with Qatar, where is the logic here. My point that regime supporters should be careful when they attack moderate States and claim higher moral ground (does not mean I like any one of them). The regime to be pragmatic and homogenous has to work simultaneously on both fronts inside and outside and can I suggest that this only can be achieved if free speech and publishing allowable for the fumes of idealistic views to let out. I think the regime (and not the State because they are not in harmony) is flying solo and all these maneuvers are to amend and keep face at the same time between his historical rhetoric and the new one which is may be right thing to do, but the wrong side is the solo part. This makes the regime pragmatic (lean) from the outside and idealistic (stiff) from the inside. This is high risk and the deferential pressures might cause it to collapse. To be genuine pragmatic, he has to allow some space, at least limited criticism and expression for his opponents and friends alike.

Thank you offended: “stability of the interior front, albeit an internal issue, should be one of the pillars for a healthy foreign policy.”

On this level, I will second the guy who suggested to you the position of Buthina and I would rather see you taking the place information minister so you can bring logic to the erratic behavioral and positions of the regime. Remember you said they need to work on their PR, they still do. BTW, lol for the 40 year marriage, not the 27 years one?

BTW, Assad agreed on “ conflict resolution measure rather than threats, blockade and isolation”, I hope this will mean that it is not limited to negotiation with Israel, but to include negotiation inside Syria and removing of the boycotting of Israelis companies (can he do it?), this is if I want to be optimistic like you.

And If I want to refine your table other than having more legs, I will make it made from wicker, that type of furniture that last couple of seasons only, it is better depiction of the current state. :))

September 4th, 2008, 10:22 pm


Zenobia said:

seee. down with fake friendship.

and you can’t have your cake and eat it too….

too many legs and you can’t move, as all the legs get in each other’s way. Legs are not just for standing still…they are supposed to promote movement … something syria does not do well.

The IFs are very big these days. Palin is canceling all her schedule to run off to talk to AIPAC right now….

and oh yea, Maureen Down kicks everybody’s ass… and is hilarious while doing it.

September 4th, 2008, 10:30 pm


Akbar Palace said:

So … for those of are not yet sure what is Syria’s value … I will remind you one more time that for the past five years Syria DEFEATED the following coalition:

The United States of America
Saudi Arabia
M14 Lebanon
Chirac’s France
Europe (including Blair’s England)
Kurdish part of Iraq
Likud’s Israel

Alex –

“Defeated”?? In what way?

September 4th, 2008, 10:35 pm


offended said:

On the subject of friends I’d say yes, we can’t be friends with M 14 for instance. Unless, as much as chauvinistic and egotistical this may sound, they rectify their ways and stop bending some DNA research to show that the Lebanese are distinctive breed.

September 4th, 2008, 10:53 pm


offended said:

AP, defeated in the sense that their plans to topple the regime in Syria and replace it with a more moderate one, and to redraw the map of the middle east-and the birth bangs and all that crap; all this have gone down the drain.

Need I say more?

(sorry Camille for barging in….)

September 4th, 2008, 10:59 pm


Zenobia said:

defeated as in….. the contest of political wills…

September 4th, 2008, 11:09 pm


ghat Albird said:

To all the Muslim brothers and sisters on Syria Comment

Ramadan Kareem.

September 4th, 2008, 11:23 pm


Qifa Nabki said:

There are Muslim Brothers on Syria Comment?!

Quick, someone call the mukhabarat!


Ramadan karim!

September 4th, 2008, 11:26 pm


Alex said:

Ramadan Kareem to all of you!


Thank you for the nomination to Dr. Shabaan’s post .. but I have a tendency to sleep late and wake up when people are already at work.

: )

But thank you for your very reasonable and objective criticism.

I agree that the “strategic” word was not the right one I was supposed to use in the case of Qatar. But I stil believe turkey is a trategic partner for Syria … strategic as in “long term” … hopefully.

to respond to the other points you made, I have to add a couple of clarifications:

1) We should not bother over-analyzing every statement by every “Syrian official”. The Baath party officials still have their own ideology and they will still condemn (when they can) those who speak to the zionists, and you probably can still find the isolated official who will condemn American imperialism.

Also, Syria’s policy is intentionally vague. This is what this stage of the game requires. If I were in charge of Syria’s public relations I would not change that part.

Syria is not the only country with contradictory statements. Even Israel bombs a Syrian “nuclear reactor” one day, then its prime minister expresses his respect to Syria’s president the next day.

Sarkozy says one thing to please the Lebanese M14 supporters who cried ot of fear he will be selling them to Syria, then the next day he says the reverse in Damascus.

And president Bush … never mind.

2) Syria stopped criticizing Arab countries that talk to Israel long time ago …. I mean the real Syria .. President Assad.

Did you notice that the president of Mauritania was warmly received by President Assad during the Damascus summit? … Syria does not need anything from him to tolerate his ties to Israel. And Turkey’s ties to Israel are also not a problem for Syria. Those ties are not going to adversely affect Syria’s ability to negotiate with Israel.

3) After the near break of hostilities between Syria and Turkey in the late 90’s, Syria (the regime) took a decision to gain turkey as an ally… Hafez started it, not Bashar.

It started with a number of Syrian officers meeting with a number of Turkish army officers… there was no way both sides would miss the opportunity to become strategic (or long term) partners.

Akbar Palace,

I would say “won most battles” instead of “defeated” … but that’s it. The odds were overwhelmingly against the Syrians given the size and power of the coalition, yet it was Bashar who emerged victorous … until now.

And I am arguing that this is a good thing for the middle East, including Israel.

We’ll see by next year.

September 4th, 2008, 11:36 pm


Enlightened said:

Article from Sydney Morning Herald this morning:

Syrian president says democracy not a goal for his country

September 5, 2008 – 6:09AM
Refusing to recognise Israel … Syrian President Bashar Assad.

Syrian President Bashar Assad says his country will not recognise Israel before a peace accord is reached, and that democracy is not a goal for Syria.

In a French television interview, Assad says “it is impossible for recognition to occur before a peace accord”. He says there would be “reciprocal recognition” if and when such an accord is reached.

Assaid said earlier that Syria has put forth a proposal for peace with longtime foe Israel. Assad held talks in Damascus with France’s president.

He did not give details of the deal in the France-2 interview.

He said democracy is “not a goal” for Syria. He said Syria’s goal is stability and that democracy is a “means to improve the country and reintroduce freedoms”.


September 4th, 2008, 11:55 pm


norman said:

Frustrated Israel watches Syria break out of isolation

Sep. 4, 2008
herb keinon and ap , THE JERUSALEM POST
Israeli diplomatic officials viewed the four-way summit in Damascus among the leaders of Syria, France, Turkey and Qatar on Thursday with some frustration, saying Syrian President Bashar Assad had effectively broken out of his international isolation without having given anything in return.

Assad hosted a meeting with French President Nicolas Sarkozy, Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Qatari Emir Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa al-Thani following his one-on-one meeting with Sarkozy on Wednesday.

“He no longer needs to negotiate with us,” one senior Israeli diplomatic official said Thursday, following a statement Assad made Thursday morning that indirect negotiations with Israel had been postponed because of the resignation of Yoram Turbowicz, the head of the Israeli negotiating team, as Prime Minister Ehud Olmert’s chief of staff.

“The resignation of the chief Israeli negotiator led to the postponement of this round, which would have defined the course of these negotiations,” Assad said.

“He got out of his isolation, and now can put us on hold,” the senior Israeli diplomatic official said. “He is now trying to blame us for the postponement.”

Turbowicz quit his post in the beginning of August, just after Olmert announced his intention to resign following the September 17 Kadima primary.

Olmert at the time asked Turbowicz to stay on and deal with the diplomatic issues he had been heavily involved in, primarily as a liaison with Washington and heading the talks with Syria. The legal aspects of Turbowicz working as a volunteer, or setting up a new framework for him in the Prime Minister’s Office, are being dealt with by Attorney-General Menahem Mazuz.

A source in the Prime Minister’s Office said that the terms of Turbowicz’s employment would be worked out in a matter of days.

Erdogan, meanwhile, contradicted Assad later in the day, saying that the process was continuing “in a positive manner,” and that a fifth round of talks would be held in Turkey on September 18-19. Turkey is brokering the indirect talks.

Assad also said Thursday that his country had given Turkish mediators an outline of general proposals for peace with Israel and was waiting for Jerusalem’s response before holding any face-to-face negotiations.

Assad said the document was intended to serve as the basis for direct talks and that he was waiting for a similar document laying out Israel’s starting position.

Israeli officials said they were unaware of any such document, while Turkish sources confirmed that Assad gave Erdogan a document on Thursday to pass on to the Israeli side. The Turkish source, who said he didn’t know what six points were in the paper, said it was likely a crystallization of ideas that had been discussed in the previous four rounds of talks.

Assad, meanwhile, cautioned that the future of negotiations rested on who would become prime minister in Israel after Olmert stepped down, and whether the new leader was committed to pursuing peace with Syria.

Any direct talks would also have to wait until a new American administration was in place, Assad said, acknowledging the importance of strong US backing for such an effort.

“We are now discussing a document of principles, which talks about general principles of the peace process which will be the basis for direct negotiations,” Assad said.

He said Syria had outlined six points on the issue of the “withdrawal line,” a reference to the extent of an Israeli withdrawal from the Golan Heights and a major sticking point over which direct negotiations collapsed in 2000.

Assad said the Syrian points had been given to the Turkish negotiators “as a deposit.” When Israel gave its own proposals to the Turkish side, then the two sides could move to direct negotiations, “after a new American administration convinced of the peace process is in place,” he said.

“We want the support of all states, basically France, Qatar and Turkey, in order to be assured that the next [Israeli] prime minister will follow the same direction Olmert had followed through his readiness for complete withdrawal from the occupied territories in order for peace to be achieved.”

Sarkozy offered France’s help to sponsor such negotiations when the time came.

His visit to Damascus was the first by a Western leader since the assassination of former Lebanese prime minister Rafik Hariri in 2005.

Thursday’s summit boosted Assad’s government and consolidated the international warming toward his country led by Sarkozy. In addition to their individual clout, France is the current head of the European Union and Qatar is the current head of the Gulf Cooperation Council.

Israeli officials said Assad wanted the summit to end Syria’s isolation; Sarkozy wanted it to increase France’s presence and influence in Middle East diplomacy; Erdogan wanted it to show his constituents at home that despite the prolonged constitutional crisis in his country, he was still a major player on the world scene and the emir of Qatar was interested in the summit to “annoy the Saudis,” who are Qatar’s main rival in the Gulf.

“The current US administration does not act for peace and doesn’t believe in peace,” Assad said. “At this point Turkey is fulfilling the role of mediator because the talks are indirect.

“As soon as we move on to direct talks, a ‘chaperone’ will be added to the negotiations equation and his job will require more than just shuttling messages or ideas from side to side. He must provide guarantees for the implementation of the mechanism in order to arrive at a peace process, and after signing a peace agreement must provide guarantees for the implementation of the deal. Therefore, I say that we are waiting for the next American administration in order to see what its stances are.”

“The US,” he said, “is a key element of the peace process.”

Hours after reiterating his commitment to pursuing a peaceful solution to his country’s conflict with Israel, Assad said that he had no intention of severing strategic ties with Hizbullah.

In an interview with the Islamist group’s Al-Manar television station on Thursday, Assad stressed that “Syria has no interest in relinquishing its ties with Hizbullah. The Syrian stance towards Hizbullah remains unchanged.”

“Our attitude toward the resistance is clear wherever it may be; against the occupation in Iraq, Lebanon or Palestine,” the Syrian president said.

Damascus had opted to embark on negotiations track with Israel and to bolster its ties with the West “to serve our own interests and not in order to give away any gifts,” he said.

Jerusalem Post staff contributed to this report.

September 5th, 2008, 12:38 am


trustquest said:

From Syrian Blog:

Sarkozy is aiming to deepen ties between the two countries. He has opened a school in Damascus, named after Charles de Gaulle.
Older generation is uncomfortable, because they remember France’s brutal occupation of Syria headed by General De Gaulle.

From me: He needs to work on the interior free speech fast, or he will loose to Baath fundamentals.
If I were Sarkozy should have reclaim the stolen names by the president father.
The same school which Bashar attended and had the High School diploma from, it used to be named: laique
The name of Laique was changed (stolen) and given to his brother after he died in an accident.
Of course this is not the only stolen name, there are tons of them in his father and his brother’s name. It is a shame I hope to see it removed.

If I were Sarkozy, instead of making the older generation unhappy, I would reclaim the name of Laique and call the new school: Laique
Laique = laïcité is based on respect for freedom of thought and freedom of religion. Thus the absence of a state religion, and the subsequent separation of the state and Church, is considered a prerequisite for such freedom of thought.

September 5th, 2008, 12:46 am


norman said:

now the Russian are hoping for help from Syria,

New Middle East Quartet established in Damascus
22:37 | 04/ 09/ 2008

MOSCOW. (RIA Novosti commentator Maria Appakova) – It was not enough for Syria to break out of international isolation. Now it is claiming the laurels of peacemaker and the status of a key player in the Greater Middle East.

With remarkably little fanfare, a new union of mediators on the Middle East has been established in Damascus. Among other things, they may be able to build a bridge between Moscow and Washington.

Nicolas Sarkozy visited Damascus on September 3 and 4. This was the first visit of a French president in six years. In the last few years, high-ranking Western leaders have avoided visiting Syria. The Russian president has not been there either, despite the relatively warm relations between the two countries.

Moreover, Damascus timed Sarkozy’s visit to coincide with a quadripartite summit to discuss the situation in the Middle East and other regional issues, including the recent war in the Caucasus.

The Syrian and French leaders were joined by the Emir of Qatar, Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa Al-Thani, and Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan. The guest list was well chosen. France currently holds the EU Presidency, Syria chairs the Arab League, Turkey is an active go-between in the Syrian-Israeli talks, while Qatar played the main role in negotiating a domestic agreement in Lebanon, and in involving Damascus in the talks on the latter’s problems.

Initially, the summit was supposed to focus on the Syrian-Israeli talks, all the more so since its next round, which Damascus has described in advance as “decisive,” is scheduled to take place very shortly. But because of Israel’s domestic problems, Syrian President Bashar Assad merely had to state that the sides had come close to “the elaboration of an agreement on the principles of new peace settlement.” He added that it is necessary to wait and see who will become Israel’s new prime minister, and whether he will continue the current line on talks with Damascus. In turn, the participants in the summit promised unreserved support to Assad on this issue.

The summit’s participants also discussed the bottlenecks of the Palestinian-Israeli peace process, the complications preventing Lebanon from reaching national accord, the Iranian nuclear issue, and the situation in Iraq and Sudan. But the very fact that the summit took place at all is more important than its agenda. It did not produce any final documents, but its conduct is more telling than any papers. It signaled the birth of a new Middle East Quartet. Let’s recall that the term of “Middle East Quartet” is usually used to describe the European Union (EU), the United Nations, Russia, and the United States’ efforts to mediate in the Middle East. In 2003, they drafted a roadmap for Palestinian-Israeli settlement, and tried to act as key go-betweens in the Arab-Israeli confrontation as a whole.

In the 1990s, the United States was an active mediator not only between Palestinians and Israelis, but also between Syrians and Israelis. Russia for its part has in the past few years insisted on comprehensive Arab-Israeli settlement and lobbied for a larger role for Syria. But all these efforts proved in vain. Negotiations ground to a halt on all fronts, while the roadmap became obsolete, although it still remains the basic document for the peace process.

At the same time, the Syrian-Israeli talks have been suddenly revived with mediation from Turkey. Now France is ready to act as a go-between. Washington is certainly still a major player, and Damascus admits that any agreement may fall through without its explicit approval. However, the United States is no longer the driving force in the negotiating process. The same applies to other regional issues, be it in Lebanon, Palestine, Sudan, Iran, and even Iraq. Paradoxical it may seem, but in the Middle East Washington plays the decisive role without deciding anything.

What are the new driving forces in the Greater Middle East? Strictly speaking, they are not new. The majority of these have been key players at different times, but the United States ousted them all. Now the historic tradition seems set to prevail again. Turkey and France are assuming the main role. Syria has a different weight and power of influence, but recent events in the region bear out that not a single issue there can be resolved without it; especially as it acts as one with Iran.

These three countries were joined by Qatar, which succeeded in brokering a settlement in Lebanon. Now it is claiming peacemaking laurels in Sudan’s Darfur, and possibly in some other problems. When journalists asked Sarkozy about talks with Hamas on the fate of Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit, he readdressed the question to the Emir of Qatar. The latter said he was not in the know, but Sarkozy’s words suggested that Qatar might act as a mediator on this question as well.

The new quartet is an interesting symbiosis of forces and interests. It is building an axis from the Persian Gulf to the Black Sea via the Mediterranean, and uniting all regional problems, from Iran to the Caucasus, including the Middle East knot, into an integral whole. This union is balanced out by the West and the East, and by Washington’s allies and opponents.

Importantly, this quartet may become the main equilibrant between the United States and Russia. This task has become very important recently. It is no accident that during the discussion of regional issues Bashar Assad mentioned events in South Ossetia and praised Sarkozy for his mediation. He said the countries in the Middle East are not interested in a new Cold War, and do not want the region to be turned into the arena of confrontation it was in the middle of the 20th century. “Flames from one part of the world spread to other regions, and the fire becomes twice as strong,” Assad said.

While declaring common goals in the Middle East, Moscow and Washington have wasted too much time on tactical maneuvers and mutual suspicion on other issues, although their cooperation could have facilitated a settlement in the region, and the resolution of the crisis around Iran. Now new mediation bridges are being built in the Middle East, including between Russia and the United States.

The opinions expressed in this article are the author’s and do not necessarily represent those of RIA Novosti.

For more information in Russian

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September 5th, 2008, 1:01 am


norman said:


Good luck to you in Lebanon, I hope that you have time to write so we can enjoy hearing from you.

September 5th, 2008, 1:29 am


Alex said:

Did anyone notice throught the video I linked to above that CNN posted the unedited version of the interview with Bashar?


September 5th, 2008, 4:50 am


offended said:

I noticed Alex, not sure why. Could it be intentional?

September 5th, 2008, 7:05 am


Shai said:

Happy Ramadan to all of you!


The article you posted mentions: “He (Assad) got out of his isolation, and now can put us on hold,” the senior Israeli diplomatic official said. “He is now trying to blame us for the postponement.”

This just demonstrates how both sides are still not open to understanding one another. Why would an Israeli diplomat translate Syria’s successful foreign policy into an attempt to “put (Israel) on hold”? Why not the opposite – that now more than just Syria can push Israel towards peace? And why assume Assad is blaming anyone for the postponement? Assad explained the reason for the postponement, but didn’t seem to find it (Turbowitz’s resignation) irresponsible, illogical, etc. Turkish PM Erdogan hinted that talks would restart in the middle of this month. So it seems all sides are trying to quickly resolve the delay. Our diplomats need to take a chill pill, before getting on the defensive so much. If indeed talks will start on the 18th, this will be the morning when Israel will know who is Kadima’s next leader and, quite possibly, our next PM (Livni, or Mofaz).

September 5th, 2008, 11:24 am


Akbar Palace said:

offended said:

AP, defeated in the sense that their plans to topple the regime in Syria and replace it with a more moderate one, and to redraw the map of the middle east-and the birth bangs and all that crap; all this have gone down the drain.

Offended, so you’re saying the following countries, political parties tried to “topple the regime in Syria”?

The United States of America
Saudi Arabia
M14 Lebanon
Chirac’s France
Europe (including Blair’s England)
Kurdish part of Iraq
Likud’s Israel

Where did you get this information? Let me guess, a Syrian newspaper? A Syrian TV program? A cleric? Of course, I’m always ready to read whatever information or link you have available to change my mind and agree with you.

Need I say more?

No, just back up your (and Alex’s) statement with fact. That’s all I need.

Zenobia said:

defeated as in….. the contest of political wills…


Offended said “defeated in the sense that their plans to topple the regime…”. You said “defeated as in … the contest of political wills”. OK. How did Syria “defeat” the above countries and/or political parties in terms of political will? How did you measure that?

Alex said:

I would say “won most battles” instead of “defeated” … but that’s it. The odds were overwhelmingly against the Syrians given the size and power of the coalition, yet it was Bashar who emerged victorous … until now.


Please outline the “battles” the Syrians “defeated” with respect to each of the countries and/or political parties. Now that we know that these “battles” were not military in nature, how do you measure victory or defeat?

Did all these countries and political parties “lose” because Assad is speaking with Sarkozy? Is that the measure? Is Syria’s recognition of Lebanon as an independent state another measure of Syria’s “victory”? What about Syria’s removal of Meshaal from their terrortory? So yes, how does one measure the “defeat” Syria inflicted on all these countries and/or political parties if they were NOT military in nature?

Personally, I think one of GWB’s little successes was repairing the American/French relationship. Sarkozy (a conservative) is taking a lead in international relations, especially with regard to Syria and the Middle East. However, it seems to me France has already shown that she can change on a dime with respect to this relationship.

Suggestion: “Don’t count your chickens…”

September 5th, 2008, 11:44 am


norman said:

Look at these people , They do not think that they should the Lebanese army to stop the violence , I wonder who want civil war , It is obvious,

Lebanese ruling majority accuses Syria of interfering in Lebanon

BEIRUT, Sept.5 (Xinhua) — Lebanese ruling majority accused Syrian President Bashar Assad of interfering in Lebanese internal affairs and not recognizing Lebanon’s sovereignty, local press Naharnet reported Friday.

A statement issued by the ruling majority on Thursday night said Assad has no right to ask the Lebanese president to send Lebanese army units to northern Lebanon, and such a request is an “interference in Lebanese internal affairs, and result from non-recognition of Lebanon’s sovereignty and independence.”

The statement also said such an request is “an insult to Lebanese president.”

Assad Thursday said at a press conference that he had told the Lebanese president during the latter’s visit to Damascus to send more troops to northern Lebanon to stop clashes between Sunnis and Alawites in Tripoli and some villages of Akkar province.

During the past three months, clashes between the two sects in northern Lebanon have left more than 23 people killed and hundred others wounded.

Meanwhile, Assad’s invitation for talks with Israel was also rejected by the Lebanese ruling coalition, saying “Lebanon will be the last country to sign settlement agreement with Israel after reclaiming Arab rights.”

Lebanese ruling coalition has blamed Syria for the assassination of former Prime Minister Rafic Hariri on Feb. 14, 2006, but Syria denied any role.

September 5th, 2008, 3:35 pm


Alex said:


It seems they fixed it today.

I don’t KNOW if it is intentional, but CNN did a similar one when they interviewed Imad Moustapha at Damascus airport last year … At the time they gave him about 10 seconds to answer each question! … seriously! …. as soon as he started answering, Suzanne Malveaux would interrupt him with the next question … until he got visibly upset..

Not to mention that they filtered all the low frequency content from his voice … not the typical bandwidth you get through bad communication channels, but something they intentionally did to make his voice sound comic almost.

Here is more about how Suzanne Malveaux was completely biased in her reporting of th event at the time, Pelosi’s visit to Syria.

September 5th, 2008, 4:11 pm


Farah said:

Great article Camille.

I disagree with Zenobia and Offended, we should aspire to mimic the kind of relationship that exists among the different European countries or the different states in the US.

We should avoid whatever led to the hostilities and division among the ex-Soviet republics.

September 5th, 2008, 4:50 pm


Alex said:

Thank you Farah. I guess it is a matter of getting enough countries and parties to think positive and to work hard to make it happen.

Here is what Mr. Peres who I rarely trust) said today

Peres proposes direct talks with Syria

By Guy Dinmore in Cernobbio, Italy

September 5 2008 15:50

Syria and Israel should hold direct talks in Jerusalem or Damascus, Shimon Peres, the Israeli president, proposed on Friday.

Mr Peres, who holds a largely ceremonial role as president, extended an invitation to Syria’s Bashar al-Assad with Mahmoud Abbas, the Palestinian president, beside him as they debated the prospects for peace at the annual Ambrosetti conference on the shores of Italy’s Lake Como.

Drawing comparisons with the visit to Jerusalem by Egypt’s Anwar Sadat in 1977, followed by the late King Hussein of Jordan, Mr Peres said that if President Assad visited Israel or invited the Israeli prime minister to Syria then “we shall see a major change”.

Richard Holbrooke, a former senior US diplomat who was moderating the debate, pressed Mr Peres on whether he had formally extended an invitation. Mr Peres indicated that he had made a gesture, although he quoted Mr Assad as expressing the view that negotiations would not take place while the present US administration was in place.

“We are on the waiting list,” Mr Peres said, alluding to the presence in Damascus this week of Nicolas Sarkozy, the French president, and Turkey’s mediating role.

September 5th, 2008, 5:13 pm


ghat Albird said:

After reading extracts of a Desperate Portrait of Israel as a ‘Failed European Fragment’ Hated by Its Neighbors.

An interesting and erudite read.

The forthcoming issue of Middle East Policy contains an astonishing piece by Ian Lustick of the University of Pa. on the desperation inside Israel about its future, titled “The Abandonment of the Iron Wall: Israel and the ‘Middle Eastern Muck.'” The long piece explores the mistaken ideology that “Israel and Israelis can remain in the Middle East without becoming part of it” and it will surely be grabbed by Barack Obama (and ignored by Sarah Palin), for it pulls together all the narratives that we keep hearing from I/P–the ruthless violence, the hateful fence, the emigration, the “war on terror” as a model for Americans, and not least, the Arabs’ hostile passivity and righteous, hardened resistance.

September 5th, 2008, 6:17 pm


Qifa Nabki said:

Ammo Norman,

Thank you very much. I will most definitely continue to stay in touch. In fact, I will be Syria Comment‘s “man in Beirut”.


September 5th, 2008, 6:18 pm


norman said:


I am glad you got your self a job before you are there , I am proud of you.

September 6th, 2008, 3:04 am


Alex said:

I just realized that from now on QN will be working* the same shift like Shai and Offended and Naji and Ghimar …

* At Syria comment

September 6th, 2008, 4:44 am


Khorshid Khanoum said:

Alex, QN — I also wondered about the terrible technical quality of the CNN interview. The edited version shown on news bulletins was, if anything, worse — Assad sounded muffled, like he was speaking through a sock. The version you have linked to also showed signs of being very poorly shot. Some of it is shaky and downright amateurish. There seems to have been no lighting man and twilight seems to be falling very fast. The “cutaways”, which they use to cover up the edits, are lighter and don’t match the 2-shot lighting. The “dead cat” microphone is evident throughout, instead of a discreet lapel mike which you would normally use. But my guess is that it’s what journalists call a “snatch” interview, rather than a sinister plot to make anyone look stupid. They were probably granted it at the last minute and were caught with their pants down, without proper lighting or a professional crew. Cf and contrast France 3’s I/V and very nice feature:

September 6th, 2008, 9:17 am


Alex said:


lol “dead cat” Mic … is this what they call it?

I noticed the lighter cutaways. All they needed to do was to spend five more minutes to match the white balance on the different clips. One was too light, the rest were too dark.

Most video editing software (they probably use Avid) have simple one-click white balance functions.

Besides, they only had one tiny clip to use for ALL cutaways of that interview.

But the part I can not understand is the reason they posted for the first day the unedited version (now replaced with edited one) … that one showed Bashar asking “how do you call it? .. a building? … a structure? … let’s repeat this segment it is not good”

I would imagine that has enough quality control resources to make sure such a mistake does not take place.

Even if it was a snatch interview … there was nothing in it that could not wait 30 more minutes to do proper editing… it was not like a “Breaking News” type of interview.

September 6th, 2008, 2:57 pm


Alex said:

Patrick Seale is working on a similar ( … but better : ) piece on the same topic of this post.

I will post it on Syria Comment on Tuesday.

September 6th, 2008, 5:22 pm


Alex said:

Asharq Alawsat’s smart editor and the way he perceived he summit

قمة دمشق.. رأيتهم في ورطة!

بعيداً عن المجاملات الدبلوماسية التي طغت على قمة دمشق الرباعية، يلاحظ أن القمة كشفت عن ورطة أكثر مما أظهرت حلولا، أو انسجاما في المواقف. والورطة هنا هي في طبيعة الصراع الدائر في المنطقة العربية، وطبيعة ما يريده كل طرف في المنطقة.

فبعد أن أعلن الرئيس ساركوزي أنه سيطلب من نظيره السوري المساعدة في حل ملف إيران النووي وإقناعها بضرورة التعاون مع المجتمع الدولي، أطلق تصريحا قيّد فيه كل جهد للإقناع أو الوساطة. وذلك حين صرح ساركوزي تصريحا لا يمكن وصفه إلا بالخطير، عندما قال إن إيران «تقوم بمجازفة خطيرة بمضيها قدما في عملية الحصول على قدرات نووية عسكرية». وذهب الرئيس الفرنسي إلى حد تحذير طهران مباشرة بالقول «في يوم من الأيام، وبغض النظر عن شكل الحكومة الإسرائيلية، قد نجد إسرائيل ذات صباح تضرب إيران»، ووقتها لن يكون الحديث عن شرعية الضربة الإسرائيلية على إيران من عدمها، على حد قوله.

فما هي دلالات هذا التصريح؟ أعتقد أنه يكشف أمرين؛ الأول أن فرضية تلقي إيران ضربة عسكرية بسبب طموحها النووي ما زالت قائمة بشكل جدي، من قبل الإسرائيليين تحديدا، وحتى الفرنسيون لا يضمنون كيف ومتى ستكون.

الأمر الآخر، عندما يصرح ساركوزي بهذا التصريح في دمشق، فهذا يعني أن الفرنسيين يصعبون مهمة السوريين، أو أنهم يشكون في مقدرتهم على إيصال مثل هذه الرسالة، وإلا إذا كان ساركوزي مقتنعا بما ستقوم به سورية فحريٌّ به عدم إطلاق مثل هذا التصريح الخطير، فأي وساطة تلك التي ستقوم بها سورية وقد قطع ساركوزي قول كل «وسيط»!

ومن خلال تصريح ساركوزي يتضح أن السوريين أنفسهم سيكونون في ورطة حقيقية في حال قامت إسرائيل بتوجيه ضربة عسكرية لإيران، ففي أي الاتجاهات ستتحرك سورية، وما الذي ستفعله حيال مفاوضاتها مع إسرائيل؟

أمر آخر مهم، ويناقض الحديث الفرنسي عن إيجابية دمشق في لبنان، حيث أن الرئيس السوري تحدث عن لبنان وكأنه محافظة سورية، فيما يختص بأحداث طرابلس، وبلغة أظهرت الرئيس اللبناني وكأنه قائد للجيش السوري.

كل ذلك حدث أمام الرئيس ساركوزي، خصوصا أن الرئيس السوري تحدث عن التطرف «السلفي» وقال إن دولا تدعمه بشكل رسمي، وبالطبع واضح ما يقصده الرئيس السوري، فكيف سيقنع ساركوزي واشنطن أو الرياض أو القاهرة بأن جدارا من الثقة يبنى مع دمشق؟

وهذا ليس كل شيء، فالرئيس السوري تحدث عن الاستقرار والسلام، بل وذهب بعيدا في الكشف عن مقترح لحل مشكلة دارفور من ثلاث نقاط، واللافت للنظر في المقترحات الخاصة بأزمة السودان كان البند الأول الذي يقترح تأجيل موضوع المحكمة لمدة عام، ما يعني بالطبع ضمان تمرير المرحلة المقبلة التي ستدخل فيها واشنطن في معمعة الانتخابات الرئاسية.

إلا أن السؤال المهم هو: ماذا لو تحركت محكمة رفيق الحريري الدولية قريبا؟ فما الذي سيحدث، وما الذي سيترتب عليها؟

أليسوا في ورطة؟

September 7th, 2008, 3:14 am


Alex said:

I did.

Problem solved : )

September 7th, 2008, 3:38 am


Shai said:


Looks like you may be right about Asharq. It seems a U.S. embassy official has denied the “rumor”.

September 7th, 2008, 3:39 am


Alex said:


The last ten exclusive news stories reported by Asharq about Syria were all false … I am only extrapolating 😉

Good morning!

You know I used to read Asharq everyday! .. when I was 12 living in Cairo. I used to go out of school and run to buy it.

At the time their editor was the very capable Jihad Elkhazen.

I have the personal cell number of the Emir who owns Alsharq. I almost called him to tell him how sad I am that his newspaper turned into a pathetic Assyasa type propaganda machine.

But I changed my mind.

September 7th, 2008, 3:50 am


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