Amendment to Syrian Election Law

A new decree on elections in Syria was issued today.

Idaf supplied this English summary and comment:

The new amendment to the Syrian “elections law” now organizes the funding and management of election campaigns. Candidates are now allowed by law to promote their agendas on state run media as well as raise funds for their campaign.

This is an important amendment to the election law. Earlier, most candidates were only depending on their family names, tribes, sects, bribes etc. for votes. The new law also prohibits candidates from providing “services and financial assistance” prior to elections. This is one of the most important points in the new law IMHO as it will limit the bribes that dominate election campaigns in Syria (the dominant trend in elections in developing countries).

Ehsani2 responded to Idaf with the following critique.

One of the commentators highlighted the new amendment to the election law after it was made public this morning.

Idaf’s conclusion regarding the new amendment to the election law was that “it will limit the bribes that dominate election campaigns in Syria.”

First, this amendment only applies to the independents, which make up 84 of the 253-seat assembly. Please note that this is conveniently just below the one third that is needed to implement article 91 of the constitution for example (it is 33.2%). Moreover, 43 of the 84 so-called independents must belong to the “ummal and Fallaheen” group. The other 41 can come from “other” classes of society. The Baath party (134 members) dominates the proceedings by being a member of the National Progressive Front, a grouping of parties that attempts to give the impression that this is not a one-party political system. The 35 members that make up this group are supposed to represent Communists, Arab Socialists and Nationalists.

For those interested in the constitution and its amendments, you can visit:

This brings us back to the $57,000 equivalent that is the new spending cap for the 84 independent candidates. Remember that 43 of them belong to the “ummal and Fallaheen” group. Presumably, these individuals could not possibly spend $57,000 on campaign advertising. This leaves us with 41 members who will have to pay a penalty of 10 times any excess spending over the cap. Moreover, they are forbidden from offering any “services, monetary or in-kind help” to individuals, unions, sports clubs or any non-officials parties. Parties that accept to receive any such help from candidates are also also forbidden from doing so.

Instead of making the system more democratic by increasing the percentage of independents that can run, the new amendment is designed to exclude independently wealthy candidates from ever thinking of applying.

This rubber-stamping branch of government was already in a shameful state of existence. Idaf’s statement above did nothing to highlight this fact. Instead, it gave the socialist/communist impression that wealthy candidates must be bad for the country since they can buy their way in this already ineffective body.

For true change to take place, Mr. Assad should have raised the 33.2% limit of the independent candidates rather than worry about how much they spend on their advertising campaigns. That would have served the country more than this populist self-serving draconian amendment ever will.

Comments (93)

Ehsani2 said:

It is funny, and worth remembering, how it was Khaddam’s signiture that was at the bottom of the amendment that brought Bashar to power:

تاريخ 11/6/2000

نائب رئيس الجمهورية
بناء على أحكام الدستور وخاصة المادتين 88 و149 منه
وعلى ما أقره مجلس الشعب في جلسته المنعقدة يوم السبت الثامن من ربيع الأول 1421 هـ الموافق للعاشر من حزيران 2000م.
يصدر ما يلي:
المادة الأولى:
تعدل المادة 83 من دستور الجمهورية العربية السورية وتصبح كما يلي:
( يشترط في من يرشح لرئاسة الجمهورية أن يكون عربياً سورياً متمتعاً بحقوقه المدنية والسياسية متماً الرابعة والثلاثين عاما من عمره).
المادة الثانية:
ينشر هذا القانون في الجريدة الرسمية.

دمشق في 9/3/1421 هـ الموافق 11/6/2000م.

نائب رئيس الجمهورية
عبد الحليم خدام

January 4th, 2007, 12:16 am


Atassi said:

This new cap on campaigning funds is a good step in the right direction; next legislation should be a cap limit on the presidency term “maximum of two terms”.

We Syrians citizens have the Right to Vote, without the right to change our governments

‘””””’“Vote NO in 2007″‘””””””’
‘””’’For our beloved SOURIA”””””””

January 4th, 2007, 2:49 am


norman said:

I think the new election law is meant to prevent outside suply of money like from the US or from Syrians allied and supported by the US money.

January 4th, 2007, 3:44 am


Dubai Jazz said:

Norman, my thoughts exactly!

January 4th, 2007, 5:10 am


Mit'eb Al-Hathal said:

What does ehsani2 mean by ‘independently’ wealthy? Already Syria is dominated by the merchants, do you want more domination?

January 4th, 2007, 5:46 am


Dubai Jazz said:

Ehsani2; appreciate your analysis, but again allow me to disagree with you.
If you have been in touch with the kind of independent candidates for parliamentarian elections in Aleppo in the recent couple of rounds, then you must have heard of individuals like: Ahmed Sha’ban Bari, or Mohammed Mansoor?
The first one, is hugely controversial personality, with huge rumors about his involvement in bad businesses, he’s also dependant on his tripe (3asheera). He, if I remember correctly, was one of the instigators of the tit-for-tat killings between Al Bari(s) and Al Hameeda(s) families.
The latter is also a controversial tycoon, who have spent outrageously on his campaign, there are also a lot of rumors about his involvement in corrupt business activities.
These two candidates have boarded the parliament on the ground of tribalism and money power, although they are both hated by your average middle-class Aleppous.
So eventually if this new law is designed to CURB THE EMERGENCE of such individuals, why not?
Ultimately, the authorities wouldn’t have had introduced this new law, had there been nothing wrong with the electoral process.

January 4th, 2007, 6:19 am


Louai said:

Ehsani 2 is my favorite writer on this blog and all other blogs.

In the meantime it look like Aasad regime are very scared

January 4th, 2007, 7:17 am


3antar said:

Here we go.
when i first read the news on syria-news i thought to myself, here is a good piece of news. But that was followed with a quick sense of cynicism. I bet if i express any enthusiasm to anyone back in Syria, i would be put down by the reality of what lies between the lines. and Ehsani2 confirms that. his analysis makes sense, and is compatible with the traditional idea everytime there is a decree or government announcement that ‘nothing really changed’.
I think under any new law that might even attempt present itself as progressive, the local fat cats will always buy their own way out. sorry guys for being a pessimist.

January 4th, 2007, 9:46 am


idaf said:

Ehsani said:
“Remember that 43 of them belong to the “ummal and Fallaheen” group. Presumably, these individuals could not possibly spend $57,000 on campaign advertising”.

Wrong Ehsani.. it seems that you are not aware that some of the wealthiest people in Syria are the landlords who belong to the “fallaheen” association.

Ehsani also said:
“Instead of making the system more democratic by increasing the percentage of independents that can run, the new amendment is designed to exclude independently wealthy candidates from ever thinking of applying”.

While you are right that this will not make the system more democratic (I doubt that this was the intension in the first place), this amendment will definitely limit corruption for the independent candidates (all 84 of them).

Ehsani gets personal and says: “This rubber-stamping branch of government was already in a shameful state of existence. Idaf’s statement above did nothing to highlight this fact”

I’ll remind Ehsani that my first post in this blog more than a year ago, I highlighted exactly this “shameful state of existence” of our “parliament”.

Ehsani continues.. “Instead, it gave the socialist/communist impression that wealthy candidates must be bad for the country since they can buy their way in this already ineffective body”

While I know that you are a well-to-do American and that you have many well-to-do Syrian potential “wealthy candidates” in Aleppo and probably Damascus, this was not an attack on the “upper-class” Syrians by a “lower class” socialist!! I’m repeatedly amazed by the ways you analyze my views Ehsani! You might want to ask yourself the following question.. Could it be -maybe, just maybe- that your motives for opposing the people in power in Syria (the baathis and co-socialists) is partially because they are originally not from the upper-class merchants that historically dominated Syrian politics up to Nasser’s time?! This is a common motive for many of the “independently wealth” opposition figures in Syria. Personally I think that there are hundreds -I repeat, hundreds- of good reasons to oppose the Syrian regime. This is not one of them.

Ehsani also added: “For true change to take place, Mr. Assad should have raised the 33.2% limit of the independent candidates rather than worry about how much they spend on their advertising campaigns”.

I agree with you on the first part; a real electoral reform step would be raising the percentage of the independents up to 50% at least. But you are wrong again on the second part. Most democracies have laws that organize the spending on election campaigns (maybe not the US.. but correct me if I’m wrong). This is a very important step in limiting corruption that dominates election campaigns in developing countries. The worse the economic situation in a country, the more strict the laws should be fighting this trend. You have to admit it, winning elections in Syria, Lebanon, Egypt, Jordan and a long list of developing countries with a large population of “low class” were always dependent on who distributes more olive oil, rice and sugar for the less advantaged voters 2 weeks before election times. After these “independently wealthy” candidates get the seat in the parliament, most (in Syria’s case) are using their seat to increase their “independent wealth” illegally while enjoying impunity in the parliament.

I agree with some commentators that the other motive for this decree is limiting external powers supply of money to candidates. Several sources (indicated earlier by Josh in this blog) suggested that this is a policy that is being considered by the US administration.

Here’s the reaction of one of the old and fossilized MPs on this specific topic.

January 4th, 2007, 10:06 am


ausamaa said:

“Instead of making the system more democratic by increasing the percentage of independents that can run, the new amendment is designed to exclude independently wealthy candidates from ever thinking of applying”.

So, the Indepentdently Wealthy Candidates, or those candidates who will have access to Large Funds (??!!) to spend on elections will not make it. Meaning: they will not be able to BUY their seats in the elections. Soooo, let no one outside (or inside) start thinking about experimenting with the notion of “pumping money to further the cause of democracy” in Syria (that is what the new Law is saying I think). The MB for example, or the ultra-liberals who would may not mind receiving support from the outside.

Is that bad?

Should candidates depend on Popular support or on Money to win their seats? After all, was it not said that the only wealthy ones in Syria are those sleeping with authorieties? So what is the real complaint?

It is true Democracy you want after all? Is it not? Or is it actually Democracy by any means under the flag of The End Justifies the Means?

let us not fool each other. How many Ba’ath members are there, and how many Progressive Front supports are there? Do you not think that those alone can carry whatever electoion whenever it is held?

Have a REAL opposition, gentelmen, if you can, and then ask for Real representation. If you are counting on people with funds to succeed and bring us Democracy. I do feel sorry for you.

January 4th, 2007, 10:35 am


simohurtta said:

Monitoring and limiting campaign advertising money flows is quite normal also in democratic countries. It functions to reveal the “loyalty debts” of the chosen candidates. In normal “circumstances” the biggest money donations do not come from private persons, they come from companies and “organizations” of different kinds. And there is always a price tag in those donations.

Putting a spending cap is a very wise decision and it should be used also in western countries. That would force candidates to concentrate to issue related topics and not to spend wast amounts of money to own image and to opponents negative advertising. Now we see for example in USA frustrated billionaires “buying” with their personal wealth high seats by using it to superior advertising campaigns (which concentrate in denigrating the opponents, but tell little of the candidates own political opinions).

Is that democratic where the candidate with most money available wins, thanks to advertising? It would be “understandable” if the money would have been collected in little bits from private persons. But not if the money comes mainly from a few companies or from a “hostile” country.

Before in Finland for example the big banks and construction companies supported very extravagantly candidates especially in local elections. Only an extremely naive person thinks that they did it for democracy. After the elections the elected had to pay their debt by granting areal development contracts and doing other favours to their “supporters”.

In Iraq USA financed and supported without “limits” their favourite candidates (Allawi, Chabalbi etc) before elections. Is that really democratic and the model for future democratic Middle East?

January 4th, 2007, 10:44 am


Innocent_Criminal said:

I agree with Idaf. I would also add that capping budgets is an essential step to curb the rule of “big business” in political campaigns. Not only for undemocratic but also “democratic” countries as well. The US is plagued with such shady deals that control both parties (Ehsani-that’s just ONE more party than what Syria has). In the UK however, they put in place budget restrictions and strict control of advertisement airtime to blunt commercial interest from heavily influencing political candidates.

January 4th, 2007, 10:50 am


Innocent_Criminal said:

Just notice that Simohurtta beat me to the same point.

anyways this if FYI another one bites the dust, or at least gets demoted.,,11069-2530764,00.html

January 4th, 2007, 10:58 am


majedkhaldoun said:

It is tradition in Syria,that candidates for elected position,will post their big picture and their name underneath, they posted on walls till the walls look ugly.
I would rather see their credentials,and their plans or agenda and new ideas,and how they connect to people
all campaigns require money,a lot,to pay for workers,adds in newspaper,radio or T.V.,but more important is the speaches they make, and their discussions with each other,live, on TV, it will help that they belong to a party that advance their cause.

January 4th, 2007, 1:30 pm


turstquest said:

Idaf: Opposition to people in power baathis and co socialists who are not from upper class is the righteous thing to do now after a guy like me and many of middle class who sided with socialist to see them only get rich without moving the country one step and seeing them replacing the old clan leader with foolish slogan about socialist and get their bank account swollen can not withstand on the citizen conscience any more. To prove it to you Idaf, look at those wealthiest army officer, and people who filled their pocket they did not invest in the country they are buying in Madrid, Swiss and overseas not like the riches they kicked, stripped and confiscate their wealth back in the 60s. The ills of our beloved country start actually here. Those socialist bankrupt baathist have to drop their agenda in the open not under fake pretence. They are now heading back to the market economy and only allowing bunch of their echelon to benefit. Ehasni, although I admire your criticism however, I should add that the new law is not design to prevent high spender over 3 million, it is designed to kick out any one they can say that he is high spender. In a country where there are no transparency, no records, no documentation, no independent law and no organization to play the rule of overseeing these issues, no one should be fooled that this law is just another joke to be played by a government and secrete services above the head of the new riches. An example is this scenario: if they prevent someone from advertising, or accused someone of over spending and took him out of the race, can he go to the court?. If he can, does this law cover these cases and how much he will be compensated? Off course not!

January 4th, 2007, 3:00 pm


John Kilian said:

A key to achieving political pluralism is access to the airwaves for all contenders. Does this law allow opposition politicians affordable access to Syrian TV?

January 4th, 2007, 3:03 pm


Alex said:


As usual, you are partially right, but don’t expect perfection in Syrian reform news. This was a good step, even if it is not at the expense of the regime’s candidates.

January 4th, 2007, 3:33 pm


Ehsani2 said:


You seem amazed by the ways that I analyze your views. For the record, I actually enjoy debating with you.

Usually, I am not a fan of advertising my religion, personal beliefs or socio-economic background. You seem to have concluded that I am a well-to-do American and that I have many well-to-do Syrian potential wealthy candidates in Aleppo and probably Damascus. Having made those assumptions, you proceeded to imply that my seeming opposition to the regime is most likely related to the fact that “they are not originally from the upper-class merchants that historically dominated Syrian politics up to Nasser’s time”. While you seem to think that you have accurately psychoanalyzed me and hence established my true motivations, I am afraid that you are largely wrong.

I wish that I were born into the so-called wealthy merchant class. Sadly, I was actually born in a family with very limited means. The family’s only asset was my father’s drive and ambition. My father’s fortunes started turning when Hafez Assad assumed the Presidency. As many of you may recall, 1970-1979 were the country’s golden economic years. My father had the foresight or luck to be employed in an import-export and international transportation local agency. The relaxation in trade restrictions and the associated boom in international transit through Syria for the regional trucking industry was a Godsend for anyone associated with this field. My father saw the opportunities and jumped with both feet hoping to profit from the sudden boom. For the record, bribing customs officials to bend some (if not most) of the rules was accepted practice at the time. Over the ensuing 9 years, my father turned his life around. He did sufficiently well to do what seemed unthinkable 10 years before and decided to send me to study abroad. I was very lucky. He paid all my undergraduate and graduate studies. Sadly for him, his business took a nosedive by the time I graduated and started my career.

I would like to apologize to all the readers about the lengthy details of a personal life story but I think that mine is a microcosm of the country’s recent history.

By 1980, the Moslem Brothers uprising was in full swing. Part of the Government’s response was to impose draconian trade restrictions on the country as part of a number of security measures. What is more critical is that once the Mukhabarat and army officials gained physical presence and more oversight into the business, they could see the massive Dollar signs that they could never have imagined before. Once they tasted how lucrative the spot can be, it was inevitable that they will never let go. As the uprising escalated, the government’s own polices became more draconian. By the mid 1980’s, it became almost impossible to do business anymore. My father saw the writing on the wall and went into early retirement.

Having first hand knowledge of this short history, I would suggest that precious little has changed since. Indeed, the Mukhabarat, army and close family members have gained traction in the interim. As a group (especially the latter), they have systematically identified every possible avenue to make money and milked it to the maximum.

Do I blame them? I do not. When you have absolute power, you get absolute corruption. When you allow no opposition and have a monopoly on big guns, you can run a country as your private farm. You can also draft laws and amendments that are custom fit to suit your needs at the time. You are the boss. No one else matters. You can sit at a family dinner and together with your brother, sister and brother-in-law decide the fate of 20 million people for generations to come.

For the record, I still believe that should the Moslem brothers reach power, things will be much worse. In spite of all my criticisms, I still prefer this family to decide the fate of my immediate family (sisters and parents live in Syria) than to have a group of religious fanatics rule the country through Sharia law. Some will argue that the Moslems Brothers have changed or that other alternatives are just as likely to reach power. I remain skeptical on both counts.

So Idaf, I am that I cleared out the notion that I hate the current regime because they do not come from the wealthy class. Niether do I. As for my socio-economic situation, I did indeed succeed in my career. I would like to think of myself as a self-made man who studied hard, went to fine academic institutions of learning and lived the dream of every aspiring young Syrian.

All I ask and dream of now is for Mr. Assad to make it possible for the millions of young Syrians to have at least a chance of getting a decent paying job and at best to participate in the global economy. He of course has to worry about his seat and the security situation that comes with protecting his rule. I don’t. It is easy for me to criticize his wrong economic policies. He has to answer to his security czars who have convinced him that snail pace reforms is the best course of action. Had I been his personal advisor, I would have urged him to change course dramatically. My priority is economic growth and increasing standards of livings. His and that of Mr. Shawkat are security and holding on to power. The ever-effective security czar will of course win this contest. As a result, the political and economic reforms will continue to be long on promises but vastly short on substance and effectiveness.

January 4th, 2007, 3:54 pm


Ford Prefect said:

Atassi is correct, this is a step in the right direction. But let us not forget, however, that we Syrians are still many steps away from a true liberal democracy in Syria. Fair and balanced elections are one important aspect of achieving democracy – but not an end in and of itself. I am worried about change on the fast track through rip-and-replace, neocons doctrine. Further, history tells us that for a liberal democracy to work as intended, the Syrian society must achieve a higher degree of social consciousness, equality, and liberalism. Lebanon is a great example of a dysfunctional democracy and equally dysfunctional political institutions. When people vote along polarized social lines, religions, and sects, the result could be irrationally disastrous, but honest. Imagine if we get a Syrian assembly full of people with messages from God! But, nevertheless, let’s get the voting going and let’s not get elected leaders too much power until the entire system progresses organically towards maturity.

January 4th, 2007, 4:05 pm


Ford Prefect said:

Alex, your latest posting is excellent and your conclusion underscores the paradox of how to achieve Syrian democracy that is good for the entire Syrian society. It is clear that a major slice of the Syrian society is being radicalized, and for good reasons: Ba’ath incompetence, ignorance, and arrogance, sectarian rule, Western policies to name just a few root causes. It will take generations to overcome the 30+ years of internal failures to achieve a voting populace free of radicalized views. I am, however, in strong support of voting through honest elections. I will be the first person in the voting line as I have been in the past – good, bad, or indifferent.

January 4th, 2007, 4:22 pm


t_desco said:

Three Entities Targeted by Treasury for Supporting Syria’s WMD Proliferation

The U.S. Department of the Treasury today designated three Syrian entities, the Higher Institute of Applied Science and Technology (HIAST), the Electronics Institute, and the National Standards and Calibration Laboratory (NSCL), pursuant to Executive Order 13382, an authority aimed at freezing the assets of proliferators of weapons of mass destruction (WMD) and their supporters.

“Syria is using official government organizations to develop nonconventional weapons and the missiles to deliver them,” said Stuart Levey, Treasury’s Under Secretary for Terrorism and Financial Intelligence (TFI). “We will continue to take action to prevent such state-sponsored WMD proliferators from using the international financial system.”
U.S. Department of the Treasury

Bataan ESG begins deploying today

The Bataan Expeditionary Strike Group today begins a scheduled six-month deployment to the Mediterranean and Middle East to conduct maritime security operations “in support of the ongoing rotation of forward-deployed forces,” according to the Navy’s 2nd Fleet.
Navy Times

Second U.S. carrier group to deploy to Gulf: sources

The Pentagon will send a second aircraft carrier and its escort ships to the Gulf, defense officials said on Wednesday, as a warning to Syria and Iran and to give commanders more flexibility in the region.

Officials, speaking on condition of anonymity, said the Bremerton, Washington-based USS John C. Stennis strike group would deploy this month. It will put 5,000 more U.S. sailors in the region, bringing the total to 16,000.
Reuters; AP

January 4th, 2007, 5:26 pm


majedkhaldoun said:

since Brammertz report is coming in march,the tribunal court has to be formed before then,Seniora said the demonstrations by HA and co. is aimed at preventing the court ,so the sooner the security council take the decision to his own hands,the demonstrations become worthless,since the court decision is no longer in lebanese power,thus HA move was wrong and he proved to be arrogant,what a mistake by Nassrallah!
Gimmicks will not succede.

January 4th, 2007, 6:59 pm


Alex said:

Thanks FP. Your opinion is probably the closest.

I would have been more forceful in demading faster change, but in today’s poisonous atmosphere in the Middle East, I will pass and work instead on the bigger problems. Then, if we are lucky, we will have a more friendly environment for change… a long road ahead, yes.

About 7 years… if things go well.

January 4th, 2007, 7:41 pm


Atassi said:

I guess Alex is giving the vote of confidence to Mr. Assad regime. And granting him another chance ” seven more years” I am afraid, an absolute realist mentality like Alex
Will prove to be an obstacle to any real changes in the Syrian civil society. Why should we ” Syrian” accept the incompetence in our leaders and their failed policies as a norm?
I guess Alex is giving the vote of confidence to Mr. Assad regime. And granting him another chance ” seven more years” I am afraid, an absolute realist mentality like Alex
Will prove to be an obstacle to any real changes in the Syrian civil society. Why should we ” Syrian” accept the incompetence in our leaders and their failed policies as a norm ?
As my good friend PF said:
“I will be the first person in the voting line as I have been in the past” But I will be SAYING ” NO”..

We Syrians citizens have the Right to Vote, without the right to change our governments*
make a change
‘””””’“Vote NO in 2007″‘””””””’
‘””’’For our beloved SOURIA”””””””’

January 4th, 2007, 10:28 pm


Atassi said:

Syria Reforms Electoral Law
Anoushka Marashlian
4 January 2007
Global Insight Daily Analysis
Copyright 2007, Global Insight Limited. All Rights Reserved.

The Syrian authorities yesterday announced amendments to Syria’s election law that will allow candidates both to appear on the state-controlled media and raise campaign funds. The amendment, which only applies to 84 independents in the 253-seat Syrian assembly, also puts a cap on campaign spending at US$57,000. Although the authorities have said that the amendments are aimed at making the country’s electoral system more transparent and less vulnerable to bribery, critics claim that it is a back-handed effort by the ruling Ba’ath party to deter wealthy challengers to President Bashar al-Asad from entering the political fray. Significance: The cosmetic amendments to Syria’s electoral law are far removed from creating the conditions necessary for effective multi-party politics. Instead, the Ba’ath party remains dominant in Syria, with the spectacle of elections remaining a carefully choreographed affair aimed at reinforcing the political prominence of the dominant Alawite sect.

Wealthy Sunni critics, who are becoming increasingly vocal in their criticism of President Bashar al-Asad, will be targeted by this amendment

January 4th, 2007, 10:38 pm


ausamaa said:


Hi, Are you still taking that Court stuff seriously? You know, it is not exactly your Lockerbey case (when US and Western citizens were killed). It is only “disposable Lebanon” to them. So do not count on much. Otherwise, you will become like Junblat and Siniora (assuming they are really serious about the truth and the court).

This court reminds me of the anecdote about Jeha who accepted the ruler’s prize and undertook to teach the ruler’s donkey to talk in ten years..

And please come on; if you fought against, and beat ISRAEL, the area’s ex-superpower, and practically pulled the curtain down on the neocons stream of dreams and visions, would that not make whatever you do next be labled little “arrogant”?

However, arrogant or not, I would not underestimate HA and Nassrallah. Lots of smart people (and powers) lost a lot by second guessing HA on the morning of 12 July 2006. Remember?

And ATTASI, that virus seems to be catching on. Since when do we Syrians talk in terms of Sunni, Christian, Alawi, Durzi, Kurd or whatever?? Maybe I am a little behind the times, because I remember a serious question I asked my father when he came over to visit me while I was in my second year of college in the States. The by-the-way question I asked him was: Are we sunni or shieat?! The only reason I asked was because it was the time Khomeini’s plan had just landed in Tehran that day!

January 4th, 2007, 10:40 pm


Alex said:


I hope many people like you would vote according to their honest choices so that the results will better reflect the true popularity of the president … probably about 60% to 75% instead of the typical 95%++

January 4th, 2007, 10:53 pm


ausamaa said:


Do you really think that President Bashar would not be happy with a 65%?? All he needs is 51% Right? And that he can get easily. Are the authoreties allways rigging the votes, OR are the people not voting? OR, is the Credible Candidate not in sight? Let us not not dump it all on the authoreties all the time.

January 4th, 2007, 11:06 pm


Alex said:


I meant to tell Atassi that even if everyone dared to say no, President Assad will probably still win… he is genuinely very popular.

I know that 6 years ago most of the negative votes came from Syrians residing in the US. So for sure it is related to the fact in Syria they don’t dare to vote NO.

In Egypt they allowed them much more freedom to vote for different candidates, but most Egyptians still voted for Mubarak … if you followed the TV debate of the different candidates you would understand why.

So while I do not want dramatic change today, I hope next time Syria will manage something much more respectable than the 97% joke we now have.

January 4th, 2007, 11:19 pm


Ford Prefect said:

I partially agree and mildly disagree with you. The freedom of choice and giving Assad a second chance are two mutually exclusive events. Alex and I happen to agree (and disagree) on the point that it is not elections and throwing out leaders that ultimately count – it is underlying socio-economic infrastructure that matters the most. I get the impression (I could be wrong) that you think replacing Assad will fix all (or most) of the ills in the Syrian civil society. I beg to differ. In fact, replacing Assad, Shawkat, Makhloof, or any clown in this circus will, in my opinion, result in zero gain at best. Why? Let’s see. The Ba’ath has sadly managed to succeed on two fronts in the past 40 years: institutionalizing mediocrity and producing an incompetent (yet highly patriotic), poorly educated, and politically irrelevant middle class. It is not only our leaders who are incompetent; incompetence is a common plague affecting a sizable cross section of our beloved society (please forgive me as I am not trying to undermine the intellects of my Syrian brothers and sisters – I am one of them. But their output is directly proportional to their environmental input). We have been conditioned to think of leaders with unconditional power – leaders that we can associate with our gains and losses – if a merchant lost his shirt on a business deal, it must be Assad’s failing. Alternatively, if he made a fortune, God prolong Assad’s life!). I submit to you that in today’s Syria, even the most patriotic, conscious-filled leader will fail in transforming this engrained and radicalized culture of the past 40 years. It is not about the top as much as it is about the base. Only a viable, educated, and secure middle class can produce the leaders and the liberal democracy we all dream of for Syria. Short of that, we must walk before we run. Our middle class today is better of than it was seven years ago. I am willing to wait for many more seven years until the crop is ready. God bless Syria.

January 4th, 2007, 11:21 pm


Ahmad said:

Shame on every person that calls Bashar Al-Asad
Our leader.
I suggest that you call him our father..why not?

January 4th, 2007, 11:59 pm


Joshua said:

MSK said: “Dear Josh,
What exactly is your personal attitude towards your comments section? Usually, blog comments sections serve as a sphere of interaction between visitors and bloggers. However, despite your profligate posting you don’t actually interact with any commenters, even when they have clear & precise arguments or questions on topics of Syrian issues.

Also, I remember you once saying that you’re happy to have yours be a discussion space for various points of view.

Well, to be frank – I don’t see that happening much. In order for a comment section to be a productive site for discussion it has to be moderated. Fully copy/pasted articles have to be removed and replaced by links. When arguments seem to get out of control and/or descend into verbal fights, they have to be calmed down. Trolls have to be weeded out.

Despite the fact that, if I remember correctly, 4 or 5 people have administrator rights to this blog there doesn’t seem to be any moderation.

More than 50% of this blog’s comment section consists of petty fights and the propagation of rumors and stereotypes.

Josh replies: Dear MSK, I do read all the comments, although I don’t usually have time to answer all questions or engage directly in much of the debate. I do get around to responding to many of the complaints through the posts and through responding to complaints.

In 2005 SC had a major crisis when a few commentators continued to use abusive language and attack others. For a while the comment section was turned off completely, then in 2006, I tried to erase abusive comments, but the abusers only copied and pasted their comments hundreds of time in a day on multiple posts. It was impossible to keep up with the erasing and still find time to write.

I then asked others for help and Innocent Criminal volunteered to undertake the time consuming task of getting some control of comment section, but he nearly drowned in the flood of abusive commenters who were determined not to be defeated.

This led me to switch from Blogger to WordPress, which offers more powerful capabilities of suppressing IP addresses altogether. This is why first time commentators must wait until their comment is approved before they can comment at will. Once an address is approved, there is no delay to posting their comments.

Innocent Criminal and the other principals on the site have discussed on a number of occasions how heavy handed moderation should be. I think we all agreed that any view should be allowed if there is no abusive language or ad hominem attacks. The freer, the better was the consensus.

We have spent considerable energy to make the comment section appealing and worth while. The best way to raise the level of debate, I think, is to try to supply consistently interesting content in order to elicit interesting debate. Syria Comment has many sophisticated and educated readers, who add more than half the value of the blog.

At times debate can become repetitive and narrow, but with time people tire of repeating themselves and give up on debates that cannot be won and tire of commenters who do not add new content.

If the comments get frustrating, I can only ask for your patience. We all have an interest in trying to be polite and in bringing new content to the posts.

I don’t really mind copying entire articles rather than just supplying links. It is best to copy only the most important paragraphs, but if this is too time consuming, entire articles are not the worst. So many sites are changing over to subscription archives that many links will be lost after a week or so.

In the past, for example, I always used links to the Daily Star because it was free. Now all those links are lost. My hope is that Syria Comment will serve as a blog of record to future generations of researchers and reporters. A number of investigative reporters and PhD candidates have read the entire blog in order to familiarize themselves with the last three years of political events in Syria. For them, having the articles at hand is invaluable.

I hope this answers some of your questions,
Best, Joshua

January 5th, 2007, 12:26 am


Ehsani2 said:

As things stand, he does not have to bother to debate an opposing candidate/s. He does not need to explain his platform and compare it against that of others. He does not need to be held accountable to any campaign promises. Instead this is how it will work:

The Baath regional command will nominate Bashar as the Presidential candidate to the Syrian people’s Assembly. The 253 members will unanimously approve the nomination. The President will then meet with the head of the Assembly and express his acceptance of the nomination. Students and other organizations will chant slogans such as “Al-Assad President for life”. A popular referendum will be carried out. Yes or No are the two choices available.


Does it really matter if he gets 51%, 65% or 95%?

January 5th, 2007, 12:26 am


Gibran said:

Treasury steps up pressure on Syria

(AFX UK Focus) 2007-01-04

WASHINGTON (AFX) – The Bush administration, intensifying pressure on Damascus, moved Thursday to financially clamp down on three Syrian institutions suspected of helping spread weapons of mass destruction.

The Treasury Department’s action means that any bank accounts or financial assets belonging to the three entities found in the United States would be frozen. Americans also are prohibited from doing business with them.

The three entities targeted are the Higher Institute of Applied Science and Technology, the Electronics Institute and the National Standards and Calibration Laboratory.

“Syria is using official government organizations to develop nonconventional weapons and the missiles to deliver them,” Stuart Levey, Treasury’s under secretary for terrorism and financial intelligence, said in explaining the United States’ action.

The department has the power to take the financial-blocking action under an executive order issued by President Bush in June 2005.

The three entities acted against Thursday are “subordinates” of the Scientific Studies and Research Center, the Syrian government agency responsible for developing and producing non-conventional weapons and the missiles to deliver them, the department said.

The government ordered U.S. banks to freeze the center’s assets in 2005. The Treasury Department said that although the center promotes its civilian research function, its “activities focus substantively on the development of biological and chemical weapons.”

The department alleged that the Electronics Institute is responsible for missile-related research and development. It described the Higher Institute of Applied Science and Technology as educational institution that provides training to engineers of the Scientific Studies and Research Center. The government didn’t provide details on the National Standards and Calibration Laboratory but said that South Korea and Japan have identified the lab as a “proliferation concern.”

The United States’ relationship with Damascus has been strained for several years.

Last month, the bipartisan Iraq Study Group urged the Bush administration to have serious talks with Syria and with Iran as part of a new Iraq strategy. But the U.S. has been reluctance to seek help from Syria on Iraq until the Syrians curb their support to radical Palestinian groups and to the Lebanese Hezbollah. Copyright 2006 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

January 5th, 2007, 1:03 am


majedkhaldoun said:

Thank you very,very much for your last comment

January 5th, 2007, 1:10 am


Gibran said:

A real life story:

You see, my name is Ashraf Almoukdad from Houran Syria and I live in the beautiful New Zealand and my wife is from here.

We have been married for 13 years and she has never said some thing like that before. She loved the fact I am Syrian and she is proud mother of 2 beautiful Syrian named boys. She even knows more about the tourist and religion sites in Syria than me. So what brought this about?

She has lately joined Amnesty international and because she is married to me she took special interest in Syria . Every evening she sits in front the computer and reads all that is available about Syrian political prisoners : Their numbers and their treatments and the conditions they are held under.

Part of her volunteering work is to write to the Syrian authorities to condemn their treatments and to demand their release. I keep telling her “there is no use, the regime in Syria is built on the fear of the people. For a corrupt minority to keep themselves in control they do the
only thing they understand… Violence , death and jails.”

“ They are not about to release those tens of thousands of political prisoners because you and thousands of extremely well meaning people like you write them emails ”

Slowly and surly hear volunteer work started keeping her awake at night and specially when she reads very horrific stories about those prisoners.

I have asked her to stop doing this, since it has started effecting our life , but she stubbornly refuses.

She feels personally responsible for those poor prisoners.

She asked me once how many you think the ruling family could muster to keep all of the 17 million Syrians quiet and accepting their absolutely horrific treatments they are getting?

I said the whole minority numbers is about 10% of the populations and I am sure not all of them are happy with this Assad family. She then looked me in the eyes and asked me the Question: Are all of you 17 million Syrians cowards ?

What can I answer her ? Can somebody else help me?

January 5th, 2007, 1:28 am


Alex said:


Your wife is obviously a wonderful human being. Luckily for you, you married a member of a majority, so she does not have one of those nasty habits that those minority types (like me) all over the world have. But she made a mistake … she married a minority (Which you are if you live in New Zealand)

Which reminds me: since when did you immigrate from Canada to New Zealand?

Gibran said: (December 23rd, 2006, 2:12 am / #)

The problem of Alex is much deeper than being fundamentally and morally Pro Assad. His problem is a typical manifestation of a very well known minority complex which is not particular to minorities in the Arab countries. Wherever a minority exists it tries to project its shortcomings and weaknesses on the majority. This same problem exist here in Canada among the minority French Quebecois. It is a very complex problem. The best solution in dealing such individuals is to ignore them completely. You will never benefit intellectually from them by engaging in a debate. They have their views fixed and they seek to impose them on you even at the expense of hypocrisy or farcical degeneracy of the ‘debate’. This is their way of compensating for their perceived alienation within the main community. It is a reaction to their feelings of being ‘oppressed’. I’ve seen this among various immigrants who come from such minority groups particularly the Copts of Egypt. They only exhibit such behavior when they leave their countries and immigrate to the west.

Happy holidays to all non opressed.

January 5th, 2007, 2:48 am


Abulhaq said:

Ashraf, rather than telling your wife to stop, you should push her to contribute more of her time to end the plight of our prisoners of conscience. My wife does the same, although she was skeptical at first. What caught her attention was news of torture in the Tadmor jails.

We all must band together to defend our rights.

Your wife is right: are we Syrians all cowards? My answer is no. We will do what it takes to have all of our prisoners released. We will do what it takes to bring down this criminal regime. Bashshar Asad thinks that Syria is his family farm. We will show him that our beloved Syria belongs to us, not to his Al Capone family.

Human rights and Freedom are God-given. Syrians deserve that.

January 5th, 2007, 3:14 am


Alex said:

MSK, Joshua

I realized that the most popular way to go into “abusive language” is to start with sarcastic comments … most of us Syrians have practiced sarcasm for years and years, and we are proud to be good at it.

Some of us do not go further, but others lose it and switch to “ya hmar, ya baghel …”

You see, it goes back to our Middle Eastern quality of not tolerating different points of view.

Besides, political opinions on TV in the middle East are usually communicated with a very loud voice … so you see many here tend to somehow shout instead of talk … because, you know, we are discussing politics and we have to have the necessary bare minimum of drama … otherwise we sound like amateurs.

January 5th, 2007, 3:40 am


norman said:

It is ironic that Ehsani and company do not think that Syria has any kind of democracy ,Still we see that the US is willing to pay alot to influace Syria’s election so they can have people in the do nothing Syrian Parlement ,can somebody explain that to me.?.

January 5th, 2007, 3:57 am


John Kilian said:

The German Chancellor appeared with the American President tonight and just about the first thing out of her mouth was an expression of displeasure with Damascus for how her country’s envoy was received on his most recent visit. With everything else on their agenda, I was surprised that Syria would receive top billing.

The US administration is raising the specter of WMD’s in Syria with today’s action by the Treasury department. Some would rule out an incursion by the US military into Syria, given the quagmire in Iraq. There is another thought that the neocons are unable to accept defeat without first exhausting all military options, including the interdiction of support for insurgents by Syria and Iran. Another thought is that with a new Democratic Congress convening today the President wants to put the world on notice that he alone is the Commander-in-Chief of the US military for the next two years. These two conditions of a failed occupation and a time-constrained Presidency may combine to create a neocon supernova whereby the President tries to shoot for the moon and achieve victory in the time he has left by launching a new offensive.

Why else are new troops being sent to the region?

January 5th, 2007, 3:59 am


Gibran said:

Are you looking for some attention Alex?

Here is where you find that story about Ashraf alMoukdad and his wife who actually live in NZ:

And by the way I do live in Canada and I am a member of a majority! So Gibran and Ashraf are two different persons, they don’t know each other and actually they never met!

Amazing revelations about your personality! In addition to your psychotic complex shortcomings, you seem to suffer from presumptuous disposition! It is a sure sign of folly not to say stupidity!

January 5th, 2007, 4:11 am


Ahmad said:

I thought Ehasani was smarter than to question
why Khaddam signed on to Bashar’s presidency.

I just want to remind Ehasani that the Asad family decided that Bashar would be the next president from the time his brother Bassel died. Do you think (من كل عقلك) that Khaddam could operate independently while in Syria?

I just love that Khaddam stand against the regime and was smart to have waited until the right time to oppose the regime from outside Syria. (Kan’an best example)

By the way, my sister returned from Syria yesterday and tells me (an hour ago) that the Moukabarat are everywhere. (we are from the mazraa area not malki area)
The people are discussing Khaddam, and they are very angry at Hizballah and they saying( بيينت لعبتهم).

January 5th, 2007, 4:50 am


Ahmad said:

What a mentality to acuse other. I just hate that.

January 5th, 2007, 5:21 am


Alex said:

Joshua I have a simple old idea, why don’t you follow a three strikes rule … those who use abusive language or engage in personal attacks three times you block their IP address for a month, then if they come back and do it again, then you do it for ever. Then we can all stick to the less exciting sarcastic remarks and nothing more.

Don’t know why, but I feel I did not explain sarcasm right. I think I need an example:

Dear Gibran,

I guess that was wishful thinking on my part. It felt so good to think that you are actually in New Zealand and not in Canada.

January 5th, 2007, 5:23 am


Gibran said:

Wishful or presumptuous … end result is the same.
I’ll be in Montreal soon. I’ll give you a call and a little more attention.

January 5th, 2007, 6:02 am


Frank al Irlandi said:


We are off again.

Last update – 07:14 05/01/2007

U.S. seeks asset freeze on Syrian entities linked to WMD development

By Reuters

Stepping up pressure on Damascus, the United States administration on Thursday moved to freeze the U.S. assets of three Syrian government entities that it accuses of helping to proliferate weapons of mass destruction.

The U.S. Treasury Department said it designated the Syrian Higher Institute of Applied Science and Technology, the Electronics Institute and the National Standards and Calibration Laboratory as proliferators under an executive order aimed at combating the spread of weapons of mass destruction proliferation.

The designation freezes any U.S. assets the entities may have and prohibits Americans from any financial transactions with them.


A Treasury Department spokeswoman also said the Treasury expected the action to prompt most foreign financial institutions to voluntarily cut ties to the three Syrian

The Treasury said the three state-sponsored institutions are subordinates of Syria’s Scientific Studies and Research Center, which was designated by President George W. Bush as a weapons proliferator in June 2005 for its activities focusing on the development of biological and chemical weapons and missiles.

“Syria is using official government organizations to develop nonconventional weapons and the missiles to deliver them,” Stuart Levey, Treasury’s undersecretary for terrorism and financial intelligence, said in a statement. “We will continue to take action to prevent such state-sponsored WMD proliferators from using the international financial system.”

The Treasury spokeswoman declined to comment when asked if the Syrian institutions actually held any U.S. assets.

The Treasury said the Scientific Studies and Research Center, or SSRC, is the Syrian government agency responsible for developing and producing nonconventional weapons and missiles.

The SSRC says it promotes civilian research for Syria’s economic development, including computerization of governmental enterprises.

The European Union in 1986 provided a grant of 8.25 million euros to the Higher Institute of Applied Science and Technology to promote higher education in the fields of applied science and technology. The program was completed in 2002.

The Treasury said the newly designated Electronics Institute is responsible for missile-related research and development, while the Higher Institute of Applied Science and Technology provides training to SSRC engineers.

These organizations and the National Standards and Calibration Laboratory in March 2005 were put on a U.S. Commerce Department list of entities that pose a risk of diverting exported and re-exported items into programs related to weapons of mass destruction, among other sensitive activities.

January 5th, 2007, 7:19 am


Louai said:

See, I knows that IC=SC.
So I got scared that someone other than Dr Landis can access to the blog.
So I change my mind about our President,and I would like to say that I support Bashar Al-Asad to stay as a President of Syria for Ever and Ever. And I hope to see his son Hafez also a President.(if God give me Life)if not my kids will support him.Iam sure.
Bye Now…..for ever.

January 5th, 2007, 8:38 am


Innocent_Criminal said:

I guess i need to put my two cents on this comment moderation section subject.


4-5 people might have administrator rights but i think i am the only one who volunteered to moderate and does it on a daily basis. I agree with you that a risk is posed from the pity arguments and articles by some. And if it were all up to me you would probably see a much leaner comment section (but this is not my blog). And trust me when I say that there is enough moderation going around already. With some commentators making the ones you dislike appear like academic scholars.

I assume that you would prefer an intellectual (or at least mature) discourse instead of the bickering, so would many of us actually. But unfortunately this would not be a true reflection of your average society (Syrian or otherwise). I am sure you would agree that many people, especially in Syria, believe in propaganda & hearsay that someone like you would see right through. And Josh wants his blog to include this colorful mosaic of the good, the bad and the somewhat disturbed 😉

Ahmad/Kudman/Louai/Anon and recently Abulhaq,

The problem with your comments is not that I disagree with them. because I disagree with more people on bigger issues. Its your lack of will to supply anything but propaganda articles under different names, and almost no contribution of your own, that’s most annoying. But since you were never stopped from posting, I am not sure what your last comment under Louai suppose to mean.

You said “Bye Now…..for ever.”

“Promise?” Comes to mind but I think some Alex-sarcasim would be much whittier here.

January 5th, 2007, 9:39 am


ausamaa said:


My brother in law just came back from Damascuse yesterday. He visited our flat in Mazzra during his stay and told us that nothing was new. He did not mention any increased presence of Mukhabarat in Mazzraa or Tijara or Qassa’a or anywhere else he went.He recalled people smirking and joking about Khaddam when the topic came up.

His comments were that food prices were higher than before; that people complained about lack of rain this season, that Nassrallah’s pictures were next to Bahar’s every where he went -not in government offices, but in cars, buses, shops and even house windows-, and that Damascus was full with Iraqi families.

About the comment section on this blog, I was surprised to find that some of my comments here -and other bloggers’ too- posted and replied to on other comment sites. How did that happen? I do not know? And could not care less.

Run a Google search on the name you use while posting here and you see such a thing. Nice. This site is attracting attention. Actually, even though I do not -for one- like or agree with many comments here, but what is the harm? I assure you, that some of those comments had in some way forced me think more about the issues discussed, or had highlighted certain gaps in the way people, Syrians and others, see and react to Syrian issues and concerns.

January 5th, 2007, 9:40 am


Ford Prefect said:

John Kilian raises a very interesting point regarding the rise, fall, and the potential rise again of Washington’s neocon Zionists. One of the best historical perspective of the neocons can be found here. (Sorry Josh, the document is over 16 pages and cannot be pasted here, but IRC’s Rightweb is there to stay if we all keep supporting them!)

P.S. Sorry Josh, the document is over 16 pages and cannot be pasted here, but IRC’s Rightweb is there to stay if we all keep supporting them!)

P.S.S. Why are there still people thinking and discussing ideas on this blog about majorities and minorities along religious cleavages? I thought the educated and professional Syrians in Diaspora have overcome these biases and can think clearly as one people.

January 5th, 2007, 9:49 am


Ford Prefect said:


I agree with your relative’s observations. I just returned from Homs and Damascus myself and noticed no increased Mukhabarat presence (although I wished to see more relative to more than 800,000 Iraqi refuges around – not to mention Lebanese Mousads running free everywhere). However, I did notice a huge swell of population, people are just everywhere, and Damascus is looking more and more like Cairo. While the regime hangs on to power, I did notice a genuine patriotism and “my cousin and I against the stranger” mentality – causing an upsurge of support to Bashar.

January 5th, 2007, 10:01 am


3antar said:

“…She then looked me in the eyes and asked me the Question: Are all of you 17 million Syrians cowards ?

What can I answer her ? Can somebody else help me? …”

just wanted to comment about the last part of Gibran’s ‘Life Story’

The contemplation of how could a minority has such a tight grip on a majority occurs to many Syrians and non-Syrians alike. I can totally understand why the wife was inclined to pose such a question. Totally valid and holds reason.
But one has to try and trace back the rise of the Baath party and specifically, revise the troubled decades of the 80’s (tends to be called Al-Ahdath by locals). There was a local resistance by the locals and syrians did rise up to the Alawite draconian rule imposed by Asad and co. the result was mass murder as the very minority we refer to had the army at their disposal and were not reluctant to use whatever they can get their hands on to crush the opposition. Being from Aleppo myself, i hardly know anyone who hasn’t lost several members of his or her family during that period regardless of their involvement. People were being arrested indiscriminately. Mind you, Hama got even a harsher treatment. Just look at the rise of Pinochet, a rather similar affair with slight differences.

Then again, one just has to look at the ruthless methods used within the minorty against its very members. Recalling the conflict and escalation between Hafez and his brother Ref’at and their clash in Latakia. The ruling family members will go to any length whatsoever to secure power.

Please dont get me wrong, am not trying to justify any status quo here.

January 5th, 2007, 10:07 am


Ugarit said:

3antar said “The contemplation of how could a minority has[ve] such a tight grip on a majority occurs to many Syrians and non-Syrians alike.”

I find it a tad disturbing that we somehow equate this “minority” regime with its dictatorial methods. I for one would not support even a “majority” regime which behaves as this “minority” one does

Sometimes I get the sense that some Syrians appose this regime more for its “minority” status than its dictatorial behavior.

January 5th, 2007, 12:00 pm


3antar said:

you misunderstood me. I was referring specifically to Gibran’s post. Please read the quote.

I did not intent to come across as legitimizing any dictatorial rule whether its by a minority or a majority. Its like replacing one problem with another. Thats not what i implied. perhaps i should have added that point in my previous comment.
The question at hand is how come ‘dictatorial behavior’ inflicted by a minority is being tolerated. Do you have any doubt that this minority is dictatorial?

But just to make one thing clear. I oppose any dictatorial or authoritarian regime, whether it tries to disguise itself with a liberal democratic facade or not. Yet, whose to say that a totally free society is able to vote into office a democratic government? Is every individual above the legal voting age able to make an educated decision? I don’t claim to have an answer as this is a complicated issue. There are people who would still go out and vote Bush (regardless if their vote counts for anything).

January 5th, 2007, 12:30 pm


ugarit said:

Is this accurate (considering the source 🙂


NICOSIA [MENL] — Syrian President Bashar Assad, concerned over lagging support in the military, has ordered a purge of senior officers.

Syrian opposition sources said the Assad regime has arrested officers over the last few weeks as part of an attempt to quell rising unrest in the military. In an assertion supported by Western intelligence, the opposition said the arrests included high-ranking officers based in several cities.

The opposition Reform Party of Syria reported the arrest of dozens of mid- and high-level officers in late December in the cities of Aleppo, Dir Al Zour, Hama and Idlib. All of the cities are in northern Syria near the Iraqi border.

“[There is] suspicion by the Assad regime that a military coup may have been in the planning,” the party said on Dec. 26. “The raids were backed by tanks and personnel carriers.”


January 5th, 2007, 12:34 pm


3antar said:

not sure how reliable your source is as i’ve not seen that piece of news anywhere else nor have i come across the website.

Nevertheless, clearly the purge of the senior officers didn’t reach enough seniority as it shows that the army and military with its senior officers is still loyal to the president. I guess if it was true, it probably purged low ranking officers if anything.

January 5th, 2007, 1:03 pm


ugarit said:

3antar wrote:

“There was a local resistance by the locals and syrians did rise up to the Alawite draconian rule imposed by Asad and co. the result was mass murder as the very minority we refer to had the army at their disposal and were not reluctant to use whatever they can get their hands on to crush the opposition.”

But 3antar look at how you wrote the above sentence.

“local resistance” by the “locals” and rise up to the “ALAWAITE” draconian rule. You think those “locals” (Muslim Brotherhood (MB) ?) would have brought about a less dictatorial system? If you meant the MB then the “locals” would have created a far worse system. Do you agree? Being in opposition to a dictator is not a sufficient condition to legitimacy from the perspective of wanting democracy.

Are you against Alawaites or are you against any dictatorial behavior? I don’t you’re against Alawaites. That’s just a rhetorical question.

I urge people, who want a liberal democracy, to be less sectarian and focus on Syria and Syrians and not as sects within Syria.

January 5th, 2007, 1:05 pm


ausamaa said:


Check the source and Steve Rodan (the site caretaker) and then you can judge the accuracy of the report. Now, considering that Future TV, Al Siyassah, LBC, and even CNN have not prodcasted such “terrific” news, and that the Bush team has not publicized it despie the “fact” that it took place in December, then I would think it safe to consider the above as a fantasy trip by this Syrian Reform Party.

But the selection of cities (which are all in Northern Syria near the Iraqi border!)is nice. Idlib, Aleppo,Dair al Zour and Hama. Not exactly were military coups take shape. Tanks and personnel carriers also???!!!I take the “raids” implied in the report to mean “house raids”; so all those high and midlevele conspirators were on home leave at the same time??

January 5th, 2007, 1:08 pm


Ford Prefect said:

Ausamaa, good point: if it walks like a Ghadry, smells like a Ghadry, and quacks like a Ghadry, it must be a Ghadry (fantasying again). Further, since when did Hama, Aleppo, and Idlib become close to the Iraqi border? Did Sir Mark Sykes rise from his grave to re-draw the map of Syria again?

January 5th, 2007, 1:43 pm


t_desco said:

General Clark is worried, quoting a column by Arnaud de Borchgrave:

“In the piece … de Borchgrave details Bibi Netanyahu leading the charge to lobby the Bush administration to take out Iran’s nuclear facilities, and paints U.S. air strikes against Iran in 2007/08 as all-but-a-done deal.

“How can you talk about bombing a country when you won’t even talk to them?” said Clark. …

When we asked him what made him so sure the Bush administration was headed in this direction, he replied: “You just have to read what’s in the Israeli press. The Jewish community is divided but there is so much pressure being channeled from the New York money people to the office seekers.”

… For Clark, this is the biggest foreign policy issue facing the U.S. “I’m worried about the surge,” he said. “But I’m worried about this even more.” ”

Arnaud de Borchgrave is quite outspoken in his column:

“Netanyahu then said Israel “must immediately launch an intense, international, public relations front first and foremost on the U.S. … We must make clear to the government, the Congress and the American public that a nuclear Iran is a threat to the U.S. and the entire world, not only Israel.”

There are signs this is already happening in Washington. Before the invasion of Iraq, the Bush-Cheney-Rumsfeld troika decided the ousting of Saddam Hussein had to become an integral part of the “war on terror.” Eventually 60 percent of Americans thought Saddam was behind 9/11, even though there was no link between the two. Today, the Bush-Cheney team faces the same spin scenario: how to weave the global war on terror and the Shiite powers that be in Iran. This one is relatively simple: Iran trains and funds Hezbollah in Lebanon and Hamas and Islamic Jihad in the Palestinian territories.

Anticipating the new line, Sen. Joe Lieberman (Independent-CT) referred to “Iran and al-Qaida” on Wolf Blitzer’s Sunday program on CNN. That Iran is Shiite and al-Qaida Sunni becomes irrelevant in the new game plan that will most probably lead to U.S. air strikes against Iran’s nuclear facilities in 2007/08. Can a Democratic Congress be bypassed under a blanket authorization already secured to hunt down transnational terrorists wherever they may be hiding?”

Remember the NY Sun scoop, Iran’s Secret Plan For Mayhem.

British government officials gave the story a different spin on BBC Newsnight: Iranians ‘up to no good’ in Iraq

You can still watch it here.

The follow-up interview with Mark Urban is also very interesting. He says that “… some people are telling us that part of the surge in American troops going to Iraq … will be earmarked for increased security on the Iranian border“.

Bush appointments a cause for concern? –

Admiral William Fallon as CENTCOM Commander:

“President George W. Bush is likely to name Admiral William Fallon, the chief of U.S. forces in Asia and the Pacific, as the next commander in the Middle East, part of a personnel shuffle accompanying a review of Iraq war policy, a U.S. official familiar with the deliberations said.

The 62-year-old Fallon, known as “Fox,” his call sign when he was a Navy fighter pilot, made an unannounced trip to Washington to meet yesterday with Defense Department officials at the Pentagon. …

Fallon would be the first Navy officer to head Centcom, whose leadership traditionally rotates between the Army and Marine Corps.

Abizaid’s replacement also must deal with heightened tensions with Iran in the Persian Gulf, the sea corridor for Mideast oil exports. Abizaid requested that that an additional aircraft carrier and escort vessels be sent to the gulf, defense officials said last month.

“The selection of a Navy officer to head Centcom could signal the Pentagon’s interest in devoting more attention to countries in the region other than Iraq.

Pentagon officials have raised concerns about the smuggling of weapons and personnel by terrorist groups on the region’s seas, and any military move against Iran would probably rely heavily on ship-based missiles and fighter aircraft.”
LA Times

– John Michael McConnell as director of national intelligence:

“But W. Patrick Lang, a former Defense Intelligence Agency official who has been highly critical of the Bush administration, took a more skeptical view. He called Mr. McConnell, who made his career in naval intelligence, “competent but compliant” and expressed concern that he might not stand up to policy makers, particularly on highly charged issues like Iran’s nuclear program.”

Related news:

Bush-Merkel press conference (thanks John Kilian):

Bush: “We talked about Iran, and I thanked Chancellor Merkel’s strong support for a Chapter 7 Iranian — Chapter 7 United Nations Security Council resolution on Iran. It was an important message to send Iran, that the free world wants there to be a peaceful future. And we don’t see a peaceful future with the Iranians developing a nuclear weapon.”

Egypt says US obstructing Israel-Syria peace

Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak accused the United States in an interview published on Friday of obstructing peace between Israel and Syria.

“I believe America is preventing (Israeli Prime Minister Ehud) Olmert from achieving peace with Syria,” Mubarak told the Israeli newspaper Yedioth Ahronoth during Olmert’s visit to the Egyptian resort of Sharm el-Sheikh on Thursday.

January 5th, 2007, 1:46 pm


3antar said:

Im not advocating sectarianism nor what the MB committed or their method of opposition, or presumably what they could have brought about. Thats an assumption, but we’ll adopt the postulate that the MB would have been just as authoritarian. Would crushing them and everyone around them solve or achieve the right objectives? Clearly not. It just created more MB sympathizers in parts of the country. Once could say that it fed sectarianism.
There needed to have been dialogue, which certainly, Baathists wheren’t interested in. As that could have meant share of power, compromise or wait.. democracy god forbid.

I’ll concede, perhaps i used the wrong word in my previous comment when i said “Alawite”. should have said “Contemporary Baathists”. Just as much as i dont have a problem with Druze yet i do have a problem with Junblat specifically. Fair enough, point taken.
But people have to understand that what we have now is not a result of the fact that the majority of Syrians are cowards. Regardless of what could have happend if the MB had been successful, their initial motive was reactionary to opression. They were singled out because they voiced discontent and more active and organized than other groups. People must not eliminate the possibility that many non-MB members shared the same sentiment to a lesser degree but not the entire ideology.

January 5th, 2007, 1:56 pm


Ford Prefect said:

3antar, I agree with you. Also, let us not forget that the MBs were also responsible for acts of murders – I was attending Damascus University at the time of their murderous acts and vividly remember the mayhem of murders and bombings. They did not just simply voice discontent; they did kill many innocent people along the way. They are no different than their Ba’athis counterparts. They now have Khaddam – a hardcore Ba’athist with them. How lovely!

January 5th, 2007, 2:18 pm


3antar said:

what do people thing of them:

They claim to advocate any form of violence and to be fundamentally political.

January 5th, 2007, 2:49 pm


Ford Prefect said:

I think they belong in the exact same age they are fanticizing about – around the year 850 AD.

January 5th, 2007, 3:03 pm


t_desco said:

According to some reports, the two students from Tripoli who tried to blow up commuter trains in Germany had links to Hizb ut-Tahrir.

The British government recently decided against banning the UK branch of the group, though more radical elements may be using it as cover for their activities. The group stressed that such elements had been expelled.

One of them is Omar Bakri Muhammad who left Hizb ut-Tahrir in 1996 and went on to lead the more radical Al-Muhajiroun. He currently resides in Lebanon but maintains contact with his followers in Britain via the Internet.

January 5th, 2007, 4:02 pm


Atassi said:

Ford Prefect,
Let’s stop kidding our self please; it’s a proven time and time that the Syrian citizen’s interest and well being is on collusion course with the regime interests and narrow self preservation agendas.
The Syrian diplomatic and propagandas and Diplomatic channels machines will keep on humming around the clock to cover-up and defends the regime misshapes and shield it form any potential international threats.
You recently told me that any major changes with regards to the regime will only be possible if the army joins and approved the outcome. And I have to agree with you. In the mean time, the Government will continue its offensive strikes and intimidation against the free-voices inside Syria….

January 5th, 2007, 4:58 pm


3antar said:

the story of Omar Bakri is about right. It rings a bell.
As per Wikipedia (keeping in mind the source):
“Al Muhajiroun disbanded on 13 October 2004. However, it is believed that The Saviour Sect is to all intents and purposes Al Muhajiroun operating under a new name.”
It seems Mr Bakri cant find an extreme enough medium to express those psychopathic voices in his head. But does that put Hizb ul-Tahrir in good light? Does this guys expulsion signify their stand on violence?

and Atassi, you’ve hit the nail right on.

January 5th, 2007, 6:58 pm


Ahmad said:

to ausamaa said: (January 5th, 2007, 9:40 am / #)

I guess your brother in law is a Moukabarat.

Please don’t reply to me.
because I don’t like to have a conversation the moukhabarat.

January 5th, 2007, 8:10 pm


Atassi said:

Alex said ” I know that 6 years ago most of the negative votes came from Syrians residing in the US. So for sure it is related to the fact in Syria they don’t dare to vote NO”.
Can you please tell us the sources of this important information? Was this released as part of a public information? can we access it? Is it based on a your personal contacts.

January 5th, 2007, 9:23 pm


Alex said:


The person who told me so is NOT a Syrian official, but he is usually very reliable.

Maybe I should Ihave stated it this way: “a reliable source told me…”

January 5th, 2007, 9:42 pm


majedkhaldoun said:

The tribunal court is sure to become reality in 2007,Brammertz is still working,and his report will accuse Syria,no one should deceive himself.
I like very much Hassan Nasrallah,and respect him a lot, but I think he is manipulated by Syrian regime,whose internal and foreign managements are wrong.
the syrian army,now, is very loyal to asad,very unlikely the army will make a move, however surprises may occur,if,and only if(remote possibilty)Bashar is assasinated ,that will be the end of Asad control,Maher is not likable,he will have conflict with Asef Shawkat,and Firas Tlas.
2007 will BE an eventful year.

January 5th, 2007, 9:43 pm


Ahmad said:

Dear Innocent-Criminal

Your comment is very funny-very sad.
Because of 2 things:
1- This blog is the most propagandest blog ever made for the Assad regime and that’s what makes your comment funny.

2- I use to believe that Dr Landis is an educated person and open minded (your comment proves the oppositte).That what make me sad.
Dr Landis said that vulgar comments on this blog are not allowed, so do you think that my comment abuses anyone to answer me this way.

Finally I want you to know that all my comment are coming from people I meet every single day. We meet Syrians and Arabs almost every night. We know what they think about the regime. some of those act like they appreciate the regime…but in reality, they do not. They act like they do because they are scared of the regime.
I really wish you could hear what the people say behind the backs of the regime or who work for the regime…at dinners, parties, or other events.

January 5th, 2007, 10:10 pm


Atassi said:

I hope your 2007 predictions are wrong, We don’t need any assassinations or violent acts. We MUST seek a peaceful and meaningful changes to our institutions and civil societies , I would say, all constrictive elements in the Syrian society, “ Including a reformed Baa’th party and the reformed MB”. MUST be included in the change process. As we have learned form our own history, violent acts will only produce and lead us to a violent and tyrant leadership

January 5th, 2007, 10:11 pm


Ehsani2 said:


Contrary to what many on this forum believe, I do share your opinion that the tribunal has and will continue to be the hammer hanging on the head of the Syrian leadership.

Thus far, the “ready-to-sign-with-Israel” card has been played without much apparent success (more could be going on behind the scene of course).

The “we-will-light-up-Lebanon” card has also largely been played with mixed results.

Ditto for the “let-us-wait-for-the-baker-report”. The initial excitment in Damascus seems to have subsided as the White House toys with the idea of a “surge” in troops as opposed to a quick pull-out.

This is not to say that the leadership has run out of cards. It may have a joker or two still left between now and the time the tribunal is actually launched.

Once it does start, however, I would not want to be in Mr. Assad’s shoes.

The Lebanese who do not belong to the opposition know that this tribunal is their one and only chance. Were Mr. Assad and his leadership to somehow find a way to stop the tribunal from being launched, this group of Lebanese will lose it all. They have bet the farm and there is no going back for them.

During the last press conference with Germany’s Merkel, Bush gave a strong hint that he favors for the tribunal to start soon. As one of the commentators hinted earlier, Mrs. Merkel did not speak very favorably of Syria either.

Mr. Assad will complete his first term in office this year. He will surely get nominated for another 7-year term. This much is certain. What is less certain is whether he will manage to finish his term should the tribunal see the light of day.


I do not want to speak for Dr. Landis or defend him. From a personal experience, however, I think that you are mistaken. As you know, I have not exactly been too kind to the leadership in Damascus. Yet, this has never stopped Dr. Landis from kindly offering me an open invitation to post on the main section of his forum. I doubt that he would do this if he were acting as a propaganda machine for Damascus. Dr. Landis is sure not Ahmed Jar Allah of Alseyassah. Every person has his biases and leanings. You and all of us do. Just because Dr. Landis does not share your resentment towards the Damascus leadership does not make him a propagandist.

January 5th, 2007, 10:29 pm


Ahmad said:

Dr Ehsani

I answer IC who is helping Dr Landis, IC addressed me saying that my comment is propagandist and I found that funny because:
1- I am Syrian.
2- I don’t work for anyone or want to please anyone.
Anyway I beleive of what I said in my comment
because I love my country and I love my people and I am willing to die for that.
So for him to accuse me of propaganda I find it funny.
In the meantime I think you should all express
the truth,and I know that God will always bless Syria.

January 5th, 2007, 11:54 pm


Ford Prefect said:

Things are not as black and white as once would like to see them. It is demonstrably hard for someone like me to project a pragmatic (but not a realist) view without sounding as a regime accomplice or a defender. Well, I am not and I don’t know of an alternate way to describe a pragmatist view without sounding as a Ba’athist or a regime patron. Some people understand me, but many others think that I drive a Mukhabarat Mercedes with curtains on my rear window. Yes, indeed, the regime is all about self-preservation and enrichment while a large majority of the country is subjected to Soviet-era incompetent government. But please understand my argument that it is not only the leadership that is at fault – it is a virus affecting the entire society that is yet to establish a firm identity under a one nation state concept. How in the world would a duly elected leader, a national assembly, or a representative government is going to be able to rule and manage in this turbulent part of the world, where everyone’s dream is to become a president – mostly by force – because they know better than others? Try to name a place, a country, or a system in the Middle East where we can draw examples of a real functioning liberal democracy? (I will condemn anyone who even dares to mention Israel to Dente’s Seventh Circle.) Seriously, where do we see the solid foundation of real liberal democracy in Syria? If the regime is toppled abruptly, the emerging democracy will be so fragile that it will have as many chances of keeping Syria together as the freely elected Maliki government in Iraq.

January 6th, 2007, 12:32 am


Ford Prefect said:

Also, can someone please explain to me this wordly obssession with finding out who killed Mr. Hariri that got the West and the UN so wound up? Who was he after all to demand such world tribunal? Did he invent the flying toaster and I don’t know it?

January 6th, 2007, 12:40 am


t_desco said:

I don’t think that Brammertz will accuse “Syria”, but it is possible that Syrians will be accused. There are clear signs of progress in his latest report, but it remains unclear what exactly this progress has revealed. Some elements seem to suggest the involvement of an extremist group, others the involvement of an internal or foreign agency. A combination of both is also imaginable.

As I explained here and here, it seems highly unlikely that Bashar al-Asad was involved in the plot (but one should note that the argument is very specific, e.g. it doesn’t apply to other members of his family).

The opposition in Lebanon may have its own reasons to be worried about a possible politicization of the tribunal. Brammertz is doing excellent work, but how long will he stay? And what if his successor is more like Mehlis? (What if it is Mehlis…? Ugh.).

And did Nasrallah really say this about John Bolton:

“… Sayed Hassan Nasrallah, claimed in an interview with an Egyptian publication that former U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations John Bolton had told an unidentified Lebanese politician from the anti-Syria March 14 alliance “get the international tribune bylaws ratified and I’ll get you Nasrallah’s head.” ”

(Does anybody have a link to this interview? Thanks.)

Walid Jumblatt also made some extremely wild accusations (even by his standards) against Hizbullah in the past week. And then there is the ongoing SSNP case. While comparing the various “anonymous security sources” (Al-Mustaqbal: “totally guilty”; Al-Akhbar: “completely innocent”; The Daily Star: “some of it true, some of it exaggerated”), one can’t escape the impression that the case involves a certain degree of politicization, even if some of the accusations are real and serious.

So perhaps the opposition is not wrong to fear a possible politicization of the tribunal. Interestingly, the latest ICG report took note of these concerns and addressed them in its proposals:

– “adoption of a draft acceptable to all parties that guarantees the tribunal’s independence and non-politicisation, including in particular a revision of Article 3.2 of the tribunal’s statutes to clarify – and narrow – the presently very broadly defined circumstances under which a superior can be held responsible for crimes committed by a subordinate;”
Lebanon at a Tripwire

January 6th, 2007, 12:52 am


ugarit said:

Ford PREFECT wrote

“Also, can someone please explain to me this wordly obssession with finding out who killed Mr. Hariri that got the West and the UN so wound up? Who was he after all to demand such world tribunal? Did he invent the flying toaster and I don’t know it?”

He was a rich man with friends in the West. That’s the main reason the West “cares”.

January 6th, 2007, 12:54 am


Gibran said:

Ford Perfect
I would say the answer to your last question should be like this:
It is more appropriate to ask this question instead: Who do you think you are after all?

January 6th, 2007, 12:57 am


Ford Prefect said:

Gibran, the true answer is actually 42. So did Deep Thought say to Ford Prefect. Perfect is irrelevant.

January 6th, 2007, 1:07 am


Ahmad said:

To Alex
Please if you could go to
Go to article that don’t deal with any political issues., look at the comment of the people. then state your opinion about the regime popularity or the lack thereof.

January 6th, 2007, 1:37 am


Atassi said:

Ford Prefect,
Thank you for your reply;
I enjoy your common sense and intelligent discussion, I understand where you coming form.
Your wrote
“Where do we see the solid foundation of real liberal democracy in Syria? If the regime is toppled abruptly, the emerging democracy will be so fragile that it will have as many chances of keeping Syria together as the freely elected Maliki government in Iraq.”
I would say , we must start and induce the ultra-painful birth of a new order. Otherwise, “Future-” will soon die before it see’s its birth. otherwise, we will never know what it will be like…
As for Iraq, it’s paying the price of its past suppressed issues and problems, when it’s all done, it will raise and shin.
I can tell you we Syrians are too afraid, cowardly distancing ourselves form the unknown, we aren’t willing take our head form the sand; we are being “Phucked” day and night BY THE REGIME!! We are not even willing to sacrifice the current pains for a chance to experiment and seek “the alternative”. We are so used to being submitted to the statuesque. We could be crucified by the unknown…
By the way, Syria has been for more then 40 some years under an authoritarian system, the leadership is responsible for it people. AND I strongly and morally believe the leadership 99% at faults, Nothing more nothing less.

January 6th, 2007, 2:43 am


Alex said:


“the regime” is not popular, I agree. The president is popular.

Atassi, if you blame the regime for 99% of the problems in Syria today, and you advocate going Iraq’s way if we have to (necessary evil), then

1) Do you agree that Saudi Arabia’s problems are also the fault of its rulers? (they’ve been there for ever too) .. Egypt?

2) Do you recommend they all follow Iraq’s example if they have to? at the same time? or Syria must go first?

What kind of Middle East can you imagine if all the Arab people took your revolutionary approach at the same time?

I know you also advocate including everyone in the change process (baathists, Muslim Brothehood), but you later agreed with Ford Perfect that it is quite likely that if change starts, it wil not be as orderly as you proposed in the other comment you posted.

January 6th, 2007, 2:54 am


Ahmad said:

You are the perfect one.

January 6th, 2007, 2:56 am


Ahmad said:

If you think that the regime is not popular but Bashar is,that’s means that you believe that’s Syrians people either, stupid or stupid. That is not fair for our people.

January 6th, 2007, 3:05 am


Alex said:

Why Ahmad?

The game in the Middle East is still going on … we don’t know the full story, and we don’t know who “the winners” will be.

When it comes to Bashar’s performance, I realize that you, Atassi, and many other Syrians prefer to see the glass half empty. Many other Syrians see it as half full … it does not make them stupid becaue they interpret the unknown and they don’t forcast the future the same way you do.

The BBC’s John Simpson who interviewed Bashar commented “Assad is genuinely very popular in both Syria and the wider Middle East”

January 6th, 2007, 5:04 am


Ahmad said:

I don’t beleive any reporter, journalist or professseur.I beleive in what People are saying now.
Syria-news is one example of what people are saying about the governement.The head of the governement is Bashar,so what do you think they would say about Bashar if they’re allowed to speak freely…that he’s still young,let give him another chance? No they are not saying that anymore,I’am telling you.
BTW. I am your best example, I used to defend him,
but since the opposition in Lebanon started their protest,everything looked clearer to me.Iam against every single things he is doing.
Their is now thousands of blogs that are against him so it’s better for me to go to those blogs than get hiumiliated here because I dont support a President that wants to put the Syrians and himself in the Irans hands.

January 6th, 2007, 8:15 am


Ford Prefect said:

Ahmad, I constantly read Syria-News and reader’s feedback. (One doctor in Aleppo is recommending a solution by cutting off the hands of 99% of the Syrian doctors – but of course not his!) We all know that Syria is not heaven and the situation is indeed dire: Inflation, unemployment, corruption, outdated educational system, failed policies, political intolerance, authoritarianism, and the list goes on and on. But one must also remember that today’s Syria is considered the one of the safest places in the Arab World if not the world. Additionally, observers agree that Syria has an advanced level of secularism and religious tolerance that is unique and successful. Not even Lebanon can boast such a secularism that exists in today’s Syria (I admit, however, that faults exist and it can be better). While all of us here on this blog fully agree on the desperate predicament of the Syrian people in how to join the modern world, we differ on the process on how to achieve that goal. One group is advocating a “rip-and-replace” approach. Another is advocating “slow and organic” evolution. A third group is advocating “a return to core Islamic Caliphate” as a solution. A lets-get-the neocons-and-the-Jumblats-to-help-us was also mentioned. Many enlightened (and actually some hysterically funny) solutions are emerging on this blog; all with one common thread: genuine patriotism to Syria. You and Atassi might be right: the time has come to bite the bullet and experience the pain. But I am still on the fence. I will join your process when indicators show that the Syrian people have reached the same level of political maturity as the Spaniards when they peacefully transitioned from General Franco’s authoritarian rule to a parliamentary democracy. What are these maturity indicators? Keep reading Syria-News comments and feedbacks.

January 6th, 2007, 10:01 am


Alex said:


In addition to the excellent points FP made, I would like to add the following:

You said: Their is now thousands of blogs that are against him so it’s better for me to go to those blogs than get hiumiliated here because I dont support a President that wants to put the Syrians and himself in the Irans hands.

1) Do you believe that if some here disagree with you it is humiliating?

2) Do you believe it is more useful or more educational for you to interact with people with identical vues, and not with those who think differently?

Just as an example, here is an excellent blog that you hopefully know. Most participants there are to your liking (for different reasons). In this thread I participated by writing about half the 90 pages of comments … all the others were criticzing me until near the end when we all got quite close to agreeing. There was an Israeli, two americans, two LEbanese, some Anti-Bashar syrians … I was testing on them a proposal for reforming Syria’s Political system.

If you and other Syrians want to move to democracy in Syria, then you should enjoy the process of interacting with those you disagree with, not avoid them.

January 6th, 2007, 3:33 pm


Ford Prefect said:

And this piece from Tuesday’s Jerusalem Post:

Alex, remember when we talked about the subtle changes in the JPost’s tone, here is a sample.

Analysis: Israel’s numerous war wounds
Anshel Pfeffer, THE JERUSALEM POST Jan. 9, 2007

Hizbullah secretary-general Hassan Nasrallah said in his first interview after the Lebanon war that if he could have predicted the ferocity of Israel’s retaliation to the capture of soldiers Eldad Regev and Ehud Goldwasser, he wouldn’t have ordered the raid. Yet, looking at the current Israeli situation, he’s actually got good reason to be a bit more satisfied.

The media is putting together special broadcasts and supplements this week to note six months since the outbreak of the war. Naturally, the emphasis is mainly on what happened on the battlefield and the homefront during that traumatic summer month, but perhaps we should be looking more closely at what happened within Israel ever since.

Beyond the long list of those killed and injured, what was the most serious damage the war caused us?

Transportation Minister Shaul Mofaz said on Tuesday: “I would carefully say that not all the war’s objectives were achieved, not the diplomatic ones, or the military.”

Talk about understatement. Add this to the briefing by Military Intelligence Commander Maj.-Gen. Amos Yadlin to the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee affirming reports that Hizbullah has rebuilt most of its military apparatus destroyed in the war. And if that’s not enough, there is also a sizable al-Qaida presence now in Lebanon. Quite obviously, the most significant strategic damage is to Israel’s deterrence force; Hizbullah managed to withstand the might of the IDF with its hierarchy and organization intact and to recoup its losses in a very short time. That’s going to be giving other enemies some ideas.

But even that outcome can be put into perspective. The IDF has at least been given the chance to learn from its operational mistakes, put into motion an urgent retraining program for the combat units and replenish its emergency depots. Better late than never.

What hasn’t been improved one bit since the end of the war is the decision-making process of our political leadership; in fact, that’s only got much worse. We’ve heard so many times about the woeful incompetence of our prime minister and defense minister in military affairs, but that wasn’t the reason the government never came out with a coherent set of targets for the operation that unfolded so quickly – and intentionally – into a war without a clear purpose. Even when it became clear that Regev and Goldwasser were not going to be released by the end of the fighting, the government was still insisting that the war could be measured a success, though they weren’t exactly clear on what scale. This total lack of a sense of direction naturally radiated downwards into the ranks of the army and government departments that failed to deal with a million civilians being bombed by Hizbullah.

Some of the reasons for the lack of coordination at the top were present already before the war. Chief among them was the total lack of chemistry and joint purpose between the government’s two most senior figures, Ehud Olmert and Amir Peretz, but the recriminations in the war’s aftermath and the level of public anger put an end to any hope that the two could overcome their estrangement. What began as light bickering is now a total split between the leaders, and that’s not the only breakdown.

Peretz is now being regarded by almost everyone in Labor as the outgoing leader, with four-and-a-half months left until the primary, and then farewell. Meanwhile, no serious politician wants to be seen cooperating with Peretz, and we have an isolated defense minister. In Olmert’s Kadima, the rebellion is still only under the surface but the rising tension with Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni is causing havoc to Israel’s diplomatic efforts.

Olmert is still in charge – just – but Mofaz, Livni and others are already breathing down his neck. Pursuing any policy save for political survival in such an environment is almost impossible. This isn’t the first government to break up into warring factions, but it couldn’t have happened so quickly and totally if it wasn’t for the war.

If Israel still hasn’t formulated a serious response to the Iranian threat and it is proving itself powerless to block the military buildup in the Gaza Strip or stop the Kassams falling on Sderot; if despite everything happening among the Palestinians, the government is still being pressured by the US to make concessions; if the relationship with Egypt and perhaps Jordan is in danger of coming apart, then Nasrallah can certainly take a lot of the credit for all this.

He destroyed the government’s self-confidence and basic ability to work together. Six months later and it still isn’t showing any sign of recuperating.

January 12th, 2007, 11:22 am


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