“America’s Gulf Arab allies and Syria,” by Alex

Written and Posted by Alex

Yesterday David Schenker wrote an article in the Jerusalem Post in which he called on Israel to reverse Prime minister Ehud Olmert's decision to engage in serious peace talks with Syria:

"Although it is a bitter pill for peacemakers in the Jewish state to swallow, by trucking with Syria now, Israel risks inadvertently contributing to the eventual establishment of Hizbullahstan on its northern border."

Calling on Israel to be alert to his warnings and to stop talking peace with Syria follows another demonstration of Schenker's relentless Syria strategy. On September 21, 2007, he wrote "policy Watch #1290" for the Washington Institute for Near East Policy. Its title was "losing Traction Against Syria".

Here is one of the main recommendations in that policy watch: 

"To stem Syria's reacceptance into the international community, Washington needs to convince its European and Arab — particularly Gulf — allies to freeze their engagement with Damascus.

And here is what those gulf Arab allies of the Untied States were doing this week … Eight months after David's Sep 2007 "policy Watch"

1) President of the U.A.E. awarded the Syrian President his country's highest medal.  



2) The popular Emir of Dubai was an enthusiastic host 



3) The Emir of Kuwait proudly welcomed the Syrian president


4)  Emir of Qatar visited Bashar in Damascus to thank him for his decisive help in reaching the Doha agreement


5) Kuwait's business leaders promised President Assad dramatically increased Kuwaiti investments in Syria


6) Dubai's business leaders told him how eager they are to invest much more in Syria


Few years ago, Thomas Friedman warned Egypt and Syria that their days are over. According to him, Egypt and Syria were on their way out … to be replaced by the new Arab world leaders, the progressive, ambitious and extravagantly rich Gulf Arabs such as Qatar and Dubai.

Egypt's leadership role seems to have indeed taken a serious hit in recent years. In comparison, Syria, which chose to bet on the smaller Gulf states instead of going Egypt's direction of alliance with (and obedience to) Saudi Arabia, appears to be much more secure about its leading Arab nation role.

Comments (76)

Qifa Nabki said:

Wow… it looks like the Gulfis all used the same interior decorator for their halls of audience:

Jean-Leon Gerome!

June 5th, 2008, 11:28 am


why-discuss said:

A great contrast with the sobriety and elegance of Bashar’s halls of audience! Among arab countries, Syria seem to have the least flashy and gold plated, versailles-like taste in decoration!

June 5th, 2008, 12:15 pm


norman said:


They got whole sale discount.!

June 5th, 2008, 12:47 pm


norman said:

Syria says Israel terms signal not serious on peace 05 Jun 2008

11:22:06 GMT
Source: Reuters
KUWAIT, June 5 (Reuters) – Syrian President Bashar al-Assad said if Israel keeps insisting that peace talks resume from scratch it would show the Jewish state was not serious about reaching a deal with Syria.

Israel and Syria said last month they had launched indirect peace talks mediated by Turkish officials, the first negotiations between the two sides in eight years.

The last peace talks came close to a deal over the Golan Heights but broke down in 2000 over control of the shore of Sea of Galilee, from which Israel takes much of its water. Syria wants the full return of the Golan Heights, which Israel seized from Syria in the 1967 Middle East war.

Assad said during a visit to Kuwait that the Israelis were insisting that negotiations restart from scratch and that the progress made in the earlier talks in the 1990s be cancelled.

“This signals that Israel does not desire peace and is not willing to reach it,” he said in comments carried by Kuwait’s state news agency KUNA.

“We are now testing the water… and this means regaining the occupied Golan… and if we reach a solution on this issue then what remains are other issues that are the second stage of talks.”

Assad also dismissed Israeli demands that Syria give up its alliance with Iran as a condition for peace.

Israeli officials have a said a peace deal depends on Syria distancing itself from Iran and severing ties with Lebanon’s Hezbollah movement and the Palestinian group Hamas.

“We do not accept the imposition of conditions on us that are linked to countries that have nothing to do with the peace…” he said, adding that Iran had welcomed the talks.

“Should we establish relations with Israel and lose our relations with the world?”

Many analysts say U.S. hostility to Syria makes a peace deal with Israel unlikely before U.S. President George W. Bush leaves office in January. (Writing by Lin Noueihed; Editing by Dominic Evans)

June 5th, 2008, 12:53 pm


idaf said:

Check this piece by Clayton E. Swisher in Al-Jazeerah on AIPAC..

AIG, were you there?

June 5th, 2008, 1:43 pm


Atassi said:

Alex Alex.. What a lucky Man Assed is .. he is getting all this Free positive PR with nice pictures on SyriaComments for Free !! Wow… Alex Dude .. Don’t overdo it please..

June 5th, 2008, 2:04 pm


Alex said:


I know what i am doing.

This post was for David Schenker who is escalating his campaign against Syria through increasingly immoral tactics.

First he was asking for political pressure (which is understandable)

Then he moved to asking for economic sanctions to reverse economic gains!(starting to hurt regular Syrians)

And now he is trying to sabotage the peace process!!

So I wanted to illustrate to him in a vivid way the futility of his campaign through a colorful display of the way his last terrible suggestion (to force the Gulf countries to stop investing in Syria) did not go anywhere.

I think that some people are too dogmatic to notice things which do not fit their desires. Those people need ALL those pig pictures to get through their thick ego.

June 5th, 2008, 3:06 pm


Atassi said:

I understand.. Thank you for your reply.. Just remember, if you over do it, You may start to believe it yourself 🙂

June 5th, 2008, 3:28 pm


Alex said:


I believe everything I am saying.

And I like what is happening too.

You know my opinion by now.

June 5th, 2008, 3:30 pm


AnotherIsraeliGuy said:

What is so good about seeing Asad photographed with American “puppets”? The invasion of Iraq started from Kuwait. Did Asad say anything about that?

Why would I be at the AIPAC meeting? I wasn’t. As for Swisher, he is an idiot. But he can freely be one because unlike in other places, no one is going to put him in jail.

June 5th, 2008, 3:35 pm


Alex said:


1) the point of this post was that the Arab Gulf states are NOT American puppets!

They are now Syria’s puppets : )

Not really … they are (at least Dubai and Qatar) very balanced. They want to be everyone’s friends. And these pictures show that they value Syria’s friendship more than they value this administration’s friendship… and that is really something! … given the popular impression that they are American, or even Saudi, puppets.

Earlier, they all showed up to the Arab summit in Damascus despite tremendous pressure from this administration and from Saudi Arabia.

President Bush punished the Emir of Qatar for his close friendship with Syria by not visiting Qatar during his last trip.

And one more thing … When Bashar visits Dubai .. they don’t empty the whole town like they did when President Bush visited. It shows you who is really popular among the people too, not with the Emir.

As for AIPAC … I loved it how the speaker “answered the question” by saying “I will not answer this question” … and everyone clapped their hands for the wonderful answer!

And then they did not allow anyone to be interviewed by the reporter.

And they kicked him out, using profanities …

I love their genuine tolerance for free speech.

No wonder they continue to behave like robots.

The one you should be proud of (to a large extent) is in Israel, where Haaretz for example can criticize, and where Aljazeera reporters can report and ask questions.

But your guys at AIPAC are really something!

June 5th, 2008, 3:43 pm


AnotherIsraeliGuy said:

The Gulf states are not American “puppets”? So it is not enough to have a huge American base in your country and tens of thousands of soldiers to be a “puppet”? The Gulf states rely on the US for their security. They rely on trade with the West for thier prosperity. They are the ultimate “puppets”. If the US tells them jump, they will jump.

You seem to not really understand what freedom of speech is. It is the right of anyone to say or write what they believe without being prosecuted. Has AIPAC stopped Swisher from writng anything? Will AIPAC throw him in jail or threaten his family like Asad would do? No. Nobody is asking Asad to answer every question he is asked. All people want is the ability to have a discussion without being threatened by violence. That is free speech.

June 5th, 2008, 3:58 pm


Alex said:


From this week:

Assad is meeting with 11 leaders of American Jews .. they will ask him all the questions they want to ask.


He met with people from Dubai’s School of government and they asked him anything they wanted to ask.

He met with 30 Harvard students including many Lebanese who hated him and his Syria … if you read the conclusions of this American who was there?


Let me help you find the relevant part:

“Bashar spoke with us for three hours, all Q&A. He impressed the whole group with his willingness to actually answer the questions asked, his ability to provide logical defenses of his positions, his command of English, and his forward-looking mindset. A number of anti-Syrian Lebanese in the group walked away shaken by the experience. We were furthermore surprised that, in contrast to almost every other politician we met, we were not searched or put through any kind of physical screening.”

Compare that to AIPAC .. they kicked Aljazeera reporter out, after refusing to answer his question!

: )

June 5th, 2008, 4:06 pm


AnotherIsraeliGuy said:

Let the foreign press freely report from Syria. Let them travel all around Syria and see how things are really are just like they do in Israel and many other countries. Let them walk around without having 5 muchabarat guys following them. Let them talk to people who are not being threatened and are not scared. Only then will I believe any news coming from Syria. The news we get is just propoganda filtered through the Syrian regime.

If the regime did not have so much to hide, it would not act in the way it does. I am sure the rot is so bad that the regime will never let anybody freely report from Syria.

June 5th, 2008, 4:07 pm


AnotherIsraeliGuy said:

Sure the students could talk to Asad, but could they talk freely to any person on the street? And the questions he did not want answered, he was vague. Could someone like Swisher write in Syria that Asad is not answering questions well?

Swisher himself says that the AIPAC affair is a private one and they have every right to do what they did. Is all that happens in Syria Bashar’s personal affair and therefore he can determine what people can say or not?

At least, AIPAC let an Al-Jazeera correspondent into its conference. Will Asad let Israeli or American correspondents report freely from Syria?

June 5th, 2008, 4:11 pm


Alex said:


Yes, the regime has things to hide (like corruption) and it is part of the reason they don’t want free press.

They also know that the Saudis are very generous in bribing “free” Arab writers.

But, as we found out from that poll … Bashar is the most popular Arab head of state .. IN MODERATE ARAB countries! …

“The rot” is bad at AIPAC wich panicked at the thought of hearing an unfriendly question from that Aljazeera reporter! … did you see how they RUSHED to stop him from interviewing anyone?

ROBOTS… and they want to stay that way.

As for your “They are the ultimate “puppets”. If the US tells them jump, they will jump.”

Eh … the US demanded, and warned, and showed some carrots … but they ALL went to the Damascus summit anyway!

Sorry AIG … you can pass any argument you like on CNN or FOX, but not here.

June 5th, 2008, 4:15 pm


idaf said:


Sorry, I meant to ask Akbar Palace if he was in the AIPAC event. He probably was.

But in response to your comments to Alex, AIPAC indeed did kick Clayton Swisher (a journalist and author) from the event (he sent an email around with the title: “swisher tossed from aipac”). Do you really think that if AIPAC would have the power to “imprison” him they wouldn’t have? They do exercise all powers available to them to squash anyone that dare to question anything they say. Politicians, journalists, academics, etc. You don’t need to imprison someone to silence him.

The audience “booed” Clayton’s question! Could you believe that? A boo for a question? Although the clap for the “I have no answer” was funnier: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YPJsx5dG0tc

Clayton had this comment in his email.. “It’s unlikely I’m gonna get an AIPAC holiday card this year”! I hope that it would only be limited to the card for him and that his career would not suffer any other consequences because he dared to ask some questions.

June 5th, 2008, 4:39 pm


AnotherIsraeliGuy said:

Bashar panders to the masses in the Arab world, but if they knew the real conditions of most Syrians, he would not be that popular. It is not only corruption that they need to hide. The need to hide how the typical Syrian is living.

AIPAC are robots because they didn’t want to answer a question? AIPAC have argued with many of their crticizers in the free US press and answered ton’s of criticisms. Has Bashar done one percent of that?

Ok, the Gulf states are not “puppets”, they are great supporters of Damascus.

One day, the truth will come out and you will be ashamed of what Bashar is doing in Syria in your name. It is so easy to hide behind a propoganda wall of fear and deceit. But just like the Soviet Union fell because of the economy, that will also be the end of Syria. It will take 10 or 20 years but it will surely come.

June 5th, 2008, 4:40 pm


Alex said:


I understand.

Since unfortunately, you still can not travel to Syria, try reading Travel section reports about Syria … from American and European reporters who traveled all over Syria (without the 5 Moukhabarat followers you talked about)

Here is one

“Damascus has had a corner in conversions for 2,000 years, since Saul of Tarsus saw the light and metamorphosed into St Paul the Apostle. I too underwent a transformation on the road to Damascus, not Pauline exactly, but definitely opinion-changing. My revelation was Syria.”


And here is a comment from that link:

“Most Syrians are happy with the secular state and live and love more than any other country in the ME”

June 5th, 2008, 4:46 pm


AnotherIsraeliGuy said:

Yes Alex, Mahmud is not muchabarat… He is just a “guide” that followed the reporter all the time.

“He has troubled eyebrows, maybe because there are almost as many, much wilier portraits on display of his authoritarian father who died eight years ago. The only time my guide Mahmud’s smile faltered was when I suggested that the president always looked worried.”

June 5th, 2008, 7:08 pm


Alex said:

That’s amazing AIG .. you found yourself another “elephant in the Room”!!

Mahmud IS the Elephant in the room that the reporter and Alex are ignoring … forget everything else about Syria in that article… those were small details…. anything positive about Syira is irrelevant … but the negativity gets your “elephant in the room” rating!

I like that.

June 5th, 2008, 7:24 pm


AnotherIsraeliGuy said:

There are many positive things about Syria and there are many bad things. There are many beautiful places in Syria but the muchabarat follow you to them which is not nice. Syria just has to gain enough confidence to let the world see it as it really is and not as you want the world to see it.

June 5th, 2008, 7:47 pm


Alex said:


Ask most reporters and you will realize that the vast majority now feel they are free enough to cover anywhere and almost any story in Syria.

But there is still the occasional guide sent with some reporters.

Is it perfect? no … is it way better thatn 10 years ago? .. absolutely.

Will it be much better in the future if we have peace with Israel? … I hope so, yes.

June 5th, 2008, 7:55 pm


AnotherIsraeliGuy said:

It is just not true about reporters that “the vast majority now feel they are free enough to cover anywhere and almost any story in Syria”. Let’s see a reporter try to report on the education system across Syria. That is an example of a basic thing that cannot be reported.

Oh yes, peace with Israel will solve all the problems.

June 5th, 2008, 8:11 pm


AnotherSyrianGuy said:


It is amazing that you have never been to Syria but are willing to argue so much with a Syrian person! You can not possibly know better than him. Try scoring points on some other topic.

June 6th, 2008, 2:06 pm


AnotherIsraeliGuy said:

Prove me wrong by pointing me to a candid report on the Syrian education system. Not a one page discussion, but a serious article examining specific schools in different parts of Syria and looking deeply at Syrian curicullum and what students know when they graduate. Proving me wrong is so simple. Why don’t you do it?

June 6th, 2008, 2:21 pm


AnotherIsraeliGuy said:

I have seen how the hotels and restaurants look like in Damascus. They are indeed very beautiful. But I have never seen a picture of how a typical Syrian class room looks like. How does the school of the children of the taxicab drivers of Damascus look like? How do rural schools look like? What books are they studying from? What is the qualification of their teacher? What are the drop out rates? Etc. etc. etc.

The hotels and restuarants are important. But isn’t it more important to know about the education given to Syrian children? Isn’t that what will determine whether Syria can compete globally or not? Yet, on this subject there is zero information and public discussion. Does it not bother you?

June 6th, 2008, 2:37 pm


AnotherIsraeliGuy said:

I searched, and to the best of my knowledge, there has never been one post on Syria comment about the Syrian education system. Yes, there are many important other issues to deal with, but education is a fundamental one. It is one of the main factors that will determine if Syria can be a viable state long term. It would be interesting to know what Bashar Asad has done to improve the education system since he came to power. I am not criticizing him on this issue. I just do not know what he has done and if has done good or bad. But I have strong feeling that neither do most Syrians, especially those sending their kids to private schools. How are those in the governmnet schools faring?

June 6th, 2008, 2:44 pm


AnotherIsraeliGuy said:

Thanks, but my comments are about the government schools, not the private universities which only a small percentage of people can afford. How does a typical Syrian government school look like?

June 6th, 2008, 3:13 pm


Alex said:

From outside it looks beautiful


But inside, it is old .. and certainly need a lot of work. And the quality of education is often very mediocre.

But many of the Ivy-league Ph.D.’s on SC are graduates from Syrian government universities. Syrian doctors in the United States are very successful … the system is not a disaster. I would rate it as below average.

Basically, if you are a good student, you will manage to learn and excel, the system will not stop you. If you are not very motivated, the system will probably not be of much help.

June 6th, 2008, 3:18 pm


AnotherIsraeliGuy said:

As in all systems I am sure that there are a few good schools from which rich Damascans graduate prepared. But what is the real picture? How do you know that the system is not a disaster if there are no articles, reports etc. looking critically and examining the system? You just don’t know. Maybe the system is mediocore, maybe it is disastrous maybe it is great. You just do not know. And the fact is nothing is reported about it. I think the system must be really bad because of the high illiteracy rate, but maybe I am wrong.

Isn’t it important to have hard data on such an important issue? Syrians should demand this information. This is what freedom of speech is all about. Allowing an examination of the education system.

June 6th, 2008, 3:29 pm


Alex said:


Many of the rulers of the richest Arab countries can barely read and right … even though their schools are exceptionally well financed.

You can’t force all people to study.

But you are right … we need a proper assessment to know.

I heard horror stories, and I heard of excellent profs … I guess excellence, where it exists, comes from individual initiative, not from “the system”

June 6th, 2008, 4:27 pm


norman said:


This is my experience ,

I went all my life in Syria to public schools , them i went to medical schools Damascus university , I did residency in a US hospital , I passed all my tests from the first time , I passed my internal medicine board after reading and reviewing my Syrian medical school books , I was the only one between my residency mate who passed from the fist time , they were from England , India , Philippine , and Caribbean ,

My brother had the same experience he went to public schools in Syria and Damascus University for engineering and passed his tests in the US and went to drexel university for a master in Hydrology ,

All of all , the schools and the education are good in Syria but they are more general , so we learned medium amount on everything but not a lot on any specific subjects as we had no electives and all subjects were mandatory.

We do well in the US because we are familiar with many things.

I hope these info will help you.

June 6th, 2008, 4:51 pm


AnotherIsraeliGuy said:

Thanks. I appreciate the info. How much does your experience reflect the experience of the general Syrian population? I am quite sure you come for a city. Are the schools in the rural areas the same? Do all schools get the same budget?

June 6th, 2008, 5:09 pm


norman said:


Actually I lived in an oil pumping station east of Palmyra, called T3 , part of IPC ( Iraq petroleum company ) the teachers were from Hims on a rotation , It was not a big school , probably in the villages , The teachers are not as good as they have less experience and part of their rural service to go to villages ,but as you In Syria the curriculum is the same in all schools so ther is no differentiation in education , No talented classes .

teachers are government employees and paid on a scale depending on their experience .

June 6th, 2008, 5:49 pm


ayman said:

AIG asks thoughtful questions, questions that are superior to his patent answers.

He seems to be single handedly engaging all of Syria’s bloggers! How can he spare the time to do so, and who supports his efforts? More importantly; how can anyone pose such good questions, and yet give answers that are so cliché ridden!

Never-the-less let me try to answer his question. I too am a product of Syria’s public (and very egalitarian) education system. Though in some ways flawed, it was a relatively good system, and I (like Norman) only realized how strong my education was when I came to the U.S., started taking US boards, and aced them.

What always used to get my goat in Syria was that I was always offered slogans-instead of answers-to my questions. Today, things seemed reversed: Syria’s sympathizers (like Alex) give heart-felt answers, while Israelis (like AIG) offer clearly “talking point” infested answers! What a reversal of fortunes!

Finally, let’s ponder this anomaly: Why is Syria’s president clearly smarter than America’s? Could it be that he was better educated? He too went to Syria’s schools, while President Bush (I suspect) got into Yale because he was “his father’s son”? As odd as it may seem, this may be the answer to AIG’s question.

June 8th, 2008, 3:23 pm


AnotherIsraeliGuy said:

Regarding the Syrian education system, I am only posing questions. My point is that no one really knows what is going on because there is no free press. You do not know how many good schools there are and how many terrible schools. You just don’t now. I am sure there are some good schools. But since Syria is so far behind technologically and the illiteracy rate is still around 20% there must be bad schools also. Otherwise, how can you explain this discrepancy? If the Syrian education system is so good, why does the average Syrian worker have so few skills?

June 8th, 2008, 3:35 pm


Naji said:


When did you live in T3…? Did you also live in Banias…?!

June 8th, 2008, 6:27 pm


Naji said:

I am impressed by Dr. Ayman’s well-crafted and clever comment above…!
Quite a cosmetic surgeon…!

June 8th, 2008, 6:36 pm


ayman said:

“I am sure there are some good schools”!
Didn’t you get what Norman and I both wrote? The schools we both went to were not special, private, gifted, or better…in any way. My whole point was that the Syrian system is uniform, meaning; no great school or terrible schools; though I hear there are now more and more private schools and colleges springing up everywhere.

As for “no one knows what’s going on”!
Within your borders there are inhabitants who are being less educated than Syrians, and much less educated than the rest of your country folk. I also read thanks-to your free press-that some of them are having a harder time getting to these sub-par schools because of your security barrier. Is your freedom of press any consolation to these kids?

As for “how do you explain this discrepancy?”
Syria is not heaven on earth, but Syria is not occupying anyone’s land, and Syrians are a much more resourceful people than you may imagine. What you achieved in sixty years we’ll achieve in twenty. We are in our Tsim-Tsum and like points of light we’ll one day coalesce and give you a run for your money.

June 8th, 2008, 7:01 pm


Naji said:

I think I am due for some cosmetic surgery… 😉

June 8th, 2008, 7:05 pm


ayman said:

Thanks Naji, the last post was not in response to yours, it was in response to Mr. Clichés.

Doesn’t it sound odd to you to read neo-con inspired ideology laden comments from AIG? It’s a glaring example of: The triumph of rehearsed “talking points”, and “staying on message” speak! Do these guys think we can’t tell the difference between slogans and ideas? Didn’t we all get fed up with that…oh, about twenty years ago? Not one of us today talks like that. Imad Mustapha, for example, has never uttered a tired rehearsed cliché in his life…and he’s Syria’s Ambassador to Washington! I love it, don’t you?

Do you remember how Syrian officials used to speak? Now Israelis and Bushies do it!

June 8th, 2008, 7:18 pm


Naji said:

“We are in our Tsim-Tsum and like points of light we’ll one day coalesce and…” and become a true “light unto the nations”…!

I thought your ( http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tzimtzum )reference was extremely clever and apt, again. I took the liberty of improvising on it…!

June 8th, 2008, 7:34 pm


AnotherIsraeliGuy said:

Serious question for you, why did you not already achieve in 20 years what we achieved in 60?

I know that Syrians are just as resourceful and just as smart as Israelis, so why the difference?

And yes, it would be interesting if you could explain the discrepancy. The fact is that most people coming out of Syrian schools are not skilled enough. Why is that?

June 8th, 2008, 9:27 pm


SimoHurtta said:

And yes, it would be interesting if you could explain the discrepancy. The fact is that most people coming out of Syrian schools are not skilled enough. Why is that?

AIG how skilled are those your young New Testament burners in Israel?

By the way AIG the results of Israel in school “level” rankings are not very good. (Maybe to much military training and religious education.)

* Israeli kids rank poorly on int’l test for literacy

* What’s Finland’s secret?
Teacher salaries seem to explain Finnish students’ success, Israeli mediocrity

June 8th, 2008, 10:02 pm


Alex said:

SH .. that was funny.


Every time you have the urge to write “the fact is” … try to think about it a bit more … do you really know that what you are stating is “a fact”?

You said it yourself earlier “we don’t know” … so why not keep it “we dont know”?

But needless to say, Syria’s education is not comparable to Israel’s when it comes to technology for example.

But please understand that Syrian graduates of Medicine are not bad at all. Maybe not as outstanding as Israel’s, but they do considerably above average in American certification exams.

So … at the Engineering school the labs are not as advanced as they should be, and English literature classes are over crowded … but there is no drama… just below to slightly above average.

Except for teaching Arabic … Syria is ahead of any Arab country I assume.

June 8th, 2008, 10:22 pm


norman said:


Syrian doctors are better than the Israeli ones , I met some of them ,


We lack in Syria practical training and lab application , In the US we shine because the system gives us the chance for training on the job and because we all eager to succeed we tend to work harder than others .

Aig ,

You have to remember that Syria has been under some kind of sanctions on technology equipments for some time.

Naji ,

I visited my uncle in Banias almost yearly since 1967 until 1973 , and had very good time in the summer of i believe 1970 or 1971 , I do not know if you were there ,

If you want my Email ask Alex he has it .

June 8th, 2008, 11:42 pm


ayman said:

“Most people coming out of Syrian schools are not skilled enough”.
There you go again with the “talking points”, if this were a campaign you’d win, but it’s a blog! Repeatedly saying something does not a fact, make it (in Yoda speak). Most people coming out of Syria’s schools are skilled; if I repeat it three more times, does my non-fact become as relevant as yours? Israel’s lost its moral compass…etc. etc. all clichés, I leave to you. They will not work because we are all cliché proof so retire the stock messages.

As to “why did you not already achieve in 20 years what we achieved in 60?” Again you prove my point; your questions are thoughtful and your answers patent.
My last answer to you is; the Holocaust, but I’m not sure. Now before pulling out the anti-Semitism cliché you must understand that I grieve every time I come across something regarding the Holocaust. I can only imagine how a horror so-profound must have affected you all, but I assume that it made you value each other above all others. (Good question). I dream of the day when Syrians (sans tragedy) will do the same, and then we’ll catch up and win.

June 8th, 2008, 11:52 pm


Zenobia said:

actually your questions are stupid.

it is very obvious. High quality education costs a lot of money – and its prioritization. Many syrians have a fairly good education, but the jobs are not there for them to achieve more.
(eg. a friend of mine has a good education as an engineer but the best job he can get is doing exhaust inspections of automobiles for the gov’t transportation authority, which basically bores him to tears but is the most reliable employment he can get.)

Israel has been on a fast track since its beginning because of the enormous amount of funding and support it receives from outside, namely american jews who have benefited from american education and economic success. As well, the expectation of high quality education is a part of the culture of Jews certainly in the United States but probably- worldwide and this is a noble quality.The founder of Israel are Europeans, as their american counterparts are, and Europe and the US had already established the notion of the value of and promotion of public education after the industrial revolution.
Syria had no industrial revolution, you might recall. And has never been a wealthy country. Eduction is a biproduct of wealth- and then once it is established it promotes even more growth and prosperity. It is only very recently that Syria has been able to establish a system of public education, and this came with the advent of the Assad regime. It is socialistic in form- egalitarian (as the others have said) – this puts a lot of limitations on it. But only the future will tell how the opening up of education will effect the possibility for higher standards and opportunities.

Comparing the GDP of the United States and the GDP of Syria and the relative differences in public education on the primary and secondary levels, it is by far the United States that should be utterly ashamed of its standards. And we certainly have the data on that!

June 9th, 2008, 1:16 am


EHSANI2 said:

Zenobia is correct. High quality educations costs a lot of money.

How much money?

I serve as a volunteer on the Board of private school in the U.S. The tuition of the school is $20,000 per child. The local public school operates with a tax base budget of $22,000 per child. A competing private school in the region has just raised its tuition to $29,900 per child. This is for students for grades 1-12.

How can Syria’s education system compete? Indeed it is a miracle that it still exists when education is provided for free while the local school districts have no tax base of their own to rely on.

June 9th, 2008, 2:57 am


AnotherIsraeliGuy said:

I wish I knew which talking points you are talking about. Do you also see ghosts?

I did not make up the fact that Syria’s workers are not skilled enough. Ehsani has been saying this. It also explains why salaries are low in Syria.

Contrary to what you think, Israel is not doing anything special that many other countries are doing. Israel’s success is not related to the Holocaust at all. It is related to the fact that Israel is a democracy.

June 9th, 2008, 3:19 am


AnotherIsraeliGuy said:

My questions are not stupid. If you had a child in the Syrian education system, you would want to know the answers to those questions. If you wanted to imporve the Syrian education system you would want answers to those questions. The whole point of the discussion is that the regime does not even allow this data to be collected or be published.

As for education and wealth, there is a connection but it is far from perfect. Otherwise poor countries could never become rich countries because they could never afford to educate their young well enough to become rich. But we know that this is not the case.

June 9th, 2008, 3:28 am


norman said:


I agree with you , your questions are very valid ,


Look at my notes , Syrian workers are not very skilled for lack of experience , their academic knowledge is good , they just lack practical experience ,

Most Syrians who make it to the US after public education in Syria do well ,

I can tell you for example that Syrians are not very good in writing reports or creative writing , they are better than the students in the US in math , Physics and science ,i know that because my daughter went to high school in the US , University is different story as no country is better than the US .

One more thing i see is that we are good in knowing the subject as much as the teachers do but lack the know how to improve on that knowledge , we catch that fast in the US schools of higher education , I think the US schools of higher education are known for bringing the best of the students from all over the world.

Some of the reason for illiteracy in Syria comes because of lack of understanding of Islam in poor areas of Syria and of need for the children to help their parents in farming , Education is compulsory in Syria to grade 12 , but it is hard for the government to put people in jail if they do not comply .

I hope this info will help understand , Just remember that in Syria public schools and private schools have the same curriculum , so there is education for the poor and other for the rich.

June 9th, 2008, 3:40 am


Zenobia said:

well, i will revise what i said a little bit. Your interest in wanting to know more stats is not stupid, and the idea that questions should be asked in order to improve the system and understand what the impediments to improvement are is not stupid.

but i mean the question about why Syria has inferior education in general to a country like the US or Israel or France is stupid. It is obvious.

and the correlation between quality of education and socio economic status IS in fact perfect.

Actually, the way countries become richer is not because they necessarily have the best public education. It has far more to do with resources, and whether the population can go out of that country to receive higher education, as has been the case in huge numbers for Indians and Chinese, and whether those people return to their homeland to bring their education to service and influence growth in their home country.
India and China’s economies are booming, but this is not because they have the most democratic education or the most superior for the common people. It is an elite, as usual, who are able to access private expensive education and compete to come to the States or Europe to further it and excel, and gain professional experiences, and then bring that know how and potential back to their homeland.

I think growth for poor countries is incremental, and usually starts with some outside education or an elite that has education at its disposal who then filters the benefit of that down to the working classes and the poor who have not been able to get that education but can benefit from economic opportunities anyway.

Syria, yes, does not have a system that has led many foreign educated citizens to return or to build industry and businesses that can employ the rest. So, that is all true, but I think there is some changes happening lately.

When there is more growth then in turn the general education standard will improve- if there is also a system in place by which public resources are used to fund it through taxation or some other form.

Meanwhile, in the United States it is perfectly clear that the wealthy have superior education compared to the poor. Just go to any public school in the poor areas of the deep south, and you will see that it may look far worse than Syria’s average schools.

June 9th, 2008, 3:48 am


SimoHurtta said:

Education costs much money? Is that true? Education can cost much money, but do real results in education cost much money. The western world is full of doctors and nurses educated in India, Pakistan, Philippines etc. Many of USA’s top scientists have got their primary education in underdeveloped countries or in countries which use less money for education as USA.

In Finland, which has very successful history in the education level and results in the ranking studies (PISA), are no elite schools (only a couple of religious schools), everybody gets a free 9 year primary education and after that those who want a free university and occupational education. Finnish children start their school at the age of 7, when normally in other countries they start at the age of 6. Our children have 2.5 months summer holidays. Finland hardly uses more money for education as other industrialized countries. So the education results (which are the reasons that matter) are not necessarily depending on the money used.

The US public’s general education level is not very “elevating”, when it comes to the knowledge about the world and even their own country.
* nearly two-thirds of Americans aged 18 to 24 still cannot find Iraq on a map
* half or fewer of young men and women 18-24 can identify the states of New York or Ohio on a map.


What comes to Israel’s rapid “rising”. Israel got over million educated Soviet Jews, who were educated in Soviet Union, not in Israeli “Taleban schools” (Haredi schools).

Rapid Rise of Israel’s Orthodox Schools Sparks Fear of Army, Work Force Shortage
Study: One-Third of Jewish Students Will Receive Haredi Education in 2012
By Daphna Berman
Fri. Aug 03, 2007

PISA results tell us for example

Percentage of students at each proficiency level on the science scale
“Below Level 1
(below 334.94 score points)”
* Israel 14.9 %
* USA 7.9 %
* Finland 0.5 %
* OECD average 5.2 %.

Hmmmm indeed.

June 9th, 2008, 6:11 am


SimoHurtta said:

Education costs much money? Is that true? Education can cost much money, but do real results in education cost much money. The western world is full of doctors and nurses educated in India, Pakistan, Philippines etc. Many of USA’s top scientists have got their primary education in underdeveloped countries or in countries which use less money for education as USA.

In Finland, which has very successful history in the education level and results in the ranking studies (PISA), are no elite schools (only a couple of religious schools), everybody gets a free 9 year primary education and after that those who want a free university and occupational education. Finnish children start their school at the age of 7, when normally in other countries they start at the age of 6. Our children have 2.5 months summer holidays. Finland hardly uses more money for education as other industrialized countries. So the education results (which are the reasons that matter) are not necessarily depending on the money used.

The US public’s general education level is not very “elevating”, when it comes to the knowledge about the world and even their own country.
* nearly two-thirds of Americans aged 18 to 24 still cannot find Iraq on a map
* half or fewer of young men and women 18-24 can identify the states of New York or Ohio on a map.


What comes to Israel’s rapid “rising”. Israel got over million educated Soviet Jews, who were educated in Soviet Union, not in Israeli “Taleban schools” (Haredi schools).

Rapid Rise of Israel’s Orthodox Schools Sparks Fear of Army, Work Force Shortage
Study: One-Third of Jewish Students Will Receive Haredi Education in 2012
By Daphna Berman
Fri. Aug 03, 2007

PISA results tell us for example

Percentage of students at each proficiency level on the science scale
“Below Level 1
(below 334.94 score points)”
* Israel 14.9 %
* USA 7.9 %
* Finland 0.5 %
* OECD average 5.2 %.

Hmmmm indeed.

June 9th, 2008, 6:12 am


Zenobia said:

hmm. yeah, those are indeed interesting points. but no matter where you are- it takes educated people to educate young people, and to get those educators and to retain them has some cost to it. Efficiency is another matter. And, yes, the USA is famous for wasting incredible amounts of money on not very good systems.

Meanwhile, the USA also benefits from the entry of the cream of the crop of foreign students who are certainly the brightest and most motivated of their own countries. These people are some of the most driven student and then professionals we have. I witness this first hand- living near Silicon Valley. But as a percentage of their homeland population, they are a small number who make it.

June 9th, 2008, 6:39 am


AnotherIsraeliGuy said:

Thank you as always for making my point. Where did I ever claim that the Israeli education system does not need to improve? But as you yourself have proven, the DATA about how it is doing is there. We know what we have to improve. We know where we are weak. We criticize our system constantly.

My question is simple. Where is this data about Syria? Even this kind of data the regime does not allow to be collected and published. Even this very very basic freedom of speech is not available.

June 9th, 2008, 12:11 pm


Alex said:

AIG said,

“We criticize our system constantly.”

Acrually … THEY criticize their system constantly.

You praise it constantly.

Like the difference between asking a Haaretz writer a tough question, or asking AIPAC members the same tough question


So … Shai criticizes Israel constantly, but AIG … criticizes those who criticize Israel.

June 9th, 2008, 12:21 pm


Alex said:

Officials at the Kuwait Investment Authority (KIA) are holding talks in Syria to discuss “prospects for joint investment cooperation”, the state-run Kuwait News Agency said, citing Khaled al-Hassoun, a member of KIA’s delegation.

The report comes after a state visit to the Arab Gulf by Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, and demonstrates how sovereign funds, brimming with cash as oil prices soar, are diversifying their holdings.

Ties between Syria, where the state-dominated economy is opening more to foreign investment, and the U.S.-backed Kuwaiti government are good, although Syria has been under U.S. sanctions since its backing of what Washington sees as “terrorist groups” in the Middle East.

KIA had at least $213 billion of assets under management as of March 31 last year.

Kuwait has been leading a Gulf drive to explore investment opportunities in Syria.

Noor Investment has been discussing with the Damascus government building a 140,000 barrels per day refinery in eastern Syria, and the Kharafi conglomerate was recently awarded a 45-year build, operate and transfer contract for a 361 room Intercontinental hotel and shopping complex project in Damascus.

June 9th, 2008, 1:02 pm


AnotherIsraeliGuy said:

WE criticize our system constantly. Where have you seen me say that the Israeli education system does not need improvement?

ALL Israeli papers and media examine the Israeli education system very critically. After all, it is in the interest of all Israelis to improve it.

You said that the Syrian press can discuss many subjects. If it cannot even discuss the education system in Syria, what can it discuss? The fireworks in the Arab culture festival?

What can be more important than having a public discussion about the education system? But even that benign discussion is not possible under the Asad regime.

June 9th, 2008, 1:18 pm


Alex said:


Please read slowly
I did not claim that you said “that the Israeli education system does not need improvement”

I said that you do not criticize it. If you want to know what criticism is, refer back to the many Haaretz articles that SH posts here.

Instead, you keep telling us about how democracy makes things (including Israel’s education system) beautiful in Israel.

Forget what I am saying .. go back up in this post and look at your comments on Israel’s education systems before SH challenged you.

As for Syrian newspapers not discussing, and criticizing, Syria’s education system .. I am almost sure they do, often.

There is a lot of criticism in Syrian newspapers. They don’t criticize the president and his family, and they don’t criticize Arab leaders in general, and they probably do not criticize the role of the Baath party, and they don’t criticize Syria’s general foreign policy … but I think almost all other areas are subject to criticsm.

June 9th, 2008, 1:56 pm


Qifa Nabki said:

See below for more evidence that Hizbullah has more or less turned the ship around. The rest of Lebanon’s political parties have to get a clue or get out of the way. The Hizb is positioning itself to claim a victory from a diplomatic solution to Shebaa, and when it happens, they will reap a significant measure of political capital. This is just another example of HA being one step ahead of everyone else. What Hariri & co. did for half a year between Feb 14 ’05 (i.e. create a new political language that made the old habits and red lines seem irrelevant and outdated), Hizbullah has done consistently since August 2006.

And they’ll keep doing it all the way to the bank (i.e. elections 2009).

PS: (In case no one noticed, I’m trying a new ‘style’ on for size… heavily influenced by the George Will of Syria Comment, my friend Observer.)


Hizbullah Wants ‘Diplomatic Settlement’ of Shabaa Farms Dispute

Hizbullah has reportedly informed French President Nicolas Sarkozy during his brief visit to Lebanon over the weekend that the Shiite group “does not mind a diplomatic settlement” of the Israeli-occupied Shabaa Farms dispute.

The pan-Arab daily Al Hayat on Monday, citing sources close to the French-Hizbullah meeting during a ceremony in honor of Sarkozy at the Baabda Presidential Palace, said Hizbullah had informed the French President that the group “does not mind” a diplomatic settlement of the Shabaa Farms issue.

The sources said Sarkozy had asked Mohammed Raad, head of Hizbullah’s Loyal to the Resistance Bloc: “Do you believe Shabaa Farms could be liberated through diplomatic efforts?”

Lebanese sources told Al Hayat that the Shabaa Farms issue was discussed during talks between Sarkozy and President Michel Suleiman who saw an Israeli withdrawal from the area “would pave the way for a defense strategy agreement among the Lebanese and a settlement of the arms issue.”

The sources stressed that Sarkozy would tackle the Shabaa Farms issue during a June 21-24 visit to Israel and the Palestinian territories.

Beirut, 09 Jun 08, 10:44

June 9th, 2008, 2:08 pm


norman said:


One time when HA took over Beirut , you were very depressed , I told , Do not hate something it might be good for you ,

Do you think that now with Lebanon going the right way I was right.?

QN ,

If i were a lebanese i would very proud of HA , because they can lead Lebanon to a more essential role in the Mideast and organize Lebanon to make it more prosperous.

June 9th, 2008, 2:35 pm


AnotherIsraeliGuy said:

Let’s see Hizballah first agree that the only territorial dispute between Israel and Lebanon is the Sheba farms. That would be progress.

June 9th, 2008, 3:00 pm


Qifa Nabki said:

Ammo Norman

You’re right, I was depressed. Because it could have easily gotten completely out of hand. Luckily, it didn’t thanks to a number of factors: the Hizb is supremely disciplined; Walid Jumblatt wisely saw that he had lost completely and he surrendered almost immediately; Hariri’s “militia” was not much of a militia after all, and they were quickly neutralized; the Christians stayed out of it; and the Qataris stepped in quickly and solved the problem, at least temporarily.

So, in hindsight, you (and others like Naji, Alex, etc.) were right, because you were optimistic but cautious at the same time.

As I’ve said before, there are several things about the Hizb that I like and respect. There are also things that I find problematic about them, and frankly, distrust. (If I’m going to be disgusted at images from the Civil War of Christian militamen with icons of the Virgin Mary on their rifle stocks, I’m also going to be turned off every time Na`im Qassim calls the Jews “killers of the prophets”). But, I also feel that even the problematic things are solvable, if the regional conditions permit.

I think that Hizbullah could play a hugely positive role on Lebanese governance, because they have the moral authority and tactical intelligence to criticize corruption, and steer the country toward a more stable and just system. This assumes, of course, that their biggest sponsor (Iran) wants them to play such a role. I have to admit that I’ve become more willing to give Bashar the benefit of the doubt in this regard, whereas a few years ago it really didn’t look to me like Syria was interested in letting Hizbullah put down its weapons. Nowadays, it has become clear that the Hizb is too powerful to be anyone’s pawn, and Bashar has started moving in a direction (peace-wise) that will enable the Hizb to transition to full-time politics, so apparently Bashar is not threatened by this at all.

June 9th, 2008, 3:00 pm


Qifa Nabki said:


I think their official position is the following:

a) Withdrawl from Shebaa
b) Withdrawl from the Kfar Shuba hills
c) Withdrawl from Ghajar
d) Return of prisoners
e) Maps of landmines

June 9th, 2008, 3:08 pm


norman said:

There is nothing wrong with all these , Don’t you thing AIG.?

June 9th, 2008, 3:20 pm


AnotherIsraeliGuy said:

It is not clear what their official position is. If they make it clear, it will help move things along.

Syria could help a lot by sending a letter to the UN agreeing that Sheba etc. are not Syrian.

June 9th, 2008, 3:25 pm


Qifa Nabki said:

I’ve never quite understood the rationale for not demarcating the border.

Is it simply that Syria wants to avoid creating a situation whereby Israel could deny HA its pretext for resistance by withdrawing from the areas marked definitively Lebanese?

Or is there a different reason?

On this issue, by the way, M14 and the FPM speak as one. (Both sides want the border to be clearly demarcated).

June 9th, 2008, 3:32 pm


AnotherIsraeliGuy said:

“Is it simply that Syria wants to avoid creating a situation whereby Israel could deny HA its pretext for resistance by withdrawing from the areas marked definitively Lebanese?”

Yes. Isn’t it obvious? Israel would withdraw if the UN affirms the demarcated border because it committed to 425. And then Hizballah will be left with no excuses and no rational for attacking Israel. What use is it for Syria then?

June 9th, 2008, 3:36 pm


norman said:


i do not want to into whether the egg is first or the chicken,

I saw yesterday the movie: Do not miss with Zohan , it was hilarious and promising with a happy ending , you should see it AIG.

June 9th, 2008, 3:41 pm


Naji said:


I can’t believe it…?! We MUST know each other…!!! 67-73 is exactly the period I lived in Syria, and I lived in both T3 and Banias…!! Well, maybe from 1966 until the IPC was nationalized in 73, I believe… Before and after that period, I lived in England and then the US, until I came back to Syria in 93. I even went to that same cute little school in T3 for a couple of years…!! In Banias, I don’t think they had their own school… we went to the Catholic nun school, Rahbat al Wardieh…! Those were the best of days…!! We must get in touch… I’ll ask Alex for your email…

June 9th, 2008, 10:28 pm


norman said:


I am waiting for your Email.

June 10th, 2008, 1:53 am


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