Anwar al-Bunni Sentenced to 5 years in Prison - Syria Comment

Anwar al-Bunni Sentenced to 5 years in Prison

Anwar al-Bunni, Syria's leading human rights activist and lawyer, was sentenced to 5 years in prison on Tuesday.
SENTENCED: Syrian human rights activist Anwar Bunni (pictured) was sentenced April 24, 2007 to five years in prison by a Damascus criminal court for 'spreading false information.'
(REUTERS)
DAMASCUS —  Syrian human rights activist Anwar Bunni was Tuesday sentenced to five years in prison on charges of "spreading false information," his lawyer said.

Khalil Maatuk said his client was sentenced in a Damascus criminal court.

Bunni, himself a lawyer, was arrested in the Syrian capital in May 2006 after signing an appeal for radical reform in relations between Syria and neighboring Lebanon.

Syria's state prosecutor said in February that Bunni would be prosecuted for spreading false information.

Bunni was the director of a legal rights center in Syria, financed partly by the European Union and established by a Belgian non-governmental organization. The center was closed down after his arrest.

In a statement to the court in January, Bunni said he was being judged for his opinions and had in no way violated the Syrian constitution or the law.

The "Beirut-Damascus Declaration" published in the Lebanese capital in May 2006 was signed by nearly 300 Syrian and Lebanese intellectuals.

In a crackdown that followed in Syria, Bunni was arrested along with nine others, including journalist and writer Michel Kilo and communist activist Mahmoud Issa.

The best interview with Bunni remains Joe Pace's, published on Syria Comment in Aug 2005. Bunni lays out in detail his views on the Syrian opposition, the Kurdish issue, US foreign policy and how Syrians should work to change the situation in their country.

Anwar al-Bunni: Interview with Syria's leading  Here is a small quote from the long interview:

Pace: But there are people who are unwilling as a matter of principle to accept an American victory. How do you convince them that American pressure is in their interest?

Bunni: Those people are one element of many. There is no entity that wants to see an end to American interference more than the Syrian regime itself. But like I said, we need to exploit American pressure, not for the sake of American interests, but for the sake of achieving our own goals. And this is what the current opposition doesn’t understand. It doesn’t understand how to play the game. Even regards to people like Farid Ghadry—we have an expression in Syria: “better the dog bark with you than at you.” Let Farid bark with you. Don’t degrade him.

The opposition has no conception of how it is going to bring about these grand political changes. This is why I say they will collapse with the regime. They have no program; they have no role outside of opposing the regime’s existence. Who are they going to oppose after the regime’s collapse?

The regime’s political strategy depends on planting landmines throughout society. But the mine doesn’t explode if you place your leg on it—it explodes when you remove your leg from it. The regime planted the land mines then placed their legs on them so that if the regime goes, the society will explode. We can expect the same thing that happened in Lebanon to happen here. We suffer from the same problems of competing nationalisms, sectarianism, and extremism. So we are held hostage by a regime that says to us “if I leave, the world will end. You’ll suffer through civil war. Best leave me in place.”

We need to mobilize the people to build a new society and minimize the potential for this explosion. But nothing is free. No country can progress without paying a price, be it blood or civil war. Even America had to undergo civil war before it could become a great power—hundreds of people had to die. Europe had to suffer through the Second World War to become what it is today. Big changes require big prices. But we need to work to minimize the price we will have to pay for progress.

This is the role for foreign pressures—to enable people to mobilize and build a new society that will not explode as soon as the totalitarian boot is lifted. To allow people to build a society that will neutralize that landmine.

Addendum: Hassan Fatah and Hugh Naylor of the NYTimes write:

Bunni's attorneys and many analysts said, the verdict appeared to be a stark warning to the Syrian opposition.

"It was a message to the entire opposition movement: Pursue democracy, get punished," said Razan Zaitounah, an attorney on Bunni's defense team.

Witnesses said the courtroom was hushed as the judge read the verdict Tuesday morning, then erupted in shock at the harshness of the sentence.

"It's not a matter of what Anwar did; the regime is trying to send a message to the opposition movement, and that is: 'Shut up!,' " said Yassin Hajj Salih, a columnist and analyst linked to the opposition who attended the court session Tuesday. "The regime wants activists to be afraid, to be careful of what they do."

Comments (109)


K said:

Another mark of shame on the evil regime.

Al-Bunni will survive these years of hell, and he will come back stronger.

April 24th, 2007, 6:07 pm

 

Ford Prefect said:

Shameful day for Syria? Indeed. But imagine an authoritarian regime that is letting the world knows about it. At least there was a fake trial and a sentence. Similarly,across the Lebanese border, there are four Lebanese generals who have been languishing in prison since Sept 2005. Crime? No one knows. Sentence? No one knows. Shameful? You bet.

April 24th, 2007, 6:23 pm

 

Atassi said:

FP,
Please keep it clear. Syria and its citizens have nothing to do with this matter. It’s a shameful day for the REGIME ONLY…

April 24th, 2007, 6:50 pm

 

Alex said:

Joshua, I hate to say it, but this particular interview with Anwar, who is a wonderful man who dedicated his life to fighting for human rights, might have been one of the reasons for his arrest.

He said many wise things, but he also is justifying cooperation with this neocon administration?!… he is ok with cooperating with Ghadry!?…and he is willing to go through civil war to reach “democracy”!!

I guess I will repeat what I wrote yesterday … as much as I ma disappointed withe the backwardness of the Baathists, I am also disappointed in Syrian opposition.

If Anwar remained a strong regime critic, instead of finding these genius ways of overthrowing the regime, he would still be outside and he would be doing a lot of good to the cause of human rights, his specialty.

April 24th, 2007, 6:52 pm

 

Ford Prefect said:

Atassi, got you. I stand corrected. But I am, nevertheless, ashamed of this episode.

April 24th, 2007, 6:56 pm

 

Bakri said:

La Illaha IlAllah

April 24th, 2007, 6:57 pm

 

Ford Prefect said:

Alex, I hear you, but whatever he said, whatever he thought, or whatever he envisioned belongs to him and he has a right of saying it. The trial and the prison sentence that followed for what he said is a violation of a basic human right.

April 24th, 2007, 7:03 pm

 

bilal said:

This is the Syrian Regime and this is what the opposition are fighting. This has to stop but will never stop as long as this regime dare do such actions without being prosecuted himself. We the Syrians should judge and take action against such a regime before any one else does.

April 24th, 2007, 7:08 pm

 

K said:

Ugarit and Ford Prefect,

You are enforcers of the regime-set “red line”: bringing into discussion the sectarian Alawite nature of the “secular” Ba’thist regime. Repressing discussion of Syrian sectarianism allows you to fantasize that your system is superior to confessional Lebanon. Well, it ain’t gonna fly.

The regime is not ideological, it is purely survival oriented. “Ba’thism” is fascistic, but it’s a fascistic relic. Quaint. In reality the regime is sectarian, tribal and despotic in nature (and has gotten even more so under Asad II than Asad I). It persecutes minorities and discriminates against them. It is more than willing to coopt Islamic fundamentalism and rely on it for popular legitimacy and support. (Arabism never existed without an Islamist component, but this truer today than ever before.) And the regime very happily forms alliances with Muslim fanatics, Sunni or Shi’a, Iranian, Lebanese, Palestinian or Iraqi.

So all you so-called Arab nationalists, spare me the condescension you hold for the Kurdish and Islamic sectors of the Syrian opposition, and the nonsectarian forces who work with them.

Alex, and others:

You want the oppostion groups to: relinquish any cultural, national, or sectarian identity. And to cut ties with foreign movements and nations who help them. Yet you hold the regime to a much lower standard, even though the regime is the powerful party in this struggle, and the opposition is mostly powerless.

April 24th, 2007, 7:13 pm

 

Ford Prefect said:

K,
It is superior to Lebanon’s mess. And it is flying.

April 24th, 2007, 7:21 pm

 

Bakri said:

FP,those who call themselves the pro syria forces in lebanon …are in fact those who hate the most the syrian people..

I challenge you to find a big number of syrian workers or syro lebanese marriage in their regions as you can see between the lebanese you are attacking….it’s even more deep than that, most of 14 march supporters have syrian relatives or are of syrian origin.

And i agree with K,the syrian regime is using arab nationalism as cover to hide his sectarian nature.This regime is ready to sell all in Syria in exchange to remain more years in power,and it can only survive through international good will and this is what the israelis want as neighbor regime.

April 24th, 2007, 8:06 pm

 

Alex said:

FP,

Of course I agree .. but I don’t feel I need to repeat the obvious… nobody needs an “Alex” on a blog to be politically correct and cautious in every comment. I know what I stand for, besides, no matter what I say, K and G will read it the wrong way.

K,

I am an engineer. I have studied the system we have over there called “Syria” along with the way it interfaces with the other systems called Lebanon, Iraq, Isreal ..etc.

I see the state of that system today, and I also have data on that system for the past 30 years .. ever since I was following up on politics from age 11.

There are some easy conclusions that we can draw from the data:

Fact: No matter how many powerful countries tried to gang up with whatever internal forces (Kurds, Muslim Brotherhood …) they could not overthrow the Syrian regime …

Fact: the more pressure you put on the regime the more stubborn it becomes and the more they slow down reforms… otherwise the pressure does nto produce positive results.. it only makes those putting pressure feel significant, or feel like they embarrassed the regime outside Syria.

Fact: Regime critics who know the limits of what the regime tolerates, last longer and their criticism SOMETIMES (unlike the “opposition”‘s which almost never) produce positive results.

Fact: The opposition members are just like the regime members .. a collection of the good the bad and the ugly… being “opposition” is not a certificate of wisdom and maturity.

I refuse to be asked to feel ashamed if I ever criticize something an opposition member says or does. They are humans too and they make mistakes, they could be self-centered … we don’t need the hypocrisy.

April 24th, 2007, 8:16 pm

 

Bakri said:

Alex,Relativizing asad crimes will lead u to nowhere…if u add more years of asad regime ,will the syrian people change and became the model you like it to be …?when the opposite is happening .
Alex ,we believe that the regime was an israeli american creation…and this the reason of its longevity.

More the asad regime remains ,more syria will be explosive.

April 24th, 2007, 8:42 pm

 

Alex said:

Bakri, if the regime is an Israeli American creation (a popular story that the opposition likes to tell) then how do you explain the 1973 war? the 1982 Israeli invasion that destroyed Syrian air force? the on and off boycott of the regime? (Reagan’s 8 years, the past 7 years)

And I would like you to read this one from the Jerusalem Post, so that you understand what Syria needs to be concerned with … with all due respect to the “we need democracy now” alarms.

MSK, please read about the “Syrian” Kurds and tell me your opinion again.

Column One: Fighting the next war
Caroline Glick, THE JERUSALEM POST Apr. 19, 2007

Last Friday, Haaretz’s military commentator Ze’ev Schiff accused the Barak and Sharon governments of responsibility for last summer’s war. As Schiff put it, since the IDF withdrawal from southern Lebanon in May 2000, “a threatening system [comprised of Hizbullah, Syria and Iran] arose [on Israel’s northern border], which required a preemptive strike. The aversion to conducting such a strike eventually caused the war.”
Schiff’s analysis is correct. But since it stops short of drawing lessons for the present dangers, it is largely useless. Today, due to the Olmert-Livni-Peretz government’s failure in the last war, we stand at the brink of the next one. And in the next war, the main enemy will be Syria, which will fight in conjunction with Hizbullah and the Palestinians and under Iranian guidance.
Syria has been openly preparing for war since the last summer. And in the space of the past week alone, the Syrians twice announced their intention to attack Israel. On Monday, Syria’s Propaganda Minister Mohsen Bilal threatened that if Israel doesn’t fully implement the Arab plan which calls for its retreat to the 1949 armistice lines and acceptance of millions of Arab immigrants, Syria will go to war. On Wednesday, Syrian dictator Bashar Assad said, “We always prepare ourselves. Israel is a fierce enemy. We have seen nothing from it but harm.”
A constructive Israeli policy for contending with Syria must be based on a clear understanding of both Syria’s interests and our own.
First there are Syria’s war preparations. Many note optimistically that Syria has not moved its tanks to the border. But why would it?
Syria has no intention of fighting a conventional war against Israel. The war that Syria is planning will bear greater similarity to the insurgency in Iraq and Hizbullah’s war last summer than to Syria’s previous wars with Israel.
In the midst of last summer’s war, Assad announced the formation of a new terror force tasked with infiltrating and attacking targets on the Golan Heights. The Syrian order of battle also includes a highly trained commando division; a massive artillery force capable of wreaking destruction on the Golan Heights and the Galilee; Scud ballistic missiles with ranges covering all of Israel; and chemical warheads that can be fitted on the Scuds.
This week CBN broadcast satellite footage of three hardened Syrian missile facilities outside of Homs and Hama. Syria aims to bleed Israel in order to force subsequent Israeli political concessions.
Syria has good reasons to go to war with Israel. Its forced departure from Lebanon in 2005 humiliated and weakened the regime both politically and economically. The regime views an achievement on the Golan Heights as a way to make up for the shame.
Moreover, Hizbullah’s achievements in last summer’s war challenge Syria to demonstrate that it too can humiliate Israel. It is also notable that June 11 will mark the fortieth anniversary of Israel’s liberation of the Golan Heights.
Rather than contend with the Syrian challenge, the Olmert-Livni-Peretz government has opted to ignore it. In his appearance before the Knesset’s Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee on Wednesday, Prime Minister Ehud Olmert said, “We have no intention of attacking Syria.”
He added, “The assessment of all of Israel’s assessment bodies is that Syria is deploying defensively in line with a scenario of an attack against them. But we are also preparing for a situation where we are surprised.”
The gist of Olmert’s statements is that he is unwilling to decide how to deal with the Syrian threat. He would rather be “surprised” by the Syrians than prevent surprises by crafting an Israeli policy that would defend Israel’s interests and preempt Syrian aggression.
The Israeli Left maintains that the only way to prevent war is by holding peace talks with Syria that will lead to an Israeli withdrawal from the Golan Heights. But former national security adviser Maj. Gen. (ret.) Giora Eiland explained in a recent lecture at the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs that under current conditions, in contrast to the Left’s protestations, an Israeli withdrawal from the Golan Heights, even in return for a peace treaty, would increase the chance of war with Syria, and decrease Israel’s chances of winning the war. Syria would have little reason to abide by the agreement after an Israeli withdrawal and Israel would lack international support to enforce the agreement after Syria breached it.
Rather than preemptively surrendering, Israel’s strategic aims should be to degrade Syria’s capacity to harm it and to change the Syrian regime’s assessment of the attractiveness of attacking Israel.
Any plan to reduce Syria’s capacity for aggression against Israel should properly begin with Schiff’s analysis of last summer’s war in Lebanon. Given the nature of the gathering threat, it makes sense to consider a preemptive strike on Syria’s terror training camps, its missile sites and artillery bases. Such a strike should be guided by the lessons from the last war regarding the limitations of air power. Air strikes had limited results against hardened targets and they exposed Israel’s flank to anti-Israel propagandists in the media war.
Changing Syria’s cost-benefit analysis of war with Israel involves going beyond the military realm. To impact Syria’s decision-making loop, Israel must also consider the economic and political realities facing the Assad regime.
Syria is an economic basket case. In a study of the Syrian economy published this week, the Middle East Media Research Institute (MEMRI) noted that since the US-led invasion of Iraq, some one million Iraqis have fled to Syria. Rather than stimulate economic growth, due to the corruption and economic incompetence of the regime, the population inflow has simply caused massive inflation. Aside from this, Syria’s oil revenues are steadily declining. US and EU economic sanctions instituted in recent years have made it impossible for Syria to receive financial credits or significantly expand its international trade. Today the regime can barely provide basic services to the population.
Syria’s economic weakness undermines the regime’s political stability. Another factor undermining that stability is the restive Kurdish minority in northeast Syria. The Kurds, who comprise twenty percent of Syria’s overall population, already staged an uprising against the regime in May 2004.
Today, Syria’s Kurds are inspired by their brethren in Iraq to work to achieve their rights. Like the Iraqi Kurds, the Syrian Kurds, who have good relations with their Arab compatriots, do not demand independence. Rather they seek to transform Syria from a centralized totalitarian state into a federated democracy.
Two weeks ago a conference of Iraqi, Syrian, Turkish and Iranian Kurds took place in Irbil, Iraq. Massoud Barzani, the President of Iraqi Kurdistan, spelled out the Kurdish view of Israel in an interview with Al Arabiya.
In his words, “If [Iraq] establish[es] relations [with Israel] we will do so publicly. There is no reason for these relations to be kept secret, because we are neither afraid nor ashamed of such relations.”
Barzani attacked the Iranians, Hizbullah and Palestinians for supporting Israel’s destruction, explaining, “I am against driving Israel into the sea…. This policy is wrong, illogical, and unreasonable. Why annihilate a people?”
Sherkoh Abbas, who heads the Kurdistan National Assembly of Syria from his home in the US, participated in the conference. In a recent conversation he explained, “Most Syrian Kurds…have views similar to President Barzani. As Kurds we can say that we have no issues with Israel; in fact we are against the desire of the Ba’ath party, the Muslim Brotherhood or terrorists to destroy Israel…
“The Kurds did not suffer by the hands of Israelis or Jews. All or most of their sufferings were caused by Arabs, Persians and Turks. In Syria, the Ba’ath regime Arabized the Kurdish region, stripped 300,000 Kurds of Syrian citizenship, and killed many Kurds.…. We do not want to fight for the Syrian regime.”
The Kurds’ desire to replace the current regime with a democratic federal government is backed by the Syrian Reform Party, an exile group with strong ties to the population in Syria. Farid Ghadry, a Washington-based Syrian exile who heads the party, believes that the Kurdish federal plan is the best way to bring freedom to Syria.
The interests of the Kurds and the other regime opponents align with Israel’s interests in many ways. First, Israel will benefit greatly if they achieve their aim of democratizing Syria and protecting minority rights by decentralizing authority while maintaining the territorial integrity of the country.
Centralized governments throughout the Arab world are the primary fulminators of Arab hatred of Israel. These regimes require a constant drumbeat of incitement against Israel to deflect their people’s attention from their failure to provide basic services. Decentralized governments would have difficulty blaming the Jews for their failures.
There is widespread fear in Israel that if Assad’s regime is overthrown, it will be replaced by the Muslim Brotherhood. This makes sense given that for the past 30 years, the Ba’athists ensured that the Muslim Brotherhood is the only other force in the country with organizational and financial means. But even so, strengthening the Kurds – who oppose jihad – will counterbalance the Muslim Brotherhood, whether or not the regime falls.
Turkey, too, fears Kurdish separatism. But Israeli support for the advancement of legitimate Syrian Kurdish rights through the cultivation of democratic federalism rather than secession, should not concern Ankara.
One of the reasons the Olmert-Livni-Peretz government is taking the Arab “peace plan” seriously in spite of the fact that it is inherently hostile to Israel is because the government is desperate to find allies against the Iran-Syria-Hizbullah axis. The trouble with this gambit is that the Sunni countries involved in the initiative act as the Iranian-Syrian-Lebanese-Palestinian axis’s support network against Israel. The Saudis and their colleagues have no interest in helping Israel.
In contrast, the Kurds are natural allies for Israel with overlapping interests and values. They would be happy to receive Israeli media and financial support. And, if at the same time as Israel helped broadcast Kurdish language television and radio into Syria, it also provided the Kurds with arms to defend themselves against Syrian aggression, the move could potentially alter Syria’s cost-benefit analysis of war with Israel.
Even if the Syrians open hostilities, arming the Kurds would likely muddy the waters in a manner that would cause serious harm to Syria’s war-making capacity. How well would Syria contend with the IDF if it were simultaneously trying to put down a popular rebellion? And how long would the regime survive in the aftermath of such a war?
Studying past wars is always worthwhile. But today we must prepare for the next one.
There is an Israeli strategy for victory. If we conduct a military strike that degrades Syria’s ability to harm us while economically weakening the regime still further and politically supporting an oppressed, large, pro-Israel minority, perhaps we could avert war altogether.
At the very least, if war comes, we would win.
________________________________________
This article can also be read at http://www.jpost.com/servlet/Satellite?cid=1176152838812&pagename=JPost%2FJPArticle%2FShowFull

April 24th, 2007, 8:52 pm

 

Bakri said:

Alex:I refuse to be asked to feel ashamed if I ever criticize something an opposition member says or does. They are humans too and they make mistakes, they could be self-centered … we don’t need the hypocrisy.

Alex,Syrian people deserve freedom…but you should taste the moukhabarati injustice alone and a special mini moukhabarati regime should be imposed on u and i hope that they will not commit more than 1% of what your friends did against the syrian people.

Alex to hell this system to hell !!!

April 24th, 2007, 9:01 pm

 

K said:

Alex,

The regime is not as invincible and immutable as you say.

We in Lebanon set an example for how to score a victory against the regime: massive popular demonstrations coupled with the diplomatic support of the international community. I hope the Syrian people, and other peoples living under tyranny, follow our example. Lebanon’s independence movement extends a hand of friendship and support to the Syrian people in this bitter struggle. We put our experience, our international connections, and our free press at their disposal.

We didn’t achieve our nonviolent revolution overnight. Along the way we suffered terrorization, beatings, arbitrary arrests, police brutality, closure of media outlets, torture, disappearances, propaganda campaigns, threats, humiliation, assassinations… much as Syrian freedom-lovers suffer now. For many years, we struggled all alone, without any international back-up. This was the dark era of US-Syrian detente, at Lebanon’s expense. But times changed, and I am proud that Lebanon seized the historical moment to liberate itself from Syrian rule.

One day the stars will similarly align themselves in favor of the Syrian opposition. The Syrian people must be ready for this moment, and organize relentlessly until this moment comes, domestically and abroad. Even on the eve of its demise, the regime might appear eternally invincible, as Alex perceives it. Then it will disappear forever.

April 24th, 2007, 9:25 pm

 

Bakri said:

Alex=Bakri, if the regime is an Israeli American creation (a popular story that the opposition likes to tell) then how do you explain the 1973 war? the 1982 Israeli invasion that destroyed Syrian air force? the on and off boycott of the regime?

If creation might be excessive at least they contributed to streghten it ,you said reagan ?It was during reagan era when the petro dollars have flown in Syria.(more than one billion US dollars per year in syria regime’s pockets ).And it was during reagan era that the world have closed its eyes on hama massacre.
Until 1973 ,the syrian army had in it ,valuable officers and hafez was obliged to play the game but what really happened in this war ? Syria had lost more lands than in 1967…and then after his gentleman’s deal with henry kissinger, hafez asad had suddenly purged the syrian army from well experienced”non baathi or non alawite” elements in 1974 .
Unfortunately after kissinger asad deal of 1974 this policy of sectarian selection was transfered to the universities and all the official institutions and specially in economic fields when well skilled people were replaced by nearly illiterates corrupt baathists… .Before this date the syrian GDP growth was arround 10 % per year…..and then you know the result ….

April 24th, 2007, 9:29 pm

 

bilal said:

Alex:

Don’t tell me that the Israelis are not supporting the Syrian Regime. Yes they did not support the Assad Senior but definitely they are supporting the Junior guy at least for the past year. This is a proven fact and if you can not at least see this then no wonder you have such ideas with all due respect.
Please Alex you are surprising me every day. Today the weak and boycotted regime of Bashar is the ideal regime to lead Syria for Israel. I do not know in what business you are but don’t you like to see your competitor weak, isolated, committing mistakes every day and bankrupt subject to legal prosecution any day. What kind of threat does he have for Israel? If you do not see this unfortunately Israel have and they all agree that they are along with Iran the only 2 powers supporting Bashar
We can clearly see this by the overwhelmed effort on the part of Bashar to desperately open peace negotiation with Israel forfeiting all if not most of our previous gains. He is ready even to start negotiation without the prior condition that he is asking for the Golan back. This is what Foreign Minister Al-Muallem has said months ago. Can you believe how desperate he has become?
If it wasn’t for the Israeli support things would have been different by now.

April 24th, 2007, 9:46 pm

 

Alex said:

K,

Again, the day a million Syrians will demonstrate against the regime like they did in Lebanon, will be when you can make assumptions about how the Syrian people feel about their regime. Until then, you will have to accept what most foreign reporters in Damascus concluded: the regime is very popular in Syria.

Please do not project your opinions on Syrians. And please do not extrapolate from the opinions of those who hate the regime.

The regime was not popular in 2005 I will agree … now it is popular. Why? America lost its moral authority, democracy became a dirty word, the Lebanes M14 group lost the initial sympathy they got after Hariri’s assassination, and the Syrian regime proved it is the toughest and most independent one in the Middle East. Economic reforms are starting to show real results, and Syria is stabel and safe and is helping Iraqi an Lebanese war refugees.

Please, you will help us more if you let the people decide without this moral “fighting tyranny” noise from outside. Let things go naturally, if and when it boils, you will see the Syrians in the streets demonstrating against the regime… THEN your support will be appreciated.

For now, we have more important things to deal with, believe me.

Bakri,

What can I say? … again you would like me to accept your imagined stories to be facts?

Did Reagan ever meet Hafez during those 8 years? did his foreign minister George Shultz visit Syria from 1984 to 1988? Did Alexander Haig say any thing positive about Syria for 8 years? try reading this TIME magazine article as a reminder of what happened in the 80’s … it is a lesson for those who want to repeat the same thing today.. 25 years later… there was as Israeli invasion of Lebanon, some Lebanese who secretly encouraged Israel to attack Syria, a Hard line American administration .. and the usual Syrian regime which never changed its long term positions regarding what is required from Israel in order to have peace in the Middle East.

And from 1985 onward (for years), Syria got almost zero foreign aid, for your information…. get your hands on UN reports and you’ll see.

April 24th, 2007, 10:12 pm

 

ausamaa said:

What is so devastitingly new??!! Have you “innocent” guys blundered on something we did not about?

If a Critic comes in (at a time of extreme threats being directed at the country either from the Bush Admin, from Israel, from France or from the clowns of 14 Feb), and like Al Bunni above declares the following:

“The regime’s political strategy depends on planting landmines throughout society. But the mine doesn’t explode if you place your leg on it—it explodes when you remove your leg from it. The regime planted the land mines then placed their legs on them so that if the regime goes, the society will explode.”

Then what sort of action would you expect the Syrian authorities to take???

Give him a medal? Put him live on Syrian TV?

Come on guys, if you are judging Syria by Switzerland standards, you may have a point! If you live in our world, you would definitly know better!

I for one, not a Ba’athist, not a government employee, and not a state benificiary -belive it or not-, I, as someone who lived most of his live outside Syria and who considers himself to be a bit more liberal than the given average, when I read Bunni’s remarks above, two things came to my mind: 1) this man is asking for it! and 2) why the hell did he have to say those things in such a way at such a time?

If you tell me the remarks were a product of bravery and heroisem, I would definitly say: BS, no it is not. Stupid meaningless political suicide or “somethingelse” is more like it!

And then I will start questioning both the reasoning powers of such man, and his other motives -regardless if he has or does not have undeclared motives-, and I would then reach a range of conclusions most of which would not be complemetary to Al Bunni’s ability or intentions!

Come on, this is not Switzerland, we all know this, we all are trying to change things to the better, but do not put a live stick of explosives in your mouth and light it up and then blame the medics for arriving late.

There are many ways of skinning the cat. Was his the most appropriate at such times like those when we Syrians do not really know wether the cruise missiles would come from Israel side or from Iraq side?

Ask yourself, would you do the same if you were in his place? Would you trust or identify with such a “brave” or “suicidal” or “confrontational” or a “miscalculating” or a “something else” type with leading you to the better and democratic society we all aspire to have?

Sorry, but I wont! Not with a country of twenty million people! Execuse me, but No, I wont!

April 24th, 2007, 10:23 pm

 

K said:

Bakri and Bilal,

I happen to be closer to Alex on the Israel-supports-Syria theory. The Israel-Syria relationship is similar to Israel-Arafat. Sure, the Israelis are happy to have incompetent enemies – but they still regard them as serious enemies and as real threats. As the JP article shows, above.

Alex,

Why wouldn’t the Kurds strategically ally with Israel? They share mutual enemies, who have been utterly oppressive of Kurds. After all, the Mideast is a “rough neighborhood” as you like to remind us when excusing regime criminality. In this context, should the Kurds make alliances on the basis of purely moral considerations? And how many other nations have extended assistance to them?

The Kurdish cause is comparable to the Palestinian cause by any fair measure, yet it is ignored or treated with derision in Arab nationalist circles, and Kurds with racism in many Arab countries (as well as Turkey and Iran). They have been betrayed and conspired against repeatedly, leading to their militancy and willingness to ally with the devil if necessary.

I strongly recommend the intense interview with Barazani from MEMRI, quoted above. http://memritv.org/ (clip #1423)

April 24th, 2007, 10:30 pm

 

Bakri said:

And also ya Alex ,the baathi Elie Cohen used the same anti zionist rhetoric of hafez and bashar…so dont be fooled by slogans and It was reported that Alexander Haig was caught praising hafez asad for what he did in Hama.
Syria before the baath was a wonderful dynamic society and Syria’s surface was 183 000 Km2 today why our lands are sold and our people is becoming more and more weak ?the pain of Syria and regime’s corruption is that what make the israelis unhappy ?The only winner are the extremist israelis and the syrian regime…

April 24th, 2007, 10:32 pm

 

Bakri said:

K:I happen to be closer to Alex on the Israel-supports-Syria theory. The Israel-Syria relationship is similar to Israel-Arafat. Sure, the Israelis are happy to have incompetent enemies – but they still regard them as serious enemies and as real threats. As the JP article shows, above.

K,they are not a serious threat ,but the less bad choice in the israeli opinion… ,a free syrian people as neighbors will be more serious situation for them.And now the israelis regret the syrian withdrawal from Lebanon.
All the weapons of the syrian regime are orientated toward the syrian cities not toward the occupied Golan.

And if during the next few months or years a new war happens between syria and isral which is probable ,it will end by an another under table grant of land swap in which the syrian regime gains a new justificative for its repressive internal policy.

April 24th, 2007, 10:49 pm

 

K said:

A large, high-ranking Syrian delegation of 40 generals on secret mission to Tehran

DEBKAfile Exclusive
April 23, 2007, 1:27 PM (GMT+02:00)

Led by Maj. Gen. Yahya L. Solayman, War Planning chief at the Syrian armed forces General Staff, the delegation represents all branches of the Syrian armed forces. On their arrival on April 18, the Syrian officers went straight into conference with Iranian defense minister Brig. Gen. Mostafa Mohammad-Najjar, Revolutionary Commanders chief Maj. Gen. Yahya Rahim-Safavi and dep. chief of staff Maj. Gen. Hassani Sa’di, who is Iran’s chief of military war preparations. The Syrian visitors were taken around RG and armed forces training installations and given a display of the latest Iranian weapons systems, including stealth missiles, electronic warfare appliances and undersea missiles and torpedoes. They also visited the big Imam Ali training base in N. Tehran, where hundreds of Lebanese Hizballah and Palestinian Hamas and Jihad Islami terrorists are taking courses.

In Washington and Jerusalem, there is little doubt that the two allies timed the Syrian delegation’s mission to Tehran as a rejoinder to US defense secretary Robert Gates’ Middle East tour last week.

Israel sees four causes for concern:

1. The unusually large size of the Syrian delegation and the presence of operations officers from the various army corps.

2. The elevated positions of the Iranian officials hosting the Syrians: the top men with responsibility for preparing the RGs and armed forces for armed conflict.

US and Israeli intelligence experts agreed in their talks during Gates’ two-day visit to Israel last week on the object of the Syrian mission: to tighten operational coordination at the highest level between the Syria military and Iran’s armed forces and Revolutionary Guards.

3. The installations and weapons shown the Syrian officers. The intelligence estimate is that they saw the weapons systems soon to be consigned by Iran to the Syrian army and Hizballah, as well as the types of assistance pledged for Syria in the event of a military showdown with the United States or Israel. Syrian-Iranian consultations must also be presumed to have cleared the routes by which these weapons would reach Syria and Hizballah in a military contingency.

During the 2006 Hizballah-Israel war, Iran ran an airlift to Damascus through Turkish airspace and over the Mediterranean.

4. The unusual length of the visit. Monday, April 23 the Syrian officers were still busy in Tehran after six days and showed no sign of leaving.

April 24th, 2007, 10:51 pm

 

Alex said:

K,

Why shouldn’t the Kurds cooperate with Israel against the Syrians? because their people will suffer … in Syria, Iraq and Turkey. They can’t win .. will Israel send them troops to Qamishli? will Israel send F16’s to bomb the Turkish army which will go into northern Iraq to deliver a bloody punishment to the Kurds for Barazani’s foolishness?

But if you want moral reasons, remember that for the longest time (80’s and 90’s) Hafez was the only one who protected ALL their leaders who were hunted by both Saddam and Turkey. What did he get out of it? as soon as the Americans promised them help in carving out a “Kurdistan” .. they turned to the ISraelis against the Syrians.

Few months ago I wrote here in Syria comment the story I heard from Jihad Elkhazen about 1996 or 1997 when he was asked by Turkish leaders to tell Hafez elAssad that they are ready to make a deal .. give Syria what it wants in terms of the water rights to the Euphrates, in exchange for delivering Kurdish leader Occalan. Hafez did not even meet with Jihad .. instead Khaddam met with him and explained that president Assad “does not stab his friends in the back”

Two years later Turkey was about to invade Syria, and Assad eventually had to give them Occalan… for nothing.

Remember two months ago when the Iraqi president (Talabani, a kurd) visited Syria and expressed his gratitude for everything Syria did for his Kurdish people? he said that he will never be able to pay Syria back for what it did for them… and he visited the grave of Hafez Assad in Qurdaha to pay his respect to his specifically.

April 24th, 2007, 10:51 pm

 

Bakri said:

As they did for Iraq in the past ,the military power of Iran is being exaggerated.Will they repeat the lie that Iran is the number 4 army in the world ?

April 24th, 2007, 10:54 pm

 

Adam said:

Bunni said in the interview:

But like I said, we need to exploit American pressure, not for the sake of American interests, but for the sake of achieving our own goals. And this is what the current opposition doesn’t understand. It doesn’t understand how to play the game. Even regards to people like Farid Ghadry—we have an expression in Syria: “better the dog bark with you than at you.” Let Farid bark with you. Don’t degrade him.

It is unlikely that even a democracy would even allow Bunni to get away with what he had said. Imagine for a moment that an American citizen saying “We need to exploit Soviet pressure on the US, not for the sake of the Soviet Union, but for the sake of achieving our own goals” Once you’ve done that you’ve sold your self.

April 24th, 2007, 11:20 pm

 

bilal said:

Alex:

You said “you will have to accept what most foreign reporters in Damascus concluded: the regime is very popular in Syria.”
Those reportes have to write this as otherwise they will not be permitted to visit Syria again if the write the truth. There is a long list of forbidden reporters that proove this.

“Please do not project your opinions on Syrians. And please do not extrapolate from the opinions of those who hate the regime.”

Alex, didn’t you notice that those who hate this Regime is an all time high and increasing by the day? Yes we should not listen to those who hate the regime but what if they are Syrians? We have to listen to them then.

K:
Yes there should be more cooperation between Syrian opposition and and some Lebaneese group to gain from their experience. Already the NSF has met Mr. Jumblatt in DC and I hope more to follow.

April 25th, 2007, 12:05 am

 

Alex said:

Bilal,

Ask Joshua about the private email he got from Alix, an Italian Editor of La Repubblica telling him her real impressions after she interviewed Bashar. Here it is.

And didn’t you notice that those who hate this Regime is an all time high and increasing by the day?

Bilal, in the west (democracies) politicians can not just go on making up statements they can not back up. You want to be an attractive option against the regime, do some more homework please before every statement you make.

April 25th, 2007, 1:03 am

 

bilal said:

A nice article I just read on free-syria.com

It is worth reading. I hope Alex will.

الانتخابات والحريات العامة
والمنطق الرسمي السوري

د. نجيب الغضبان*

قرار محكمة الجنايات بسجن الناشط والمحامي الأستاذ أنور البني لمدة خمس سنوات يُكمل في توقيته الانتخابات التشريعية التي وصفها وزير الداخلية السوري بأنها كانت تتويجاً “للتجربة الديمقراطية” الفريدة في سورية. نعم فقط سورية-الأسد تتفرد بجملة من التناقضات الصارخة التي جعلت منها منطقة عصية على الفهم من كثير من أولي الألباب، لا في الدول الديمقراطية الغربية فحسب، بل وحتى في المنطقة العربية المتأخرة في معايير الديمقراطية وحقوق الإنسان عالمياً. وللدلالة على ما نقول فبإمكان القارئ متابعة تعليقات القراء العرب على المقالات والأخبار المنشورة على المواقع الالكترونية حول الشأن السوري، ليروا استهجان المعلقين—من غير السوريين- للمنطق السوري الرسمي الذي تفتقت عبقرية مسؤولي النظام عنه. وفيما يلي أمثلة عن تناقضات منطق النظام الأسدي، كما تكشفت عبر الأيام الماضية:
أولاً، بينما تعني الانتخابات في بقية أنحاء المعمورة إعطاء فرصة للمواطنين لاختيار حكامهم وممثليهم، فإن الهدف الأساسي للانتخابات البرلمانية السورية الإتيان بـ 250 شخص، من المنتسبين لحزب البعث والأحزاب الهلامية الأخرى المنضوية تحت يافطة “الجبهة الوطنية التقدمية”، وبعض “المستقلين” للتصديق على فترة رئاسية جديدة لبشار الأسد. عنوان الحملة السورية للتمديد للوريث بشار هو “تجديد البيعة”، أما الخطاب والإعلانات والتسويق والمفردات فيتم الإعداد لها من قبل فئة من المتحذلقين والمنافقين المحترفين، هذه الفئة الموهوبة من الكائنات الحية لا تزدهر إلا في أجواء الحزب القائد والأحكام العرفية ومتطلبات الصمود والممانعة. ولمن يخالفنا هذا التقويم، فإننا نضع تحدياً أمام أعضاء المجلس القادم، وهو أن يعترض عضو واحد على ترشيح بشار الأسد لفترة ثانية، وذلك لإثبات أن “ممثلي الشعب” هؤلاء بشر طبيعيون كغيرهم، من طبائعهم الاختلاف.
ثانياً، بينما تترافق الانتخابات في كافة أنحاء العالم مع توسيع هامش الحريات العامة، تقوم محكمة الجنايات بإطلاق حكم السجن على أحد رموز النشطاء الحقوقيين، لأنه وقع على إعلان دمشق-بيروت/بيروت-دمشق، الأمر الذي يجعل الأستاذ البني رمزاً لسجناء الرأي بامتياز. وقبل أيام من الانتخابات، قامت المحكمة التي تنظر في قضية المفكر الأستاذ ميشيل كيلو بإلغاء الجلسة المخصصة للاستماع إلى قضيته، وذلك لوجود وفد من المحامين العرب والدوليين الذي حضروا إلى دمشق للتضامن مع المفكر المعتقل. وقد سجلت المحكمة في ذلك سابقة في انصياعها الفج للسلطات الأمنية التي كانت تخشى الإحراج أمام الوفد الزائر، وفي هذا مخالفة صارخة لمبدأ الفصل بين السلطات الذي يتجسد عادة في أيام الانتخابات، بقيام السلطة القضائية بمراقبة العملية الانتخابية للتأكد من نزاهتها وحياد السلطة التنفيذية تجاهها.
ثالثاً، وبدل أن يكون أنور البني وميشيل كيلو وكمال اللبواني وعارف دليلة وغيرهم من النشطاء في الداخل والخارج على قوائم المرشحين لانتخابات مجلس الشعب، وحتى المنافسة على منصب الرئاسة، تتسرب تقارير عن زيادة التضييق وإساءة المعاملة للأفاضل المذكورين، حتى أن سبع منظمات حقوقية من داخل سورية تحذر من تدهور الحالة الصحية لبعضهم، وفي هذا مسايرة لأجواء الانتخابات ودعوة “الشعب” ليقول كلمته في حكامه وأدائهم. ولأن التهم الموجهة للنشطاء والمفكرين لاتستند إلى أساس قانوني في باقي دول العالم، فهي قضايا تندرج تحت حرية التعبير والرأي، فقد انفجرت عبقرية الإدعاء السوري، باستخدام تهمة “نشر أخبار كاذبة من شأنها وهن عزيمة الأمة”! كم هي محظوظة هذه الأمة بأجهزة الأمن السورية التي تسهر على “عزيمتها”، وهي تدعو ليلاً ونهاراً للقائمين على المخابرات السورية لأنها تعاقب هؤلاء “المثبطين”، فلولا النظام السوري لخارت عزيمة الأمة، وامتهنت كرامتها من قبل الحاقدين والمعادين، لكن الله سلم.
رابعاً، في دول العالم الطبيعية تتمثل أحد وظائف الانتخابات في تقوية الوحدة الوطنية، وتمتين البيت الداخلي في وجه الأعداء والمحتلين. لكن الطريقة التي تتدخل فيها أجهزة الأمن في العملية الانتخابية في التلاعب بين مكونات المجتمع السوري وإقصاء النشطاء من طوائف معينة لصالح عملاء من طائفة أخرى، هذه الممارسات تزيد من الحساسيات والاحتقان بين المكونات الطائفية والإثنية والسياسية للشعب السوري، وتقود في النهاية إلى تقوية الولاءات الضيقة على حساب الانتماء للوطن. ولعل الممارسات التي جرت في المحافظات الشمالية الشرقية تقدم مثالاً حياً على ذلك. إضافة إلى ذلك، ليس لمجلس الشعب في سورية صلاحيات حقيقية لمناقشة القضايا الحيوية، مثل قضايا الحرب والسلام، وسبل استرجاع الجولان المحتل، إذ تُناط مثل هذه المهام الجسام إلى رجالات سورية الأشاوس الذين يقاومون الاحتلال بالخطابات الرنانة، ولا يتورعون عن وصف قادة الدول العربية المعتدلة بـ “أنصاف الرجال”، ويتهمون القوى اللبنانية الداعية إلى الاستقلال والديمقراطية بـ “المنتج الإسرائيلي”، بينما يستجدون الصفقات في السر، ويرسلون من يثقون بهم إلى الكنيست الإسرائيلي لتقديم كافة التنازلات في سبيل الحفاظ على كرسي الحكم، وهو ما يتناقض مع منطق الانتخابات التي تهدف بشكل رئيسي إلى تقييم أداء الجالس على كرسي الحكم وتغييره بشكل دوري وحضاري.
خامساً، تحرص أغلب دول العالم على حث أكبر عدد من ناخبيها على المشاركة في العملية الانتخابية، لا لتشكيل مجالس ذات طابع تمثيلي واسع فحسب، بل لإن المشاركة بحد ذاتها أحد “الواجبات المدنية” المرتبطة بالمواطنة المسؤولة. وعندما يختار المواطنون عدم المشاركة في كثير من الدول الديمقراطية المستقرة، فلأنهم في الأغلب راضون عن التوجه العام لحكوماتهم. أما في سورية، فنحن ننطلق من مستوى بدائي جداً، إذ لا يعترف النظام بشعبه على أنهم “مواطنون” بل هم “رعايا”، كما أن القيود المفروضة على العملية الانتخابية في ظل الدولة الأسدية، من تفرد الحزب وأتباعه بأغلبية المقاعد، وتغول الأجهزة الأمنية على الحياة السياسية، واستمرار قوانين الطوارئ، واستمرار تجريد الأكراد السوريين من جنسيتهم، وفقدان الحد الأدنى من الحقوق والحريات المطلوبة لعملية التصويت، كل هذه القيود تجرد العملية من مضمونها. ومع ذلك يصرح وزير الداخلية السوري بأنه مع الانتخابات الأخيرة تكون التجربة الديمقراطية في سورية قد بلغت كمالها! وتهيب وسائل الإعلام الرسمية بـ “العرس الديمقراطي”، وبالصناديق الشفافة التي استخدمت هذه المرة، وبالحبر الذي يمنع الناخب من التصويت مرتين.
الأمر الإيجابي الذي لم يغفل عن أي مراقب للانتخابات السورية هذا العام تمثل في دعوة كافة فصائل المعارضة الفاعلة إلى مقاطعة هذه المهزلة، والاستجابة الواسعة لدعوى المقاطعة، مما فضح العملية والقائمين عليها، لدرجة قيام وزيرة المغتربين، وهي إحدى “مثقفات” النظام الأسدي، إلى مهاجمة المعارضة والمواطنين السوريين عامة، ونعتهم بالخيانة والعمالة لأمريكا! وهكذا فلم يكتمل العرس الديمقراطي السوري، فلم يحضر إلا العروسين وأهاليهم، بينما غاب المعازيم. القراءة الصحيحة للإعراض عن انتخابات هذا العام هي في زيادة وعي المواطن السوري، والتصويت بشكل غير مباشر لغير صالح النظام، فقد سأم المواطنون النظام الأسدي وأشخاصه وسياساته ومنطقة. وتبقى الخطوة التالية في التصويت بـ “لا” لبشار الأسد في الاستفتاء القادم، وإذا تعذر ذلك، فمن حق هذا الشعب الالتجاء إلى كافة الوسائل السلمية لتغيير نظامه، وإجراء انتخابات تنافسية نزيهة للبرلمان والرئاسة وانتخابات محلية، كتلك الانتخابات التي جرت في موريتانيا ودول أخرى كانت تعتمد المنطق الرسمي السوري، لكنها تحررت منه، وتبنت أسلوب الانتخابات المتعارف عليه في بقية أنحاء المعمورة. الانتخابات الحقيقية غالباً ما تكون محفوفة بالمفاجئات، ويفوز فيها المتنافسون بنسب متقاربة، وينتهي المقام بالنشطاء السياسيين من كافة التوجهات في البرلمان—لافي عدرا أو صيدنايا- يتوزعون أدوار الحكومة والمعارضة ويتناوبون عليها، وحسب هذا المنطق، فإن الانتخابات والحريات العامة هما دعامتا النظام الديمقراطي الطبيعي. هذا هو النظام البديل الذي تسعى إليه المعارضة السورية بكافة أطيافها، لكن نقطة ضعفه أنه لا يحتاج إلى منطق “استثنائي” ومفهومية وحذلقة لتبريره.
* أكاديمي سوري

April 25th, 2007, 1:03 am

 

bilal said:

To Alex:

I hope you have read the article 2 weeks ago in Alhayat newspaper where they said that our embassy in DC has paid around 15 Million Dollars from Syrian tax money for a company to conduct a PR campaign for the Syrian Regime. Then do not be surprised from some reporters personnal views. But despite this huge amount we are still getting negative sentiments.

Trust me I am confident about every statement I make as I am sure you will be questioning each letter I write.

The list of people that used to like us but don’t like us if not hate us is increasing by the day. Do you want me to name them? Well: Belgium to start with that sent their foreign minister to Syria and then 10 days after he attacked us. Most of the US congressional delegations that visited us attacked us and even the Syrian media was surprised on why they look nice in Damascus and then change after they leave. Senator Lantos actually 2 years ago did not wait and spoke negatively about us before he left. Spanish Foreign minister visited us and then we almost named him a liar. Do you want me to go on? Here you have to appreciate that I did not mention the Arab countries. Those brothers we supposed to love and be loved by them. Even Russia’s support is very minimal. CONVINCED?

April 25th, 2007, 1:14 am

 

EHSANI2 said:

I have the utmost respect for Mr Al-Bunni. Back in 2005, he personally drafted a fine document entitled “A new constitution for Syria”. Most of us have it easy. We write and opine from our keyboards from afar. My hat is off to men like Mr. Al-Bunni. Taking on the establishment is not for the faint of heart. It takes courage, strength, conviction and commitment. For that, people like him earn my respect.

http://www.defenddemocracy.org/research_topics/research_topics_show.htm?doc_id=321392

April 25th, 2007, 1:15 am

 

norman said:

I have a question that i do not know if it was answered , Did Al -Bunni spread false information and did he call for the violent overthrow of the Syrian Government , if he did these things then he deserve even more Jail time ,

April 25th, 2007, 1:18 am

 

Bakri said:

The Al Bunni family has been targeted by the Baathist regime since soon after Hafez al-Assad took power. Other members of the family were imprisoned and tortured in Syrian jails before Anwar Al Bunni. Together, they have spent more than 60 years in prison. “But as good Syrian citizens, we have to render thanks to Allah that they were not killed,” said Kamal Al Bunni, his brother.

He said Anwar was beaten for two days following his arrest on 17 May. After being placed with ordinary detainees in Adra prison, he staged a hunger strike from 28 October to 4 November with other political prisoners in protest against their illegal detention and the harassment of their families. He is now defended by a group of lawyers, some of whom he helped get released in the past. Kamal said the governor of Adra prison was taking personal revenge on Anwar for his frequent past criticism of the prison’s mistreatment of detainees.

Writer Farouk Mardam-Bey, another of the news conference’s participants, voiced concern about the fact that the situation of government opponents is deteriorating as the regime now feels protected. Repression takes various forms, he said, including torture, arbitrary arrests, abduction of the relatives of government opponents and sham trials. He also mentioned the revival of Law 49 targeting Muslim Brotherhood members and supporters, and the zero tolerance displayed for Syria’s Kurdish minority.

Ménard concluded: “The Baathist regime now has greater room to manoeuvre thanks to changes in the geopolitical situation and the resulting calls for dialogue to be re-established with Damascus and Tehran. This increased leeway results in more repression of government opponents.”

Bashar al-Assad, who has been president since 2001, is regarded by Reporters Without Borders as one of the world’s 35 press freedom predators.

http://www.ifex.org/alerts/layout/set/print/layout/set/print/content/view/full/79151

April 25th, 2007, 1:28 am

 

bilal said:

Bakri:

Thanks for these infos. These need to be mentioned & shared with all in order to create awarness on the injustice that is taking place in our Syria by the regime to the people who are trying to make Syria a better place for us all while we are enjoying our life abroad freely.
God help Mr. Al Bunni, Mr. Kilo, Mr. Labwani, Dr. Dalila, Mr. Jamous, etc… and their families.

April 25th, 2007, 1:31 am

 

EHSANI2 said:

Norman,

You are asking if Al-Bunni called for the “violent” overthrow of the Syrian government?

If not violent, what other form of overthrow do you find acceptable? A “peaceful” overthrow? Or Perhaps a “respectable” overthrow?

For God sake, cut it out.

This man is writing. He has no access to the 4500 tanks of the country. All he has is his pen and keyboard. You throw him in jail for five years? You actually support putting one of your Christian compatriots in prison for writing whatever?

Would you like it if the FBI knocked on your door tonight and arrested you for writing something against Bush?

This bravado of “if he did these things then he deserve even more Jail time” is not something that an educated Doctor like you would be expected to say during times like this.

On another note:

For those who argue against IMF prescribed policies, please note how it was the economic boom which followed these policies that helped sustain Turkey’s current governing party in power:

http://www.nytimes.com/2007/04/25/world/europe/25turkey.html?_r=1&hp&oref=slogin

April 25th, 2007, 1:48 am

 

Bakri said:

Bilal 100 esalameh…
The heroes that u have cited above only one is sunni muslim(Dr Labwani)…that show that the syrian opposition include all syrian religious and ethnic groups..and more important they are la creme de la creme of the syrian intelligentsia.

Do you know an another country in the world that imprison people of this quality ?

April 25th, 2007, 1:55 am

 

EHSANI2 said:

My apologies but I could not post only the link

By CLAUDE SALHANI
PARIS, April 24 (UPI) — Former Syrian Vice President Abdel-Halim Khaddam, now
out of favor with President Bashar Assad’s regime, spoke at length from his
exile in Paris with UPI International Editor Claude Salhani. He cautioned that
Damascus wants to thwart the international tribunal investigating the murder of
former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri and intends to re-enter Lebanon.
Excerpts from the interview:
Q: There were elections in Syria on Sunday. What is your opinion of these
elections?
A: We should not refer to it as elections. The nature of the regime turns these
elections into a theater. Article 8 of the constitution stipulates that the
Baath Party leads the society and the country’s institutions. The results of
the elections are preset because the Baath Party always gets more than 51
percent of the total seats. Some seats are allocated to members of the National
Front and only 30 percent of seats are reserved for independents. And even the
independents are not really independent. So this is not an election as
elections are understood in other countries. The results are known a week to 10
days in advance.
Q: Are there truly free elections in the Arab World?
A: You said you wanted to talk about Syria, not the Arab world.
Q: Are you saying that the Syrian parliament is a rubber stamp?
A: In the final analysis, that rubber stamp is less than a rubber stamp.
Sometimes some of the deputies say something that is contradicting to some
ministers. Then the speaker of the house calls them to his office and asks them
to withdraw their remarks or their political indemnity is lifted and they may
be prosecuted.
Q: You are opening an office in Washington. What do you hope to accomplish by
doing so?
A: The aim of the office is to inform. It will be there to present the views of
the opposition, first to the Syrian people and then to inform the U.S.
administration and American institutions.
Q: To confront the regime in Damascus you have entered into an alliance with
the Muslim Brotherhood. Is this not potentially dangerous? If you manage to get
rid of the current regime, the Muslim Brotherhood would want to establish an
Islamic state in Syria.
A: That is not the aim of the opposition. The goal is to establish a democratic
state in Syria. The principles have already been established and agreed upon
with the Muslim Brotherhood as part of the pact of the National Salvation Front.
Q: During the Iranian revolution in 1979 all forces opposed to the shah united
in their efforts to bring him down. Yet when Ayatollah Khomeini assumed power,
he got rid of all other opposition groups. Do you not fear the same thing
happening in Syria?
A: First of all it’s a different situation. Syria is a moderate country. The
Syrian people are moderate. The Muslims are moderate and the Christians are
moderate. The Syrians are not religious extremists. The first president of the
parliament after independence was a Christian. This is the second-highest-
ranking position after the president. The social structure in Iran is very
different than Syria’s.
Q: How much do you think that President Bashar Assad is aware of what is going
on in Syria?
A: He is aware of everything.
Q: So would you say he is in control?
A: All the security services are directly linked to him.
Q: Do you agree with President Bush’s policy of not talking to Syria?
A: It is not for us to set the policy of the United States. We always encourage
all countries not to engage in a dialogue with the present Syrian regime
because we feel the present regime is suffocating the Syrian population.
Q: What do you make of U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s visit to Damascus?
A: I don’t think it will have much effect on the current situation. The regime
in Damascus has set out a political strategy. This strategy is tied to Iran.
And it is tied to the situation in Lebanon. Pelosi’s visit and that of others
is not going to alter Syria’s policy.
Q: What do you think Syria really wants?
A: The first objective of the current regime is to remain in power. If you ask
me what the Syrian people want, I would say the Syrian people want to get rid
of the regime.
Q: So in your opinion, what do you think President Assad is trying to
accomplish? What are his political aspirations?
A: First to prevent the establishment of the international tribunal (to judge
the case of the assassination of former Lebanese Prime Minister Hariri) and
then to return to Lebanon.
Q: Let me ask you a question you must have been asked many times: Who killed
Rafik Hariri?
A: My personal belief is that security apparatus that is very close to Bashar
Assad carried out the assassination, but we will have to wait for the outcome
of the investigation.
Q: Do you think the international tribunal will take place?
A: Definitely.
Q: Do you see a role for yourself in leading Syria should there be a change of
regime in Damascus?
A: I am not looking for a leading role. All I want is for Syria to be free and
the establishment of true democratic institutions. And for the Syrian people to
be able to choose their leaders.
Q: What would be the first thing you would do if you were in power?
A: We would enact a new election law, we would free all political prisoners, we
would allow political parties, freedom of the press, we would organize
elections within six months, we would invite all exiles to return and draft a
new constitution.
Q: If you were in power would you be willing to discuss peace with Israel?
A: We fully support the Arab League initiative (put forward by King Abdullah of
Saudi Arabia).
Q: Do you think that peace in the Middle East is possible while President Bush
is in office?
A: Since I became foreign minister in 1974 we always heard that we should wait
for the next (U.S.) presidential elections. The question is not about elections
but about U.S. policy regarding the Middle East.

April 25th, 2007, 2:00 am

 

bilal said:

To Bakri:
Only in Syria they would imprison these guys. For sure they do not regard them as Creme de la Creme. the Creme people for them are Mr. Rami, Mr. Hamsho and so on who made Billions overnight. Those are the smart people not you & me.

April 25th, 2007, 2:06 am

 

norman said:

EHsani2 ,
Yes Ehsani , If you call for the destruction of the white house i do expect to sleep in Jail and probably called enemy combatant .so you probably should cut it out and have some sense , you talk against Syria and the people of Syria , you even call for the American intervention to change the Government in Syria to a defeatist government follows the Us demands of selling the Palestinians , Lebanese and Syrians , you go to Syria all the time as you keep saying , i do not see in jail in Syria , is that because of your undercover relation with people in Government in Syria .

About being Christian , i am proud to be a Christian Arab from Syria , the only Arab state who treats it’s Christians as equal and no my opinion is the same against Kilo who as i know and you should know is christian ,he deserve Jail for speaking and conspiring against Syria.

Grow up Ehsani then try to tell me what you did for Syria over the years.

April 25th, 2007, 2:21 am

 

Fares said:

Bravo Ehsani, you showed Norman who needed a beating like that. I doubt that he is a doctor and lives in the US with a pathetic English like the one he uses.

Norman, body, what Syria, people are conspriring against??? The Syria that is owned by Assad/Makhlouf, the Syria that leaves no dignity for its Citizens, the Syria that pretends to hold democratic elections then on the same day sentence one of its human rights guys for 5 years and for what??????

NORMAN, YOU ARE PATHETIC AND SHAME ON YOU. YOU ARE SIMPLY A PAID BAATH GUY WHOSE ROLE IS TO CREATE NOISE. Yes when you are in jail, I’ll ask for more jail time for you since you deserve it. Inshalla Tinfileq.

April 25th, 2007, 2:43 am

 

Syrian said:

Norman,

Where did Mr. Bunni call for American intervention to change the government in Syria Please provide a link.

In the interview cited above, he says we need to learn how to use foreign pressure to promote a domestic agenda and avoid an explosion of society. There is a difference in using foreign pressure and inviting foreign intervention.

If the government is under pressure because some foreign power is pressuring it for its own interest; then we can benefit by siding with the government by voicing support for a “nationalist” stand while asking for increased liberties internally. We use the pressure to promote internal Syrian interest and not the foreign interest.

Norman, the Syrian people are not so stupid as to be swayed by someone conspiring against the country to promote selfish interests. How many people do you know are swayed by Ghadry and Co.? If someone is conspiring against the nation by writing and not calling for violence then expose them for what they are and they shall have no support within the nation.

When Mr. Bunni writes that the “The regime’s political strategy depends on planting landmines throughout society. But the mine doesn’t explode if you place your leg on it—it explodes when you remove your leg from it. The regime planted the land mines then placed their legs on them so that if the regime goes, the society will explode.” it pays to ask why he writes such things. If he is wrong, why have we heard no counterargument from the regime? The implication of a prison sentence for someone voicing an opinion is that the population is stupid and can be easily misguided by a self serving person. Well, I for one do not like to think that we are a stupid nation.

I, for one, agree with Mr. Bunni that the Syrian opposition has no strategy of how to bring about any of the changes they demand. I disagree with him that the regime planted the landmines. I think the mines were already there and the regime uses them to its advantage.

April 25th, 2007, 2:54 am

 

Syrian said:

Q: Why do we have political prisoners?

A: Because Syrians like Norman and Fares think its acceptable to imprison people for holding different views.

April 25th, 2007, 2:56 am

 

norman said:

Syrian ,
I was just asking a question and offering an opinion if it was true ,
(I have a question that i do not know if it was answered , Did Al -Bunni spread false information and did he call for the violent overthrow of the Syrian Government , if he did these things then he deserve even more Jail time ,

I do not think that anybody should be jailed for what they say as long as they do not call for a civil war or for a change that will cause that war .
The government in Syria should move to discredit people for what the do and say instead of jailing them.

I want to repeat that nobody , is more important than Syria’s security and the safety of it’s people.

April 25th, 2007, 1:18 am

April 25th, 2007, 3:18 am

 

Bakri said:

Syrian,why not and only for educational and civic purpose ,let alex and norman to taste only 0,01% of what the syrian prisoners endure.For example,one month in Tadmor prison,it will not be a bad lesson for them…and let them too to face the same style of jailer that exist today in Syria.

April 25th, 2007, 3:20 am

 

Fares said:

I second Bakri…Syrian I hope you don’t beleive that I want to imprison people who have different point of views!!!! I just wanted to wake up Norman and make him feel what jail really means.

Here is a good comment for you from Alarabiya:
بعد الإنتصارات الكبيرة التي حققها آل الأسد من تحرير الجولان ولواء اسكندرون وذلك بعد ان قامت الطائرات الإسرائيلية بالتحليق فوق القصر الرئاسي وقبلها قصف الإسرائيليون موقع سوري حيث قلنا بوقتها (سنحتفظ بحق الرد).وبعد الإنجازات العظيمة التي تحققت في سوريا من رفع مستوى دخل المواطن ومرورا بإنهيار اسعار السلع الى الرفاه والتحضر وجو الحرية والديمقراطية وتحويل السجون الى مكتبات عامة والأنجازات الأقتصادية العملاقة التي تحققت بعرق جبين بيت الأسد والمخلوف وفي ظل القيادة الحكيمة والشجاعة والتاريخية والملهمة والفذة والحكيمة والشفافة لبشار الأسد . وبعد الروح المعنوية العالية للشعب السوري بيطلعنا هذا المعارض وأكيد خاين لأنوه معارض (فمن ليس معنا فهو ضدنا في محور الشر) .ليوهن نفسية الأمة لذلك يجب ان يرمى في غياهب السجون وان نسومه سوء العذاب حتى يكون عبرة لكل الشعب وللبعض ممن تسول له نفسه بالمعارضة من محلس الشعب الجديد .وانا سوري آآآهههه يانيالي.ارجوا النشر

April 25th, 2007, 3:28 am

 

EHSANI2 said:

Norman accuses me of:

“you talk against Syria and the people of Syria , you even call for the American intervention to change the Government in Syria to a defeatist government follows the Us demands of selling the Palestinians , Lebanese and Syrians , you go to Syria all the time as you keep saying , i do not see in jail in Syria , is that because of your undercover relation with people in Government in Syria .”

He then concludes this way:

“Grow up Ehsani then try to tell me what you did for Syria over the years.”

I thought that I had earlier said:

“Most of us have it easy. We write and opine from our keyboards from afar. My hat is off to men like Mr. Al-Bunni.”

In other words, I had already admitted that I have done nothing for my country when comapred to people like Mr. Al-Bunni

April 25th, 2007, 3:31 am

 

Syrian said:

Norman,

You asked two questions and provided one answer. That leads me, and possibly others, to conclude that you support a jail sentence if either of the answers was affirmative. Spreading “false” information is the prerogative of any individual and the spreading of correct information is then the appropriate response not a jail sentence. Inciting violence is of course a different story. (I quoted false because it is such a vague word and almost any information can be regarded as false to some degree.)

Mr. Bunni is a Human Rights Lawyer. I do not need to read a whole lot of what he writes to conclude that he would not be a person interested in violence to resolve conflicts.

Bakri,

I like both Norman and Alex. I agree with a lot of what they say and disagree on a lot. We continue to talk and, in time, we will meet on most things on reasonable grounds. I would not want to resort to putting either of them through the gallows of a Syrian prison just to make a point.

April 25th, 2007, 3:37 am

 

norman said:

Bakri,
People go jail for what they do in Syria more than for what they say , I lived in Syria during the late seventies we were not that quite then we saw what the Muslim brothers did to Syria and it’s university teachers , they did not jail them they killed , i do not wish that on you or anybody else but you should understand that Syria can take a chance with people who think they are better because of their religious belief.

I am glad that i am in the company of Alex.

April 25th, 2007, 3:37 am

 

K said:

Bakri,

Maybe Norman and Alex wouldn’t mind being locked up for the sake of Syrian “security”. In their dark cells, they will console themselves by thinking about how much worse it is for political prisoners in Saudi Arabia than Syria, and how much more “stable” the Syrian regime is than Lebanon, and how steadfast the regime has been in the face of Israel.

April 25th, 2007, 3:39 am

 

norman said:

Syrian,

I feel better that you understand what i meant and i agree with what you said totaly.
Good night , I have to work in the morning and take care of people.

April 25th, 2007, 3:42 am

 

K said:

Clarification:

I do not mean to put Alex in the same category as someone like Norman. I’m just poking around in my post above.

Alex, sometimes it must feel like people are ganging up on you around here. Take it as a compliment that we respect you enough to engage you in intelligent dialogue. You stand out from the regime-supporters/tolerators on this blog.

April 25th, 2007, 3:43 am

 

Fares said:

K I agree, Norman is a whole unique nut case.

“Maybe Norman and Alex wouldn’t mind being locked up for the sake of Syrian “security”. In their dark cells, they will console themselves by thinking about how much worse it is for political prisoners in Saudi Arabia than Syria, and how much more “stable” the Syrian regime is than Lebanon, and how steadfast the regime has been in the face of Israel.” thanks for cheering us up man!!!!.

April 25th, 2007, 3:53 am

 

Zenobia said:

Norman, You are asking a ridiculous question. WHO gets to determine what is false and what is true???
Isn’t that the more important question. Because he may feel he is speaking truth, and the authorities may say, no it is false.
But the reality is that an opinion is an opinion – and it is plainly outrageous in any society to imprison people for having opinions that not everybody agrees with. Without critics there will only be tyranny. All critics of the institutions and governing bodies of a society are valuable and should be protected – because they preserve the freedom of thought and the ability to recognize mistakes and injustices.

Isn’t this man the lawyer? Wasn’t his so called crime that he was doing his job and defending others accused of opposition? (or am i mixing him up with another guy….)

Anyhow Norman, a country protecting itself – cannot justify silencing critics no matter how vulnerable it feels to outside aggression, otherwise… anything can be justified under such logic – for any amount of time.
The current United States administration uses the same logic to imprison people in Guantanamo without due process or recourse for however long it pleases. It does this in name of national security and protecting itself.
but the use of this logic is clearly – always going to be heralding the end of freedom.

April 25th, 2007, 3:55 am

 

norman said:

People should move from shouting down the regime to offering solutions to Syria’s problems of coruption politics and economy , untill then your screams will mean nothing .

Offer solutions please.

April 25th, 2007, 3:57 am

 

Syrian said:

Norman,

I thought you were going to bed?

April 25th, 2007, 4:00 am

 

Fares said:

Bravo Zenobia and thank you for taking the time to explain to Norman the obvious: how Syria uses bogus charges :::spreading false information!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! for a 5 years in Prison. What is false and what is right!!!!!

You are right Anwar is a human rights defense lawyer and he was doing his job.

April 25th, 2007, 4:26 am

 

Fares said:

But Norman is inspired by some baathist paid comments on Arabya, those who are calling Anwar a traitor or saying he deserves even more…he thought people here are on the same page of backwardness.

April 25th, 2007, 4:28 am

 

DJ said:

Ehsani2,
I think what Khaddam should do before pontificating about democracy, is to open his own accounts for auditing. He needs loads of certificates and clearances to restore credibility amongst Syrians, especially when it comes to corruption.
Except for counting on some Force Majoure to bring him back to power, I don’t see any use of pursuing his ‘political aspirations’.
By the way; would you consider paratroopers’ insertion as a “force majoure” in this case? 😉

April 25th, 2007, 7:28 am

 

Enlightened said:

Ford Prefect said:

“Shameful day for Syria? Indeed. But imagine an authoritarian regime that is letting the world knows about it. At least there was a fake trial and a sentence. Similarly,across the Lebanese border, there are four Lebanese generals who have been languishing in prison since Sept 2005. Crime? No one knows. Sentence? No one knows. Shameful? You bet.”

Ford, your sharp wit is astonishing, the four generals are implicated in the murder of a former prime minister, Bunni is imprisoned for freedom of expresion, your comments are appalling and dim in the extreme.

We need more people like Bunni to be free, and not behind bars where he is wasted, this is a shameful day for Syria’s regime, judiciary and its institutions. I hope he has the strength and fortitude to survive his incarceration.

April 25th, 2007, 9:28 am

 

Akbar Palace said:

Enlightened said:

Ford, your sharp wit is astonishing, the four generals are implicated in the murder of a former prime minister, Bunni is imprisoned for freedom of expresion, your comments are appalling and dim in the extreme.

We need more people like Bunni to be free, and not behind bars where he is wasted, this is a shameful day for Syria’s regime, judiciary and its institutions. I hope he has the strength and fortitude to survive his incarceration.

We see demonstrations ALL THE TIME against the “Zionist Occupiers”
and at funeral processions celebrating resistance “martyrs”. We even see scores of suicide bombers in Palestine and Iraq, killing themselves and innocent Muslims.

So my question is, where are all the “jihadists” against authoritarian and corrupt Arab governments? Sorry, but no one here has convinced me that Arab political prisoners are worth the time of day.

Business as usual.

April 25th, 2007, 11:39 am

 

Ford Prefect said:

Excuse me Enlightened, but an “implication” is not a charge and a charge is not a guilty verdict. Detaining someone since 2005 for an “implication” without a charge and due legal process is illegal at best and as atrocious as detaining political prisoners. And I thought you were enlightened; but I am glad, nevertheless, that you were astonished.

April 25th, 2007, 11:59 am

 

idaf said:

More on the elections in Syria….
There seems to many objections on the unofficial results of the elections, which have been circulating in Syria. In several cities there have been vocal objections (and even demonstrations). The most severe of which is in Al-Riqqa province which has taken a tribal shape with threats of violence.

It is amazing that the Syrian media is taking the lead in reporting on the accusations of fraud, objections and even instances of violence in different provinces in Syria (not a single report on each of these cases in the Arab or International media!). Here’s few examples of the accusations among the candidates of corruption and illegal manipulation of votes has been reported by the Syrian media: In Damascus, in Damascus Countryside, in Latakia and in Aleppo. More coverage in Alwatan newspaper here.

On a related note, Amira Taheri (who usually gets it wrong on Syria), has got it almost right this time with regards to the Syrian opposition in this article (despite the usual many statements that lack factuality that are common in his articles on Syria!):

Syrian opposition got it wrong
By Amir Taheri, Special to Gulf News

Which is the Arab country where “Americans” represent a majority of those eligible to vote? The answer is: Syria. “American” is the label that a Syrian Cabinet minister has attached to those who decided to stay away from last weekend’s general election.

“There is no difference between our opponents and the Americans who do not favour our nation’s prog-ress,” Buthaina Shaaban, a cabinet minister spokesperson told reporters in Damascus.

According to estimates by nonpartisan observers, the general election attracted just one voter out of three. This means that some 65 per cent of Syrian eligible to vote could be described as “American” according to Shaaban’s definition.

AFP reported that the number of supervisors at many polling stations in Damascus was higher than that of voters. A Reuters’ correspondent, touring seven polling stations, spotted only a handful of voters.

The election to choose a new 250-seat People’s Assembly (parliament) had been billed as a major move by President Bashar Al Assad’s government to strengthen its legitimacy ahead of an impending showdown with the United Nations over the murder of former Lebanese Premier Rafik Hariri.

The idea was that the general election would broaden the popular base of the regime by offering a share of power to figures from civil society.

This was the first time since 1970, when Hafez Al Assad seized power in a coup d’etat, that the National Progressive Front, fig leaf for the ruling Baath Party, was not contesting all the 250 seats.

In the event, only a handful of businessmen agreed to stand as independent candidates, with even fewer likely to secure seats. Although opposition parties have claimed credit for the massive boycott of the polls, the reasons voters stayed away may lie elsewhere.

One reason may be a general feeling that the present system has reached an impasse that cannot be breached through peaceful electoral means.

A series of violent clashes between dissidents and security forces in various parts of Syria, plus a coupe of dramatic suicide operations in the capital, indicate the first cracks in what has been an efficient police state for almost half a century.

Another reason for the massive boycott may be the intellectual laziness and political ineptitude of much of the anti-Assad opposition. Unable to put their acts together and come up with a common program and a joint list of candidates, the main opposition parties decided to opt for the easy option of a blanket boycott.

The opposition’s argument is that, under regimes such as the one in Syria, no election can be free. This is certainly true. However, this does not mean that boycotting even fraudulent elections is always the best option. Often, a bad election is better than no election at all, if only because it represents a compliment that vice pays to virtue.

Working on a common programme and a joint list of candidates would have forced the splintered Syrian opposition to set is perennial differences aside to offer a credible alternative to the ruling establishment.

Because of the continued bloodshed in Iraq, many Syrians are wary of regime change through outside intervention or internal armed struggle. Not surprisingly, the ruling elite is trying to persuade the Syrians that sticking with the devil they know is safer than courting one they don’t.

By allowing the ruling elite to go unchallenged in the general election, the opposition confirms the fears , fomented by the regime, that its foes have nothing to offer but foreign intervention and/or armed action.

Unlimited power

To be sure, elections held under a state of emergency that gives the security forces unlimited power is a dicey affair at best. It is also true that the government’s monopolistic control of the media favours the Baath Party candidates.

There is also no doubt that the government is willing and able to use massive fraud to alter the election results in its own favour.

And, yet, the boycott decision was ill advised.

The opposition’s active presence in the general election would have been a more effective means of promoting reform and change. Participation would have given a strong signal that the opposition is prepared to go out of its way to promote peaceful change.

Also, it would have forced the many different opposition groups and parties to achieve a minimum consensus on key aspects of policy. More importantly, perhaps, the opposition’s presence might have persuaded some elements within the ruling elite that a peaceful change is possible and that they, to, may find a home in a new post-Baath system.

There is little doubt that Syria is heading for troubled waters. The United Nations is preparing to charge a number of Syrian officials, including some very senior figures, with complicity in the Hariri case.

A special international tribunal, based at The Hague, is certain to follow. That could put Syria on the same disastrous path that Serbia was led into under Slobodan Milosevic.

At the same time, the Islamic Republic in Tehran is exploiting Bashar Al Assad’s diplomatic isolation as an opportunity for extending and strengthening the Khomeinist network of influence throughout Syria. Since the Islamic Republic does not want allies but agents, an isolated Syria may soon see what is left of its independence vanish forever.

Syria has no interest in becoming part of the glacis for the Islamic Republic in a military showdown with the US. More than ever before Syria needs an active and united opposition to extend a hand of alliance to elements within the ruling establishment who fear the consequences of the regime’s current policy of defiance against the UN and alliance with the mullahs.

Contrary to Shaaban’s claim, the majority of Syrians are not “Americans”. It is precisely because they do not wish to see their country invaded that they decided to stay away from the polls, indicating disapproval of policies that can only lead to disaster.

Iranian author Amir Taheri is based in Europe and is a member of Benador Associates.

Full article here.

April 25th, 2007, 12:39 pm

 

youngsyria said:

“Those who would give up an essential liberty for temporary security deserve neither liberty nor security.” Ben Franklin.

April 25th, 2007, 1:43 pm

 

K said:

Ford Prefect,

It is testament to your moral vacuity that you bring up the case of the 4 Lebanese puppet-generals who implemented Syria’s reign of terror in Lebanon, and are now held as suspects for murder, in response to the case of a Syrian human rights lawyer imprisoned for free speech.

April 25th, 2007, 1:51 pm

 

SimoHurtta said:

So my question is, where are all the “jihadists” against authoritarian and corrupt Arab governments? Sorry, but no one here has convinced me that Arab political prisoners are worth the time of day.

Akbar Israel has hundreds times more political prisoners as Syria. You are the last person to make any irony of Arabs way of governing. Your Israel is certainly no example of civilized governing.

Akbar you could try to correct your racist Nazi views by listening Noam Chomsky’s lecture: Distorted Morality. In that he describes international terrorism, mainly Israeli and US acts of terrorism.

April 25th, 2007, 2:27 pm

 

K said:

More Syrian bullying and threats:

The daily As Safir on Tuesday, citing Lebanese officials who visited Damascus on the eve of Ban’s trip, said the Syrian leadership has cautioned against “stationing civilian or military U.N. observers along the Syrian border because this would certainly lead to measures (to be taken) by Syria that will not be in the interest of either country or people.”

http://www.naharnet.com/domino/tn/newsdesk.nsf/Lebanon/8860553FE61AF0ECC22572C7003F1B3A?OpenDocument

April 25th, 2007, 2:29 pm

 

Ford Prefect said:

K,
Sorry to ruffle your feathers, dude. So I guess you have already pronounced them guilty (based on concealed evidence that you have an exclusive access to, I am sure) as they are the “puppet-generals who implemented Syria’s reign of terror in Lebanon, and are now held as suspects for murder,” and deserving to be thrown in jail without a trial, correct? And I have moral vacuity?

April 25th, 2007, 2:38 pm

 

Ford Prefect said:

P.S. Speech in Syria is not free. Lawyers know.

April 25th, 2007, 2:40 pm

 

majedkhaldoun said:

As a believer in freedom, I strongly condemn the prison term for Anwar Al Bunni,he must be released free asap.
the syrian electionis not an important thing,nothing will change,and it will make no difference.
we hear that last july war is unfinished war,and new one will start this summer,which will include Syria, USA and Isreal believe that Bashar is afraid of such war,and he is trying to avoid it,by offering to negotiate,may be give some concessions,he is worried he may loose power,defeat is humiliating,and such war put Isreal back ahead,after loosing to HA,I think we should get ready for it,HA is doing something about it,and long war is not what Isreal wants.

April 25th, 2007, 3:03 pm

 

K said:

FP,

We can discuss the Lebanese generals case in-depth if you like. I just think it’s telling how you attempt to divert the topic away from Syrian repression, in this case, the tale of Anwar Al-Bunni. I think it reveals how your mind works. As soon as a criticism is made of the Syrian regime, your fragile psyche panics in search of some comparison with Lebanon or other regional country that will set your mind at ease.

If you are ever imprisoned in Syria, I’m curious whether you will find comfort in between torture sessions, by thinking relaxing thoughts about the guilt or innocence of Lebanese puppet-generals.

April 25th, 2007, 3:08 pm

 

EHSANI2 said:

I think the Al-Bunni decision is an indication that Damascus feels very confident amid all the external pressures. It is a message that they will not yield to any pressure. This is a reminder that Damascus will not allow anyone to think that cracks are appearing in the system. The status quo that has served this leadership so well over the past 37 years will not change. The slippery slope of allowing dissent will not be tolerated. If people think that due to international pressure and a younger and softer looking leader they can push the envelope, they better think again. In this very high stakes game, the key to winning is to convince your opponent that they have no chance of winning. To those of us not in power, the decision to imprison such dissidents is a travesty. To the leadership, it is a whole different matter. Winning the Nobel peace prize is not their goal. Staying on top and maintaining their grip on power amid the improbable odds is.

April 25th, 2007, 3:16 pm

 

Global Voices Online » Syria: Human Rights Lawyer in Jail said:

[…] Syria Comment blogger Joshua Landis reports that Anwar al-Bunni, Syria’s leading human rights activist and lawyer, was sentenced to five years in prison on Tuesday – for spreading false information. Share This […]

April 25th, 2007, 3:32 pm

 

Ford Prefect said:

K,
Syria is not a democracy. Lebanon is not a democracy. Iraq is not a democracy. KSA is not a democracy. Jordan is not a democracy. Pakistan is not a democracy. And Israel is a fake democracy. We get bent out of shape (but selectively and conveniently) if someone is thrown in jail in Syria after violating some draconian law and an authoritarian government (Duh!). Meanwhile the real and gathering danger is coming from ideologues in Washington and Tel Aviv planning to spread “democracy” in the area. I am member of Amnesty International and the record is available for free. Check it out and “let him who is without sin cast the first stone.”

April 25th, 2007, 3:42 pm

 

Ford Prefect said:

Ehsani2,
Excellent analysis. Cheers.

April 25th, 2007, 3:48 pm

 

idaf said:

More on the elections in Syria…

There seems to many objections on the unofficial results of the elections, which have been circulating in Syria. In several cities there have been vocal objections (and even demonstrations). The most severe of which is in Al-Riqqa province which has taken a tribal shape with threats of violence.

It is amazing that the Syrian media is taking the lead in reporting on the accusations of fraud, objections and even instances of violence in different provinces in Syria (not a single report on each of these cases in the Arab or International media!). Here’s few examples of the accusations among the candidates of corruption and illegal manipulation of votes has been reported by the Syrian media: In Damascus, in Damascus Countryside, in Latakia and in Aleppo. More coverage in Alwatan newspaper here.

On a related note, Amira Taheri (who usually gets it wrong on Syria), has got it almost right this time with regards to the Syrian opposition in this article (despite the usual many statements that lack factuality that are common in his articles on Syria!):

Syrian opposition got it wrong
By Amir Taheri, Special to Gulf News

Which is the Arab country where “Americans” represent a majority of those eligible to vote? The answer is: Syria. “American” is the label that a Syrian Cabinet minister has attached to those who decided to stay away from last weekend’s general election.

“There is no difference between our opponents and the Americans who do not favour our nation’s prog-ress,” Buthaina Shaaban, a cabinet minister spokesperson told reporters in Damascus.

According to estimates by nonpartisan observers, the general election attracted just one voter out of three. This means that some 65 per cent of Syrian eligible to vote could be described as “American” according to Shaaban’s definition.

AFP reported that the number of supervisors at many polling stations in Damascus was higher than that of voters. A Reuters’ correspondent, touring seven polling stations, spotted only a handful of voters.

The election to choose a new 250-seat People’s Assembly (parliament) had been billed as a major move by President Bashar Al Assad’s government to strengthen its legitimacy ahead of an impending showdown with the United Nations over the murder of former Lebanese Premier Rafik Hariri.

The idea was that the general election would broaden the popular base of the regime by offering a share of power to figures from civil society.

This was the first time since 1970, when Hafez Al Assad seized power in a coup d’etat, that the National Progressive Front, fig leaf for the ruling Baath Party, was not contesting all the 250 seats.

In the event, only a handful of businessmen agreed to stand as independent candidates, with even fewer likely to secure seats. Although opposition parties have claimed credit for the massive boycott of the polls, the reasons voters stayed away may lie elsewhere.

One reason may be a general feeling that the present system has reached an impasse that cannot be breached through peaceful electoral means.

A series of violent clashes between dissidents and security forces in various parts of Syria, plus a coupe of dramatic suicide operations in the capital, indicate the first cracks in what has been an efficient police state for almost half a century.

Another reason for the massive boycott may be the intellectual laziness and political ineptitude of much of the anti-Assad opposition. Unable to put their acts together and come up with a common program and a joint list of candidates, the main opposition parties decided to opt for the easy option of a blanket boycott.

The opposition’s argument is that, under regimes such as the one in Syria, no election can be free. This is certainly true. However, this does not mean that boycotting even fraudulent elections is always the best option. Often, a bad election is better than no election at all, if only because it represents a compliment that vice pays to virtue.

Working on a common programme and a joint list of candidates would have forced the splintered Syrian opposition to set is perennial differences aside to offer a credible alternative to the ruling establishment.

Because of the continued bloodshed in Iraq, many Syrians are wary of regime change through outside intervention or internal armed struggle. Not surprisingly, the ruling elite is trying to persuade the Syrians that sticking with the devil they know is safer than courting one they don’t.

By allowing the ruling elite to go unchallenged in the general election, the opposition confirms the fears , fomented by the regime, that its foes have nothing to offer but foreign intervention and/or armed action.

Unlimited power
To be sure, elections held under a state of emergency that gives the security forces unlimited power is a dicey affair at best. It is also true that the government’s monopolistic control of the media favours the Baath Party candidates.

There is also no doubt that the government is willing and able to use massive fraud to alter the election results in its own favour.

And, yet, the boycott decision was ill advised.

The opposition’s active presence in the general election would have been a more effective means of promoting reform and change. Participation would have given a strong signal that the opposition is prepared to go out of its way to promote peaceful change.

Also, it would have forced the many different opposition groups and parties to achieve a minimum consensus on key aspects of policy. More importantly, perhaps, the opposition’s presence might have persuaded some elements within the ruling elite that a peaceful change is possible and that they, to, may find a home in a new post-Baath system.

There is little doubt that Syria is heading for troubled waters. The United Nations is preparing to charge a number of Syrian officials, including some very senior figures, with complicity in the Hariri case.

A special international tribunal, based at The Hague, is certain to follow. That could put Syria on the same disastrous path that Serbia was led into under Slobodan Milosevic.

At the same time, the Islamic Republic in Tehran is exploiting Bashar Al Assad’s diplomatic isolation as an opportunity for extending and strengthening the Khomeinist network of influence throughout Syria. Since the Islamic Republic does not want allies but agents, an isolated Syria may soon see what is left of its independence vanish forever.

Syria has no interest in becoming part of the glacis for the Islamic Republic in a military showdown with the US. More than ever before Syria needs an active and united opposition to extend a hand of alliance to elements within the ruling establishment who fear the consequences of the regime’s current policy of defiance against the UN and alliance with the mullahs.

Contrary to Shaaban’s claim, the majority of Syrians are not “Americans”. It is precisely because they do not wish to see their country invaded that they decided to stay away from the polls, indicating disapproval of policies that can only lead to disaster.

Iranian author Amir Taheri is based in Europe and is a member of Benador Associates.

Full article here.

.

April 25th, 2007, 3:50 pm

 

Atassi said:

I agree with my good friend FP “Speech in Syria is not free and as a Lawyers he should known that”.
That is the core of the matter, Mr Anwar Al Bunni, other freedom seekers, dissents, and opposition groups are fighting to gain this Basic RIGHT “please remember, this is a basic right Not a privilege”
The escalation by the regime has reached a critical point. They are testing a new stander of you are either with us, or against us. Again, this is another miscalculated step by the security apparatus…

April 25th, 2007, 4:09 pm

 

EHSANI2 said:

One small follow-up to the comment that I posted above:

That sending Mr. Al-Bunni to prison for five years is an injustice and unfair is obvious. If you polled the 5 billion people on planet earth, it will be hard to find many that will disagree. Let us stop stating the same point over and over.

The leadership represents a small sect which feels that they have their backs to the wall. When the rest of us criticise them, we must try to put ourselves in their shoes and think what we would have done if we were in their position.

Would we open the gates of democracy which may well lead to our removal from power?

Would we entertain dissent if it means that we may lose power forever with possible dire consequences to our own safety to match?

The stakes are enormous. No sane person will contemplate taking any undue risks. Any change in the status quo may have devastating consequences.

April 25th, 2007, 4:13 pm

 

Akbar Palace said:

SimoHurtta said:

Akbar Israel has hundreds times more political prisoners as Syria. You are the last person to make any irony of Arabs way of governing. Your Israel is certainly no example of civilized governing.

SimoHurtta –

Just to set the record straight, there are perhaps a handful of Israeli Arabs held in Israeli jails. I wouldn’t refer to them as “political prisoners”, because they were ALL responsible for aiding, abetting or participating in violence against Israeli citizens. The vast majority of Arab-Israeli citizens are good, law-abiding citizens. They are very productive and they have the opportunity to live anywhere they want: Israel, Palestine or Syria.

Perhaps the “political prisoners” you are referring to are the HUGE number of Palestinians (aka foreigners) Israel has captured either prior, during or after their attempts of “resistance”. Yes, unfortunately, Israel is still warring with those lovely peaceniks who control the PA: Hamas and Fatah.

So what is Syria’s excuse?

Akbar you could try to correct your racist Nazi views by listening Noam Chomsky’s lecture: Distorted Morality. In that he describes international terrorism, mainly Israeli and US acts of terrorism.

I know all about Noam Chomsky, his retarded opinions, his freedom of speech, and how nice he makes anti-Israel Arabs and and anti-semites feel. Israel’s inclusion of Arabs in government, in the election process, in the economy, and in cultural life doesn’t seem very “Nazi-like” to me. But if you say so;)

Alex –

I’m an engineer too! Wanna start a company???

2008: Is a liberal Utopia just around the corner?

http://jewishvoiceandopinion.com/a/jvo200704d.html

April 25th, 2007, 4:22 pm

 

ausamaa said:

If you were in the “regime” shoes and trying to fend external attacks from left and right, how much tolerence would you have for SIMILAR cases of harsh internal dissent?

The Bush Admin can hold hundreds in Guantanamo and elsewhere without charges or trial on account of National Security, you can go to jail in the US if you worked for the overthrow of the “regime” by force, but Syria is expected to act differntly at a time when its existance as a State is under attack.

I really enjoyed all the free-speach-loving comments above, but then I rememberd that we are talking about a “tense” Syria under fire and not a “relaxed” Switzerland or Denmark, and I thoght to myself how many of those comments are mere hype and how many take REALITY in considerations.

Living in Dream World has its benifits after all and the hunting season is in full sway, so jump right on the wagon and join the party. Reality, realistic expectations, and a real comprehension of the true situation in and around Syria is not the name of the game today!

April 25th, 2007, 4:41 pm

 

majedkhaldoun said:

Ehsani;
Ba’ath party logo is union,freedom and socialism, is this freedom?
they put them self in this predicament, when you make mistake you need to admit ,apologize,and correct, if they violate their principals,and go deep in mistakes, they dig their own tomb.

April 25th, 2007, 5:06 pm

 

K said:

Ehsani

“That sending Mr. Al-Bunni to prison for five years is an injustice and unfair is obvious. If you polled the 5 billion people on planet earth, it will be hard to find many that will disagree. Let us stop stating the same point over and over.”

I wish you were right. But even a quick glance through this comments section shows you are a mistaken. A sizable contigent of commentators believe the regime is justified in taking this action under present conditions. They believe internal repression is quite fair and just when 1) there are external gathering threats, and/or 2) internal dissidents are spreading lies or calling for regime overthrow, or the dissident should simply “know better” and respect regime red lines, and/or 3) other countries commit similar crimes.

So, unfortunately, we are forced to engage in this elementary debate.

April 25th, 2007, 5:19 pm

 

K said:

Furthermore, most commentators here like to fall back on realpolitik when confronted with moral criticisms of the regime. “It’s not Switzerland”, “Syria faces real dangers”, “the regime’s interest is survival”, and “other countries commit similar crimes” – all realpolitik arguments.

Well, regime enemies also view the struggle existentially. They also face very real threats from the regime. And they see the regime is willing to ally itself with anyone against them, regardless of ideology or morality. And they have no reason to aspire to moral purity. They, like the regime, must take steps to survive, ally with anybody, and resort to any means available.

By this logic, the Kurds are fully justified in allying with Israel and arming themselves to combat regime oppression. Lebanon is entirely within its rights to lobby the international community to pressure Syria to cease domineering Lebanon. Secular Syrian dissidents are entitled to forming alliances with the Muslim Brotherhood, if this will increase their street-level popular support. It’s all realpolitik. After, this is the Mideast, not Switzerland.

April 25th, 2007, 5:28 pm

 

trustquest said:

Ehsani, the regime leverage or tolerance is built on stiff apparatus not showing any sign to adjust to the changing world around them. I think you have talked about this before yourself describing the economic bomb they are sitting on and the cessation of the old tools they are suing to combat oppositions. So, I agree with your analysis of the defensive gesture of the regime but still it is not a smart action. The regime would not be able to block Global change and the new tools for expression and free speech. (I know they are trying hard to stop the spread of the internet, with high fees and other actions). So, first they fighting a lost battle and then they are helping oppositions against themselves.
Also they have no idea about the rule of collective minds, and even for a corrupt society, still collective corrupted minds might do better than single mind. I would like to send my support to Mr. Bunni and still hopping for change.

April 25th, 2007, 5:35 pm

 

norman said:

Syria politics: Two faces of Damascus

April 25th 2007

COUNTRY BRIEFING

FROM THE ECONOMIST INTELLIGENCE UNIT

Syria has presented a number of starkly contrasting images in recent days. The parliamentary election has attracted an unusually high level of attention, with opposition activists claiming that the turnout was pitiably low and that there had been many instances of blatant ballot-rigging and vote-buying. The issues of human and political rights have also been highlighted by the sentencing of Anwar al-Bunni, a prominent lawyer and regime critic, to five years in jail for “spreading hostile information”–a charge relating to his signature of a declaration in May 2006 calling for the establishment of normal diplomatic relations between Syria and Lebanon.

At the same time, the president, Bashar al-Assad, has received UN Secretary-General, Ban Ki-moon, who reported that the Syrian leader had agreed to reactivate the border committee with Lebanon and had said that he was ready, in principle, to establish diplomatic relations with Beirut. In another sign of Syria’s “progressive” face, the local press has reported that Abdullah al-Dardari, the architect of the EU-backed economic reform programme, is likely to be appointed prime minister in a cabinet reshuffle to take place after the general election, or else after the referendum to be held in May for the renewal of Mr Assad’s presidential mandate for seven more years.

Symbolic

The election is of largely symbolic significance. The Baath Party and nine allied formations are allocated two-thirds of the 250 seats, meaning that there is no scope for any meaningful policy debate. Of the remaining seats, the battle among independents is essentially a struggle for patronage rights, pitting different, regime-subservient, business factions against each other. For the Baath party, a healthy turnout is important so as to demonstrate popular consent to its control of institutions and to the rule of the Assad regime.

Comments on officially sanctioned websites such as Champress and Syria-News (owned by rival interests within the establishment) reflected widespread cynicism about the worth the election, which took place on April 22nd and 23rd. There was also a running commentary provided by an externally-based opposition site, based on reports from researchers on the ground. These reports pointed to disturbances in a number of areas in the north east as a result of official interference to block the election of Kurdish political leaders standing as independents. The delay in the announcement of the results of the election, which had still not appeared 48 hours after the polls closed, served as confirmation that the process had not run as smoothly as the authorities had wanted.

All smiles

If there had been room for an open policy debate, the central questions in the election would have included Syria’s international relations and the direction of the economy. The visit of the UN Secretary-General provided a fresh opportunity for Syria to demonstrate its contention that the efforts of the US and France (or, more to the point from the Syrian perspective, the soon-to-be-departed President Jacques Chirac) to isolate it are failing. Mr Ban did manage to extract a concession from Syria on the Lebanese border question (one week before this meeting, the UN Security Council had expressed “serious concern at mounting information of illegal arms movements across” the border). However, this was in the context of a patently disingenuous Syrian pledge to use its good offices to build a political consensus in Lebanon that would lead to the ratification of a law establishing a mixed tribunal on the Hariri assassination. Behind the smiles, the harsh reality is that Syria is anxious to head off moves at the UN Security Council to set up the tribunal on the basis of a resolution passed under Chapter VII of the UN Charter.

Syria is making a determined diplomatic effort to foster at least the illusion of normality in its international relations. The hoped-for dividends from this include increased flows of aid (from the EU and Arab states in particular) and foreign investment to enable the country to meet the 7% annual real GDP growth targets that Mr Dardari has set in his five-year plan for a transition to a “social market economy”. With oil running out, these external props will be of increasing importance. However, to take full advantage, the Assad regime has to make some difficult political choices.

The Economist Intelligence Unit
Source: ViewsWire

© 2007 The Economist Intelligence Unit Limited. An Economist Group business. All rights reserved.
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April 25th, 2007, 5:40 pm

 

EHSANI2 said:

Trustquest,

Internet penetration in Syria is estimated at 5%. Even if it were to double or treble, it will have very little impact on the ability of the leadership to hold on to power.

On the grounds, they have no opposition. By on the grounds, I am referring to the 4500 tanks division. As long as they control that, they could continue to hold on to power for another 30 years even with the changing world around them that you describe.

April 25th, 2007, 5:45 pm

 

trustquest said:

Ehsani, Oh, owww, Owtch, what a grim situation.
I will loose my optimism if your prediction is true; however I will keep dreaming for the Syrian people for a better tomorrow. But the satellite already penetrated through their atmosphere, does this count or not?
The other issue, the opposing is trying to buy a satellite station; do you think it would have effect on population?
Thank you for your feed

April 25th, 2007, 6:21 pm

 

Joshua said:

Ehsani, I am inclined to agree with you. The opposition in Syria is not large or organized. Many Syrians have grave misgivings about their government and complain about its corruption constantly. They know that their economy has not progressed as fast as many other neighboring countries, which frustrates everyone and is the source of much of the resentment.

All the same, as Bunni made clear in his interview quoted above, Syrians have not turned to the US for an alternative. He suggests that it is because they do not know how to play the game. Syrian naivete and lack of sophistication may be part of the reason, but I think it is largely because America has let them down by pursuing a policy in the region that has been inimical to Syrian interests and not just inimical to the regime’s interests. It doesn’t take much genius on the part of the regime to point this out.

The vast majority of Syrians agree with the regime on this point. The opposition has been unable to explain to Syrians how they will benefit by supporting George Bush’s plan for the Middle East. Most do not even try because they don’t believe it themselves.

When they do make the argument – at least all those except for Ghadry, it is usually followed by a wink and smile as they explain that they are not so stupid as to trust America, even as they insist that they can use it and outfox it. This sort of argument does not inspire confidence in most Syrians. The Iraqi INC made the same argument and Chalabi got to Iraq – but what good did it do him? He out foxed the US, himself and Iraq.

I fear that many Syrians say to themselves – they will sacrifice their best and most courageous – such as Bunni and Kilo – in order not to end up like the 1.3 million Iraqis in their midst.

This is the scary calculus that is going on in the Middle East today. The regime trumpets this sort of calculation in its crude and flat-footed way, but it is the sort of calculation that is going on in peoples minds, whether the regime prompts them or not.

If neither the opposition nor the US is going to topple the regime, the only other visible way it might crumble is in the Soviet fashion. If the Baath Party and regime leadership lose confidence in their own system and declare a sort of perestroika the system could implode and the communist system did in the USSE.

It is hard to imagine this happening in Syria in the near future – not because many retain a strong belief in the principles of Baathism (they don’t), but because the Syrian elite faces dangers the Soviet elite did not. Syria also faces dangers that russia did not.

For these reasons, it is hard to see how the political structure of Syria will undergo radical change in next decade.

April 25th, 2007, 6:30 pm

 

EHSANI2 said:

Dr. Landis,

The U.S. is critical in this equation. The fact is that they have provided the so-called opposition nothing. Mr. Lubwani was arrested as soon as he set foot in Damascus after his visit to Washington.

What did the White House do since?

They condemned the arrest. Big deal. In other words, they did nothing.

Mr. Al-Bunni was sent to jail for 5-years yesterday.

Again, what did the White House do?

It opined that this was undemocratic. In other words, nothing again.

Bashar is no fool. He knows full well that when the U.S. does and says almost nothing, he has a carte blanche to act the way he sees fit.

Trustquest,

The answer to your question is that there will be no impact. People used to say that when TV dishes are allowed, people of the region will get exposed to other than Syrian Television and change will then be inevitable. Those Dishes have now been there for years. What has the impact been? Nothing. Syrians watch 100 channels a day attacking their government. Has there been a single change on the ground? Now, people are talking about the internet and how that is going to do wonders. Even if 20 million Syrians watched Fox news all night long and read the Wall Street Journal editorials all day long, so what? How is that going to loosen the leadership’s grip on power?

April 25th, 2007, 6:47 pm

 

Syrian said:

Ehsani,
Your response to TQ raises the following question:

If Mr. Bunni is seen as a threat the must be contained, why does the government not see the existance of 100 channels of regime-attacking television and internet blogs and sites as a threat and continue to allow them to operate. Why don’t they shutdown the Syrian Computer Society and all internet access and outlaw satellite television?

April 25th, 2007, 7:16 pm

 

EHSANI2 said:

They are using Mr. Bunni to teach everyone a lesson. There are limits and red lines. Crossing them will not be tolerated. Outsiders attacking you is rather different from Syrians doing the same. Attacks by Fox News, Al-Mustaqbal or Al-hurrah is easily explained as an act done by outsiders who wish the country harm. it is different when one of your own does it. Stopping this from spreading into the minds of others becomes a top priority.

April 25th, 2007, 7:22 pm

 

SimoHurtta said:

Just to set the record straight, there are perhaps a handful of Israeli Arabs held in Israeli jails. I wouldn’t refer to them as “political prisoners”, because they were ALL responsible for aiding, abetting or participating in violence against Israeli citizens. The vast majority of Arab-Israeli citizens are good, aw-abiding citizens. They are very productive and they have the opportunity to live anywhere they want: Israel, Palestine or Syria.

Perhaps the “political prisoners” you are referring to are the HUGE number of Palestinians (aka foreigners) Israel has captured either prior, during or after their attempts of “resistance”. Yes, unfortunately, Israel is still warring with those lovely peaceniks who control the PA: Hamas and Fatah.

To set the record straight the amount of Palestinians and Lebanese in Israeli prisons is well over ten thousand (source Mandela Institute of Human Rights). Not a handful (if you have “normal” hands). Most of those prisoners have never got a fair trial and for many their only “crime” is to be member of a resistance organization. Organizations equal to Lehi (Stern Gang) and Irgun Tsvai Leumi controlled by lovely peacenicks.

By the way Israel has 398 Palestinian juveniles in prison. Your “tribe” now even arrests women and children to get their husbands and fathers to capitulate. What do you call this when innocent people are detained to press their relatives? They are real political prisoners. Nazis used such methods and now your tribe. Irony of history isn’t it Akbar.

What do say about those Lebanese fishers and farmers Israel has kidnapped from foreign territory to be used as bargain chips with Hizbollah? Are they not political prisoners?

You Akbar mention that most Israeli Arab citizens can live a productive life and go where ever they want. Come-on Akbar, besides that they do not have bomb shelters, they can’t even bring their wife or husband who is Palestinian to Israel. By the way a Jewish women married to Palestinian could not bring her husband to Israel. What a country you have Akbar – a secular, democratic, multicultural paradise where the women have to sit in the back of to bus not to be attacked by bearded burning eyed men (by the way not Talebans), a real paradise indeed.

I know all about Noam Chomsky, his retarded opinions, his freedom of speech, and how nice he makes anti-Israel Arabs and and anti-semites feel. Israel’s inclusion of Arabs in government, in the election process, in the economy, and in cultural life doesn’t seem very “Nazi-like” to me. But if you say so;)

Noam Chomsky is one of the most respected academic figures in USA. If someboy has retarted opinions it is you Akbar. By the way why do you not call Chomsky anti-Semitic or a Holocaust denier (the usual terms your gang uses of opponents)? 🙂 🙂 🙂

Alex –
I’m an engineer too! Wanna start a company???

I am also an engineer. Before you Akbar offer to start a company with me I must say you Akbar would be the last choice to a partner in business. I do not like fascists.

April 25th, 2007, 8:10 pm

 
 

MSK said:

Dear Ehsani2,

I’m going with Joshua on that issue. The regime is in power because the inhabitants of Syria feel that it is their best (or least bad?) choice.

About your argument “On the grounds, they have no opposition. By on the grounds, I am referring to the 4500 tanks division. As long as they control that, they could continue to hold on to power for another 30 years even with the changing world around them that you describe.” … I’d have to remind you of Eastern Europe ’89 and Iran ’79. Controlling tanks isn’t enough to keep a regime in power. It’s about projection of power (& fear). Once the population either stops being afraid or begins not to care if it dies … those 4,500 tanks don’t matter anymore.

–MSK

April 25th, 2007, 9:02 pm

 

EHSANI2 said:

Well, the tanks were useful in Hama.

Of course, it is a combination of owning access to the tanks AND convincing your opponents that you will stop at nothing to ensure that you will not lose.

I think that Damascus has achieved this dual objectives to perfection.

The Bunni verdict is to convince the populace that the second objective is alive and well. No dissent will be tolerated. If your fear is on the decline, a new dose was injected.

April 25th, 2007, 9:07 pm

 
 

trustquest said:

Ehsani,
With complete agreement of what you said, I would like to make some exceptions. There are always rooms for innovation and surprises. Iraq resistance was big surprise to most of people in the Middle East, no one contemplated that they would think to stand against the strongest army in the world. The Gulf States are big surprise in the region with their economic rollercoaster. The area is pregnant with change and surprises, and those starts by planting a seed.
Prediction: Baath party will split in the coming year. Syria will witness its first demonstration coming out of the university next year. Populace outcry will show at the end of this year when government removes its support for subsidies. Turmoil in the north will change political landscape in the Syria and weaken the central government. Oppositions’ parties bring together one program and make a good showing 4 years from now in the next parliamentary election. Investors will cause government to make more realistic reforms.
I’m not expecting any surprise on the part of the Harri Tribunal.

April 25th, 2007, 9:51 pm

 

Ford Prefect said:

Side note first: If people in Syria are going to watch satellite TV for 20 hours a day, I am praying it is not going to be Murdoch’s Faux News. They might want to stick to SANA for a more “fair and balanced” news.

We are falling into a trap the Syrian government is setting up for media sound bites. The publicity this show trial is making indicates a diversion while something is being cooked. A relative fact to ponder: The Syrian government does not usually send dissident to jail under public trials with a sentence of “five” years. Dissidents usually either disappear or get jailed indefinitely. No trials and no show business. Many, many, many more dissidents are in jail today. None of them was tried publicly.

What we are witnessing here is a charade. This is an atypical event in an otherwise typically predictable behavior. The real question is thus why put a dissident into a public trial – a rare event in Syria?

I agree with Ehsani that this is a message. But I tend to disagree with him on the notion that because the US did not do anything, Syria went on with the sentence unchallenged. Actually, no one in Syria, government included, could give a falafel sandwich for what the US think or does anymore. Of course they saw what they did to their Lebanese allies and they remember their incompetence of managing Iraq, Afghanistan, and even Katrina. The US lost not only its credibility in the region but also its power to affect anything.

But the calculus (or is it the algebra?) that Dr. Landis is referring to is an important one to consider. The current raison d’être of the Syrian government is the relative safety and security of its people. That is the source of its legitimacy for the time being.

April 25th, 2007, 10:08 pm

 

Enlightened said:

Point taken ford ;

so the generals trying to clean the evidence and the crime scene doesnt mean much in your opinion?

Never the less; the point is a fair and independent judiciary system is necessary dont you think? Trust me my heart does not bleed for those generals, bunni is another matter!

April 25th, 2007, 10:47 pm

 

Enlightened said:

Akbar Said:

“So my question is, where are all the “jihadists” against authoritarian and corrupt Arab governments? Sorry, but no one here has convinced me that Arab political prisoners are worth the time of day.”

Akbar an equally dim statement; they are more worth than your glib statement. Question for you Akbar what is your view on the incarceration of Mordechai Vannunu?

April 25th, 2007, 10:51 pm

 

DJ said:

Josh,
I didn’t get your remark clearly, are you suggesting that the Syrian dissent has been naive in not relying fully on the US?

April 26th, 2007, 6:24 am

 

Ford Prefect said:

Enlightened,
I am like you; I have no affinity to the actions of the 4 generals, their disposition, or their demented minds. That is my opinion – which is of course irrelevant regarding their incarceration. Fair is fair and it is applicable to everyone – including criminals. If they committed a crime, they should have a fair trial by an independent judiciary, a legal defense, and a sentence. Throwing them in jail indefinitely, no matter how we perceive their guilt is a travesty to justice and the freedom that we are calling for in Syria. It is the typical hypocrisy that is at issue here. The whole Middle East should be illuminated holistically, shouldn’t it?

April 26th, 2007, 7:58 am

 

Alex said:

It should!

And Good morning to you.

April 26th, 2007, 8:02 am

 

Ford Prefect said:

Go to bed, Alex, sweet dreams 😉

April 26th, 2007, 8:56 am

 

Akbar Palace said:

Enlightened said:

Akbar an equally dim statement; they are more worth than your glib statement. Question for you Akbar what is your view on the incarceration of Mordechai Vannunu?

Quite simple: I hope he has a good long book to read.

I find it interesting how some here like to compare apples to oranges. Mordechai Vannunu had an obligation to protect state secrets. So did Robert Hanssen (if we we’re talking about the US).

Democracies allow for free speech, not the disclosure of state secrets.

What Syrian state secret did Anwar al-Bunni expose?

I tried to explain the same phenomenon regarding “political prisoners”, Israel has no political prisoners in jail for speaking their mind.

SimoHurtta seems to think that a “political prisoner” is a non-Israeli foreigner who has been caught participating in violence acts against the Israel.

Again, no one here has told me what violent acts Anwar al-Bunni has been involved with against Syria.

April 26th, 2007, 10:49 am

 

SimoHurtta said:

SimoHurtta seems to think that a “political prisoner” is a non-Israeli foreigner who has been caught participating in violence acts against the Israel.

Akbar your ramblings would make sense if the non-Israeli “foreigners” would have been arrested in Israel. But the truth is that the Palestinians have been arrested in an area which is not Israel, it is under Israeli occupation. 99 percent of Palestinians have been born in Palestine. The percent of Israeli Jews born in Israel or its occupied colonies is much, much lower. Actually most of Israelis are foreigners (who for some astonishing reason keep their other passport – for an insurance I assume). 🙂

If an Israeli comes to a yard where the “foreigner” has been born and has lived all his life and begins to cut his olive trees and the “foreigner” throws stones at the Israeli, is it a violent act against Israel? I do not think it is.

What have you Akbar to say about imprisonment of wifes and children to press the men? I understand that there is nothing you can say in defence for your “Nazi country”.

April 26th, 2007, 12:15 pm

 

Ford Prefect said:

Here is a smart and corageous statement from a true American and un-hijacked Republican, Sentor Chuck Hagel:

“I am a supporter of Israel, but first I am an American senator,”
Hagel said. “No relationship should ever be founded on holding hostage other relationships.”

http://www.northjersey.com/page.php?qstr=eXJpcnk3ZjczN2Y3dnFlZUVFeXk2MDcmZmdiZWw3Zjd2cWVlRUV5eTcxMjI5OTgmeXJpcnk3ZjcxN2Y3dnFlZUVFeXky

P.S. GO GEORGE AJJAN!!

April 26th, 2007, 3:52 pm

 

Akbar Palace said:

SimoHurtta continues his argument concerning “political prisoners”:

Akbar your ramblings would make sense if the non-Israeli “foreigners” would have been arrested in Israel.

SimoHurtta,

No, my ramblings would never make sense to you because you (and your Pali information sources) will continue to redefine what the term “politcal prisoner” is.

But the truth is that the Palestinians have been arrested in an area which is not Israel, it is under Israeli occupation.

So? Arresting someone in Israel, Ramallah (which is not occupied), Lebanon, or China simply does not make this person a “political prisoner” if they were caught engaging or supporting acts of violence.

99 percent of Palestinians have been born in Palestine.

That statistic is plainly false. Most Palestinians today have never set foot in Palestine.

The percent of Israeli Jews born in Israel or its occupied colonies is much, much lower.

Again, please get your facts straight:

With time, the percentage of “sabras” in society increased, and in recent years it has leveled off at just under 61%.

http://www.jewishagency.org/JewishAgency/English/Jewish+Education/Compelling+Content/Eye+on+Israel/Society/1)+Introduction+The+Diversity+of+Israeli+Society.htm
Actually most of Israelis are foreigners (who for some astonishing reason keep their other passport – for an insurance I assume).

If an Israeli comes to a yard where the “foreigner” has been born and has lived all his life and begins to cut his olive trees and the “foreigner” throws stones at the Israeli, is it a violent act against Israel? I do not think it is.

SimoHurtta,

What a terrible story. Is that what happened with the Jewish community of Hebron in 1929? That would explain it!;) I’ll be happy to tell you what really happened, but I don’t want to confuse you.

Here’s a defination of “political prisoner” that may help you, but I doubt you’ll learn anything from it.

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

April 26th, 2007, 4:25 pm

 

SimoHurtta said:

Well the 99 percent of Palestinians still living in Occupied areas, Gaza and Israel are born there. Naturally there are millions of Palestinians living abroad.

Anyway the percentage of Palestinians born and living in the area in question) is much higher as Israeli Jews born and still living there. That is a fact Akbar.

With time, the percentage of “sabras” in society increased, and in recent years it has leveled off at just under 61%.

Really are the millions from Europe, Soviet States and Ethiopia already “sabras”. Between 1989-2004 962,458 people moved from former Soviet Union. If Israel’ population now is 6,4 million (according to CIA facts) of which about 1.5 million are non-Jews it gives a result that in Israel live about 4,9 million Jews.

Your figure 61 % of the population (if you incluide the non Jews to your society) means that out of 6.4 million citizens are 3.9 million “sabras”. If now we have 1 million mostly Russian immigrants in the last two decades it means 4.9 – 1 million = 3.9 million, which makes your “sabra” figure highly suspicious. Because it is likely that a still a rather big portion of the “non-Russian” Israeli Jewish population are also imigrants.

What would be interesting to know how many Israeli Jewish citizens actually are still living in Israel. It must be a highly guarded state secret. 🙂

A political prisoner is someone held in prison or otherwise detained, perhaps under house arrest, because their ideas or image are deemed by a government to either challenge or threaten the authority of the state.

Most Palestinian prisoners fit to this Wiki definition you linked. You Akbar are astonishing stupid if you can’t admit it or you did not read what your link says. Actually linking it shows your level in a debate – untalented beginner and a miserable propagandist.

To the olive tree story. Did Israel exist in 1929? What has it to do with the present days land grabbing and war crimes? You Zionist have an astonishing way of making pretending to be victims. By the way modern Jews do not cut Palestinian olive trees. They uproot them and sell them to other Jews (naturally no share of the “profit” goes to the Pal’s). Hmmmmm hmmmmm Akbar isn’t that “Nazi behaviour”.

April 26th, 2007, 8:38 pm

 

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