Arab League Mediation in Lebanon Fails

Arab League Mediation in Lebanon Fails by HUSSEIN DAKROUB, AP:

BEIRUT: AP, Lebanon – The head of the Arab League said Saturday that he was leaving Lebanon after failing to get the country’s feuding politicians to agree on a plan to elect a new president and end the deepening political crisis.

After four days of talks, Amr Moussa said the situation in Lebanon was still “serious” and promised to return to Beirut in the next few days to continue his discussions with members of the Western-backed government and pro-Syrian opposition.

“I don’t want to give a dose of optimism, nor to describe the situation as pessimistic,” said Moussa. “There is still hope as long as we are working.”

The Arab League secretary general arrived in Beirut on Wednesday to discuss ways of implementing a plan unanimously endorsed by Arab foreign ministers last week calling for the election of army commander Gen. Michel Suleiman as president, the formation of a national unity government and the adoption of a new election law.

Many hoped Syria’s willingness to back the statement would soften demands by the opposition , led by the Syrian-backed militant group Hezbollah , that it receive Cabinet veto power before allowing Suleiman to be elected.

However, Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri, who is aligned with the opposition, postponed the presidential vote for a 12th time on Friday as the election deadlock entered its second month.

Saad Hariri, the leader of the parliamentary majority, said Saturday that Lebanon was going through “a very difficult and dangerous stage” and urged the opposition to help facilitate the presidential vote.

“The Arab initiative is very clear. What is important is to begin implementing it by electing a president because this election is the basis of the entire initiative,” legislator Saad Hariri said in an interview with Kuwait Television.

Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak warned Saturday that Arab countries would not be able to help Lebanon unless the country’s feuding factions reached a compromise to end the current crisis.

“What is left now is the Arab initiative, and if the (Lebanese) do not make it succeed, then I predict a dangerous situation for Lebanon, for (countries) surrounding Lebanon and for the region at large,” said Mubarak.

Tehran Times by By Hassan Hanizadeh, Jan., 13, Sunday, 2007:

Now it appears that the crisis over electing Suleiman as president is coming to an end, but the issue of the cabinet’s configuration still remains a major challenge facing all political groups in Lebanon.

The problem should be solved in such a way that the March 14 group will not be able to use its influence on the cabinet to prevent other Lebanese political groups from presenting national plans.

If a solution to the problem of the composition of the cabinet is not found before the presidential election, then Lebanon will definitely have no administration for a long time, and this is apparently what the March 14 group wants.

Endless wrangling about the cabinet’s makeup will only intensify the problem of the political vacuum in Lebanon. To solve the crisis, a cabinet must be formed that is not biased in favor of either side and is only concerned about the country’s national interests.

Syria blasts Bush's efforts in Middle East: Tehran Times

"It is perhaps too late to talk about peace in the last year of this U.S. administration. It will be preoccupied with elections,"" Assad was quoted as saying.

""Annapolis was a one-day event. It will all depend on follow-up efforts. We have to be optimistic, although cautious,"" Assad said in reference to the U.S.-sponsored Israeli-Palestinian peace conference in November.

The Syrian government daily Tishrin voiced an even stronger criticism of the president.

Bush is carrying ""rotten produce in his pocket to market in the region and [comes] with some chaotic ideas in mind to further support Israel, undermine the Arab forces of resistance, antagonize Arab-Iran relations and justify U.S.-Zionist [Israeli] hegemony,"" the paper said in an editorial, according to the Associated Press.

The paper said it was unlikely that Bush would ""achieve any tangible results"" on his trip that would ""whiten the U.S. Administration's black image."

LE MONDE 12.01.08 11h51 • 12.01.08 (Thanks to Friday Lunch Club) Outlines French diplomatic strategy
'un des efforts diplomatiques les plus marquants de la présidence de Nicolas Sarkozy, à savoir son ouverture au régime syrien de Bachar Al-Assad afin de l'inciter à contribuer à un dénouement de la crise politique au Liban, s'est soldé par un échec.

Anti-Israel Palestinian groups to hold Syria conference

DAMASCUS (AFP) — Hamas and other Syria-based Palestinian groups are to hold a conference later this month focused on Palestinian refugees and resistance against Israel, a spokesman said on Sunday.

"The national Palestinian conference will be held January 23-25 in Damascus under the banner of Palestinian rights and unity," conference spokesman Anwar Raja told AFP.

PA to Syria: Butt out:

The PA is up in arms over the decision of Palestinian opposition groups to assemble for a conference in which they are expected to discuss changes to Palestinian governing bodies.

Alternative to PLO
Palestinian opponents to Annapolis: We'll elect new president / Ali Waked
Palestinian 'opposition' to hold conference in Damascus next week to protest Annapolis conference. Senior Palestinian official: We're considering electing alternate governing body to PLO
Full Story

Rahman said that "every attempt to hurt the Palestinian leadership and its legitimacy encourages those who took power in Gaza to continue with their revolution.

"It is significant that the conference is in Damascus because it shows that Syria is supporting the revolution that Hamas carried out and that hurts the Palestinian cause and the pan-Arab cause," he said.

Abbas' aide also said that he rejects the Syrian claim that all Palestinians can hold conferences in the country. According to him, this is not true and it only adds to the injury which the act inflicts upon the Palestinian cause.

Rahman tried to quell Syrian anxiety and said that the "Palestinian Authority will not separately pursue an accord with Israel. Any accord will be carried out according to Arab strategy, which holds that Israel must withdraw from Arab territory that was conquered in 1967, which includes the Syrian Golan and Shebaa Farms. Thus, there is no reason for Syria's fears and there is no need for Syrian involvement in our internal affairs."

Alternative leadership?

Abbas' confidante noted that there is opposition to every regime and that "Syria also has opposition. Nonetheless, we want a relationship based on mutual respect and noninvolvement in the internal matters of the other party."

US beats a Middle East policy retreat
By Adam Morrow and Khaled Moussa al-Omrani

CAIRO – Recent months have witnessed several notable political reorientations in the Middle East, involving Iran, the Gulf states, Egypt and Lebanon. Several experts say the changes reflect a shift in Washington's regional strategy following recent policy setbacks.

"US policies in the region are either in retreat or undergoing re-examination," Ayman Abelaziz Salaama, international law professor at Cairo University, told Inter Press Service. "Washington's project for a new Middle East – launched in 2001 with the aim of redrawing the region to suit US interests – has failed." ….

Observer, a commentator on SC, writes of this article:

This article from Asia Times confirms that the era of US hegemony is at an end and the era of regional alliances with the big players — Iran, Turkey, and perhaps Israel — is beginning. In all of this the Sunni states of Jordan Egypt and the KSA are all losers. One card that the KSA is trying to hold is the Sunni insurgency in Iraq as they are trying to prepare them for the coming civil war, a proxy war with Iran. The rest of the GCC countries do not want anything to do with such a scenario as they have substantial Shia minorities. To achieve this the KSA will have to dissociate Syria from Iran and pay the price: this price will be

1. The head of Jumblat
2. The right hand of Hariri
3. The further empowerement of HA
4. The end of the tribunal
5. Continued military cooperation with Tehran as they help the Syrians in developing asymetric warfare capabilities
6. Huge investments in Syria

Observer adds in another comment:

3. Neither Syria nor Lebanon have even achieved the modicum of a nation state. In actuality, just a few years ago, one could argue that Syria was certainly moving towards becoming a failed state in that it had no power to protect its citizens, be a refereree among the protagonists, insure the minimum requirement for education and health. Only the departure from Lebanon has forced the regime to modernize back home. Otherwise the old guard was perfectly happy to remain in the status quo.

4. The tribunal is the sword of Damocles over the Syrian regime. It is left there hanging. It will be used only if and when the decision has been made collectively to replace the regime. It does not matter who killed Hariri. It is the blame for the killing that is important politically. So far, the Syrian administration has played its chess game very well indeed. Giving enough to reduce the pressure while holding on to all its cards. I would argue that it even enhanced its position and even played the Arab regimes against each other very well 5. The Arabs do not want a repetition of the Iraq debacle. Another disaster like this and all of their regimes will be severely weakened to say the least. They have come to realize that the US use of power has its limits. How to deal with the rise of Iran is the big question. Now that a US attack on Iran is out after the NIE publication, the conflict will evolve in two directions: an Israeli attack or subversion in both Iraq and Iran or perhaps both. In all of those situations, Iran is prepared. It has infiltrated all of the Shia communities on the shores of the Gulf and has built forward positions for its secret services in all of these countries. It is prepared to wage an asymetric war with the US and no one can afford to do anything during a recession. It will turn it into a worldwide depression.

6. The mission in Afghanistan is crucial to the success of NATO. If fracture about the nature of the mission continue to evolve, it is the future role of the US as the leader of the organisation that is at stake. The Europeans are waiting to see who occupies the White house next year. If it is a hawkish democrat or a republican do not expect much change, if it is a new generation of leaders, expect them to bail out of the mission.

7. Russia will continue to use the Iranian card on the one hand the energy transportation hubs on the other to foil the US in the region and to drive wedges between Europe and the US. If the Poles are pressured to accept the defence shield by the US, expect a Russian sale of very sofisticated weapon systems to Iran. Already the sale of the S-300 and the Tor-1 system has effectively allowed Iran to have a multilayered air defence system around its facilities.

8. The fact that the Arab League is now in the front on Lebanon means that both the US and to a lesser extent France are giving it lip service. The M14 have but themeselves to blame as they are slowly being abandoned. They accepted the initiative thinking that they can get their President and keep the majority in the goverment blocking HA and the opposition from consolidating their position with new elections and new electoral law. As I said before the devil is in the details and HA will not budge until and unless it has all of its demands met IN ADVANCE.

9. Syria has effectively returned in full force in Lebanon, notwithstanding what Michael Young says. It is back even better than when it had its tanks just as Britain would leave its colonies only to return with other means.

10. The news that the US used its airforce to bomb 40 insurgent strongholds simultaneously( over 10 minues) using B-1 and other aircraft just a few days after the confrontation in the strait of Hormuz is a signal to Iran about what the US can do with its high tech weapons. Expect in time an Iranian response about its asymetric capabilities.

Lebanon is a speck in all of this and Syria is comma.

   By Thomas G. Donlan
  The magazine Foreign Policy, published by the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, delights in shaking up international bureaucrats and their political masters. It asks them each issue to stop and think, before they blurt and blunder again.
  An article in the January-February issue challenges the blurting and blundering American presidential candidates from 12 perspectives (and we offer a 13th). The magazine asked a dozen of "the world's leading thinkers" each to propose one new U.S. policy or political gesture that would improve America's standing in the world. 
    Yet here, we summarize all the suggestions of what the new president should do, according to the magazine. Longer versions are available in Foreign Policy
magazine and on its Website,
A Plateful of Resolution 
    — Open a diplomatic dialogue with Syria and end our threats of "regime change," because Syria has been blocking progress on many of the issues of importance in the Middle East. -Jessica T. Matthews, president, Carnegie Endowment for International Peace 

   — Visit dozens of world capitals, ask for advice and listen seriously, without trying to prove American dominance.
-Newt Gingrich, former speaker, U.S. House of Representatives 

 — Travel to Tehran and reopen relations with Iran on the basis of respect for its desire for a "legitimate regional role."
-Dmitri Trenin, deputy director, Carnegie Moscow Center

Comments (46)

Shual said:

Mr. Landis,

I think the link behind “US beats a Middle East policy retreat
By Adam Morrow and Khaled Moussa al-Omrani” is wrong.

January 13th, 2008, 9:28 pm


Nur al-Cubicle said:

Hooray for Italian Foreign Minister D’Alema, who has come right out and said that Bush was unnecessarily scare-mongering in his speech in the UAE about Iran financing al-Qaeda! What a whopper, Mr. Bush, whew!

January 13th, 2008, 9:43 pm


Akbar Palace said:

Bomb Syria and Iran, watch Lebanon florish.

January 13th, 2008, 11:34 pm


syrthefuture said:

One SC observer stated that KSA plans to fight a proxy war against Iran in Iraq. To do so, it needs Syria disassociated from Iran. One of the prices listed is cooperating with Iran to get Syria military support (something along those lines).

I know Mideast policy is filled with contradictions fuelled by odd interests, but this statement from the SC observer is not a policy, but rather an opinion conceived from the following equation (in my view):

KSA wants Syria disassociated from Iran when it comes to its proxy war against Iran. Thus, KSA wants Iran to help Syria militarily so that Syria helps (hence the prices that will have to be paid) KSA against Iran.

I probably missed something. So could the SC observer please elaborate?

January 14th, 2008, 12:14 am


norman said:

People who think that the US will not attack Iran or Syria are in for a great surprise , President Bush trip to the Mideast is just to shore up support for an attack on Iran promising the Arabs a solution to the Palestinian problem only for them to wake with a war that will destroy the Gulf states , President Bush will be leaving the presidencey to the President following him to solve and blame it on Bush , his insistance on selling weapons to KSA that they do not know how to use might be just a way to make KSA pay for the weapons that the US will use in a surprise attack.

January 14th, 2008, 1:59 am


Sami D said:

بلى فيروز… اذهبي إلى دمشق

بيار أبي صعب

منذ المراهقة الأولى، حين يبدأ المرء بالخروج من غيتواته الموروثة على اختلافها (الحيّ، المنطقة، الطائفة والعصبيّة المحليّة…) إلى العالم الأوسع، كنا كلّما تعرّفنا بشخص آت من سوريا بدأ الحديث بيننا عن فيروز. في بيروت أولاً، في أوساط المعارضين الذين صاروا إخوة ورفاقاً، ثم في باريس ولندن ومختلف المدن العربيّة والمناسبات الثقافيّة. نادراً ما التقينا جاراً من سوريا، إلا انطلق التواصل بيننا من «السيّدة» إيّاها، صوتها وأغنياتها وشخصياتها الرحبانيّة.
كان في الأمر مفارقة مثيرة: من جهة، أنت الذي مللت هذا الإرث الخانق، وضقت ذرعاً بالضيعة وفولكلورها، بتلك النظرة الطوباويّة والساذجة إلى العالم، بالوطن المنزّه والغيبي (صخرة سعيد عقل المعلّقة بالنجم)، بالشعر المنحوت وقوافيه المكرّرة، بالحب الكريستالي البارد، المجرّد من أي شبق ــــــ كما هي صورة لبنان الرحبانيّ، أو كما تراءت للشاب الثائر الذي كنتَه، وجاء زياد الرهيب ليعزّزها آنذاك باسكتشه الإذاعي فيروز في «صح النوم»فيروز في «صح النوم»الشهير: «بحبّك يا لبنان»! ومن الجهة الأخرى، إخوة الحلم وشركاء الوجع، الهاربون من جزمة العسكر، يأتون ليقولوا لكَ في بيروت: هذه فيروزنا، وهذا لبناننا. فهمنا مع الوقت أن فيروز التي كان يتردد أيّام الحرب الأهليّة أنها الرمز الوحيد الباقي لوحدة لبنان، هي أيضاً رمز لأخوّة ما، روحيّة وحقيقية، بين لبنان وسوريا. سوريا، أي أهلها وناسها الذين لا يمكن اختزالهم الى نظام سياسي، علماً بأن السياسة لم تكن يوماً بعيدة عن قصّة الحبّ الغريبة تلك، بين السوريين و«سفيرتنا (سفيرتهم) إلى النجوم»… هناك أيضاً الحبّ الفلسطيني لفيروز، لكنّ تلك حكاية أخرى.
اليوم، ترتفع أصوات لبنانيّة، داعية فيروز إلى عدم الذهاب إلى دمشق، حيث ينتظر الجمهور بشوق عرض مسرحيّتها «صحّ النوم» في «دار الأوبرا»، مساء الثامن والعشرين من الشهر الجاري، في إطار برنامج ضخم يواكب إعلان دمشق «عاصمة الثقافة العربيّة للعام ٢٠٠٨». الدعوة اللبنانيّة إلى المقاطعة التي نقلتها بلمحة بصر مجلّة Courrier International الفرنسيّة، هي باسم الحريّة طبعاً، وتحت راية معارضة النظام السوري. لكنّ هذا الموقف، الساذج في أفضل الحالات، إذ نفترض أنّه يستند إلى نيات (ديموقراطيّة) طيبة، فيه افتراء على فيروز أولاً، من خلال زجّها في لعبة ابتزاز هي منها براء… وفيه ظلم لشعب كامل عبر السعي الى عزله، ومطالبته بدفع ثمن باهظ نيابة عن حكّامه. هل اتخذ «دعاة الحريّة العربيّة» الموقف النبيل نفسه، حين قدّمت فيروز المسرحيّة إيّاها في عمّان؟ هل تثور ثائرتهم إذا غنّت في القاهرة أو تونس أو دبي (لن نقول جدّة أو الرياض، فالأمر حتى الآن ما زال مستحيلاً هناك)…؟ أم أن ساعة الديموقراطيّة يجب أن تدقّ، وبسحر ساحر، فقط حيث يقرر الكاوبوي الأميركي، وحين يقرّر ذلك؟
بلى فيروز. اذهبي إلى دمشق. دمشق ليست تل أبيب. طالبنا إلهام المدفعي وقبله سعاد ماسي بمقاطعة الكيان الصهيوني المغتصب. لكنّك بين أهلك في دمشق، في بيتك، بغض النظر عن كلّ شيء… منذ الخمسينات صدح صوتك الصاعد عبر إذاعتها، ومسرح «معرض دمشق الدولي» ما زال يشهد على لحظات تألقك. أنت أرفع من التواطؤ مع أي جلاد، فاذهبي وغنّي للحريّة هناك، وسيسمعك ميشال كيلو ورفاقه من سجنهم… عسى إطلاق سراحهم يكون وشيكاً كي يأخذ الاحتفال بعاصمة الثقافة العربيّة معناه الحقيقي. سيسمعونك، كما يسمعك كل سجناء الرأي، والمضطهدون من أجل قناعاتهم ومبادئهم، في ديار العرب جمعاء، وليس فقط في سوريا.
اذهبي وغنّي للناس الذين يحبّونك، عينهم على لبنان وهم يحلمون بغد أفضل. احملي لهم سلاماً من بلدك الجريح الذي قهر البرابرة صيف ٢٠٠٦، لأوّل مرّة منذ نكبة فلسطين. وبشرّيهم بالمجتمع المدني، وبالديموقراطيّة التي تسعى إليها النخبة الشجاعة المستنيرة هناك (وفي المنافي)، خطوة خطوة، بتضحياتها ووعيها وحسّ وطني مترسّخ يمنعها من المقامرة على بلادها، على تعريض وطنها (ودول الجوار) للنحر والتفتّت، كما يحصل للأسف الشديد في العراق.
ارتدي ملابس قرنفل، بطلة «صحّ النوم»، دعيها تسرق ختم الحاكم المستبد لتعيد إلى المواطنين حقوقهم الضائعة. دعيها تردّد: «يا مولانا الوالي/ شفت الأهالي ناطرين/ واقفين، ناطرين/ حاملين بيوتن بإيديهم/ جرّحني صريخ ولادن/ وشفتك نايم يا مولانا…». سيسمعك السوريّون جيّداً، كما سمعك الفلسطينيّون والأردنيّون واللبنانيّون… فتحت سماء دمشق، ومع أهلها فقط، يمكن اختراع «الربيع» الآتي لا محالة.

January 14th, 2008, 2:11 am


. said:

Should that include the moderates in there too- Saudi at the top of the list, with Mecca leading… On the Iran attack: Putin declared that an attack on Iran will be considered an attack on Russia. Is this just rhetoric?

January 14th, 2008, 5:01 am


Antoun said:

I wouldn’t rule out a US strike on Iran either.

The SC Observer is painting a serious doom and gloom image for the West in the Middle East, I wouldn’t be too convinced.

Whilst I concur that US blunders in the Middle East have aided the Iranian-Syrian axis, and put the Sunni Arabs on the back pedal, we shouldn’t write off the capabilities of the West.

Observer seriously undermined the important role Israel plays in the Middle East chess game. It has already proven it will take matters into its own hands, and use its military superiority, if cards in the region aren’t showing in their favour.

Iran’s ascendancy in the region will reach a limit before Israel, with its Sunni Arab allies, react, with or without the US and Europe.

Also, the KSA v Iran image doesn’t appear to make a lot of sense, as Syrthefuture noted.

In addition to those comments, KSA must sell Lebanon to Syria, and indirectly to Iran by giving Hizballah greater power in the country, in order to ply Syria away from Iran. I don’t exactly understand that equation.

Syria will eventually regain its status as the main stakeholder in Lebanon, and most capitals are viewing March 14 as a lost cause, but I certainly don’t expect a carte blanche to Hizballah and Syria.

The Israelis have touted the idea of handing Lebanon to Syria in the air, in conjunction with a peace agreement. A peace agreement with Syria (that will include handing both Lebanon and Golan to Syria) will be the only way to ply Damascus from Iran. I don’t expect Syria to give up the alliance, but certainly a peace agreement will open the country up to the West and render it less hostile.

Maybe Damascus will be getting what it wants after all. The more powerful Iran gets, the more attractive a solid peace agreement with Syria looks for the Israelis, Americans and the Sunni Arabs.

January 14th, 2008, 5:02 am


. said:

What will Hezbollah do in the Iran attack? What is the time frame? We know time is not on Israel’s side in this one…

January 14th, 2008, 5:12 am


why-discuss said:

“People who think that the US will not attack Iran or Syria are in for a great surprise”

I think the surprise will be reciprocal as the US bases in the arab gulf countries will not be spared by the iranians. Already Kuwait has made it clear to Bush that they will not accept any attack on Iran from the bases in their country. I think Bahrein gave the same message. Would KSA or Oman take the chance to get iranians rockets on their country? I think the loud and obsessive warnings of Bush on the media about Iran’s threat is simply a pathetic attempt to hide he fact that all Gulf states are opposed to an attack on Iran. In addition, in view of the case of nuclear weapons getting weaker by the day, i doubt the EU will accept an attack on Iran.
The surprise may be that Israel who is becoming more isolated in its fear from Iran, may make, as they did before, a symbolic attack in Iran ( as the alleged ‘nuclear site’ in Syria) just to test the international reactions. Yet, a very risky game for Israel who may get some nasty reactions from Hamas and Hezbollah. They may also have another surprise as they did in summer 2006.

January 14th, 2008, 10:16 am


. said:

They say this for public consumption-like Qatar, for example- yet all the US bombs in ’06 came through Al Udeid outside Doha. Germany palyed the same game in Iraq in ’03, condemning for the public, but behind the scenes giving much aid in other ways, namely intel.

January 14th, 2008, 11:28 am


Shual said:

“Germany played the same game in Iraq in ‘03, condemning for the public, but behind the scenes giving much aid in other ways, namely intel.”

Wrong: “Die Bundesregierung bereitet sich auf die Möglichkeit eines Militärschlags gegen den Irak vor. Erstmals ließ Bundeskanzler Gerhard Schröder am Freitag die Bedingung nennen, unter der Deutschland sich an einer von den USA geführten Aktion beteiligen könnte. Ein neues UN-Mandat sei hierfür nötig, sagte Regierungssprecherin Charima Reinhardt. Ohne Mandat aus New York komme eine Beteiligung nicht in Frage. In Regierungskreisen hieß es, dies sei faktisch als Ausschluss einer deutschen Teilnahme an Angriffen auf den Irak zu verstehen, da ein UN-Mandat zum Sturz Saddam Husseins höchst unwahrscheinlich sei.” [15.03.03]

The Question of “participation”: The BVG ruled in September 2005 that there are “grave concerns” that the support may have violated “international law”. The court ruled that there was an obligation of neutrality for the german government. They even ruled that the german government had to use force against the Americans. The problem with “obligation of neutrality” is that you can not find it in the german constitution. §26GG says [+ §80StGb], you should not “prepare a war of aggression” ot take part, but its not forbidden to support a country that acts in a “war of agression”. The german position not to take part in the preparation [to decline the war], but to support [without troops] is absolutly conform with law. On the other hand, soldiers who refused to take part in the support should not get punished. You may call that a big hole in the german constitution, but the Schröder-Admin acted very close to the law.

PS: “Behind the scenes”-myth. Very funny.

January 14th, 2008, 1:47 pm


norman said:

This is interesting and promissing,


Israel-Syria treaty the key to Mideast peace

Arlen Specter
> represents Pennsylvania

> in the U.S. Senate

> An Israeli-Syrian treaty has the potential to produce beneficial results for the peace process in the entire region: stopping Syrian support for Hamas, which would promote successful Israeli-Palestinian negotiations; ending Syria’s destabilization of Lebanon, including its backing of Hezbollah; and, perhaps most important, driving a wedge between Syria and Iran.

> Prospects have improved since President Bush has now taken a personal hand in Mideast issues by participating in Annapolis and traveling to the region. Over reported Iranian objections, Syria was represented at Annapolis. Two weeks ago in Damascus, President Basher al Assad told U.S. Rep. Patrick Kennedy (D., R.I.) and me that Annapolis changed his perspective and that he is now optimistic about prospects for a Syrian-Israeli pact.

> In the Byzantine world of Mideast politics, it is difficult to know what the principals have in mind even when listening to their statements and probing their nuances. A year ago, in my conversations with Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and Assad, both used words expressing an interest in a peace treaty, but their music contained little enthusiasm. Two weeks ago, in meetings with Kennedy and me, both national leaders appeared much more interested in pursuing a dialogue. That attitude was confirmed by the New Year’s Day story in Al-Hayat, the London-based Arabic daily, that said back-channel negotiations between Israel and Syria, mediated by Turkey, are being pursued.

> The conventional wisdom is, the parties were very serious when they came close to a 1995 deal, which was shattered by the assassination of Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin. Again in 2000, they almost reached an agreement brokered by President Bill Clinton until President Hafez al Assad reportedly backed away because a treaty might have derailed his son’s succession to the Syrian presidency.

> Only Israel can decide for itself if giving up the Golan Heights is in its national interest. Obviously, the security concerns are much different today than in 1967 since wars are now dominated by rockets. In our December meeting, Israeli President Shimon Peres said Syria could have the Golan or Lebanon, but not both. On Jan. 1, the Jerusalem Post outlined what Israel wants, quoting Olmert: “There will not be peace with Syria if Syria is connected to Hamas, Hezbollah and Iran, and continues to engage in the actions it is engaging. That is perfectly clear. It’s either – or.”

> The clear-cut emergence of Iran as the dominant problem in the region, if not the world, makes it more important than ever that all possible steps be taken to weaken Iran. A wedge between Syria and Iran would be an important step in that direction.

> With the Democrats in control of Congress, Bush has limited prospects for domestic victories in 2008. That may be why he reversed course, supported Annapolis, and is trying his hand at Mideast mediating. An Israeli-Syrian agreement could be the catalyst to bring all the moving parts together to assist in resolving the complex Mideast puzzles.

> Perhaps Bush and Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice may be listening to the advocates of dialogue and heeding the 2,400-year-old advice of Sun-Tzu, the Chinese philosopher, who said to keep your friends close and your enemies closer, and Moshe Dayan, former Israeli defense minister, who said you make peace with your enemies, not your friends. Bush’s diplomatic successes with North Korea and Libya may encourage him to undertake direct negotiations with Syria and perhaps, ultimately, even with Iran.


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January 14th, 2008, 2:01 pm


norman said:

lackluster report card for Bush’s Middle East junket
Apparently, George W. Bush’s handlers, desperate to improve his international image in the waning months of his period in the White House, were hoping to win more bang for the American taxpayers’ bucks they spent last week sending their man to the Middle East to talk about making peace after many years of making non-stop war. However, in politics, stuff happens. Bush was upstaged in the news by the headline-making drama of the New Hampshire primary, by the growing tide of worry about a recession that has developed on his watch, and even by the antics of French President Nicolas Sarkozy and his fashion-model/pop-singer girlfriend.

Unfortunately for Bush’s team, despite the considerable expense of his public-relations junket to Israel and several Arab countries, many news media in the region – and even some major news outlets beyond it – did not give the Republican pol’s trip high marks.

Larry Downing/Reuters

Bush and Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert in Jerusalem last week
» Bush appears to be hoping against hope that, for the sake of his reputation, the Israelis and Palestinians will make peace before he leaves the White House, thereby allowing the glow of the resolution of their long conflict to rub off on Bush himself. However, in a news-analysis piece on the even of Bush’s trip, Britain’s Times pointed out: “The Bush administration believes that a Palestinian state can be born by the end of 2008 if the two parties now engage seriously in negotiating the thorny issues of future borders, Jewish settlements, the status of Jerusalem and the fate of Palestinian refugees.” But the “reality on the ground, in places the presidential cortège will not be visiting, is very different. The Palestinian lands, which would form the future state, are divided by Jewish settlements and the Israeli security wall. Their inhabitants are trapped in a no-man’s-land that can barely support a poor rural economy, let alone become the foundation for a thriving sovereign state.” Meanwhile, the Gaza Strip “is now completely in the hands of the Islamic militant movement Hamas, whose fighters are engaged in daily rocket duels with the Israeli military. It is far more likely that the two sides will go to war in this crowded strip before it becomes part of a stable future Palestine.”

» The Herald Sun, apparently somewhat surprised by the intensity of the criticism, pointed out that numerous “Arab commentators poured scorn on…Bush’s vision of an Israeli-Palestinian peace deal [emerging] within a year.” Noting that, in Israel, Bush had urged both sides of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict to make “difficult choices,” the Australian newspaper reported: “But in Egypt, the first Arab country to sign a peace treaty with Israel, [the] liberal-opposition newspaper Al-Wafd described Bush as ‘the most hateful visitor’ and a ‘war criminal.'” The Egyptian paper observed: “After all the destruction you have caused and which your country continues to cause, you have wished to end your rule by playing the role of peacemaker….But you are lying as you have lied before to the people of the Middle East and to your own people.”

David Furst/Pool/Reuters

Last Friday, Bush and U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, accompanied by Franciscans, visited the ruins of an ancient village where Jesus is believed to have declared: “Blessed are the peacemakers”
Syria’s official Ath-Thawra intoned: “Before and during his visit to Israel and the Palestinian territories,…Bush more than once urged Israel to stop settlement expansion and called for the creation of an independent Palestinian state….These are only beautiful words of peace.” Rami Khouri, a Palestinian-Jordanian and U.S. citizen, and journalist and editor associated with Lebanon’s Daily Star, “said Washington’s refusal to accept the verdict when groups like the Islamist Palestinian group Hamas were elected to power, left Bush open to accusations of hypocrisy.” Khouri commented: “If you preach majority rule and the rule of law as a desirable global norm but refuse to respect it when Israeli interests are concerned, you come across as a hypocrite, at best, and a deceitful cheat, at worst….” (Cited by the Herald Sun)

» Saudi Arabia’s Arab News, in an editorial headlined “Cynicism with Reason,” noted: “We ought to be celebrating…Bush’s declaration that a Palestinian state is ‘long overdue.’…We should be excited by his call for an end to the Israeli occupation, all the more because ‘occupation’ is a word so rarely used by the Americans in relation to the Israelis. But there will be no dancing in the streets of Ramallah or Jericho or any other Palestinian town – or any Arab one….It is impossible to feel any excitement about Bush’s words – because no Palestinian, no Arab believes he will, or can, deliver….[T]here are good reasons – the most powerful being that we have been here, heard it all, too many times before, and to no effect.”

Mohammed Salem/Reuters

Last week, during a Hamas-led protest against Bush’s visit to Israel and the Palestinian territories, a Palestinian stomped on a poster of the American politician
Arabs are cautious or doubtful in response to Bush’s latest pronouncements, Arab News added, for “two specific reasons.” “The first is Washington’s historic alliance with Israel, which despite the ringing words about a Palestinian state, Bush himself fully re-endorsed during his visit [last] week. We can be absolutely certain that Washington is not going to exert the pressure needed to force the Israelis into making the necessary concessions for there to be a fully sovereign Palestinian state. Even if Bush wanted to (which has to be seriously questioned), Congress would not let him; certainly not in the limited time available.” Arab News said many Arabs’ second concern about Bush “is the man himself. He has proved a disaster of a president – for the U.S., for the Middle East, for the world. Everything he touches turns to dust and ashes.” (See also the Hindu)

» In the United Arab Emirates, the Gulf News published an editorial called “Letter to George W. Bush.” Citing a litany of Bush’s controversial accomplishments and events or people that have indelibly marked his period in office, it stated: “Dear Mr. President: Lest you forget[:] Invasion of Iraq. Thousands of dead. Looting the National Museum. Disbanding the Iraqi army. Donald Rumsfeld. Shock and awe. Jay Garner. Paul Bremer. Inciting sectarianism. Abu Ghraib. Thousands of detainees without charges. Torture. Oil. Ghost WMDs. The Niger connection. Halliburton. Blackwater. Deadly security contractors. Mercenaries. Fallujah. Haditha massacre. Blind support of Israel. Instigating the suffering of Gaza. Ignoring the expansion of illegal colonies. Defying United Nations resolutions. Securing ‘a Jewish State.’ Allowing Israelis to extend the destruction of Lebanon in the 2006 war. Providing Israel with new bunker-buster bombs to attack Lebanese towns. The War on Terror. ‘The Crusade.’ Clash of civilizations. Where is Osama Bin Laden? Afghanistan. Bagram massacre. Bombing media offices. Guantánamo Bay. Kangaroo courts. Indefinite detention. Presidential orders to ignore Geneva Conventions. ‘Unlawful enemy combatants.’ Illegal National Security Agency wiretapping. Fingerprinting visitors. Black prisons. Kidnapping foreign citizens on foreign lands. Khalid Al Masri. Abu Omar. Maher Arar. Central Intelligence Agency. ‘Aggressive interrogation techniques.’ Destroying the torture tapes….Denial of global warming. Rejecting Kyoto Protocol. Marginalization of the United Nations. John Bolton. Paul Wolfowitz and the World Bank. Karl Rove. Alberto Gonzales. Firing attorneys. Nepotism. False democracy promises. Dick Cheney, Dick Cheney and Dick Cheney….The list goes on.”


After visiting Israel, in the Persian Gulf region, the self-styled “war president” played with swords with Bahrain’s king
The Gulf News editorial continued: “Mr. President[,]…It has been reported that you are here to ‘lecture’ us on democracy and human rights. But with a record like yours, you will not be very convincing….Regional peace…will not be achieved by escalating tension and threatening to change regimes. And most importantly, it will not be achieved by supporting Israel, which continues to defy international law, occupy Arab lands, oppress the Palestinians and rebuff peace initiatives….We hope you have enjoyed the trip so far. The scenery is great. The food is exotic. As for the more ‘serious’ things, it is unlikely you will make any difference.”

Posted By: Edward M. Gomez (Email) | January 14 2008 at 07:51 AM

Listed Under: Alliances, Arab world, Democracy, Diplomacy, Egypt, Government, Human rights, Iraq, Israel, Israel-Hezbollah war, Israeli-Palestinian conflict, Lebanon, Middle East, Palestinians, Saudi Arabia, Torture, United Arab Emirates, United States | Comments (0) : Post Comment

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January 14th, 2008, 5:05 pm


norman said:

cursory internet search (oops, that was from Iraq – my bad – deja vu, right?) of news articles in any major paper will have a recap of Rice’s performance in front of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and Hagel, Biden, and Lugar questioning the President’s intent and Rice’s evasive and inconsistent replies. She rejects their appeals for diplomacy with Syria and Iran and refuses to pledge that Bush will seek permission from Congress before attacking either country (another post all together…like how did we even get to a point where this is possible?!?!).

I’m not sure how to interpret that in any other way but that Bush is expecting (and perhaps priming with his raid of an Iranian consulate in Iraq) military engagement with Iran and Syria.

January 14th, 2008, 6:43 pm


. said:


According to the UK Independent- -Jan14, 06 “Berlin admits giving US bombing targets in Iraq” if so that would constitute support to the war effort in my book. Germany’s own TV channel ARD said gov sources also confirmed German support. US military also said Germany assisted.

I did not mention Germany or other states to accuse, simply to illustrate that much reading between the lines needs be done when descrying if Gulf governments are really against Iran attack, and how much. Will they refuse launch rights but allow resupply depots, will they refuse troops but allow air rights etc etc. All govs everywhere say one thing and do another. My examples werent meant to single anyone out on Iraq, but to get to the bottom of things regarding Iran.

For ex, Gulfies may say they wont aid- but will they stop passage of bomb materials in their waters, maybe allow refueling/discount oil while issuing condemnations publicly or even privately, or will they not participate at all like Turkey in Iraq ’03? What is the level of their noncooperation? This issue somewhat affects if the war happens.

January 14th, 2008, 7:18 pm


Alex said:

Keep the US ‘freedom agenda’ alive

Ammar Abdulhamid

14 January 2008

Daily Star


Beirut — Former Syrian parliamentarian and political prisoner Mamoun al-Homsi, Kurdish activist Djengizkhan Hasso of the Executive Council of the National Assembly of Kurdistan, and I recently met with President George W. Bush in the Oval Office. National Security Adviser Steven Hadley, Deputy National Security Adviser Elliott Abrams, National Security Adviser to the Vice President John Hannah, and several other officials also attended the hour-long meeting.

Coming close on the heels of the Annapolis conference, which brought together representatives from all Arab states – including Syria – and Israel, many observers regarded our meeting as a signal of the Bush administration’s refusal to normalize bilateral relations with Syria or strike any deals or bargains with its regime.

Indeed, these views may not be far off the mark. For, while talking to us, Bush did not try to mask his disdain for Syria’s rulers, and he rejected the possibility of direct talks or any improvement in relations. As such, the “positive body language” that Syria’s ambassador to the United States, Imad Mustapha, said he detected during his brief encounter with Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice during the Annapolis meeting was outweighed by Bush’s negative language during our meeting. And we all know where the buck stops.

For our part, we underscored the worsening human rights situation in Syria. Indeed, no sooner had our meeting finished, and with the world commemorating International Human Rights Day, than the Syrian regime launched a massive campaign of arrests and intimidation directed against some of the country’s most prominent dissidents. Though many were freed within hours, some remain in jail.

This episode also highlights the need for continued emphasis on human rights and democracy promotion. Indeed, growing cynicism in this regard is a dangerous trend, because this is the one issue that still appeals to the people of the Middle East and can help immensely in the Western powers’ battle to win hearts and minds in our region.

America’s “freedom agenda” is not the cause of its current travails in the Middle East. The problem has been a lack of consistency in promoting the agenda, failure to develop broader international support for it, and the behavior of the United States itself, which has presented the agenda as a martial plan, rather than a Marshall Plan. Whatever the cause of these shortcomings, the lesson that American and European policymakers should draw is that the objective – facilitating democratization and modernization – remains valid, despite the need for a change in tactics.

Abandoning the freedom agenda would reaffirm the still-popular notion that all the US really cares about in the Middle East is oil and Israeli security, at the expense of everything else, including regional development and the wellbeing of the Arab and Muslim peoples. This conviction continues to facilitate recruitment by extremist groups, and must be countered effectively to prevent the emergence of new fronts in the war on terror.

True, a freedom agenda will not change people’s attitudes overnight. However, if pursued consistently, over time, with bipartisan support in the US – and more constant support in Europe – it will have a chance to make serious headway. There are many “ifs” here, but pro-democracy activists can only live on hope; or, as the late Syrian playwright Saadallah Wannous put it, they are condemned to hope.

Despite Bush’s mixed record, he still seems to share this hope. Will the same be true of America’s next president?

Ammar Abdulhamid, a Syrian dissident, author, and blogger

January 14th, 2008, 10:02 pm


Observer said:

My opinion with regard to the position of the KSA towards the rise of Iran in Iraq and its alliance with Syria and HA in Lebanon is as follows:
1. Israel cound not neutralize HA in Lebanon and in fact it is now stronger than ever. The UNIFIL are hostages to HA which guarantees their safety against jihadists.
2. Syria has maintained an indirect control in Lebanon despite its departure physically and nothing can happen without its approval. The March 14th group are in disarray.
3. Iran has extended its influence in Iraq and the battle for the control of Baghdad and the institutions of the goverment has been won by its Shia allies.
4. For the KSA to help the Sunnis of Iraq to tilt the power back in their favor and in favor of a role of the KSA in Iraq and restore Iraq as a bulwark against further extension of Iranian influence, the KSA needs to have Syria willing to at least remain neutral and not tip the balance one way or the other. To limit Iran’s influence in the region, Syria will have to be pried away from Iran and there is a price to pay for this. Syria has good relations with all of the factions in Iraq and has kept all its options open. The KSA cannot afford to be seen as sending money and weapons across its border with Iraq even if it were feasible as the routes go through the Southern provinces which are Shia. Now, they may have to do it through Jordan and that is still a possibility.
5. The KSA has relied on the notion that the US knows what it is doing and it is clearly dawning on them that the present administration is incompetent. For this administration to claim that the surge is working when it has reduced violence to 500 dead per month from 2000 dead per month is a farce of course.
I do not see any coherence or depth to the actions fo the KSA. If they buy weapons from the US that would be another indication of their lack of imagination and strategic thinking. In contrast,Iran despite the years of embargo has developed an arms industry that allows it to wage an asymetric warfare on its adversaries and to deter its neighbours.
The NYT published an article about a 2002 exercise that the Pentagon conducted whereby a Persian Gulf country uses waves of speedboats, torpedoes, and cruise missile to overwhelm the US navy in the Gulf. The result of the exercise by computer was the sinking by this unnamed power of 16 US major ships including an aircraft carrier. The Marine general responsible for the team attacking the americans in this scenario showed that the concept of asymetric warfare could wreck havoc on the US navy. The confrontation in the straits of Hormuz the other day was exactly that kind of scenario the Americans fear.

January 14th, 2008, 10:15 pm


Observer said:

Let me make a few more remarks:
An attack on Iran in the middle of a recession is out of the question.

The oil experts are all in agreement that an attack on Iran is not feasible with oil prices as high as they are now.

The WSJ today had an article about the return of professionals to the intelligence community as they are responsible for the latest NIE on Iran. These were the same professionals that voiced significant doubt about the presence of Iraqi WMD and were dismissed in 2003.

The Gulf Arabs are wary of both Iran and the KSA. Many opted to have US bases on their territory to spite KSA as much as Iran.

The Gulf states would not mind any war as long as it is far far away from their shores. All of the gains that they have achieved in the last 15 years will be wiped out as capital will flee. Do not forget that the US and Europe would love to see those dollars go to Paribas and Bank of America and to the Treasury bonds and the coffers of Luxembourg.

Superpowers are not slain by enemies. They are too big and too powerful to do so. They commit suicide. The Ottoman empire committed suicide when it joined the folly of WWI. Now that does not mean that their influence will disappear overnight and I never said that Iran is equivalent in its reach and influence as the US.

What I want people to realize is that the Iranian regime as well as the Syrian regime despite all of their shortcomings have not panicked and are exploiting the situation fully in contrast to the irrelevance of Egypt, the subjugation of Jordan, and the paralysis of the KSA.

January 14th, 2008, 10:40 pm


Observer said:

One final comment I hope.

The only wild card is Israel which according to CNN arabic is willing and training to wage war against Iran. Olmert says that he will not tolerate a nuclear Iran.

It is therefore possible but unlikely that Iran will be attacked by Israel with the US poised to come to the rescue.

Again: Empires commit suicide they are not slain.

January 14th, 2008, 10:49 pm


AnotherIsraeliGuy said:

Israel will attack Iran and Iran will not do anything in reponse, just like Syria did not respond to the Israeli attack in September. The Iranians talk a lot, but they are not stupid. A war with Israel and the US will be the end of the regime in Iran (and Syria).

January 14th, 2008, 11:21 pm


Alex said:


The Israelis are not stupid either.

January 14th, 2008, 11:36 pm


Shual said:

– said: “Berlin admits giving US bombing targets in Iraq” – One of several [US-]hoaxes. Two BND-operatives stayed in Iraq and revealed in front of the PKG -parliamentary controll commission- that there were no operative contacts. Things like “Operation Curvball” were staged hypes against the early anti-Guantanamo-policy of then new cancellor Merkel. And since then Merkel never demanded the closure of it. But, what everybody could see is a clear support: Germany was the important hub and retreat area for US-troops and much more…

“Will they refuse launch rights but allow resupply depots,..” These are important questions and in the case of US-attacks against Iran the arab countries will do the same like Germany did. [More intresting will be the question of a reaction if Israel attacks.] But I think its too early, cause a potential attack [in my view] has to be in May to August 08 and since then a lot of things can happen.

January 14th, 2008, 11:37 pm


Qifa Nabki said:


If you had the ear of the next U.S. President, what would you argue for (presuming your brief was to help this superpower avoid committing suicide?)

January 14th, 2008, 11:44 pm


AnotherIsraeliGuy said:

And that is why Israel will do all it can to make sure that the Iranians don’t get a bomb. In 1982 Sadam was perceived as stronger that Iran now, but that did not deter Israel.

Any action that Iran takes will be to its determent. Terrorism? That will hurt Iran big long term. War against the Arabs? Big loss long term for Iran. War against the US? The end of Iran. War against Israel? Same result. Hizballah attacking Israel? The proof that Hizballah is an Iranian tool and a major weakening of Hizballah in Lebanon.

The Israeli economy proved in 2006 that it can easily withstand a war. Now let’s see if the Iranian economy is as reselient.

January 15th, 2008, 12:13 am


Alex said:

AIG said:

“The Israeli economy proved in 2006 that it can easily withstand a war. Now let’s see if the Iranian economy is as reselient.”

How long was the war that you were easily able to withstand?
(2006 war)

How long was the war that the Iranians were able to withstand? (80’s war)

January 15th, 2008, 12:16 am


AnotherIsraeliGuy said:

They did not withstand the 80’s war. When you send children into minefileds with keys to heaven, you are done.

It will be a short war if at all. It will be an air and missile war. The Iranians will lose all their strategic assets and oil if they decide to go to war and these are the basis of their economy. The basis of Israel’s economy is in Israelis’ heads. Difficult to get those with missiles especially since there are ample shelters in Israel. Even a few hundred missiles on Israel is a price worth paying for stopping Iran. There is no free lunch in the middle east.

January 15th, 2008, 12:42 am


Alex said:

AIG said

“They did not withstand the 80’s war. When you send children into minefileds with keys to heaven, you are done.”

If they are done then why are you so alarmed today?

January 15th, 2008, 1:00 am


Observer said:

Kifa Nabki
One of the main tasks of the next President of the US in my opinion is to prepare the country for a diminished role in the world.
1. South America has essentially broken free of the US orbit
2. Despite the outward rethoric, France is pursuing a European policy first and will continue to work to advance the interests of France through the EU at the expense of the US if need be
3. Russia in cooperation with China and with Iran have essentially secured the flow of oil on territories where they are far from US bases or the US navy
4. India despite the enticement of a nuclear deal has not followed through with all the policies of the US and we may very well see a close cooperation with China
5. China has advanced its regional influence and the Shanghai club of South Asia nations did not include Australia or the US.
6. The US in its presence in the Gulf is aiming to secure the blood line of all the other players or so it thinks. The only way it can do that is to sit and negotiate with Tehran. The KSA is deathly afraid of such an arrangement. They are afraid that the next US president will have a pragmatic approach knowing very well that the Iranian regime will try at all costs to avoid a war. They also know that Iran has achieved some parity with the US locally especially by creating and building alliances and assets around the region. If the US can rely on Iraqi and Iranian oil and gaz and can also work with the Iranians on stability in the region, the value of the royal family will be diminished.
7. The value of the dollar as it declines will bring a lowering of the living standards of the US. Some day we will have to pay the debt and if we are to continue the entitlements we will have to increase taxation. I can tell you that at the medical institution where I am and which is one the top 3 in the country, we lose $500 for every Medicare patient that walks through the door. When in 2009 they will become the majority of patients we will have to reduce salaries and benefits if we are to contiue our mission.
Here is what I think the US policy should be:
1. Secure the interets of the US first in energy and in fiscal responsibility
2. Alliances should be built on the core issues of the interests of the US and the Pentagon should reflect that and not the other way around as it is now
3. Ideological straight jackets in foreign policy are an oxymoron we will work constructively to build a future for all of us even if it means some sacrificies of our way of life for the sake of the planet. It is inconcievable that our model of complete freedom of the markets without regulation is considered compatible with life on earth. If the world population were to consume today what an average american does, it means that it would have to supply the equivalent of a world population of 72 billion persons.
4. Our best foreign policy card is the constitution of the US as it has the seperation of powers, the bill of rights, the 14 amendements. Juan Cole’s project of translating the documents that made the US would carry far more effect than all the shock and awe of the Pentagon. (I remember last time I visited the ME on how incredelous people were to realize that I write my representatives regularly; and how I reminded them of how Omar the second Caliph accepted reprimands from a simple youth just as any citizen in the US can do so).
5. I believe that a redirection of the US foreign policy towards establishing dialogue on what the people of the ME want is crucial even if it is not to our liking: for example, I believe that working with the people of the ME on establishing the following guarantees would go a long way towards stability
* guarantee of a decent education such as to allow for talents to be maximized
* guarantee of preventive health care such as clean water, sewers, immunizations, and for that I would opt for the Cuban health system as a first step not the American one ( I am a physician in the US by the way )
* guarantee of an honest and independent judiciary system so that the main role of the institutions of goverment is to be a refererre among the protagonists.
I would like to have the following considered
* uniformity of educational standards in the countries of the ME
* free flow of goods and ideas
* a ME common Market
* abolition of tarifs
* integrated transporation system
* common water policy
* medium and long term job creation strategy
In all of those areas, the US can lead and believe you me, the entire edifice of the militant fanatics of whatever denomination including the fanatic secularists would come crumbling down.

Now as for those on this blog that are routing for an Israeli attack on Iran this is what I think:
1. Israel is talking tough for it knows that America is standing right behind. Otherwise, they will be whimpering on how weak and helpless they are
2. The US may push Israel to act first so as to justify back home an attack on Iran and this would be a lose lose situation for all. This is where the US may move from a recession to a depression and where the decline may be more rapid.
3. Iran has the depth to withstand the onslaught as it did before and I am not sure what the Iranian response will be. No one here in the US is picking up on all this rethoric in the news. This is an indication that the press is not taking this president very seriously at present.
4. Some think that a few hundred missiles on Israel is OK. How about a war for 5 or 6 years as the Iranians have the capability to do so?
In any event I am glad that I have contributed in a small way to a lively and interesting discussion on this blog. I hope that all understand that this is strictly my opinion and I am always open to other ideas and critiques.

January 15th, 2008, 2:23 am


norman said:


Are you ahospital base MD or in private practice and where did you get your medical school dgree and when.
I like what you said but do not know about Cuban style health System.i would rather an American one with goverment supported paralel system as safty net one .

January 15th, 2008, 3:00 am


. said:


NYT of Feb 27, 2006 titled “Germany gave US Saddam’s War plan” detailed bits from the US Joint Forces Command military intel document of 2005 that credited Germany for its Iraq War help- as well as Egypt, Saudi. Thats from the US side.

From the German side, German FM Franz-Walter Steinmeier confirmed the help to US (after initially denying). But that issue wasnt purpose of my post. How likely is an attack -not ground invasion, which was never even under consideration- of Iran, despite public protests?

January 15th, 2008, 3:20 am


T said:

I agree w/ AIG. Israel/US will bomb Iran, maybe with tacticals and Iran will do nothing.

Incredibly dangerous to have the USA’s government/future dictated by Israel. But when citizens forfeit their civic roles to watch Paris Hilton, Britney Spears etc they lose their own land. 2008 will see several red lines intersecting to hit a critical mass.
Maybe they’ll turn the year into a Hollywood blockbuster that the fans can relate to. How about “The Fruits of Democracy”?

Chief Rabbi Thanks Bush For Iraq War snip-Jerusalem Post-

During a short verbal exchange Wednesday at the Ben-Gurion Airport Terminal, Chief Ashkenazi Rabbi Yona Metzger thanked President George W. Bush for the US’s military intervention in Iraq.

“I want to thank you for your support of Israel and in particular for waging a war against Iraq,” Metzger told Bush, according to the chief rabbi’s spokesman.

Bush reportedly answered that the chief rabbi’s words “warmed his heart.”
Israel rules out peace with Iran
Mon, 01/14/2008 – 11:35 – Wires Services …

Israel Prime Minister Ehud Olmert told a parliamentary committee that peace with Iran is impossible and that military actions against the Islamic state was legitimate.

Olmert told the Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee Israeli rejects ruling out any options, including tactical nuclear strikes, against Iran.

The statement came even after Iran agreed to answer questions about the country’s nuclear activities within 30 day at a meeting between Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) chief Mohamed ElBaradei.

Israeli Prime Minister’s statement suggests that he feels emboldened by President George W. Bush’s statement that Iran is the greatest threat to world peace, and the American leader’s agreement with opposition leader Benjamin Netanyahu that unilateral nuclear strike against the Tehran are necessary.

“Israel will never allow Iran to have nuclear weapons,” Olmert told the committee. “As such, any and all actions Israel takes will be legitimate in this context.”

Olmert hinted that surgical air strikes similar to the ones carried out against Iraq in 1981, and Syria last year, would be the first choice.

But if that does not succeed in disarming Iran, Israel was prepared to use more force, including nuclear weapons, Olmert said.

President Bush’s statement on Iran had opened a “window of opportunity for us to act and eliminate this danger,” Olmert told his cabinet on Sunday.

“I am encouraged by the United States’ position on Iran under the helm of George Bush, especially on this issue,” Olmert told reporters at a join press conference with the American President last week.

The Israeli leaders sentiments were echoed by Sallai Meridor, Israel’s ambassador to the United States, who said that Bush and Olmert saw eye to eye over the growing threat Iran posed and keeping all military options open

January 15th, 2008, 4:45 am


Alex said:


When Israel decided to hit Syria, they first said “we assure Syria we have no hostile intentions”.

With all the threats against Iran … probably they won’t hit.

But it is possible of course.

January 15th, 2008, 4:52 am


Mark Pyruz said:


I disagree. I do not believe the US/Israel will conduct offensive operations against Iran. The risks to the Gulf and US ground operations in Iraq are too great.

The rocket artillery attacks against Israel during the 2nd Lebanon War were successful in creating a state of siege over northern Israel and the port of Haifa in particular. These siege like conditions negatively impacted Israel’s economy to the extent necessary in forcing it to disengage and withdraw from its offensive operations against Lebanon.

The war against Iran during the 1980’s was conducted by Iraq, as well as elements of the US, USSR, France, Saudi Arabia and Kuwait. It serves as a yardstick as to how far and long, and against such long odds, that Iran will defend itself and continue to fight a war that it sees as morally correct.

Your advocacy for another war, in addition to those currently taking place in Iraq and Afghanistan, is misplaced and not very well thought out. I would advise you reconsider.

January 15th, 2008, 5:52 am


AnotherIsraeliGuy said:

If you didn’t notice Israel is not threatning Iran. The Israeli policy has always been that it would do all it can to stop an Iranian bomb. The Iranians know Israel is serious. The threat is against the international community that is not exerting enough pressure on Iran and don’t want a war. There is only one way to stop it: Iran must stop enriching uranium. This will happen either by sanctions or by bombing.

As for Iran, fighting Saddam is one thing, fighting Israel and the US is another. In an all out war, the Iranians stand 0 chance.

January 15th, 2008, 6:00 am


T said:

Iran DID cease uranium enrichment for 2 years. It got them nothing- not even an acknowledgment that they’d stopped.

January 15th, 2008, 6:14 am


Shual said:

. Said,

Steinmeier can not confirm anything.
1) As the CIA was not in Iraq they used reports of other countries, like from BND, Germany. Everybody knew that. The BND-guys that stayed as the war began sent reports that were shared, too. That was not known until the PKG investigated and published [non-operative-actions] a 90-side-report. [There is a classifed 300-side-report.] The question of “support”: Negative. Sharing material, Yes. The possibility that Pullach [BND] or/and the BND-guys lie is quite high: 35%. But even if they had a support-deal with the CIA there still is no proove that … the politics knew about it. And even if they knew about it, its still not against the german law.

2) The “German Baghdad defense plan” is a fascinating way to forget Sufyan Maher al-Ghairiri “CIA-spy who handed the Baghahd defense plan…”, or that kurdish source, that handed over the “Bagdad Chemical Defense Plan”. See No 1.

“But that issue wasnt purpose of my post.
I think, it was: You can not lie in the bed with the USA without getting pregnant. And if you are pregnant, you can not be only a little bit of pregnant. Thats true.

“How likely is an attack -not ground invasion, which was never even under consideration- of Iran, despite public protests?” I think the decision is already made, so the current probability is at 85%. The Israelis and the US see the chance to beat their last enemy in the region.

January 15th, 2008, 7:00 am


T said:

And the time frame? Dec 2008? Earlier? What is your estimate?

January 15th, 2008, 7:49 am


why-discuss said:


Israel is not afraid of Iran’s nuclear weapons ( as they are not a reality), they are afraid of Iran’s military power that their spies have not been able to evaluate. In addition Iran has survived 10 years of savage war witn Iraq, I wonder if Israel economy ( even with the usual pumping of US billions can stand as much)
Israel never threaten Iran directly, it goes and hide in the lap of Bush and the US jewish lobby, and warns of their fear of been wiped out by Ahmadinejad. I think Israel is fully aware of the risk it takes in confronting Iran. Thet just don’t dare. This is why they have tried to attack its allies: the Hezbollah in Lebanon with disastrous results and the bombing of a ghost nuclear site in Syria with no result.
They are not stupid, that’s for sure

January 15th, 2008, 11:28 am


norman said:,0,3513846.story
Olmert hints force against Iran
Comment follows talks with Bush on Tehran’s nuclear program
By Joel Greenberg

January 15, 2008


Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert said yesterday that “all options” were open to prevent Iran from developing nuclear weapons, suggesting that Israel was prepared to use military force if it deemed it necessary against Tehran’s nuclear program.

At a Jerusalem hotel, Israeli and Palestinian negotiators began preliminary talks on the core issues of a final peace agreement, following a visit by President Bush last week to prod forward negotiations.

Olmert’s comment on Iran, stronger than his previous statements on the subject, followed his discussions with Bush on Tehran’s nuclear program, and after a U.S. intelligence estimate last month stated “with high confidence” that Iran had halted nuclear weapons development in 2003. Israeli officials disputed that assessment, and Bush said here last week that Iran remained “a threat to world peace.”

“Regarding the threat of nuclear Iran, all options are on the table,” an official spokesman quoted Olmert as telling parliament’s Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee, whose meetings are closed. “Israel cannot reconcile itself with a nuclear Iran, and there is no option which we are ruling out in advance.”

Israeli warplanes bombed the Osirak nuclear reactor in Iraq shortly before it was to have become operational in 1981, and attacked a site in Syria in September reportedly thought by Israeli intelligence to be linked to a nascent nuclear program.

Iran says its nuclear program is for civilian purposes, but Israeli intelligence assessments indicate Iran could develop a nuclear bomb by 2010. Israeli officials have urged vigorous diplomatic activity and sanctions to pressure Tehran to halt its nuclear program, but have stopped short of threatening military action.

In Jerusalem, Israeli Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni, the Israeli chief negotiator, met with her Palestinian counterpart, Ahmed Qureia, to start talks on the core issues of a final peace agreement: borders, the fate of Palestinian refugees, the status of Jerusalem and Jewish settlements.

“We started today talking about all the core issues,” Qureia said after the two-hour meeting. “We talked about these issues in general. The talks were positive, but the path ahead is difficult.”

Israeli officials said Livni and Qureia planned to meet at least once a week. Israeli Foreign Ministry spokesman Aryeh Mekel said their discussions “will be intensive.”

Livni said yesterday that the talks “are being conducted quietly” and away from “the glare of the cameras,” which she said had in the past led to the adoption of hard-line positions and “raised expectations, followed by disappointment and violence.”

The two sides pledged at a U.S.-sponsored conference in late November to re-launch negotiations with the aim of reaching a peace treaty by the end of the year, but early rounds of talks stalled in disputes over Israeli settlement building and rocket-firing by Palestinian militants in the Gaza Strip.

Sami Abu Zuhri, a spokesman in Gaza for the militant group Hamas, condemned yesterday’s talks, calling them “a crime against the Palestinian people.” Hamas, which violently seized control of the Gaza Strip in June, refuses to recognize Israel and rejects a permanent peace with it.

Joel Greenberg writes for the Chicago Tribune.

Copyright © 2008, The Baltimore Sun

January 15th, 2008, 2:03 pm


T said:


Israel is not stupid. But American politicians are. They will get America to do the killing/dying for Israel as in Iraq via PNAC or whatever means necessary.
But they’ll get their way and their war. Maybe casus belli via Beirut?

January 15th, 2008, 3:50 pm


Shual said:


there are two different time-frames. The US has to use a corridor between May 08 an August 08. Bush can not strike Iran later, cause of the elections and not earlier cause of the primaries.

But as we can see Bush shifting one liasion-officer after another into Jerusalem [including a former NATO-commander James L. Jones, who has no clue about Palestinians] and saw some active military informing themselves [like U.S. Armed Forces Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Michael Mullen: “Visits IDF military headquarters in Tel Aviv and participate in a military panel on intelligence and strategic issues and the challenges facing the IDF. Mullen will also be informed of the development of the IDF’s infrastructure [1] based on a recently-implemented multi-year plan.”] we have to think of a Israeli time-frame. The Israelis have to clear some things before they can strike against Iran. Olmert has to survive Winograd. The Gaza-situation should be solved. The Northern Border has to be secured. Baraks reform of the IDF has to show results [….] The Israelis are technically capable to strike now, but their defense-systems including homefront-organisation is weak and there is no imminent threat. Today, a very volatile time-frame. After Wingrad we know more: If Barak decides to stay in the coalition we can be sure that the strike comes earlier [if they strike]. If Baraks wants early elections in fall 08, the strike will be delayed. Thats what I think.

[1] infrastructure: New supercomputer in Tel Aviv, connencted with the Pentagon. This is quite an element of uncertainty, cause there is a sense of technical predominance and after the operation in Syria in September [maneuver] was a success we can speak of a spiral that leads into an attack.

January 15th, 2008, 4:08 pm


T said:

But Israel is not capable of the job alone- no matter how long the wait/politics/Winograd etc. This requires a superpower. Like in Iraq, the US will take the casualties for Israel in Iran too, so their lack of readiness is not a problem.
I also think economy in US crucial to final decision.
Is that new supercomputer the one in the new base outside Tel Aviv?

January 15th, 2008, 4:16 pm


Observer said:

I am in an academic medical center and I advocate the Cuban system as it provides solid therapeutic and preventive medicine for the entire population at a reasonable price. When it comes to high tech and innovation, the US system is better as 80% of medical innovations over the last 20 years came from the US. However, the system is incredibely expensive, wasteful, and has no rationing built in. Like all other health care systems, there is a two tier method for the rich and the rest. We see patients here that do not have health insurance because they are so wealthy they do not need an insurance and we see patients that cannot afford to pay the gaz to come for a visit with their doctor. The Cuban system for the money is the best for a developing country and for a developed country the best is in France (value per dollar paid). I hope this helps.

January 15th, 2008, 7:07 pm


Shual said:


what is “job”? There is a part [1] of the world that thinks that Iran can not hit back with rockets and troops. They will react in Iraq and maybe with terrorism. And that are areas the West already deals with. The real problem is that Iran will react very restrictive in Iran itself. An attack will freeze the situation for a decade or longer. But as attacking nation you should think of an attack out of Iran with rockets and be prepared for that. The “Superpower” and the Arab alliance will be dragged into the conflict. Now, the preparations with defense-rockets in Arab countries is not capable to stand an Iranian attack, so we have to wait if the part [1] wins. Bush likes to play such games.

“casualties for Israel”
I think this question [Iran] has bigger dimensions.
“I also think economy in US crucial to final decision.”
Wars are good for the economy of the US.
“Is that new supercomputer the one in the new base outside Tel Aviv?”
“Nachshonim-complex”? No. Official sources only talked about a visit in the Kyria. I have not heard from other visits.

January 15th, 2008, 7:36 pm


T said:

Yes, I agree, thank you for your comments. Esp regarding the war being good for economy- perhaps an Iran attack will drag us out of our housing recession (or into depression?)
As I posted prior (was erased), the only American housing market still in a boom is the W Bank settlement suburbs.

January 16th, 2008, 12:42 am


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