Assad Speaks On Israeli Strike and Peace Conference - Syria Comment

Assad Speaks On Israeli Strike and Peace Conference

Either the the White House is engaging in a razzle-dazzle form of psychological warfare and super deception, or it really is preparing the ground for some sort of strike on Iran – and perhaps Syria. Increasingly, it seems we were played by Cheney and crew on the nuclear-North Korea justification for the Israeli strike on Syria. (I  thank t-desco for most of the following links.)

President Assad interview with BBC Monday Oct. 1, 2007

Syrian president tells BBC Israeli warplanes struck “unused military building” last month, AP

Syrian President Bashar Assad told the British Broadcasting Corp. on Monday that Israeli warplanes attacked an “unused military building” in his country last month and said Damascus reserves the right to retaliate.

But Assad said his country was not about to attack Israel in response, suggesting he did not want to hurt chances at peace talks with the Jewish state.

The comments were the first by the Syrian leader about a mysterious Sept. 6 Israeli air incursion over Syria that raised speculation that warplanes had hit weapons headed for Hezbollah or even a nascent nuclear installation, reports Damascus has repeatedly denied.

“Retaliate doesn’t mean missile for missile and bomb for bomb,” Assad told the BBC in an interview in Damascus. “We have our means to retaliate, maybe politically, maybe in other ways. But we have the right to retaliate in different means.”

“But if we wanted to retaliate militarily, this means we’re going to work according to the Israeli agenda, soemthing we don’t look for. That doesn’t mean we squander any opportunity for peace in the near future,” he added in the interview, which was monitored in neighboring Lebanon.

But Assad said Syria was not about to attack Israel. Asked whether Syria was considering striking at Israel, he said “it’s possible, but we don’t say this is the option that we’re going to adopt now. We say that we have very different means.”

Previously, Syrian officials had said only that the Israeli warplanes entered the country’s airspace, came under fire from anti-aircraft defenses, and dropped munitions and fuel tanks over northeastern Syria to lighten their loads while they fled.

The BBC quoted Assad in the interview as saying the attack was on an “unused military building.” The BBC did not air that part of the interview.

Israel has clamped a news blackout on the incident. U.S. officials have said Israeli warplanes struck a target, wiht some saying it was a cache of missiles headed for Lebanese Hezbollah guerrillas allied to Syria and Iran.

But at the same time, a senior American nonproliferation official said that North Korean personnel were in Syria helping its nuclear program, resulting in speculation nuclear installations had been targeted.

Syria and North Korea both denied the reports and accused U.S. officials of spreading the allegations for political reasons.

On Saturday, Syrian Vice-President Farouk al-Sharaa said everything reported so far about the Israeli air raid was wrong and part of a “psychological war” against Damascus intended to lay the ground for future attacks.

Asked in the BBC interview whether Syria was rearming and strengthening its missile capabilities, Assad said: “This is very normal and self-evident that we’re going to prepare ourselves for that.”

“That’s why you have the army, to defend your territory. We don’t build the army to make any aggression but defend our country, and this is normal — especially after the war on Lebanon last year, when we see the Israelis wreaked havoc on Lebanese cities in Beirut, in south of Lebanon,” he added, referring to the 2006 war between Hezbollah and Israel.

Assad also said Syria needs to know details of an international peace conference on the Middle East planned in the United States later this year before it decides whether to participate.

“This conference or any conference is going to be an opportunity but it should be purposeful. It should be substantive,” he said. “I don’t see where is the purpose and what is the substance of this conference. What are they going to talk about?”

“It needs more clarifications for Syria to take a decision,” he said.  AP

Shifting Targets, The New Yorker
The Administration’s plan for Iran.
by Seymour M. Hersh

Daily Telegraph  “Concern is also growing in the CIA and the Pentagon that the White House exaggerated intelligence used to justify an Israeli air raid on a suspected nuclear facility in Syria earlier this month, which some neo-conservatives hope is a precursor to war with Iran.”
Neocons seek to justify action against Teheran….

Arab Monitor, UNDOF commander concerned about Israeli offensive build-up on Golan Heights

Berlin, 30 September – Major General Wolfgang Jilke, the Austrian commander of the UN Disengagement and Observer Force deployed on the the Golan Heights, voiced out his concerns over the continuing military build-up on the Israeli side of the 75-km long buffer zone. In an interview released to the German Der Spiegel, Jilke alerted public opinion to the danger of clashes breaking out due to Israel’s unpreceented concentration of troops and military build-up in the Golan Heights.

He stressed that contrary to what is currently being reported in the Israeli press, the Syrian side has not enhanced its troops’ deployment and has remained absolutely quiet, whereas the Israeli side is going into the fourth month of continuous build-up, involving a massive surge of military exercises and an enormous construction activity.

Furthermore, the Israeli army is digging many kilometers of trenches. According to observations of Jilke, the Israeli activities are clearly aimed at preparing for a military offensive involving heavy artillery and air force.

SPIEGEL, Kriegsgefahr in Nahost, 29 September 2007

Syria says Israeli air raid aimed at justifying future attack (Friday)

Shara says Israel manipulating public opinion to convince world Israel does not want war.

DAMASCUS – Syrian Vice President Faruq al-Shara said on Saturday that a recent Israeli air raid on what is thought to be a Syrian military installation was meant to provide justification for future aggression on the country.

“Those who continue to talk about this raid and to invent inaccurate details (about it), are aiming to justify a future aggression” againt Syria, Shara said at a press conference with his visiting Iraqi counterpart, Adel Abdel Mahdi.

“They are manipulating public opinion to convince it that (Israel) does not want war. They are lying about that,” he added.

Shara went on to denounce “Arab or international parties that write about things that did not happen and who claim North Koreans or others were killed” in the September 6 raid.

“Anyone who says that is wrong and is trying to conduct psychological warfare against Syria, which will not be tricked. Certain people in Israel are hoping that through this they can repair the beating given to the Israeli army by the Lebanese resistance.”…..

New Anti-Syria bill being prepared in congress.
House Res. 690: Expressing grave concern of the House of Representatives…

Expressing grave concern of the House of Representatives for Iran and Syria’s continued and systematic violations of UN Resolutions 1701 and 1559. …

Representative Mr. Israel and Mr. Knollenberg submitted the following resolution; which was referred to the Committee on Foreign Affairs ….

Comments (52)


Nur al-Cubicle said:

Representative Mr. Israel and Mr. Knollenberg submitted the following resolution…

Yes and Representatives Mr. Lantos and Mrs. Ros-Lehtinen and the rest of the AIPAC automatons….

October 1st, 2007, 3:26 pm

 

EHSANI2 said:

Dr. Landis,

I am glad to see that we are getting some transparency from our leader. Up till today, the leadership’s poor surrogates were instructed to tell us only that Israeli warplanes entered the country’s airspace, came under fire from anti-aircraft defenses, and dropped munitions and fuel tanks over northeastern Syria to lighten their loads while they fled.

Today, no other than the President himself tells us that Israeli warplanes attacked an “unused military building”.

But, why wait this long?

As I asked on the day of the attack, why not invite CNN and the BBC to this unused military building that very morning and show the world the corroborating evidence that would refute the inevitable speculation that followed?

One of the reasons behind waiting 25 days before making this admission of course is the tricky question of what to do about the incident. Not to retaliate shows weakness. Retaliation risks a confrontation with predictable results.

The President ended up today promising retaliation but “not missile for missile and bomb for bomb”. Our President warned, “We have the means to retaliate, may be politically (Lebanon can now forget a new President), “may be in other ways” (like hell I will help in Iraq).” Reacting militarily means that “we are going to work according to the Israeli agenda, something we don’t look for”.

In a bizarre twist, the President adds that this “does not mean we squander any opportunity for peace in the near future”’.

This interview leaves me scratching my head in bewilderment. I cannot help but think that our nation is lost. It is too weak to fight and it is also too weak to be called to a peace negotiation table.

October 1st, 2007, 3:57 pm

 

Murphy said:

I thought Assad’s response about whether or not Syria would attend the November “Peace Conference” to be ambiguous. Sounds like he may be leaving the door open, or perhaps he just wanted a diplomatic way to say no.

October 1st, 2007, 4:06 pm

 

Alex said:

Ehsani habibi,

Our nation is not strong enough to control its enemies and how they think and how they act.

In normal times, this is … normal.

But when your enemies are on the move, in all the wrong directions … you have to find “a balance” … you don’t let them walk all over you, and you do not get drawn into their plans.

Syria wants to wait until this American administration is out in a year. The neocons and their Israel friends want Syria to commit mistakes this year so that they have an excuse to attack.

So what do you want to do? … become infinitely “powerful” quickly?

The United states is lost with no way out of its mideast problems, Lebanon is lost as a nation, Palestinians are split, Iraq is split … Israel had no leadership … and you are wondering why Syria is ambiguous in its positions on the problems created by our ambiguous neighborhood?

Days after ISrael attacked Syria’s alleged nuclear weapons Israeli president and prime minister both expressed their respect for Syria’s policies and president and their hope that now we are ready for peace talks with Syria!

THAT did not bother you! … it is always Syria’s fault, no?

October 1st, 2007, 4:11 pm

 

Akbar Palace said:

In a rare moment of Arab disillusionment, EHSANI2 states that Syria is now “lost” because she has not responded forcefully to Israeli aggression and can not afford to “turn on” their fighting surrogates in Southern Lebanon:

I cannot help but think that our nation is lost. It is too weak to fight and it is also too weak to be called to a peace negotiation table.

ESHANI2 –

All hope is not lost, however. The evil Zionists are madly in love with the “Assad-for-life” forumla as well as the Golan trade for peace*. The survival of the Zionist Project does not necessarily translate into a “lost” Syria or even a lost Palestine for that matter.

It’s all in your head and in the head of the terror supporters on this website.

Please tell your excellency, Dr. Bashar, that he can live a long life as the brave leader of the proud Syrian people if he can manage to choose the one ally that exhibits true love.

*whatever that means

And now that I recall what transpired with Anwar, maybe I’m wrong.

Please disregard the above.

Alex adds his woe to the pot full of Arab disillusionment:

… it is always Syria’s fault, no?

Seems to me you and “chorus” know who is at fault: the US and the “neocons”

Syria wants to wait until this American administration is out in a year.

And what do you think Hilary is going to do the next time Hizbullah starts launching missiles (assuming she wins)? And if she doesn’t win, which leading Republican candidate is not going to feel sympathy for Israel?

Unfortunately, the whole US is “NEOCON”. The american people and the US Congress have all been brainwashed more than the average madrassa educated jihadist.

October 1st, 2007, 4:26 pm

 

EHSANI2 said:

It is interesting to attack a country and then claim that “you respect their policies and President”.

I don’t care for what they say. I care for the facts on the ground.

Akbar,

Your comment is too deep. Please remember that the average reader here (like myself) is not sophisticated enough to understand your crypted and advanced remarks.

October 1st, 2007, 4:29 pm

 

Akbar Palace said:

Ehsani2 –

I the cryptic world of ME politics, illogic rules the day. Making sense out of public political and policy statements is a job more suited for a university professor or a 3rd grader.

Mr. Bashar can get the Golan back, but is this enough to satisfy you, Alex and Islamic fundamentalists roaming the Earth?

October 1st, 2007, 4:51 pm

 

Alex said:

Akbar,

Syria learned to live with and work with many US administrations in the past who were good friends of Israel … Clinton for example.

Clinton II said that she will appoint Clinton I as her mideast envoy. Clinton I said that he can conclude the Syrian Israeli peace agreement in 30 minutes.

It won’t be that easy of course, but Sra is still looking forward to working with almost any of the new candidates, republican or democrats.

October 1st, 2007, 4:52 pm

 

Nur al-Cubicle said:

The US Congress, especially the House, is corrupted by AIPAC money and is completely jingoist, irrational and more objectively pro-war than some officials in the Administration (excluding Cheney, of course). Moreover, the Dems have been selecting veterans from the military to run for office…not grass roots party stalwarts or activists. Just image what the politics would be like in Britain, Germany or France with ex-military running the parliament. On top of that, there are Democratic fire-breathers like Tom Lantos who are objectively pro-Likud.

Indeed, the Administration need not fear, as far as Congress is concerned, extraordinary adventurism. It depends on what the community of strategic advisors are telling Bush about the consequences. Fortunately, with Gates as Secretary of Defense, it is unlikely that there is a Likud-dominated Stovepipe operation going on as under Rumsfeld, but not impossible. Playing in our favor against bombing is that the Bush has been destablized by domestic corruption, scandal and shakeups.

Ironically, with respect to Iran, D’Avanzo and Bonino wrote that Iranian representatives met frequently in Rome and coordinated with the Americans before the invasion of Iraq.

October 1st, 2007, 5:38 pm

 

majedkhaldoun said:

“It is too weak to fight and it is also too weak to be called to a peace negotiation table. ”

You may also, say it is isolated internationally and among arabic countries, it is powerless, may be his luck is running out.
I think something is brewing.

October 1st, 2007, 6:30 pm

 

Alex said:

Majed,

His luck in not running out… and Syria’s strength is still the same more or less despite the ups and downs in the media’s perceptions.

I wish we would try to remember all those imaginary ups and downs and how nothing really changes at the end.

Only major wars can change things… and that is the only thing we should worry about… becase this administration is now at the stage or realizing this reality .. and they don’t seem like they are ready to leave without trying harder.

October 1st, 2007, 7:27 pm

 

Nour said:

Alex,

You’re right. Only major wars can change things, and I really do not see a major war taking place anytime soon, despite all the media rhetoric. I don’t think the US can really afford to go to war with Iran, and I doubt that Israel has the will or the stamina to go to war with Syria. It’s all posturing and intimidation, with Israel and the US hoping their continue threat of attack will make Iran and Syria bow down. It simply won’t work.

October 1st, 2007, 7:55 pm

 

EHSANI2 said:

Sure,

Things are under control. Nothing to worry about. It is all just posturing and intimidation. We will not bow down.

The 20 million Syrians can just relax and take it easy.

October 1st, 2007, 8:19 pm

 

Bashmann said:

This interview with the BBC shows Bashar’s lack of experience and political astuteness in dealing with the current danger surrounding him. His father would flip in his grave if he hears what his son is declaring. He sounded like an injured fox awaiting the final leap of his attacker to finish him off. What a sad and pathetic state he has placed the country in.

Too weak to defend it, too weak to make peace, isolated from Arab governments support surrounding him and internationally despised for his support of reactionary movements and governments.

Beside Alex, I doubt any political analyst would think his statements can give his people confidence in his leadership.

October 1st, 2007, 8:53 pm

 

Nour said:

Ehsani2,

I was giving my opinion on the current situation. I don’t mean that everyone should just relax and forget about it. I just don’t see a war on the horizon, and I believe all of Israel’s and the US’s actions are posturing. Anyway, only time will tell.

October 1st, 2007, 9:03 pm

 

Alex said:

Bashman,

– “Too weak to make peace” …. Since when was Syria “strong enough to force peace on Israel?

– “Too weak to defend it” … Do you think the Syrian army is now weaker that when Bashar took over in 2000?

It is not. It is considerably stronger and more ready to defend (not to attack of course).

Except if you are referring to Bashar’s lack of military response to Israel .. if your party was in power in Syria … were you going to attack Israel?

– “Isolated from Arab government support” … you mean the “moderate Arabs”? … You think those governments want a strong Syria as you say you do? … yu think Saudi Arabia wants to share its influence in Lebanon with Syria voluntarily?

Syria under Bashar communicated to the “moderate Arabs” the following message: Thanks to your continued plotting against Syria we now decided to switch to Turkey and Iran as allies and Qatar and the UAE are our close friends… when you learn to respect Syria and its interests, we will be happy to be your brothers again.

October 1st, 2007, 9:13 pm

 

Bashmann said:

Alex,

Respect is earned as you may know not imposed or forced. This President’s father, with all his dictatorial practices earned the respect of his neighboring Arab government after thirty years in power. Anyone with the slightest intelligence in Syria can tell you the country was much stronger politically and regionally under the late Hafez Assad rule than what it is now. Remember the Time Magazine article in the 80’s, Hafez was selected among the most powerful men in the ME while the Godfather of the current neo-con’s President Ronald Reagan was in office. Syria might have not been able to deter an Israeli invasion then but it would have given Israel a bloody nose if Israel ever would have thought about it. His control of Lebanon then was essential to the balance of powers in the region. But that is all ancient history now.

A respected President would not have called the rest of the Arab government heads “half-men”. Bashar’s gamble on the emotions of the uneducated masses for mere popularity will eventually be his ending. The days of Arab solidarity slogans have long been over since Nasserism proved to be a failure. He should have backed his words with actions during the assault of the IDF on Lebanon last year instead he was busy working on eliminating his opponents by terrorist means devised by his security agencies.

I’m born and raised in Syria and I would not doubt your patriotism nor would I dare to question it, so spare me your nationalist sentiments and talk about the facts on the ground.

Our party believes in realistic approaches to the conflict with Israel. We recognize our lack of military capabilities and would rather invest into the infrastructure of the country than spend more than 60% of the country’s budget on arms. Military Parity with Israel could not be achieved nor is it desirable. The late Hafez Assad spent his years thinking it possible but failed to bring it to fruition. So our position is simple, Full Peace for full withdrawal from the Golan and full diplomatic relations. We believe there are voices in Israel who want true peace with Syria but would not do so ‘till they see that a government in Syria would stop its meddling into the affairs of the countries surrounding it by supporting reactionary movements such as HA in Lebanon and Hamas in Gaza and the West Bank. You can not tell someone I have made a “strategic” choice for peace while you are still supporting groups that call for his/her destruction. Israel is a super regional power on the ground that we must all aknowledge including the Islamic movements that seem hell bent on carrying this fight with them to eternity.

We believe this position serves the interests of Syria and the region as a whole and would bring prosperity and economic developments to enhance our people living conditions.

Looking forward to you joining us.

Cheers.

October 1st, 2007, 10:11 pm

 

IsraeliGuy said:

***********
“Anyone with the slightest intelligence in Syria can tell you the country was much stronger politically and regionally under the late Hafez Assad rule than what it is now.”
***********

Bashmann, let me add an Israeli perspective to your comments.

When Assad Sr. was in power, the Israeli leadership AND the Israeli public, respected him a lot and even feared him.
He looked like a strong, sophisticated, shrewd and trustworthy leader.

On the other hand, Assad Jr. is taken very differently here.
Many here see him as a child who tries to play in the big boys league.

The most common phrase here regarding him: the apple fell very far from the tree.

I’m sure these views are not exclusive to Israelis and I guess that this notion exists elsewhere in the Middle East and around the world.

***********
“We believe there are voices in Israel who want true peace with Syria but would not do so ‘till they see that a government in Syria would stop its meddling into the affairs of the countries surrounding it by supporting reactionary movements such as HA in Lebanon and Hamas in Gaza and the West Bank. You can not tell someone I have made a “strategic” choice for peace while you are still supporting groups that call for his/her destruction. Israel is a super regional power on the ground that we must all aknowledge including the Islamic movements that seem hell bent on carrying this fight with them to eternity.”
***********

Very true.

The Israeli public is divided to 3 major groups or actually to a big one and 2 other smaller ones.

Extreme left: They will support any peace deal with Syria all the time, even if the price will be handing over Tel Aviv to the Syrians.

They’re a minority.

Extreme right: They will reject any peace deal with Syria, even if Syria will hand over Damascus to Israel and will abandon its claim for the Golan.

They’re a minority.

The Center: that’s the biggest sector of Israeli public opinion.
Right now it leans to the right – but it’s changeable.
That’s the sector who calls the shots in terms of public opinion and decisions that our leaders take eventually.

Right now this group sees Syria not as someone who wants real piece with Israel, but someone who wants the Golan and willing to do us ‘a huge favor’ and sign a piece of paper with the title ‘peace’ on it.

They see Assad’s game with the Palestinian headquarters in Damascus and his relationship with Hizbollah (not to mention Iran) and they want to screw him as hard as possible (even on a personal level).

They will not listen to any compromise on the Golan under such terms and no PM will be able to ignore them.

Your approach is far more realistic, and it will appeal to many in the Israeli public opinion (the centrists).

October 1st, 2007, 11:17 pm

 

Nour said:

Bashmann,

You have to realize that today’s events are much different than those surrounding the late President Hafez el-Assad during the 1980’s. Today, the entire Arab World has surrendered to US-Israeli hegemony, and as such, most Arabs are willing to collaborate with the US and Israel against Syria. In addition, while there certainly were points of confrontation between Syria on one side and Israel and the US on the other, there certainly was not as serious of a threat to attack Syria and bring about regime change. Add to that the fact that the USSR was a major factor at the time, and you get the whole picture.

Today, Syria is isolated in the region. And unlike your contention, this is not Syria’s fault. Syria is merely taking positions to protect its interests and has not threatened or attacked anyone. However, Arab regimes have decided that it is better for their survival to completely submit and capitulate to the US, and as such, are aiding the US in its war against Syria. With all that in mind, it is still erroneous and inaccurate to state that Syria is weaker today than it was under Hafez el-Assad. It is not that Syria is weaker, but rather that most Arab and international media are attempting to make it appear weaker in order to entice Syrians to change course, basically telling them that they have no choice but to do as they are told.

As for your position vis-a-vis the Israeli problem, it is always interesting to hear people outside the circle simplify the situation so much. You make it sound as if it is as simple as telling Israel that we will give you full peace for full withdrawal from the Golan. Do you seriously believe that Israel would give up the Golan that quickly just from a mere promise of peace coming from the other side? Do you really think that Israel has no conditions or specific demands that it will want to impose on Syria? You go out of your way to make it seem that all this time Israel has wanted peace in the region and Syria was the spoiler. What’s more, is that you fault Syria for daring to support groups resisting Israeli occupation, as if Syria should just allow Israel to occupy portions of Lebanon and freely attack and kill Palestinians and in fact aid it in doing so by eliminating all resistance to its hegemony. And then you argue that this is in Syria’s interest. I’m afraid I have to strongly disagree with you there. Syria is not as strong militarily as Israel is, but it has found other ways of challenging Israel’s hegemony over the region. And one of those ways is supporting indigenous resistance movements that have been successful in forcing Israel to change course on certain fronts.

What’s more is that you repeat the American/Israeli, and now Saudi, propaganda claiming that Syria is playing a destructive role in the region, by “meddling” into neighboring countries’ affairs, while we all know that Syria has nothing to do with the continuing problems in Palestine and no longer is a major player on the Lebanese scene. Let us not forget that the US, with Saudi backing, invaded and occupied Iraq, destroying the country in the process and competely dismantling its entire system of governance. So to implicitly absolve the US of all this by placing the blame squarely on Syria is not entirely fair. And to claim that it is Syria that is standing in the way of Israel’s peaceful motives is simply not based in reality.

The bottom line is that there is a war against Syria, and that is a fact. The US and Israel do not wish to see a strong, prosperous Syria, but rather a weak one that will do their bidding and ensure Israel’s continued dominance of the region. Any and all attempts at advancement have always been, and will always be, absolutely opposed by the US and Israel. This is not to say that the Syrian regime has always adopted the right course toward advancement, for it surely has not, but any thought of such development is not tolerated by the US. But with all that, and with the tremendous pressures Syria has had to face, and which it continues to face, I feel it has done a pretty good job of moving forward, while maintaining its refusal to surrender its national rights.

Again, this is not meant to be an endorsement of the regime, but rather an explanation of realities on the ground. While the regime has definitely been oppressive, ineffective, and brutal at times, the alternative you are presenting does not constitute a viable option in my opinion.

October 1st, 2007, 11:23 pm

 

Bashmann said:

Thanks Israeliguy. Our party built its principals and aims for the benefit of all the people in the region, including Israel.
We stand for justice, democracy, peace, and the rule of law to bring prosperity for all. Who can argue with those principals! Except Alex. 🙂 Just kidding.

Cheers.

October 1st, 2007, 11:53 pm

 

SimoHurtta said:

Bashmann might I ask what we in you comments means. I tried to find out more of you party from internet. Google produced one link with Alenfetah Party. With the party founder “Hachem Sultan” I got four links (one relevant). So not much use of internet in wanting to know more of your party.

How many members are in your party which seems de facto locating in South Florida, rather long way from Syria.

An interesting party program. However some questions.

Why doesn’t the party have a view with relations with EU which is the major trade partner and as neighbour more important than USA (of which the party has a view).

Some questions of House of Lords (are there Lords in Syria?).
It is the supreme parliamentary council, and it is considered the most powerful legislative authority in the country, as you say in the program.

It is made up of the elite in the society including highly-efficient cultural, political, members. It also stipulates having a university degree at least for nomination as it is considered the council of the wise and the talented Syrians.

Name one democracy which such demands with education. What means highly-efficient? Speak much and / or have good relations to the party leadership which elects many of them.

The council comprises elected members through direct voting, and members who are appointed from all active political parties enjoying the required qualifications. Each political party is to nominate an equivalent number of candidates. We believe that the number of parties’ candidates shall be equivalent to the number of liberal candidates.

Hmmm rather strange democracy when all parties nominate an equivalent number of candidates. Means equivalent to equivalent parties support or all parties have the same amount. What means liberal candidates, those who are elected by direct voting? Why can’t the public choose all members of the supreme council? Seems rather stupid that first parties go to elections and get 50 percent of council elected. Then they divide equally the rest of the council’s seats. The small parties and the losers of the elections must be satisfied.

By the way has the same institution consulted you which helped Iraq in creating their rather strange parliamentary system. You in Middle East seem to have a talent to create rather strange and complex parliamentary systems which later backfire badly.

Well its getting a little late here in Finland and the bed calls. I must continue tomorrow reading this interesting party program created under the hot sun of Florida.

October 2nd, 2007, 12:32 am

 

Akbar Palace said:

Bashmann,

Who is your party?

Who is your security guard(s)?

Welcome to the World of Peace between Jew and Arab.

Salaam to you and those like you who aren’t intimidated by the violent.

Nour lets his imagination rise above the the highest minarets in the Middle East:

The bottom line is that there is a war against Syria, and that is a fact.

Nour,

Please tell your audience how many Syrian lives have been lost in this terribly violent “war against Syria”?

Is it more than the 1200 Lebanese who lost their lives 2 summers ago?

Was it more than the 170 or so Israelis who perished in the same war?

Was it more than the 3000 American civilians who died in 9-11 or the 3800 Americans who have already died fighting in Iraq?

So much for “fact”.

October 2nd, 2007, 2:12 am

 

Nour said:

Akbar,

Maybe you should leave this debate to the informed.

October 2nd, 2007, 5:04 am

 

Alex said:

Bashmann,

Havez Assad was one of a kind. If Bashar did not turn out to be a copy of his father, that does not make him undesirable or “weak”

George Bush the father was a wonderful American president .. but at the time he was ridiculed for being weak … compared to the macho Ronald Reagan.

Israeliguy,

I lived in Egypt in the late 70’s … I was 11 when Sadat went to Israel.

I realized how he was magically transformed into a super hero by American and Israeli-friendly media … Sadat was selected “The most popular foreign leader in America” .. have you heard that one before? … Suddenly Julio Iglesias, Eliabeth Taylor, and countless other international celebrities started to visit him and announce their respect for his exceptional wisdom!

few months earlier, I had a collection of jokes I heard from my Egyptian friends about Sadat … let us just say that “weak” was one of the ways they described him. “Stupid” was another.

Why? .. compared to Nasser he did not impress them… He did not look as strong and as decisive as Nasser.

So I have a few decades of experience in monitoring how the media can build the most wonderful image for you if you are obedient to the United States, and how they can destroy you if you are not.

Hafez admiration, by the way, took another dimension the past three years mainly as a tool to make Bashar look bad in comparison…

When Hafez was alive, he always had to work really hard to gain the occasional admission that he was brilliant. Otherwise, he did not get a fraction of the good publicity that any other freind of America .. for example .. the late Sheikh Zaied of the UAE used to get.

Just compare the very small number of western leaders who showed up to Hafez’s funeral compared to how many showed up to he less significant figures like King Hussein or to King Hassan (Morocco)

So, Bashmann, I have zero value for the way many in the American or Saudi owned Media portray Bashar …

Those who really know, like the American and Israeli experts who participated in this Syria related luncheon in NYC … are much more honest and knowledgeable.

You will see that they are mostly impressed with Bashar.

He did some mistakes the first few years, I agree.

Now he is very good : )

October 2nd, 2007, 7:14 am

 

IsraeliGuy said:

Alex, I’m afraid we disagree.

You describe a process where a PR campaign by the American media can shape people’s minds, like they’re a herd of dumb sheep.

If that’s the case, how come there’s so much resentment towards the Americans in the Middle East?

Why don’t they pull out yet another successful PR campaign that will solve all their problems and create a new image for them in the region, out of the blue?

Although a good PR campaign can definitely help, I believe you’re giving it too much weight and give too little weight to a leader’s background, history, actions, achievements and successful policy making.

I don’t believe that people like Menachem Begin, Anwar Sadat, Yitzhak Rabin and King Hussein are considered all around the world as Middle Eastern legends, due to PR plots.

All of the above are leaders who had real qualities, real vision, real capabilities and real leadership skills, that led them (and not others) to the Middle East hall of fame.

Are you saying that Hafez Assad had a far better ‘image’ than his son because he was more obedient to the United States?
Sorry, I can’t see how.

I admire the way you try to shield Bashar with your fingernails (and I really hope he appreciates your work), but I think that my opinion is shared by many in the region and outside of it and I also believe it has nothing to do with PR stunts.

October 2nd, 2007, 8:28 am

 

SimoHurtta said:

Israeliguy you forget in your reply to Alex the faith of Yasser Arafat in US media, which proves Alex’s comment in many ways. When Arafat was in line with US peace building efforts, the US and world’s media praised him and made him a man for peace. He even won the Nobel Peace Price with Yitzhak Rabin and Shimon Peres. When the peace process failed Arafat was instantly turned to an “evil” character in US press and the reason for failure was put solely on his shoulders even it was not true.

In the letters of recognition Arafat (PLO) recognized the right of the State of Israel to exist in peace and security and UNSC resolutions 242 and 338. Rabin (Israel) only recognized the PLO as the representative of the Palestinian people and commence negotiations with the PLO. No mentioning about borders or recognizing UN resolutions or peace and security for Palestinians.

October 2nd, 2007, 10:53 am

 

Akbar Palace said:

Alex reflects on Nasser and those days of Eygptian “glory”:

Why? .. compared to Nasser he did not impress them… He did not look as strong and as decisive as Nasser.

For the typical Islamic Jihadist supporter, it is not quite enough to win back land.

Take Alex’s example: Nasser’s army loses the Sinai in 6 days and he’s revered. Sadat wins it back, and he’s “weak”.

No, what matters most to the Arab jihadist is the never-ending rejection of the US and Israel.

As Alex keeps reminding us, winning back land for peace is not a trait for the “strong and decisive”.

October 2nd, 2007, 11:17 am

 

EHSANI2 said:

Alex,

Hafez Assad did not inherit the job from his father. Bashar did. His only qualification at the time was his surname. Regardless of what people think about Hafez’s accomplishments, there is no denying that he took a long and dangerous journey to get there.

October 2nd, 2007, 11:30 am

 

Bashmann said:

I see that I started a ruckus with my comments. For some reason I was unable to post last night after I spent half an hour answering Nour’s post. I’m getting the feeling I’m being censured. 🙂

Anyway, I’m glad some people are starting to warm up to my logic, including Israeliguy, Akbar Palace, and Ehsani2 to name few.

Cheers.

October 2nd, 2007, 1:23 pm

 

Bashmann said:

Here is an interesting analysis about Bashar’s grip on power which only confirms what Khadam has been saying all along;

Syria’s leadership / Who’s in charge?
By Yoav Stern

Syrian president Bashar Assad is expected to remain in power in 2008-09 but he will continue to rely on the strength and ruthlessness of the security services, which will keep the opposition weak and ineffective. This forecast, which seems almost obvious, is in the report by the Economist Intelligence Unit published last week.

But in the Middle East, nothing is obvious, and the question of Assad’s ability to perform from his throne in Damascus is cause for concern for many in the region and elsewhere. Government-affiliated analysts in Israel and elsewhere maintain that Assad is in full and undisputed control of Syria, but his ponderous public reaction to the reports of the alleged Israeli strike last month gives rise to certain doubts.

The interview Assad gave to the BBC yesterday was not the first one since the strike was reported. Several hours after the incident – whose specifics are still unclear – Assad gave a rather embarrassing interview to U.S. network CBS. In that interview, Assad refrained from addressing the affair and made a general statement about his country’s commitment to peace.

Syria delayed its statement on the incident by nearly 24 hours – it may have even felt that Assad doesn’t really know what’s happening in his country’s own backyard.

U.S. officials who have been following the situation in Syria have said Assad’s performance in the media cannot be seen as an indication that he is not well-briefed on the situation.

“He’s trying to maintain a business-as-usual facade while preparing the Syrian reaction to the developments,” the American analysts said days after the CBS interview. They noted that Assad agreed to be interviewed by the foreign media on the day Rafik Hariri was assassinated in 2005.

International organizations suspect Syria was behind the killing of Lebanon’s former prime minister.

Israeli military and political analysts maintain that Assad is firmly at the helm of Syrian policy making. Intelligence sources following Assad’s regime say that virtually no senior Syrian poses a threat to the president’s grasp on power. Not even the president’s bother-in-law, Assef Shawkat, who is often mentioned as pulling the strings of Syria’s security policy behind the scenes.

“Assad does not consult others,” the intelligence officials said. “He just listens to what his cronies tell him.”

Diplomats who frequent Damascus say the Syrian decision-making process is quite cumbersome. Bashar’s father and predecessor, Hafez, ruled by maneuvering between two prominent elements: The Alawite dignitaries – who belong to Assad’s minority sect of Shi’ite Muslims – and the military top brass.

“After Bashar rose to power, Syria saw the formation of several centers of power. Bashar’s family isn’t as united. Neither is the leadership. Plus, groups of businessmen and industrialists have entered the scene. Bashar’s hands are more tightly tied now.”

And this may very well explain Assad’s stammering about the alleged strike early last month.

It took three days for the Syrian foreign minister, Walim Mualem, to say that Syria will respond to the alleged strike “at the appropriate time and place.” But it is far from certain that officials such as Mualem are even in the loop. He may know very little about what may or may not have happened near Syria’s border with Turkey last month.

October 2nd, 2007, 2:19 pm

 

idaf said:

The only problem with the logic followed by the “we prefer Hafez to Bashar” crowd is that it is totally reputational and perceptual, but absolutely not based on real comparison. It also does not take in consideration the most important factor, which is the views and perception of the Syrian people towards both figures. Let’s characterize some of the real differences between Bashar and Hafez from a neutral Syrian point of view:

1-Hafez was a brutal military man who spent his life trying to reach the top and stay there by proving his legitimacy to the majority sects (either by diplomacy or brutal force).

Bashar does not have any military background but has the heritage of his father (or as Ehsani likes to put it, his “last name”).

2-Hafez was a control freak who does not delegate responsibilities and who had no understanding whatsoever for “annoying” things such as the economy, governance, rule of law and well being of the people. His main focus was to continue play the game he was good at: Foreign policy, military tactics and internal security. The region was his play ground.

Bashar likes to govern Syria on a micro level. Bashar dedicates the majority of his governance time to the economy and reforming governance. Unlike his father who had no heart for such annoyances.

3-During Hafez times, it was said in Syria that the old man does not know what goes on the streets of Damascus as he was preoccupied with his master-strategies for the region. His cronies (Khaddam, Tlass and co.) had the stage all for themselves in both Syria and Lebanon.

During Bashar times, the number of cronies had shrunk considerably, but most importantly their influence and impact on society is much smaller now.

4-In Hafez times, opposition to the commander in chief was unheard of inside the Arab world. All opposition would take refuge outside or get brutally crushed inside.

In Bashar times, despite the relative over-handedness (much better than Egypt or Saudi though), opposition to the commander-in-chief is more tolerated in Syria than in most of the countries having the honor of being labeled “moderate” (Saudi, the gulf, Egypt and Jordan).

5-Hafez was feared inside and outside Syria and was respected outside it for his “shrewd wisdom” and pragmatism. No one “liked” (or god forbid “loved”) Hafez, maybe other than few Alawites from a pure tribal point view.

On the other hand, Bashar is genuinely loved inside Syria (you have to admit it whether you like it or not) while he’s portrayed as clumsy dictator by the outside media.

6-Hafez was overwhelmingly viewed inside Syria as representing the Alawites. He gave his sect free hand inside the country while did not think twice about using absolute force against any opposition from other sects.

Bashar is overwhelmingly viewed inside his country as a national “Syrian leader” first and foremost (something the Lebanese people are yet to experience). He has more enemies among his own sect than among other sects in Syria. He has stopped most of those Alawites who abused and exploited the fact that the president is one of them. He is perceived as a national leader by all sects not a sectarian one leading the country.

Some External Environment comparisons:
7-Hafez had the USSR, Iran and China firmly behind him militarily and financially at the time where these powers were all active on the global arena during the cold war.

Bashar could only get Iran.

8-For Hafez, on the other side of the Atlantic, the other super power had its hands full with the USSR in the cold war and would not be bothered with Syria or the middle east.

For Bashar, this same super power (but this time with fanatical and much clumsier leaders) is on his backyard (Iraq)threatening him directly on a daily basis.

9-Hafez “controlled” many resistance forces working against Israel.

Bashar works in alliance with them but stops short of dictating their every step.

10-In Hafez times, the Arab world had no media. Only state-run media that followed a strong pan-Arabist rhetoric to his liking.

In Bashar times, the state-run Arab media is dead and was replaced by a state-funded media indirectly controlled by few states (predominantly Saudi). Which is working against Syria since the war on Iraq.

11-During Hafez times, the Arab masses had only one cause (Palestine) and held much respect to any one that worked towards solving it.

During Bashar time, the Arabs have 3 or more causes (Palestine, Iraq, Lebanon, Sunni-Shiite strife.. etc.). Today, supporting the Palestinian cause does not score you much points anymore (Syria stayed the course with its foreign policy with Bashar vis a vis Palestine, but the audience changed their preferences).

The bottom line here is that Bashar is pursuing the same foreign policy line as his father but facing much tougher challenges. On the internal front, Bashar enjoys what his father never had.. genuine fondness among a majority of his people.

BUT the major irony here with all the Syrian external opposition (both old and new ones) is that after decades of pursuing an absolute anti-Hafez approach, their main criticism of Bahsar is that he is not his father!

The other clear major observation here, is the great gap between the perception of Bashar inside and outside the country. Both Syrians and non-Syrians inside Syria would tell you that Syrian relate more to this music loving, technology-savvy British educated doctor and family man who you often find walking in the streets of Damascus, talking to the people in person, driving his own vehicle and dining in restaurants in other Syrian cities with his family. This human face was non existent with his father or with almost any other Arab leader (maybe other than the prime minister of the UAE). I heard stories of close friends seeing him drop by Bakdash in Al-Hamidieh in Damascus to buy a cone of ice cream for him and his wife, getting off the car he’s driving in a street in Aleppo to buy a bottle of water for his son sitting in the car with him and even stories from Syrian expatriates in Qatar and the UAE seeing him shopping with his wife in one of the shopping malls during his state visits to those countries. People love this human side of him. It shows that he’s not afraid of his people (unlike his father where fear was mutual).

The moral of the story is: People should stop playing this comparison game between Hafez and Bashar and spinning it to push anti-Syria or anti-Bashar agenda on the expense of historical accuracy and facts on the ground.

October 2nd, 2007, 5:13 pm

 

EHSANI2 said:

IDAF,

Why is it that when one criticizes Bashar, he is anti-Syria and/or anti-Bashar?

I have never met the man. I am also aware of the many stories regarding his visits to restaurants and his dealings with regular people. Some of my friends dining at Aleppo restaurants have asked and gotten personal pictures with him during his various unannounced visits.

While most people have genuine admiration and liking for him, this does not mean that those of us who criticize him are wrong.

As a Syrian citizen, I personally could not care less if he frequents the same restaurant or if he stops at the same convenience store that I do to buy my bottled water.

I judge the man by his record. I judge him by his accomplishments as a leader. This man was being trained to be a doctor. His older brother dies He gets the call to return. He joins the army. His father dies. Viola, we have a new President at the ripe age of 34.

Since then, what has he really done?

He allowed a handful of private banks to start operating. If you speak to these banks, they will be the first to tell you that they are operating in 1960’s type of commercial banking. Nonetheless, let us give credit where it is due.

Corruption is still rampant. The state owned companies still lose money. Subsidies are said to be lifted one day and back the next. Economic growth can barely keep up with the population growth. Standards of living languish. What you pay for a nice dinner in Dubai is what a hard working family of four makes in a month in Damascus/Aleppo.

This is not to say that Hafez Assad was great. He was a ruthless tough military man who made it to the top by outmaneuvering and eliminating his associates and foes.

If our metric is to compare Bashar to his father, then there is no doubt that most Syrians agree with you by preferring the son to the father.

However, those of us who would like to use a different metric do not appreciate being called anti-Syria or anti-Bashar. It is the man’s accomplishments as the leader of 20 million people that we criticize.

October 2nd, 2007, 6:00 pm

 

Kamal said:

The Bashar-Hafez debate is ridiculous.

One is a Murderous Dictator Bin Murderous Dictator and the other is a Murderous Dictator Abu Murderous Dictator.

October 2nd, 2007, 6:11 pm

 

idaf said:

Ehsani the following news should calm you down 🙂

Commercial Bank cuts interest rates by 40 percent and eliminates interest on current accounts.

One point I forgot to mention Ehsani, with Bashar many people in Syria do feel the improvements on their daily life (Bashar has just announced, I guess, the 10th salary increas or grant for government employees during his office time). While Majlis Al-Shaab is preparing to question the government on its plans to cut fuel subsidies. In addition a new decree issued today introduces for the first time in Syria an incentives system in the public sector companies. A shift to New Public Management methods? Let’s hope so.

And for the record Ehsani, I do not put anti-Bashar people in the same basket as anti-Syria people. My point was that both parties (which are different) play this false “Hafez was better than Bashar” game to push their agendas.

Kamal,
I can understand why you can’t see the difference between the two: In Lebanon many are used to loving or hating warlords and Zaiims who happen to be sons of warlords or Zaiims who they used to support or hate. Apologies but you had it coming 🙂
But honestly, if you want to be a bit objective you would have to see the vast contrasts among the father and son. Although you would have to avoid being a subject to the “media” to be able to do that.

October 2nd, 2007, 6:51 pm

 

Kamal said:

Idaf,

I am equally disgusted by the inheritance of political power in Lebanon as in Syria.

October 2nd, 2007, 7:00 pm

 

Alex said:

Ehsani,

YOUR criticism is reasonable … and sometimes even valid 😉

I share some of your disappointments in Bashar’s reforms but totally disagree with others which are simply not doable except over a number of years, which is what I hope Bashar is doing.

And please stop using the son of his father arguments, the whole Arab world functions that way for now… including the darlings of America and Israel in Egypt, Jordan, Morocco, And especially Lebanon…. how come we never hear the same complaints against Jumblatt and Hariri, and King Abdallha and King Abdulla?

Kamal,

Since almost all politicians in the Middle East are “murderous” … Either we call them all murderous or we stop picking exclusively on Syria’s leaders…. I know you told me in the past that you do consider them all murderous, but I reminded you that the Syrians somehow get 95% of your anger.

Bashmann,

Syria is not the Sultanate of Oman … it is not Tunisia. Syria is complicated. Running a country like Syria is an art … you either have it or you don’t … and the Assads who have been in power since 1970 (the “Syrian regime” as many like to call them), with all the things you can legitimately criticize them for, learned what they can or can not do … the rest of you have no clue! … let’s just say that if you are somehow installed as the next Syrian president tomorrow .. you won’t last long… and Syria under your leadership could well become another Lebanon or another Iraq.

Is there a better way? .. yes … “democracy”. But the challenge is not to find where we would like to be, but how do we get there safely in the shortest time possible.

I am sticking for now with Bashar and hoping he will accelerate his reforms (which he did the past two years) and hoping that when the madness around Syria calms down … in a couple of years, that the Syrian people (including me) will start putting more pressure on Bashar to gradually start allowing intelligent people like you to freely present their political platform and ideas inside Syria.

Israeliguy,

I have to say that on this topic, I am not flexible at all … We do not have much time here to type 50 pages, but I can give you a million examples that back up my argument. Ask my friend Ehsani who disagrees with me but who spoke to me on the phone for hours and hours about this issue 😉

You suggested that because the very likable Karen Hughes and Dina Powell failed to convince the Arab world that this neocon administration which caused the death of hundreds of thousands Iraqis while calling prime minister Sharon “a man of peace”, is a friend of the Arab world … then this failure proves that my argument was wrong.

If my argument was “P.R. ALWAYS worked for America” … then you did indeed prove I was wrong.

But my argument was more specific: The Americans (with the help of their Israeli friends) can often polish the image of Arab leaders who work with them, or they can partially succeed in destroying their image… and that success is limited to specific audiences:

1) Those who find whatever the United States government advocates to be moral and “good” .. this includes most of you in Israel, many Lebanese, and some Syrians and Arabs who respect American democracy and think that because the United States is a democratic country then whatever its president says must be true and honest.

2) Those who hate all “brutal and corrupt Arab dictators” and are willing to believe any stories of dirt related to any Arab ruler. This includes democracy activists, or those who support other candidates for the leadership of their country… and this includes most western journalist who hate dictators who limit their freedom to report from Arab countries… so you get a lot of honest journalists who will help spread your lies about Bashar simply because Bashar is “a dictator”

3) Islamists who are not happy with most Arab rulers .. most of them are too secular in their opinions… Bahsar is even in a worse position there .. he is also Alawite (not a true muslim in their opinion) … and even worse, the Saudi owned media has successfully promoted Bashar as an ally with Shia Iran against the Sunni leaders of the Arab world in Saudi Arabia.

So in the case of destroying Bashar’s reputation (and Hafez’s reputation in the 80’s, which you insist to forget) they had more receptive audience and they had the help of the Arab press which is largely owned by Saudi Arabia. In the 70’s Sauid Arabia used to buy the loyalty of Arabs by giving generous gifts to Arab rulers. Then they learned from Saddam that it is cheaper and more effective to buy the loyalty of Arab journalists.

One other thing you should not discount at all .. inter-Arab rivalry: Most Egyptians and Saudis and Jordanians would usually prefer to read and believe news that make their country and their leaders look good compared to the challenging Syrian leadership which often has its own different direction… only when there is a clear “victory” like the Syrian backed Hizbollah’s victory in 2006 that you start to see many Arabs (people and some journalists) siding with Syria against their leaders.

And finally … as if my comment is not long enough, here is my unavoidable picture show:

When Syrian VP Farouk Sharaa attended the security council session on Lebanon, Syrians looked mostly at this picture that accompanied the story on most online Syrian internet news sites. The picture (and the story) told us that Sharaa was his usual tough speaking and uncompromising man and that Syria was confident …etc.

Yet the Lebanese Saudi owned media picked another snapshot fro that event… showing Sharaa begging for forgiveness! … the Story they told their people was that Syria is very weak and the regime is about to fall (2005) and that there is clear evidence that the regime killed Hariri and that nothing will save them …

I go back to my main point: try to catch yourself picking the frame of your choice form a long movie … every time frame is different from the others …things are very dynamic in the Middle East .. let us not simplify them and distort them to our liking.

And regarding Bashar’s “failures” … as IDAF pointed out, the middle east today is not like the middle east in the 90’s … read my earlier post on this topic if you like to understand why it is not possible to “succeed” these day.

And while you are still energetic enough to read some more, read this piece that illustrates one example of Saudi smear campaign against Bashar

October 2nd, 2007, 7:36 pm

 

EHSANI2 said:

Idaf,

I did read the commercial bank of Syria interest rate story earlier.
It is like music to my ears. Finally, they figured it out. The rats are not going to be happy. They were known to have attacked the piles of cash at the commercial bank of Syria vaults on more than one occasion (true story told to me by one the branch managers).

Alex,

Did I pay for that 3-hour phone conversation?

October 2nd, 2007, 8:06 pm

 

Alex said:

Here is an article from a Palestinian journalist today. It shows you how many Arabs are starting to resist the American Saudi version of Syria related events.

Lebanon and Syria: The Politics of Assassination

As media and official efforts have conveniently overlooked all other possible culprits behind the determined efforts to destabilise Lebanon, the region seems headed for another military confrontation and Lebanon for a possible civil war, says Ramzy Baroud.

The assassination of Lebanese politician Antoine Ghanem on September 19 is likely to be used, predictably, to further US and Israeli interests in the region. Most Western and some Arab media have industriously argued that Syria is the greatest beneficiary from the death of Ghanem, a member of the Phalange party responsible for much of Lebanon’s bloodshed during the civil war years between 1975 and 1990. The reasoning provided is that Syria needs to maintain a measure of political control over Lebanon after being pressured to withdraw its troops. This political clout could only be maintained through the purging of anti-Syrian critics in Lebanon, and by ensuring a Lebanese parliament friendly to Syria. And indeed, with the elimination of Ghanem, the anti-Syrian coalition at the fractious Lebanese parliament is now left with an even slimmer majority – 68 MPs in a 128-member assembly.

Case solved.

Or is it?

The Syrian regime may, in fact, be responsible for the murder of six Lebanese political figures, including Ghanem, since the tragic car-bombing of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri in February 2005. However, to understand the situation in Lebanon, one needs to refrain from any simplistic conclusions. This is not an easy task, however, given that media reports pertaining to Lebanon classify every Lebanese political figure as ‘pro’ or ‘anti’ Syrian. Such reporting rests on the idea that the Syrian regime—and only the Syrian regime—has a keen interest in bringing death and chaos to a small but strategically important Lebanon. By the same logic, all of Syria’s allies – Iran, Hizbollah in Lebanon, and the Damascus-based Palestinian groups, including Hamas and various socialist factions – are regularly implicated by the Western media.

Considering the elaborate politics of assassination in Lebanon and the many bloody events that were justified on the basis of such killings – notwithstanding the rationalization of the Israeli invasion of Lebanon and the massacre of Sabra and Shatila in 1982 – one would assume that media reporters and commentators have learned to become extra cautious before following official American and Israeli lines.

As a country either fully or partially responsible for destabilizing Lebanon, Syria may be a probable culprit in Ghanem’s death. This is a view underscored daily by both those who are either genuinely seeking to liberate Lebanon from foreign influence and those who wish to dominate the Lebanese political landscape. But self-interested as it may be, Syria is also known for being politically savvy and judicious. It has shown this by serving as a valuable ally in the US ‘war on terror’ since the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001; it willingly collaborated in securing its borders with Iraq, and even went as far as torturing America’s prisoners in the CIA’s infamous ‘extraordinary renditions.’

Why would a country that was willing to sink so low now provide pretexts for hostilities by carrying out brazen assassinations against America’s allies in Lebanon? Each such assassination only helps cement the anti-Syrian cries stemming from Washington, Tel Aviv and Beirut. The Syrian regime’s past is indisputably cruel, but inanity has hardly been one of its features.

Could it be plausible that Syria is innocent of the most recent bloodletting in Lebanon? It is mind-boggling to imagine a country which has managed to survive amidst the incalculable hostility stemming from across all its borders being so foolish as to carry out such ludicrous crimes with such harmful consequences at such a critical time. Despite Lebanon’s value in the Middle East’s ongoing Cold War, Syria, like any other regime under threat, should be less concerned about dominating a smaller neighbour than in securing its own survival.

So who are the other possible culprits? Considering Lebanon’s bloodstained past and the numerous players, sects and factions operating within its borders, the list seems endless. However, taking into account the nature of the assassinations (all targeting ‘anti-Syrian’ figures) and the official line championed by the US and Israel, one can reasonably include those who wish to drive Syria into a military confrontation, or perhaps a humiliating political settlement with Israel (which Damascus has refused since its talks with Tel Aviv broke off in 2000), including a compromise on the occupied ‘Golan Heights’. It would be worth noting here the neoconservative doctrine prepared by Richard Perle in 1996 for then Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Tellingly entitled ‘A Clean Break: Securing the Realm,’ it outlines plans to subdue Syria through the Lebanese route. Could this help to explain why the US and Israeli governments are no longer pursuing previously concerted efforts and publicly declared objectives and instead blaming Israel’s military setback in Lebanon in 2006 largely on Syria’s – and Iran’s – backing of Hizbollah?

It might also be helpful for those who insist that Syria alone is capable of inflicting such mayhem in Lebanon to remember that Netanyahu recently and unsurprisingly admitted that the ‘mysterious’ air strike inside Syrian territories on September 6 – clearly an attempt to coerce Syria into a military confrontation – was indeed deliberate. US diplomats scrambled to justify the palpable act of war on the mediocre claim that the Syrian target bombed by Israeli US-supplied F15 jets ‘may have had links to North Korean nuclear arms,’ according to the British Guardian. Mediocre or not, a case against Syria that involves the US, Israel and their allies in the region is being diligently weaved, and one should not be surprised if the next military confrontation against Hizbollah will widen to include Syrian territories as well.

As media and official efforts have conveniently overlooked all other possible culprits behind the determined efforts to destabilise Lebanon, the region seems headed for another military confrontation and Lebanon for a possible civil war. This will most likely be blamed on Syria, Iran, Hizbollah and Palestinian factions, and Israel will once again be presented as acting in self-defence and the US as defending the cause of Israel, democracy and human rights.

Ramzy Baroud is a Palestinian-American author and editor of PalestineChronicle.com. His work has been published in numerous newspapers and journals worldwide, including the Washington Post, Japan Times, Al Ahram Weekly and Lemonde Diplomatique. His latest book is The Second Palestinian Intifada: A Chronicle of a People’s Struggle (Pluto Press, London). Read more about him on his website: RamzyBaroud.net

October 2nd, 2007, 8:07 pm

 

IsraeliGuy said:

**********
“And regarding Bashar’s “failures” … as IDAF pointed out, the middle east today is not like the middle east in the 90’s … read my earlier post on this topic if you like to understand why it is not possible to “succeed” these day.”
**********

Bingo, Alex!

The middle east today is indeed not like the middle east in the 90’s (not to mention the 70’s).

Charles Darwin said: “It is not the strongest of the species that survives, nor the most intelligent, but the one most responsive to change.”

I believe this is one of Syria’s major illnesses.
It doesn’t respond to changes around it.

The world today is not the same world that was in the 70’s, yet in Syria, it seems like time stands still.

In order to succeed, one must change and quickly adapt to new circumstances on the ground.
If you don’t – you stay behind and pay the price.
The Syrians failed miserably at that point.

Often, when I observe the Syrian regime, it looks like the people there live in a bubble – some fantasy world that they created for themselves that protects them from the ever changing outside world.

Personally, I believe that such policy can’t last for long and at some point the bubble will burst.

And another thing, I reject anybody who claims that ‘it is not possible to succeed these days’.
Wrong!

Maybe that’s what the failing leader wants his people to believe: that it’s “impossible”, that they tried “everything”, that “nothing” can be done to improve the situation.

This is always the excuse of the failing leaders: “it’s not me. After all, I’m brilliant and wonderful. It’s the fault of everybody else (but me). It’s because the world didn’t adapt to me (the center of the universe)”

My motto is this: if you find it ‘impossible’ to succeed under the current circumstances, step down and let other, more skillful people with innovative ideas, run the show.

Stop making excuses.

October 2nd, 2007, 9:27 pm

 

ausamaa said:

ISRAELGUY

Bingo to what exactly? Bingo by a small group of Hizbullah fighters putting an end to the “invincible” Israeli War Machine? Or Bingo to the lone super power in the world finding itself stuck in the dusty hills and cities of Iraq and Afghanistan?

Really. BINGO !

More of the same BINGOS to you.

“Stop making excuses” you say to Alex. To your goodself I say: “Start realising what is really happening”

October 2nd, 2007, 10:04 pm

 

Alex said:

Israeliguy, I understand that you did not look at the link.

It is im,possible to succeed these days for reasons that have nothing to do with Assad or Syria … at least not exclusively.

The middle east has many more players these days .. and it has many more on-going complex conflicts… too many cooks trying to cook too many difficult meals.

Who is successful?? … Bush? .. Olmert? .. The different Iraqi leaders? the different Lebanese Lebanese? … the Palestinians?.. the Egyptians? … Chirac?

Who?

If anyone won (at this point) it is these guys.

You can also read this report from Rime Allaf at Chatham House (Britain’s main Think Tank) … and she is a regime critic usually… but she concluded that Syria now has gained at the expense of its adversaries.

There is a huge mess in the middle east and the main problem is the same main problem we had in the 80’s when everything also failed in the middle East… it was an arrogant attitude … a leader of a superpower who knows nothing about the consequences of boycotting Syria.

Otherwise, Syria and America had no problem communicating as you can surely remember from my older posts and linked pictures.

Here is a very telling political cartoon from Aljazeera. I think you are doing the same thing (if you understand Arabic)

October 2nd, 2007, 10:19 pm

 

IsraeliGuy said:

**********
“Who is successful?? … Bush? .. Olmert? .. The different Iraqi leaders? the different Lebanese Lebanese ? … the Palestinians?.. the Egyptians? … Chirac?

Who?
**********

Alex, first of all, Chirac is definitely not winning right now – but his successor seems pretty confident 😉

Success and failure are indeed relative terms – I agree to that.
But I really believe that Syria is in a state of denial and is probably in its lowest point these days.

As an Israeli, I’m not suffering from that.
On the contrary…
I wish Bashar long years in power and I hope he’ll never be replaced 😉

But seriously, I feel that you see reality too much through Baathist glasses.
I feel that maybe you should take them down, even for 5 minutes, and look around – just as an ordinary Syrian who wants (and deserves) better life and future.

As for myself, I’m not committed to any specific Israeli party or politician – never was, never will be.

I voted to various parties and changed loyalties when I felt it served Israel’s interest.

I don’t see myself as someone who works for politicians or parties – they work for me.
If they fail me and don’t, I punish them and vote for other parties.

By the way, it is possible to succeed.
A genuine leader can shape the reality or AT LEAST influence it.

Sure, there are no free meals, but saying that it’s impossible is certainly not true.
Only losers hold that view (Just to clarify: I’m referring to the regime – not you in person).

October 2nd, 2007, 10:55 pm

 

Bashmann said:

Alex, you seem to state your point and refute it in the same paragraph;

*********
Syria is not the Sultanate of Oman … it is not Tunisia. Syria is complicated. Running a country like Syria is an art … you either have it or you don’t.
**********
Then you claim;
*********
Is there a better way? .. yes … “democracy”. But the challenge is not to find where we would like to be, but how do we get there safely in the shortest time possible.
*********

Which only leaves me to believe the Israeliguy analysis;
**********
Maybe that’s what the failing leader wants his people to believe: that it’s “impossible”, that they tried “everything”, that “nothing” can be done to improve the situation.

This is always the excuse of the failing leaders: “it’s not me. After all, I’m brilliant and wonderful. It’s the fault of everybody else (but me). It’s because the world didn’t adapt to me (the center of the universe)”

My motto is this: if you find it ‘impossible’ to succeed under the current circumstances, step down and let other, more skillful people with innovative ideas, run the show.

Stop making excuses.
*********

Finally someone not an Arab, I persume, is making all the sense.
But Israeliguy, we must wait for Bashar’s 6th term in office before we can get it right according to Alex logic;

********
I am sticking for now with Bashar and hoping he will accelerate his reforms (which he did the past two years) and hoping that when the madness around Syria calms down … in a couple of years, that the Syrian people (including me) will start putting more pressure on Bashar to gradually start allowing intelligent people like you to freely present their political platform and ideas inside Syria.
********

It puzzles me that we still have Syrians who totally ignore the fact how this President got to power. The power inheritance game which Syria started have infected the rest of the Arab countries and yet they are talking about sticking with their failed leader and giving him a chance. I guess we will have to wait for Hafez Assad Jr.(Bashar’s son)’till Syria can catch up with the idea of peacful transfer of power, according to Alex’s logic, even then nothing is guaranteed, we might end up with Bashar II(The grandson of the current one).

Give me a break .. Who is Mr. Bashar Assad is fooling, if he is so popular as you say, then let him open up free elections on a multiparty platform and run against several other candidates, we will truely then see how he does.

Cheers.

October 2nd, 2007, 10:57 pm

 

Kamal said:

Alex,

> Here is an article from a Palestinian journalist today. It shows
> you how many Arabs are starting to resist the American Saudi
> version of Syria related events

Come on Alex. The article is, first of all, a joke. Secondly, it doesn’t represent some breakthrough wherein Arab thought is liberating itself from the “American-Saudi” version of events. The article is what any Arab on the street believes. It is available daily on al-Jazeera.

The Arab man on the street also believes the CIA self-attacked the US on 9-11 and the Mossad is behind the sectarian war in Iraq…

> Since almost all politicians in the Middle East are “murderous” …
> Either we call them all murderous or we stop picking exclusively
> on Syria’s leaders…. I know you told me in the past that you do
> consider them all murderous, but I reminded you that the Syrians
> somehow get 95% of your anger

3 reasons why I pick on Syria:

1. This blog is called “Syria Comment”.

2. I spent my teens and university years as a full-time basher of Israel and US imperialism. It’s nice to aim my fire in a different direction for a change!

3. I am not some disembodied objective analyst. I am a real human, and my country is under attack. And I do not speak out of “patriotism”. Syria’s murders in broad daylight, each of which have killed and injured innocent people along with their intended targets, have also targeted my city of birth, Beirut, and more specifically, the very neighborhoods where my family grew up and my friends live and frequent. It hurts, ya Alex.

This is an important point to reiterate for those who argue that “M14 stands to gain from every assassination” and ask, “Why would Syria commit crimes that backfire against it – is the regime that stupid?”

Well, yes, the regime is that stupid, but leave that aside. Do not underestimate the effectiveness of this terror campaign. It has quite effectively punished Lebanon for having the temerity to rise up peacefully against Syrian Occupation. Our people are afraid, our movement is demoralized, our country is divided and deadlocked, our leadership is on the run or in hiding, our efforts towards progress have been stalled, and our dreams of a liberal, plurialistic and democratic Lebanon have been indefinitely postponed.

The regime, meanwhile, is safe. It was isolated before and is isolated now – big deal. There is a chance that they will sign a truce at any second with the US and/or Europe that will get them off the hook for the terror campaign and maybe even reinstate Lebanon to its previous role as a Syrian domain. And they continue to threaten and kill us with impunity.

Mabrouk.

October 2nd, 2007, 11:05 pm

 

ausamaa said:

Alex,

I am trully impressed. This ISRAELIGUY knows and cares sooooo much about Syria and Syrians that I am begining to believe that a “complete, just, and lasting Peace” is a real possiblity in this area after all..

Of course, I am sure he has similar feelings towards the millions of Palestinans who have been under Israel’s friendly occupation for over sixty years (if we take 1948 as a starting point) or for over fourty years (if we take 1967 as the starting point”.

And I was given to beleive that they were crule aggressors, justic-blind land theives, and cold-bloodded occupiers! Oh, my!

October 2nd, 2007, 11:06 pm

 

ausamaa said:

Kamal,

you said : “Secondly, it doesn’t represent some breakthrough wherein Arab thought is liberating itself from the “American-Saudi” version of events”.

But the problem is exactly the OPPOSIT; the Arab street has NEVER bought into the “American-Saudi” version of events.

Can’t you see?

October 2nd, 2007, 11:12 pm

 

Alex said:

Israeliguy,

I assure you I am not a Baathist … welcome to the club … the club of those who, when all else fails, call me a Baathist … easiest way to discredit an argument is to discredit the source.

A Baathist does not say the things I say … I said that Bashar made many mistakes, I was interviewed three times by Israeli newspapers, I have freinds who are from Syrian opposition … I give a balanced platform to regime critics and regime opponents (see my online Think Tank and Creative Forum) …

And just for fun, you can read the first comment a reader you know left to a Syrian minister … tell me if I am able to criticize the other side sometimes.

Bashman,

What I was trying to say that a functional democracy will be better than ruling Syria through the current system … but until we reach that day, we need to start by looking at ways to go toward that better system… I simply wanted to say that for now I understand why Syria needs to function the way it is functioning.

Kamal,

Habibi … wallahi I understand .. I just wanted to tell you something obvious: anger and revenge will hurt you more than hurting your enemies.

I am disappointed at Israel for all the things it has done to Syria and to the Palestinians and the Lebanese … but do you hear any anger in my words when I communicate with Israeliguy?

One of the Editors of Asharq al-Awsat is now a friend of mine!

While I can not promise you and I can not deliver in case I promised you, but I can assure you that Syria is not in the mood to get back into Lebanon … no one in Syria wants that.

Syria wants close relations… but nothing like the “close relations” of the past.

You can only know when you try : )

October 2nd, 2007, 11:25 pm

 

IsraeliGuy said:

**********
“I assure you I am not a Baathist … welcome to the club … the club of those who, when all else fails, call me a Baathist … easiest way to discredit an argument is to discredit the source.”
**********

If I was wrong, then I truly apologize.
I didn’t say it as a way to discredit you or your arguments.

Perhaps a better description would be “a passionate Assad regime supporter” ?

**********
” … but do you hear any anger in my words when I communicate with Israeliguy?”
**********

True and that’s why I enjoy reading Alex’s comments even though I do not agree with most of them.

October 2nd, 2007, 11:42 pm

 

ausamaa said:

Alex,

If you ask me, Syria wants as close relations as “most” Labanese want, and as close as most Syrians would “now” accept (new factor now!). And as close relations as “necessary” to ensure that Lebanon can not be “used” by others to threaten Syria militarily or otherwise.

And honestly, I do not know how you manage to supress your anger especially with the TV pictures we see coming out of occupied Palestine day in and day out.

October 2nd, 2007, 11:52 pm

 

Akbar Palace said:

Israelguy stated:

Charles Darwin said: “It is not the strongest of the species that survives, nor the most intelligent, but the one most responsive to change.”

This may apply to a biology experiment, but not to Middle East governing.

I remind you and the forum that it was just a month ago when the Syrians were sitting pretty in Damascus, Olmert’s numbers were at rock bottom and everyone here was gloating about Hezbollah and Iran’s victory.

A couple of Israeli planes enter Syrian airspace and the mood in the Middle East has seemed to change on a dime. It means nothing.

Israelguy, please tell Charles Darwin, if anyone hasn’t “responded to change”, it has been the Israelis. While the Arab world has made huge gains politically and militarily, it is Israel that has fallen behind.

A few bombs on a Syrian military site isn’t going to protect Israel from Hamas, Hizbollah, Syria and Iranian missiles – both short and long range, both conventional and non-conventional. Syria is not crumbling by any stretch of the imagination. Terrorism is alive and well, and Lebanon is still in Syria’s hands.

Unfortunately for Darwin, very little has changed in the Middle East bazaar.

October 3rd, 2007, 1:53 am

 

Alex said:

Ausamaa,

I agree about Lebanon. All the Syrians I speak to also agree.

As for anger management … I am more into this approach to problem solving.

Israeliguy

“passionate” is a good word. I’ll accept that modified label : )

October 3rd, 2007, 2:17 am

 

Mark McHenry said:

I find your analysis here way off base:

>Bashmann said:

Alex,

Respect is earned as you may know not imposed or forced. This President’s father, with all his dictatorial practices earned the respect of his neighboring Arab government after thirty years in power. Anyone with the slightest intelligence in Syria can tell you the country was much stronger politically and regionally under the late Hafez Assad rule than what it is now. Remember the Time Magazine article in the 80’s, Hafez was selected among the most powerful men in the ME while the Godfather of the current neo-con’s President Ronald Reagan was in office. Syria might have not been able to deter an Israeli invasion then but it would have given Israel a bloody nose if Israel ever would have thought about it. His control of Lebanon then was essential to the balance of powers in the region. But that is all ancient history now.

A respected President would not have called the rest of the Arab government heads “half-men”. Bashar’s gamble on the emotions of the uneducated masses for mere popularity will eventually be his ending. The days of Arab solidarity slogans have long been over since Nasserism proved to be a failure. He should have backed his words with actions during the assault of the IDF on Lebanon last year instead he was busy working on eliminating his opponents by >terrorist means devised by his security agencies.

A) Whatever Hafez Assad did to stand up to Israel in the 1980’s was prior to 9-11. 9-11 changed everything in terms of U.S. foreign policy. To the American public 9-11 cast the suspicion of “evil” on any Muslim nation taking any aggressive action anywhere in the world.

B) Bashar’s decision to keep Syria out of the 2006 Israel/Hezbollah war was brilliant. Perhaps you are forgetting this but the U.S. occupies nearby Iraq, you really think the U.S. was going to sit there and let Syria fire rockets or scuds at Israel? Not a chance, not after 9-11 has already brainwashed at least half of the U.S. population into hating Muslims and seeing Israel as the beacon of freedom. The fact that Bashar continued to supply Hezbollah with new rockets after the 2006 war ended was a show of his strength.

May 11th, 2008, 11:22 pm

 

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